Sunday, March 7, 2010

Trippin' on History

Compared with everywhere else I've walked, history is pouring out from all directions. Still, like in Turkey, small villages that have been there forever are full of modern houses in stark contrast to similar villages in France or Italy or Spain, for example, where the age-old houses have been compasionately modernized and still retain their quaint old appearance. Nonetheless, the route I've been on through Greece follows quite closely to the Hellenistic road, Via Egnatia, built in the 3rd century BC and improved by the Romans in the 1st century. I'm not sure if St Andrew walked this way, but if he did, he certainly would have used this road. Great stretches of it are cordoned off and have descriptive information signs, in Greek and English. Cool.

I've gotten a bit lazy - everyday since I've been in Greece, I haven't had any trouble finding someone who speaks German; consequently, I haven't been too motivated to learn a whole lot of Greek. I wander into a village, go to the tea house filled with old men playing cards, and immediately gain the attention of everyone present. Someone always speaks up in German to offer me some 'tea' (a vile sweet pinkish instant drink, like hot Kool Aid), Greek coffee (exactly like Turkish coffee), instant coffee, or a 'frappe' of instant coffee frothed with milk. I generally enjoy the company of the old men. When I tell them I began my journey in Kiev, they invariably come back with 'oh, Russia'. Their error is forgiven - geographic boundaries have changed a lot during the lifetimes of most of these men. This is the underlying reason, they tell me, that the villages are full of modern houses - after 1924 when everyone in northern Turkey and eastern Greek was repatriated with their ethnic homeland, neither group was content to live in an old house previously occupied by the other group, so down the houses came and up the new ones sprang. It's funny that the modern houses in both Turkish Thrace and Greek Thrace look alike. And they've all got indoor plumbing =)

The old men in the villages as well as the priests I speak with to get advice on how to get to my next stopping point all give me the predictable misguidance: 'take the highway', they all insist, 'it's the fastest and easiest way'. They're nuts of course - walking alongside a highway has got to be the worse route for a pedestrian... do they think I can suddenly skip along at 8 kilometers per hour instead of my usual 5? I had the most glorious walk of the trip between a brand new convent in the village of Panorama on the Aegean, and a tiny village of Xylogani along the coast to the west. I stuck to the shoreline along the ancient route now dotted with archeological digs of settlements from prehistory. I literally tripped over some stones and saw that they were part of a Hellenistic theater. Medieval watch towers occupy each high crag. For more than five hours of brisk walk under a sunny blue sky through centuries-old olive groves, my company was herds of goats, each equipped with a small clanging bell. This was the route everyone warned me not to take - 'it's too dangerous' they say, because they're afraid to walk in the forest - wild pigs, they say. Teeheehee, I say.


ksam said...

Wild life vs. Wild drivers! I agree, I'll take the wildlife!

Anonymous said... always, the picture you paint is as if I was there. And, you are teaching some geography in the process! I like the way you put it! Nadja

LDahl said...

I agree, drivers are scarier than wild pigs... but the piggies do have a fearsome reputation. You could yell and brandish a stick at the porkers... definitely no help with the drivers. I'm enjoying your trip.

Sylvia said...

Ann, so glad to know you are back to health and safe! Oh to be ill in a land where the scenery is unsurpassed and the people are so friendly and willing to offer their hospitality. What about the Greek economic situation? Are you seeing any demonstrations or feeling any of this pinch?


Ukiefriend said...

I could just picture you walking along the shores of Greece! The best is yet to come!