Tag Archives | Small Town
Itea has seduced me.
I was a little wary upon first impression… few cars and fewer people, a seemingly deserted promenade, closed shops and scatterings of unfinished and abandoned buildings. I also had the misfortune of arriving on a cloudy, grey Monday (not the most active of days in the first place) during the afternoon siesta.
But I am quick to soften with the right inducements: Mount Parnassos sits solidly and protectively to the north, the Gulf of Corinth lays easy and open to the south, the presence of my two favourite natural features always felt and often both visible with just a simple turn of my body.
Then slowly, patiently, as if aware of its own charms and how they would gradually chip away at my initial misgivings, the town began to win me over: the palm tree fronds that rustle in the breeze; the unhurried pace of life; the quiet and unassuming manner of the inhabitants; the church bells that ring at 8 minutes and 38 minutes after the hour (and that go absolutely crazy on Sunday mornings, I assume, calling people to service); the locals who gather at water-side cafes to talk and watch the sunrise or the sunset, leisurely enjoying their beverage and the view for hours at a time.
My first Saturday here, I was invited to dinner with the family of V, my friend K’s cousin (the house where I’ve been staying belongs to K’s family). During the meal, V’s parents-in-law asked why I had chosen Itea, since it’s not a popular tourist spot.
A big reason is generosity: when I mentioned that friends and I were hoping to meet up in Greece for a holiday (we’re a little spread out geographically), K generously offered to let us stay at her grandmother’s old house in Itea. I’d already determined that I wanted to spend more time in Greece than my friends could manage given their jobs, and again, K and her family readily agreed to let me live in the house. As a restless wanderer, I can never be too thankful to friends and family who open their doors to me and allow me to stay in their homes. It’s a point of comfort, to be sure, but it also allows me to be on the road longer than I could otherwise afford.
At the same time, while I do want to see the major sites and cities of a country, I’m often just as happy to skip many of the venues that are on the ‘must see’ list or, at least, to limit my time there. After all, a list is just one person’s opinion. Some of my most cherished memories and experiences have been had at places quite far down on those lists where people have more time and willingness to interact with genuine reciprocal interest and friendliness and who haven’t been worn down by the oft times ‘hit and run’ nature of tourism.
I also find myself wondering about what experiences I might have in those less visited locales. What the more popular locations make up for in terms of sites and attractions, I think we lose in nuanced experience, growth (through challenge) and observation: the transaction with the fruit market owner via smiles and gestures; the seemingly severe stares that become big broad grins upon a smile and a ‘hello’; the lovely surprise of cheese filling in the pastry I randomly pointed at in the bakery; the realization that what sounds like arguing between generations of a family is the love of true conversation – honest discussion and debate.
I was recently introduced to the term ‘flâneur’, its ‘basic’ definition being an idler; dawdler; loafer1. The book that I was reading, though, used it in its broader sense which began to evolve in the 19th century2: that of a detached observer, one who participates in but remains outside of the scene before him/her and who, in its latest derivation, continues to adapt to and to change goals based on what he/she experiences3 – to my mind, whether in action, in thought, or both. This is what I love about spending more time than is ‘necessary’ in one location: that I can decide from day to day what to see, where to go, what to do or what to try – that I have the option to choose where and in what manner I take the adventure next. With a less well known place, I get more time to watch, learn and absorb the spirit of a place and its people.Do you ever feel like you’ve missed out?