Greece at last

Karystos, Greece—Wednesday, June 20

But before I tell you about Greece, I must first finish Italy. We camped in Torre Pozzella, north of Brindisi, for five days waiting for the ferry to take us to Patra. It was humid and warm, and there wasn’t much to do; we spent most of our time observing and hearing the Italians around us. Without refrigeration of any kind—it's illegal to sell ice in Italy—we went out daily to one nearby village or another to shop and enjoy a cafe stop. A German couple in the campground told us about the Trulli area, which proved a good diversion.

The Trulli is famous for its “beehive” houses—built in the round with stone-topped, peaked roofs. They look like Hobbit houses or fairy-tale dwellings and no one knows how long they’ve been building them, or why. One theory is that the open high-pointed interiors allow heat to escape efficiently. Whatever the reason, they must be appealing homes because they’re still being built, and I wouldn’t mind living in one myself.

A second diversion was Italy’s ancient olive orchards. We fell in love with the old trees that we saw on our daily roamings. Olive trees can live to a great age, 1000 years or more, and some in Italy date to Roman times. The trees that lived in the stone-walled fields around us looked that old.

On June 15 we packed up our tent at last and took a leisurely drive to Bari, and at 3:15 we were waiting patiently in line to be loaded aboard for the 6:30 departure. There were many big trucks ahead of us though, from Albania, Montenegro, Turkey, Bulgaria, Greece, etc. It still surprises us to see this open commerce between countries that were so divided not too many years ago.

Our ferry crossing was calm and welcome. We had an outside cabin and it felt great to have hot water at hand and a real bed to sleep in. The next morning we packed up early and spent our time on deck, watching the western islands float by on a flat blue sea.

Our arrival in Patras went smoothly, and we were soon speeding across the northern Peloponnese on our way to another ferry in Rafina. We caught that with an hour to spare and sailed into Marmari, on the island of Evia, right on time. John and Carolyn were there to meet us, and within the hour we were settled in their upstairs guest apartment, with kitchen, bath, bedroom, sitting room, and terrace—with a view of the sea.

That was five days ago, and we have settled into a comfortable routine. This month marks the 30th anniversary of our friendship with John and Carolyn. We met them in a campground in England in 1977 when—Carolyn claims, but we don’t remember—a Frisbee she threw landed in Ray’s dinner. We’ve visited many times over the years, but always in Europe, except for the two weeks they traveled with us in Mexico. Now they’re selling their Greek house and we’re trying to convince them to visit America at last.

We sail back to Italy on July 10, and will be doing some sightseeing in mainland Greece before then. At present it’s very hot (95-105) so we’re taking it easy and hoping to acclimate before setting off. In the meantime we have good company, and a lovely warm sea to swim in.