Taking Morgan to Greece has always been a goal and dream of mine. Greece was one of my "bucket list" locations since I watched a movie about a Greek holiday, in 1982 called Summer Lovers with Darryl Hannah. The movie was corny, pubescent, soft porn, but the scenery made me fall in love with Greece (and maybe Darryl Hannah a little bit). Morgan said she saw some movies too, and also always wanted to go to Greece (I doubt it was the same movie). So when I re-established contact with Greg Kleponis a couple years back, and he told me he lived in Ancient Corinth, and that I would be invited to visit: the dream started to look like a possibility.
Day 1 - Tuesday - Travel day
We left Danville around 9:00 a.m. after getting gas and running errands. Ken Walsh and his Brother in law drove us to the airport. After they dropped us off, they were destine for Long Island.
Travel went well. The puddle-jump trip between Newark and Montreal was short and easy. The next leg was about 12 hours between Montreal and Athens, and was more daunting. Hard to get comfortable in the plane: but we survive. Neither of us get much sleep, but that's the life of a jet setter I suppose.
Fun trip factoid:
The fact that the last thing we saw in Newark, the last thing we saw in Montreal, and the first thing we saw in Athens were all IKEA stores: was a bit disturbing. It was like we had a blue and yellow, large but benign rectangular stalker.
Day 2 - Wednesday - introductions
When we landed, Greg and Gretel met us at the gate. Greg was easy to pick-out in his hat and safari looking gear. Stopped at a restaurant on the way from Athens. Great seafood feast ensued on the banks of the blue Mediterranean. Fresh octopus, greek salads, feta dishes and more. Great conversation ensues. Getting caught up on the past 30 years. Alpha beers provide the social lubricant.
Arrive at the Ancient Corrinth home of Gretl and Greg and it is very beautiful. Their home offers a nice view of the original acropolis of the ancient world: Acrocorinth. Spectacular. Greg and Gretl make us feel very welcome, as we settle into their guest room accommodations.
Walk around Ancient Corrinth. Take in the sights. Learn the history. Be amazed. Greg is a wealth of knowledge on the subject of history. Gretl is the local who is a fixture in the community and an expert on the area in her own right. Together, they present the town, history and people in an unparalleled way.
We make it until evening, when we come back to the house, hang out, have some food and drink and talk until we can no longer focus and the jet lag gets the better of us.
Day 3 - Thursday - Hike then Blue Lake and Loutraki
Morning - Hiked
About 5 miles up the mountain to Acrocorinth castle to get out, get our bones moving a little, shake the cobwebs and explore. Very cool place for 1500 of your closest friends to hide from pirates and invading armies over the centuries.
A good place to think about what people complain about today.
Early Afternoon - Blue Lake
Had a great seafood feast meal including "fish-potato chips" and great views of the water. Watched a french woman be scared to death of the stray cats and spend a lot of time throwing stuff at them, alternated with running away from them out of the open-air restaurant. Very entertaining.
Afternoon - Loutraki -
Swim at temple of Hera. Snorkeling. Cliff jumping. Watch in horror as a family of Russians try to goad their young (maybe 7 year old) daughter to jump of a cliff so they can take a picture of her with their iPad.
This was truly the land of Morgan. Ancient ruins on the beach. Beautiful, crystal clear waters. And dogs and cats come by periodically to just hang out with you on your beach towel. Morgan was in heaven in the land of lost cats.
Stop at the grocery store, and have a drink at the "Cruise ship" bar overlying the mediteranian.
Dinner back at house and lots of drinking and conversation. Cigarette story. Philosophy. Lot more laughs and catching up. In bed by 3:00 a.m.
Day 4 - Friday - Nafplio
We got up later today, due to the reality of hangovers. Went for a drive to Nafplio and the The castle of Palamidi. Very cool place. Took a swim after exploring, and had a few drinks. Later in the day, back to the taverna in Corinth for some food, beer and more fellowship.
Day 5 - Saturday - Agistri
Off to Agistri island at 7:00 a.m. Got on the ferry in Athens. Had a Frappe and some food on the trip. Sailed by Peatreus
Got settled in at Greg and Gretl's lovely place in Megalachori, and then went down into the town. Ate lunch at a beach taverna they like to visit with the dogs (Woody Woodrow and Mele (means Honey in greek)), and took a nice swim just across the road. Eat, drink, swim: repeat. Water temperatures and the weather are perfect. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon.
Day 6 - Sunday - Bike Agristi
Rented bikes and rode around the island. Went to all the beaches.
The swimming platform at Nisos was spectacular. Marissa beach had unparalleled beauty, freedom and crystal clear water. This was Dave's favorite beach.
Some naked swimming there ...not by us.
Evening - Skala for dinner.
Went out to eat later in the day in the port town of Skala on Agistri island. Great dinner, with laughs until our cheeks hurt. Click on the photos below for comments on each photo.
Day 7 - Monday - Agristi & Aegina
Morning - Took a hike on the trails and saw a remote church. No roads lead to this church...just rocky, steep trails that looked like goats might have made them. The remote location of the structure means that all construction material a must be carried to the site by hand. This is a demonstration of the builders devotion to God. The more difficult and remote the site... The more it shows your dedication. It also says something about the people that visit the church for services. This place was amazing to me in a modern sense. It was purposeful discomfort. Something I talk about routinely. And here it was, in practice (physically and spiritually) a long way from home.
Tried to take the hydrofoil dolphin boat to Aegina, but they weren't running, so we took the sea taxi instead. The dolphin was fixed for our return trip, so we used that vessel to return to Agistri. The hydrofoil is a superior way to travel, especially in a rough sea situation. Twice as fast, same money, less bumpy.
Afternoon - When we got to Aegina, we had a great day of riding mopeds and seeing sights and eating and drinking. This might have been my most favorite day of the trip in regard to excitement. I wish I had photos of the scooter riding. I can't speak for Greg and Gretl, but I felt like a kid again. Carelessly motoring around town on two wheels with wind in our hair and my wife's arms around my waist. It was a moment, I don't think any of us will soon forget.
The weather got rough, and the seas kicked up, and that caused the harbor to have chaos and boats crashing into one another and destruction. Greg and I helped a huge catamaran get out of port, instead of watching it get destroyed by the sea. It was pretty hairy for a bit, and we had to be careful not to slip, fall, be crushed by the boat, or get cut by the knives that were being brandished by the crew to cut the ropes that were too tight and under stress to untie. In the end, the boat got out safely and with only minimal damage, and Greg and I were fine.
A very memorable day of tavernas, excitement, dangerous weather, and nearly lawless road riding on scooters. As usual, all activities punctuated with plentiful food, Alpha beer and laughter.
Day 8 - Tuesday - leave Agristi - Athens and Acropolis
This is the day you have to do in Greece. And if you "have" to do it: I think we did it right. Visited the ruins. Walked around a bit and then met Greg and Gretl in a Taverna at the base of the acropolis. After another great meal and some drinks we went to the plaka for a little shopping. When we were done, all of us - including the dogs headed back to Corinth for the last few days of our trip.
Day 9 - Wednesday - WEDDING ANNIVERSARY
Heading to the beach and taverna for a relaxing last full day. The weather wasn't very warm, and chance of rain, so we weren't in a hurry to get to the beach. We got there late, and actually ate and drank more than we swam (didn't swim at all). Fed the stray cats and a fat seagull sardines and prawn heads. Had a lot of laughs with Greg and Gretl.
After a late lunch, we do a little ceremony to renew our wedding vows. We stand on the spot in ancient Corinth were the apostle Paul wrote I Corinthians 13, verses 4 - 8 and 13 (a.k.a. Pauls letter to the Corinthians). This verse was in our original wedding ceremony, and we renewed our vows on the spot were it was originally written. It goes as follows:
Reverend Greg does the honors: and does a great job. Gretl takes photos. It's a very special moment. Suddenly we realize (not at all by design) the following things are true:
- Morgan and I are celebrating 25 years of marriage (something old)
- Greg and Gretl are 5 years married (something new)
- I'm wearing a borrowed shirt from Greg (something borrowed)
- Morgan is wearing a blue dress (something blue).
As the short ceremony begins, a stray dog wanders up. A little ratty looking (like most of the strays), but very pretty and expressive around the eyes. Greg starts to talk, and the dog sits down and begins to listen. It sits there quietly as he speaks, as if it understands every word. When Greg is finished, and the ceremony is over, the dog gets up, and comes over to greet us.
As we finish and walk away, we all agree that the dog was used as a vessel for our departed loved ones, who might have wanted to attend. The dog took on undeniable human mannerisms and behavior as we proceeded, but as soon as we finished, the animal walked away, and chased a stray cat. We all agree that something special just happened.
We celebrated the new commitment by getting money at the ATM and purchasing a few small things for the kids. After that business was complete: a shot of Ozzo kicked us off for an evening of merriment and conversation. The celebrating ended at 4:00 a.m.
Day 10 - TRAVEL DAY
We leave Corrinth @ 10:00 a.m. Our Swiss Air plane leaves Athens for Zurich at 14:00 p. Layover of 01:30, then leave Zurich for Newark at 17:20. We arrive in Newark @ 20:00 (using military time now, because I am now a world traveler, and therefore very pretentious).
Flew over the Swiss alps on Swiss air while enjoying some complimentary wine, cheeze and chocolate. Pretty amazing mountain range. Not bad wine. Scenes from the plane:
I feel like Morgan and I were given a TREMENDOUS GIFT by my old friend Greg and our new friend Gretl. What I posted here, barely scratches the surface of this trip. What they added to the experience is beyond words. I can't thank them enough for all they did for us. Morgan and I are still on cloud 9 and I don't anticipate we will be coming down for some time. It will take months to fully digest all that happened to us while in Greece. Life changing things.