Thursday, December 30, 2010

Sithonian paradise

Sithonian Penisula—

Middle finger in the three peninsulas in N. Greece. Gorgeous aquamarine coast, rocky shore along the windy road from Thessonliki. Follow the road to Sarti Beach—downtown like a beach carnival. Bustling with Easter European families strolling along the boardwalk—the shore is lined with resaurants on the sand. The shops are busy, bursting at the seems with inflatable toys, souvinier clothes and cotton candy. We buy bread, fruit, and miel (honey) and begin the search for our villa.

We follow a dirt road until we reach two barking hunting dogs behind the fence. Cross the river and go left at the white wall. Right and fork and follow the path. There, we find a gorgeous, white villa nestled amongst an olive grove up on the hill overlooking the sea. The Sarti Vista bed and breakfast is run by the charming Chichi and her husband Isadore. An American couple that decided long ago to build their home someday on this land that belonged to Isadore’s father—who owned property across the hillside. Built on old tombs, the area is lush and green and buzzing with bees and birds and butterflies. Grape vines drip down over the trellis, accompanied with oldeander and jasmine creeping along side them. Our balcony overlooks the sea, never ending waves and the Mnt. Athos Penisula--the "holy mountain" This unique place is only inhabitated by Greek Orthodox monks, and can only be visited by men. It's shrouded in clouds, hiding from us almost the whole time.

Breakfast on the porch—eggs, fresh apricot juice, bread and jelly and tea. We are welcomed so fully, that we feel like guests invited into their home. Chichi and Isadore visited this spot and believed it would be the perfect spot for a home. Thirteen years later, they’are living their dream. They say Sarti is not a place to check off your list of Greek sites, but a place “to just be.” We soon find out this is true.

The waters right off Sarti Beach are full of ruins—the old Ancient Greek town of Sarti. I snorkel out into the waters, weaving in and out of pillars that look more like weathered rock formations. Although evidence of the ancient community is sparse, I do feel the haunting presence of human life—as if the stones are watching me, wanting me to remember the electrical buzz that once filled the air. It’s sad and spooky and mysterious all at once. The smooth stones erupt into straight edge walls and layers of brick. I long to know the stories of the people that roamed the streets, the songs of the sailors that cruised these shores in the Persian War (during a time when the king of Persian cut a canal here after losing all his fleets in an attempt to conquer Athens. )

Porti Cali beach (point of reference to locate: a trashbin by the side of the road.) Amazing local beach, graced with smooth, curved stones on the beach that function like stone seats. Perfect turquoise water, snorelers, sun bathers—a great mix of local and worldy visitors.—even some that decide to be super nude! It’s not a reef, the the fish are diverse and I’m especially fond of a school of big red and brown guys who allow me to float next to them in an open cavern. The trickle of sand, the gentle push and pull of the tide. Underwater heaven and its best. I dive down to retrieve a perfect sea urchin shell for Nicola (okay so it takes me a few tries) but lo ‘n behold, I pull it for her to take home. We soak in the vitamin D—loving the peace and the sun and the laughter. Nicola’s first time snorkeling here—and she gets more and more adventurous every hour. It’s one of those days, when you feel as if everything is right in the world (even tho we accidentally crushed the urchin shell as we were leaving!) Paradise found. Hard to leave. But a place I know I will return.

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