Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Evening at the Top of the City

Monday, 05 September

Olympia’s relatives were serious about wanting to get together!

One of them turns out to have a nephew who is a psychiatric case, so she wanted some advice about it, which Demetrios provided her (and the young man’s mother) this morning at a nearby café. Then Olympia’s sister called us in the afternoon and invited us to her home for the evening. We jumped out of bed (siesta every afternoon) and raced to get dressed and ready and to pop into the nearest confectioner’s, as we were to meet them at the taxi stand nearest the Kastro, (“Castle”), the tower fortification of the ancient walls in the heights above the City, near the Church of St. Paul.

We got there before the hour was up and it wasn’t long before a car drove up to us and the man inside motioned us to get in. At first I was confused, but then I recognized the tall, handsome man from the wedding reception, the father of the bride, as by then had become apparent.

Panagiota, Olympia’s sister, lives in a traditional Greek house directly under the Castle, separated from it only by a narrow street. Literally, find the nearest building to the Castle and that’s hers. We were shown into the back yard, from which there is a stunning view of the blue, blue sea—and of course, of entire City, spread out below. The company was gathered around a table on the patio.

Olympia was there (although Nick was not), and all the other people we had met at the reception.

One of them, Olympia’s koumbara, Maria, had lived in Richmond in the past. “I’ve seen you in church,” she told us. Yes, I thought she looked strangely familiar! Another of them, Ioanna, the mother of the bride, is in real estate and speaks excellent English. Of course Olympia’s son Chris does, too, having grown up in Richmond. So with their help, I was able to talk to everyone.

The parents of the bride are the actual owners of this marvelous piece of real estate; Panagiota transferred the title to them, but she still lives here, too.

There are canaries everywhere, in four different cages, hung about the patio. They started out with one, Ioanna told me; then they were given a second, which turned out to be of the opposite sex. So now the two have multiplied to eight. There is also a pair of chickens, that is, a colorful rooster and a white hen, newly bought to celebrate the wedding. On the wedding day itself, Ioanna dressed them in a bowtie and little veil, respectively. These fowl walk about the yard trailing long streamers of soft fabric. Ioanna explains this is because they are hard to catch; but by grabbing or stepping upon the streamers, she can get them when she needs to.

The trade-off for living in this historic spot with the glorious view is that thousands of other people also want to be here. The first tourists arrive by 7:30 every morning, and in the evenings, young people come to drink and smoke and smooch and whatever. And when they come, they are virtually right upstairs from the house, nothing in between. It’s noisy (and overlooked), says Ioanna, until late at night. Plus, the neighborhood is filled with popular cafes and bars. (Oh, yes, we know what it’s like living near a bar! The Drunken Duck is still very loud whenever there’s a soccer game on television, Greece being currently at the top of her league.)

Panagia, Olympia’s sister, is a walking university. Never mind she has no formal education and spent her working life as a seamstress; she knows a great deal of history and philosophy and mathematics and who knows what else. It makes her a fascinating conversationalist, says Demetrios. She says Napoleon was of Greek descent.

This family has a more Americanized sense of time than many Greeks; everybody rose to leave around 9:30, so we left, too. It was good to have an early evening, as the remnants of my virus were still hanging on. But it was even better to have met so many very good people.