Musings on Hellas

I am so interested in seeing new places that I rarely return to the same area of a country a second time. Yet I have now made three trips to the south-central Peloponnese. Jocelyn has gone twice. So we talked a lot during our two weeks in Greece about what it is about the country that we find so appealing. My stock answer is “the light,” but I know there must be more to it than that. It’s the food, it’s the beaches, it’s the mountains, it’s the range of everything from the ancient to the medieval to the modern. But at the end of the day, a good answer continues to elude us. Something about Greece is special.

At the same time, we spend a good deal of time marveling at the things that drive us crazy in Greece. Take plumbing, for example (not a topic I usually want to address, but it deserves a mention here). IMG_2307.jpg

This was a sign in the bathroom at one of our Airbnb apartments. And there are variations of this sign all over the country — in most places, you simply cannot throw toilet paper into the toilet. This seems very strange, and it raises lots of questions that I’ll leave to the reader’s imagination.

On the upside of plumbing, we encountered more shower stalls on this visit than we have in the past. But we did stay in one Airbnb studio that had the more traditional Greek set-up of having the shower handle smack in the middle of the bathroom. This means that when you take a shower, no matter how careful you are, the entire bathroom ends up getting wet. It’s less than ideal.

We also spend a good deal of time talking about Greek electricity (clearly, Greek utilities could use an upgrade). It’s not unusual to find a circuit breaker box in the middle of your entry hall or living room.

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The circuit breakers are often in a little frame like this one, but they’re always behind glass, so they’re right there for everyone to see. This seems like an odd design choice.

The Greeks are also still using glass insulators on a lot of their phone poles. These are beautiful, but it feels quite old fashioned.

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Jocelyn and I continually reflected that Greek electric set-ups don’t always look that safe. But it seems to be working.

Other thoughts on Greece … People don’t smile all the time like they do in the US. Some people speak amazing English, and others speak none at all (which makes us wish we spoke more than a few passing words of Greek). There are olive trees everywhere, up the most impossible hillsides, and I have questions about this monoculture. There seem to be more churches than people. I don’t know how so many churches can possibly stay open and maintained.

You also see hundreds of tiny little mini-churches by the side of the road.

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People erect these small shrines, which Jocelyn and I took to calling “god boxes,” for a wide variety of reasons: to praise a saint, to give thanks for someone surviving a car crash, to mark the site of someone’s death. Inside you’ll usually find a candle, a picture of a saint, and perhaps some sort of an offering. These votives are all over the place, from big cities to mountain tops.

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To close, I’ll note that Jocelyn and I have an obsession with the doors (and shutters) of Greece. They are just beautiful, and completely unlike doors in the US. The colors are stunning. We loved this combo in Limeni:

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And I was amused by the guy on top of this lintel:

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Doors can have meaning, too. In this one, note the crosses over the door above; those are made from the flame of an Easter candle to bless the house with the light of Christ’s resurrection.

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So to end our trip, I offer this random sampling of amazing doors (with the occasional set of shutters, one gate, and one empty doorway) from Delphi, Galixidi, Polidroso, Gytheio, Milopotamos, and Areopoli:

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One response to “Musings on Hellas

  1. Dear Tina:
    The words, endearing jealousy comes to mind as I read your blog about your unbelievably conscientious world travels and accompanying commentary and astounding photos. There were always plenty of reasons for why I loved your mind, insights and emotional honesty but this travel log validates all of that and beyond. The blog is monster terrific.
    I have missed your always good company and let your archives treat me like I am reading a vicarious travel book that I just simply can’t get enough of.
    So glad to see you are doing well and traveling with wide eyes and endless wonder. Keep sharing the blog. Maybe I could even catch up with you somewhere now that I have retired.

    With lotza BMore love.
    Dave

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