Friday, July 21, 2006

Belated posting of July 1 Blog--Kea Island, Greece

July 1, 2006
Blogging from Kea, Greece
Blog me once shame on you, . . . .

I don’t even remember how many days since my last entry. I believe I wrote late one night around three days ago, perhaps our second in Athens. That one I was able to post directly on the internet unlike tonight. Today is Saturday. It is hard to remember what day it is when nothing important but one’s departure date punctuates the routine. There aren’t even any shopping or tourist attractions to be (inevitably) closed to make you mark the day or date. This is one of the virtues of being on an island relatively far from civilization. Of course this particular island’s records of civilization go back many thousands of years as we found out on our run through the small local museum. As my Green Guide says, “Kea’s history goes back to the earliest times, as evidenced by the remains of numerous settlements.” It still feels rather far off the beaten track.
Kea is no Mykonos or Santorini. This is the point. Although there are hotels and tourists here, many of the tourists are Greek families, like our hosts, who have chosen to build vacation homes on the island. There are not too many of these either but there is abundant evidence of more going up. I hope that it is a universal truth that all construction work is subject to numerous delays. (What comes inexplicably to mind is Chicago’s Millennium Park which was finished several years after the new millennium arrived).
I was moderately disappointed by my first glimpses of Kea. It is not like the photos I have seen of Greek islands. In my mind’s eye, I see tiers of whitewashed buildings with bougainvillea vines and people sipping (?) ouzo in tavernas. In reality, our ferry arrived at a small, unremarkable port (see photo).
The surrounding countryside is dry and brown. There are few trees and the bushes are small and scrubby. From up close they are mostly adorned by thorns. There are some magnificent thistle plants—they look more thorny than their American counterparts. Only a well defended goat would eat these. There are some sage-like plants with purple flowers and cultivated oleander here and there.
We disembarked from our ferry and gathered our gear. Our first stop was a bakery for bread and a cheese pie (to forestall adolescent starvation). Then a stop for eggs—locally produced and served up un-cartoned and loose in a plastic bag. The trip to our home for the weekend was over a dirt road at times overlooking the blue Mediterranean and times over inhospitable looking hills. The hills are terraced and we inquire why. Apparently subsistence agriculture has largely been abandoned as have the terraced fields. Fires occur often enough that there is little forestation. Stone walls mark property lines and small square stone sheds seem to provide shelter for the goats (none are visible). In fact in three days on Kea, I have seen no goats except for the one we ate for lunch today (apparently a true Kean goat), and only one cow. The primary crop appears to be stone which is plentiful. I could use some of this stone at my house in Chicago where it would have to be trucked in from a quarry for a substantial price.
The only wild animals other than birds that I’ve seen are the feral cats. I’m sure there are more but they are not readily visible to the eye. The main wild-life if such they can be called are the insects and arachnids. The spiders are of ferocious dimensions. Even their webs seem to be of industrial strength. Extra large spiders bring out the arachnophobia in me. On the one hike I take through the scrub, I wave a large stick in front of me which scares a number of also monstrously large grasshoppers. Fortunately, I have no fear of grasshoppers. I am glad there are no locals nearby to see me. The only thing worse than being the stereotypic ugly American is being the stereotypic crazy American.
Our house is at the end of a dirt road. Before we arrive at the house we see a small cove with a few beach umbrellas. There are one or two families on the beach. Our hosts say that on the weekends there are up to fifty cars at this cove but now it seems blissfully empty. The house itself overlooks the ocean and the Greek mainland. It is of modern construction but uses the local stone. In spite of its isolation it seems to have all the modern conveniences including a dishwasher, washer dryer, three bathrooms and air conditioning. Life could be worse. After we unpack we have to decide between competing desires—eating or heading immediately to the beach. For me the fresh apricots and cherries win.
On our introduction to the island we inquired about natural hazards. The thorns are obvious, the spiders ugly but benign and there are no poisonous snakes. Our host tells us that in ten years on the island he has not seen any jellyfish in the waters. My older son heads down to the beach first, apparently less seduced by the cherries than by the water. Unfortunately, he therefore becomes the one to discover that this is the exceptional year for jellyfish. He returns from his brief trip to the beach announcing that he has been stung by a jellyfish. He shows three long parallel raised welts on his forearm. They definitely look like they hurt. J. is a trooper and does not complain too much. We apply some mysterious Greek ointments and some of the pain goes but the marks remain for weeks. Good thing we didn’t need to test out the home remedy of urinating on jellyfish stings!
Well, now I have discovered how to add one photo to Blogger, thanks to Picasa, I'm going to have to learn how to add on a few more. Oh, the challenges of technology. Posted by Picasa


mineguruji said...

nice pictures and good writing.

mineguruji said...

not updating