Thursday, July 29, 2010
Roam if you want to, roam around the world...
Samos was, to me anyway, in some ways a bit surreal. For one thing, our hotel was full of retired-age Germans. We'd be sitting on the terrace, looking out over the Aegean, enjoying a meal and a glass of wine, and all the conversations around us would be in German. The kids weren't learning "good evening" in Greek, (kalispera), they were saying Guten Abend. And they were, with the Germans, enjoying spotting ein gecko who would come out to catch bugs after dark.
This was a bit weird. Where were the Greeks?
Our waiter, Achmed, well, he was Egyptian. He was pleased to speak a little Arabic to us, though his was the non-religious greeting as opposed to our usual greeting used for speaking to and between Muslims, salaam alaikum (peace be upon you).
Every time we ate there, flying about were the tiniest, most delicate flying insects, quite harmless. They would fly around us, land, then hover nearby again. If you tried to shoo them away they would land on your hand and look at you bemusedly, until you shook them off into the air again.
Trying to be friendly, between bites and making sure I didn't accidentally eat one of the friendly bugs, I asked the other waiter where he was from.
He gave me the ultimate are you stupid? look. Samos, he said.
Oh. There's a Greek. Oh, good. Thank you.
We zipped around the island in our tiny blue car, exploring, getting lost, exploring some more. Good stuff.
Thomas and a sign particularly pertinent to him. "Please do not climb on the monuments." In English, Greek and...German. What is up with the German thing?! Nothing against them, just wondering.
We visited the Temple of Hera, queen of the Gods, the Heraion. Fittingly the largest Greek temple ever built (and that's saying something!), now only the massive foundation and one reconstructed column, half it's original height, remain.
And some feet. With guards nearby to keep you the heck away from the feet. I know this for a fact. I thought Thomas could stand near them for a photo...oh, no. Not even close to the feet.
Alrighty then. I couldn't really blame them. Mike and I have joked more than once that perhaps we need to visit the British Museum to see all the artifacts taken by the British through the centuries from the places we've visited.
Not that one can blame the Brits of yesteryear...I mean, if I was wandering around with my parasol, trailing skirts behind and I came upon these feet, I might have set my manservants to loading them into the carriage to take home for an amusing garden ornament. Sorry, wake up Natalie, *slap, slap* back to this century...!
In this century Thomas was running ,tripped, and clonked his head, hard, on some ancient stone, resulting in an angry, swelling and purple goose egg. And a goodly amount of screaming from my generally stoic child. I scooped him up and took him over to the restoration area where some workmen were, well, not working. I asked for ice, several times, and they waved me away. "He OK, he OK." they told us dismissively, raising their voices so I could hear over his sobs.
So perhaps not all the Greeks care for children.
So, going with the theory of using what works, we once again resorted to hunting lizards in ancient ruins to distract from injuries.
There were lots of pretty big lizards (can you see the tail of this one darting under the rock in front of Bethy?) and wildflowers to pick, and soon enough the lump was forgotten, though for the rest of the day Thomas would suddenly cease his usual perpetual motion, stand still, put his little hand to his head and say I have a headache.
No doubt, buddy.
There was a castle in town, Lycourgos Logothetes, next to a church and cemetery. The remains are kept above ground, quite elaborate, with a flame burning and a photograph of each occupant.
I am not afraid of the dead, but for the second time this trip I found myself with heebie jeebies, this time total heebie jeebies, not the scaled back I-have-a-bunch-of-bugs-crawling-on-me ones.
Usually I enjoy wandering cemeteries, reading the inscriptions, feeling grateful for the life I have, thinking about the lives of others. This time the hair stood up on the back of my neck and I couldn't shake the feeling that someone was watching.
I looked all around, up at the windows of the church, didn't see anyone. Made an executive decision and hustled us out of there. Yeeeach. Later I learned that it is considered bad form to take photographs on sacred ground, though I must say I felt creepy before I took the photo.
Regardless, I felt much better entering the deep golden grasses of the field next to the cemetery and wading through them, wary of snakes, over to but not into another castle, or perhaps another part of the first, who knew? Wildflowers, stone walls Thomas could climb on, much better all around.
Then we hopped off to the next destination from Mr Guide Book. What better way to cure the creepy crawlies than to climb down into a tight little tunnel that somewhere beneath the mountain is 180 meters beneath the ground, constructed 2500 years ago?
Heck yes! The Efpalinean Tunnel actually opens up relatively well after you climb down a ladder and squeeze yourself for the first 20 meters or so. After that you can walk upright and everything through the dripping rock.
And it's not too dark. There are lights all along, and the open gaps that go down and down and down are caged off, again, relatively well. You can't go all the way through the 1000 meter tunnel since a goodly portion has collapsed, but better not to think of such things. As it was, the guidebook said "engineering marvel" so it was a given we would go.
Up on the hillside was the beautiful Spiliani Monastery, overlooking the town, countryside and sea.
Though the kids were just about at the end of their sightseeing tether (and we expect a lot of them, so it's a pretty substantial one) we thought we'd stop, take a quick photograph, and then go back to the hotel for some well-earned pool or beach time to let them unwind.
Another couple was coming out of the gates and, seeing that I was about to leave, called me over and told me that there was something there that was a must see, something really special, especially for the kids.
Well, when someone says that, one goes. Not exactly sure what we were looking for, with a bit of searching around the grounds, we finally found what they meant. An underground cave church, I believe to the Virgin Mary. Down a slippery rock path to the one room chapel of Agios Georgios, impressively long and slender candles lit by petitioners propped up in the rocks nearby, glowing in the dark.
Then we made our way out, through the gates to the little blue car, the hotel, and to put our feet up.
Quite the day.