γεια σας aka Yassas (pronounced "YAH-sas" which i initially mispronounced as “yasssssss”) means helloooo in Greek (when speaking to more than one person or formally and obvs im totes superrrrr formal!!)
After years of promising my bffl/former roommate/girl crush forever, christa, that i would visit her in greece... i finally did it!! (I know... huge sacrifice, right??!) after losing my passport at the frikin gate (nightmare scenario come true!), i made a quick stop to the US embassy where they issued me an emergency passport in less than 30 minutes, rebooked my flight (about 120euros, ain’t budget airlines great?!?) and made my way to Santorini a few days later. While i was initially supposed to meet some gal pals from NY on the island of Milos, my delay created a logistical nightmare, so i skipped out (boooo!!)
So santorini.... what can i say?? Thousands of years ago a colossal volcanic eruption caused the centre of Strongili to sink, leaving a caldera with towering cliffs along the east side – now Santorini’s trademark landscape. Its the quintessential Greek postcard image with its multicoloured cliffs soar out of a sea-drowned caldera, topped by drifts of whitewashed buildings.
And yes, its just as pretty in person as it is in photos... but with huge hordes of people clamoring for the perfect instagram shot.
Santorini is one of the most popular wedding/honeymoon destinations and i arrived at the height of high season.
Everyone in the town seemed to be both glammed up and paired up. And then.... there was me *cues all by myself* (my b word was kitesurfing in portugal, in case you were wondering. Last time and only time i’ll mention him)
After eating a few meals made for two (yes... many restaurants made meals intended for two people which i shamelessly ate alone!) and hiking 6 miles in flipflops, in mid-day (no shade on the trail!) from fira (capital of santorini) to oia where i stubbed my toe halfway and was aided by a fabulous gay Australian couple on their honeymoon (#lovewins!) and turned up haggard and dusty, interrupting professional photo shoots, i decided to get out of there ASAP (also there aren’t any real good beaches there and who doesn’t go to greece in the summer for beaches?!) but not before i stopped at the winery to sample so local delicacies (met a ton of lovely couples who were on their honeymoon or just got engaged!)
I flew in to kefalonia (a little buzzed, clutching my passport for dear life) where i met christa and her boyfriend, Grig. i never met grig, but heard stories about him so i was super happy to finally meet him (and see her — duh!!)
Kefalonia also spelt Cephalonia is the largest of the Ionian Islands in western Greece and the 6th largest island in Greece. The island’s international claim to fame was thanks in part to Nicholas Cage’s horrible Italian accent in the movie “Captain Corelli's Mandolin” which was filmed on the island. There are also loads of beautiful beaches, including Myrtos, Antisamos, and Skala... plus some cute towns (a few which were parking spots for massive yachts) so what else were we supposed to do other than explore, be beach bums, and eat and drink loads of yummy Greek products, including Kefallonitiki kreatopita (island speciality!) which is a baked pastry stuffed with mutton, pork and beef, and the addition of other ingredients: onions, garlic, potatoes, rice, spices and tomato.(Greek food is my favorite!! And its healthy.. right?!) Greeks like to eat late and sleep-in so it was like paradise for me!!
We spent august 15 in kefalonia, which for most unknowledgeable americans like myself, is actually a big holiday across europe and latin america. In Greek, dekapentavgoustos (literally translated to the 15th of August) is among the top three most celebrated holidays in Greece, along with Easter and Christmas. It is a national and religious holiday that marks the “falling asleep,” repose or kimisis of the Virgin Mary, mother of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Feast also commemorates the Assumption of the body of the Theotokos into heaven.
While it is a very religious holiday, it usually also means one huge celebration, which the greeks call a paniyiri (basically a party held in the town square where at some point a slightly inebriated old pappou will show off his dancing skills in front of the whole town to prove that hes still got ittt!!) after getting me all hyped for this party (nothing more i love than live music and participating in a traditional dance!) we actually couldn’t find one on our side of the island... which was a litttle disappointing but ok since we ended up having to wake up to catch the ferry to the next island over
When we arrived to Zakynthos, i was greeted by mama and papa calbos (paul and cathy!) who drove us to their gorgeous villa, which overlooked the sea, complete with ceiling to floor windows, and private pools + bbq pit. Basically heaven (especially if you ever get a chance to mrs. calbos’ food zomg... i dream about her cooking!) the best part was that the villa was brand spanking new (they were the first guests!) and the owner, Vagelis, a former pro basketball player who bought the property 10 years ago and finally got it up and running, was so attentive and always around to make the place feel like home.
We had so many amazing homecooked meals, which were perfect after a day of swimming. The best part of staying with the Calbos clan though is the wealth of knowledge i always gather from our conversations... they’re a family of thoughtful and adventurous intellects, who’s actions and words speak volumes.
mr. calbos was the US army attache to greece in the late 90s/early 2000s which was a tumultuous time in the region. Yugoslavia was at war, and the revolutionary Organization 17 November, a Greek far-left militant organization, was conducting an extensive urban guerrilla campaign against the Greek state, banks, and businesses, as well as American, Turkish, and British citizens. (The group disbanded in 2002 after the arrest and trial of many of its members, suspiciously right before the 2004 Olympics held in Athens....) hearing his stories, which are always contextualized with some history, is always super fascinating.
Mrs. Calbos is also another force of nature.. she’s kind, compassionate, witty, and adventurous. she grew up in a small town in oklahoma, and left with to travel with world with mr. calbos, then later, christa and nick. she is one of strongest people i know. and again, a fantastic cook and a thoughful, kind person.
Christa’s brother nick, who i unfortunately missed, is just as captivating.. west point grad who just finished up business school at columbia and always manages to get us the ultimate hook-ups (he’s the one that found the villa!) he’s hilarious, thoughtful, and always fun to grab a drink with (ps: if you’re a single gal... drop me a message haha.. especially if you’re greek cus that would make mrs. calbos happy #notsponsored)
And christa... zomg i can sing her praises until eternity. She is one of the strongest, most passionate, and well-spoken people i know, but also completely grounded and down to earth. She was working on the refugee crisis in Greece, which is not an easy job at all, but she did it with dedication and purpose, which is something i’ve always admired about her. We met while studying abroad in South Africa and she became my roommate in NY, in my first grown up apartment when i had my first grown up job... so we’ve been thru a lot.
Literally meeting christa and her family and friends completely changed my life... she was the person who introduced me to the world of third culture kids... to people who led alternative lifestyles, who moved and traveled constantly, and who had seen and done so much than i had. She was my friend who hustled in NY, who pursued her passions, which ultimately led to her packing her bag and using her limited funds to travel, because why not? (Im obviously romanticizing a lot of this, families and especially the children of family’s who travel a lot, can have their own problems trying to find stability, to build a community, to have a “normal” life... ) any way, i love her, i love her family, and i’m almost positive i would not be traveling and living the drea if it wasn’t for her..
ANYWAY, zakynthos was great. Being away from my family is always a little hard, but having the calbos’ around made things better... AND IN A TURN OF GOOD LUCK... we ended up finding a panayiri after all!!! it was dedicated to saint Dimitrios but it wasn’t on his normal dedicated “day”. It was the day the church had dedicated their church bell tower to this saint, so they decided to just celebrate it, which was fine by me!!
Sadly we had to leave island life after a few blissful days since the Calbos’ were leaving back to the US, and Greg was starting his new job back in Thess... luckily that gave me time to explore the mainland... which i’ll get to on my next post!!