Saturday, August 11, 2007


This picture is just an apartment block, but it is the site of where of the British Embassy school, where I went in about 1959.

My relationship with Greece has three chapters. The first was when I was very small. We moved to Greece when I was two and stayed there until I was six. Of course, those memories are more about early childhood and don't have a lot to do with Greece. Like all early memories, you can never be sure whether you remember the story or you remember the actual event.

But I remember my mother complaining to my father that he ran over her toes in our driveway, and I believed it. I remember thinking that didn't seem to harm her all that much and I was tempted many times to stick my toes under the wheels of cars to see what it was like. Fortunately, I never did! I remember not wanting to go to Rafina because once the see was rough and I thought that must be why it is called Rafina. I remember my friend, Andrew. His father came back from a business trip by plane and promptly went to bed with the flu, and I assumed that the flu was the consequence of flying. I remember my brother misbehaving at school, and the nuns but him in a cupboard with frosted glass. He wailed and waved his arms behind the frosted glass, and I wanted to rescue him, but I couldn't! That chapter ended in 1960.

The next time I was in Greeece was in 1981. I hitch-hiked from England to Brindisi, and got on a ferry from Brindisi to Patras. After sleeping on the deck for the night, I awoke to find the boat had stopped in the bay at Ithaca. I had never seen anything quite so beautiful in my life. I just had to get off, and I spent a few days there. Then, on to Athens! Athens seemed hot, dusty, unfriendly, and after a couple of days, I went to Lesbos, where I spent two glorious weeks in Molivos or Mithymna as it is more formally known. I was impoversished at the time, but Greece seemed to be such good value, and I was determined to return.
In July of 2007, I went to Greece with the family, and it was the best holiday we have ever had. But Greece had changed. Athens was a modern city with a wonderful metro system. The only disappointment was that the country did seem to be a little spoiled by the millions of tourists (like us!) who have discovered Greece. On my trip in 1981, I often found a bottle of Retsina placed on my table in the bars -- by a friendly local, who wanted to welcome a scruffy tourist. This time it really did seem as if the hospitality industry was determined to make you part with just a few more Euros! The prices seemed to be extraordinarily high, but, if you go to one of the most beautiful countries in the world, what do you expect?

We decided to visit Athens and only two islands. First, we went to Santorini, where we spent about a week. Then we went to Paros. The views in Santorini are absolutely extraordinary, but if I were to do it all over again, I think I would not spend as much as a week there. Santorini is just too overrun with tourists for my taste. Paros was perfect -- developed enough to provide a wide choice of restaurants, but not quite as crowded as Santorini!