Noi6 means "the 6 of us" in Romanian.

We are five, you are the sixth one.

We thank you for joining us in our trip around the world...

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Scrambled Foxtrot (2)

Cristina and I have been BFFs since 5th grade. No matter how much time passes from the last meeting, we talk and work together like we saw each other just yesterday. She takes the children fishing (Mihai, Ileana, and I are not fans) and then she shows them how to clean them.

Ready to eat grilled fish, hand caught crabs, tomato salad with feta cheese and many other goodies!

We pick olives, right from the tree, like they were cherries. Usually they are combed, with a special rake and when there are no more fruits, they are gathered with the tarp (previously spread under the tree). Cristina doesn’t like this, she says it bruises the fruits, so we pick them by hand. I try one, but is bitter and hot, it numbs my papillae. After washing, I cut them and red juice oozes out with oil. Then I put water and change it as often as I can, to take out the bitterness. In five days I add salt and pack them. They’re still bitter but in an acceptable way.

Freshly picked olives.

Day one

Day five

Ready to be eaten.

The slow life means we wake up at our own pace, do some school work, eat pomegranates morning, noon and night, freshly picked from the tree,

Sometimes this bowl was not enough for a day.

Maria's creation with yoghurt 10% fat, pomegranate, oranges and plain corn flakes.

move from the bed to the sofa, or from there to the swing, read, sometimes go to a beach.

I have a fight with some hungry caterpillars that eat the broccoli plants, they are not impressed by the organic repellant, and so I have to drown them.

Last wish: to drink dew!

In the evening we play games, we even finish our “who’s first to two hundred” Macao game that we started in Bottle Beach (that was February, now we’re half past October; Mihai and Maria share first place!)

Playing spat!

We don’t want to, but we have to leave. We’re still tired, emotionally if not physically, and what awaits us is going to drain these recently restored reserves. We have only ourselves to blame, as we are the ones who bought the tickets for Italy. So here we go into another flurry of quick steps.


We got lost by following the map and not the guide book, and arrived at some small amphitheater, but not the one that we were looking for. It looks like it’s an archeological digging, the workers serving a meal at 9 o’clock in the morning. They look at us, we’re trying to figure out where we are. A guy moves toward us lazily and just stands there, while we talk back and forth in Romanian. Seeing that we don’t do anything he asks us what we’re looking for. After we exchange a few words we find out that what we’re looking for is 15 km from here, we get there this and that way.

Fortunately for us, the tourist buses are not here yet so we have the whole amphitheater for ourselves. Built by Polykleitos, it can seat 13,000 people, and they all have a perfect acoustics from every point. Rows of limestone seats, slightly curved for a more comfortable position, the VIP chairs with a backseat and a hole to let the water run out.

The amphitheater opens ...

The Dascalu Show (the Cerberus is in the right upper corner, behind the bush)

We position ourselves in the middle of the scene and we start singing and dancing the famous song "Dragostea din tei" Immediately the whistle covers our voices: we’re not allowed! Apparently we were screaming. We change to recite poems, sing other songs, but somehow the fun is lost and the guardian is surveying every movement with a hawk’s eye. In the end he got out of his cage to tell us that we had to stop! Definitely, the Greeks and the Germans are vying for the most unpleasant rules for visiting their monuments (the small backpack, depending on the museum, could be worn on your back, front, shoulder, hand or not at all, and the coat on you or your arm, not around shoulders or waist; you can take pictures of the statues, but not with people, or of all the things but not this one, etc.)

We make a quick stop at the museum to look at the medical instruments. Here it was Asclepion, a center for healing. The patients would came from all the corners of the known world to take a bath and commune with the gods from the sacrifice that they brought in the hope that, while they were sleeping sleeping, the gods would visit them in their dreams to say which treatment to be followed. Beside massage, exercise and diet, herbal remedies and sometimes surgery would be recommended. They must have worked because we saw offerings such as clay models of eyes or ears.


Up on a hill the Venetians built a citadel, to complement the one from the middle of the gulf and another one closer to the town. They took their time but left one bastion unfinished, the one that is called Achilles'. The Ottomans attacked and conquered only one year after the completion of the fortress. One hundred years later the Greek independence forces used the same route to oust the Ottomans! There wasn’t much to see, a regular fort, but the view from up there and the blue sea was beautiful.

We made our way to the museum to look at the only complete bronze armor. We can see it because the owner, a young noble man, had died and was buried in a hillside with his belongings and because, after 3 000 years, the tomb collapsed and the thief didn’t have time to steal it. In a way it is crude and clumsy, in another it is a work of art. The helmet is partially covered with boar tusks, a sign of bravery (in Santorini we saw a complete one, made from the tusks of 60 boars). My mind flies to the bullet-proof iron armor from Australia, made by an outlaw in the 19th century.

Is this Achilles, killing and, in the same time, falling in love with Penthesilea, queen of the Amazons? (note the armor on him and the skirt on her)


A fortress made by cyclops! At least this is what ancient Greeks thought about the perfect masonry and the size of the stones (many weighing more than the piramide’s stones and with such fit announcing the Incas at Machu Picchu). It is partially excavated (10%)—Schliemann found here the tomb of Agamemnon and Cassandra and donated the treasure to the Greek people (viewable at the Archeological Museum in Athens).

The Lion Gate: the column and the altar symbolize the powerful city.

The double walled tombs.

Antropomorphic figurines found in the area

By the time we visit the tomb of Atreus, a huge tholos, another perfect example of exquisite masonry, I start to agree with my nephew: “You’ve seen one ruin, you’ve seen them all!”

The entrance to the Atreus tomb

The domed ceiling

The road toward Athena (Ah-tea-nah), Athens, goes between small towns and villages, churches and orange orchards, passing yet other ruins. The houses have all new aluminum shutters, a prosperous look about them, the gardens filled with vegetables. Somebody must work these fields, and it must be the Greeks!

We reach our target in the evening and we reunite with our friends.

Quick: Athens

The Acropolis has changed in those 6 years since we last visited. The controversial restoration finally has something to show. The temple of Nike is standing free, the walls of the Propylaea, the columns of the Parthenon, all show a mix of marble: ancient and yellow-gray, new and sparkling white. We just stroll lazily around, taking in the view, appreciating the graceful lines of an architecture that influenced everything that came after.

New for us is the Acropolis Museum, built especially to house the metopes and friezes of Parthenon (now in the British Museum link). It is a modern, floating building over glass walkways and the foundations of ancient houses. Maria goes around (she doesn’t like the feeling of emptiness under her), but I walk directly over a mosaic floor, walls and shards. The museum does a marvelous job presenting the Ancient Greek culture, customs (for getting married, burials, religious etc), and art.

We watch a movie about the history of the monument, the ups and downs, the destruction, the rediscovery. They actually use the word “stolen” for the parts that are now in Great Britain. Now that I am in Greece, and we’re talking about the same subject, and I’ve seen as much as I can take in one setting of Greek ruins, I’m thinking maybe it’s better to have them there, in this way people who don’t have a chance to visit Greece, can view them. It’s not that they would put the friezes back on the Parthenon, they would house them in this museum, to protect them. But this museum would present them like in the original setting, completing themselves with the ones that are still here, they would be a whole, they would be home. I can’t make up my mind where they should be, so ask me again later.

Last day in Athens and we have a divergence of program: Mihai takes the children to see Agora and the Archeological Museum. I chose not to visit it with my family. Instead I go to Egina (eh-ghee-nah), a small island. What’s there? A monastery and the holy relics of Saint Nectarios. The Orthodox Christians believe that the saints (normal people who led a life following God’s precepts) can intercede for us, praying for us to God. In Greece there are many Holy Relics, as there are in Turkey, Egypt and other Mediterranean countries. Why did I go? No special reason, just a personal need.

The tomb of St. Nektarios

But to get there I have to ride on a motorcycle! I’ve never been on one before. Dan is so kind and offers me a ride to the port to catch a ferry. Cristina tells me to pay attention, not to touch my leg on the pipe and burn myself. The helmet is small, I have to take my glasses off, so everything is blurry. Then comes the problem of balance. While in Scotland, I saw a motorcycle accident (I didn’t tell you about this one). The guy came speeding in a curve, lost control, the front wheel jerked, and the whole thing came sliding on the right side, spinning. Fortunately he was OK, some bruises. I tried not to think of the accident, but how could I keep the balance? At the ballroom classes I had to let Mihai lead me, and the only way I could do it, was to close my eyes and trust him. I chose to do the same thing here, close my eyes, put my hands on the sides of Dan’s thorax and copy his movements. At a red light I relax my grip and almost fall over when the light changes. How does it feel? Windy, but safe, I can envision learning to ride one by myself!

View from the restaurant where I ordered a souvlaki (grilled meat on a stick)

It is time! We have to leave... For me Greece was like home, though this is the first time that I truly visit it. Elements from people’s life are in my country too, some foods, some words. Life is hard now, so many businesses closed down, there is a look on people like they’re waiting for a change, hoping it will be in their lifetime. I see a child wearing a T-shirt with Che Guevara’s face on it. Does he know what it stands for?

We say goodbye to our friends. Words are not enough to express the gratitude for their hospitality. We just hope that we will have a chance to do the same for them or, if not, to someone else.

With Cristina and Dan, and behind us, the pomegranate tree.

Adio Ellada! Goodbye Greece!

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