Kalimera, fili mou! (Good morning, friends!)
As I write from this taverna overlooking the ocean, on the northwest corner of the island of Ikaria, I am overcome with gratitude–not only for being here in this moment, but also for arriving to a place that felt immediately familiar even though it’s not my Thassian home; it’s not Archodissa, or Beaches 1, 2, and 3, or a view of Mt. Athos every morning, but it is a place where people return year after year, where food is freshly grown and caught, and where there is dancing in the streets.
This is the story of Nas.
Two years ago when I was on Thassos, the summer I tried to move there, I made friends with a German parea. We went on hikes together, we shared meals together, we drank tsipouro together, and we spoke of our inexplicable love for this mystical island in the Aegean. When one of them, nicknamed “The Machine,” returned later that year, he brought with him a gift from the parea for me, a belated birthday present, mostly of donkey paraphernalia because of our jokes about the Donkey Bridge.
He also brought with him a new friend named Stefan.
One day when we were hiking, I asked them what made Thassos unique among the other islands–is there really a difference? What makes them return year after year, for 15 years in a row? Are there other islands like this, or is this one special?
The consensus was that there is something special on Thassos–the place, the spirit, the energy, the people–it’s not something that can be measured, only felt, but if it grabs you, it will grab you tightly in the chest and never let go.
Stefan, who’s visited many of the Greek islands, said the feeling we all share about this place is unlikely to be matched anywhere else. At least, he’s never found it; The Machine has never found it; I suspect I will never find it.
“But,” Stefan added. “There was one place…on Ikaria, a little pension overlooking the ocean, with a patio restaurant. It sits on a bluff, the food there is delicious, the people are nice–I think you would like it. It’s the closest to Archodissa I’ve ever found.”
That day I bookmarked a page on facebook for Thea’s Inn, the place he stayed and recommended, and 2+ years later–when I realized I would be on a nearby island for language school–I figured it was as good a time as any to see if this claim were true.
Arriving to Ikaria
There was an incident: I almost missed my flight to Greece.
If we are not Facebook friends, you missed the memo that I posted with my last blog.
Soooo I nearly missed my flight in order to write this blog. I was so focused, apparently, that I missed all of the boarding calls, until the THIS IS YOUR LAST BOARDING CALL TO ATHENS announcement, and my phone rang because they were literally calling me. When I sat down on the plane, the person next to me said, “You must be Jennifer Currier.”
That’s correct, I ran to the gate, which they had already locked, and they let me on the plane.
I don’t know what I would have done if I’d missed my flight to Greece. Possibly wailed with sorrow and put a dagger to my heart, just like Juliet, right there in the middle of the airport floor.
Thankfully, we’ll never have to know.
The flight, surprisingly, was Amazing. United Airlines redeemed themselves!* I arrived to Athens and had a several-hour layover, where I got my first proper freddo cappucino of 2018 and charged all of my devices.
*for international travel. Domestic is uncertain.
I was super paranoid about missing my flight to Ikaria, so I got to my gate as soon as they listed a gate number, and I checked the boarding status constantly. Finally, the door opened, and we boarded a bus.
The bus took us to our plane. The airplane we were taking was, of course, a puddle jumper — very small. One woman said, “This is the smallest plane I’ve ever been on.” (Growing up in New Mexico, I’ve traveled in smaller.)
I decided to make friends with the people on either side of me: Stavros across the aisle, and Paul, next to the window. I asked Stavros the Cypriot if he’d been to Ikaria before, thinking the answer was surely yes.
“No, my first time,” he said.
I turned to Paul with this same question.
“Oh yes,” he said. “I’ve been going for 30 years now.” He smiled.
Paul, I might mention, is German. Paul is also staying in Nas. Paul has stayed at the same pension every year for the last three decades, and this is his second visit to Ikaria just this year.
I have found my Ikarian-German parea!
Better still, the place Paul stays is exactly next door to Thea’s, so he knew where I needed to go. I was renting a car, and since he’d planned to take a taxi, I offered to drive him if he navigated. “I’ll pay petrol,” he offered.
Turns out Stavros is staying in Armenisitis, which is the next village over, but his friends came to fetch him. Had they not, however, we all could have car-pooled.
I guess it goes to show you that I would have found way to get to Thea’s, one way or another, but what are the odds, really, that I would sit next to someone going to the exact same village as me, 1.5 hours from the airport? And not just anyone, but “The Machine” of Ikaria?
Everyone knew Paul: the taxi driver, the guy who held a sign with my name on it for my rental car, the Inn owners, the chefs, waiters and waitresses, shop owners, other guests. From my first night on Ikaria, I have not been alone, and this is what it means, to me, to visit Greece.
So yes, only 6 hours after arriving, I would say Ikaria is the closest place to Thassos I have ever found.
And I can’t wait to share the rest of the story with you.