Saturday, 18 July 2015

A Journey Back to Winter

A Melbourne Tram

A Journey Back to Winter

My husband and I are now back in Australia. In Melbourne tonight the temperature is  2 with frosts predicted, followed by a sunny day and 13 degrees.

Back in Lemnos it is 23 rising to 31 by the end of the week. My husband is not so pleased with this news, and is sad to leave the warm weather for heaters and doonas.  But I don’t mind the cold, and I am really looking forward to seeing my Australian garden move through winter into early spring. Something I’ve not done for many years. But before I look at the garden and think again about what we left behind in Greece I have to digest and recover from that long journey – 20+ hours – from Lemnos to Melbourne.  19 hours in the air and 7 hours in airports.

We did the journey business class twice – very pleasant. It’s the extra space that is so good, but I don’t think it is worth all that extra money!

This time we flew economy, and sat in a space the size of a small refrigerator for all those hours (occasionally squeezing past each other, when there was not trolley in the aisle, to get out to the toilet). There is no getting away from the fact you are herded like sheep, and then confined to your ‘pen’. But, we all put up with the discomfort, aware that we are privileged to be able to journey from one end of the world to the other in 20+ hours, and be given the choice of chicken or fish at meal times!


But then, as we both needed and got special attention this time (me a diabetic diet, Takis a wheel chair at airports) I should not complain.

I have been reading Patrick Leigh Fermor’s final book of a journey he took as a young man of 18 years across Europe in the 1930’s; through Rumanian, Bulgaria, around the Black Sea to Mount Athos in Greece. And I’ve been struck at how different these countries are today. He was walking past villages where people still lived an isolated peasant life, and his descriptions of their lives (their clothes, the food he ate, the country he walked through) makes that era come alive.

How different though to us nearly 90 year later, flying over these countries a mile high, and eating our chicken and fish with ice cold knives and forks!

The Broken Road: from the Iron Gates to Mount Athos

By Patrick Leigh Fermor

He arrives in Bucharest and makes his way to the central shopping area finding himself bewildered by the richness and busyness of the city after his long hikes through peasant villages. He writes,

‘I wandered about the lanes and dived into bars and taverns, almost rejecting the evidence of y eyes and ears. Beautiful Turkey carpets in the massive and spotless churches reminded me of the important position of the town through which the eastern trade to northern and eastern Europe used to flow. But after the market place it was the bars and the back streets that drew one most. How I wishes, as I hobnobbed with two cowherds in a pub in the outskirts of the town and listened to their curious dialect, that I had arrived on foot, dumped my kit, and was now deep in one of those unhurried, grouping, temperature-taking gazing and eavesdropping private surveys which always began my solitary sojourns in a new town!’ p 195

In the chapter To Varna he is leaving Bucharest, and has decided to briefly leave the roads and lanes and take a train ride.

Varna today, Bulgarian Seaside City

‘There were only a few peasants on board, all with that bewildered refugee look that overcomes country people in trains: women with coloured kerchiefs and Anna Karenina bundles on their laps, and men with their hands – blunt instruments temporarily idle – hanging sadly between their knees, with the looseness of turtles’ fins. They didn’t know what to do with themselves, and I felt rather the same, fumbling my stick, so long abandoned, with the rucksack squatting on the seat beside me like toad companion.’ p 201


A View of Mount Athos from the Island of Lemnos

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