The kindness of the Greeks
Thursday, June 9: Andritsaina. This morning we visited the site of Olympia (having seen the archaeological museum last night when we arrived) along with many tourists and groups. We were there early and the place is so large that it can handle crowds as easily as DisneyWorld. Here we are sitting on some stones.
We returned to our family-run, nice hotel in town. We were using the WiFi in the deserted dining room when the owner, a widow who operates the hotel with her son, brought us (unexpectedly) two plates and forks with freshly-sliced watermelon and a 1/2 liter of water since it was such a hot day. The water and the fruit were a very welcome refreshment!
We left Olympia and thought that we’d explore a bit of the western, unspoiled coast of the Peloponnese thinking that we’d rest near the beach for a couple of days, since we’d missed going to the island of Zakinthos on this trip. We found miles of unspoiled beaches with a few apartments and rooms to rent along the way. We took a look at an apartment to rent for a couple of days, but in the end, decided to get back on track for the historic sites.
We drove through the mountains (again), using the iPad AND George’s Greek map, to go to Andritsaina, a mountain-top ancient town of stone houses and many wooden structures of Turkish influence. This was a long drive through winding mountain roads. We had just over a 1/2 tank of gas and I suggested that we fill up the tank, but B said that we were only driving about 32 kilometers and that we had more than enough to make it. Well, somewhere along the road, the sign for Andritsaina did not obviously point to the left and we kept going straight. After some time, we both decided that we should pull out the iPad to see where we were. We were, actually, on a parallel road on the opposite mountain of where we should be! So, we turned around and instead of going all the way back to the original fork in the road, one of us decided that we would try the smaller roads that the iPad displayed which appeared to be more direct “short-cuts.” One attempt got us into a tiny road that turned to only gravel and on which we could only drive very slowly. We quickly turned around and tried yet another short-cut to get back on the main road, but that turned into grass. In the end, I got off and walked the steep hill back to the main with road with my backpack and B rode the scooter up by himself so that we would have less weight. Once we were on the right road, it eventually deteriorated in sections, occasionally full of stones on one side, or a trench where the road was washed away. At the same time, we had not seen a gas station for hours. We continued to drive expecting that in one of the next mountain villages we’d find a station. We drove through a couple of towns, the tank was almost empty, and we were thinking (independently) of a plan for when we ran out of gas.
Just a little while later, we drove around a bend and there it was — our gas station oasis. The station was in the middle of nowhere with two large palm trees flanking the pumps. There were two guys sitting, playing cards; one of them came to pump the gas and the other asked us, in a British accent, where we were from. We learned that this young man was from Birmingham and had come to spend a couple of days in Greece and then decided to spend the entire month. He said that he was teaching these Greek guys some English. The station attendant did use his English to ask B what his name is. With my prompting and a little hint, B used his Greek to say his name, so this was a nice exchange. Here is how we found the young man from Birmingham (left) and the Greek station attendant (right).
Oh yes, there were two other men (one old, one younger and we didn’t photograph them) sitting off to the side in a separate part of the station who were drinking the local red wine “krasi kokkino” — the old man kept gesturing to me to come over and join them to drink some wine. When they heard where we were from, the younger man said that I look like a lovely Greek lady which I took as a compliment and I made a polite gesture to thank him. We declined to have some wine “because we were traveling by scooter” and with a full tank, we were off and made it to Andritsaina long before dark.
We found a room in the center of Andritsaina and the proprietor, finding out where we were from, kept saying something about Michael Dukakis. And 2000. It is possible that Michael Dukakis visited in 2000, but I’m not sure! The danger of asking for a room in Greek is that each time these folks think that I understand and want to keep talking to me! In Olympia, the proprietor had told me that I spoke excellent Greek. And now this man wanted to tell me about “Mike Dukakis” and I couldn’t appreciate it all! Then we heard “Obama” and B figured that we are now talking politics. (Has Obama visited Greece?) Here is a view of our room (on the second floor) and the scooter in front.
After settling in, we walked over to the bar next door and ordered a cold beer to share. We were sitting for what seemed forever; B thought that I should go inquire to see whether the man forgot that we’d ordered, but I could see the man in the distance in his kitchen, so I said that we should be patient; after all, we’ve waited extraordinarily long for the cappuccino that we order each day. Wow, were we surprised. This man brought us a plate of cut up salted tomatoes, cucumbers, and olives along with our beer. Something to snack on! We thanked him over and over. Another generous person.
We later had a dinner of pork souvlaki and horiatiki at a little restaurant operated by mother and daughter. Here’s mama at the grill with daughter in the background.