I cannot tell you exactly why it took me decades to return to that one place on earth that has left such an everlasting impression with me like Greece. Maybe one of the reasons was my insatiable thirst for distant shores far, far away that kind of blinded my sight for all the beauty that lies so close to home.
So perhaps it was just fate that this May, after over half a year of waiting and anticipation, my Norwegian post-ship journey on HURTIGRUTENs oldest ship, the MS Lofoten, had been cancelled last-minute due to un unexpected engine failure of the 68 years-old ship.
There I was, deprived and a little lost since I had not expected any interruption like this on short notice, but more importantly, completely clueless what to do now.
So after becoming clearheaded again, I sat down to figure out the alternatives on offer. This is how I ended up with a Mediterranean cruise starting off in Civitavecchia and ending in Barcelona, touching famous Greek islands such as Santorini, Mykonos or Crete.
Santorini has always been a top destination on my bucketlist and I was also always curious about visiting Mykonos and Crete. The price was more than right and just a week later we were on our way to Rome, where we spent a few romantic days before boarding the ship (read everything in this previous blog post and see my hotel recommendation).
I remember my first visit to Greece as a child. This must be at least 25 years ago if not even more. My mum took my sister and I to the, at that time, sleepy island of Skiathos. This was my first flight ever and I remember every single detail of it (and look where it got me today, LOL!). It was aboard a French manufactured Caravelle of a German leisure airline called Aero Lloyd that in the meantime is not in service anymore. I can recall in detail the anxiety and excitement I felt the night before and that I woke up so early in the morning, that I spent hours dressed next to my suitcase before mum´s alarm clock went off.
I remember the funny feeling I had in my stomach as the plane lifted off, I remember the cold breakfast served inflight and I remember getting chocolates from the funny flight attendant. And I remember how I stared with enlightenment and wonder out of the massive, triangular windows watching the world underneath pass by, the clouds dancing all around us. Gosh, how sad was I when the whole adventure was over after two and a half hours.
But I also remember the most amazing two weeks that we spent on this beautiful little island. Our cute little hotel Meltemi (it is still there and still looks like back then) right at the harbour with the two lovely English girls taking care of us. We always took the local buses to the different beaches, but not before buying sandwiches and drinks at the local market for an afternoon picnic right at the sea.
We took strolls on the harbour promenade in the mild summer evenings watching the fishermen bringing home their catch of the day. We climbed the rocks and played hide and seek in the cypress forests. I chased octopuses underwater and snorkeled for hours in the crystal clear waters burning one time so badly, that my skin was full of blisters in the evening.
I made friends with Mateo, a boy from Rome. These where the days when it didn´t matter if you spoke the same language or not or where you were coming from. We played Pirates of the Mediterranean, climbed on trees and caught grasshoppers with our hands. We were simply happy. Simply happy in Greece.
And then, infinitely years later, those memories suddenly strike back as you stand at the reeling watching those unbelievably beautiful sunsets over the Aegean sea. And you ask yourself, why you possibly ever stopped coming here.
And you realize, that there really is no reason.
Who cares about financial tensions between two nations? Money has always gotten into the way of good friendships. But it should never prevent us from seeing that it is the people who make a country, not the politicians. On both sides.
Greece, you are exceptional and I love you. You are generous, full of life and unspeakably beautiful. You taste exquisite and your rich history amazes. You bring my mind to peace and take away my tensions, just like back then. How could I forget?
These next few weeks, I will publish posts about what to do and what to see with lots of beautiful photos about every port that we visited during May´s as well as our latest cruise in July. It is my tribute and my way to say thank you to a country and its people who have provided me with lifelong memories.
Σ ‘αγαπώ , Ελλάδα