I’m pretty sure everyone in Greece thinks I’m an idiot. I’ve been walking around with this huge stupid smile plastered on my face for days. I’ve also been taking pictures of every stray cat I see – and there are a LOT of stray cats. And I have the worst tan (burn) lines in existence, because apparently I fail at sunscreen.
All fair reasons to assume I’m mentally impaired in some way, but I don’t even care, because I AM IN GREECE drinking iced coffee in a taverna on Skopelos Bay. And I’d be crazy not to have a stupid smile plastered on my face.
Getting here was a teensy bit of a challenge. I had to leave Thessaloniki at 6:00 am Friday morning. I apologized in advance to the other couple in my dorm room for having to make noise that early only to find out that they were making the exact same trip – a bus to Volos and ferry to Skopelos – so we decided to be travel buddies for the day. I MAY have implied that I knew where the bus stop was. I really thought I did.
Here’s what I learned about navigating the streets in Greece: they’re not laid out in nice neat grids going in single directions; they twist and turn and double back and circle like they were designed to confuse the crap out of you. And they all look exactly the same. If you’re lucky you can find the road name on a building but it’s not a guarantee. So…I really did think I knew where I was going until all of a sudden I had no idea.
We deduced that the bus we wanted to take to the Central Macedonia Bus Station had to run roughly east to west down near the water, so we headed in the general direction we thought it might be. And then we got really lost. Like so-lost-the-roads-we-were-on-weren’t-even-on-the-map lost, in a somewhat scary looking part of the city. The only logical thing to do was to flag down a taxi, because missing the 8:15 bus to Volos would have been a disaster. Turns out we were only about 10 minutes away and made it in enough time to grab coffee and pastries before the bus got there. (In unrelated news, my pants seem to have shrunk since arriving in Greece.)
Lesson learned: Accidentally bumping into a bus stop once while wandering around does not a fearless leader make.
The bus ride from Thessaloniki to Volos was stopped and boarded TWICE by police, once to check passports and the other to check tickets. I’m not sure how one would have managed to sneak past the guy checking the tickets at the bus door, but what do I know? Are illegal stowaways a major problem in Greece? I’ll have to check on this.
Anyway, by the time we made it to Volos I had less than half an hour to find the port, collect my ticket and make it to the ferry, so I was hustling. The ferry, I discovered, runs on Greek time. Which means they might leave right at noon, or they might leave whenever they happen to get around to it. So the running was entirely unnecessary. (Or completely necessary, if you take into account my recent increase in pastry consumption. I’ll pretend I burned off at least one spanakopita.)
This was my first time on a ferry and I was so disappointed. I assumed that all ferries had decks that you could stand on and watch dolphins play alongside the boat. Don’t get me wrong, the FlyingCat 6 (Hellenic Seaways) is a perfectly nice ferry, but passengers ride inside, not out on deck. So, it’s essentially a big bus on water. The windows weren’t even clear enough to see all the dolphins that I’m SURE were frolicking along. (It’s possible I may read a few too many novels…)
My disappointment was soon forgotten when I stepped off the port in Glossa-Loutraki. In fact, I was pretty sure I had just arrived in heaven. Driving up the mountainside to the house I’d be staying at confirmed it. Skopelos isn’t called the green island for nothing. (If you need a reference, it’s the island that Mamma Mia! was filmed on.) Tourism is steady on the island, largely coming in from neighboring Skiathos which has an airport, but it isn’t overrun or over-priced yet, making it just your average, everyday Greek paradise.
The house that I’m staying at is so authentically Greek it makes me want to cry. Vines crawling up and down the walls and trellises, an organic vegetable garden, fruit & olive trees surrounding the house, and an outdoor kitchen (how cool is it to have an outdoor kitchen?!!)
Every morning a shepherd on a scooter comes and herds his sheep up a mountain path that runs alongside the house, and every evening he comes and retrieves them. They all wear bells around their necks so they sound like walking wind chimes. I keep trying to pet them but they haven’t warmed to me quite yet. The 8 stray cats that show up for free food are big fans of mine, though.
There’s also some fantastic artwork inside the house, like a handmade dream-catcher above the bed and this amazing picture frame shaped like a snake filled with photos of naked ladies.
I’ve totally embraced mountain life. Watching the sun set over the Aegean Sea, helping out with my host’s paddleboard business (more on that later, because paddleboarding is amazing), drinking coffee or wine from the little tavernas all alone the waterfront.
The only things I don’t love about being a mountain girl is the sporadic internet. Pun intended. (Skopelos is one of the Sporades islands. I didn’t say it was a good pun.) But, the internet, like everything else, runs on Greek time. So I drink wine while waiting for web pages to load. (It’s rough, but someone has to do it).
Greek island mountain life is definitely the life for me.