Arianna, a law graduate living in London, contrasts London life to life in Aegina and describes a day on the island, a cathartic experience that soothes her soul after intensive studying towards demanding law exams. Read on and enjoy.
This year was a year like no other. It was long, tiring, frustrating and for a young person living in London in my twenties, witnessing the ‘best years of my life’ being dominated by Brexit, a financial downfall, job prosperity radically plummeting, businesses closing and thousands of people dying due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I could not help but to feel pessimistic and fed-up. Amongst the catastrophe, I was lucky enough to be studying towards my postgraduate law degree, a silver lining, which although exhausting, distracted me from my surroundings and left me no free time in the day. My exams took place online in August and dragged on until the end of September, after which I can vow with certainty that I was happier than ever to be returning to Aegina.
When I returned to Aegina summer was over. The tourist season had ended and almost none of my friends were on the island. They had either visited for the holidays and already left, or returned to the mainland to attend their universities. By this point, the strict lockdown had not been imposed, and it was possible to attend leisure spots, if you were a maximum of six people. I was alone with my parents, who cherished having one of their children back at home, happy they had a third person other than themselves in the house to converse with. I still had a research essay to submit so I would study most days, but my parents always attempted to make Sundays a special day.
One of these many Sundays, during the midst of October, was incredibly memorable. I woke up after a lie-in and went for my usual run. I would start from my house and run all along the coast of the island. As it was a Sunday, the roads would be completely quiet. I would run with the sea beside me, watching it sparkle as if it had been covered in a blanket of crystals, see the same stray dog lying in the road at the same spot and would run until the ‘statue of the mother’ (a famous landmark on the island built by Christos Kapralos, depicting a sad looking mother). I then checked the time and hurried back before my own mother complained about me being late, as I was the one who had insisted to leave the house by 1pm latest, although I knew she would most certainly still be in her pyjamas drinking tea and doing a BBC quiz on her ipad. When I returned home, my blind dad, who is nowhere near the fittest person I know, was the one to suggest that we go to Paliahora for a walk to look at the medieval monasteries. Although I have lived on the island for most of my life, I had never actually walked up to Paliahora. My mum drove us to the church at the bottom of the mountain and we began to walk. It was quite steep but had small wildly-carved footpaths and was a highly enjoyable walk for us sight-seeing people, although a little more difficult for my dad. We reached the first monastery and walked in. It was incredibly old and beautiful and I read the history on the placard of it to my dad. We conversed about the historical significance and religion, as we frequently do, and then decided to walk up higher to the other monasteries, as he insisted we went to the one in which he could light a candle. As usual, he rejected any assistance from my mum, and managed to climb to the top monasteries without falling off the rocky cliff, which being an island in Greece obviously had no health and safety. After a while, we decided we had had enough and wanted to have lunch in Portes. My dad lit a candle in the church before leaving, which although not being a strong believer in religion myself, I found nostalgic as it reminded me of my giagia (Greek grandma) who lived on the island and would always ask me and my brothers when we were growing up, to light a candle for her on particular Saint’s days.
My mum drove us, and I blasted my bluetooth speaker with music that I knew my parents would enjoy. We would scream the lyrics and our favourite song was always Arletta’s ‘Bar to Navagio’ (shipwreck). We would play it on repeat, drive through the huge bright green trees in the mountains towards portes and stare at the beauty spots. My dad, being my dad, would explain the lyrics to my mum. My mum, being my mum, would not care at all and instead asked me to turn it up louder.
We arrived at Portes at the restaurant we wanted to try and it was fully packed. An old taverna just before you reach the beach called ‘Sophia’ but there was nowhere to park, so we decided to drive off to another taverna near Agia Marina, which again I had never been to. So we got back into the car, carried on blasting Arleta and reached taverna number two. When we arrived there, it was surprisingly busy again, and the owner told us all of the food had sold out, all he would have to serve us is potatoes. We got into the car again, shocked at how many people were out enjoying their Sunday lunches and resulted in us weaving our way to our usual taverna ‘Argyris’. A family owned taverna, with locally grown vegetables in the mountains of Mesagros who never disappoints us. My dad got his usual lamb slow cooked in a clay pot, I got a red kokkinisto with spaghetti, my mum got tender meat with homemade potatoes and we ordered a side of beans in red sauce, a melitzanosalata and barreled wine. It was an extremely happy day, we spoke about all of our driving, all of us quite high about how nice the day had been, all of our singing and the simple pleasures of life. Over the wine, we discussed politics (which if you know my dad always comes up as a topic), religion, history and career paths. My parents shared stories of living and working in England and then we eavesdropped, as we attempted to work out where the tourists who just arrived at the table next to us were from. It was getting late and my mum does not like to drive in the roads of Mesagros at night, as there are many bends and minimal lighting in the roads.
We left just as sunset, once again listening to Arleta and Haris Alexiou’s songs about the regime of the junta in 1974, emotional music that put us in a very peaceful mood. It seemed like an extremely different universe, the bubble of Aegina with my parents that Sunday. There had been no one in the mountains wearing a medical mask and there was no smell of the fried chicken shops which lingers in so many streets of London. There was no noise or movement of a tube and a feeling of rush. Rather, it was a view of the sea and the sunset, a taste of pure food and wine, the smell of the mountain trees and a feeling of contentment and peace looking out of the window of my mum’s little Atos Prime.
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