Sunday, April 19, 2009

mythology


The truth is, I'm extremely tired.  It's really hard being somewhere and not knowing the language.  Voices are all around you, they sound like they should make sense but they don't.  So, as we were driving along the freeway out of Athens, a channel switch brought the sweet, sweet sound of Blur's "there's no other way" to my ears.  Arghhh, it was like melting into a hot tub after a long day's work on the construction site of life.   One third of Greece lives in Athens - that's 4 million people.  And, for this long easter weekend, many have fled for family villages leaving a not-quite-chaos on the roads. 

What has been so startling about Greece so far, are the historical/mythological sites that have always lurked in your general knowledge pool, but are now springing to life beside an unattractive highway.  40kms from Athens we pass a pretty plain where the Battle of Marathon was fought.  A runner was dispatched to Athens to let the king know the battle had been won, after which, the runner dropped dead.  the word "marathon" as we know comes from this journey.  

We eat easter bread in the mini van - "maztiqua" - flavoured by resin from a tree grown only on one island in the Med.   We are heading to Pelios - the birthplace of the Centaurs of legend, those that taught Greece's many heroes, including Achilles himself.  We pass the town from which Jason and the Argonauts set out to claim the golden fleece and wind our way up into the hills above Volos to a village named Makrynistsa, a place that flourished during the Turkish occupation of Greece - a time most Greeks didn't. 






We stay in a hotel built in 1972.  Camellias, gardenias, apple blossoms, poppies, white irises and azaleas colour our journey here. From the church in the middle of the village, a priest chants haunting easter incantations.  We go to the pub for a drink at the end of the day.  Sophie, Andy and I stay and drink - 5 sangrias later, who walks in but the priest in his black robes.  He walks around the pub greeting people and I, fascinated by the way he smokes his ciggerette, invites him to join us.  Sophie translates.  He drinks a green spirit and puffs away.  The youngest of his 9 children joins us for a minute then rushes away.  It is 1.30 in the morning.  It's a special night.  Parishioners stay up all night dressing the church for the easter parade tomorrow... he has much to do and a big day ahead.  Sophie explains that in Greeks expect their spiritual leaders to be human - hence the children, the drinking and the smoking.  The priest is dear, kind, interesting man.   

The bartender pours us all shots and we follow the priest out of the pub and head for the church to witness the decorations.  Sadly we leave early the next day and cannot see the parade. 





2 comments:

  1. Such lovely story telling from your pictures and your writing. I especially like the night time photo of the taverna.

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  2. what fun! and so sensible, priests are human for (all of their) gods sake! beloved, you sound like you are absorbing as much as you can, as only you can. I love it, and I'm coming to see you, I must, it's all too enticing! xx

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