The journey to Greece was an interesting one. Matthieu and I had never been to the country but had always wanted to visit. We were excited, eager, and happy to be leaving Istanbul to make our way south to where it was warmer. Before we could arrive in Greece we had to first leave the swarming city centre of Istanbul by bus and take with us all of our belonging, which now included the bicycle and trailer of Matthieu’s that he had cycled with from France to Istanbul.
After being denied entry into the underground metro we pulled back up the escalator the bicycle and trailer with the help of a young Turkish man named Rezan. He helped us to board a city bus which would take us all the way to the international bus station where we would catch our ride to Thessaloniki. We left Istanbul at nine in the evening and were due to arrive in Thessaloniki in the early hours of the morning.
The bus stopped at the Turkish border where we all filled out to the passport control office of Turkey. We got our exit stamps, boarded the bus, and drove across the river to the border of Greece. On exiting the bus I was the first to descend and handover my passport to the police officer standing by. It was around one a.m. and I was somewhere between being half awake and half asleep. He looked at me and looked at my passport. I started cursing inside of my head.
“Where are you going?”
The first question of hundreds to come…
He lead me into the station where I was asked about my entire life and every aspect of it by three different officers. All of the questions ended with the one they repeated over and over again…
“Do you smoke?”
Great. They think I am a drug smuggler. They lead me into another room with a woman officer who asked for me to remove all of my clothing. She had an apalling positive outlook on the whole situation and smiled at me with a consistent cheer. I wanted to be nice to her an account of her warmth but it was so difficult because of my accumulated irritation and anger. I left the room to then sit in a hallway while I watched by bag be searched by the officers.
It was by the far worst greeting I have ever experienced on arriving in a new country. I immediately wanted to leave. When we arrived in Thessaloniki I was tired, completely on edge, and found myself at a booth at the train station debating whether to buy a package of cigarettes to help me feel better.
Nonetheless, and despite how uncomfortable our passage was, we made it to Thessaloniki at half past six, and such began our first taste of Greece. I did not like Athens so much as I found it congested, dirty, and I felt quite unsafe. In a few days I was happy to board a ferry to take us south to the Island of Crete.
We arrived at the port just outside of the city of Chania. We hitched a ride into the city centre with a family who had been onboard of the boat beside of us. That evening we met a French couple at a small corner store by the waterfront. They invited us to stay with them onboard of their sailboat, where they lived and traveled the world. We stayed with them moored on the water for one week.
I love Chania. I have been here for about three weeks now and I still do not want to leave. The city is small with about seventy thousand inhabitants. The spirit of Chania and its people are wonderful. There are so many artists, musicians, and conscience young people who have created a warm and colourful community alive with a positive atmosphere of unity and one that is built on the philosophy of helping others.
I believe I will spend a few more weeks exploring the other villages of the island before returning to Istanbul in the middle of March to work at a conference with my friend Steve Estey. I look forward to when the sun is shining here that brings temperatures to about twenty five degrees, to playing music in the old town at the port with my friends, and for long walks by the sea and the mountains. All of the food in Chania is grown organically and locally. At this time of year most of the cuisine is vegan as people give up all meat and dairy products for lent… Lucky me
So sometimes as difficult as a journey is, the arrival to where you are going brings a bliss and happiness that makes the tales of the journey negligible, and makes your presence at your destination triumphant and glowing with happiness. I am here. I made it. It is paradise.