“You can’t come to Greece without seeing at least one island!”
How do you blame her? Celeste arrived in Agios Dimitrios three days after me. But she had already prepared every detail, so that her mother, grandmother, aunt and cousin would host me properly. And “proper” hospitality, in Greece, is just amazing. Breakfast ready on the table in the morning as soon as I wake up, bed made, lunch and dinner (and, oh my God, what lunches and dinners!) served, against all my attempts to help, to thank, to make myself useful. No way, in Greece the guest is a pasha, it works like that, because there will be other ways, other times and other trips to give back all this.
Agios Dimitrios is a small country village, a few kilometers from Livadeia, in central Greece. Just before arriving there, there is a tree in the middle of the road: it grew up there and the two lanes run along the sides. All around, like a valley, even if it is a plain, mountain ranges. In less than an hour, by car you can even reach the sea, and in an hour and a half you can reach Delphi, the infinite magic Delphi, the navel of the world, the Centre. Although not usual as a “tourist” destination – in fact, that’s exactly what I love – the holiday here is wonderful, the colors of light, landscapes, the friendly ways of the people, good energy and serenity.
But you can’t come to Greece without seeing at least one island! Mother advises us Hydra. To me, only its name is enough to convince me, even if it seems to be an expensive and very “touristy” place.
Agios Dimitrios – Athens – Piraeus – Hydra, train and ferry.
Piraeus is terrible. You can’t breathe, it’s a concrete casting on the sea. As soon as we arrive, we have to walk half an hour to find a bar. Shops of junk, hardware, low quality clothing, closed shops, sprinkled shops, decadence, dilapidation. Piraeus is a place of passage, the port of Athens. A chaotic and noisy comings and goings of travelers of all kinds pours into the streets, waiting for ferries, looking for ticket offices, and escaping the huge amount of beggars. The gypsies and homeless are no longer in the center of Athens, the Golden Dawn must have hunted them down, and so, on the sidewalks of the suburbs, including Piraeus, the rows of begging cans, makeshift mattresses, dirty rags and supplicating glances stretch out. We set off on the quay to avoid being swallowed up by the concrete and to look at the sea, even if it is more than an hour before the departure of our fast ferry. It will pass in a flash, as will the two hours of travel, drinking beer, eating chips and looking at the blue line of the horizon.
The fast ferry is a delight, a slow and relaxing cradle, even if outside the sea hurtles. The children sitting in front of us speak Greek and Spanish, and we study each other, attracted by the new languages.
I am curious to see this island where there are no motor vehicles, curious to see the sea of the Greek islands, curious and amazed by Greece and its continuous kidnapping me.
As soon as we dock we realize that we have made an unforgivable mistake: it is the end of July, in full season, the port is crowded and we have not booked any room to sleep. For a moment, total panic. We don’t even have sleeping bags, we wanted to travel lightly. But since I got here I’ve learned a beautiful expression – which, thinking about it, perhaps exists in all languages, something like hakuna matata in Swahili, I don’t give a fuck in English, ‘sti cazzi in Roman: the variesai. In short, WHATEVER, we’ll find a solution, the only free room in Hydra will fall from the sky, the universe will help us.
He who seeks, finds. Let’s enjoy a moment the view of this pearl on the sea, white perched houses, pebbles, narrow and intricate alleys. Let’s ask the first office. Nothing. They recommend a room rental nearby. Nothing, all full. A “taxi driver” of donkeys tells us to go up that road, to turn right, then left, then to go up that small ramp … the suitcases, although light, begin to weigh, it is an absurd heat and the climbs do not help. I leave Celeste sitting on a step with the suitcase and go up in random exploration, I’m away for at least half an hour, losing myself on purpose and finding myself again, because the atmosphere is magical and white and silent and I enjoy the walk. But nothing. There is no cot, the people I ask begin to send me back to structures that we have already seen without success. It must have been two hours now, searching in vain.
“Let’s go back to the port, maybe we missed something.” But we are quite resigned, and in the spirit of the variesai we sit at a tavern with a beautiful Alpha 66 ml, laughing at how unprovided we were and how much fun if uncomfortable will be looking for a sheltered corner and sleep on the beach.
Our host hears us and probably understands that he can’t leave two young tourists without a roof at all. Gionis arrives walking slowly and sits at the table with us. He is about sixty, has white hair and an apartment that has just been freed. He gives it up for two nights and for a little money. We rejoice. The universe takes care of us, just ask! We are exhausted by the search and drunk for the second round of beer. We laugh and release, while Gionis tells us about his family, the museum where he works, he says we can go and see him there whenever we want. The last effort and we arrive in a WOW apartment, all made of stone, with an inner courtyard and a staircase that goes up to a terrace from where you can see the port. Paradise.
We place our things, swimsuit on, and go!
We find a place that goes down to the sea, with a small space to lie down, music a bit too “in” for us, travelers on the road. And this will be our beach for the whole weekend, apart from a small exploration and a boat trip around the island. Here everything is “touristy”, the luxurious restaurants, the terraces of the restaurants all busy, the very expensive souvenir shops, the huge yachts with the sliding doors and the tables set in silver and crystal on board.
But the sea is blue and fills my eyes, the pita gyros is the best I have ever tasted and for two days we turn off our brains and the only thing that remains is contemplation, of the sunset, swimming until we can’t feel our arms, of the boats docked in line, in front of an abundant breakfast, of the steep alleys, of the night, from the terrace, listening to suggestive songs from our mobile phone and watching the port that lights up.
Yes, I couldn’t come to Greece without seeing at least one island.