October 22, 2012

At the bus stop this morning, I saw some legitimate Greek old guys. Their skin was brown and tough and wrinkled, their hair grey and wavy, their hands calloused, Greek fishermen’s hats atop their heads, flannel shirts and blue jeans, jackets. They gestured a lot when they talked, and I really wanted to know what they were saying.

I intended on visiting the Minoan ruins at Akrotiri (buried under ash after a massive volcanic eruption in 2000 BC) but when I got off the bus, I discovered that it was closed. I loitered around the entrance for a few minutes, listening for any sounds, but it was dead quiet. So I jumped the fence and crept up the path, senses heightened. I thought maybe the ruins were just out and about, like they are in most of the places I’ve visited, but these ruins are apparently still under excavation, so they are in covered and locked buildings. I thought, ah well, I guess I won’t be seeing Akrotiri on this trip, but then… I saw an open door… so I peeked in… and there was a whole city inside! Stone foundations and pathways and low walls… I cautiously wandered around near the entrance, but then I spotted someone’s keys sitting on a chair and I heard voices, and I got the heck out of there.

I wandered up the road past several old restaurants closed for the season, and I started to feel a bit sad and lonesome… not because I was necessarily personally sad or lonesome… but because the environment just kind of engendered this feeling… buildings shut up for winter… the echoes of the high season lost within the red cliffs… an expansive and windswept vista… I climbed over a promontory and found a small beach of red volcanic sand, so I clambered down the rocks to explore.

There were traditional cave homes in the rock face, their openings covered loosely with wooden doors. Further down the beach, a stone building. A few left-behind beach umbrellas. A little white stray dog barking at the waves and then digging excitedly in the sand. I found an old beach chair and sat for a while looking out over the water, meditating on my journey over the last two years. Eventually, I fell asleep, vaguely aware of the heat of the sun and then the cool of the clouds, alternating every few minutes.

When I woke up, I found myself sharing the beach with a few more people, which was honestly rather nice. Although I really do love traveling solo, it is still nice to be around people.

I caught the bus back to Fira, picked up my bag and said goodbye to Renata, got a souvlaki, and then took another bus to the tiny little municipal airport. After a thirty minute flight, I was back on the mainland, headed into Athens on the metro. I was due to stay with another Couch Surfing host, but it was late, and she lives outside of the city, and I wasn’t feeling up to traveling even further and meeting someone new. And so, I tentatively texted Eleni to see if I might be able to crash at her place and she texted back “we are already waiting for you!” Such a generous spirit. It felt so nice, after a solo and contemplative weekend, to be with someone who is not just familiar to me, but who has become a good friend. (My intended CS host was totally understanding when I asked if it would be ok if I didn’t stay with her. Everyone is so darn nice on that site.)

Tomorrow: my last day in Athens!