THIS STORY was supposed to be a piece about a city girl in country mode. Some high-minded reactions to leaving an environment populated by some 500,000 souls and finding yourself in a village of 500 people, where roads are too narrow for traffic. What happens mentally and emotionally with such a change.
Well, self-deception mostly.
What some call vacation, others call escape away from and into other scenes. I chose Greece again for eight glorious September days in retreat from the usual urban noise. The sun setting in the west over the Aegean from the terrace of the Lagou Raxi Country Hotel on the Pelion Peninsula becomes a revelation, an almost unnatural occurrence because of its too-rare unobstructed views at home. Awe and wonder. Such peace.
I walk 15 minutes into Lafkos village and sit in the central square beneath towering cypress trees—nature overshadowing my minuscule self, putting my selfish wants in proportion. An elderly couple I meet along the way hand me an apple plucked fresh from their front-yard orchard. And smile when I thank them in fractured Greek. They reply as though I can understand their words. Except for delivery vehicles, the narrow streets are closed to traffic, so the baker conveniently stacks the wood needed for his oven in giant piles outside. I pass Maria’s taverna and see her seated in a cellphone trance beside a rack of folded aprons. These are gifts from patrons coming from foreign lands.
I walk 45 minutes downhill on an ancient stone path hundreds of years old and stop briefly to admire the view and drink from a spring blurting pure water from a rocky surface. I’ve come to Milina village to swim in the salty blue sea and walk a shoreline lined with small shops and cafes. Signs advertise fishing trips and evening entertainment, though clients must be limited this time of year. The tiny tourist office is closed. September is already “off season.” I banter with the only tourists I see, a couple seated next to my table, where I order a raki. They are Romanians pausing on their drive south, wide-eyed toddler in tow. Their English is perfect.
So, too, is my swim off a pebbly beach shaded by some wispy pine trees next to a concrete wall.
And so should be the Greek salad I choose for a late lunch at another seaside cafe farther down the road. My waiter, the owner, is curious, courteous and direct—Greeks at their best, by right the equal of any man.
“I can tell you were once a beautiful woman,” he volunteers, putting before me my plate of juicy, well-oiled tomatoes and peppers alongside a loaf of fresh bread. I’m taken aback, unsure whether to feel flattered or insulted. What else can I do but thank him?
He walks away before I can reply.
The past always catches up with you, I suppose.
Ann Geracimos is an “ex-feature-creature” for the Washington Times and now blogs at www.urbanities.us.