My Weekend With Sokratis

It is said that Greek people are so hospitable because, in ancient times, one never knew if the traveling stranger at one’s door was a mortal or a god or goddess in disguise. Well, this weekend, if I were a goddess, I would have been a very happy goddess indeed!

image from http://www.pickatrail.com/jupiter/location/europe/greece/kastoria.html

A map showing the location of Kastoria, located near the Albanian border.

My student Sokratis (you know you’re a teacher in Greece when…) lives with his parents in Kastoria, a small town in the northern part of Greece, near the Albanian border. He invited me home for the weekend, which also happened to be the weekend of his seventeenth birthday!

We arrived in Kastoria on Friday evening, and that night, Sok and I went to a bar. After midnight had come and gone, we realized it was his birthday! We celebrated a bit and he taught me how to play backgammon, which may as well be the Greek national sport. It’s a fun game of strategy and I really enjoyed playing. I also promised to teach him how to play cribbage in return!

Freshly seventeen and showing his English teacher how to play backgammon in a bar! Life is good.

The next day, I got the official tour of Kastoria. It’s an absolutely gorgeous town, set on the shores of a large lake. With coniferous trees all around and snow-capped mountains in the distance, this Montana girl felt right at home! The first stop on the tour was the top of a nearby mountain, which offered beautiful views of the town and surrounding area.

Sokrati and his father at the top of the mountain.

The town of Kastoria and surrounding area.

Next, we went to a cave! It’s called the Dragon’s Cave, and even though I’m claustrophobic, who on earth would refuse a trip to something called the Dragon’s Cave?!

Inside the Dragon's Cave!

When you hear the words "Dragon's Cave," do you hear it in a big scary booming voice in your head?

I do.

A bridge crossing one of the small lakes inside the DRAGON'S CAVE! See, it's more fun with the voice, isn't it? Are you saying it out loud in the voice now? Yes! Do it! Go!!

The final stop on the tour was a visit to a church dating back to the 11th century. It’s amazing; the sheer oldness of sites in Greece never ceases to blow my mind. In Montana, “old” for us typically means Old West. We don’t really do ancient in Montana, or anywhere in the US for that matter!

The church still had its original frescoes, although the eyes of the saints in the images had been gouged out by the Turks long ago.

Taken inside the church.

The church itself, complete with cute little priest sweeping outside.

Since Saturday was Sokrati’s birthday, I brought a few things to give him. Sokrati loves to read, which is most definitely something I want to encourage, so I gave him Mark Twain’s The Innocents Abroad and my copy of Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible. It’s not too hard to find books in English here, but they still feel like treasures! I also made him a card with a word search puzzle inside, and a CD of some of my favorite music.

And that’s how I found myself sitting at the dining room table of a Greek family, eating delicious homemade kolokithopita (Greek pumpkin pie), and listening to Ani Difranco and Tom Waits.

Sok and his mom, hard at work on his birthday word search puzzle!

As for the rest of the weekend, it’s a blur of constant eating, with Sokrati’s father refilling my ouzo glass and shouting, “Water is for the frogs!” The delicious, homemade Greek food made by Sokrati’s mother just kept coming. I hadn’t had homemade food like that in months, and looooordy lordy, folks, it filled some deep need within my soul. I ate like a starved woman, and just when I thought I was going to burst, my hosts were there to tell me I was falling behind; and just like that, my wine/ouzo glass was magically refilled, and there was yet more food on my plate. In fact, on Sunday morning, we slept late, barbecued plate upon plate of sausages grilled by Sokrati’s father for a snack, and then immediately went inside and sat down at the table for lunch made by his mother.

If Heaven exists, my friends, I hope that’s exactly what happens there.

The grillmaster, posing for a photo in between flipping the sausages and telling me to keep eating.

On Sunday afternoon, Sok and I headed back to school. His parents told me that since I am now “like a daughter” to them, I must come back to Kastoria when I am in Greece again. I was put on the bus with two sandwiches, two huge pieces of kolokithopita, and a bottle of wine.

The bus ride was two and a half hours long, and I spent the whole ride listening to music, gazing at the gorgeous countryside out the window, and simply swimming in my love for Greece and its wonderful people. I’ve heard time and again that Greece is a great place to visit, but a horrible place to live. Having lived here since September, I can say that there are definitely certain aspects of life here that make that statement ring true. But I must say that no matter what happens economically or politically in Greece in the coming years, these people will always be simply delightful. They’re full of surprises, larger-than-life and committed to their fellow man in a way that many other world citizens may never experience.

Me with Sokratis and his mother, overlooking the lake and Kastoria.

At this point, I have less than two months left in Greece. But when saying goodbye to Mr. and Mrs. Tasiopoulos, I wasn’t just saying I’d see them again: I believed it. I’ll be back. I dare say Greece couldn’t keep me away if it tried.

Με αγάπη,

Kate

Advertisements

About wrap me in phyllo dough

travel addict. greece-obsessed. grad student. bottomless pit.
This entry was posted in Travel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

85 Responses to My Weekend With Sokratis

  1. B. D. says:

    You ARE a Goddess

  2. Pingback: My Weekend With Sokratis » Greece on WEB

  3. turtlepetalouda says:

    Enjoyed the read. I am an American married to a Greek from Salonica. It was nice to see a story about Kastoria. I’ve been there once and it was in the winter. It was beautiful then maybe I’ll see it this summer. We may only go as north as Edessa this time.

    • k8peterson says:

      I’m living and teaching in Salonica this year, at the American Farm School and the Elliniko Kollegio! Great city. And I highly recommend Kastoria in warmer weather–the lake is just gorgeous with all the greenery around it!

  4. Gorgeous photos and it’s so nice to spend time with locals, gives one a whole new perspective. Greece is so high on our list. (My wife and I.)

    • k8peterson says:

      Excellent! Whether it’s great food, great people or great scenery you’re looking for, Greece has it all. I hope you two make it here soon. Happy travels!

  5. lovely article…my brother -in-law is greek and i enjoy every vacation at he’s place…in the town of Kiparissia…♥
    what can i say ? Καλη παραμονη στην Ελλαδα.

    • k8peterson says:

      Ευχαριστώ πάρα πολύ! I’m actually traveling to the Peloponnese very soon, but I don’t think I’ll make it to Kiparissia. There’s just so much to see in Greece; one year is not enough! 🙂

      • you are so r8…kiparissia is lovely due to it’s location- right between see and mountain…just imgine that from the same balcony you can gaze both at the mountain and the see..it’s stunning really …i’ll try to post some pictures of the beach there ♥

  6. This is an awesome post. You look so happy in your photo with Sok and his mother. I fell in love with Greece a few years back. Spent two weeks traveling around Athens and into Santorini. The people were great and the food out of this world.
    Congrats on Freshly Pressed.

    • k8peterson says:

      Thanks! Greece is pretty easy to fall in love with, isn’t it? I was only in Santorini for three days, and could barely bring myself to pack when it came time to leave. And, when I get back to the US in July, I’m going to have to prescribe myself daily feta or the withdrawals will be unbearable!

  7. Pegaso says:

    Hi, great post!
    Visit my homepage http://pegaso.lt here!

  8. What an amazing weekend! And what an incredible adventure you are having. My partner and I just returned from a year in Haiti–which changed us in profound ways. Thanks for sharing———– (The “Poisonwood Bible” is, perhaps, my favorite novel!)
    Kathy

    • k8peterson says:

      Wow, I imagine Haiti is a pretty powerful place to be now. What a great experience. I’ve heard that the language in particular is just fascinating in its divergence from French. And hopefully Sokrati will enjoy “The Poisonwood Bible” as much as we do!

  9. Lakia Gordon says:

    Beautiful pictures and scenery! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  10. I love it … all!

    The story about being treated like a god/goddess: priceless. I wish American culture held similar views. And your pictures are absolutely amazing!

    🙂

  11. Wow, I liked the dragonscave, those pictures where amazing! And yes, I did hear a big booming man in my head saying it. I mean, “dragons-cave”, what’s not to love?! I also really liked the whole “you know your a teacher in Greece when…”. Very, very funny!

    Joshua — http://goldenbible.wordpress.com/

  12. We Greeks are hospitable and do love to eat! So glad you got to experience that first-hand with some first-rate hosts. Opa!!

    • k8peterson says:

      Opa indeed!! So happy to have the chance to fatten up & relax in the presence of good company with great hosting skills. You’re lucky to be Greek! 😀

  13. itsbritt says:

    Great post – so inspiring. I’m planning my travels through Europe and will be making a stop in Greece – especially for the food! Thanks for the insight. What an awesome experience to be able to teach over there…. Enjoy!

  14. ournote2self says:

    Sounds like quite an adventure! I’d love to visit there one day.

  15. May you please grant me permission to live vicariously through you? This is the first post I’ve read by you and I’m dying to be in your shoes for one day! Love it!

    http://MeghannChapman.com

  16. Great photos! The ones from the cave are amazing… but I think I’m just claustrophobic enough to not go in there. 😀 Really loved the photos from the church, too. Thanks for sharing your weekend with us!

    • k8peterson says:

      Absolutely! Thanks for reading! Happy to expose myself to a mini claustrophobic nightmare in order to give others with claustrophobia a vicarious experience 😀

  17. This is a great post! I am a first generation Greek-American and I try to visit every summer; my family is from the islands though. I have been told I should go there to teach English and it is so cool to see someone who is actually doing it. Enjoy your time in this magical place!

    – Christina Marie
    The Refined Palate

    • k8peterson says:

      I will I will! And if you ever find an opportunity to do so, you really should come here to teach English. It’s an incredible experience, and has sincerely changed my life forever. You are lucky to be Greek-American! 🙂

  18. Great post! Just one thing — I beg to differ about not really doing “ancient” in Montana, or anywhere in the US. I spent 6 months in Israel many years ago and people were always saying everything is new in Canada (I’m a Canuck), nothing old. And my response was always, are you kidding me? Where, around here (the Middle East) do you find forests that are literally thousands of years old? And the first peoples of the Americas were here 10,000 years before white folks came along — I’ve done archaeology in Canada and in Israel and, believe me, the stuff they dig up in Canada is older. Ancient is in the eye of the beholder. I admit to being utterly amazed to walk down the stone steps into old Jerusalem and thinking these were the same steps walked by folks 2000 years ago, or wandering through the Sinai desert and marvelling at the byzantine crosses carved into the sandstone pillars that rise out of the desert floor like monuments to the dead. In North America, we don’t have a built environment that’s as old as that in countries like Greece and Israel, but we have a whole different kind of ancient. When you get back to this side of the world, come on up to BC and meander through Cathedral Grove, a stand of old-growth forest in the middle of Vancouver Island. Now that’s ancient!

    • k8peterson says:

      You know, that’s a really good point. I hadn’t thought of it that way. Thanks for sharing; I can see it from a different perspective now.

  19. simply7ayaty says:

    this looks like the Jeita Cave in Lebanon so awsome nice pics keep it up 🙂

    • k8peterson says:

      Thank you! I would love to go to Lebanon; while studying abroad in Marseille, I took Arabic for one semester, and my teacher was from Lebanon. He took us out to some of the Lebanese restaurants in Marseille, and they were amazing! What awesome food. It really piqued my interest in Lebanon. I’d love to go someday.

  20. Sohbet says:

    güzel resimler

  21. Pingback: My Weekend With Sokratis | Travel to Kelantan

  22. Ascentive says:

    Dragons Cave looks amazing! I’ve always wanted to visit Greece and your pictures make me want to do so even more, they are all stunning. Looks like you had a great time.

  23. Pingback: My Weekend With Sokratis | Travel to Johor

  24. saltybi11 says:

    Looks like that would have been a really fun time! Glad you enjoyed it.

  25. Greece is one country I admire but have yet to visit.. Hopefully I’ll make it there very soon, thanks for the lovely post!

  26. newsy1 says:

    I’ve only been to Greece once, many years ago. You brought back great memories, especially the warm people and great food. Your pictures are fantastic.

  27. Jules says:

    lovely story, you must be the coolest teacher ever! i had no idea that Greece had a cave, wow!

    • k8peterson says:

      Hahaha, thanks, I try! And yes, Greece has many, many caves. Some of the most famous are in Crete, and a few have cool legends connected with them–in fact, you can even visit the cave where, legend has it, Zeus was born!

  28. yp25 says:

    Please put down some stuffed grape leaves for me as often as you can. I miss Greece so much. I’d love to go there again to introduce my husband to the amazing architecture, the “oldness” as you said, the beautiful language, culture and incredible food.

    Kalinixta sas.

    http://www.thelittlepoetinpanama.blogspot.com

    • k8peterson says:

      …Really? Dolmadakia? FINE. I GUESS I can choke down some more dolmadakia for you. It’s going to be hard. But someone has to do it.

      😉

  29. asad123 says:

    Is this blog sponsored by the Greek Board of Tourism? 🙂

  30. Regina says:

    Thanks for sharing! I love Greece! I love the Greek people, their food, their music, their dancing! I’ve been to Greece five times and I am planning to go there again next year. My best friend lives there. Enjoy your time in this paradise!!!

    • k8peterson says:

      Aha, a fellow addict! I am planning on coming back and coming back and coming back… totally, shamelessly hooked!! Have a great trip next year!

  31. sketchjay says:

    beautiful posts

  32. Pingback: My Weekend With Sokratis | slopestreetcats.com

  33. hehetuan says:

    Enjoyed the read

  34. Lovely! And such a delight to see Kastoria in your photos. I live about 50 kilometres north of the city, beside the Prespa Lakes. I’ve spent a lot of time over the years by the lake in Kastoria and exploring the monastery in your images so it was a joy to see these treasures in your post this morning! There’s nothing quite like being welcomed into a Greek family….

    Hope you’re enjoying Thessaloniki!

    Best wishes,
    Julian

    • k8peterson says:

      You’re lucky to live so close to the city; it’s so beautiful! I’ve never been to the Prespa Lakes, but perhaps on my next visit to Kastoria I’ll venture up North. 🙂

  35. As a Greek girl I yearn for my homeland…thanks for the quick trip home through your pictures and stories.

    Congrats on being Freshly Greeced, I mean Freshly Pressed.
    Blessings,

    Ava
    xox

  36. thefty says:

    Aw, this has made me a little bit homesick. I’m Greek, and one of my best friends os from Kastoria. It’s a beautiful town. Enjoy it for me!

    • k8peterson says:

      I will, and in the meantime, go find or make some great Greek food! (Not that you need any encouraging, I’m sure :D) Food is such a great way to reconnect with your home, even from really far away. You’re lucky to be Greek!

  37. Pingback: My Weekend With Sokratis (via wrap me in phyllo dough) « I Draw A Rainbow When The Sun Is Shining

  38. richannkur says:

    Nice pictures…

  39. wow 🙂 what a beautiful post. this family sounds so lovely what a great experience!

  40. Nice shots of the cave. The lights created a cool effect on the images. 🙂

  41. Foteini says:

    What a beautiful post and how different from all that awful things that are said about us, Greeks. Thank you very much! I was living in Thessaloniki for 6 years, while I was studying there: unforgettable years…. I am from Serres, a city very near to Thessaloniki: actually, Serres has some wonderful sceneries to visit, if you get the chance – Lake Kerkini, Alistrati’s Cave are some of these. I wish you the best!

    • k8peterson says:

      Wonderful! We have a couple of students from Serres at the American Farm School; I’ve heard great things about it. I’d love to visit someday!

  42. 老虎 says:

    Such a lovely journey. Greetings from China.

  43. seilann says:

    I read because I saw you on freshly pressed and have been considering applying to Fulbright to teach in Greece — lo and behold, I get here and you’re already doing that! It’s like a sign! 😀

    I will definitely be reading your posts from now on. Thank you for sharing your experiences!

  44. Roc says:

    Such a wonderful land.

  45. CrystalSpins says:

    Greece is so on my MUST SEE list. Thanks for a little taste!

    Crystal

  46. DK says:

    How nice 🙂

  47. trialsinfood says:

    great post. dragon’s cave looks amazing!

  48. realanonymousgirl2011 says:

    That looks like a wonderful time! My friend is going to Greece in less than 2 weeks and I was supposed to go but have to go to Chicago and NY for family obligations instead….oh, well one day!

  49. Pingback: My Weekend With Sokratis (via wrap me in phyllo dough) « cocoonstage

  50. cattieee says:

    Greece looks Awesome!
    As well as sunny

  51. Carl says:

    incredibly good photos 🙂

  52. Pingback: The Wrap Me in Phyllo Dough 100th Post Spectacular! | wrap me in phyllo dough

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s