My travels in Greece have taught me, a very Type A, organized person, who likes to make to-do lists and organize calendars, an important lesson. In the relaxed world of the typical Greek lifestyle, I am embracing my downtime. Time without homework, studying for the next exam and extracurriculars is a welcome change. Life with this new laid-back attitude has also brought spontaneity into my life. Three of my friends and I embarked on a ferry from Paros to Syros on Friday night. Vacationing from one island to another is such a hard life. Before departure, I didn’t know much about Syros or what it had to offer. I didn’t have a list of attractions to see or even the name of a hotel to stay the night. However, yet again the hospitality of the Greeks arose to the occasion. Arriving on the island, we were greeted by groups and groups of hotel and hostel owners trying to vie for our attention and our euros to stay at their place. After getting an offer of $12.50 euro a night at a hotel, we agreed. At the hotel, a woman settled us into our room. As a woman aged no more than 30 years, she knew we were here to have a fun girls’ night. So she brought us a radio from her own house next door to our room to accommodate us. Then after we complimented her nails, she told us she went to cosmetology school and offered to do ours the next day. This proved to be a good start to a great night. Then a taxi driver drove us back into town to his favorite taverna. There, I indulged in amazing lamb chops with a side sauce of mustard and a taste of my friend’s grilled octopus. We toured the shops and the square before looking for a taste of the nightlife.
As we passed a bakery to use the WC, the employee stopped us to ask us where we were from and what we were doing in Greece. After answering his questions, he offered us something sweet. We didn’t even buy anything, but the native Athenian, relocated to Syros, wanted to extend his welcome to the Americans visiting his country. This is just another example of Grecian hospitality. After this pleasant surprise, we continued on to explore the town and find a bar. Little did we know, what we entered was a bachelor party. The interesting thing about this bachelor party was that it included multiple generations. There were both men and women from both families (the bride and the groom) from the ages approximately 18 to 80. The people were enjoying food and drink at a local bar near the port. Furthermore, not only was the party open to women of the family and even the bride, but as strangers, my three friends and I were invited to stay after we realized we unknowingly crashed their pre-wedding celebration. Throughout the night, they motioned us to join the circle to dance with them. And they also gave us shots to partake in shooting Yamas to the couple and their new life ahead of them. This experience as well as the fire-jumping at the Midsummer Night’s Eve celebration showed me how celebrations in Greece are not about exclusivity but inclusivity. The Greeks I have met like to include everyone, even non-Greeks, in their celebration. It is about community and sharing. The welcoming attitude keeps the people together. In America, if you had crashed such a family affair, even accidentally, it would not be taken well. You would be at least kindly asked to leave and given a “look.” However, in Greece, it was just more people to celebrate with and taken with a more the merry the attitude. Not only did they let us stay, but they even welcomed us to celebrate with them. It was also surprising that the wedding was at 7 am the night after the celebration. Despite the early start of the wedding, the Greeks, of all ages, continued to party until 3 am. This showed me another interesting aspect of the culture. Greeks tend to stay up later, start their day later and compensate with a siesta. It also showed me the Greeks know how to have a good time even as they get older!
The days of Syros consisted of two days of complete relaxation. We walked to the beach from our hotel and stopped by the mini market and bakery for snacks. Then Dora, Amanda, Rachel and I had lunch at a restaraunt overlooking the water. The last dinner I had in Syros was a pork gyros and a greek salad on the water at the port. After we paid, the water gave us free vanilla gelato and brownies! We returned late at night to Paros. I was suprised at 11 pm on a Sunday the shops were bustling! Earlier that day, when my friends and I came back into town early to shop in Syros, nothing was open. Suprising how the Greeks schedule the shop hours. Off to class tonight, stay tuned for more on island life later!