Week 3 – Hera, Harris & Riki

by H D Thompson

PicsArt_09-26-07.25.10Rachel and I left Gem and Nate and headed back to Athens for a night before heading up north. While there, a girl my age made fun of me for playing Pokémon Go in the square, then she invited me to have a drink with her friends, one of whom was also playing Pokémon Go in the square, and she also thought was stupid. She seemed to be the leader so I followed as I am a sucker for power. They kept buying me shots of a liquor I didn’t recognise and laughed about things I didn’t understand. I think it was excellent but I’m not really sure.

On the streets of Delphi the age old question of how many men it takes to fix a car was answered. Turns out it’s 8-10, they all wear matching red sportish uniforms, are all very attractive, and seem to be less fixing the car and more standing over an open bonnet arguing about how to fix it. Superb.

In the ancient ruins of Delphi a man was instructing his woman to get in “the middle”. Unfortunately for her, she did not know he meant the middle of his photo frame, and thought it was the middle of the ancient amphitheatre she was standing in front of. The man was getting increasingly frustrated with her while repeating his one instruction of “the middle” over and over. Silly woman not knowing her man’s exact thoughts. I mean really.

While sitting in the ruin of the arena people used to wait for the oracle of Delphi to announce the prophecies of Apollo, a young couple next to me decided to have a romantic make-out session. It was very loud and moist sounding. Completely ruined the atmosphere. I prayed to Apollo to smite them down, but to my extreme sadness nothing came of it.

I find it vexing that Hera is always portrayed as solemn and moody. She is the goddess of women and is married to the most womanizing douchebag in all of mythology. For putting up with all of Zues’s shit she deserves way more praise (and death to whoever first started calling her “Cow-faced”, even if it was her patron animal, ouch man).

While once again playing Pokémon Go in the town of Delphi, I was approached by a local child who was also playing. He invited me over with his friends, despite me being tall and old and them all being very little and young. While also playing with their phones, they were playing cards, on a staircase made of marble, centuries old. It just seemed so wholesome. I was invited to play though the only game we all knew was snap and as much as I enjoyed the liberty of slapping the hands of children, it felt undeserved and creepy. Once midnight struck they were all called in by their mothers, hollering from balcony windows like fleshy bell towers. That these women commanded such presence and power in the town was impressive. I am starting to think that Pokémon might be my in with the locals, even if they are either making fun of me or are super super young.

Driving through snow towns advertising snow stuff when there is no snow feels like that friend who says his girlfriend is definitely real but she goes to another school.

Over the ancient Monastery of the Holy Trinity on the Meteora rocks, a drone hovered. It would have felt out of place except that the monasteries seemed to have kept up with the times. Not only did they have a winch to pull sacks of goods up from the massive drop below, as they had done for centuries, but they also had a phone charging station and wifi. I wondered if the active monks ever ordered UberEATS and they just winched it up, laughing the night away on Netflix.

At the entrance to each monastery there lay a pile of shame skirts for women to wear to cover their shameful legs. I don’t know why, but that they lay in a pile just seems so much more shameful.

On day two of visiting the monasteries, after seeing many men in shorts, I decided to wear shorts because it was hot and jeans felt wrong. I had assumed I could wear a shame skirt if my shorts were too short, and I was fine with this because they came in lots of fun patterns and I thought them quite becoming. Apparently men are not allowed to wear the shame skirts, because it is even more shameful for a man to wear women’s clothing than showing off leg meat. Then I got that Charlotte Gainsbourg monologue about men wearing women’s clothes from The Cement Garden in my head. Then I had the Madonna song she sampled that from in my head. There was a lot going on in my mind at that ancient monastery that day. They really are places of deep thought.

Driving up to Edessa we pulled over to a run-down petrol station so that Rachel could pee. While waiting, I opened my car door to fart and a large blonde scrappy dog came up to me. I was getting good at resisting the affection of the stray dogs of Greece but the second this fella lay his head upon my knee I was lost. Rachel fed him a piece of her olive loaf we had gotten at a boulangerie and he refused to leave, almost jumping in the car as I was trying to shut the door, pleading for a better world, one full of olive loaves and boulangeries and not dusty stations that only had one flavour of petrol and no coffee. I saw a flash of our life together, he and I, solving adventures like Tintin and Snowy, but in my vision I was Snowy because he is smarter and Tintin has dumb hair. I left a piece of my heart behind at that dusty petrol station that day. I hope he remembers us and not just our bread.

I have heard more Savage Garden in this country in three weeks than I have in Australia in the last fifteen years.

In a tiny town of Liki we stayed in a beautiful tavern that had a balcony overlooking the mountains, traditional stone foundations, and a spa bath. I attempted to have a spa on our first night and because the world of fancy things is so, so foreign to me, it was a disaster. How was I supposed to know you aren’t meant to put bubbles in a spa? At least I had my 1.5L bottle of local red wine. Stupid spa. I have always preferred still to sparkling water anyway.

The first night in our hillside paradise tavern, a man down the hall was snoring so loudly I thought we were under attack. I lay there concerned, but ready to accept my fate. After a while it put me to sleep, like a nightmarish lullaby.

The second night in our hillside paradise tavern, a woman down the hall was screaming so loudly she was either in a very bad way, or a very, very good way. I did not investigate.

I got a coffee from a vending machine and on the cup was inscribed a message – Caution: There is magic in this cup. I am yet to feel the effects, but will update as situation progresses.

After taking a photo for a family at the Edessa waterfalls, the old lady of the group, who knew no English and had even less teeth, took my hand and stared silently into my eyes for a good minute. As the white traveller I am, I took it as a moment of intense beauty, but in hindsight she could have been hungry, or having a stroke, or begging me for help from her captors posing as her children. There is no way to know.

While viewing the majestic waterfalls, I became transfixed by two white butterflies dancing in the haze of the falling water. As they came closer to me I realised they were just pieces of garbage. Story of my life really.

In a cave that looked like it had spent a millennia forming, among graffiti riddled stalactites, lay one solitary open condom wrapper. I may not know much about romance, but this damp, dank, dirty cave was probably one of the least-sexy ancient moist holes I’ve spent time in. The most surprising thing about someone sneaking into the old cave to fuck, was that they were mature enough to be safe, but insisted upon littering.

While driving the mountainous roads we were stopped by a goat herder and his shaggy flock who were blocking the road. Their bells chimed in the air in wonderful cliché. Rachel apologised profusely for not being able to stop and engage with them. If she were apologising to the goat herder through the window, to the goats themselves or simply to the universe, I will never know.

At the tavern we were staying at, we witnessed a live band and that thing where old people hold hands and dance in a circle to sweet Greek music. It was sublimely Greek and a perfect moment. I wanted to join them but my vile dancing skills were not meant for a scene so pure.

The young man running the tavern was extremely beautiful and kind. When we were trying to check out, their EFTPOS wouldn’t work and he suggested driving down to town with us to withdraw cash. It was terribly inconvenient but it was also impossible to be mad at someone I so desperately wanted to sit on my face. After we sorted the money, he bought us coffees as an apology for the mess around and solidified his position in the dreamboat hall of fame. I wanted to keep him forever.

There is a time and place for everything, but Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture Op 49 while driving along the highway through burning crop fields and a low petrol tank and no station in sight is not one of them.

All the beaches here are lined with gum trees, which is fine, but I didn’t fly across the world to smell eucalyptus. It’s like, get your shit together Greece. Olive trees or bust please.

Am yet to feel any effects of the magic from within my vending machine cup. Is everything a lie?

For the second time this trip I have seen an identical depiction of Athena and Hercules; where he is struggling to hold up the sky with all his might, and she, holding a spear in one hand, almost lazily holds up the sky with the other. It is possibly my new favourite image. I reimagine it now in my head as an Alanis Morissette lyric – I have one hand in my pocket, and the other is holding the fucking sky.

While ambling about the foreshore of Thessaloniki, a middle-aged man appeared to be following us. After some time, he eventually made contact. After initial trepidation on the interaction, it turned out he just wanted to ask me where I got my shorts from, because they were so short and he had not seen such short shorts since his father wore them thirty years ago. After introductions he repeated our names back to me and referred to us as Harris and Riki, which I shrugged off as close enough. Maybe this is who we were now – Harris and Riki, leaving home to become new people in a new world. Except that that is stupid, and we both hated our respective names. Harris was my least favourite brand of coffee and Riki sounded like a cleaning product. He told me he had a beach house in the Khalkidhiki peninsulas and I was waiting for an invitation but it never came. I guess I will have to wear shorter shorts next time.

While taking a break on our road trip from the north of Greece to Athens, we stopped at the sleepy town of Achladi for a swim. The calm, hazy waters were empty all but for a group of older women, who appeared to be kneeling in the shallows, sun hats on, gossiping away. The group grew in number as more women waded into the circle, their silhouette framed dramatically by flat waters and a mountainous background. I have found in conversation that women are often talked down to by men, in general sure, but here quite openly. Reading the history of Greece you would also often stumble across the woman’s place in the running of things and it wasn’t great(for example, in the old days of leather tanning, the men would do everything and the women would be gifted the task of pulling the hair out of the hide, with only olive oil as a glove, and for payment they could keep the hair). Now, in a crumbling world that is run by men, I like to think these women gather en masse to gossip about the state of things and the silly men making terrible decisions on their behalf, laughing in the sun while kneeling in the Aegean. She who laughs last, laughs longer etc.

#H