Saturday, November 15, 2014

Enduring Epiphany

Pics and Words by Barry Greville-Eyres 

Epiphany Greek for ‘Manifestation’ – An experience of sudden and striking realization (also WOW or AWESOME!)
The Acropolis under siege by
marauding hoards of tick-box tourists from a visiting, luxury cruise liner
In spite of a fleeting, first time visit to Athens and two islands within the Cyclades group (Paros and Naxos) Greece and all things Greco have ‘grabbed’ me like no other travel destination. Likened to a favorite and well-worn item of footwear (KEENs or CROCs) or clothing (flannel winter PJs), Greece is a BEST fit – it’s easy, comfortable, warm and fuzzy and molds to the body and psyche instantaneously.

Respite and under the mantle of darkness the rock massif of the Acropolis settles, more comfortably, in for the night 
Near and distant views of greater Athens
Rooftop views of urban Athens from the slopes of the Acropolis with Lycabettus Hill in the background

Where it all or doesn't happen - Parliament - Athens

It’s changelessness; durable nature/culture and essential Element-als of earth-soil, rocky mountains; water-azure Aegean sea and freshest ancient aquifers; air-the gamut of oceanic and land breezes and winds; and fire-sun seared régime that resonate so resoundingly.  Most memorable and visceral are: pungent goat droppings and urea – bruised aromatic herbs and treacled pine resin – flowering jasmine and citrus – freshly baked bread/pastries – and grilled seafood wafts that have washed over, caressed and haunted my senses in a ‘sense-surrounded and emotional explosion’ reminiscent, collectively, of so many other times and places. A probe so sweet, profound and achingly delicate into the deepest recesses of the consciousness and soul – déjà vu perhaps?
Postcard perfect! Antiparos one of the smaller isles adjacent to Paros basks in the autumn sunshine 

Hiker's delight! The Byzantine Route is one of countless countryside walks that crisscross the Cyclades group of islands

Gentleman from Paros pottering around

Autumn on Golden Beach - Naxos. Shades and raptures of bougainvillea, oleander, plumbago and others 

Close up of Filoti's back streets - Naxos Island

More specifically, it’s the reverence, respect and the co-existence that prevails between the islanders and elements. Development generally seems to be moderate and fairly sustainable with due regard for aesthetic as well as environmental impacts. Perhaps it’s the less conscious similarities with my South African homeland or the ‘development practitioner of fortune’ lifestyle that we lead that leaves one yearning for some grounding and familiarity. Paros and Naxos provided this and much more – in addition to this joie de vivre or heightened sense of well-being is the fundamental issue of SPACE – spatial as well as head. It’s exceedingly rare to be ‘transported’ in totality – a realization that can be unnerving yet equally mystical. 

Agia Marina or St. Marina is the first significant landmark on the ascent to Mt. Zas - Zeus departing from Filoti taking the clockwise route - a highly recommended hike

Signage guiding one to various landmarks and hiking destinations

Alas - little to do with my Greek Epiphany

An interesting plaque considering the origins of democracy - rule by the people! 

Final ascent to Mt. Zas - Zeus Naxos Island on a clear, bright sunny day

 I love Greece’s reckless abandon or its ‘demo-craziness’ ….. a lifestyle demonstrated by the philosophy of symposion - 'drinking together' - enjoying the famous triad of wine (including dining which more often than not is very fine, yet so simplistic), women and song. I observed this leisure and obvious pleasure on many occasions ……quaint, very old worldly and inspirational – as aspect missing from my personal life and something I can quite readily aspire to.

My favorite hang out and people watching place - Monastiraki Square a major thoroughfare

Greeks appear to live life to the fullest - little conservatism there – seemingly the way always or perhaps more so a product of the more recent, economic recession and associated woes. No holding back....leisurely meal times, plenty of socializing. Little or no Prozac-popping here and hardly any indication of Stressed Georgios and or Marias. My and the older generation have scant regard for information and communication technology - no smart phones - with a decided preference to remain blissfully disconnected, dumb and uninformed.  Essentially a decidedly different lifestyle where smoking remains very fashionable, public and cuts across all demographic groups, alcohol is consumed heartily and responsibly and physical exercise seems to be something of an afterthought. Nevertheless, this lifestyle seems to promote and secure longevity of sorts.

Charming, gentle and friendly inhabitant of the mountain village of Danakos - Naxos Island

More village people from Danakos taking a breather from building terraces and retaining walls planted under grape vines
Church of the Metamorphosis

Portside Naxos - clean, clear simple lines

Port of Naxos framed by the Gateway to Apollo - reputedly also the inspirational icon for National Geographic

On Greek hospitality – it’s sincere but can be quite brusque at times. It generally gets the job done and leaves one feeling at ease, at home and very welcome. Service is far from overbearing but rather very businesslike and efficient. I experienced little or no shortage of complimentary drinks and desserts but suspect that this is rather part of a winning, entrepreneurial formula ensuring many more, profitable patron returns. I found the extended trading hours particularly for tavernas, restaurants and pubs very practical and liberating. I’d strongly recommend going off the well beaten tourist track, whether on the mainland or on the Greek isles as this is where you, too, can discover the archetypal Greece and how you relate to this unique experience.  

Serving international tourists and locals for decades

On any given day, morning and afternoon, you'll be greeted by Petros at the Port of Naxos touting for business - I happened to be one of his very satisfied guests.

At the end of a comfortable two hour bus journey, on public transport, from the Port of Naxos you'll reach Apollonas on the northern tip of the island. The route traverses a number of spectacular mountain passes and takes you through villages perched precariously on the mountainsides 

Apollonas - off the beaten track but a comfortable day outing from bustling Naxos 

As rustic, traditional and historic as you can possibly get

The rural countryside and adjacent villages on Naxos are punctuated with many places of worship ....

The dreamy portside village of Naoussa on the island of Paros

This pic simple does not do justice to this majestic, old oak tree that dominates the property and Taverna Calliope

This taverna served up the freshest and tastiest home-grown, organic Greek fried potato chips cooked in none other than the best, local olive oil. The local potato variety is sought all over Greece. It thrives in fields with plenty of sun and little water. The hamlet of Moni is in the background

Once upon a time this animal drawn arrangement was used, presumably, to mill local  cereal crops

Above and below - starkly contrasting silhouettes depicting the march of time, technology and progress 

Most things on the Island of Naxos, invariably cast in  rock and stone, have withstood the ravages of time and civilization  

Yet another place of worship, this time on the island of Paros dominates the village skyline of Lefkes

Undoubtedly, love at first sight! Summing up and putting a wrap on my Greek Epiphany


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