The Gods of Greece

It was an exciting morning. Reunited after our first meeting in Venice last may, we were about to start our first travelling experience together. Mario had insisted on joining me on a bicycle, although it would be his first time. We were about to go south from Tessaloniki to meet with the Gods up on Mount Olympus. Mario had wanted to meet Zeus ever since he was a little boy and I would be looking for my dear friend and muse in life Aphrodite <3. Oh how pretty she is..
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Our incredible host and new father Georgios helped us on our way
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and joined us for one last drink at the beach (gotta try Mythos beer once you’re down here!). The night before Mario had arrived and we all spent a nice dinner together, before walking around the city by night, having some drinks at this fancy outside bar and falling asleep (Mario) and enjoying the view (me and Georgios) at the seaside. We felt like a family and were sad to part, but at the same time happy to start our new adventure! Ok, the first day was a little bit too adventurous, when we refused the busy touristic roads, chose the nice quiet onces and ended up pushing the bikes through fields (with thorns), resulting in a flat tire on Mario’s bike. We decided to pitch camp right there and then and figure out the route in the morning, manana manana. Dont worry be happy! The extra tire we brought didnt fit and my attempts to patch the tire failed. Nonetheless we had a perfectly quiet camping spot in the fields and we enjoyed a beautiful sunset.

The next morning we walked to the nearest town (6 km through extreme heat :p), fixed everything at the bike shop and we were on our way again! On our way to Panteleimonas, where a warmshower host I had contacted before –Stelios- was camping and playing music (basking) all summer and invited us to come up there. It is a small pitoresque village up on the mountain, which we reached after a nice swim in the sea and one more night of wildcamping (this time under a tree with fantastic ripe figs!) and next to a house, from which the owner came bringing us tomatoes from his own garden, tasty! The road up to the village was so steep it was impossible to bike and we pushed the bikes together through the simmering heat before finally reaching the top. But it was worth it 😀

We spent some time on lunch at this nice quiet taverna where we felt completely at ease and enjoyed the great view;
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we took a nap on their grass. Walking up in the town we were surprised by the many tourists, we didnt see at all at the south part of the village. Somehow I recognized Stelios between all these people and he showed us his camping spot: not too far out of the village there was this field with beautiful ancient chestnut trees and a magnificent view over the mountains on the one side and the sea on the other.
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The combination with the lights of the villages on the coast and the lights from the stars above us was mesmorizing, like the flames of a campfire or the water from a mountain stream. The perfect environment to slow down for a day or two. So we did. We did some morning yoga, played some music and enjoyed the surroudings and each others company. Except for more and more tourists coming, life was relaxed and peaceful around the village. Stelios spent all his summer camping here and making money by basking in the streets.
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It sounded very ideal to me and I imagined myself being good enough at playing the harmonica, singing, guitar to make my money on the way by playing in the streets. Seeing him sitting there with al the tourists passing by I changed my mind though.. it looked so sad. Nobody is really paying attention to his music, sometimes they even throw money when he is just tuning his instrument. Almost nobody stops to really listen and enjoy his music. He was treated more like a beggar than like a musician. So no, this is not my goal..

After enjoying two peacefull days in and around this small village, Zeus and Aphrodite still didn’t show up, so we got back on our horses! First we galloped down the hill, passing our castle,
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(see the horse and the castle?),
riding along the sea before climbing back up to Litochoro, from where the hiking trails on the magnificent mountains start. It was already 6pm when we entered town and we were on a mission: we needed a place to leave the bicycles and luggage while we would climb the mountain! I stopped at the first information centre (yes, there are more, and they all give crappy information; somehow it is very hard to find a good map and solid information on what it’s like to climb to the top and what kind of preparation you might need, so if you feel like starting a business in tourism, there is a demand and many opportunities here!). We were very lucky that this information office was run by Mister Paris. He had seen us biking up to Litochoro and was very interested in my story. He offered to leave the luggage at the office and stall the bicycles at his hotel. Perfect! Now a place to sleep. Stelios had told us about his former campingspot and the cafe where they could show us the way. We found it, pitched the tent and went for a drink at this beautifully located cafe along the river and in the woods, great atmosphere. There was live music and also Mario joined the stage for a short performance on his lute.
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The next morning we went back to Mister Paris’ hotel, he had invited us to join the breakfast there, and wow, it was good! Fresh fruits, dried fruits, greek salad, pastries, fresh bread, eggs, yoghurt, milk, juice, coffee, everything you might wish for! And very welcoming personnel, so kind and with big smiles.

It was the perfect start to a fantastic climbing day. First we hitchhiked to the St Dyonisus monastery (beautiful!)
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and then to Gortsia from where we hiked all the way up to 2600 meter. The route was stunning, the views breathtaking and the paths very quiet; we felt almost alone in this beautiful environment.
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The scenery kept changing with every step, the clouds were passing fast and the mountain felt very alive. We started to feel smaller and smaller and submissive to the greater powers of the mountain. Zeus is definitely not to be joked with.

We spent the first night in a small refuge which could host up to 22 people in the attic filled with bunk beds. The refuge was situated well above the tree line on a flat area of grass, grazed by mountain goats, called ‘the plateau des muses’, how marvelous :D.
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So, we celebrated our arrival, got drunk with wine and tsipouri, and played the guitar and harmonica. The music continued in the attic with an elaborate snorring orchestra all night :/ Well, it got me to go outside at 4.30 am and wow, the stars… no words.. my vocabulary lacks to describe the feeling of awe i still get everytime i look up to the sky at night. Especially on remote places like this. The stars, the planets, the milkyway, time is nonexistent and so closely connected to the shimmering lights above me at the same time. The sky produces various sensations in different people: some are not interested at all, some feel scared, unsafe, lonely, but not me; i feel good, so good.. i feel tiny and insignificant (in a good way!) and overwhelmed with love and peace. I feel solitude, not loneliness. I feel not strong, not weak, but at ease and all my worries dissipated. I wish to be dissolved and become part of this, to shine my light. Next, i realize I am part of this! Beautiful, magical, Aphrodite :).

Happy to be in such a magical place, we rose early when the sun was still hiding behind one of the mountain tops, ‘where the morning wind forever blows, the poem of creation uninterrupted; but few are the ears that hear it. Olympus is but the outside of the earth everywhere.’

Talking to the other people in the chalet – who were all very prepared with professional mountaineering outfits and equipment (we were not)- we wondered why nobody had the desire to climb to the top, Mytikas. Since we climbed to 2600 meter the previous day and had only 300 more to go, we felt confident and ready to kick Zeus’ ass, so we strated walking in a firm pass towards the start of the climb up.
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Oopsie, it turned out not be that easy! The climb was pretty tough, you needed both hands and feet and we wouldnt be the first to die on this mountain, so the plaquettes indicated :/.
Look at this crazy way to get up 😀
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Rocks were slipping and you had to be very carefull where to place your feet and pray no rocks from the top would fall on your head. Unprepared as we were, we didnt carry any helmets. I expected there to be many people around, but there was almost no-one. We realized that if we would both fall, actually noone would know.. wow. I wrote down Mario’s mothers telephone numbre and he wrote down my father’s. Like mountain cats *mieuw* we started our ascent, paw by paw. Mario fell behind and seeing the terror in his eyes we finally decided he would go back down and I would continue alone. My smile grew bigger and bigger and I was almost running up this stairway to heaven, eager to make it to the top! I would have loved to share this experience with Mario, but climbing up there solo gave the magic an extra dimension. I reached the next supermario level! (ironically, withouth Mario though :p). There was no endboss to conquer at the top though, the mountain welcomed me with open arms. Fresh wind blowing, distant horizons calling me, oh i wish i was an eagle, able to spread my wings and jump off!!! (or that I brought a parachute..) “Tamar on the top and Mario on the mountain, thank you mother nature”, I wrote in the book..
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I joined a group to go back down, seemed to be the smart thing to do, but the group was very slow and I kept worrying about the slipping feet of the others that I decided to leave them and continue alone, much better for my nerves and enjoyment 🙂 We took a different route back down, actually there was no route but hey, adventure!
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The descent was even more difficult and demanding, with rocks slipping away all the time and like an upside down inside out mountain cat (get the picture?), I used both hands, feet and also my bumb to slide down back to Mario. He was happy he didnt climb up and i was happy he insisted i would continue alone. We took a little break to digest what just happened.. wow. R.E.S.P.E.C.T. to the mountain.

The next two days we descented back under the tree line, where we could hear the birds singing again (I missed them, the most beautiful sound mother nature ever produced..), back down to these beautiful waterfalls with freezing mountainwater (it was very refreshing to jump in!)
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and to another monastery where we collapsed.
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We had wrung out the last bits of energy from our bodies and our legs were hurting tremendously with every step. My legs are very strong from all the biking, but hiking is a different exercise and especially the descent was very demanding on them. But we did it! And there is something about giving all you have, that is very satisfying 🙂

It took us two days to get back to normal and able to bike again. These two days we spent…. *Tumtumtumtum*.. at Mister Paris’ hotel! No way! Up on the mountain he sent me an SMS, inviting us to stay in the hotel when we come back from the tiring mountain, we couldnt believe it! What did we do to deserve this?!

It was a fancy hotel with a nice pool outside, a fantastic breakfast (we already knew) and the best beds i slept on in a loooooooong time! Apparently, mister Paris had read my blog and was so inspired he told us for him it was a small gesture and he understood for us it would mean the world. Oh and it did, how we enjoyed 😀 Talking to him we tried to figure out his reasons and we found out mister Paris is so incredibly busy doing business, taking phonecalls, sending e-mails that he didn’t even gave his six-month-old baby a name yet.. That’s so sad.. I’m glad we lit a candle for him up in the monastery.

But yes, this hotel, wow! On previous travels, i would never stay in the hotel all day, but now i did. For the first time in months i had a place for my own, to relax, to recover, no need to go anywhere, talk to anyone or do anything. We played some music, I skyped with my dad, wrote my blog, we swam in the pool, practiced yoga, wing therapy (shoulder massage), took afternoon naps, only to go out for a drink at night or do some grocery shopping. My short time walking the streets i was suddenly distracted from my daydream when i heared ‘hey Tamar!’. It was Johann, the birdloving, cycling frenchman i met on top of Mount Dormitur, can you believe it?!

Life these days was perfect 🙂 I realized i needed this. Although I like the bike trip very much, Im starting to feel like slowing down even more for now. Id like to stay in one place for a prolonged time, to let everything sink in, to straighten my thoughts and shut up my mind, and also so I get to do all these things i dont have time to do when im always on the move: read books, play music, learn spanish, learn about the stars, about nature: growing, eating, cooking, etc. etc. I started planning the next half year, yes the word ‘planning’ returned to my vocabulary :p, and found some farms in Bulgaria (through WOOFF) where i could volunteer and learn about permaculture and i would take that time to focus on my music: reading about theory and history, practicing my harmonica, buying a guitar..! The first months I enjoyed letting everything go and not having a goal at all, now my heart feels very satisfied with this new goal, Im looking forward to it!

Another thing I realized. In Srebrenica, on the mountain, talking to people, i have been realizing more and more how important family is and Im starting to miss mine more and more. I guess I took them too much for granted. From the moment I left my dad was the biggest bumb on the road I had to get over to leave (many tears I shed thinking of him) and I wondered many times whether it would be better to come home and just be with him instead of leaving him behind; he means so much to me. Looking for smiles, his warms me up the most and his is the most important to me. So, I decided Im going to try to go back home for december (my borthers birthday, my birthday, christmas, new years..) to tighten the bonds again (also with my friends, will be great) before i continue my travels in january (im not staying!!). By then it will be too cold to cycle through Turkey, so im thinking of spending winter in the south of Spain, what better place to learn/practice Spanish and learn/practice guitar! Sounds perfect to me 🙂 One project I’ll be working on is this: I’d like to study the rythm of the flapping of the wings of various bird species and compose music and write lyrics around this theme. Maybe a bar too high for now, but some nice goal to think about for the future.

Anyways, back to reality. Our legs recovered and we found our way back to Thessaloniki, where we would return the bike to Georgios and Mario and I would split up, both following our own paths again. Very different paths. Literally: Mario going south an me going north, and figuratively: Mario has a main and solo focus on finishing conservatory, which will hold him for the next years, and me, im searching, i let go of everything that was sure, to explore the world, people and all these different interests i have, not sure yet where i want to go or end up. Mario sure helped me to shine some light on my path though and our different personalities inspired me to reconsider mine. As you have read before many times, I like to see people smile! And I try to make that happen with (almost) everyone i meet. It means, though, that I give a lot of myself. Many times, I am not me, I dont show the real me, I am just there to listen to the other, ask questions and make him/her feel better. I am usually the one who makes the first move for contact, with a big smile, making people feel noticed and appreciated. It’s what we all want, no? And in the words of mister Paris: just a small effort for me. We discussed whether this is a mask. And I would say it is not. Ok, maybe a little. I am on open book and whoever is interested may know everything about me. Take this blog for example! All my thoughts and emotions online. But yes, i dont feel the need to open up to people, unless they ask me. And many people dont. Also back home, I spent much time with people I had an unequal relationship with: the relationship just cost me energy instead of reviving me. And Im sure there are people doing the same thing for me. There is only a very small numbre of people who know who I really am. Well maybe, that numbre is growing now 😉

This is how I go about: I see good in almost everyone and everyone has something I like. And there is this strange thing about me, that i think people i really dont like, maybe need it even more to feel loved and appreciated and i try to give this to them. I dont feel the need to show people I dont like them or disagree with their thoughts or acts, unless they specifically ask for my opinion. I might try to challenge their thinking a little and do it with a smile, not to insult them. And in many situations i actually succeeded to turn angry, stressed or bored people into smiling people. Isnt that part of making the world a better place? Shouldnt we all be a little bit nicer to others, even if we feel like they dont deserve it? Just to get this chain reaction in motion: smiling people are more relaxed, more healthy, more patient and forgiving, and smiles are contatious! Mario watched me communicate to all these different people and he told me I hold the key to the world by acting like this. But I’m not so sure.

One disadvantage is that it drifts me away from me -even though it’s part of me- it takes a lot of time and energy I could put in other things. Things for me. I dont know what is better.. or where the balance is. Leaving to go on this trip was a good way to cut off everything. I stay in touch with the closest people and some people I know will be my friend how ever long I dont speak to them; contact is not always needed to carry people in your heart. This trip helps me realize who and what is really important and why. And its just the brutal truth that some people I dont miss at all and im sure vice versa, life goes on. I wish the best for everyone, I do, I wish for everyone to find their happiness and follow their dreams.

I had this conversation with my dad too, who is infected with the ‘Jesus-syndrome’, we joke. Always ready to help everybody out, but giving too much of himself and suffering from it. After visiting me in Croatia he felt inspired to change his life a little bit, cutting of things and people he really doesnt like and spend more time on things for him: walking, swimming, reading books, focussing on good food etc. Good for you, daddy! Ill try to do the same J

One thing I like about Mario is that he doesnt feel the need to approach the world and people like I do. He can, i saw, he is very good with people. But a lot of the time he prefers to be alone and focus on his own goals. He prefers to stay away from people he doesnt like, and does not spend energy on them. To me, it feels much more real. There is no mask, no game. He is not trying to follow any stream, nor trying to swim against the stream, to be different; he knows how to listen to his heart (possibly doesnt know any other way). With this he is well ahead of me. I have always been very rational and trying to understand the world and others (I am a psychologist for profession and by heart), but I lost track of my own heartbeat, I have been off beat. Mario is directed by his heart, by his emotions though, and just by looking at me he unintendently opened up my heart and shook loose so many emotions, sometimes overwhelming me. He is the first person on my trip that could do that to me, on such a level. Many people inspired me and I met some really beautiful people, but this was different. I still dont really understand how he does it, and he probably doesnt know himself, but I am very grateful for this. Talking to him helped me order my own thoughts a lot, giving me a big push forward. First like a tornado shaking me all directions, slowing down to a strong wind blowing under my wings.

His focus inspired me, because I truly understand this feeling where I long for some ‘me-time’ and I’m lacking it right now. I need to balance this out. I feel very lucky to meet a real person like Mario, who happens to be beautiful both from the outside and the inside. He is very clear about what he wants, where he is going, who he wants to be and how he wants to live his life. I am happily surprised by the mature thinking he already developed at a young age, he understands the world and himself pretty good in my opinion. He knows in a heartbeat whether he likes someone or some place and is never afraid to have and show his own opinion. But not in an arrogant or offensive way at all, he is just who he is and chooses how to spend his time wisely. And besides his clear direction, he enjoys life and enjoys getting off track once in a while as well, he too enjoys a rock n roll lifestyle now and then :p He cries and laughs, his range of emotions is wide and more pronounced than many others. Happy, but not stupid. Emotional, and clever. Decided, but not strict. Careless, but not ignorant. Very attractive and inspiring. I am glad we spent these 12 days together, where life was easy and beautiful! Realizing beauty should be my main focus in life.. beautiful places, beautiful people, beautiful thoughts and acts, beautiful music. I will ask Aphrodite to lead me on my way.

The last days we walked around town, had lunch at our favourite bakery on the market (spinach triangles!), visited some musicshops to look at guitars and at night we celebrated by having this fantastic dinner at a beautiful local restaurant in the middle of the market halls, with great Greek (sea)food!
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It was heaven 🙂 We walked the city by night, singing horrible Hank Williams III songs :p and collapsed on the bed of the cheapest hotel we could find, where we watched the movie Big Fish (beautiful!).

The next morning we said goodbye, but this time I was not sad. I was happy for the time we spent and the light he shined on me, i feel a little bit enlightend and ready to conquer the world again and search for my own path. We are both birds who are not be caged and the time was ripe to fly out again. We flew together for some time and the time had come to fly our own directions again. We’ll just have to see when our wings will be flapping in each others direction again. No hope, no expectations, just freedom and happiness.

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