Date: Thu, 30 May 2002 05:20:10 -0700 (PDT)
From: Jose Badelles
Subject: Day One in Europe
Arrived at the island of Hydra yesterday via hydrofoil from Piraeus Port in Athens, Greece.
The conference of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators—Greek Region will begin tonight with a Greek dinner. I’m a day early, enjoying the new smells, sights, and sounds—my first ever of Europe.
Hydra/Yddra is beautiful! Though having a barren hilly topography, the harbortown holds a “tragic” beauty; tragic because no crops grow but beautiful because the people (who made their wealth through shipping and navigation) were still able to make a home for themselves (importing teak and using the stones from the hills for their habitats).
The Greeks appear as physical hybrids of the Aryan race (German) and the Arabs (though they are also still Aryan in origin). The young lady who holds the reception desk at the Hotel Ippokampos where I stay is a natural blonde but with dark mulatto skin, slightly doe-eyed with a tinge of blue, and with an elfin nose.
The men have a “compact” physique, not overly tall. The tallest Greek I’ve seen so far is about 5’10. Most of them are tanned because of the Mediterranean sun. This morning from the terrace at the hotel, I saw an elderly gentleman astride a donkey. Behind him was his 20s son also astride a donkey. Both were going up the hill engaged in a conversation which, judging from their tones, seemed like a fatherly tongue-lashing toward his son. Or maybe he is just saying, “that is not how you talk to your Mother!”
The Greek language has a similar intonation to Italian, with the way they speak English and their own native tongue. I’m learning the basic greetings, affirmations, and negations. I notice, though that the pronouns in their sentences are “invisible”, but are conjugated with the verbs. Much like the Spanish “te amo” instead of “yo te amo”.
My first Greek words are of the survival set:
efcharistok = thank you
yasas = hello / goodbye
kalimera = good morning
I must remember: Dhen katalaveno (I don’t understand)
Milate anglika? (Do you speak English?)
The net cafe where I’m at is by an alley paved with stones cemented together. The place reminds me of the village in the film “Chocolat”. The houses are mostly wood and stone. Hydra is essentially a craft place where they sell mostly jewelry. The American couple I had breakfast with (since they are also staying at Ippokampos) had been here before. They gave me a brief rundown of the history. Hydra’s main business, as the gentleman said, was “making money” through imports.
The sun set last night at 8:00 though remnants of Helios’s last rays were still evident, casting a dark indigo on the water reflecting the deep blue of the sky. The harbor, like most of the town I’ve seen is paved with smoothened stone in irregular shapes. Shops sell marionettes, jewelry, and sea sponges which are very popular. The harbor is also home to sea-side restaurants and cafes with tables and chairs placed outside protected by rope-awnings, giving an al fresco option to dining with the aroma of grilled fish and other seafood.
What gives the impression that this place is for the moneyed are the rows of yachts mooning the harbor.
The weather is clear at a balmy 33C, and the nights are cooler at 27C.