Monday, November 15, 2010
In my light sleeping bag, insulated from the cold stone of the café floor by no more than a thin foam mat, I slept surprisingly well. In order to offer us hot drinks and breakfast before we left Epidauros the café manager arrived especially early to open up.
That two days in close company was easing our initial reserve became apparent when, over our hot drinks and fresh pastries, Karin began to tell us something of her early life. She had been born in Liepzig, East Germany, in 1949. She had lived happily there until, when she was eight years old, her parents, unhappy with the system under which they had been obliged to live since the end of the war, left the tyrannies of Soviet Socialism for a free life in the West. Listening to her narrating her story I could not imagine how painful this must have been for her and her family. At that time the metro on which Karin and her family escaped was still running through both the eastern and western parts of Berlin. The Wall, and the murderous full partitioning that came with it, was not built until 1961. Compared to the risks taken by post-1961 escapees, Karin's family may have made a relatively easy crossing but the wrench must have been unimaginably grim, particularly for the children who, in an instant, had to abandon all they knew, home, toys, friends, everything, without even the chance of a farewell. Arrival in the West had also been difficult for Karin; Easterners, then as now, were not particularly welcome in the West. It was then that Salina remarked on how many similarities there were between Karin's story and her own. Salina had been born in China from where, when she was yet a child, her family fled with her to Hong Kong. I have never experienced the tyranny of totalitarianism. I have enjoyed a free life and taken for granted a right when dissatisfied to either speak up fearlessly for my beliefs or to 'vote with my feet', to hear the stories of less fortunate folk emphasised my good fortune, something about which I shall never be complacent.
We left the ancient site by the main road but soon picked up tracks that led us in the general direction of Argos, our next objective. The stroll was less dramatic than that of the previous day; more undulating than steep. We stopped for a while to eat a picnic lunch in an olive grove, allowing the heat of the middle of the day to ease a little before moving on. Later in the afternoon the sky clouded over and we argued the merits of staying for the night under the shelter of the terrace roof of a locked church at which we had stopped for a further rest. The well beside the church, its murky water further contaminated with an accumulation of detritus, was immediately dismissed as a source of drinking water. The church offered scant shelter and no fresh water. Thick clouds had gathered. Rain threatened. Afternoon would soon be passing into evening. A vote was taken concerning whether we should stay and make the most of what little the locked church had to offer or to move on to the next village, Arcadiko, and the possibility of finding greater comfort there. The four of us who voted to move on won the day.
By so doing I missed a lot of fun. Not all of the villagers were happy with our using their church as a dormitory and, as I innocently slept, a deputation of dissenters had arrived at the church intent on removing us. Quite a row then ensued between some of my fellow walkers, dissenting villagers and a group of our original benefactors the outcome of which was that, rather than risking further trouble, we accepted expulsion from the church packed up and wandered bleary-eyed into the night. Earlier we had been offered use of the village schoolroom for the night so, having nowhere else to go, we first went there only to find a most unaccommodating janitor who had very obviously been briefed that we were on our way and who had no intention of letting a bunch of itinerant, non-orthodox, foreigners into the building of which he had charge. We wandered back into and through the village to an olive grove beyond, which had to serve us as a dormitory for what was left of a fortunately clear dry night.