Ecclectic tales from an independent wanderer…

Adventures with Popí – Part 1

Deciding to come to Plátanos, and truly Crete in general was, somewhat of a last minute decision.

I’d bookmarked a number of flats in Athens to spend these four days acclimating myself after the long journey, familiarizing myself with the language and cultural nuances and most importantly jumpstarting my creativity for writing.

Stumbling upon a flight from Athens to Crete for less than 100 Euros, I started combing AirBnB for interesting, affordable accommodations.

What I found was the stone house. A place I have lovingly started calling Island Eden. 

  
My host, 26 year old Basilis was welcoming from the start, so I knew getting here would not be an issue. A small, isolated village I was hoping to spend my days in the lovely garden typing away on my iPad and possibly tooling around on the country roads via a rented vespa scooter.

What I found instead was an adoptive family that has truly taken me in as one of their own, as if I am simply their American Cousin, come for the week.

Initially upon arrival, Basilis’ mother Popí, was a bit shy, keeping to herself although completely hospitable. The first night she made dinner, ate alongside Basilis & I and then sent me into my apartment with two fresh eggs to cook in the morning. She hardly said a word to me.

The next morning, I was outside scribbling into my journal when she first came out of her house. Immediately offering me a coffee I graciously accepted and continued to write.

When she returned, she said “In more than one hour, I go. You come with me?”

I had no clue as to where she was going or what her plans might be but I immediately replied, “yes, please.”

“In more than one hour” she reminded.

So I got dressed and ready for an adventure to who knows where with a woman I had only just met who clearly speaks little english & I, no Greek. What has transpired over the last few days in undoubtedly a friendship that will span the ocean that lies between us.

Ready, I got into her car and we headed down the road.

“My English, not so good. Patient. We go to Kissamos. I have some work. You follow me?” she asked.

“What kind of work?” I questioned.

“I go to this place, we sell oil, oil from olive, then plants to put in ground, maybe a coffee, good view coffee. You follow me?”

“Yes” I said with a smile.

Piece milled conversation followed but we reached the neighboring village of Kissamos and wound through the cobbled stone streets. I still have no idea where she took me initally but it looked almost like some sort of tax office. An old building with lots of chatter coming from above. Inside a large office with lots of people waiting. What for? I can’t tell you.

She spoke briefly with a man, some women asked me a question in Greek to which I replied with a smile & shrugged my shoulders – they giggled and smiled back. Then suddenly Popí was ready to go.

“I think we go now to greenhouse. I worried they close.” she told me.

So off we went, winding once again through narrow streets where old Greek townies eyed my curiously as we sped by.

The nursery was like any other, full of starts – tomatoes, cucumbers, marigolds and even grapevines.

  

Popí starting working with a woman to select the plants she was there for and I tried to tell the owner that I work in the wine business, doing a funny little charade and gesturing to the grapevines.

“You like wine?” He asked.

“Yes, very much.” I said.

“Wait, you try. Is old, came from church today. Like Cognac. You try.” he told me as he disappeared into his office.

Back he came with a little plastic cup half full of deeply tan “wine” full of sediment.

Try” he said. “Taste.”

Hoping for the best but prepared for the worst, I took a sip, swished it around my mouth and was incredibly surprised by the flavor. Cognac had been a good description. The warm butterscotch flavored liquid had some characteristics of wine but indeed was better described as a liqueur.

Delicious, he brought me two more tiny cups while Popí, finished her shopping and caught up with a friend.

When she was finished, she turned to me and asked, “you want now, to go for coffee.”

“Sure, neh parakahlo (yes please).” was my response and off we went again, back into the heart of Kissamos and straight to the waterfront.

In the parking lot, we found her friend from the greenhouse and the three of us entered a Cafe with a stunning view of the bay. Filled with chatter of friends of all ages, we took a table and enjoyed a small cup of Greek Coffee. 

  
Before we finished, Popí turned to me and said “Yessica, this afternoon we put flowers in the ground, okay?”

“Yes Popí, sound good”

Before heading back to the village though we had one more stop – the fish market. There we purchased a bag of small fish she told me we’d have for lunch. A large map on the wall was the perfect way for me to show her where I had come from. “Savem” it read and she and the shopkeeper chuckled at how far away it really was.

Heading back to the village we passed a small church built directly into the hillside. Popí stopped and told me, “come, come.” Inside the cliff’s edges were still raw & rugged. Water dripped down from its course surface – she lit a candle, I said a little prayer. 

Combined with the stunning surroundings the entire atmosphere made it tranquil, peaceful and somehow entirely perfect.
  
Once home, Popí told me to get ready for lunch. She salted the fish, prepared a large tomatoes salad with olives and pickled peppers and sliced fresh bread from the wood fired bakery. The fish were quickly fried and then picked apart by the three of us.

That afternoon we planted the garden. Basilis dug the rows while Popí chose her placements. 

  
She put me in charge of picking large fava beans and told me that later it would be our dinner.
Once I had filled a bag, she put me onto the dill and showed me how big of a bunch to pick.

  
Beans sautéed in olive oil with the dill and potatoes, leftover fish, another great tomato salad and some easter cookies and cured lemon for dessert. The meal, was nothing short of incredible and the three of us sat around in the chilly night air talking & drinking Raki far too late into the evening.  

 

Yessica, tomorrow I go to Hania… You follow me?” She asked gleefully.

“Absolutely Popí. What time?”

   

    

One response

  1. Yassus Jess – I love it! Islanders will always treat you like family…it’s why we have lived on so many!

    The little church you went to is a namesake or nameday church. Most people are named after a saint and go to these buildings for prayer when needed or they stop in daily to visit. Namedays are celebrated more than birthdays! Most often, it is expected that arms remain covered inside and woman are to have longer clothing on that at least covers their knees.

    You may also see very small church houses or shines on sides of the roads. These are most often small vigils, dedicated to a saint for a blessing received, or a loved one who may or may not have died. Special Memorabilia is contained and Candles are lit inside. A very uniquely Greek and Crete thing.

    The Greek Orthodox faith is the official and prevailing religion of Greece and a key element to Greek identity, culture and ethnicity. While youth may not be devout followers, most observe the rituals and consider it part of their identity. Nearly 94% are Greek Orthodox.

    I love reading about your adventures on Crete! Enjoy and we can’t wait to hear all about it when you get home too!

    Kalimera or Kalispera! (Means Goodmorning or Goodafternoon)

    April 25, 2015 at 3:09 pm

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