We rode up into the mountains that day, away from the sea and the sand, and discovered the tiniest village propped right into the side of the cliffs which showed no sign of tourism or development for that matter. It was exactly what we were hoping to find! There was an obligatory Greek Orthodox church, which actually made my heart do flip flops. Did you know I was christened in the Greek Orthodox Church? I grew up sitting on a pew next to my mom listening to the Greek priests speak and chant while the incense was brought down the aisle with a soft clanging as it was swung back and forth. I always liked taking communion, but not because my motivation was really all that pure. But because if I was brave enough to say my Greek name to the priest, he would say a blessing, offer me a sip of bitter wine… and then I got a huge piece of the most delicious bread. It was not like the little wafers they serve in other churches, but chunky, warm and a little sour. The day we visited this mountain village, the church was not open so we could not go in. I had hoped we could have lit a candle, but instead we toasted the gloriously hot day with cold ice creams. We discovered that if we went into the little local grocery stores and convenience shops, they sold tiny little homemade ice creams that the kids swore were the best they had ever eaten! It was so hard to leave the little village that day. It had an atmosphere of authenticity that we had not experienced elsewhere. We daydreamed about what it would be like to live here because we always do that no matter where we travel.
It felt oddly natural, though, this idea of living in a country where the people all looked so much like me. I didn’t realize how much that would mean to me, but it did. It was a very emotional trip for me and I am just now really starting to sort through the many feelings I experienced while visiting the one place on this planet that I felt necessary to see before I died. Did I tell you how hard it was to leave? It was like tearing away a piece of me and I knew that visiting Greece had changed me. I had a small taste of how hard it must have been for my family to leave when they came to the US. Walking the streets made me feel just a little more connected to the three of my four grandparents who are no longer with us… And a longing to run home to my Yiyia and ask her a million questions that I had never thought to ask before.