After two weeks of monotonous and guttural Israeli Hebrew, the mellifluous and rhythmic sound of Modern Greek over the aircraft public address system lulled me into a pleasant sleep before we even took off. The day I had dreamed or dreamt of for years had finally arrived: I was going to Greece. Already in the plane the atmosphere was more relaxed; the flight attendants had a weary but gentle manner about them that was so refreshing after what I'd been enduring. I had heard that the Greeks were the most relaxed worriers in the world -- fingering their strings of beads (κομπολόι) while sitting and watching the sunset. Israelis were unrelaxed and impatient. Even on the beaches of Goa and Ko Phi Phi, they were always up to something.
There was an "Israeli paradox": Israelis ate a variation of the same diet that supposedly made Greeks, French, and Italians healthy, but Israelis got sick and died at un-Mediterranean rates. Asaph's father thought it was because of the low consumption of wine among Israelis. I suspected the national character was to blame.
I woke up somewhere over the Mediterranean. Asaph was conversing with the person in the aisle seat, a young man who uttered the words "my boyfriend" at some point in the conversation. I gathered that he was some sort of Greco-Israeli-Italo-Franco international citizen-of-the-globe. I fell back into Hellenic reveries.
We landed in Athens (Αθήνα/Ἀθῆναι). The landscape was hillier and less desert-like than Israel, although not greener, owing to the Israeli zeal for irrigation. I realized that the logo for the Greek airline on which we had traveled was just two sea birds flying in front of the sun; its depiction on the tail of the aircraft had looked to me like some sort of spidery creature emerging from a hole.
A spidery creature emerging from a hole didn't really make much sense as an airline logo, I realized. Unless it was an American carrier.
We were led into the surprisingly modern airport, where Asaph screamed at some Israelis who attempted to cut in front of us in the line for passport control. Asaph had had several altercations during the two weeks we had been in Israel; the police had only been called once.
I went into the restroom to wash my hands. I was in Greece! I took a photo to prove it.
The odd Modern Greek word for "water" -- νερό -- was somewhat disappointing. I wished they had kept ὕδωρ instead. Later I read: Νερό comes from the medieval "νηρόν ύδωρ" which came from "νεαρόν ύδωρ" which meant "fresh water". The adjective substituted the noun. This is an example of adjective nominalization.
That didn't seem so bad, I guessed.
We headed to a train to take us into the city.
The train was in the bright colors of Western Europe. It was falling apart a bit. Also, there was the kind of urban graffiti that did not exist in Israel.
Israel had occasional primitive graffiti with basic messages ("Gal loves Tal") and then also clever, ironic, stenciled hipsterish graffiti, but this kind of urban graffiti didn't really exist outside of Arab areas considered occupied. It was the sigh of the oppressed creature.
The buildings outside were similar to those in Israel, but more colorful and more defaced. There were striped awnings over balconies -- one never saw striped awnings in Israel. One never saw awnings at all in Israel, oddly.
I listened to the announcements on the metro. I realized that my Ancient Greek training had left me completely unprepared. The pronunciation of the station Αγίου Ελευθερίου was not at all what I had expected, nor was the word ευχαριστώ, meaning "thank you", a word I knew from non-reformed Christianity. In Ancient Greek class we had only learned the non-Greek idea of how to pronounce Ancient Greek (a bizarre sing-song that evoked a Pasolini film), which was about as close to Modern Greek as Old English was to Australian.
Later I read: Although written with a sequence of vowels, /ευ/ represents /ev/, a vowel and a consonant (the /v/ is devoiced to [f] when another voiceless consonant follows.) Similarly, /αυ/ represents /av/ (or /af/ in front of a voiceless consonant). The much rarer /ηυ/represents /iv/ (or /if/).
We finally arrived at our destination. Faruq had given me a plan for less-than-12 hours in Athens. "Check the opening times of these places, as the Greeks are lazy," he had written.
We walked through the city. As it was Sunday, there were few people. It seemed quite dilapidated. I was a bit surprised. I knew that the Greeks had been through hard times, but coming from industrious Tel Aviv, the derelict character of the city was slightly jarring.
We arrived at our destination, according to Faruq's instructions:
You need at least two hours to get through the National Archaeological Museum. DO NOT FORGET THE ROOM WITH THE BRONZES AND THE EGYPTIAN ART, which features interesting syncretic deities. Also, admire the beauty of the Zeus/Poseidon of Cape Artemision.
Asaph tried to arrange a tour, but there was a shortage of tour guides, and an Asian woman who had reserved a tour refused to allow us to be part of it, even if we paid. "She is a bit... special," said the apologetic prospective tour guide. The Egyptian rooms were closed because of a shortage of guards.
And yet the unemployment rate in Greece neared 25%. But it was August, I reasoned.
Still, I enjoyed the museum.
I found much of it to be quite moving, even without a guide.
I was starting to get a bit hungry, as I had slept through the breakfast service on the flight.
Philhellinists were often resented by actual modern Greeks, since they saw Greek history under the Byzantines (let alone the murderous Turks) as a sad derivation from their promising foundation of Western culture. I didn't know anything. I hadn't even read the Odyssey (Ὀδύσσεια). I had given up on Ancient Greek after one semester. I was a fraud and a failure.
I thought the Byzantines were probably fine, owing to the Christian thing and all the incense.
I went into a room that was dedicated to a Minoan Bronze Age settlement on the island of Santorini, our next destination.
Asaph went to the café.
I met him there. We were exhausted.
I liked the way people looked in this country: downtrodden.
We exited the museum. I wanted to go to the Acropolis (Ακρόπολις), of course. Asaph insisted on getting there by way of a bus tour. Before meeting Asaph, I had never done a bus tour, and I had considered them to be quite beneath me. Asaph had forced me to reconsider things. Or, at least, Asaph had forced me to take bus tours.
We paid and hopped on. It was extremely hot outside, but less humid than in Tel Aviv, where the sweat of all the feverish Jewish enterprise filled the air.
My headphones on the upper deck of the bus didn't work well, but I heard a building being identified as an Anglican church.
It seemed sad. Why did they need Anglicans here? Or anywhere outside of England, really.
I read Faruq's notes:
Most of the stuff is roped up, so you can't go inside into any buildings, and you are generally herded around. It is neither picturesque or romantic, as it would be if you visited classical sites in Turkey.
I looked at the new Acropolis museum.
It wasn't as charming as the old one.
I entered neither.
We slipped and slid around on the smooth stones. I was exhausted and hot and thirsty but so happy to finally be in the Hellenic Republic.
I consulted Faruq's notes.
Then head down from the Acropolis and look at the Thesion, the best preserved of all classical temples. It is adjacent to the Roman Agora which features the Tower of the Winds. Again, you cannot go inside any of these buildings, you just walk around them. There is also a nice Ottoman mosque next to the Roman Agora, but the worthless Greeks have vandalised and defaced it. Seeing the Ottoman inscriptions made me sad.
We had no time for any of this.
As the Acropolis was closing, we headed towards the exit. I wished we had had a guide.
We reboarded a tour bus. I was again shocked by how run-down Athens was. I hadn't expected it! It was comparable to Catania, the poorest Italian city I had visited, or maybe Detroit.
We arrived at a wealthy area, finally. We alit at the Hellenic Parliament.
Along with some Australian or South African or New Zealandish women, we marveled at the Evzones (Εύζωνες) guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (Μνημείο του Αγνώστου Στρατιώτη).
Their clothing seemed detached from Antiquity and thoroughly Ottoman, although later research was inconclusive.
Poor Greece! I thought.
We headed across the street.
We were delighted by the avenue, named after a Frisian.
We entered Pláka (Πλάκα), as instructed.
It was fine. All of the shops catered to tourists. I considered buying a straw fedora, for sale in every shop and purchased by every male visitor over age 10. I decided not to.
We watched some tourists having their feet nibbled on by fish, and then went to a café. I was happy and horrified by the low prices. As they were in ευρώ, it was easy to compare. The atmosphere was infinitely more relaxed than our country of origin that morning.
We walked to the train station and headed to Piraeus (Πειραιάς/Πειραιεύς). We had great difficulty purchasing our ticket, owing to the complete absence of any employees or workers at the station.
I noticed a ridiculously muscular and shirtless and suntanned male in his 20s boarding the train a few stops before the terminus. Wow, I thought.
After picking up our tickets from a kiosk, we had to take a bus to our ferry. I bought some snacks at a shop and was again surprised by the cheapness and happy about the friendly and sad woman who sold them to me.
We boarded a crowded bus that took a long time to depart. I wasn't convinced we were in the right place, although we were.
There was a lot of frantic activity at our ferry, which was in fact a gigantic ship. Trucks of various kinds of cargo were being directed on and off. There was lots of yelling and waving of hands. We showed our tickets to men dressed like old-fashioned waiters or bellhops. The interior of the ferry was relatively new, although it was not to my taste -- it seemed too American, with pinkish and yellow patterned carpeting and walls, like a chain motel in Missouri.
We had reserved seats in a small part of the ferry that had reserved seating -- columns and rows of seats like on a bus or a plane, with a large television at the front. The air was just warm and humid enough to be intolerably unpleasant. People who hadn't purchased tickets for these seats could just sit at the many chairs and tables in various lounges and decks.
We went to an upper deck that was technically outdoors, although it was enclosed on three sides. It was there that I realized that every Greek male over age 12 was a chain smoker. People liked to joke that Israelis smoked a lot, but that was only true when compared to American Jews. I had never seen anything like the level of smoking I witnessed in Greece, athough it was generally restricted to men, as I had also noticed in Japan. It was shocking to see teenaged boys smoking while in the company of their families.
We sat at a table on the asphyxiating and sweltering deck, but soon a dark liquid on the floor started advancing towards us, so we went out onto the open area at the back of the boat where people went to smoke in the fresh air. We watched the loading and unloading frenzy. Just before the ramp was to go up, there was a dispute about whether a small boy -- too young to be a smoker -- would be allowed on the boat. His hand was held by his presumed father while much gesticulating and yelling with the dock staff or ferry crew went on. From our vantage point we saw them rush onto the ferry, then rush off again to fight some more with the crew or staff, then rush on again, but only after the additional drama of one of the boy's shoes coming off. It was all a bit stereotypical. I could see why the Philhellenists were disappointed.
We slowly pulled out of the port.
We went back to our seats. There was a group of males, ranging in age from late adolescence to late toddlerhood, sitting at the front of the seated area charging a beat-up laptop computer at an electrical outlet. Greek ethno-turbo pop blared from the machine, which they occasionally smacked with their hands if the sound of the music was not to their liking. Some of the younger boys had toys that made loud electronic noises of various kinds. Resting or sleeping in our seats, which were only two rows from the front, would have been impossible. Even watching the television would have been impossible.
A woman crew member came in to yell at the boys. They talked back to her and refused to move. There was a lot of screaming. She left, presumably to return with reinforcements. Asaph went to go sit in the back rows, but I was afraid of taking someone else's seat and having to have an awkward conversation, so I stayed where assigned.
A few passengers stood up to reprimand the boys, with no effect. I wondered if the boys were members of a hated and persecuted ethnic minority. I started playing some Israeli pop music out of my phone. The boys looked up, shocked, to see where the competing music was coming from. They couldn't tell that it was me. I felt proud of my passive aggression.
Finally a large man in nautical uniform came in. His screaming and almost-punching got the boys to move. I turned off my music.
It was too uncomfortable to sleep. I watched some Greek television -- game shows -- and then read in Memoirs of Hadrian:
I drank in the odor of salt and sun on the human skin, the perfume of lentisk and terebinth from the isles where each voyager longs to dwell, but knows in advance that he will not pause.
I went out to a side deck. It smelled of exhaust and cigarette smoke.
Hours passed. We settled into some chairs on the back deck, where the wind diluted the smoke a bit. They weren't deck chairs, but rather the kind of chairs one might have around a patio table. We fell asleep. Periodically we awoke, our necks extremely and painfully cricked. The lights from the ferry prevented us from seeing the stars.
Our time-telling devices indicated that we were near our destination. The ferry would stop at Santorini and then head on to Rhodes (Ρόδος). I activated my smartphone.
We gathered up our things and hobbled out of the ferry, along with most of the other passengers. I had noticed very few non-Greeks, which was surprising.
On land we were greeted by a Greek bearing a sign with Asaph's last name. Asaph went through the rental-car formalities with this Greek, who seemed like a playboy or operator type, while I watched the ferry prepare for its final leg.
We drove up a very steep hill with many switchbacks. I was seized with anxiety.
We finally arrived at the top, and then navigated the single road to our hotel at the northern end of the island. The settlements reminded me of Marin County, California: luxury businesses located in a rural setting. We would drive through dark countryside and then arrive at a fancy hotel or boutique illumined by light.
I played with the radio. It was a mixture of traditional Greek music, Greek talk, and then some Turkish stations. I finally found some international pop, but then changed it back to traditional Greek music, for atmosphere.
We finally arrived in Oia (Οία). There was a man standing waiting for us in our parking spot.
He led us down many stairs to the office of the hotel. There were dramatic views of the water. A gravelly voiced yet young woman checked us in.
"Normally our guests arrive on the earlier ferry, so I came here especially for you. You took the ferry that the Greeks take." She said this in a way to make us feel guilty that she was up at such a late hour, but she also offered us ouzo (ούζο), which we declined or accepted.
We went to our room. It was great -- a semi-luxurious white cave.
I looked at my smartphone again. I couldn't believe it!
We had been sent a message from Asaph's stepfather documenting what they were doing with our children.
The next morning we awoke.
I was thrilled.
We had breakfast on our terrace.
Afterwards I went to shower, using the brand of amenities I had learned about one time I had unexpectedly spent the night at another person's apartment.
I was slightly disappointed to learn that Greece, like Peru, was the kind of country where you couldn't flush toilet paper. Another way it was less developed than Israel, I noted.
I just wanted to lounge around all day.
I read a section describing time after a lion hunt at the Siwa Oasis (ὄασις) with the Emperor's young lover Antinoös (Ἀντίνοος) in Memoirs of Hadrian:
During an interlude, Pancrates urged us to inspect more closely these flowers of rare type, red as blood, which bloomed only at the end of summer. At once we recognized our scarlet lilies of the oasis of Ammon; Pancrates was suddenly fired by the thought of the wounded beast expiring among the flowers. He proposed to me that he versify this episode of our hunt; the lion's blood would be represented as tinting the lilies. The formula is not new: I nevertheless gave him the commission. This Pancrates, who was completely the court poet, improvised on the spot a few pleasant verses in Antinous' honor: the rose, the hyacinth, and the celandine were valued less in his hexameters than those scarlet cups which would hereafter bear the name of the chosen one. A slave was ordered to wade into the water to gather an armful of the blossoms. The youth accustomed to homage gravely accepted the wax-like flowers with the limp, snaky stems; the petals closed like eyelids when night fell.
Asaph had other plans. He had booked a multihulled-boat cruise around the island that would go through dinner.
We walked up to the town. I realized that nearly every habitation in Oia, and possibly in all of Santorini, was for tourists. It was as if the native population had fled, to be replaced by those seeking sunburn.
I wanted to inspect a church.
There was no time, but soon another church appeared. I later noted that Santorini, and possibly all of Greece, was extremely overchurched. Who went to these churches?
We passed many souvenir shops selling straw fedoras.
Another church! And I had yet to see any Greeks!
I wanted to try to decipher the street names, but we had to rush.
Another church! It was like a town in the American South, but billions of times nicer.
I read in Memoirs of Hadrian:
It was near this period that Quadratus, a bishop of the Christians, sent me a defense of his faith. I had made it a principle to maintain towards that sect the strictly equitable line of conduct which had been Trajan's in his better days: I had just reminded the provincial governors that the protection of the law extends to all citizens, and that defamers of Christians would be punished if they levelled accusations against that group without proof. But any tolerance shown to fanatics is immediately mistaken by them for sympathy with their cause; though I can hardly imagine that Quadratus was hoping to make a Christian of me, he assuredly strove to convince me of the excellence of his doctrine, and to prove, above all, that it offered no harm to the State. I read his work, and was even enough interested to have Phlegon assemble some information about the life of the young prophet named Jesus who had founded the sect, but who died a victim of Jewish intolerance about a hundred years ago. This young sage seems to have left behind him some teachings not unlike those of Orpheus, to whom at times his disciples compare him. In spite of Quadratus' singularly flat prose I could discern through it the appealing charm of virtues of simple folk, their kindness, their ingenuousness, and their devotion to each other. All of that strongly resembled the fraternities which slaves or poor citizens found almost everywhere in honor of our gods in the crowded quarters of our cities. Within a world which remains, despite all our efforts, hard and indifferent to men's hopes and trials, these small societies for mutual aid offer the unfortunate a source of comfort and support. But I was aware, too, of certain dangers. Such glorification of virtues befitting children and slaves was made at the expense of more virile and more intellectual qualities; under that narrow, vapid innocence I could detect the fierce intransigence of the sectarian in presence of forms of life and of thought which are not his own, the insolent pride which makes him value himself above other men, and his voluntarily circumscribed vision. I speedily tired of Quadratus' captious arguments, and of those scraps of wisdom ineptly borrowed from the writings of our philosophers.
We walked down to the shore, passing some beasts of burden.
Such a thing would soon be a thing of the past -- outlawed -- in the United States, owing to our extension of God-given rights to all living beings.
We picked up our tickets and waited at the pier, which the Greek woman who gave us our tickets had referred to using the Greek word: μώλος.
The water looked wonderful! Not like the steaming swirling sewage by Tel Aviv that passed for the sea.
The other passengers arrived in small vans. We were ready to set sail for our three-hour tour, which would last over five hours. About half of the other passengers were Chinese-speaking; the others were a variety of murky Europeans.
We pulled away from the μώλος.
I had been unsure of this junket, but now I was happy.
A chubby Chinese-speaking man began to pose shirtlessly for photos taken by his clothed Sinophone male companion. He didn't appear to be undertaking this activity in jest, even though it resembled the kind of comic scene common in film, television, or theater in which a person unnatractive by conventional standards acts as if he or she is a fashion model.
I lay down to wrinkle and damage my skin.
As we swayed on the Aegean, I made the obvious realization that the words "nausea" and "nautical" were related, from the Greek ναυς/ναῦς meaning "ship". I had read that Nausicaa (Ναυσικάα/Ναυσικᾶ) meant "burner of ships".
Unlimited alcoholic drinks were included in the boat tour, to ensure that people made this connection between nausea and nautical. White wine was served out of a large cylindrical plastic drum.
We made no attempt to talk to the Sinophones, but Asaph struck up a conversation with a French woman who appeared to have adolescent fraternal boy/girl twins. Her husband (not the father of the kids) was a zany Canadian of Swiss origin who was about my age. He kept drinking the drummed wine and dancing around. His youthful manner was encouraging. We wore the kind of green military cap favored by revolutionaries and their pretenders.
The boat was anchored and we were allowed to go swimming. The Canado-Suisse guy jumped in with his wife's son in a dramatic and humorous fashion. The adolescent girl twin remained on deck in her bikini, looking skeptical and petulant.
The water invited me.
We jumped in.
I felt invigorated and purified by the cool, limpid water. A Hellenic baptism (βαπτισμός) in the Aegean! I thought. I had often stated that my favorite thing in the world was to swim in the Mediterranean. Even after the gelatinous Levantine Sea had somewhat ruined this for me, I still had fond memories of swimming at Cadaqués (although the sight of a floating piece of trash had upset me) and at Sitges (although again there was a problem with a trash sighting) and at Sant Pere Pescador (although, again: floating trash).
But here there was no trash to be seen anywhere. I felt like a child as I paddled around. Being able to see all the way to the sea floor made the experience akin to flying.
Paradise (παράδεισος), I thought.
We climbed back onto the boat.
We went to another location and repeated the experience.
"Now we will go to the hot springs," said one of the crew. Maybe it was the skipper or the captain or midshipmate -- I had no idea.
"Please take off any jewelry that might tarnish before swimming out to the hot springs," said the skipper or the captain or midshipmate -- who knew?
I noticed that Asaph was removing his wedding ring.
"You told me this was white gold!" I said.
"Oh, right," he said.
We swam towards an islet where discharge from the volcano that had caused the massive Minoan eruption and destroyed much of Santorini still warmed the water. We swam with the French woman with the twins and the Canado-Suisse boyfriend or husband. As we approached the island, the water got warmer, browner, and foul-smelling. We waded with the others into an tawny inlet where our feet sunk into squishy mud. I felt as if I were swimming in feces.
We looked up at the islet. There was a church, goats, and, alarmingly, an outhouse. I wanted to swim back to the boat immediately.
Back on the boat, the atmosphere (New Latin atmosphaera, created in the 17th century from Greek ἀτμός "vapor" and σφαῖρα "sphere") was quite festive. Ouzo (ούζο) had replaced, or supplemented, the wine from the plastic drums.
A dinner was served. The main course was pork. Oddly, the many Sinophones seemed upset, even though I had thought they were a porcine culture. Fish was provided to a select few who had ordered it days ahead of time. Who would have done that? I wondered.
The chubby guy from the mock photo shoot prayed before he ate. I couldn't believe it. My mouth was agape before his agape (ἀγάπη).
Asaph and I just ate the vegetables and bready and ricey things.
People started dancing in a drunken fashion, especially the Canado-Suisse guy. Asaph talked to a Romanian couple with young children. He then smoked a cigarette with the wife or girlfriend of the Canado-Suisse. I didn't approve, although she said that she had seen Brad Pitt jogging that morning, so something good came out of the interaction. I had read that Brad Pitt had been a ferocious smoker and had had many failed attempts at quitting, in spite of or because of his extreme wealth.
I then learned that one of the blondish crew members was not Greek, but was in fact Serbian. I knew that the Orthodox world liked to stick together.
The boat, with ethno-techno music blaring, was maneuvered to watch the sunset.
I thought that sunsets were overrated. Sunrises were better. I had watched a sunrise over the Mediterranean with my deceased mother, in Sicily, because our apartment was so uncomfortable we couldn't sleep.
It was all very nice anyway. The boat returned to the μώλος.
When we got back to the hotel, I tried to get my wallet out of the room strongbox, but it triggered an alarm. We called the raspy proprietress. It sounded as if I had woken her up.
"The problem is that I don't live anywhere near the hotel," she said after I explained the situation.
I was nonplussed, in the correct meaning of that word.
"Well, I don't know how we can sleep like this," I said. There was a long silence.
"I guess I will have to come in then." She sounded angry.
I hung up and reported the exchange to Asaph. He was furious.
"An Israeli hotel owner would never act like that. How is this not her problem?!"
Suddenly the alarm stopped. We called her back to tell her she didn't need to come. It sounded as if she had just gone back to sleep.
I slept well after all that anyway.
Breakfast was relaxing.
We drove to a winery for a tasting.
There was some delicious, primitive bread which I ate even though we had just had breakfast.
We drove all the way to the south of the island to visit the only site from antiquity.
There was a strange warning about only using approved guides. Asaph immediately went to the shack where the approved guides waited for clients. There was only one. Asaph quickly organized a group for a tour.
Asaph had always been great at organizing groups.
Our guide was a woman in her late twenties with the now-familiar world-weary Greek air about her. She was everything I loved: beautiful and sad. She wore a light and loose dress and big sunglasses. There was something Pre-Raphaelite about her. Her name was Nikoletta, unfortunately, but I assumed that that wasn't her fault.
She led us into the ruins of the ancient city, now covered with a protective structure whose construction had been slowed by the economic crisis.
It was as interesting a tour as it could have been. Our guide knew so much, not like tour guides in the United States, who were generally morons or idiots. Tour guides in Greece were part of a regulated profession, like doctors or barbers or accountants. I stared at her thinking that she looked like what our daughter might end up looking like. They had similar hair color.
Occasionally someone who hadn't arranged a tour would stop and start listening to our guide. She would have to tell them to walk away, since we had agreed to pay her. It was a bit awkward.
There was almost no signage in the ruins, owing to the economic crisis.
The tour ended. Asaph coordinated the payment and gratuity. I didn't like to be involved in such filthy things. I suspected that some in our group -- French -- had not paid their fare share.
I went to the restroom.
Asaph drove us to a restaurant recommended by the somewhat annoying woman who ran or owned our hotel. It was amazing and wonderful. I ate the foods I didn't dare in Israel.
There were many amazing things that Asaph could eat as well, like grilled fresh goat cheese with basil pesto, Santorini fava purée, cherry-tomato fried dumplings, and grilled zucchini with cream cheese and spearmint.
We drove to a beach that had been recommended.
It felt very exclusive and glamorous, since it was clean and there were no tour buses. We paid for an umbrella made of fronds.
This was wonderful. I took a little swim in the perfect water, although most of the European beach-goers were staying on land. Asaph took a walk to scope things out. I knew all about his adorable attempts at operations.
I went back to the umbrella and the chairs. There was a strapping Sub-Continental Indian man giving massages on a table nearby. He was shirtless but wearing a sarong. Each group of his muscle fibers glistened with sweat or oil. If I had been the kind of person who liked being massaged, I would have asked about the price.
I tried to read from Memoirs of Hadrian, but I just wanted to enjoy the surroundings.
We stopped at a grocery store on the way back to the north of the island. I saw a sign that I thought would have upset Faruq.
Even though we had had lunch only hours before, we had to go eat dinner while watching the sunset. This was required for visitors to Santorini.
We went to a restaurant recommended by some people who didn't have very good taste. We could tell that it wouldn't be like our lunch.
It was very windy. We asked if we could take a quick walk before being seated. Asaph and I had a brief argument. I imagined fighting on the equivalent of one's honeymoon was obligatory.
I called my father, since he had fond memories of going to Santorini with my deceased mother. It was an emotional conversation.
We walked back to the restaurant. I was pretty sure that σκύλος wasn't the Ancient Greek word for dog. It was a pity.
The food wasn't so good, and we weren't hungry after our especially delicious and recent lunch. Two young non-heterosexual males sat at a nearby table laughing and smoking and brimming with optimism. I felt that things wouldn't turn out very well for them.
We decided to walk all the way to the tourist epicenter (ἐπίκέντρον). There were endless shops selling the same things and lots of Nordic and other blond and sunburnt persons everywhere. We bought some cute shirts for the children.
We went into a bar where the Olympic Games (Ολυμπιακοί Αγώνες) were playing on several televisions.
There were no specifically non-heterosexual places on Santorini. There were many bars where blond, Slavic women stood outside to lure in male patrons. I wondered about why the women of the Slavic world had been given this role on the planet, among many other worse but related roles. Were they to be pitied or envied?
We made our way back home, listening to Greek and Turkish radio on the way, since the stations kept fading out.
We woke up for our last day. I admired the ventilation in the bathroom.
I wanted to live in a cool, white cave like this.
My feet loved the feel of the floor.
We went to our hotel's small pool.
"Arab village!" I said. I said this whenever I saw unfinished multistory buildings, since every Arab village always had many of those. The Jews didn't do that.
We paid our annoying and hoarse proprietress her money and headed down to the water for one final meal.
I was determined to have fish. We picked a relatively random place out of the four-or-so choices.
Luckily the food was almost as good as our lunch the previous day.
I loved Greece.
One of our waiters was extremely handsome. Asaph tried to get me to engage in conversation, but I refused. Asaph finally did, as always. The waiter said that he was Albanian, from near the border with Greece.
With so much unemployment, why were there so many foreign workers? I wondered, even though I didn't really wonder this and in fact of course knew the reason.
I went to the restroom. A shirtless man in his 70s emerged.
I was sad that we had to head to the airport.
We returned the rental car and were driven to the airport by a textbook distinguished man in his 60s who was wearing a suit and a lot of cologne.
We arrived early for our flight. The airport was chaotic, but since we weren't flying to Zurich or Frankfurt or Manchester, we checked in with ease. The security was laughable -- airport staff were walking back and forth through the metal detector as it blared.
The airport wasn't very modern.
We went to an outdoor area where varieties of lobsterish Northerners sat smoking and drinking beer and waiting to fly back to their cloudy homes.
We flew to Athens. Asaph got us into an airport lounge.
I went to a duty-free store where the Greek bath products I loved were for sale. I bought a large amount.
We had to go through additional security to get to our flight to Israel. My alcohol-based hand sanitizer --which had of course been unnoticed in Santorini -- was confiscated.
We went to our gate. The people speaking Hebrew made Asaph happy and annoyed. I realized that a person I had identified as an Arab woman in hijab was in fact a Greek nun. She looked miserable. I imagined that being a Greek nun in Israel was awful, what with yeshiva (ישיבה) students constantly spitting on you.
I read in Memoirs of Hadrian:
The Alexandrian Jews, egged on by their coreligionists in Judaea, did their best to aggravate a situation already bad. The synagogue of Jerusalem delegated Akiba to me, its most venerable member; almost a nonagenarian, and knowing no Greek, he came with the mission of prevailing upon me to abandon projects already under way at Jerusalem. Aided by my interpreters I held several colloquies with him which, on his part, were mere pretext for monologue. In less than an hour I felt able to define his thought exactly, though not subscribing to it; he made no corresponding effort concerning my own. This fanatic did not even suspect any reasoning possible on premises other than those he set forth. I offered his despised people a place among the others in the Roman community; Jerusalem, however, speaking through Akiba, signified its intention of remaining, to the end, the fortress of a race and of a god isolated from human kind. That savage determination was expressed with tiresome deviousness: I had to listen to a long line of argument, subtly deduced step by step, proving Israel's superiority. At the end of eight days even this obstinate negotiator became aware that he was pursuing the wrong course, so he announced his departure. I abhor defeat, even for others, and it moves me the more when the vanquished is an old man. The ignorance of Akiba, and his refusal to accept anything outside his sacred books or his own people, endued him with a kind of narrow innocence. But it was difficult to feel sympathy for this bigot. Longevity seemed to have bereft him of all human suppleness: that gaunt body and dried mind had the locust's hard vigor. It seems that he died a hero later on for the cause of his people, or rather, for his law. Each of us dedicates himself to his own gods.
I wished that we could have stayed in Greece for longer, but I missed our children.