Often, on holidays when I have a rental car, I get caught up in that trap of ‘making miles’ rather than ‘doing things’…driving every day, watching the county roll by doing endless mental calculations that involve getting to as many diverse locations as possible with just enough time to return the car before my flight. Problem is, I don’t actually get to ‘be’ anywhere, and my holiday becomes hours looking at scenery outside the windshield, thinking circular thoughts and trying to find a good radio station.
So today, while headed up towards Delphi and wrestling with the challenge of getting to Delphi, Meteora, Thessaloniki, Thermopylae, Marathon and back to Athens before my flight next week, I decided that I needed to just STOP and get off the road. Break this stupid road addiction and find a guest room in an interesting town for a few days. So I decided to head to a little town the Lonely Planet made brief mention of as having good food and a nice vibe, a town with the ambitious name of Galaxidi.
Pulled off the highway, and instantly was greeted with a beautiful view of a quaint little seaside town, white buildings, boats in the harbor, narrow cobblestone streets and cozy little white buildings. Good choice.
I pulled into the first guesthouse I saw, and asked about a room for two nights. They only had one night available, but directed me to a different guesthouse they owned that had space for two nights. So with heartfelt thanks and directions in hand, I headed across the little villa to the other guesthouse.
As impossible as it sounds, the town got even more charming. The short drive wound around little cafes with tables under awnings, a roundabout with small stone tower in the middle, and even more tight little cobblestone streets and shops with hand-carved wooden signs, selling wares ranging from homemade candies to wooden crafts and local porcelain dishware.
Got to the new guesthouse, checked out a very nice room for about 2/3 of my planned budget, booked it for two nights, and headed off to the waterfront for an afternoon drink and maybe some seafood.
As I walked along, deep in thought about my life, the future, my investments, retirement, where my road was taking me, the year in passing, our new President, the state of the world, and anything else that could gnaw on my solitude, I passed by a little pub that had Greek music pulsing out of it. Glancing through the window as I walked by, I could see some middle-aged woman dancing with a small crowd around her, clapping to the rhythm as she stomped her way around in a circle, hands held high and fingers clicking. Watching for a moment, I thought I saw someone inside waving to me to come in, but I was certain I was mistaken and that this was some sort of private party. The pub was minuscule, maybe about the size of a two-car garage, and looked fully packed with people singing, clapping and music pumping.
I walked on down the road, thinking what a nice vibe this town had, and soon came across the tourist zone, with its little restaurants and gyro stands. No one was there, and the bartenders stood staring blankly out the windows. After a short cursory stroll up the street, I thought I would head back up to the area with that local pub.
As I approached the pub, the music was still pulsing and I could see more people dancing through the windows. I strolled by, thinking it must be a wedding or something, and just then the door opened. A youngish woman came out, looked right at me and said “Hey YOU! Where are you going?”
I turned and said “Is that a private party?”
She came out, grabbed my arm and said “No, come! Come!” and dragged me into the pub.
It was totally packed. There were maybe 15 people sitting around, clapping and snapping their fingers to the music. Drinks were all around, the tables were covered with food and the music…oh, the music….was throbbing and weaving through it all.
She dragged me to a table, moved some plates and glasses, a man got up and emptied his chair, and she pushed me into it. “Stay, Drink. Welcome!” she said, in a heavy Greek accent.
The other person at the table, a youngish man with long hair that hung half over his face, poured a glass of clear liquid from a bottle and handed it to me. He topped up his own glass, we clinked our glasses together, slammed them down on the table and toasted.
The vibe was fantastic! We drank, danced, clapped and stomped through the evening. The music would start slow, then grow and blossom and the women would all push away from their tables and dance in a big circle, hands clapping over their heads and singing the emotional songs at the top of their lungs. The men would sing and clap and stomp, drinks in hand and voices raised in chorus.
At one point, someone tripped on a table leg and the table turned over. Drinks and food spilled across the floor…the crowd hollered “OOPA!!” and laughed as the glasses smashed and the food scattered. The owner, laughing and singing with the rest of us came out with a mop and paper towels and the crowd helped clean up the spillage while the music continued to play and the dancing continued to swirl and throb. No one cared…music and cheer ruled the evening and a turned table and broken glasses were easily swept away.
After hours of singing, drinking and dancing, people slowly started to drift away. The woman who invited me in, her brother and her mother (along with a few other partiers) asked I wanted to join them for something to eat…they were headed to a little hangout to get some souvlaki and beer. So we all emerged form the little pub, walked down to the seafront, and ordered up a plate of food.
The gang chattered and laughed endlessly. They spoke in Greek, and although I could not understand a word, I could feel the swell and swirl of the conversation. I sat next to Amy, the mother of the woman who invited me in and the man whom I sat with, and talked about life. Everyone there had a story…marriages, deaths and divorces. Struggling actresses and successful organic farmers. Optimistic college students and hopeful, yet realistic parents. Extended families who have adopted ex-partner’s new spouses and children…the stories were endless, but what they all had in common was that they were there, in Galaxidi, for the Holiday week, reconnecting with their roots, making a party of life, and they saw this solo traveller walking past their pub they felt that they had to drag him into their world just to make the universe a better place.