Brimming with historic buildings, downtown Albany Oregon epitomizes Pacific Northwest charm & character. Because of its access to the Willamette River, Albany used to carry much of the weight of the state on its shoulders when it was known as “Hub City.” Now, undergoing a renaissance of economic development, it’s becoming a hot bed for entrepreneurs embarking on their dreams.
Proud to welcome the No Rails Ale House to our community, owner James Van Deusen started getting serious about his passion for beer in 2013. Three years later, on Sunday January 29th, that dream became a reality as he opened the doors of his 50 tap facility, and welcomed in beer loving enthusiasts from all over the Willamette Valley.
Sit a spell while you sample beers by the tasting flight, glass or pint and be sure to fill your growler to go, or browse their over 800 square foot selection of unique domestic & international finished goods. (more…)
Hard not to relax in this environment, clean mountain air fills your body with each passing breath as you sink deeper into the atmosphere all around you. More than the natural beauty, something nearly electric in the air captivates every fiber of your being.
You are sitting in the shadow of saints.
In the heart of Greece, there is a magical place. A holy place for many believers and non-believers alike.
This, is Metéora – The final stop on our off-pavement pilgrimage through this land of myth & mystery.
Rising from the once oceanic valley floor, gigantic sandstone pillars reach ever closer to the heavens. Atop many of these towers, handbuilt monestaries & convents that have stoicly stood here for centuries. Inside, faitful residents pray to cherished icons and keeping a watchful eye over mankind below.
The word Metéora itself, translates to “middle of the sky”, “suspended in the air” or “in the heavens above” and although the desire to be “closer to God,” has been evident across clutures & throughout centuries, the monastaries of Metéora carry with them a unique dedication to the spiritual pursuits that many other sites simply do not posses.
Active today, the six structures make up the largest and most important collection of Monastaries in Greece to the Greek Orthodox Church. Words can be dificult to find here.
Aesthetically rising out of the stone spires themselves, each structure has been delicately constructed, piece by piece over the course of centuries. Simple pully systems were errected to delviver supplies of all nature from the ground below.
Inside eleborate chapels are adorned with Icons of the savior & saints, relics that managed to survive the Spanish Inquisition & even the Crusades. Bones line walls of ossuaries, holy thombs for the devotees that helped to create these holy buildings.
From places near & far, believers flock with their families to enter these holy buildings paying homage to the patron saints, asking for blessings or seeking forgiveness. Places of reverence, it is hard note to be moved by the devotion expressed by those around you.
Recently I participated in a media tour throughout the picturesque Greek countryside, traversing mountain roads, reaching summits and sipping coffee along turquoise colored streams. A true wanderer, I jumped at the opportunity to join the caravan hosted by Tripology Adventures as part of a group of eleven writers & three spouses.
The first evening sent our group through the streets of Athens, meandering down a sunlit plaza on our way to a Acropolis view taverna. While walking, I stuck up a conversation with the organizations founder, Izhar Gamlieli a native of Israel. A tall, regal man with wise eyes, we chatted about our journies, the wanderlust that fills our hearts & the things we crave to date.
“I used to desire travel constantly,” he told me. “But then, I had two children. Beautiful children, who have completely captured my heart. Now, all I want is more time with them.”
“No children yet” I told him. “But they seem like a beautiful gift indeed.”
Continuing our conversation, I started listing off some of the palces & had traveled. My lack of a hometown and the laundry list of states I’ve lived. “Sleeping on airport floors, accepting obscure invitations to unique experiences, opening my heart to the world around me, letting the world take a piece of me with it – this is how I try to live.”
With a serious expression, but the faintest hint of a mischievious smile, he turned to me and asked, “Are you a Gypsy?”
Cocking my head in contemplation, I could feel the corners of my mouth curl upwards and my eyebrows rise.
“Of sorts” was my response. A chuckle escaping with my words. “A heart of a bird I possess within this chest.”
“So where to next?” he questioned.
“Wherever the winds may lead me.”
Our Tripology crew is well underway along mountainous passes & cliffside villages. Yesterday, a road block was encountered which created a good deal of excitement but held us up for awhile prior to our picnic lunch on the precipice of a holy hill, topped with a church & bells.
The Pindus Mountains of Greece are our current host on our adventure through this culture rich country.
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.
“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.
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?”
Sometimes, the best way to get to know a city is to simply meander your way through its Metro system.
With a seven hour layover in Athens, I did just that. Purchasing a full day pass, I jumped onto the Blue Line at it’s end stop, the Athens International Airport ans began a 45 minute journey into the heart of oldtown.
On a mission, I had read about a self-guided walking tour, 3.5 km long along the base of the acropolis, past parliament, the temple of Zeus as well as Olympic Stadium, all before ending in the Monastraki Plaza which is home to a bustling market.
A perfect way to reawaken my senses after a ten hour transatlantic flight, the short adventure also helped to heighten my senses and better prepare me for the rest of the day that laid ahead.
Droves of school children gathered outside the Acroplis. Their energy infections as they giggle & play; free from the confines of traditiional school for the day.
Lovers embrace one another in romantic landscapes, accented by ancient Greek ruins.
The plethora of sights, sounds, smells all set within an alien environment can do wonders for your soul.
Plus, regardless of whether you speak the language or not, it’s never too hard to find your way on a linear metro rail system.
Next time you find yourself mometarily stuck in a fantastic metroploitan area, pay the few extra euros, dollars or yin, to store your luggage at the airport and take a micro adventure into the heart of the city.
Who knows what wonders the metro may provide.
In true intrepid fashion, this amazon is hitting the road and heading to the land of mythology
A lenghty journey is ahead of me including a seven hour layover in Athens where I’ll be puruising the city dedicated to the goddess herself.
From there, it’s a quick flight over to the island of Crete where my mysterious AirBnB host will be greeting me at the airport and wisking me an hour west, to the small coastal village of Platanos.
Spending four days in a traditional stone house, I’m diving right into the local culture and will be traversing the island by way of a Vespa scooter.
Fasten your seat belts and get ready for takeoff, because your along for the ride with this Intrepid Amazon.