In 2010, I visited Greece for the first time in an age. It was an unbelievable experience and one I hope to repeat in the near future, as the trip awoke in me not only the desire to travel more but to touch again the relationship with the country of my antecedents and relatives.
In particular I visited Samos, the island birthplace of my parents and their parents, especially the villages of Kondaika and Kondakeika, the former nestled high in the hills overlooking a mesmerizing valley and the latter closer to the sea. Samos had changed a lot since I first visited as a boy, when my father then tried to repatriate us in his homeland.
There was less of a sense of the traditional village life as there was then but the people are still warm and friendly, although economically challenged. Kondaieka is a tranquil village during the day, but in the summer at night people seem to come from all over the island to feast in the village square and at the taverna. I would sit outside on the terrace of our house and people would pass by always with a friendly yia sas.
We couldn’t help but laugh at this coming from Melbourne it seemed so unusual even the youngest children would greet in this way. During the day it was customary to go to a beach for a swim in the morning or else down to some shopping in Karlovassi. I particularly enjoyed taking a bus from Karlovassi into Vathi during the day and visiting a museum or else having a coffee by the foreshore and just watch the summer bustle of people from all over the world. Along the way we would pass the resort towns of northern Samos and the beaches famous for their secluded and fresh clear waters, such as Lemonakia, Kokkari beach, Agios Konstantinos, and many others. The bus conductor would call out the names of all these places to inform the tourists of their destination, it was very relaxed and casual.
On the one side of the coast road was the Aegean sea and in the distance the coast of Turkey looming over all the inhabitants of the island, mysterious and enticing everyone with its presence. On the other side of the road was the mountain range of Samos rising all of a thousand metres above sea level, its highest point not visible until further inland.
My favourite view, and what epitomized the Grecian landscape, was the sight of the conifer trees that stood out like dark green cigars standing above the undergrowth and olive trees. Samos is famous for its wines, especially its nectar or sweet wines (which even got a mention by Julius Caesar in the film Cleopatra as he arrives in Egypt) and is also renowned for being the birth place of some of the worlds / histories great contributors to science, literature, philosophy and astrology. During antiquity, it was once a major power in the Asia Minor region which rivalled even Athens and Sparta.