Friday, December 24, 2010

Greece with the Kiwis…and back again

After all the chaos and emotional turmoil of our last few weeks in London, Greece provided a much-needed tonic in the form of rest and relaxation. We stayed at one campsite for the entire week, and we hardly actually did anything the whole time, but doing nothing turned out to be everything we hoped it would be. It was almost hotter than you can imagine there, and from the time we left the airport until the time we went back to the airport, we never once encountered air conditioning. When we first arrived I wasn’t sure I would be able to stand it, but I soon gave up on being very clean and just embraced the casual beachwear vibe, head scarf and all. The sounds of the island (we were on Zakynthos, in the Ionian Sea) were amazing because the entire time we were there the cicadas never stopped buzzing. It was quite a sound to wake up to.

We soon fell into a routine that served us well throughout the week. Step one: get up before the sun gets too hot, and move, with book in hand, to the terrace overlooking the sea. Drink some water, eat some fresh bread or yogurt, and read for a few hours. Step two: put on your bathing suit, if you didn’t sleep in it already, grab a towel, a bottle of water, and a book, and walk down the steep cliffside path to the water. Grab a chair if the German tourists haven’t claimed them all first, and read. Oh, you did remember to put on sun screen first thing, right? And every hour or so throughout the day? So much sunscreen that you went through a whole tube of it in the first five days? Good. Step three: read for a while, and jump into the sea every once in a while to cool off. If it hasn’t already been monopolized by a gang of Italian teenagers, swim out to the floating raft and practice cannonballs and choice bombs with your mates. Step four: slowly meander back up the cliff to the terrace for a picnic lunch of cucumbers, tomatoes, tuna, and bread. Step five: back down to the water. Step six: back up to the tent, rinse off, and move back to the terrace. Step seven: read and sip tiny glasses of local wine until Veit, the Austrian campground host comes around with the evening’s menu. Step eight: order more food than you could possibly eat, then eat it all. Step nine: break out the playing cards. Step ten: back to the tent for some hot, sticky dozing. Repeat.

The campground was hilarious because it was filled with families from all over Europe, mostly Germany, Austria, and Italy. We were the only native English speakers there, but of course they all spoke English in addition to their native tongues. How annoying. The other people were really fun to watch. Some of them seemed to be regulars at this campground, and they seemed completely at home there. There was an Austrian family with three beautiful orange-haired and freckled children, who Andrew played foosball with one night. There was a ludicrously attractive German family with a bunch of teenagers. We referred to their father as the Silver Fox, because of his full head of silvery hair and his otherwise youthful appearance. The other campground workers were nice, too. Veit’s mother was there. She didn’t speak English but we could piece together enough common language for her to give me water when I asked for it. There was a Romanian college student working there for the summer. He was a demon on the giant charcoal grill. Veit was hilarious, and he entertained us all by explaining the meaning of the word Marder: “It is a small animal, yes, that goes into the hen houses and eats the hens, but even when he is no longer hungry he keeps killing…he has…the blood hunger, yes.”

Even without the funny people, though, I would have been happy as a clam just because of the food. Such food! Greek salads, tzatziki, baskets of bread, fried zucchini balls, thick, juicy pork chops from the grill, souvlaki, octopus salad, roasted fish, giant meatballs, salty cheese. We absolutely gorged ourselves every night. We couldn’t help it.

When we weren’t eating, reading, swimming, or sleeping, which wasn’t often, we walked to the nearest village for supplies. One day we rented a little motorboat from the village and spent the whole day out on the water. Andrew and Don steered us around the bay and in and out of coves and around secondary and tertiary islands. We dropped anchor for a while in the middle of the water and just jumped overboard again and again. It was a very small boat with a very small motor, but the freedom it gave us was immeasurable. We got to see different parts of the scenery from different angles, which can be enlightening especially in a landscape with so many nooks and crannies. We could barely recognize our campground’s cliff from out in the water, and when we were up close to it we could no longer see the sea turtle shape of one of the smaller islands out in the bay.

But, as relaxing and enjoyable as our trip had been, it was soon time to leave. We packed up our bags and Andrew and I said goodbye to our trusty tent, which served us better than we served it, because it was all chewed through on the bottom and no longer anything like waterproof. It was a Zeus brand tent, and it seemed fitting to lay it to rest in Greece. It felt, too, like yet another goodbye to our European adventure. So, after one more big Greek salad and a basket of bread, we got in the cab and made our slow, delayed way back to London and back up to Cricklewood, where we had a final dinner and a final rest with the Kiwis, and then we said goodbye to the UK for the foreseeable future.

And now we’re back again.

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