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Friday, August 13, 2010

ATHENS: "Home" again!


View across the ancient agora to Lycebettus

It hasn't taken too long to get back into 'the life' (zoe) here in Athens, although it is taking a bit of time to get used to the oppressive August heat because it's been some years since I was here at this time of year.  It means you slow right down and in fact, come to a full stop during the mid-day hours.  The best times to go walking about are early mornings or evenings (but even then it's still sweltering!)

I'm staying at Villa Olympia, an old neoclassical house/pension run by an English lady, Carol, who has lived here for years.  In fact, when I first lived in Athens in 1983 my dear friend Roberto and his pal Bronson lived right across the street.  At that time, they told me about a Canadian writer who lived across from them and suggested I should go to meet her. I didn't. And I learned later that it was Audrey Thomas who lived in Carol's pension while she was writing "Latakia".  It wasn't for quite a few years later that I met Audrey at a writer's festival in Vancouver and we made the connection.  So I feel I'm in the right place for now,  as it is a real writer's kind of house -- very old, very shabby and homey and fit for a writer to find the Muse (I'm waiting!)


Display of an Ottoman Turkish room,  New Islamic Museum, Athens

I am enjoying waking each morning to the sound of canaries trilling from their balcony cages, even in the heat.  And walking around checking out old haunts.  A lot of shops are closed, some permanently due to economics, some due to August holidays.  And there aren't a lot of people (or tourists) around.  But Athens is always quiet in August so there's room to move, though yesterday Carol said she'd never seen such traffic jams downtown as there were.  We had gone to see the new Islamic Museum which is opearated by the Benaki, and a very interesting place, showing the whole history of Islamic occupations around Asia and Europe from the beginning and lots of fabulous treasures on display.

Today I'm going to visit the Acropolis museum which I missed on my last trip here.  That is sure to be air conditioned and will be pleasant to spend some hours there.


 New Acropolis Museum, Athens

I stopped by my favorite taverna, To Kati Allo, for dinner the other night and enjoyed a chat with Dino, the owner's son who I've known since he was 4.  He now has a 4 yr old of his own.  When I stopped there in the afternoon for a cold Mythos he serenaded me on this tzouras and sang for me.  I remember when he was first learning to play the bouzouki and now he's quite a proficient musician.  He looks like a real gypsy these days with a goatee and curled moustache (Johnny Depp style from Pirates). His family are gypsies from Sparta.
His mother, Anna, had recognized me earlier in the day, from a half block away and greeted me warmly.  I've known this family now since '87 and they are always happy to see me.  At one time, in Vancouver, I had met a man on the buses who turned out to be a Greek who had known me in Athens.  We often met on the buses and he'd ask about Athens folk. Then once when I was at TKA, Anna asked me about "Jimmy" and it turned out they were aquainted from Sparta. So every time I was here visiting he'd phone from Vancouver to see if I'd been to the TKA.  Unfortunately last year they said he'd called to say he had cancer and I haven't seen him since so we assume he passed away.  But it just goes to show you what a small world it is!

So I am getting geared up for my trip to the islands now and today will check ferry schedules.  My travel writer friend Inka will be meeting me on Naxos on the 18th so that will be another exciting event.  I'm looking forward to being by the sea and having a luxurious swim in the Aegean.  So I'll try to blog once more before I head out of here on Monday.


 It's a bit funny not having my friends around as they are all away on holidays. But I have enjoyed Carol's company and she's so good about offering rides around etc.  We have had some long, interesting conversations.  And after our fabulous dinner last night at the garden restaurant, we sat on the rooftop watching for the Perseus meteor shower, but the sky didn't seem to be clear enough as we couldn't even find the moon (must have been low behind the buildings).  Nice and tranquil up there though, but even at 1 a.m. it was still steaming hot!

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