The electricity in the village had still not come back on. As the sun set in the distance, the town gossip continued to focus on the power outage as the big to-do for the evening.
“It will be back on by 10 o’clock, I promise you.”
“Do you think Mauriki has power yet? That village always gets power quicker than we do.”
“The government is behind all these problems.”
And so, everybody had their say. I was thoroughly enjoying how remote and antiquated the village felt, with no power and no news coming in. Once the sun had completed its journey across the sky (thank you, Apollo), darkness began to settle in for the evening. The temperature, already cool to begin with, dropped several degrees and I was glad to finally get some use out of the one jacket I had lugged all the way to Greece. Aunt Maria, who had joined Renee and I by now, led us back to her car to drive to one of the local tavernas. Now, there is no real need for a car in the village; Nikos walked us through every street in less than an hour. But as the hour grew later, the sheer blackness of the night made it difficult to navigate the small, steep village streets.
We arrived at one of the four local tavernas to find a grill blazing outside and a faint glow coming from the open doorway. A small plate of candles had been lit as a centerpiece at each table setting. We seated ourselves in the middle of the restaurant, as we were its only occupants, and Maria ordered us an array of Greek fare.
The first course was a series of traditional Greek appetizers. The tsatziki tasted so rich and creamy that I piled spoonfuls onto slices of hot, fresh bread. The Greek salad was a freshly grown variety of tomatoes, capers, onions, olives, cucumber, paired with some locally made feta cheese. A plate of “pita” turned out to be the most mouth-watering spanikopita (filo dough stuffed with spinach and other various greens) I have ever tasted.
Our main course came straight off the grill: lamb cutlets, blackened a bit on the bone. The meat was so lean, it could only have been a mountain sheep! Sliced potatoes rounded out the meal. We washed it all down with a red wine, made by the owner himself.
“Yiamas!” we cheered, as we clinked our small glasses together and took a sip. I am by no means a wine connoisseur, in fact, I hardly drink back home, but there is something so special about the wine here. All of the French, Italian, and Spanish people I have interacted with here have crinkled their nose at the mention of Greek wine. Apparently, it is not exactly for the refined palate. But I love the fresh, sweet taste of the local grape.
The dinner conversation flitted from Maria’s travels (she’s been everywhere from India to Peru, and she has taken here Jeep into nearly every nook and cranny of Greece), to Renee’s stalker (a street seller who kept sending her flowers!), to my summer in Costa Navarino. We laughed and continued to talk late into the night. The taverna cook came and set a plate of fresh melon on our table and we dug into it heartily, even though we were completely full already.
Halfway through our dessert plate, the lights switched on. I blinked rather remorsefully back into the modern world again. We finished our meal and headed back to Maria’s home for the night. As we exited the car, Maria told us to stop.
“Do you hear that?” she whispered loudly.
“Hear what?” I asked her. Then I heard the rustling. There, on the rooftop, the glassy eyes of several owls peered down at us.”No way!”
One of the owls, disturbed from his quiet perch, took to wing and flew off into the night sky. Absolutely beautiful.
We slept soundly in the silence of the mountain village. A small, inset window was open to the cool breeze by my head. The morning came all too soon. Through the open window, I heard the church bells ring, followed by the low intonations of the Liturgy. It was a Saint’s holiday, so many people were attending the service this morning. I wished we could have joined them, but it was time for me to get back to work.
We said our sad farewells to Aunt Maria, telling her to come visit us soon and to rest up (she’s been suffering from a serious heart condition). We traveled back down the mountain with the windows open and the sun before us. One last surprise greeted us as we entered one of the lower villages. There in a pen, amidst the sheep and goats grazing at a trough, was a young deer! That’s something I’ve never seen before.
The rest of the drive back was unremarkable, really. Aunt Renee and I just jammed to the Eagles and enjoyed the countryside. But it was an incredibly satisfying trip: I found my Greek roots in a tiny town on top of a mountain. Whether or not we are descendants of a bear, I discovered a little bit more about myself in that place.