Return to Greece, 2016. Part Nine: Home Again

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.

On the Sparta-Gytheion Road, July 2016

On the Sparta-Gytheion Road, July 2016

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.

View from Arxontiko Taygeti, overlooking Sparta. July 2016

View from Arxontiko Taygeti, overlooking Sparta. July 2016

Arxontiko Taygeti and proud owner Joanne Dimis-Dimitrakakis, July 2016

Arxontiko Taygeti and proud owner Joanne Dimis-Dimitrakakis, July 2016

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:

Andrew Soper and neighbors in Agios Ioannis, July 2016

Andrew Soper and neighbors in Agios Ioannis, July 2016

Agios Ioannis, July 2016

Agios Ioannis, July 2016

Agios Ioannis, July 2016

Agios Ioannis, July 2016

From Mystras:

Statue of Konstantine Palailologos, last Byzantine emporer; Mystras, July 2016

Statue of Konstantine Palailologos, last Byzantine emper0r; Mystras, July 2016

Relaxing at the plataea, Mystras, July 2016

Relaxing at the plataea, Mystras, July 2016

mystras-1-collage

Buildings around the plataea, Mystras, July 2016

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.

Greek Orthodox Church, as seen from the water approaching Piraeus, July 2016

Greek Orthodox Church, as seen from the water approaching Piraeus, July 2016

 

 

 

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2 thoughts on “Return to Greece, 2016. Part Nine: Home Again

  1. I understand exactly how you feel. I know I left a big part of me in Greece on my first trip there in 2015. My yia yia had an apartment in Athens when I was a little girl and every summer she would go to spend the summer in Greece. I was always invited to join her for the summer but my little girl heart said I didn’t want to leave my friends behind for that long. After finally going to Greece at the age of 60, I was so sad that I never did it with my yia yia. Foolish child. Another example of why I wish I could live my life over!!

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