Saints, Gods and Elohim

ţintaOlympus was originally off the “to-do” list on this trip, but seeing it, in the first morning, overwhelming and crystalline, induced a change of plans. So, from the comfy beds of the lady of Stomio, we jump straight into the sea for the morning shower. No one else in the clear, cool water. A thousand times better than a shower, the morning swim and the salt drying on our skin are replacing coffee successfully. Coffee comes from the Greek woman as well, on the house. This coffee, called Turkish in my country, has that creamy texture of the coffees boiling in my mother’s pot. It had a dark cherry color and I can remember every spot, dent, size of this morning flavor item. Until the first coffee filter showed up… and then the magic got broken.

We leave breakfast for later, we have fruit and nuts in the car. water, and juice, as well..peisaje incredibile

There are several possibilities to reach the top. Most of the information show two – we chose the one recommended by the hotel manager in Delphi. But, as we were about to see, all these paths are made of obstacles, like in fairy tales. We would find out much later that there are four roads to thte top. All, extremely treacherous and difficult. Especially in the final part. On the road atlas in A.’s car, the road seems straight…. because everything is so small on that map. In fact, it is a stubborn winding climb. We go through Kira and we want to descend on the other side, through   Agios Dimitrios. It’s just that the plan made home does not ever fit with the one in the field.  :)

aproape până susIN  Kira we are being mislead by the vegetable merchant, roaming the village with his truck full of goodies and a huge ancient scale… then, a Greek woman, just emerged from the Sunday church service, indicates in French where to meet the tarmac road. We wind up, up, on the massive rock. A crossroad with no sign, next to a tiny church: Saint Nektarios again. The door is open, candles at hand, everything prepared, but apparently no none there. We go around, light our candles, and proceed as we thing it would be ok, but, with all crossroads, the direction seems wrong compared with the one we knew we needed. So we turn through the forest :D. The Opel literally goes up a path until we meet another road that goes up, up, up. It is the good one, just that we should have had a real 4 x 4, not a SUV. The car should be tall, with big wheels, able to climb the rocky road.  ţinutul ZeilorWe need to leave the car, nicely parked next to the road portion that became an issue. STarting on foot, now I know there were about another  12 -15 km to go :) The energy of the place is huge. I realize each of us, not only I., has their owhn quest to perform here. And there is goes. Fitness, choice of path and the terrain itself separate us and each of us goes on a personal discovery way. Mine, beyond meeting the limit of lack of exercise and overcoming the crushed knee, which is the most strained during the climb, a spiral going up to the right side of the mountain, gets me to a level where I have to get over the pain and exhaustion of the three hours of continuous, gruesome climb on constant rocky- gravel ground that does not allow for sizing your step properly, but continuously oscillate depending on the height of the next rock to step on.

The Top is not visible, it remains shrouded in mist, as the physical level is left behind because of all the effort, and I enter a totally different layer of consciousness, where the body mechanically works, but all energy forms and shapes around become visible, totem animals start showing,  the stones shift their shapes and whisper. above all, the presence of the Mountain, giant, overwhelming shape of solid energy, the presence of Creators of Form – the Elohim Gods –  and the revelation of the personal leap get a much higher importance than anything else. I am climbing a mountain that leads to the M shape peak of Olympus, knowing we are a kind of strange catalyst for a circular wave that is opening here and now. My mission is different from I.’s. He is completely infused with the physical, intense need to reach the top. ,As usual, a step behind, I open and close spaces, activate the grid, I would like to stop and meditate… at a certain point, I realize the difference between our tasks and I decide to sit. I am completely overwhelmed by the power of this place. 

dincolo de noir

Everything seems to loose its relevance, facing the huge fields watching us like silent giants, with arms crossed. Beyond the top of this mountain, the real climb starts. I. knows, it is late, almost 4.30. We will not get to go up today. So he makes the decision and here we go, floating down, on a different road than the one we climbed. The descent is like a dream, in spite of the continuous pressure on hips and the knee. Among junipers bushes, back, to the car that gently waits, in a place worth an Opel commercial,  so that we can go back to a beach, at a decent hour. Or not :D.

We drive down the tarmac road, until we see another little church. Everything is closed, nothing locked. We light candles. I. Starts the bell. I hope the village does not come for service  :) . The road that heads down to the village is closed, but the Gate Opener makes way for us to descend. And we go down. and down. Olympus is almost 3,000 meters tall, so the way down seems endless.

There is gas for another 60 km, we are on our way to Agios Dimitrios, to return to Katerini. A road sign says Ski slope, Olympus.  I. goes ballistic, he is like a kid in front of the candy store window. So here we are, up again, towards Olympus, on the other side. The Northern one. The beautiful asphalt road ends right in front of a military unit. When we were about to turn back, I. jumps out of the moving car cand tells us to wait a bit. Returning, in triumph, he explains the terms: we only need the passport and a phone number, provided we return before it gets darak and take no photos of military items.

Just a turn around this curve, he says. Then there is another turn. And another one. I understand his quest, it is his path not mine and the attempt to fool me like I was a little kid does not fit my appreciation standards. Turning back, I head straight to the laptop, there is  something urgent I need to finish for business. Music on, mind in the marketing plans and budget Excel sheets, the frustration vanishes like dew in the sunshine and I am back to my butterfly serenity when they return. A. is dead tired, she gave up as well at a certain moment. It is not the time yet.

Well. This one, checked as well, although incomplete: time to go to  Katerini. We skipped meals, it is time for a dinner, at least… and that is what we are doing. After unnecessary turns, due to successive conflicts between I. and Gitsa, us girls decide to follow the Olympic Beach signs, which is exactly what we do, and we end up in a super conglomerate of hotels, where we get a six bed apartment for the enormous price of 35 euro :) . The we descend into a restaurant. I. does not like our sharing style, he orders something thinking it would be chicken and ends up with a salty pork gyros, exchange through the kindness of the owner. The chicken is salty, too. By contrast, our eggplants, zucchini and  tzatziki, accompanied by other vegetarian mini dishes,  looks much more enticing. The impossible food is packed so we do not hurt the owners’ feelings and we compensate with quite a bit of ouzo, naturally leading to the final brandy. We finished the Metaxa bottle, it was time, tomorrow we will be leaving. And the words float further, into the night, between the scent of the nearby sea and the holy rocks that we came from.

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.