Angels in Monastiraki

departe, Olimpul.Early morning after the first day of driving into Greece. Sparkling sunny air, infused with the smell of the sea. We decided to postpone the drive to Athens until after a serious swim in the sea, so we perform a cat-like stretch and bump into our Romanian neighbor, tormented by serious back pain. 

So our morning actually starts with a four handed therapy session that leaves the lady more than happy :) . Nothing happens by chance, it seems that landing here in the middle of the night, groping through the Greek darkness to reach a random hotel, led us to doing whatever there was to be done. It seems that this trip is more of a business trip than a vacation. Little did we know…. 

Wearing our swim suits, we effectively float down to the neat breakfast, prepared by the Greek guy that works all day. Giving in to the local yogurt, creamy like no other, and THOSE olives…. Yes. Olives, yogurt and oil, nothing else needed.  
 Korinos, vegetaţie sudică

Heading to the beach on the well groomed boardwalk belonging to the tiny clean and neat hotel, we manage to avoid drowning into the fine sand before reaching the lounge chairs offered for free and another. So nice we do not have to breathe anyone’s cigarette smoke, not to mention that almost no one smokes here. Most of the guests are French and German :) .  Everything is sparkling clean, the small pool is impeccable, the Greek sweeps, scrubs, sets everything in order after finishing the breakfast buffet preparations.

departe, Olimpul.The Aegean Sea is blue and clear, smooth and salty, warm, in spite of the early hours. So we float and swim for a long time, with our eyes on the Olympus, visible for the first time in weeks, as our colleague tells us, chatting with the newly revitalized neigbor.  The Germans and Dutch must have landed in Thessaloniki, for this little airport is full of charter flights during the summer. Typically quiet families, with or without children, and if there are children one cannot notice the typical yelling, screaming and repremending the families perform at our seaside. We enjoy that Time-NoTime for another dive, sleepy and slow, into the majestic energy of this place that brings you back into Harmony, dominated by the great mountain and soothed by the sea. And this continues until the first nasty jellyfish shows up. I suddenly understand the meaning of the hundreds of colored nets, magnified versions of the aquarium nets, one can see in every tiny beachware kiosk. There must be some serious fishing here :). So we grab our stuff, nicely pay the same Greek who takes care of the reception desk, as well, stay a bit longer to enjoy the terrace wi-fi, solve the work stuff and after that it is time to get back in our car, lady-like. The license plate, Romanian, translates as DREAM. And we head straight into the hottest day of the month in Athens. 39 Celsius, almost september….

fortăreţe medievale

The Opel  4 x 4, bearing proudly the nickname of The Little One, shows obvious signs of no air conditioning. What a coincidence. Last evening it was working perfectly, so losing freon is the first hypothesis we exclude. That is unless the Aegean SEa sharks come to the shore after midnight to bite cooling agent tanks. We hae to live with the idea we will drive having the windows down… should be nice on the highway… music would be redundant…. and hair blown by the wind, like fairies.

The road to Athens, almost entirely highway, is incredible. We wind through spectacular mountains, admire the Greeks, working like ants to finish a missing segment of the highway… and pay a ton of road taxes. Summing up to more than 30 euro.  Passing by huge rocks in delicate balance, old forts, no time to stop, the heart races saying quicker, quicker, and by fields impregnated with a slightly suspect smell… is it organic agriculture??

pe spatele unui şevalet de artist

The bright pink lipstick and Cleopatra eyes of the driver produce the first victim. A gentleman driving a nice silver Audi is passing us, then slowing,  getting behind us, and when we stop at a gas station for refueling, he pulls over next to us to report. the rack in the back of the car, the shirts are nicely ironed.  He is obviously on a business trip. But tomorrow evening he is free, and A. gets a phone number and a really polite invite. Should she call, he would be really happy. Two sodas came as a polite offering, as well, and we can but thank him and proceed.  Another stop, in the heat of the day, in one of those beautiful, air-conditioned expensive places on the side of the higway, supplies a little bit of breathing and a Cafe Frappe like no other. Greeks know their business.

Our GPS with a male voice, freshly baptized on the road to Thessaloniki with the glorious name of Gitsa drives us into Athens with only one failure – the maps are not updated and we get into a wrong way. Here we are, into the heart of the city, next to Monastiraki (Thanks, Free Spirit Travel, for inspiration and reservation) and park on the free spot that seems to have been waiting for us, to check in quickly and touch again the old stones of Plaka, the charming old neighborhood of Athens.

painting angelsWaiting for a friend that I seem to meet only during trips, in the country and outside, we get back into the heat, from the chill of the air-conditioned rooms. The schorching afternoon of the end of August lets us drift, with water bottles in our hands through the labyrinth of medieval tiny streets. Athens is heartbreaking after the crisis. The number of deserted stores is overwhelming. My previous memory of the area hits a dismaying present time, but MOnastriraki is as alive as it always was. With singers, acrobats, jugglers and lights, African drums…

Stopping at a Henna  tattoo maker, we teach him the first Angelic symbols of his life and he correctly paints them, then A. falls in love with an intricate opal elbow braceet and the matching necklace, made of twisted silver wire. I used to be magnetically attracted to such things and now I am totally detached. The stores ooze the same melange of scents, sounds and colors, nicely sparkling. Stopping for a real Greek salad – I do not know how or why, but the real Greek salad is to be found only where Greeks make it – we enjoy the Feta cheese… the strong taste olive oil… the organo and the crunchy vegetables. There is this je ene sais quois  that is matched only by Ouzo, and here we are, jumping into a metro that takes much longer than we were originally thinking, and we get to meet I., who lands, coming from the other side of the Earth.

Monastiraki, inima melancolică a Atenei vechiThe metro is packed with old people, giving us odd looks and making us use the ouzo encouragement for showing these guys a lipstick lesson. The chairs next to us suddenly empty 🙂 and we land, about 10 mins late, in the airport, to collect a worried I. who had no roaming service on his Romanian phone. Things float back into normal, like nothing happened and the summer months were just a pause between an outbreath and an inbreath. A short,  insignificant pause.

And the story goes on. Wonders are just starting. On the hotel terrace, in the velvet August night, eyes on the Acropolis – the Higher City – love and joy are flowing. We are back on track.

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