The rays of a beautiful sunrise bathed the outside deck of the Lido, and I almost missed it was I was engaged in banter with our table mates in the Lido dining room. This had become our morning ritual and become an important part of our cruise experience.
As we entered the Port of Piraeus the waters were strangely quiet as this is one of the busiest ports on the Mediterranean. I later learned the reason was a 24 hour strike by some part of this vast and essential transportation network. Greece is going through some tough austerity measures and a part of the population is having to suffer cutbacks in retirement programs. Hopefully this is not the situation we will soon face in our own country.
One of the perks of these Grand Voyages is the ship provides free shuttle busses to local transportation sites and in our case it was to the local metro station. As we and our shipmates tried to figure out the ticketing process the line to the ticket office was growing and I was able to get our tickets just as one train departed the station. We had purchased a 24 hour pass and it had to be validated at a meter and we had to try several before my ticket was accepted. We rushed for a seat on the next departure and I soon discovered that I had misplaced my ticket. Oh well….
We were soon on our way and headed for our long awaited visit to our old “home town” of Kifissia some hour distant. The young man who was sitting across from us struck up a conversation, and we learned that he had been gone from his home country for several years and was returning to teach in the local university. He also shared valuable insight on the current political and civil conditions. IT seems an election was not too far off and he was apprehensive as to the outcome and the future of his country.
As we rode along, we passed through neighborhoods that were carbon copies of the next, complete with disturbing graffiti plastered on just about every vertical surface. This was not the beauty I remembered. Occasionally beggars would board the train asking for money, this seemed strange, and then I realized that no one seemed to be checking whether or not you had a validated ticket – I think these folks were just playing the odds of not getting caught.
Too soon, we arrived at the Kifissia station and were introduced to a town that had changed so much in the past 43 years that we had difficulty getting our bearings. What had been a sleepy little bedroom and summer residence community had grown into an expensive upscale extension of Athens.
Exiting from a beautiful park, that we did not know existed when we lived there, we finally recognized the main thoroughfare. It was here that we started our search for a little hole-in-the-wall Souvlaki café where we so dearly love to eat. IT was at this shop where I last purchased 20 souvlakis to feed the workers that packed us up for our transfer back to the states in 1969. Alas we were told that it went out of business ten years ago. We settled for a sidewalk café nearby and were pleasantly pleased with the fare. So much so that Barbara ordered a Gyro to go, which she enjoyed at dinner that evening.
I had printed out a map of the local area so we set out on foot to find our old neighborhood. Barbara soon spotted the corner grocery store where she would purchase local staples between trips to the downtown military commissary. Walking down the narrow side street, we turned the corner only to be disappointed to find our beautiful rental home had been replaced by a grand mansion! But wait, the house next door was still there. It had been built as a dowry for the teenage daughter. Could Stella be living there now? A young man sitting in a parked car confirmed what we had hoped for – yes she lived there and he was her son!!! Since the gate was locked (all yards have locked steel gates) he called her on his iPhone and soon we were standing in Stella’s yard gazing upon her family. Although it was hard for us to communicate by language, there was no mistaking the love that spanned the years in that short moment. Before we parted, she went into her home and brought out a gift for us – Greek Easter bread! What a gift of love that was, as it probably had been purchased for her family to share during the holy week. The next morning in the Lido, we shared it with our friends. I have included a picture of Stella and her family and a picture of the “gift”.
The remainder of our stay in Athens was taken up with just enjoying the shopping and ancient ambience of this cradle of democracy, as told in the attached album captions and comments.
Next: A mule ride on the beautiful Greek isle of Santorin.
One thought on “Welcome Home to Greece”
What an enjoyable set of pictures. My, weren’t you & Barbara a handsome couple in 1969—loved the “older” pictures of the Parthanon—was nice to see what it looked like back then. Was scaffolding everywhere when I was there in ’05. How wonderful that you found a connection from the past–Stella’s family. Looking forward to your next post!!! Connie P.