It’s now been a week since we arrived in Sykia, and we’ve been blessed with beautiful weather since the wheels hit the runway: about 70 every day, overnights in the low 60s, clear most days, calm to light breezes. Yesterday we got a little skoni, the atmospheric dust that rises over the Sahara and blows north and east in the Spring, and today, about 100 drops of rain. If this is the worst of it, we’re just delighted. What a change from last year, when it was cool and wet and windy the first week in April.
Usually, in the spring, the seasonal river that flows under the plateia in front of the apartment runs like liquid mud into the sea. This year, there’s a trickle of clear water running across the beach, and the sea is as clear as I can remember it at this time of year. Greece is famed for its clear waters, and on still summer days here we enjoy views to the bottom so far below it almost gives one vertigo, but this spring the clarity is remarkable. I don’t know what that might mean for the reservoir levels in August, or for fire danger that same time of year but for now, it’s just gorgeous.
We’re also happy to see a new, and popular, taverna has opened here in Sykia. My guess is that the building held a taverna years before our arrival but now it’s been fixed up, painted, renewed, and reopened as Pyrgos Sykia (Sykia Tower), a reference to the old house of the Turkish bey (ruler) under which stands. Word has it that the mezzes and tsipouro (grappa) are excellent, and we look forward to giving it our own review. There’s also a new, stylish cafe in the village in the premises of a seasonal grill house that hasn’t opened in five years. I don’t know when I’ll have the chance to “review” it but it’s doing good business now, and will likely be jammed in the summer. After years of watching stores closing, it’s great to see these fresh green shoots of hope emerging from the gloom.
The highway under construction near the house is also enjoying a renaissance, in this case a second renaissance. We left with the near certainty that the work as far as our exit would be completed by the time we came back but this is Greece, and the fiscal paroxysms of last summer halted the work for months. (And it would have finished years ago but for the original deficit cataclysm.) Happily it is now proceeding at a fantastic pace and there is at least hope that when we leave we’ll drive out on the new pavement.
Returning here each spring means rediscovering some of the little delights that fade from memory over the winter. One we’ve particularly enjoyed this year is the scent of orange blossoms. A couple of property owners here in Sykia have small stands of orange and other citrus, and passing by these trees on our walks always produces sighs and extra-deep breathing. Another special treat is the strawberry crop. Our greengrocer follows the crop from Crete in the far south to Macedonia in the far north, so we get perfectly ripe strawberries for months. They’re already incredible, and we are looking forward to this continuing until the peaches start to come in. Oh, the peaches…
One of the great pleasures of being here, though, is seeing our friends and family again. They’ve all told us that they’re doing fine, and they mean it, although it’s understood in the context of 24% unemployment and capital controls. This time, though, I’m noticing that after 7 years, the recession/depression is beginning to feel like the new normal. People expect the current catastrophe to continue indefinitely, and improve only very gradually, so they have adjusted their outlook accordingly. The attitude now is one of making the most of a bad situation. That’s a sea change from feeling crushed by macro economics, and, to my way of thinking, represents the beginning of the road to recovery. It seems clear that Greece’s future will be defined not by the IMF, the EU, and ECB, not by the politicians, the bond traders, and the talking heads but by ordinary people doing what they’ve always done; finding a way, adjusting, persevering, and adjusting again. To be sure, this does not represent the beginning of the end of the misery but, to me, it presents a possibility of a long, difficult climb out of the abyss. And that’s the most positive I’ve felt about the situation in a long time.
Anyway, it’s a poor spring that’s devoid of promise, and we’re finding hope in its greatest reservoirs — nature and the human spirit. As always, it’s great to be back.
PS: Not directly related, but if you have 6 minutes, you might enjoy this gorgeous video of the night sky of Greece, “Greek Skies.” The videographer, Panos Filippou, spent a year of nights capturing stop-motion and time-lapse video of the sky, and he’s done a great job editing and laying a music track under it. Enjoy: Vimeo Greek Skies or YouTube Greek Skies