A Travellerspoint blog

August 2013

Music to My Ears

View Crete, Greece on lelanius's travel map.

Before I left home, I made sure to update my mP3 player and download some new tracks and tunes to my music library to drown out potential situations such as crying babies, snoring plane-mates, and noisy terminals. Alas, earplugs or earbuds are indispensable in such an event!

But do not be deceived. To truly experience a place, one must experience its sounds as well as its sights. Few occasions have required music to stimulate my mind and senses here in this country where even stillness has its own melody, where even the air hints at a tune all its own.

Many people wake up to the blaring of an alarm clock, much like I did before life led me to Greece. Here, I awaken to the gentle bleating of sheep grazing in the nearby melon patch. The shepherd comes in the still moments of the morning to move them to a nearby pasture; he calls in a voice they know by heart, and they eagerly answer by trotting to him in delighted familiarity, joyous obedience. Fuzzed tails wagging as they gallop to him through the melon patch, they begin to baa zealously as if to say, “Wait for me! I’m coming, I’m coming!” The shepherd galvanizes them to hurry to the next pasture, the bells around their necks tinkling as they amble down the road, hooves padding softly down the winding road.

Morning greets me, and I welcome it by opening the doors and windows to bask in the incandescence of the morning sun and the downy-soft gusts of the wind. As I make my way downstairs and open the kitchen and living room windows, the only sound that meets my ears is the whispering of the leaves from the grape vineyard that sidles up against the stucco wall of the villa as they rustle in the Cretan breeze that blows inward from the sea.

From time to time, the cicadas chirp and chime in a relentless chorus in the age-old struggle to secure a mate; their vibrations permeate the isle with their hopeful song of romance while reminding Southern expats of the crickets and grasshoppers back home. Soon the birds begin a new harmony: swallows swoop in time to the buzzing of passing insects, finches and sparrows and other as-of-yet unidentified birds twitter from their hiding place among juicy clusters of dark red-black grapes, and hawks cry out overhead in triumph over the sky.

Then one day as I’m sitting on the lounger on the third floor balcony to evaporate into transparent bliss in a quiet peace all my own, a song floats up to my ears, draws me. I quietly get up and stealthily peek over the balcony wall to see a young Greek woman riding her bicycle up the sloping street to where the olive groves and the orchard grass meet on a curve that obliterates the path’s destination from onlookers. She hums a tune to herself, oblivious to my presence; her voice carries on the wind to my eager ears above. Simple and wordless in a chord of minor tonality, that tune still haunts my thoughts. I keep waiting for her to return and grace my hungry ears with her refrain.

Nature itself sings to me, allures me. So why would I need my trusty playlist here?

After all, the only thing to drown out is the beauty and the silence of the still moments that remind me who I am.


Posted by lelanius 08:00 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Blowing in the Wind

View Crete, Greece on lelanius's travel map.

The first thing we often notice in a new place is something visual, something that catches our eyes quite literally and captivates us with either delight or disgust.

I don’t count airports as a true experience of a place because they are merely transitions, entry and exit points, a meshing place for the comings and goings of people from diverse corners of the earth.

For me, the first thing I noticed when I stepped on Greek soil for the first time was the wind. It caressed my face, lifted individual strands of hair upward into the breeze, and whispered iridescent words of comfort into my ears. After an arduous journey and many stuffy moments in airports, terminals, and various aircraft of different sizes, the breeze was something of a balm to my harried soul. It touched me. Literally. If the wind could have fingers, then they stroked me, calmed me, soothed me.

When I arrived to my year’s abode, I quickly learned the secret to a cool clime. The Greeks open windows and doors to invite the invigorating current inside to cool off their houses. The wind, not air conditioners which can quickly mold and mildew the insides of stucco-like walls with their humidity, is best at diminishing the heat of the day. The doors and windows here slide open, tilt open, lean open at the tops, or swing open from the sides. I prefer at times to open mine wide up until my villa becomes a wind tunnel at every turn.

The gales here come straight inland from the Mediterranean, sweeping a refreshing hand over the inhabitants of the isle. Falcons hover in circular crescents on its gusts and swallows soar in the blustery thrusts over the grape vineyards and olive groves in hopes of snatching a tasty morsel from the air or earth below. The breeze carries their calls to my ears, reminds me of the raw freshness of the place. Distant sounds of some dog barking or a mother calling to her children brush through my windows and seduce me out onto my third floor balcony to take notice of the landscape, but I see no dogs or mothers or children. The wind simply lifts its feathery fingers and thrusts snippets of sound in my direction, gifting me with only a hint of the daily life all about me.

So I sit and wait and watch, hair whipping around my face, my skin pining for respite, as the wind secrets promises into my heart.

Posted by lelanius 03:55 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

The People We Meet Along the Way

If I could pack people up into memory boxes...

View Crete, Greece on lelanius's travel map.

The intrigue of travel can begin with the interesting and thought-provoking people we meet as early as the onset of the journey, as the people of the place can not be overlooked for the place itself.

A few interesting people have definitely graced the pages in this new adventure story in my life. These are a few of our shared stories.

When I was boarding my very first flight out of the states, I heard an announcement that there would be no meal served on board. I was already starting to have a nasty headache and badly needed some Excedrin Migraine, so I hesitantly asked a very distinguished looking gentleman in airline uniform if there would be water available for purchase on our flight. He kindly replied in the positive and I sat down satisfied that I did not need to buy a water at the airport and bring it on board. After we boarded and were seated, I was surprised but grateful when I saw the same uniformed gentleman come straight to my seat and personally give me a free bottled water! It turned out that he was the captain!

Every fight I was on, people wanted to talk to me, especially on the international flights, as they wanted to learn where I was from and why I was going to their country. Everyone was so curious but so nice. A long-haired, long-legged, pale-skinned American, I was quite the novelty to them! On the plane to Poland, a kind airline steward moved me to another seat so I would have more leg room after a woman crunched my legs when she reclined her seat back to sleep, and I ended up sitting next to an interesting gentleman named Tomas who told me various stories of his grandparents’ experiences in the ghetto of Warsaw, Poland, during the Holocaust after the Nazi invasion. After bringing tears to my eyes, he invited me to see his splendid homeland and shared snippets of culture and insights that only a native can provide. When we finally arrived to Poland, he looked out of the window with deep pride and then said to me in a rich, Slavic voice that people in Hollywood can only imitate at best, “This is Poland. Welcome to my country.” A definite highlight to my trip! Tomas helped me navigate my way through the Polish airport until we each had to go our separate ways.

The fight from Warsaw to Athens brought a fresh adventure after my earlier flight was late on arrival and I rushed, ran, huffed through the Polish airport at warp speed to catch my connecting flight. After a very hot, red-faced, and uber sweaty version of myself boarded the flight to Athens, I realized that seated next to me was a German man who was trying to ask me something. Sadly enough, I realized how truly physically and mentally exhausted I was when I realized I couldn’t even remember my six years of German classes in order to simply respond. Luckily, a fellow multi-lingual passenger offered to translate: would I be willing to switch places with his wife (a few seats back) so they could be together? Of course I switched. When I moved to his wife’s seat, I ended up next to a positive delight of a lady named Agnieszka (Polish name meaning Agnes in English), who literally filled my mind with fascinating stories of the beautiful country that is Greece. Talkative but very delightful, she has been spending the past eight years in Greece on and off and told me all about everything. A beautiful and vibrant lady was she, and her sheer excitement and buoyancy were contagious. We became something of necessary friends, however, and I am glad of it because, when I got to Athens airport and had to gather a trolley and file a lost baggage claim, she was the one to lend me the Euro and help me out as much as she could. I will be forever grateful to the strangers who so kindly helped me out in time of need!

After missing the connecting flight from Athens to Chania and purchasing a new ticket for a flight which was also delayed, I was at last seated between a man who refused to turn off his electronics during the flight and a young lady from the UK who was a frequent traveler to Crete. While the airline stewardesses passed out refreshments, she told me stories that would whet the appetite of any tourist. Just as we were finishing our snack and drink, the captain of the plane asked for people to return to their seats and fasten their seatbelts for our descent and landing. The British lady to my left lit up radiantly and beamed, “We have arrived!”

So have I arrived? Hardly.

Ah, but my journey has just begun!

Posted by lelanius 06:06 Archived in Poland Comments (0)

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