|At the beach... looking south. On the horizon|
a trace of the island of Samothrace.
Understandably, streets became much smaller, as people are parking their cars on both sides. Underground parking areas or dedicated buildings for parking usage alone are an unfamiliar concept altogether, and most streets look as chaotic as the rug markets in Istanbul. That's what my fellow Greek citizens call progress. An interesting development nonetheless: They started building pavements for bikes along main streets, which renders the space for car traffic even smaller. Town authorities should be courageous enough to abandon car traffic from the city center altogether. Like it's happening more and more in any given Central European city. And build parking spaces. And get their cabling underground. It's so depressing. Oh, well... Let's talk about some other stuff next...
I also visited the cemetery, the new one. I managed to find the grave of my mother, with the help of a dear friend (Takis) who was kind enough to be my guide and guardian angel almost 24x7 in the few days that I stayed in town. I am ashamed to admit that it's been 18 years ever since she passed away and that was my first time visiting her grave. Yes sir... Shame on me and let the world know!!! With nobody stopping by, the grave was in an appalling state of dirt and wild plant growth. This made me feel like shit even more about myself. Takis volunteered to fix the problem and make the grave look a lot more descent. I was obviously grateful.
The best that happened to this town since I left was the completion of the Egnatia Highway north of the city. And a huge Hospital that is also used for classes and training of MD students attending the local Medical University. That's right. Alex/polis has got a university these days. Good for them! They also have frequent flights to Athens, meaning they shouldn't have many excuses for not building some local industrial activity. However, I haven't seen much of that anywhere. If there was any at all they have certainly hidden it from me... Or is it because Takis only wanted to bring me to places I knew from the past? Like the old French railways station. The Gare Militaire as we used to call it. When I was young I thought Gare Militaire, pronounced by locals as Karmilitar, originated from Turkish. True story! It's only in my recent trip that I found out what the correct name was. So much I knew about the tongue of Molière those days...
They also build a relatively large port but I saw no cranes. Not a single one. I mean, compared to the crane forests of the ports of Antwerp and Rotterdam, Alex/polis port looks like a huge Lego for 7 year olds. I didn't see any commercial ships docked either. Only a ferryboat to Samothrace (remember its headless Victoire statue at the Louvre?) , an island 30 km off the coast to the south, and a few retired ships from other origins, docked here to avoid excessive port taxation (as Takis mentioned). Oh yes before I forget: Outside the cemetery I also saw a large cotton field. I didn't know we grew cotton in town before?! Takis said the field will stay like this, unexploited. Nobody plucks the cotton anymore, he said. They just planted it because they received state subsidies (probably from the Eurocrats). After they put up Dodge City this way, and pocketed the subsidy they left it to its destiny, to accompany with its millions of white cotton flowers the dead resting on the other side of the street. A great subsidy plan Mr. Baroso. That's exactly the way Europe will end up in Chinese pockets altogether in less than one generation. But you'll be dead by then. Why bother?
The best part of my trip was my encounter with so many people from my past, all grown up, grayed or bald. Hugs and kisses everywhere I went. I was actually moved by the positive feelings I received from all these people, who would be entirely justified to hate my guts and spit on the ground in contempt at my approach. On the contrary. They almost stayed in row to hug me, kiss me and shake my hand. This is Greece too. A country of emotion and affection. I did my best to hold my tears. Only thing that bothered me though is their obsession for smoking cigarettes at all times, over dinner and lunch too. I stopped smoking long ago, but I believe I must have 'passively' smoked more than a pack during these four days.
I was impressed by the women from my high school classes. With one or two exceptions (that I was told about but didn't see, so I can't really confirm) most looked like they stopped adding years to their age in their thirties. Mary, Efy, Tety, Anta, Kaity all looked stunning! I guess it's the water they drink and the good life. On the contrary, some of their husbands looked like shit... more like their fathers, so to say. I felt really bad for one of those women in the company of her dad (sorry... husband, I meant). I also came across an old flame of mine. She looked gorgeous. As like the galloping years left her untouched. As beautiful as ever. Or, at least I thought so. I got to clarify here. She had never known then that I was insanely infatuated with her as a teenager. I was a nerd you see, and too shy to even look her in the eyes. Or any girl for that matter. I almost fainted once when she looked back and smiled. Seeing her again after all these years, still looking as beautiful, gave me a strange feeling. This time I was courageous enough to talk to her though. What could possibly go wrong, eh? Like my old boss used to tell intimidated salesmen, who didn't dare ask customers for the order. "Why worry lads? The worst that can happen is the customer sez 'no'. He ain't gonna eat yah!"That's right! She didn't eat me. She looked like she enjoyed the conversation too. We talked about our families and what our kids did for living, you know, the usual.
|Lefteris and Nikos enjoying Belgian goodies...|
Last, the one thing that hit me like a a lightning was their indisputable lack of any PC and Internet literacy, true for almost all my peers (baby boomers). They made me feel like I was at the same age as their 20 year old kids, who obviously know PCs inside-out, and even prefer Linux to Windows. Some of my peers wouldn't know a laptop even if it hit them in the face. I thought of coming back to organize free PC courses for 50+ for them buggers. Sad story. I mean, I never asked them to built any Java servlets for crying out loud... just simply power on a PC box, log in their email, or surf and read a (my) blog... it's not much to ask, innit! No wonder they keep gossiping all day long. They got plenty of time talking to each other, whereas their kids are staring at computer monitors. They'd better surf a bit for a change. Poor bastards. Yep, I forgot. Some know how to Skype. Talking over IP, that is. No keyboard typing (the Antichrist!). I must say, I've been typing Greek the last few weeks, on a software adapted AZERTY keyboard and I can tell you, accenting Greek words is a bitch. Especially if you are trying to figure out what is what on an AZERTY. Oh, well... it's a matter of habit at the end. Where there's a will there's a way...
Would I go back? I think so. Under pressing 'advice' by my daughter I might even buy a small place to go back more often than I ever thought possible.