At first we were a little concerned about going to Turkey because the country shares borders with Syria, Iran and Iraq. The situation is not exactly friendly in Syria at the moment. Though Turkey is a huge westernized country and we’d be nowhere near the terrible fighting we had heard that groups of Syrian refugees were trying to board the ferries along the south coast and we didn’t want to inadvertently find ourselves in a dangerous situation, especially as our young daughter was with us. That’s a little more ‘school of life’ than we were up for. But, after discussing the matter thoroughly over a glass or two of cloudy, refreshing ouzo with Dimitri the bar-tending philosopher (aren’t they all) we felt more confident. “No problem. Nothing will happen,” and the biggie “trust me.” So completely reassuring. While absentmindedly polishing glasses behind the bar Dimitri continued with his history lesson, “Turkey says we took over their islands.” He grinned with such force that it sent shock waves all the way up and over his scarred bald head. “Well, when you are there, just dig down…under those Roman ruins what do you find? Greek ruins! So I ask you, who took over who?” Valid point Dimitri. “Another ouzo please!” Continue Reading →
ATHENS – The three of us pile our assortment of bulging bags into the trunk of his 70’s era Mercedes and squeeze into the back seat together. His taxi is impeccably spotless, the soft dark leather seats recently massaged with scented oil. You can tell he smokes in here while he’s waiting in line at the airport taxi-stand. Sometimes he waits for hours to make a few euros for his family.
“Since the crisis,” he began. So many sentences begin this way in Greece “I am luck to have a job. Normally I am teacher, but driving cab is good for now. I am luck.” His dark hair was well groomed and his shirt neatly pressed. He held his head high. He was proud of his car. Normally we would take the metro or bus to save money but we decided to take a cab as it was dark when we arrived in Athens and we only had a vague idea how to find our apartment. “We are luck too!” I told him “Luck to have you help us find our way.” Continue Reading →
If Italy is a boot, a soft lambskin hand stitched boot, Sicily is the deflated soccer ball that it is kicking. We left the rough port city of Naples on the rockin’ and rollin’ in our little bunks night ferry and arrived early the next morning in Catania. From there we drove south an hour or so along the coast to Siracusa, a place we chose on the advice of an Italian friend named Domitilla who we had met late one night in Barcelona, which is a long and completely different story but if you’re curious it’s here.
The old town of Ortigia is actually a little island just east of Siracusa that is connected by three small bridges. Sort of like Stanley Park is connected to Downtown Vancouver. Only there are no over smiling uber-healthy joggers wearing iPods or rollerbladers in yoga pants here. People here prefer coffee and cigarettes. The old town is a labyrinth of very narrow streets but with a different flavour somehow than mainland Italian towns. Honed marble seems to cover every surface and the result is a warm buttery glow in the late day sun. Not only the cathedral walls but many of the streets, sidewalks and piazzas are carpeted with thick honey coloured marble. Imagine the value in kitchen countertops alone? I was tempted to lie on the ground like a lizard to absorb the warmth. Each door is a work of art and every window seems to have a balcony with a wrought iron railing that supported by ornate stone balustrades and at least one pot of red geraniums. Continue Reading →
We had bluffed our way through a few weeks in Italy before we finally bought a guide book. We resist them for a few reasons:
a) they are heavy.
b) i don’t wont to go where everyone else goes and order food by pointing at faded pictures on laminated cards.
c) something deep in my ego figures we should be able to do this unaided. So wrong.
One day in Rome I was just tired of looking at astonishing buildings, fountains and ruins and not fully understanding what exactly made them so astonishing. I caved. While paying (way too much, that’s another reason) for the book I asked the woman at the desk where her favourite place in Italy was. She said “Venice.” Knowing we were travelling in the opposite direction I said…”what about south of here?” She didn’t hesitate for a second “then it’s Sicily…by far.” Very definitive statement. Continue Reading →