Sunday, February 28, 2010

Back to Greece

Back to Greece
By Claire
I’m listening to Stranger on the Shore by Mr. Acker Bilk right now—we’re back in Greece at the campground in Alexandroupoli and it’s raining cats and dogs. So, that means we made it out of Turkey with Homer released to us by the Turkish government via the Customs Warehouse. Mr. Acker Bilk is still alive and 81 years old, by the way.

Back in Istanbul, we were picked up by a taksi, a very smart move since it was raining there as well. Our cab driver had the directions that Ebru from our hotel had given him. However, I looked over at one point and saw that we were speeding past the turning point. I spoke up and, of course, no problem, we’re in Turkey. He just reversed and backed up against highway traffic about 3 or 4 blocks then turned around and drove down the wrong way—the only way—to our destination. He dropped us at the door and we walked in burdened by 3 bags and two bulging backpacks. It was 9:20 and they open at 9 but Deniz wasn’t there yet and most of the workers were busy getting tea and several desk spots were empty. Someone ushered us into a room to drop our bags and we began the journey of moving from one government employee to another. I noticed Deniz hurrying in and soon we were working with her. She gave a big smile and shook our hands and welcomed us back. That was a good start. We began by having photocopies made of various documents. The guy in the photocopy booth was grumpy and eating his breakfast and seemed annoyed that he had to make copies.

After that, we bounced from one executive-clerk to another, 7 in all this time, down from the original 11 we saw back in January. Our 3 sheets of paper grew to a thickness of a quarter inch and must have been rubber stamped 25 times. The entire operation only took 1 hour and 25 minutes this time. But, that included help with our broken skylight. The same guy who climbed up there on our last visit came out with us and started pointing and talking about the top. We went inside Homer and it looked strange—wood instead of black plastic and I could see light. Meanwhile, he took off and came back with the fork lift.

We finally figured out that our black plastic top that he had kindly taped down must have blown off and he had replaced it with a sheet of wood and a rock. We got busy looking for some plastic we could tape down for the trip out of Turkey. It was tricky in the rain—the duct tape would not stick.

The view through the kitchen window of the guy lifting himself up on the forklift

Chuck up on the roof trying to figure out what to do

Chuck finally stuffed some plastic—the remnants of the reinforced US Post Office media bag we had used to ship our vast collection of guide books to Amsterdam—into the skylight over the screen and we crossed our fingers. We were really surprised that this guy had gone to the trouble to check on things—he either noticed that the plastic top was gone or took it down and put something on that he thought would last longer. Communication was pretty impossible so we will never know. We’re just very grateful. The problem now is figuring out how and where to get it fixed. We stopped at a Kipa store looking for duct tape and found a big role for only 10 TL, exactly the amount we had left to get rid of. We were so proud of ourselves for spending every last penny before we got to Greece and switched currencies.

As we approached the Greek border we saw a band of sunshine and our spirits lifted. Getting through the border patrol was pretty straightforward except for the guy who tried to tell us we had overstayed our visa by one month. He seemed to think we had been in Turkey for 4 months. Chuck counted the months off for him—the guy was embarrassed—but acknowledged that we were right. We were leaving Turkey on day 89 which technically meant that we could not enter Greece (the EU) until day 90. No one seemed to notice and we swept through.

It is so nice to be home again; I really missed Homer. Chuck rigged up some plastic and duct tape from the inside just in case; we unpacked, then had a great dinner, listened to a Chill Out music mix that they gave us at Penguin Village and went to bed around 8. We slept in until 10:30 am even though it rained through the night! I haven’t been able to sleep past 7 in years—I guess we were really tired but I also think our bed is just so comfortable and my pillow is so much better than anything we had in a hotel.

We decided to spend some time here getting settled in Homer again. We got right into the swing of campground life and had great showers. Back in the camper I heard a quiet curse—Chuck discovered 10 TL worth of coins in a pocket. Oh well, $6.50 worth of souvenirs.

We suited up in our rain clothes and drove into town in search of an ATM—time for more Euros—and even found a grocery store where we stocked up on feta, olives, tomatoes and cucumbers—what else? We’re in Greece! Back inside Homer I saw that our plastic cover was leaking and everything around it was wet—we are now drying everything out with our heater—damn! The plastic cover just came unstuck and I just experienced a little rain shower indoors. OK, all cleaned up now. Nothing like a water leak…

We’ll figure this out—we were able to borrow a ladder from the campground and Chuck did some more sealing and covering but we definitely need to find a permanent or even semi-permanent solution. Now, if it would just stop raining. I think it’s time for some face time with my book.

Next morning: the sun is shining, a good sign. Chuck climbed up on the roof of Homer to try and figure out what we can do to fix the skylight. I did laundry, so much easier in a campground laundry sink using our sink stopper than in a tiny hotel sink. It’s hanging in the breeze and the sun and we are off to find an internet cafe to research where we can get the skylight fixed. There isn’t a lot of internet access here or along the way. In fact, we will be doing a fair amount of free camping until we get to our destination in the Peloponnese. We may head to Kavala tomorrow, where we had Thanksgiving. In fact, we might go back to that restaurant and see if the owner can help us find a place that can, at the very least, do a repair of some kind. He lived in Canada for a long time and communication would be much simpler.

Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things – air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it. ~ Cesare Pavese

1 comment:

Elisabetta said...

Oh boy, oh joy - tell me wonderful things about the Peloponnese to neutralize my days of "captivity" there last July!! Did you know our word "Laconic" comes from the personality of that province Lakonia? Sparta wasn't what I'd hoped; Gytheon wasn't bad, some lovely restaurants all along the water's edge; wish I could remember the name of the restaurant (it's at the end of coastal blvd strip, near art shop) where the greeks go and the good deals exist...such great food fotos, I'll try to send them. The embarcation pt for Kriti is there.
Claire: ur starting to talk like a European! "The skylight of Homer" instead of "Homer's skylight!" (or words to that effect.) Love it! Can't wait to read the next installment;*D Elle
ps: Tartufo is currently staying with friends in cat/dog-centered "heaven" in Sonoma!