With the heat of the late afternoon still upon us, Dave and I stared awestruck at the 360 degree view below us of Athens, a city that has been continuously inhabited for more than 7000 years. (Frankly it left me speechless and you well know that is a remarkable thing) Stretching before us for miles in every direction, were white and cream colored, multi story buildings reaching like fingers into the mountains that surround the broad valley that holds Athens. With the blue Aegean sea visible it is easy to see why the land we currently stood on had been chosen as home base all those millennia ago. Without question one could see the enemy coming for days….not that it stopped the wars and conquests. My brain was smoking as I attempted to keep track of the Myceneans, Spartans, Persians, Macedonians, Romans, Christians, Slavs, Franks, Venetians, Ottomans…and that’s just till the 18th century. Truly I should have paid more attention in Grade 9 social studies.
But first let us bid farewell to our island paradise of Santorini. Having become regulars at the taverna across the street, and we might add the most challenged Greek dancers ever to walk in the premises, we wanted to thank the owners for their kindness and hospitality and for not hauling us out of the dance line for stepping on the other patrons feet. There was much kissing on cheeks (Dave and Denis declined and went for firm handshakes and back slapping with the men-how ‘unGreek’ of them) With one final gift to us of rounds of shots of some fire breathing liquor we wandered up to our little heaven away from home.
As our breakfast was delivered to our door this morning the lovely woman who also does the cleaning at the hotel had a special smile for Dave. I will give the background that Dave could win the award for biggest tipper on the planet. Back in Calgary I basically have to tie his hands so he doesn’t give every waiter who serves us, the equivalent of a future child’s first semester of college tuition. Upon arrival in Turkey, Sonja guided us in that the tipping is very different and really only done when the service is above what you might expect and certainly not at the percentages common to North America. This caused Dave to twitch and required much reassurance that this was not going to be a faux paus extravaganza.
At the same time I will add that when we got on a plane three weeks ago we were carrying four different currencies in our money belts. At the time I thought well if I am to be mugged hopefully it is a thief with some understanding of international currency. Suffice it to say we were often left figuring out exchange rates and what bills and coins were valued at.
Back to the main story. This lovely cleaning woman was the same person who did our laundry free of charge. That would be our stinky; some might would say garbage worthy, cycling clothing and more. She brought the basket to our room and Dave, who didn’t have his reading glasses on, promptly and happily gave her a tip. Several hours later, with absolute horror, he realized he had given her a whopping 20 cents. He basically lied in wait for her return the next morning where he threw Euro bills at her like a man begging for clemency on death row. Although she spoke very little English she smiled broadly at him. You could almost hear her thinking out loud ” Oh I won’t have to put lava pebbles in your bed sheets after all.”
It was also time to say goodbye to ‘Kermit’, our teeny weenie rental car. The four door, brilliant green vehicle made its cousin the Smart car look absolutely spacious. The four us felt that if we ever got into a jam we could actually lift Kermit out of a parking spot and be on our way. Denis found it most comfortable to wrap his ankles around the back of his head…he then fit in the back seat perfectly. Lucky Dave was the only one to bring his driver’s license along on the trip (or the only one to admit doing so). That left the rest of us to offer advice, gasp at buses approaching us on cliffside bend and I in particular was fantastic at pointing out, after having driven by an intersection that we had just missed a crucial turn.
As I write from our hotel room in Athens the Parthenon, the all marble temple built in the years around 470BC, is illuminated in an orange glow as appears as if standing guard over the vast city below. It is as though someone has painted a postcard on our window pane. The dark green Cyprus trees quietly surround the sacred Acropolis rock as if guarding it from possible invasion. Luckily the Parthenon just has to face the armies of tourists, not a conquering empire. For now it sleeps peacefully as the sound of Greek music wafts up to our balcony from the narrow cobble stone street below.
Sue and Dave