The School of Hard Naxos

Life is slow on the Greek islands (at least while the sun is up). I’m convinced that there’s some type of magical magnetic field one enters into on the Greek islands where the second hand of the clock simply ticks slower.

I can’t tell you how many back porches I’ve strolled by with one person sitting with minimal clothing on, cigarette slowly burning, apparently just watching their clothes dry.

One of the things I’ve loved most about the Greek islands is what I get to see when I wander outside of the hustle n’ bustle of the tourist crowds. I love seeing the local shopkeepers softly singing in Greek while sweeping up bits of debris off of the who-knows-how-old narrow passageways in whatever town I wander my way into.

I sat next to an English woman on the bus who had been contracted down to Greece for some type of art exhibit thing (she was a ceramic artist), and she said that the hardest adjustment to make was the adjustment to the Greek concept of time and getting tasks knocked out.

But I like it. It’s one of the things I was looking forward to before I left. Trust me, I love knocking out tasks, because without it I’d be without the job I love and probably wouldn’t be anywhere near graduating college. But I feel that I need to be Greek’d for some period of time every day in my life, so I can stop and smell the roses (or ouzo and cigarette smoke if you’re in Santorini). Not to mention that intentional rest and peace is biblical. Cigarettes and Ouzo? Eh, I think it’s somewhere in there…

My ferry pulled into Naxos late Sunday afternoon. I spent the evening just sitting on the edge of the beach, just… sitting and watching the sun sink into the sea.

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My first full day was quiet, slow-paced, and peaceful. I dedicated the day to checking out the inland towns of Halki, Moni, and Filoti. When I rented my moped, I didn’t expect to be as blown away as I was 10 minutes into my ride. After driving over the crest of the small mountain behind Naxos Town (where I stayed), the expanse of the island floored me (inwardly, of course. Being floored on a moped would not be safe). The only thing I can compare it to is Colorado. Except crank the heat, lower the elevation, take out all the trees, and surround it all with the Mediterranean Sea. “Greece? Like Colorado? Say what, Carlyle?” Yes. The mountains were enormous and astounding.

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I took a 2-minute tour of the two-roomed citron distillery in Halki. Citron is a liquer made in Naxos from the Citron fruit. I looks like a over-sized lime, but exotic and mysterious because it’s on a Greek island.

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The whole day I simply wandered, hiked, got lost (the ususal), drove my way back to Naxos Town and ended with citron, grilled swordfish, and a sunset on Agios Georgios Beach.

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The following day was dedicated mostly to conquering Mount Zeus (“Zas” in Greek). Just the name makes me feel strong. Mount Zeus is the highest peak in the Cyclades and a gorgeous but challenging hike. On the way up is the Cave of Zeus, where the famous Greek god is said to have been born.

It was dark, and I was by myself on the side of a mountain, so give me a break here. I tiptoed my way into the darkness as far as I could see with my dimly-lit flashlight, and tried to find a baby-sized lightening bolt or something to take home with me. No luck. I tried to remember the words to the songs from Disney’s Hercules, but it had been too long, so I just stuck to taking pictures.

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I reached the peak about 2 hours later and was floored again by the view I had. 360 degrees of Naxos.

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I hiked down and scoot-scooted my way to Agios Prokopios Beach to cap my afternoon.

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I ended with a sunset dinner of moussaka and citron at the port. And I learned a lesson in humility as I was shown a beautiful act of grace from the man at Tony’s Bikes who, thanks to me, has a large scratch on the side of his Suzuki moped.

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A 6 hour ferry ride the next morning took me to Athens where I met my hosts for the night, the Westons (friends of the Hillners), who fed me well, walked me a bit around Athens, and gave me a cozy air-conditioned night of sleep.

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One train ride, 20 minutes in El Al security, 100 minutes in the air, and an hour on the Egged bus line later, I’m in Jerusalem, through Jaffa Gate, and settled into my place in the Old City.

I’m very excited about Israel. I asked the Lord to make Himself all the more real to me over the next 5 days. I know the Holy Spirit lives inside of me, not necessarily only inside of the Holy Land (phew, thank goodness). But even on my way over here I felt something different about coming to the piece of the Earth where the sovereign Creator that made the Sun, the concept of time, and the aortic valve in my chest, came to walk with and have compassion for the creations that He hand-stitched together.

And of course, I’ll give you all a Travel Channel-esque description of the local cuisine I chow on while I’m here too.

Shalom,

Carlyle

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