You Too Can Live The Grecian Dream

May 29, 2019

Living the dream

Maybe I am trying to live the dream from The Durrell’s mini- series, based on Gerald Durrell’s true life adventures in “My Family and Other Animals”, as Louisa Durrell a widow, who in 1935 moves her family from England to the Greek island of Corfu.

Or maybe I want to role play Donna Sheridan-Carmichael (aka Meryl Streep) in the movie Mamma Mia, about a not very successful villa owner who hopes to find herself a wealthy man for a better life.  

And maybe, I have unconscious elements of these fantasies. Whatever it is, they all hold a degree of truth as when in the Greek Isles, we all smile, laugh and sometimes dance. They give you a sense of freedom and remind you that basic living can bring you the ultimate inner peace.

No, I do not go looking for a man, wealthy or otherwise. Although some of the Greek men are worthy of being wrapped in big squares of tunic cloth, with braided gold leather belts entwined around their taut muscular waists.

The wonders of Athens

 

Whatever the plot, for many years magnetic Greece has the ability to lure me back, and as a tourist, to a seemingly uncomplicated world. Athens, the capital and largest city in Greece was once a powerful city-state. Its remnants tell a wealth of stories like an old hand stitched patchwork quilt and its history is complicated.

Yet, in today’s environment visitors may see Athean buildings plastered with graffiti and wonder about the city’s ability to manage its inheritance but it is important to look beyond this and not let your vision be narrowed by the modern frustrations of select locals.

During my latest visit, I stayed at Dynasta Central Suites a modern, stylish, comfortable and affordable studio apartment located close to the Monastiraki area, the old historical part of Athens. My apartment was hidden behind a façade of graffiti buildings, with a discrete entrance to the building lift. I would return in an instant to this interesting area.

I felt safe in this part of town, as I always do in Athens although never naïve, and enjoyed new delights on offer, particularly the unusual and plentiful fabric shops. I couldn’t believe how many were dotted amongst the ancient buildings, cafes, and retail stores. It was a new discovery and an easy excuse to return with a full wallet of euros for any sewing enthusiast.

The wonderful part about staying in Athens is The Acropolis. Apart from its ceaseless power status appeal it is also my safety net and city guide. Even when I get lost, which I do at times, I walk a few streets in different directions, eventually get my bearings from the ancient citadel located on its rocky outcrop high above the city, then work my way back to where I am staying.

The Greek Islands

Apart from my fascination with Greece, my main goal is to find a peaceful place away from home for an extended break to relax and focus on writing. Living amongst the locals on a Greek island, relatively unpopulated by the average tourist, is a rewarding choice.

Once I sailed around the Aegean Sea dropping anchor at selected Greek islands with fellow crew members. That was my first introduction to the islands, it’s people, their passions and their lifestyle and I keep going back.

Today I do it a little differently and travel by either plane, bus or ferry to my island destinations. For a sole female traveler, it is quicker and easier to organise with different objectives in mind.  

In the last few years I have stayed at three different places and they never ceased to capture my heart and attention. Each hold their unique history and mythological stories. Sometimes I forget what is fact or fiction, locals will tell you there is no difference.

The island of Kythera, birthplace of Aphrodite the Goddess of love and beauty, lies at the south-eastern tip of the Peloponnese and one of the seven Ionian Islands albeit it distant to my recent Ionian destination, Ithaca. Kythera undoubtedly has incredible hidden beauties and is faultless.

Nafplio, an important seaport town in the middle ages, located in the hilly Peloponnese. The first capital of the newly born Greek State until the end of the Greek Revolution in 1834. This romantic towns history fascinates with the flourishing Byzantine influences post Roman times and its architecture mesmerizing.

And now there is Ithaca

One of the smaller Ionian Islands and from where I have recently left. As did the legendary Odysseus who did not return to his own home place until ten years after the ten year Trojan War. He is Ithaca’s hero in one of the most famous myths of ancient Greece.

The Mycenaean’s were the first ancient occupiers to rule the Ionians and have left significant traces of their existence. Although many excavations have been made, the ancient town of Odysseus has yet to be discovered.

For someone in the 21st century it was another perfect place to stay, another remote peace of paradise.

With friends we were accommodated in traditional Ionian built fully equipped villas in the village of Vathy. Both Villa Dora and Villa Marika located on two levels with balconies and yards, are approximately a 20 minute drive from our ferry drop at the port of Pisaetos. I stayed in Villa Dora and it immediately became my home away from home with all comforts of contemporary living and an addictive view.

It was walking distance to anything we sought around the islands capital and I joyfully exceeded my Fitbit’s daily 10,000 steps, every day. Dining day or night, we chose tables as close as one could to the water’s edge of the promenade. Captured each view as we drove through steep, winding luscious hills of cypress, oleander and olive trees, to visit the charming ancient villages of Kioni, Stavros and Frikes.

Life is easy in Ithaca. I already miss spying with binoculars on the incoming sailing vessels as they dropped anchor in their new port and the sound of the anchor chain engine when removing its grip from the pebbled sea bed in preparation for another adventure. The constant variants of blue in the bays pristine water, the fluctuation of waves and ripples depending on the conditions of the day, the smell of salt water, the early morning roosters call, the rumbling of motorbikes on their daily missions, …. and the food!! Pinch me please, am I really back home?

Getting to Ithaca

It was an easy trip from Athens once we understood the connections and times. You need to allow the day to get to Ithaca but it is a worthwhile, relaxing scenic trip by bus and ferry.

A taxi is the best option from your accommodation in central Athens to the KTEA Terminus at Kifissou where tickets can be purchased for bus and ferry. Costs one way, bus 22 Euros and ferry 15 Euros. The bus takes you all the way onto the Levante ferry at Patra where we unloaded our luggage from the bus into the storage section of the ship’s lower deck. The bus departs the ferry at Sami, Kefalonia, we were continuing on to Pisaetos, Ithaca and remained on the ferry to be greeted at the finish line by our Aussie Greek friend and her Ithacan colleagues, including the Villa’s owner. Taxis also available.  

I understand why Odyssey found peace when he finally returned home and even after the destructive earthquake in 1953, peace was certainly restored and still remains.

 

 

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