Monday, July 11, 2011


(Ok so this post should have actually come before Paros, but I am just now able to catch up with my blogs)

It has been a lot of fun traveling with Mia and Carol (See the Santo Gang post) the last few days, but there is a time for everything, and I realized during our first day in Sifnos that the time for us being together would end soon. The two of them are traveling the Greek islands as a vacation gettaway from work, where I am traveling all summer, like them to escape work, but for a longer period and a tighter budget. Mia and Carol seem to be on vacation spending mode, where nice hotels and pricey dinners is within their budget. While with them in Santorini I had relaxed my own spending a bit, but I know I will have to be more conservative if the money I have left is going to last me another six weeks on the road and get me home. I have grown to be ok without a roof over my head, content with simple foods, and open to free transportation like walking and hitch-hiking. This is what I mean by conservative spending, and when you do all of these in the same day, surviving becomes very inexpensive. So the three of us, each with different purposes for being in Greece, have each made compromises. I have been spending a bit more to eat out with them and they have taken to my style of sleeping on terraces and empty houses.

But more than money I am also in search of something. Something I don't ever expect to find, but will always be in persuit, the asnwer always unkown. I am talking about the feeling when you encounter the uknown and sometimes unfortunate circumstances in life with acceptence and ease. Thats the best I can do to communicate it to you, but we all have encountered it during our lives, only this summer I am intentionaly looking for it. The unkown and unfortunate circumstances are inevitable to all of humanity, but approching them with acceptence and ease is the hard part.

Mia, myself, and Carol at the cafe
We arrived to our first day on Sifnos without knowing where we would sleep, but we had heard of a hotel relatively cheap in a small village called Kastro. We took a bus to Apollonia, the islands biggest city, which is actually no city at all, where we stopped at a cafe for coffee. the owner ended up being really cool and we talked about a lot of politics and Greece's economic situation and how apparently there is oil here that can restore it within a few years if only a Greek company would start digging it up. We stayed for a few hours untill we decided to look for the village we had heard about. Carol and I wanted to walk, this way we could get more familiar with the island. Mia wasn't up for walking because it was too hot and we had our heavy backpacks to carry with us. We found what I thought was a simple solution, but later caused a lot of miscommunication. Mia wanted to meet us there in a taxi a little bit later in the day and Carol and I would walk to Kastro, calling her if we ended up anywhere different.

The bar underneitih the terrace

Carol and I found the village but not the room and had little luck finding anything under 40 euros. So we kept walking around the small village, with absolutely no tourists around, right above a fishing harbor that had the most beautiful, clear water I had ever seen. We ended up at a Cuban cafe bar asking the guy if he knew of a place to sleep. Kostas was his name, and he was a small guy in his seventies with extremely short, cut off blue jean shorts that were hugging his package tight. He had a green army shirt with cutoff sleeves, a thick dirty mustache, very little teeth, long and thin greece hair slicked back under a bandana. His bar had the best view of the harbor below but was really small inside, dirty, and cluttered with parafonalia from Cuban revolutionaries: Che Guevera t-shirts, Fidel posters, old war caps, newspapers and magazines covering that whole conflict. Kostas told us as he pointed up, "You sleep on my balcony and you use my toilet," and then he started making us free drinks. Carol and I didn't need to think twice about the offer before we laid out our bags and sleeping gear on the balcony above.

The terrace where we slept
Cuban music was ringing loud in the speakers, Carol was singing along and cooking us dinner in Kostas' kitchen, Kostas was dancing, and I was in amazement at the fact we were there, experiencing something you only see in the movies. All night I racked my brain trying to understand where this this guy came from. He was absolutely crazy, drank so much Haverna Club but never beer or wine because he said it made him too drunk, although Im pretty sure this guy as lived his whole life half intoxicated. The theory I came up with was this: Kostas was a Cuban revolutionary himself, at one point affiliated with Che and Fidel, and had escaped their unfortunate outcome to this tiny and desolate Greek island of Sifnos. Over the next two nights that we stayed on his balcony, I was convinced by the stuff in his bar and the stories that he told thaqt my theory was fact.

Cuban Revolution Parafinalia
Kostas - The Crazy Cubano
Thanks to Carol's cooking skills, dinner turned out really well despite the lousy selection of ingredients sold at the "mini market," anchoves, tomato sauce, cheese, pasta, and an onion we had with us already. I swear it still may have been one of the best pastas I have ever had. The first night Carol and I grabbed a few mats from the bar below and used them as padding on the wooden deck. We stayed up most of the night talking under the starts as the breeze from the harbor kept us a little chilly. We actually slept very little, but eventually the sunrise came, and we were already in the perfect spot to see it. the sun came up, lighting the harbor and the surrounding farms along the moutain side, and the terraces of the village. Animals from all around began to sing thier morning song, first the roosters, then the song birds, the sheep and donkeys, dogs and cats. There were so many animals around us I couldn't believe how loud they were when the sun came up. While Santorini was the most beautiful sunset, I think this place in Sifnos must have been the most beautiful sunrise in all of the Cyclades. Carol and I thought again to ourselves that this should be in a movie.

The harbor below
What happend next was totally unexpected, but the neighbors, the traditional looking old Greek ladies, began to yell and wave us off the porch. We could not understand what they were yelling in Greek, but it was clear they did not want us there. Carol and I just laughed as our morning became even more Hollywood. We finally got up and walked down to the harbor to swim and clean up. Looking up you could see on the top of the hill the village and the wooden terrace that we slept on reching out into the valley with a paneramic view of the village, the sea, the harbor, and the farmland.
Remote fisherman harbor

The next day we ran into Mia again and we ended up renting a car and explored the rest of the ilsand. We bounced around to all of the major harbors and thier beaches, the last of them turning out to be really amazing, where we ate fresh octopus and fish. The three of us returned to the Kastro for another night of the same thing, hanging out with the crazy Cuban and sleeping on the wooden terrace.

The time for the three of us to depart came eventually, when we took a ferry back to Paros. They were gonna get a hotel and I found a couchsurfing couple that siad they would take me in for a few days.I knew I would miss Carol and Mia, but I was ready to be couchsurfing again. Hostels are good in thier own way, but they are not as good as the cultural experience that couchsurfing offers.

Im coming up to the middle of my summer and I have left to see the Pelopennese and northern Greece. I am also thinking about traveling through western Turkey. Every person I have met coming from there has said it is the best place to travel. I have been corresponding with a farm there through WOOFER., an organization that connects world travelers with farmers in need of labor, where you live and work on the farm in exchange for free accomodation and food. It will be tricky getting there on my budget but there will be no expenses once Im there. Untill then I will continue being open to all that traveling has to offer when you have no plan.

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