cucinanicolina

Hellas

7 September 2006

Friday, August 25, 2006

Because it will be at least another year before I can go back, I have been thinking about Greece lately (obviously).

Also, I may be moving this to cucinanicolina.blogspot.com. But there will be fair warning.

Exactly a year ago today I was on a plane coming back from Thessaloniki, with the unexpected and wonderfully glamorous Luftensa business class flight from Frankfurt to DC to distract me that vacation was over. I drank champagne and ate lots of cheese and watched movies.

I wish I could go back and do it again minus the anxiousness and insecurity about what was going to happen in my then-unknown future plans. I wish I had stayed for the whole three weeks. I wish I had been more mellow.

But it was still an amazing trip. Halkidiki, the mountains, running along the fields in the hills for miles despite my aching knee. We drank coffee almost without pause: hot, small cups in the morning, frappe from noon on, hot coffee again after dinner. Retsina, always. The best tziki I’ve ever tasted, thick and sweet and and swollen with cucumbers. Potatoes with a bit of salt (and also sugar) from his childhood neighbhor, now old and swathed in black. She grew and ate all her own vegetables, probably from necessity as well as from a desire to eat more healthfully (she was very poor). She promised to make me a blanket when I have a baby. His family’s old, falling-down house. The Albanians living up the stone steps. The tinkle of goat-bells in the forest, the cold spring water, the cucumber cold and heavy and salty on my tongue.

My romanticism for Greece wore off on this trip; I had the ‘non-tourist’ experience, and what an experience it was. But I fell in love with its dusty roads and blue ocean in a way I had not imagined I could — and now it is a clear-eyed love, for all that it is, and is not. And for what, perhaps, it could be, and turns away from.