After returning from Europe, I began to reflect on my journey. This one was very different from the ones that preceded it. On some previous trips I felt it necessary to have some sort of plan or agenda, as the time was short, and it seemed important to make the most out of my time traveling. However, I was a bit wrong. I realized if there is no agenda, no plan, then there is also no right and wrong. I decided to book a flight to Athens, Greece (at the time it was nearly the only country open due to Covid), and book a return flight from Athens, filling in the blanks as I went. After all, what could go wrong? Seeing life unfold right before me, with no plan, turned out to be as entertaining as the journey itself! I was willing to embrace the unknown series of events that lay ahead by simply relinquishing control. I’d like to share some of those experiences with you… Like my experience of Loutraki, Greece for a few days and then on to Athens, the Greek Isles, and on to Italy — where my heart still seems to be.
Loutraki, Greece (Shown above: Train Station in Athens, Greece)
After landing in Athens, my wife, Laura, and I went to the station to buy train tickets to Loutraki. Laura’s friend from Chicago owns a cottage there and offered it to us for our visit. His Cottage Caretaker/friend, Alex, was to pick us up at the station in Loutraki.
We had taken time in the airport to exchange for Euros, normally a no no as the rates are always higher. Did I mention I believe I’m an experienced traveler? :-) lol
The train station seemed to be a bit of a scramble as all the signage was Greek to me! The ticket agent didn’t speak a lot of English, so getting to the correct platform and boarding the correct train was important, but not exactly smooth. Also, it was necessary to change trains halfway through the trip to Loutraki, so to be sure we asked a fellow traveler once on the train, where to change. Did I mention I believe I’m an experienced traveler?
(Shown above:Terrace view of Loutraki, Greece)
The escalator was broken, so I played pack mule again. With no rest, the brain scramble of being at the correct platform, correct train, correct train change, racing to catch the train and carrying the bags, I seemed to have it all together!
After boarding the train and it leaving the station, we kindly asked the cool looking fellow-traveler to look at the map for the correct train change. He helped put the bags above, explained the map and train changes with lots of laughter and even asked me to come over to look at the larger map on the wall by the open area near the door. Well, the larger map was missing. With a little train rocking he bumped into me rather strong a couple times, but was certain of his info. Well, this experienced traveler I think I am didn’t realize till later that day, that I’d just had my pocket picked of the euros I’d purchased! Yep, hard for me to believe, being the experienced traveler, I think I am. His exchange was much better than mine and he didn’t even wait in line! I’m not proud of this, but it was a bit of a wakeup call. Safer travels from here on out. I could now meet a nun on the street and my response would be that of Barney Fife, like… I know your kind sister, but “Whataya want…?”
At the end of our 1 1/2-hour train ride, Alex met us at the station. He was an elderly man with wisdom clearly showing in his face. He was happy to pick us up and greeted us like family. All the Greeks are kind, seriously. Even the pick-pocket dude was nice! We traveled through winding, uphill roads to arrive at a very nice cottage. We approached a very cool locked gate in a white arch.
Alex unlocked the gate and handed me the key, as if to say, me casa you casa. The long walkway lead to an iron black spiral staircase leading to the rooftop for the best of views. Around the corner was another locked gate leading into the cottage. The view was spectacular. We unloaded luggage as he offered to take us anywhere we needed to go. He gave us his number and suggested we call day or night. He reminded me of an ole fellow from Kentucky. Just a good guy.
Later, Alex took us to a small restaurant downtown, introduced us to his friend and owner Demetrius and the fun was on. The owner asked if we liked fish. He took us to the kitchen where there were 4 or 5 large boxes full of fish packed with ice. Now, I’m not a fish expert, but I certainly know one when it’s looking at me, and they all had this stare, like they’d been caught ya know. The owner and his staff treated us like family as well. We had Greek salad with olive oil, fish cooked with olive oil, fresh bread with olive oil, a plate of olives with olive oil and of course wine. The view was awesome. Just as we finished eating and I said bye to the fish head, Alex arrived and took us to the supermarket for groceries. We spent two days with the awesome view of the Greek homes that peppered the hill sides with the bay in the distance as well. It was just an incredible view. No internet, no phone service and just rest and relaxation. I can understand why all the stray cats here like laying around being lazy. I’ve learned I can do that too.
Should we take a train to Athens or go by car? Let’s go to Athens!