This is the ninth and last post in a series about my trip to Greece, June 30-July 20, 2016 — an amazing journey of history, family and discovery. Previous posts can be found here.
Coming back to Sparta was like coming back home. Driving north from Mani on the Sparta-Gytheion Road, I passed Xirokambi and Amykles, two villages that have been newly placed on my ancestral map. The Taygetos mountains on the west, dotted with clusters of red-roofed homes, guided me through lush plains and to the now-familiar landmarks on the outskirts of Sparta.
My friend, Joanne Dimis-Dimitrakakis, invited me to spend the night in her newly-renovated home. Named Arxontiko Taygeti, it is a bed and breakfast situated in Barsinikos, almost at the top of a mountain overlooking Sparta and the castle of Mystras. The view is unparalleled and the home is lovely.
As I prepared to leave Mystras and Agios Ioannis, I drove one last time through these areas to say a silent goodbye. Their serenity and beauty are like a balm to my soul. The sociality and outdoor lifestyle is so inviting. People are not sequestered in their houses; instead, I see them sitting outside, walking, having coffee at a cafe, strolling in the plataea. This almost-communal nature of village life is sometimes good, sometimes not so good — but one is never isolated or alone.
From Agios Ioannis:
Arriving in Athens the day prior to my flight, I also stopped by Giannis’ apartment to say goodbye to his family. At one point during our meal, I put my head down on the table and said that I was very, very sad to leave. I departed with a heavy heart and drove to the airport. Mentally and physically spent, I frittered away the evening and went to sleep early. I knew I was exhausted when I spent the flight home watching three movies and sleeping for a while. Plane time is usually catch-up time for writing, journaling, or reading. But not at the end of this trip.
When I landed at Dulles Airport in the Washington, D.C. suburbs, it felt so odd to be home. I was struck with the marked distinction between the way life is lived in America and in the Peloponnese. One is not better than the other — they are just different, and each speaks to a distinct part of who I am. I left one half of me in Greece. I can’t wait to go back.