Wednesday, March 3, 2010


Hey, I've reached Greece! On the one hand, I've come a very long way to get here. On the other hand, it's like having a new starting point. Observant ones out there might have noticed that my original estimate on the distance to Patras was a little off - I'm close to 3,400 km already and have at least 800 to go. No worries - I've got plenty of time until Easter and will chose a route that fills every available day. My plan is to arrive in Patras on 3 April. There's so much to see in Greece that I'm sure I could wander around to a new place every day for a few years, but I'll take a month to see what I can.

It was a rainy river crossing from Turkey. (To tally it up: two borders across rivers - no pedestrians permitted - and two borders across mountains; three in heavy snow, one in pouring rain; at each one, a pilgrim is an oddity.) My last days in Turkey were glorious - rolling hills, farm villages every half dozen kilometers, good food, nice people, barking dogs... the fruit trees are in puffy bloom and daffodils make every garden sparkle. The one day of rain, heavy as it was, was soft, warm and cleansing.

What to expect in Greece???? I arrived late in the afternoon on an empty highway lined with concertina wire and a noticable lack of signage. I saw a village, Kipi - white washed cottages with red roof tiles - and headed to it across a field of baaing lambs crying for their ewes and mooing cows wanting to be milked. In the village center, a church stands whitewashed with twin belltowers, a small school building, a minimarket, a covered block of post office boxes, and maybe 50 houses radiating from the juncture of five packed-dirt roads...

I started at the cafe - a dozen old men sitting quietly drinking small cups of tea or coffee, some playing cards on green felt mats spread on the table for the purpose. Of course, everything stopped when I walked in. I took off my pack and set it on a bench, then consulted my map and flipped through some documents searching for my Greek language 'cheat sheet' (to no avail - what could have happened to it?) A man approached and politely asked in German if I'd like a cup of tea. Sure, I would! - but it was served heavily sugared - blech. After a few moments more, I saw the priest arrive to the church next door - yippee! (except I don't speak Greek and couldn't find my helpful list of words). I dashed out to talk to him nonetheless, but alas, he speaks Greek and no English, German, French, Italian, nor >gulp< Russian... I even tried some Turkish. He pointed to the cafe and then to his watch and I was duely dismissed for the time being.

Back in the cafe, I asked the general crowd (which grew in my absence) if anyone speaks English. Not a word. Then if someone speaks French. No takers. One gentlemen shouted out 'Deutsch' like it were a game show, and we were off to the races. I explained that I'm a pilgrim on my way to Patras following the route of St Andrew - and unlike everywhere else I'd been so far, Patras is a place well known - and would need a place to sleep for the night and guidance on my next stage toward my destination. All of this was disseminated through the body of men and we all sat and waited until the priest was done with his evening service.

The German speaker grew inpatient and took me to the church to interrupt the four elderly women and the young priest. Foot pilgrims, it seems, are not common in this village. In the end, the priest gave me the key to the side room of the church where there is a room with a sofabed. Perfect for me. He stamped my credenziale. In the cafe, with the fire roaring in the pot-bellied stove, souvlaki, tomato and cucumber salad, french fries, and yogurt spread before me, and after such a long sad drought on my liver, a bottle of local red wine. Everything a pilgrim could want. If every village in Greece has such a church with the small sideroom, this last stretch of the pilgrimage will be stress-free and lovely.


オテモヤン said...


Sylvia said...

Glory be to Jesus Christ, now and forever! Do you know how to say that in Greek yet? Congratulations! You are in Greece! What a glorious accomplishment for you and St. Andrew! Your pilgrim and writing skills are being honed along with your soul. I think you will be shining when you get back to the U.S. God bless you and please pray for me.


The Solitary Walker said...

Well done on getting to Greece! Bet that wine tasted good...

Anonymous said...

Congratulations! Despite your miscalculation, you will make your goal. You will really enjoy Greek food and hospitality.
By the way, remember the Greek lady we met at Tony's? I spoke with her today and she is amazed you are almost there! She promised to be in touch...can't wait for more posts!

Ukiefriend said...

What a dreamy picture you paint of Turkey as you leave...just lovely!

J F F GrandsLieux said...

Souvenez-vous , je suis la personne qui vous avait dit que traverser l'Europe Continentale en hiver, ce n'était pas très prudent.
OK Vous avez réussi, vous m'avez bien étonné.
Félicitations !
Que votre chemin vers Patras soit plein d'amitié tout au long. Je n'en doute pas, la Grèce est le pays de l'hospitalité.
Ultreïa !

LDahl said...

The memories you must have!

Anonymous said...

Ann, which day did you cross into Greece? I don't see it on you log of kms. Efharisto!