Friday, November 16, 2012

Arrivaderci Athens!

Coffee with Zoitsa
In the AM I met up w/my former student from Farm School days who had somehow -- total luck she says -- been plucked from Thessaloniki to be K. Karamanlis' personal assistant back in 1979. First he was Prime Minister and then President of Greece until his death in 1998. Now Zoi works in the offices of the New Democracy political party -- the current party in power, a rather thankless task. We had coffee at the Grand Bretagne (her treat!) and got caught up after many years. 

It's chilly here in Athens, and people are holding off turning on the heat. Going to be a long winter, but first the Polytechnical School Incident commemoration tomorrow. I passed some riot police on the street next to the Parliament; they didn't allow photos. TV is announcing Metro and street closings for tomorrow afternoon, as they batten down the hatches. Sorry I am going to miss the historic the intersection of old political milestones and the current financial crisis.  Meanwhile, TV news has brought more bad news to the Greek people: electric bills will increase up to 20 per cent this coming year..

Lunch at Soultana's
Visited this afternoon with Soultana, another second cousin from Naoussa on my father's mother's (Pauline Xanttopulos') side. A specially-prepared lunch included stuffed vegetables in egg-lemon sauce, some boiled chestnuts and homemade kataifi. According to Soultana's plan, I spoke with all of her siblings in Naoussa and Verria by telephone. Manoli runs a Flokati factory in Verria. His mother Alkinoy was one of my favorite people; his daughter Alkinoy is a Facebook friend. The world, for better or worse, is getting smaller and smaller..

I have waddled back across town, via 2 buses and the Metro -- and I'm now a Greek public transportation expert, helped no doubt because I speak the language. Ran into a group foreigners at the intersection across from Parliament with signs saying, "Out with the Neo-Fascists"; they were surrounded by riot police, but all was peaceful as far as I could see. On TV I saw a Mikis Theodorakis who could barely walk, but who came out to lay a wreath at the Polytechnical School just the same.

Soula and I had gone through photos that are around 90-years-old, and she gave me a few -- including rare photos of my father's father and pictures of my father in ethic dress before he left for the U.S. Progress on the family tree front!

Anna, Boula and Maria
They are waiting upstairs for me and Soula -- some sort of a family gathering, all the people from my generation and their kids, etc. I now have a large support group in Athens, and many of them live in the same building! Taking more pictures...

Off to the airport at about 4 AM to catch an early plane to Rome, thanks to a ride from Maria. Thus my excellent Greek adventure will come to an end. It was my chance to rekindle associations with both my roots and 10 years in Greece...and with a promise to come back again in the not so distant future. Opa!
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Splurged on a taxi from the bus station to my father's cousin's house in Paleon Faliron yesterday. I have known Soula for a long time, but haven't seen her for many, many years. Her mother and my father's mother were sisters from Naoussa in Macedonia (Northern Greece, not the former Southern Yugoslavia)..

Soula Theophilou was born in Naoussa, moved to Athens under duress of the Civil War which took her father's life, married Mario Chrysopoulos, and spent 8 years in Salt Lake City while her husband (civil engineer) was going to school. Her uncle Michael was a top policeman here in Athens during the aforementioned Polytechnical School incident. Marios died in a tragic accident in Chalkidhiki some years ago. Soula welcomed me with open arms and had prepared stuffed cabbage and individualized Naoussaiko pita for lunch -- what a mensch!

Thea Soula & her Naoussaiki Pita

We reminisced about family stuff, me taking notes on my family tree sheet and hoping I'll be able to read them later. We were joined by her niece Maria, and we went out for a stroll -- rather chilly last night down by the waterfront, unlike the Southern climes I had just left. Maria had taken her summer vacation in Kiparissi, what a weird coincidence! We drank tsipuro, a strong, clear ouzo-like beverage that they prefer because it is purer with no hangovers.

People in the suburbs seem a bit detached from, if not disdainful of, the political turmoil in Central Athens. They want to know about the Petraus Incident, which seems to be much-discussed with rumors I have not been aware of. Maria, an archaeologist, has produced some family photos for me to look at.

This morning I am taking the tram to central Athens to meet up with a former student of mine who used to work for Konstantine Karamanlis when he was president of Greece. Eager to see what's going on downtown. We are meeting at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier...
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Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Economy + Related Security Alert

Bulletin: Have just received an email security alert from the U.S. State Dept -- warning US travelers and citizens that large demonstrations will be taking place Saturday afternoon (11/17) in Athens and other towns, marking a famous uprising against the Junta in 1973. Students were killed at the Polytechnical School -- can you say Kent State? It didn't bring the Junta down, but they didn't last another full year. I remember those seminal incidents well..Leaving Athens for Italy Saturday am (where there are reported floods in Rome), will miss all the excitement...

People here are very upset and worried -- they have evaporating funds, big unemployment, more cuts coming under the new set of austerity measures required to get the next loan disbursements, things to pay that they cannot afford. One-half of the 1.2 million unemployed have already lost their health benefits. Some doctors are working underground health networks to help people, especially with medications. A woman saw a well-dressed man in the streets asking for 1 EU towards fulfilling a prescription -- she gave him 15. I didn't quiz my relatives on their economic situation per se -- but it didn't seem all that great.

Stamatis Family Homestead
Two nights ago, while we sat under the tree in front of the Stamatis family homestead, I spoke with a man helping my relatives do some work on the house (a day laborer, specializing in tile work and the like). I mentioned the 2 volunteer olive pickers and was told the day picking rate was 40-50 EU a day last year; this year it is 20-30. He said people would take 20 to put food on the table. He had not worked enough months to be able to pay his taxes, and now he had no money for his vehicle registration (essential for him to get work). So he would drive without renewing it. "How many people can they put in jail," he exclaimed.

A neighbor sitting in was worried that the world thinks all Greeks are lazy and corrupt. Anyone who thinks that's the main reason for this financial disaster needs to take a deep breath and think again. This is a real situation affecting real people in real time - and we Greek-Americans need to help, not castigate. Not to mention that things ain't so hot in our own country!

Meanwhile: Still on the road to Athens, and during our 15-minute stop in Tripolis I was reminded of my Yiayia Sarris again. She always made us put toilet paper down on the seats of public bathrooms. The Tripolis bus station has clean bathrooms downstairs, but actual no toilet seats. So I did the right thing :)
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Leaving Koroni :(

Koroni Peninsula
My day off was a good one if not that restful. Visited the ramparts again as I had learned that the peninsula extended down past the walls. Did not think I'd ever seen this before. Then down the new road past my uncle's house to the beach to see many apartments rented during the summer. No road there when I first visited 50 years ago -- only vineyards, tomatoes and goats!

Later I splurged on grilled octopus for lunch, with okra and giant beans. Lots of oil involved...Later in town I noticed a sign proclaiming Koroni the Capital of the Mediterranean Diet according to Unesco -- who knew?

Botoula Varvarakis
Now It's almost 8 am on Thursday, and I am waiting for the bus to Athens having just ate an excellent spinach pie from Bakery Rachel. The baker said he'd been there since 3 am...My cousin (3rd) Botoula just whizzed by on her motorcycle, and here she comes back with a snack for me from the same bakery. Is this going to be another "slap-on" day?

Sad to leave, as I have really enjoyed my stay. But now the bus is maneuvering back into the side street and up around the church; if you are a car, you will wait your turn. And we're off...passing by hotels (some sort of bridgework being done), Koroni Camping, olive and other trees/flowers. There's a Sipsas Super Market; that family seems to own half the town (including my Diana hotel!). Most of the trip to Kalamata (51 km) is up the coast, which I had not been able to appreciate Monday nite. Now in Messini...

Have bought my ticket (27.30 EU to Athens), and the conductor has verified that I can keep my #12 window seat. Enjoying the ride, more later perhaps..
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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Koroni (11-13-12)

Breakfast spot on Koroni wharf
Sitting in the sun on the waterfront waiting for my coffee and splurging on a sweet -- dhipless, always a favorite when my grandmother was baking sweets (also melomakarona dry without the honey, which my yiayia couldn't fully understand -- but she made them anyway, even sending me a shoe box full when I was at Drew for a semester). The dhipla did not live up to my expectations (stale?), but it was the thought that counted. Enjoying the view and saltwater air -- even though some men near me are arguing about who knows what..

Koroni, I must say, is much more vibrant and interesting than Kiparissi -- even now in the off-season. Not as out-of-the-way and with more TV channels. The Greeks love to watch TV. 

On the bus I met a couple from England who had gotten a job via a website (either or picking olives. They will stay for a month in nearby Charakopio working for their room-and-board. This morning I am wondering why in a country with 25 percent unemployment people are being brought from outside to pick olives..

My 5-bus 23 EU trip to Koroni still looks pretty good when you see how much gas costs -- can you say 1.70 a litre or about 7.65 a gallon? Don't think I could have made it here on 3 gallons of gas!

Took off by foot to begin revisiting my grandmother's old haunts. Have been here several times, so it was w/some familiarity that I proceeded:

Where my Yiayia was born!
1) Gate to Venetian ramparts, my grandmother was born in a homestead just inside that gate. You can see the outlines of the house against the wall. Apparently my relatives raise chickens on the property; they can't build anything because it is against a historical monument. I picked a few olive branches to bring home...

 2) Convent founded by a priest who was my grandmother's cousin. The abbess I had met (and who knew my grandmother), Christodhoulou, is long gone, and 6 nuns from Kalamata live there now. Beautifully kept-up with own gardens and sheep. Lit a candle in the church -- after putting on black apron to cover my jeans! -- and then bought some incense in their well-stocked gift shop..Should mention that my very religious, studious grandmother wanted to be a nun, but her brother wouldn't let her. Maybe this is why she was the one chosen by her father's brother Kosta to come to the States.

Convent gift shop
3) Cemetery, also up in the ramparts, where I ended up by accident -- but then came across the grave of mother's cousin Thanassis, who had been merchant marine and visited Stockton more than once.

View of Evangelistra from the beach

4) Church of Evangelistra with its miraculous icon containing a figure of Jesus' mother found nearby -- I wrote my request and dropped it in the box. In 1962 I swam with Cousin Thanassis by the rocks below the church property and near his father's house,  where we got fresh sea urchins long before there were apartments, public beach, etc.

Eleftheria Sayiakou
5) Found my mother's cousin Eleftheria at her home and we chatted for a couple of hours, which included a dish of quince/almond sweet she had recently made. Her husband is ill and made a 3-second cameo appearance. (We met again later under a tree near her paternal home at the gate leading to the church grounds. Her father had a little cafe place right there on the road to the church in the good old days. I showed her an old picture of him from one of my early visits 1969-ish. And, yes, Skeep, I am wearing a pea coat!)

Panayiotis Stamatopoulos
6) Spoke to an Old Geezer relative, Panayiotis Stamatopoulos, who has a little store near the hotel --newspapers arranged very neatly outside, inside it looks like Hurricane Sandy came by. But he did know my mother's godfather, Panayiotis Polytopoulos.

7) Lunch at a great restaurant near the school where I had youvarlakia and, yes, more horta! Have I turned green yet?

Just another  delicious stop on my horta hunt!
Phew! Quite a lot done today -- happy, and not willing to get back on a bus tomorrow. Called my cousin in Athens to tell her I am staying an extra day in Koroni. The Diana Hotel has served me well right down in the center of town -- yes, I think Koroni is now a town, not a village!

Tomorrow I am taking the day off -- more horta, more ouzo (at the kafeneion across the street which provides great mezedhes!), postcards to send, and perhaps a little shopping. And, to be on the safe side, a fresh Herald Tribune. Life is good! 

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Monday, November 12, 2012

Koroni at last, but...

I am sitting in Zorba's psistaria, counting my blessings and drinking ouzo...After a 15-hour trip, I was dropped off by a grouchy bus driver above Koroni center near the Sofotel Hotel where I theoretically had a reservation -- which was dark and locked tighter than a drum! I had sent them an email earlier telling them what bus I was on.

So here I am walking down the streets of Koroni -- where I haven't been in 30 years -- looking for a place to stay. Could I really go looking for my relatives' house and knock on the door after 9 pm? I don't think so, unless totally desperate.

Looking down on the square I saw a hotel sign for the Diana Hotel. Got a nice little room for 25 EU, with a TV and a key to the front door. Seems OK and more convenient -- and I certainly didn't want to be the only one in a hotel again.

Travelers note: Hotels in seaside villages after 10/31 may be cheaper, but are hard to come by. Double check.

Good night!
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Road to Koroni, Messinias Part II (11-12-12)

Arriving in Sparti from Molaos, I found that I had a 4 1/2 hour layover. So I took a taxi downtown after nervously leaving my bag in the bus station's office -- where security, I was told, was not guaranteed. But I had never spent much time in Sparti, so here was my chance..

(Did I mention that on the way into town I saw a big store called "China City?")

News flash: Seniors get into the Museum of the Olive and Greek Olive Oil in Sparti FREE - and what an incredible museum it is. Turns out that Koroni, with it's Venetian ramparts, was a major hub for olive oil trade back then and also during the Ottoman Empire. Lucky the museum was open, as all the others were closed on Monday. (It seems that all museums may let seniors in free of charge - not a question I would have asked in 1983 when last in Greece. And don't tell me that this is why Greece went broke!)

Lambros Restaurant
Sparti s pleasant, good-sized town. After the museum, I visited a bookstore for my H.Tribune, found an ATM -- and after asking around for "real food" (tis katsarolas),  ended up in the basement Lambros restaurant on the main drag. It was indeed right up my alley; I had bean soup and, yes, more horta with the ever-present impossible- to-resist bread. Then I waddled back to the KTEL station where I happily retrieved my bag to await the next bus.

Road to Kalamata
The next bus took me through the majestic Taygetos Mountains -- more serious stone, but also green trees. And leaves along the side of the road were turning. Here they do have seasons. The weather continues to be good.

We had to change buses in a village called Artemesia for some reason; and that roadstop kafeneion/bus-stop gets the Worst Bathroom Prize. I won't elaborate -- but in case you're wondering, Turkish toilets seemed to have disappeared. Yeah!

Have now arrived in Kalamata. For some reason I forgot that this is a port town, and not a small one...Unfortunately, there are not as many buses to Koroni as I had seen on the Internet. Now 2 more hours till the 7 pm bus, my 5th today -- but I won't be twirling around Kalamata in the meantime. I am out of gas, and it's time for another Nescafe in hopes of at least taking a walk tonite when I finally get there... Lots to accomplish tomorrow in Koroni! 

Koroni bus leaves at 7 PM from lane #9

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Road to Koroni, Messinias

Barbra Ioannis
In the 6 am bus to Molaos. Hiked up the road carrying my bag because the rolling thing on the cement was creating quite a stir in a sleeping village. Was a bit nervous with a few strange noises in the trees (sheep?) until Barba Ioannis showed up w/a granddaughter who was going to school. (Had determined 2 days ago that he was the guy who took us to Leonidhion by caiaque 7/74.)

Kiparissi Road 
I can see lights from the village down below -- and let me say that navigating this bus through village streets and around hairpin mountain curves is just CRAZY, especially around cars parked on the road. Don't mind if the driver has to smoke. And in the horizon the sun is coming up...

Time to contemplate a bit what happened last night: The Greek Parliament ratified the 2013 budget with all the spending cuts required by the Eurozone. This was visible to all live on the Greek equivalent of C-SPAN. And today the Euro people vote on the next loan installment.

(Misreported a bit the issue of taxing children as it had been spun on a morning talk show. What will be happening -- with same $$ effect on families -- is the removal of all exemptions. Taxation will be the same across-the-board whether married or not, children or none..I think more people will flee Athens back to villages where they might have property rights and/or a home. People in Kiparissi had some beautiful vegetable gardens. While people do go out some to kafeneia, etc., things are tightening up. I never saw another person eating in the Trocadero taverna while I was there over a weekend. Spent about 45 Euros in 3 days; when I said good-bye, the owner gave me hug.)

Picking up passengers as we continue to Molaos. Woman next to me hanging on to the seatback for dear life while eyeing my BlackBerry suspiciously. Sheep in the road, olive tree branches brushing against the windows. Some things will never change. Enjoying the ride...

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Sunday, November 11, 2012

Last night in Kiparissi

Packing up after dinner with Paraliako hotel-keeper Stella, who was kind enough to drive me around town, as it were, to interview people about the Sarris Family and the village. Nice souvlaki/pitas in restaurant next door, a modernized traditional structure that had been a woodshop belonging to Stella's family. They also own the Mirto Hotel.

I did go to church today where I again encountered Mrs. Georgia Poulakis (from the bus trip), who is somehow related to Uncles Pete and George Pappas. She is my conduit to that side of the family and invited me to her house for coffee.

The day was also memorable for:

1) Speaking with the oldest Sarris family survivor, the daughter of my grandfather's brother Kosta. She lives in the the upper section of the village, Vrisi. I showed her pictures of my visit with her in 1974 and her husband allowed me to photograph a family portrait hanging in the bedroom. She is 82 now, with 2 children. I left her a few photos of my grandfather and a few more to be given to her daughter Froso -- so that there will be some record of George Sarris and his sister Sophia (Demakopoulos) after they left for the USA, and also of my two visits to Kiparissi.

Kosta Sarris Family 
(Margaro bottom right)
Margaro & husband 2012

2) Hiking up to a mill built by the Sarris Family in 1821 -- the first of 6 mills above the village. Indeed, water is still supplied to the village by collecting rainwater up high that is then piped down to the village. There is a rather large family home above the mill, where my grandfather may well have lived before joining a large exodus of people from the village after 1908-10. Unfortunately the roof has caved in, and while the walls seem sturdy there is junk and rubble everywhere. I heard that the many descendants can't decide what to do with it and thus have left it in a terrible state. Incredible old olive tree out front...Quite a view from there, wonder what will become of all that!

Sarris Family Homestead
View from Sarris Family Mill
At lunchtime, I said good-bye to the owner of the Trocadero Taverna -- after a beautiful "horiatiki salata" and some really wonderful Ktima Theodorakakou "Kidhonitsa" organic white wine (which reminded me of Chenin Blanc). They do make some great wines down here...

Tomorrow I will walk down to the main road to catch the 6 am bus -- he'd better stop for me!

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The realities of Greek life, in real time!

It's the Sunday before the 11/12 Eurozone meeting that will vote or not to give Greece the next loan installment to avoid financial collapse -- all based upon a Memorandum of agreement to dozens more spending cuts, taxes, etc. which barely passed Parliament a few days ago during a 4-day General Strike.

The morning talk shows have reviewed today's headlines and are analyzing the measures that will take effect -- it's a tsunami of facts and figures making my head spin (especially when 3 people are all talking at the same time).

It seems, for example, that Greek families will be taxed per child about 200 Euros annually -- some of the same people whose salaries are being slashed and living in a country of vast unemployment/loss of health benefits. A woman member of Parliament and mother from Thessaloniki rose yesterday to ask which children families are supposed to get rid of. Good question!

And that's just the tip of the mushrooming iceburg of suffering that is setting real people way back under the guise of necessary economic reform. When and how will it end?

Mitropolis Church
(This is all very scary by any standards and I need to get up, go to church and light a candle -- seriously. Kiparissi has three sections, with a church in each that is functional every third week. On Saturday night, the bell rings from the church that will celebrate the Liturgy that week -- a rotating system that gives the elderly in each part of the village a chance to attend without having to walk too far. Didn't work out for me this week; I have to walk all the way across to Mitropolis.)

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Saturday, November 10, 2012

In search of the Sarris Family

Entrance to Cemetery
Seems like the descendants of my grandfather George Sarris' family pretty much left this village long ago - couldn't even find any of them in the cemetery. But my grandfather's brothers died 40+ years ago, and in village cemeteries bones are exhumed and relocated in boxes to make room for others.

There is still one possible relative to seek out, actually the same person that I spoke with when I visited 40 years ago! It seems like I will indeed learn more this evening when the kafeneion in the upper village section Vrisi opens. (Kiparissi also has Paralia and Mitropolis sections.)

Meanwhile I and my erstwhile hostess Stella from hotel went up to look at the mills above the village, one of which was owned by my great-grandfather Nicolaos Sarris. Turns out that there were originally 6 mills (only remnants of 4 remain), and the Sarris mill was the first built, in 1821. There is a house near that mill owned by the family and in need of repair.

Paralia Beach
Walked all along the Paralia section beach, which is covered with small pebbles not sand. Picked up a few pebbles to bring home before going to the bakery for a few goodies -- and to make sure that at 6 am Monday I can pay the bus driver directly for the trip to Molaos. (Then on to Sparti, Kalamata and Koroni!)

Horta & Smelts!
And, yes, lunch at the Trocadero where I again had fresh horta along with fried smelts. Got some more info from Mr. Vorlis - it seems that everyone is interested in giving me info. And it's Saturday in a Greek Village; people will go out for a coffee/dinner at their local whatever and hang out. But before I go out, a short nap..

"Beautiful Kiparissi" Kafeneion (Vrisi)
P.S. Indeed, I later ventured up to the kafeneion in Vrisi, which seems to turn into the local restaurant at night. There I met a man to had written a book entitled "My Village" about Kiparissi; he was familar with the Sarris Family. More info to add to my notes on this once-isolated village turned tourist destination and how it developed after Greek Independence. Unfortunately, no more copies of the book were available..

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Friday, November 9, 2012

Road to Kiparissi, Lakonias - Part II (11-9-12)

Trocadero at Night
Last night I had a nice dinner at an out-of-the-way Taverna in Athens, but tonite I am sitting seaside in Kiparissi after my 3-bus/9-hour odyssey. The stars are ever-so-bright and the people at the Trocadero Taverna are preparing my fried calamari and horta, with bread that is being heated with oil. Not sure what this means except more calories.

(Did I mention that they have "putin" on the menu - the potatoes with gravy, a Canadian thing, not the President of Russia!)

Mrs. Poulakis promised to get a hold of Nikos Papavalo for me, but she was not sure which Sarrises I could find, as they have moved to Athens. So tomorrow, I have my work cut out for me..The Trocadero people (Vourlos, who lived in Montreal for 25 years!) were not encouraging either, except to say that if I go to the kafeneion in the upper village Vrisi tomorrow night at 7 pm the old men who'll be there will know something about my relatives.

Paraliako Hotel
Meanwhile, I am staying at a charming hotel called Paraliako ("along the seafront") run by a very nice young woman -- but seems like I am the only one here. My balcony has an ocean view, but I can't seem to figure out how the heat works..

I would be remiss in not mentioning that the road to Kiparissi gives new meaning to the words "hairpin curves." Now I remember why there was no real road back in 1974 -- it had to be carved out of some serious stone, and it also wends it way thru villages that can barely accommodate a (smaller) bus. At one point, I noticed some one was smoking; it was our driver, who also at least twice was seen talking on his cell-phone as he navigated those turns -- Oy!

In closing, let me just say that there is no sweeter smell than the burning of wood stoves in a Greek village at evening time. Good thing, as it has already been established that many Greeks will not be able to buy heating oil this winter.

P.S. The bread has just arrived, and it looks like updated "rigani bread" - my brothers will know what I mean..
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Road to Kiparissi, Lakonias - Part I (11-9-12)

Kifissou Bus Station

From Athens hotel to bus station at 5:30 am - luckily the taxis came back online @ 5 am after a 4-day strike. (No Metro either. Had made my way to bus station from airport yesterday to buy my ticket and then to hotel via 3 buses + hotel shuttle!)

The bus left the Kifissou station precisely at 6:30 - with a stop in Piraeus 30 minutes later, where seating becomes a problem (as the seats are assigned). Now there is an older man sitting next to me who must be a smoker..

Going along coast, and around Elefsina we went thru a toll booth and were really on our way. There was some fog, and did I see frost? After a pit stop in Tripolis, we continued - but the road was now a 2-laner and the climb steeper. I can see small villages nestled along the mountain sides, and a host of roadside enterprises.

LOTS and LOTS and LOTS of olive trees everywhere - and now we are in Sparti, a good-sized town with a Mr. Donut and quite a few palm trees (or are they date trees?)...Yikes, no one told me we have to grab our luggage from below and change buses!

Molaos Supermarket
It's 11:45 and I am starting to worry - will I make the 12:30 bus to Kiparissi? We're not so high up, so the bus is going a little (too) faster now...In Molaos, and my last bus actually won't leave till 1:45 -- giving me time for my favorite pastime: visiting a supermarket! Lots of different ouzos with their "mini bottles" and a large Tobasco Sauce for. 5.76 Euros. Always interested in what people are buying/eating - and the area does get tourists going through by car to the sea. I buy locally harvested Rosemary... 21 degrees C, beautiful weather and not a cloud in the sky..

The bus has departed on it's 2-hour journey. A Mrs. Poulakis sits next to me and the grilling begins. Turns out her husband's sister was married to George and Pete Pappas' brother Paul, and I may well have been in her house in 1974 when I came to Kiparissi by boat from Leonidhion with Pete and Faith. Now I see the Kiparissi sign, and the bus stops to let me out for the walk to my hotel past a field of curious sheep -- touchdown!  

"Bus Stop" for My Hotel


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Saturday, November 3, 2012

Testing - Go Greece!

This is a test to see if I can post to this blog from my BlackBerry - leaving for Greece on November 7th, heading for Kiparissi Lakonias and Koroni Messinias to see those villages after so many years. And also to see what's going on over there for myself. Kali andamosi!
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Friday, November 2, 2012

Oldest Greek-American dies in Miami (10-5-12)

Stepping back a bit in time, I visited the Cathedral of St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Church in Miami on October 19th - to attend the funeral of Marianthe "Mary" Dimakis, 109 yrs old. She was the oldest living Greek-American.

Mary was born in 1903, a year after my own grandmother Eugenia Sarris who died in 1984. I was not at my Yiayia's funeral for reasons that currently feel kinda lame, even if they were valid back then. So I am paying my respects to Mary.  Mary Dimakis was a founding member of St. Sophia's and there was a long article last week in the Miami Herald (which is how I found out about it). But there were just a handful of people at her funeral, maybe 40. Is that because all her friends are dead? Because it was 11 am? Because there is little respect for those who came before us and worked so hard to build Greek communities in the U.S.? Why?  (When my father died -- and he was a church stalwart for about 60 years -- I was shocked that the church was not full.)  Well, she came down down the aisle accompanied by friends and family nonetheless, and went to her final resting place as we all will some day. But Mary Dimakis left a pioneering legacy that sustains the Miami Greek-American community to this day, whether her descendents know it or not. I zoi se mas (life to us)...