I’m finally finding time to sit and write about the mini vacation we took to Samos last week. I know, you find it hard to believe I don’t have the time since I’ve written so many times about how there is “no time” here in Ikaria and there’s no rushing around. You probably think all I do is lie on the beach every day from sun up to sun down, have a few loaves of bread, a few drinks, and socialize with people in the village. I did. But not anymore. Now it’s real life. Cooking. Cleaning. Laundry. Unfortunately I haven’t found a way to escape the chains of running a household.
Chris and my father both left for America at the beginning of the week, and since Tuesday morning it’s been just me and the kids. We spend our days doing Greek lessons, cleaning, and reorganizing. We are trying to find the rhythm of living here on our own, and we are doing just fine. When the kids aren’t doing chores I’ve set out, they spend a lot of time playing and running around the village. I find that I spend a lot of time in the kitchen. I was given bags of tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, eggplant and figs. I’ve made homemade marinara sauce and zucchini bread. I’ve prepared figs for drying, and I’ve made my own bread crumbs for a baked eggplant and tomato bake. (I haven’t figured out what to do with the banana peppers yet, so if you have any ideas, send them my way.)
I made four loaves of zucchini bread to share with some of the relatives that have given me my bounty of vegetables. I took the first loaf to a wonderful cousin and her husband, who I just met this year. Roula and Malcolm live in England but will be here until the end of September. (We took to each other right away, and I know that will be another good bye that will be difficult to say.) When I presented her with my gift, she had no idea what it was. It didn’t help that I called it zucchini bread, because I’ve come to find out that only Americans and Australians call that vegetable a zucchini. In England and other parts of Europe it’s called a courgette. After I used the greek name, kolokethi, and she realized what I said, she looked at me and said, “There’s zucchini in this cake?” I looked at her, just as stunned, and said, “You’ve never heard of zucchini bread?” When she said no, I couldn’t wait for her to try it! I have the best zucchini bread recipe. It came from my dear friend, DaiAnn. DaiAnn is the “Martha Stewart” of Lancaster. She probably doesn’t like it that her friends call her that, but it’s the truth. She can bake like no one else (probably because she’s not afraid to use butter and sugar) and as a result has created a zucchini bread that tastes like a spice cake and could win the blue ribbon in any competition. Of course Roula loved it and she couldn’t wait to take it to her mother and siblings to taste. I, still, couldn’t get over that they never have made zucchini bread. They have zucchini coming out of their ears over here. I have no idea what they do with it all!
I digress. This post is supposed to be about our trip to Samos. Let me start by adding to Little Things That Make Me Smile. We did find a few other “comforts” of home we missed. One was a real basket ball court…with lines and everything.
Basketball Court at school in Samos, Greece
Basketball Court at school in Ikaria, Greece
The other, and probably the most exciting of our finds, was grass. Real grass. So soft. So green. So inviting. It felt like we were walking on a carpet. We took off our shoes and felt the cool grass beneath our feet. We laid down on it, in the shade of an umbrella and looked at the sky. We could hear the waves of the beach below us, and we talked about how much we missed grass. Of course, the people eating their lunch right next to us, looked down from their tables and probably thought we were crazy! The grass was at an outside eating area of a taverna. But we didn’t mind. We’ll never see them again, and we were enjoying the moment.
Harbor in Pythagoria, Samos, Greece
The trip was a relaxing three days of quality family time. Samos is a neighboring island to the north and east of Ikaria and is literally a stones throw away from Turkey. We took the 4 am ferry to get there, and as a result, spent the entire first day laying by the water or napping in our room. We stayed in and spent one of the days touring the town of Pythagoria, where the mathematician, Pythagorus was born…you know A2+B2= C2. (Timely that as I write this Elias is asking me for help with his summer pre-algebra math packet.) In such a small area there is so much history. We visited an aqueduct that was built in the 6th century B.C.–that’s over 2500 years ago. The aqueduct was about a mile long and was built to bring water into the town of Pythagoria. Construction on the tunnel started on either end and took ten years to complete. When the two ends came together in the middle, the met at the exact same spot. Quite and amazing feat of engineering considering all they had to work with were hammers and chisels. We got to walk through a portion of the tunnel, and it was an extremely tight space. It was also very cool, which was refreshing considering it was 100 degrees outside! Later we found out that in the 7th century AD the tunnel was used to hide residents of Samos during an Arab invasion. We couldn’t imagine living in such a small space, but when your life depends on it, you’ll do just about anything!
Kids in the Tunnel of Eupalinus, the aquaduct, and one of the greatest technological achievements of ancient times.
A bit of a squeeze getting into the aquaduct.
We found another amazing, below ground wonder close by. On the hill is the Holy Monastery Virgin Mary Spillianis which was built in the 1600’s, after a temple, hidden in a cavern was found. The story goes that the 16th century seaman and the residents of Pythagoria saw a light coming from the mountain each evening. They climbed the mountain to find a cave, and 50 yards back in the cave was a very ancient icon of the Virgin Mary, which was glowing. There are many written records of miracles that happened at the church, as a result of praying to the Virgin. The history of the icon isn’t known, but the story is told that foreigners who were very devout sailed to Samos and secretly took the icon back to their homeland. While they were removing it from the boat, it fell and broke into 5 pieces and floated back to Samos. They say that the Virgin did not want to abandon Samos. When the icon was found washed ashore, it was recovered and returned to it’s proper home.
Rea lighting a candle before heading down to the temple of the Virgin Mary.
The undated icon of the Virgin Mary that was recovered after being taken from it’s home.
The family at the Monastery of the Virgin Spillani, Samos, Greece.
Closer to the water is a castle…a real castle! The Castle of Lykourgos was built on top of archeological ruins during the fight against the Turks in the 1800’s. The leader of the revolution in Samos, Lykourgos Logothetis, successfully fought off the Turks, and from what I’ve read, Samos was the only island to do so. The castle has all been restored and is a museum with ancient artifacts, including 7th century AD items found in the aquaducts, from when it was inhabited. Next to the castle is the beautiful Church of the Transfiguration that was built by Logothetis after the victory.
As we walked around we stumbled across one excavation site after the next. It got to the point that Zach would walk by them and comment, “Oh. Here’s another archeological site,” and keep walking. One of the most interesting and largest sights we saw were the Roman Baths. We saw pieces of mosaic tiles that have survived thousands of years and were able to walk through rooms that housed large baths and small baths. There was no information at this site and the gentleman who “manned” the gate spoke no English. I was able to find out that if we wanted more information, the Archeolgoical Musuem a short distance away would have a pamphlet for us. What Chris questioned was why they wouldn’t just have the pamphlets for this site, on the site, for the worker to pass out. I had to remind him we were in Greece. I found out later online that prior to them being baths, the area was a large gymnasium from the Hellenistic period.
Ancient Mosaic on the ground at the Archeological Site of Roman Baths in Samos, Greece. This could have been from when the site was a gymnasium, as it looks like there are warriors fighting.
The final experience in Samos that notes sharing is that we were able to attend a concert in an ancient ampitheater. The Samos Young Artists Festival was being held the over a course of a week, and every night young musicians from various countries would perform. We weren’t sure what to expect, but we told the kids it’d be an adventure. The performers were from NYC and included a pianist, a cellist, and a violinist. They played music by American composers, past and present. I must admit I liked the pieces by Gershwin, but the more modern pieces weren’t nearly as pleasing to the ear! This was a time that my kids never cease to amaze me. For two hours we sat and listened as crickets chirped in the background and bats flew over the stage. The kids didn’t complain or ask to leave once, even though it wasn’t something that they really enjoyed. Just another “check” in the positive outcomes column, reaffirming our decision to take on this journey.
Our village of Karavostamo, as seen from the ferry, upon our return.