When we are on a journey, our fellow travelers are as important as the destination and the places we visit along the way. For my first visit to Greece, I had excellent travel companions and wonderful hosts.
We spent a week in Samos, chosen so I could attend a writing workshop with Patricia Volonakis Davis. We explored our surroundings, bonded with our travel companions, told and listened to stories, laughed a lot, and finally said a very long good-bye (Italian style, the one that is interrupted only by circumstances beyond our control, like the arrival of the taxi for the airport).
Our next meeting is a matter of when, not if.
Samos is a large island in the eastern Aegean Sea (Mar Egeo), hugged by Turkey on the east. It is a verdant island: the greens on its hills and mountains include the silvery green of olive tree leaves (foglie di olivo), the bright green of grape leaves (foglie di vite) already touched by the golden brush of fall this time of the year, the threadlike green of pine needles (aghi di pino).
We stayed in Karlovasi, on the north coast. What I saw in terms of architecture was different from what I expected based on images of other islands: I liked the surprise.
One characteristic that particularly inspired me was the juxtaposition of elegant neoclassical buildings, like the one in the photo above, resplendent in the brilliant Mediterranean sun
and buildings in the same style showing on their stately face lines caused by age and worry.
I was fascinated by doors as well, and I had plenty of opportunities to feed such fascination.
The old tanneries (concerie), to which a museum is dedicated, were another unexpected gift to my inquiring eyes.
"Between 1880-1930, leather production & trading was a growing industry. In Karlovasi, 50 local businesses flourished. Today, only remnants of these structures exist along the coastal road in and around the Riva area."
The intense blue of the Mediterranean Sea is reflected in the color of the domes (cupole) of many of the churches that dot towns and villages. The one that beckoned me from the evening we arrived is called Agia Triada (Holy Trinity). We climbed the hill to visit it one afternoon to enjoy the view from it (the land mass on the horizon is Turkey), then walked further uphill to reach Agios Antonios (St. Anthony's) Cave.
Every morning, the female travelers gathered around a table and talked about their unifying passion: writing — fiction in some cases, memoir in others — and shared the results of the time spent toiling and smiling over notebooks and keyboards soothed by Mediterranean waves and wind.
Most evenings, before dinner, I jogged west along the shore, past Karlovasi harbor (porto), to Potami Beach, above which the temple of Metamorfosis — the oldest church of Samos, built in the 11th century over the remains of an ancient Greek temple — hugs the visitor in a small, sacred space that invites the eyes to look skyward.
Shades of green and shades of blue — the deep blue of the sea, the bright blue of the sky, the smiling blue of church domes , doors and shutters — are some of the souvenirs I brought back from Samos.
Click on the button to hear me pronounce the Italian words mentioned in the post:
or launch the cartolina da Samo audio file [mp3].
[Depending on your set-up, the audio file will be played within the browser or by your mp3 player application. Please, contact me if you encounter any problems.]