A five-hour drive from Athens to the north brought us to Zaf’s hometown…just outside the city of Thessaloniki. We purposefully set out on a Sunday morning when traffic is typically minimal and coupled with the lock-down of citizens who are not permitted to go from one state to another, the road was practically empty. Two pit stops along the way, we arrived in the late afternoon and then spent half an hour looking for our hotel.
Zaf’s birth village is called Nea Mehaniona and he grew up in Kerasia, one town over. As the area has changed with new buildings and other structures, and with old landmarks shuttered down we drove around a little bit. Then with bad directions from a woman who insisted that the hotel was through some narrow roads and then off to the right by the beach, we got a bit lost. A kind man called the hotel for us and got the correct directions; absolutely beautiful, but nowhere near the beach!
The next day, we toured all the villages in the area and found Zaf’s memories…some places still exist, others have disappeared forever. No matter. Wherever you go in these areas you have a view of the magnificent Thermaic Gulf aka Gulf of Salonika. Peaking through the clouds early in the morning, but when they float away, the entire city comes into view with its full impact of how big it is and how lovely it sits with its white buildings and blue sea as a neighbor. More about this beautiful city later as we return to it several times during our stay in Greece.
The highlight of our stay here was finding Zaf’s lifelong friend Mr. L. He and his wife greeted us with much exclaim and many hugs (yes, indeed!). We sat on their veranda as they reminisced about their childhood together where as boys of 8 and 9, they played soccer together on a dirt road that today is the main street running through the village. We discovered that we can now talk more often, once we are back in the USA, through social media channels as Mr. L. has now joined the 21st century.
We are indeed living in a lock-down environment; the bustling restaurants and tavernas we experienced before are closed. Our slow entry into this beautiful country has led us to places where we order take-away or get delivery to our hotel room…included in the menu options are the most amazing Greek desserts…naturally we had to have some. For all the restrictions, life can be delicious!
Exploring retirement should include all type of experiences; the food here is absolutely amazing – I will post more about Greek desserts – with photos – as we travel about.
Retire well, Helene 😊
Photo of the main road in Kerasia From the Personal Collection of Helene and Zaf