Fog and Bells in Meteora

Meteora is one of Greece’s greatest clichés. I arrived there angry and tired, after missing some intersections and driving for hours on never-ending bends, through misty, rainy mountains.

My intention was to go through Vlachava, a Vlach mountain village. Just to see if anybody there still spoke the Romanian dialect. From there, there is a road towards Meteora, behind Kalambaka, the closest major town. We never made it. Instead, we cut through the mountains, entered Trilaka-Larissa road and got to Meteora from Kalambaka, like any tour bus would.

I’m sure that in the summer Meteora is very busy. There were no tourists yesterday and the place looked just as hundreds of years ago, when the first monks who decided to build the monasteries here. Except for the excellent road to the top.

We started climbing through the huge rocks and I asked my wife “What happened here ?”. It looks cataclysmic. Continue reading

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The Meat Nazi

Kreopoleio is the butcher’s shop. Kreas is meat. Creation is incarnation, therefore. Being creative is being meaty. But enough games. I take my meat very seriously and my favourite butcher’s is in Kasandreia. One of the butchers is also a vendor, or he used to be. I haven’t seen him in a couple of weeks and honestly I miss him. I’ll explain.

This kreopoleio offers a piece of sausage for about every 10 Euros you spend on meat. Usually, I buy about 20 Euros worth of meat once, so I get 2 sausages. The nice butcher is always very elegant about it, pointing to his big generous chest every time he inserts the 2 pieces of sausage in the already bursting bag of meat.

He points at various good cuts, expressing the fatness, the deliciousness of those particular cuts, which he probably did himself in the morning. We used to have sign language conversations about meat and we understood each other perfectly. I used to point to my neck, to my ribs, or legs. He got it and fetched a fat piece of pork, a chicken leg, or a rack of lamb. Sometimes he points at his entrails, but I usually refuse the liver or kidneys he’s so clearly offering me. Continue reading

Do it like the Greeks

What is this world we live in ? What is our purpose here ? Why do we exist ? These are very natural questions in Greece, and have been for 3000 years.
A shop owner will ask himself these questions, and also ask other people these same questions. Never mind his daily routines, or corruption, red tape, public debt, falling tourist numbers, road decay, immigrants and so on. He’ll stop for a second and ask himself something like “What are stars made of ?”, “How far are they, really ?”.

Then, he’ll go to the taverna, sit down, order ouzo and meze (it’s 10 in the morning) and have a nice chat with his fellow countrymen about these very important issues. Never mind most of these questions have been answered. The Greek spirit (ouzo, mostly) incessantly demands new answers. Continue reading

Signs of Spring and incredibly you notice

Rosebud ! Not just the plot device in Citizen Kane, but a real rosebud, in our garden. To notice a rosebud is, well, antiquated. And gay. But not now and especially not here. Definitely was weird in Bucharest. Only, this is Poseidi, the peninsula on a peninsula on a peninsula on a peninsula.

Beside the rosebud, a misterious yellow flower has popped out in our garden. Also, on the side road we revisited today, towards Fourka Beach, we spotted a very dashing little tree, boasting an early flower.

And tonight, a storm is blowing outside, but somehow it feels like a good one. It seems to bring change, fighting winter away. Lots of lightning and thunder, the result of a clash between the rude winter air front and the southern African air mass which is kicking Europe to life. And I don’t mean it as a political metaphor, although it would be an appropriate one.

From our living room window, we an see an olive grove. Not uncommon, of course. Lately, people have been grooming the trees, chopping away branches and burning them. Olive trees are evergreen, but I understand that in spring they should produce some tiny white flowers. That should be a pretty sight. I’ve never seen olive trees in blossom.

Right. So what is this nonsense about flowers and trees and blossoms ? What am I raving about ? Well, it’s sort of a miracle. Although I am familiar with the expression “Stop and smell the roses”, I haven’t done that in quite a while. Living in Bucharest takes it’s toll. Living in Romania, actually. You don’t have time for these things anymore. You find yourself gnarling at strangers, giving people the finger in traffic, cursing and frowning, detesting everything and everybody and thinking “Life IS miserable”. It was.

Not here.

When I go to the supermarket, I wave to the Russian lady who works there. I smile at the employees who weigh my oranges and vegetables. I don’t mind that they put the fresher milk behind the older one. It’s fine, it’s their job. It’s… Life’s good. No more clenching of the teeth, no more resentment, hatred, frustration and anger. No more imagined and real violence.

I don’t really mind that the price of gas is outrageous. Or that sometimes, the internet goes down, like tonight, because of the storm. I’m smiling. It’s all worth it.

I’m a hobbit, surrounded by things that grow.

Sometimes, when I’m on the porch smoking or playing with the dog, I see some big ship in the distance, or a small fishing trawler. I see waves and hear them. I feel free, as if I’ve been in prison for a long time. The kind of prison where you’re somebody’s little bitch. Where all you think about is getting your hands on a shank and messing some guy up.

All of a sudden, I can breethe, move, hope and live. Really live. I don’t know if the cost of life here is higher. Perhaps. But there is something else to life besides costs. And I had forgotten.