Insert one of two words: American. Californian.
I’ve been getting that a lot the past week! But, granted, the last two weekends I’ve really felt it for the first time.
Last weekend found Courtney, Shelly, and myself, in the beautiful peninsula of Pelion, a famous vacationing area to the Greeks. Literally everyone (and I mean ‘literally’) we told that we were going to Pilio said, “It’s SO beautiful! You’re going to love it!” Again, not that it’s that hard to get people to tell you somewhere in Greece is beautiful, but the emphatic way they said it was definitely a sure sign.
We arrived at the bus at 6 in the morning – as it was a 5 hr ride we wanted to capitalize on our time there. Surprisingly we were not the only ones there – it was going to be a full bus!
Unsurprisingly: we were the only ones with stuffed backpacks. Everyone else had nice little roller suitcases. We had backpacks and camera packs.
The ride was uneventful (unlike my last bus ride…) and we made it to Volos in great time. Volos is the hub city of Pelion. It sits in the harbor mouth, and it’s from there that you rent cars, take buses, etc. We grabbed a bus schedule to see what villages we could go to.
Everyone had warned us that you could only SEE Pilio by car. And they were right. It seemed like the schedule had been purposefully made to not be able to go to more than one village! Every bus returned right after another one left – or there were only two buses per day – one in and one out!
With that knowledge now secured, we went in search of a rental place. Having no idea where to go – we followed the logical route: to the city center!
We came across one a lot sooner than we expected! And what do you know; it was a Hertz rental place! We got the info: €40 per 150 km (what?!), plus gas. So follows our interaction:
Ok, ok, we’ll try and handle that.
… Oh! Yay – Courtney remembered to bring one!
-Great. Credit card?
… did you bring one? No. You? No. You neither?
-Oh, it’s needed for a €750 euro charge, in case we need to cover expenses. It’s returned as soon as the car is returned.
Shelly happens to have a debit card! After a quick discussion with the car lady – it’s determined that they can use it since Shelly *Promises!* that she has enough to cover it if anything happens.
Courtney: So which car will we get? Which one is the automatic?
-… automatic?… We don’t have any automatics…
Wait. What? None of us know how to drive stick…
-… Americans… no rental places in Volos have automatic!
Well, that settled our “let’s rent a car” debate. So we ended up with: no car.
We rushed back to the bus station, a little crushed, but spirits lifted knowing we can catch the next bus to Makrinitsa. A popular village known for its historical buildings being preserved so that you feel like you have been thrown back in time.
(Definitely beautiful – and to ruin the ending a little bit, we spent our whole weekend just in Makrinitsa rather than village hopping, but it was BEAUTIFUL!)
The bus dropped us off a ways outside the village (it’s a pedestrian village). We hiked up the road, backpacks swayin’, and no clue which way our hotel was. Every couple shops we’d stop in, “Do you know where the hotel Si-si-lee-aaa-nou… is?”
We wandered further and further, finding our way to the cobbled streets, the small church, the plateia with a view of the whole valley. But still no hotel.
Just a little bit later, we stumbled into a shop. “The sisilianou? Yes! Look to your right – that black chalkboard 2 doors up? That’s it!”
And what do you know – there it was! So we rush up the path, up the stairs, and into our 17th century Mansion hotel! Needless to say, it was beautiful and AWESOME! We checked in, and the manager gave us our key, so we could come and go as we pleased.
“Where should we go?” we asked, expecting some good tips.
“Go explore. That’s how you get to know a place!”
We explored for a little while, before realizing that we really had no idea where to go since we were just stumbling onto people’s houses. So we went back to the hotel, to check the internet (of course!).
Get up to the door, insert the key.
And nothing happens. For 10 minutes we try to unlock the door. Finally we have to buzz the manager to come let us in! (We were just glad it happened 4 in the afternoon rather than 11 o’clock at night!)
Using the Internet, we found some recommended hiking trails and started out again.
Of course, looking at google maps and being on the ground: totally different. After 3 false trail starts, we finally settle on one trail. We went down, down, down the mountain, along a dirt path. Finding side trails we’d climb up a little bit, then keep going down. We stumbled into a glen at one point – saw a horse grazing, and realized we were totally trespassing on private property! So, fearing shotguns (for we’d seen some shells on the ground), we left, and started back up the hill.
An uneventful hike up – except for almost being run over by mountain bikers (another clue that tourists don’t normally venture the way we did – they were quite surprised and apologetic!).
We found a beautiful spring farther up the road, followed it up, and came upon some students, sitting on the rocks, drinking and eating. They called to us in Greek, we came up, and they realized we didn’t speak much Greek.
No problem, this is Greece – everybody speaks English if they’re a student!
They were drinking homemade Tsipouro (kind of like ouzo – aka, tastes like licorice, but much better than ouzo, since I’m not a black licorice fan). Shelly declined, Courtney declined. But who didn’t decline?
Yep, as per usual.
With a shout of, “Yamas!” down the hatch it went!
“What are you doing?!”
“… well, it’s a shot… it’s in a shot glass…”
“No, NO! You sip! Sip! Oh you Americans!”
And once again – I forgot the no shot thing (two weekends in a row too!). Courtney learned from my mistake, and when she took some a bit later, she sipped (from her water bottle cap – which therefore made her water taste like tsipouro for the rest of the weekend – very interesting…)
We left our new friends and hiked down the road to the next nearest town, Portaria. The sun was beginning to sink, so we decided to sit and enjoy the sunset and a nice beverage. We asked for the plateia, and found an empty area. Full of lots of empty tables.
We saw a waiter.
“um… are you guys, open?”
“Of course! You’re just so early!”
Oh, of course. Everybody else had probably just finished lunch – we would be the ones needing a snack when lunch has just finished… =P They asked us for our orders. Coke for me, baklava for Shelly. And Courtney:
“What can we get you?”
“What coffee do you have?”
“Real coffee. Greek coffee.”
“What about a cappuccino?”
“… yes, we have that too…”
Well, so much for going Greek…
We eventually made our way home – practically running to warm up. Went to a taverna, where we were the only ones outside (we wanted the nice view!), and were trying to use the table-cloths as blankets… and our meal happened to have potatoes in every dish – with about three orders of French fries… (I don’t even want to know what the cooks thought about that one!)
We made our way to our beds, and promptly passed out!
Sunday passed beautifully. Gorgeous weather. <a More hiking on private property; climbing to the top of the mountain since we couldn’t reach other towns. Nothing too out of the ordinary. I was beginning to feel a little less out of place again.
Then came the bus ride home.
At the rest stop on the way home, I walked in with Shelly (to stretch my legs). As I walked out, a young woman came up to me.
“You’re from America aren’t you?!”
“Oh, I can just tell. You’re SO American! I knew it the minute I heard your voice!”
And with a giggle, she walked onto the bus.
Before I came abroad, I never really thought about “having an accent” or cultural behaviors. I always felt that of all the places in the states, the west coast was the least distinct, the least likely to have any defining features. Anyone else you can immediately pick out by speech, behavior; but not us boring westerners.
But apparently I was wrong! Surprisingly enough, all these instances of being so out of place, noticeable, and distinct. They really made me proud of where I come from! What a glorious feeling it is to go from thinking that you’re mundane, to realizing that you have qualities that set you apart!!
Then again, now that I think about it, when I was in Scotland, I was told, “If someone asked, ‘what’s the first phrase you think of when you think of Jillian?’ I’d have to say, ‘DUDE! FOR REALS!’”
And an Australian once tried to describe me in a blog and could only write,
She’s a crack up, from San Diego, and sounds very very Californian, using many cliché euphemisms I’d expect from a yank. “I know, right?” “oh Em Gee” and ‘totally’ being amongst her favourite yankiee words. I dunno though, writing them down on paper hardly describes the way they came out. It was all about how she vocalized them. It was “like totally the funniest thing ev-er”.
So I guess I’ve been given these clues before and it just took two years to sink in…
Oh well, better late than never right! At least now I could respond with, “Well, I’m proud to BE ______________” (insert appropriate word! ^.^)