Just settled in my new holiday home in the eastern part of the Netherlands, hoping to enjoy some long walks and bike rides and exploring more of the other Hanse towns. It all came to an end, as I suddenly made the decision to buy this cute, 1890 home in a small town, close to a few of the famous Hanse towns. Although the upstairs floors are so crooked that you have the feeling to walk on the waves of the sea, I fell in love with the lay out, the coziness of the house and the cute garden and above all, the neighbourhood. I can walk to the town, with its many restaurants and pubs and even the tennis court is on the other side of the street! It doesn’t mean that the travelling is history; my suitcase will be waiting patiently in the corner of the room. It just means that I finally can have all my luggage at one place and my container from Canada can be emptied.
Within two weeks time I get the keys of my new home and during another 14 days I clean and paint and run around different villages to look for secondhand stuff for my new home. Later in the evening I rush back to my holiday home, where at least a clean bed is ready and some food is in the fridge. My family is coming over to help me, as they understand that it is all somewhat overwhelming. The movers arrive with a lot of stuff I never can use anymore! As I didn’t know where I would settle down, all kinds of electronics moved with me, but they are of no use in Europe. Waste of the space…….
My new neighbours are throwing me a welcome party on the evening I move into my new house and they make me feel at home. I suddenly realize that my son and his girlfriend from Canada are visiting for a couple of days and I don’t have beds. A few days later I have a bed, a dining table and chairs to sit on! All found in barns in the countryside, from neighbours and via the internet. Somebody gives me cups and glasses and another one a coffee machine and lamps. My sisters are coming with their cars loaded with stuff.
It is nearly the end of April and I have to get ready for my trip to Greece. I promised my friends there, to look after their house. The tickets are long booked, even the airport hotel is arranged, but my clothes are still in boxes and the packing is hectic. I have to leave my house “as is” and I am grateful for the wonderful neighbours, who are willing to look after everything and the handyman, who will continue finishing some urgent upgrades.
A last “goodbye” meeting with my son and girlfriend in Amsterdam, on the evening before my very early flight leaves for Athens. It is the day after “Kingsday” and the weather is surprisingly sunny and loads of people are filling the streets of the inner city of Amsterdam. After some “pub hopping” and some real Chinese food on the Zeedijk, I take my train back to Schiphol and after, the shuttle to the hotel.
29th of April, 2016
My flight to Athens is fully booked, as it is Greek Orthodox Eastern weekend. I arrive on a quiet airport and find my way to the station on the other side of the road, from where my train is leaving to Kiato, Peloponnesus. A very helpful Englishman is helping me with my luggage and at this point the train is still very quiet, which will change quickly, after arriving in the suburbs of Athens. Certain things didn’t change one bit here in Greece. People are still loud! Still crazy busy with their cell phones and if they are not called within 5 minutes, they will call their mother, just to have somebody to talk to! Everybody can enjoy their conversation and they will not do any efforts to be less loud. No, nothing changed……..
At Kiato station, my friends are waiting for me and we have a pleasant drive along the inner coast road, with a coffee stop (Greek Alpha beer stop for me) on the way to Diakofto. I have been at their house before and it is situated right on the Gulf of Corinth, with a view on the other side of the mountainous region of the mainland. In the east it is bounded by the Isthmus of Corinth, where also the famous Corinth Canal is situated. In the west, you will find the in 2004 newly built Rio-Antirio bridge.
From the house, you walk along the water into town and on the day of my arrival, the two churches are having their special service for Eastern and after, the walk through town with the Lambada candles, which we will observe from behind a coffee and ouzo…….
On Saturday we go to Aigio for some shopping and the terraces are filled with people drinking (crisis? what crisis!) and some barbecues with “oxtapodia”are set up in the streets. I am told that the last things the Greeks are giving up, is their coffee, beer or ouzo on one of the many terraces.
Good Friday is in Greece a real sacred day called “The Epitaph Mass”. Eastern Saturday is known as Anastasis (The Resurrection) and on that day many Greek kitchens are cooking the Magiritsa soup, which they will eat after midnight. Again people are going to church late in the evening and just before midnight the lights in the church are closed in symbolism of the darkness that Christ had to endure, as he passed through the underworld. The moment after they close the lights, a priest is holding a Holy candle, from which others have to light their Lambada candles and give the light to their neighbours and so on. This is one of the most significant moments in the year for the Greek people. The Resurrection is proclaimed and there is firework and the clinging of the church bells. People say “Christos Anesti” (Christ has risen) to each other and the answer will be “Alithos Anesti” (He has truly risen). Then all are returning home to eat the traditional soup, but they have to take their burning candle with them and first make a cross in the air with the smoke of the burning candle, above their door and then light an oil candle inside the home. If you make it home with your candle still burning, it will bring you luck for the whole year. Even better, trying to keep your oil candle burning during the whole year! Something we never tried during our 10 years stay in Greece, but we did indeed manage to go home with burning candles in the car (and two small children!).
Eastern Sunday the air is filled with the smell of lamb and kokoretsi (the internal organs of lamb or sometimes goat), all prepared on hot coals. Wine is flowing and there is loud Greek traditional music and dancing. We walked around the town and there were two big gatherings, where people had their own lamb on the spit (soufla). We used to have our own Eastern gatherings at home in the same way and with a group of friends. The smell brings back good memories…….
And even after all these years, I still could join the dancing again!