Apr 11, 2014

A Greek Odyssey

Funny how vacation time comes and goes. You look forward to one, plan it for so long, excitement abounding, pulses racing, planning beginning from perfection, to acceptance, to craziness, to the ultimate landing up haywire. 

My vacation time was back (albeit, not exactly a vacation month), more due to the work planning that had to be done during the regular vacations, so this time, after a lot of soul searching, pocket and bank balance checking, Greece.  Situated at the cross roads of Europe, a country built upon a consortium of Islands, the land considered to be the cradle of civilization, the birthplace of democracy, the Olympics, a country built upon a consortium of islands.

The land of the Macedonians, the Spartans the land of Gods and Goddesses, the land of Alexander the Great, the land of Plato and Homer.. the list is endless. Of course, the perennial lets go back home was always there, but since had done that last year, this year, a different option. With all that was there in history, how could one not go to Greece..

Every one has their preferences for travel, some like to travel alone (with immediate family), some in a family group, some with few friends, small to make it light, some in large groups. There are takers for on the fly... lets land up there and we decide, some plan. My case, have done a mix of all, currently prefer planned vacations in Tour Groups. Of course, both have their pros / cons, my case, have found a lot of pros (new people, every thing planned, you don't worry about major issues) and the cons, small cases one manages).

Any ways, once vacation finalized, the preparation began. What is surprising that despite all the planning that one thinks that they are managing and the fact that the vacation is managed year after year, one still manages to mess it up when we land up at the airport, trying to catch a plane. 

Sounds similar, well I too went through the same and the first part of the story is nothing but that. All the plans, the organization, the documents that we need, the clothes that we will require, how many days, the weather, what should we carry, what should we bring, the shopping plans, the fact that we need to travel light to make it easier, yet our bags almost match our weight at the Airport at the check in. We wonder. Are we planning to come back? 

No doubt an achievement of sorts, when we land at the Airport. We made it so far (considering the mess that one was in a few days ago), and thinking that no matter the odds, we are still great, to the stark ultimate realization with a feeling of helplessness and a prayer to God.....Did I lock the damn front door!

The Airport part was the easy one, what was disappointing was the flight being delayed. A fight supposed to leave at 5 AM, making you reach the Airport at 2 AM, causing no sleep the night before, is delayed, just because there is rain and thunder, one feels like asking the Airlines. You call that Thunder and Rain. Come to Bombay, I will show you what is rain and the planes still fly. Of course nothing much that could be done, but to wait for a good 9 hours at the Airport, in a chair that reminds you of the movies where the hero sleeps on a wooden bench in Jail (of course, that must be laced with soft sheets), the first thought of what in God's name am I doing here, comes to mind.

Luckily enough, we managed to get a lounge, where one could lay down (but then so could 100 other people), eat and drink. Free drinks have always been stimulants, and when can drink and then sleep and then get up and drink again and sleep (even if it is 4 AM), who really cares? Well, 11 hours later, we managed to fly off, with the Journey officially starting, also realizing that we had missed our first connection only to find out that we had 45 Min's to catch the next one.

Now, this is the part where the mind really plays tricks. Can we do it in 45 Min's (of course the Airline will make sure you do), but 2, will the damned bags come along? This is where the smart traveller differs where he carries an emergency set of clothes in his hand, but then there are the ones who consider themselves to be lords and would like to walk empty handed in a plane (myself included). But I guess that is why there is God.

Transfers done, planes switched and we were finally off on the last leg of the journey. Six hours in a cramped packed flight (where every one ended up sitting every where but with each other), we finally made it to the land of Zeus and Athena. Seeing the light breeze and the wonderful weather, with the Olympic Signs outside the Airport with a heart warming sign of Welcome to Greece, made every one forget the rough 14 - 18 hours spent just tying to reach a place which normally should have taken six hours (some of us even calculated that we could have been back from India !)

Tiredness aside, the first evening itself was a dinner outing, with traditional Greek Food and Greek music. The sight of the two and more so, the music was enough to take away all tiredness. An evening filled with wonderful food, the one that had always read growing up as to how the Greeks loved their food and wine with a backdrop of foot rendering music.

Words fail to express what we witnessed that evening, not that it was the best food or the best evening ever with the best dancers that ever exist, but the fact that watching tradition at its liveliest and the local people enjoying that tradition with so much gusto, was also a big eye opener, and a dampener, that we as Indians don't value our own. Here we were in a traditional Greek Restaurant, eating local food, going through local traditional cultural dances with the few Indians and a few Americans being the only expatriates. 80% of the restaurant was filled with locals, and kids most of them. Boys / Girls participating in local events, that we in our own country would never see and only be amazed if a Westerner comes and participates. Our comment. India is magical.

Happy that it is, sad, that no one actually realizes what we in our gusto to become modern simply have destroyed our past. And where tradition does come up, we are quick to denounce it with sarcasm or with eyes of contempt showing our approach to life.

But hang on, this is a holiday and this was only Day 1.. More to come

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