Conversations on Holiday

For most of my school days we were dragged to Greece on holiday for six weeks of the South Africa winter. The trip from Athens was long and windy before the road was improved, and then again before the highway was opened with twin tunnels through Artemision Mountain to cut the trip to less than two hours by car.

It was such a tedious journey in the early seventies that we used to land in Athens airport and stay over in a hotel. First we stayed at the Hotel Amalia near Syntagma Square in Athens. After a few years we moved to a Hotel at Voulagmeni, an upmarket beach resort next to Athens, on the east. We used to stay at Margi House, a modern hotel that was used extensively by American families whose father’s were at the local military base. This was an altogether happier hotel for us, with the beach nearby and a pool in the courtyard.

We would rush to the private pay beach the next day, listening to the cicadas warm-up in the pines that fringed the beach. There was lots of gravel around that crunched under leather sandals as we made our way to heaven. The beach had a change room with lockers and a kiosk that sold Greek food and coffee, but also catered for the Americans and want to be American Africans like us. We used to buy a coke, and a ham and cheese sandwich. These were on sawdust white bread with no crust, filled with no butter and a single slice of cured ham and a slice of yellow tasteless cheese. If we were lucky we got to hire a pedal boat and go for a pedal on the Mediterranean with my father.

We were bribed, to some extent, to go to Greece and the village, with this luxurious 3 days stay at the beginning of the holiday. The rest of the holiday was spent in the village with no amenities, no Americans (other than the Americano who built a church on the mountain) and long days filled with fun in the fields, helping the farmers and shepherds.

The village house in the beginning did not have running water. The first years saw us going to Tripolis, to the Hotel Galaxy once a week to bath. We would spend the morning in the hotel room at a special rate washing! Then my father built a reservoir at the house and we would sneakily fill it up with water from one of the central village taps, running a long hosepipe at night so the villagers would not see it.  Ha! We were quite naive about their knowledge of our design on life. Besides using too much of their precious spring water the villagers were very concerned about our health as we then washed every day.

When we stayed in the village we would beg to go back to the sea. More like nag. My father would acquiesce and started a tradition of landing in Athens, going to the Hotel Solon, at a resort village called Tolo in the Peloponnese. Once acclimatised to the summer furnace heat, we would go to the village after two days to return to Tolo for a week somewhere in the middle of our Greek migration.

Funny thing, now I am happy just to sit in the peace of the village. It would be a great place to write.

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