Wednesday, January 29, 2014

sunshine, with just a few clouds

Turkey gave us one perfect weather day and now Greece is offering us hers. When you know that's what's in store, you set your expectations high. You want such days to be absolutely flawless and of course, they can't be that. You'll see -- mine had its bumps. But here's the truth: if ever I am to recall beauty in a setting,  with that perfectly warm wind, that blast of long awaited sunshine, surely I'll recall this day.

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at sunrise

Breakfast at the hotel was unfortunately abundant and Ed heaped his plate high enough for me to know that there would be no dinner for him tonight. He is happy with this pattern and it seems it will stick for at least this trip.

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this, BTW, is my plate, lest you think I eat small portions

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waiting for me downstairs

After, we set out to hike to the archeological site of Asklepeion. These ruins of temples, sanctuaries and baths date back to the period just after Hippocrates established the first school of medicine here. The place is so special, so renowned, that many would say Kos is worth a visit for this site alone.

It's about a four kilometer hike, mildly uphill, but that's hardly the issue: the problem is that for the first half of it you have to share the narrow road with traffic. Not continuous, but steady enough. It really is so unpleasant that you want to write a letter to someone high up suggesting a public works program that would construct an independent path to the site. Or at least a sidewalk.

So that's a shame. Once we were out of Kos the town, however, the cars virtually disappeared and the walk took on all those stellar moments when you think all good things have aligned themselves to give you this one beautiful, sunny day.

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ah, the Kos cows

But Ed and I did chat about these European trips that (quite literally this time) so put him to sleep in their gentle quietness, their predictability, their lack of great risk. Unless he has a change of heart in the months to come, I think he's ready to retreat from travel for a while. My occasionally traveling companion suddenly became a stay at home guy forever. And hearing that surely put clouds into that otherwise luminous day.

Then, too, there were the cat ladies. From Hungary, though they live in Kos now. Daily, they drive up to feed the cats of Asklepeion.

I paused to chat with them for a while and whoa, did that ever create for them an opportunity to vent about (in their opinion) the Greeks' attitude toward stray animals!
In Turkey, they tell me, people put out fresh water for the strays. They neuter the dogs, put clips on their ears and send them out again. People create makeshift shelters out of plastic tubs. Here, they hate the stray cats and they shoot them, claiming they are ridding the community of a nuisance. What nuisance are these cats here, in the ruins of Asklepeion?! They don't jump on tables and steel food! They mind their own business!

I recalled our Bodrum hotel owner feeding the kitty that did come in through the window. I suppose it would be unpleasant to have a cat come in regularly and take food from your kitchen counter... Still, shooting the cats hardly seems right.

But let's pause for a while with all these bumps and hiccups from today. Let's focus on the greatness of seeing Asklepion on a January day when the place was so empty that you could claim it as your own. In the vast quiet, I offer you just a few images. Starting with an overview (beyond the ruins, you can see the town of Kos and, of course, Turkey across the sea):

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After, we walked up the road some more and somewhere in this stretch I managed to lose the cap to my camera lens. That's significant because Ed had just tied it to my camera two days ago. Clearly not securely enough. And puff! It's gone. The third lens cap to go since I bought the camera not even a year ago!

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And while searching for the cap, we stumbled over a dead lamb in the fields and that surely was sad. As was the walk back, when a cat sprang out from the side of the road, dashed in front of a car and got hit for his efforts. He screeched, but sauntered away, though surely that must have been in a different life!

I mean, I tell you, if it doesn't stop hiccuping out there, I'll have to hold my breath and count to ten or go to sleep as early as Ed does and hope that tomorrow blooms bright and effervescent. Let's look for some tranquility there, in the Kos mountains.

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Okay. We are back in Kos town by about 4 pm and I decide that I should eat then, with Ed keeping me company (though not eating), rather than dragging myself out in the dark of the night in search of food alone later. In asking for fresh seafood, we are directed to a place which has a name that translates (we're told) to Fisherman's Daughter. A very blue kind of place and I mean that to be a compliment.

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We sit outside because the indoor clients were ignoring the smoking restrictions and I order yogurt, a salad and octopus.

It's the season! -- our waiter tells us. My portion is so big that I am happy to see a cat come by to aid me in finishing it all.

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Our waiter is friendly and speaks nearly perfect English.
Where did I learn it? I lived in Chicago for seven years when I was a young man. I worked in a Greek restaurant there. I loved it!
Why did you come back to Kos then?
My wife. She missed her family, her life here. I would like to go back to Chicago, but I'm old now. Never mind -- I have three daughters, three successful daughters -- a psychologist in Athens, an architect in Kos and a teacher in Kos. My wife, she died thirteen years ago, but I married another woman -- a younger one and you know what? We have a daughter too! She is eight and she goes to school where my other daughter teaches.
All those girls! I smile.
Yes, I tell my friends I have the secret ingredient for girls. If they know someone who wants a daughter, send her over to me and I will make her one!

Now there's a man who does not let hiccups ruin his day!

The sun is setting by the time Ed and I come back at the hotel. Oh, what, a funeral across the street? I can't tell. Women wear black here even more than they do back home.

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sunset, which looks remarkably like a sunrise, don't you think?

After such a long walk, I am not surprised to see Ed doze off. I wonder why I myself am not tired. I offer no answers here. Not any, not today. We are who we are. That we connect in some brilliant fashion with our partners, our families, our friends -- that is a minor miracle and something to remember on sunny days that come with their share of hiccups.