Τρίτη, 24 Ιουλίου 2012

Day 3: Randa - Zermatt - Rifferlalp

can you see the face in the rock?
 As soon as the daylight lit my room, my eyes opened. Way before the alarm clock. It was six in the monring. I run to the window, taking in the first images of the day.

I made the first coffee of the day, using my own personal espresso mashine, intalled in my room! I loved that detail! I munched on the bar of the chocolate. Outside it was foggy and raining. I thought of the locals. Is this their summer? And then I thought they must make enough money to be able to go on vacation somewhere sunny like Greece. Maybe they even like this kind of weather!

Again I contemlated the fact I was there. I had created this reality.

The reason I was in Switzerland was one of Jonah's Intensives. It is the name used for his seminars. The teacher I have often mentioned in this blog and I love so much because they give us information on how to get out of our survival mode and give the power back to ourselves instead of just following anyone. Saturday and Sunday were going to be learning days.

I had dreamt of this journey 2 years back, when Jonah and Hossca had given a seminar in the same place. I always wondered if it was possible for me to do it the "difficult" way instead of just going to the Athens Intensive being held in March. The previous winter, I made a decision. To save 10% of MY money for a journey. Not Andonis's money, the money that came in for his illness from donations of friends and family. My money. The small amount that I got for babysitting and the occasional help I got from my parents. Back then I did not know the destination, all I knew was that I would not open that piggy back for any reason.

 The destination became clear last April.

So here I was, drinking my coffee in Switzerland. As I was there sitting outside the hotel, smoking and drinking my capuccino, I realised that the rocks on the mountain have faces. Sleeping faces, angry faces... The mysterious faces of  the mountain. I also see faces on trees. A gift Antonis gave me. The capacity to see the faces of nature.

I had a warm monring chat with Elena and gave her a masticha-sesame bar as a gift. The one I bought back in the Athens airport.

There was an 8.00 train to Zermatt. I got offered a lift to Tash, but I already had bought the train ticket.

I walked in Randa under a light drizzle, adimiring the architecture, the vegetable gardens and the colourful flowers on the porches.

By 8.20 I was in Zermatt. Very early for our 9.00 appointment.

This gave me the opportunity to wonder around a bit....

The time passed and we got on a train that goes up to Gornergrat and stops in Riferlalp. 2222 m altitude. I could not see much from the train since the fog was still there. I admired the beauty of fog.

While waiting for the seminar to start, I wandered around this hotel, which had wonderful details: the sculpture of a cow, old sleds, old toys, even a small wooden train!

The seminar started and we learned a lot. I do not wish to share the content of the seminar. I believe that, whoever wants to know more about their teachings can use the links in this blog.

Meanwhile, the weather got better, the wind came and it cleared up a bit. Their majesties, the mountains, honoured us by revealing themselves.

Lunch break was in the luxurious reataurant of Riferlalp hotel. Italian cuisine once more. Penne al Pesto. Simply delicious.

By the time the seminar finished for the day, Mattrerhorn was clear. All I wanted to do was lie down on the grass, in the bright sunshine and look at this rock. I breathed the clear air and took in the sunshine. This was heaven.

Time to go back to Zermatt. In the train and down to the town. Wondered around, sat down with friends, had beautiful conversations and enjoyed the afternoon. Time to go back to Randa. In the train and down the valley. I did not think of myself as a tourist, but as a traveller. 4 trains in one day! A beautiful day...

The weather had changed so many times today... It was unbelievable for me, the stranger. I guess the mountain is not an easy thing, just like the sea is not easy. You have to repect it's force and go with the flow.

Back in Randa things where quiet. They way I like them to be. I made a mental note to try and see the river up close if I had the time.

A warm talk with Elena, a free salad for the waiting, carbonara from Maurizio and off to bed. A was knackered!

2 b continued...

Σάββατο, 21 Ιουλίου 2012

Day 2: Milano - Tash - Zermatt - Randa

Very early in the morning I woke up, ate my pizza for breakfast, got my back pack and got out.

I needed a coffee, so I was so glad to see a coffee place open at 7 in the morning in a street corner.

Only locals were on the streets at this hour so I had my capuccino looking at people going to their work on bicycles and early trams doing their routine.

Milano Centrale
It reminded me of Athens on a hot summer day.

Cafferine and nicotine running in my blood, I headed to the Mussolini train station.

Took the train to the airport, waited for the girls to arrive.

I was told there would be a guy waiting with Sylvia's name on a plate.

Italy from the car
I waited long to see her name and my mind was playing games of disaster as always: "You will not find them. You are at the wrong terminal. You will have to take the train to Zermatt."

Finally, I saw the plate, the name, the guy... Water on my mind's fire...

He gave me the plate with the name so he could go out and smoke a cigarette. Here I was, holding the plate! When they saw me, they thought I was their driver! Being the gypsy that I am, I looked like a damn alternative driver!

switzerland from the car
Made the aquaintances, lovely ladies, lovely driver...

Three hours to Tash, the final station before Zermatt.

We passed many lakes before the Italian border, the biggest is Lago Maggiore, which means Big Lake in Italian.

As we drove north, bigger, taller mountains came into our sight. The tallest ones still had snow on their tops!

typical swiss arcitecture...
noone could tell me why
they make houses like this
We reached the Italian-Swiss border and the landscape started changing. Waterfalls, rivers, tunnels... The Swiss have tunnels with rivers running above them! You could see the cows eating grass on green fields and small wodden villages on mountain tops. The Alps.... Heidi would surely be somewhere around here!

Majestic and grand. A sense of power overwhelmed me. I was finally there.

Mountains give me a sense of freshness, a sense of power and I usually get emotional on mountains, I cry a lot. Who knows why...
goats in Zermatt
Now make a picture in your mind. A valley with a river running through and three villages in a row. Randa is lower (1406 m), Tash is a bit higher (1449 m) and Zermatt is the last one in the row and higher above (1620 m). I had booked a hotel in Randa which I will talk about later.

When we arrived in Tash we took the train to Zermatt. It was sunny and warm. A stop in Sylvia's hotel and then out to see the village. Wooden houses with flowers on the balconies, the river with white (freezing I imagine) water from the glaciers... Again very touristic, very expensive and full of Japanese bless them....

After a delicious sandwich from a local bakery and some talkng with the rest of the friends who where already in Zermatt, it was time to go back to Tash and on to Randa to see my hotel and eat a proper dinner.

Trains in Switzerland are like clocks. They work perfectly and you can enjoy the scenery from the huge windows.

I even saw a camping site next to the river and thought they must be freezing at night! These people must be very well equipped to camp in the Alps, co sidering the temperature goes to 0 degrees at night and rising up to 10-15 degrees during day time...

Randa was 15 minutes away from Zermatt. The hotel is one of the last buildings of the village. When I got off the train I thought that this is EXACTLY where I wanted to stay. In a non touristic place. And this village was perfect! On my way to the hotel, I met one old person who smiled and said hello. I greeted him and went my way.

The hotel was fantastic. The owner, Italian Maurizio showed me to my room which was a delight. Would I need a duvet in July? I most certainly would! As soon as I left the room, I went out in the open. Rain was drizzling but it did not stop me.

There was a forest behind the hotel and I walked in the paths which were endless and very well singed for the hikers. I sat on a bench, smelling the trees and listening to the sounds of the forest. Big rocks behind me formed the infamous Alps. Squirrels. Birds. I sat with my back against the tree.

How on earth did I manage to get here? It was a miracle, a dream come true. A dream I believed so strongly, it became true. I wished Freeda was here with me! She would happily run among the trees and chase the birds she could not catch...

My stomach started rumbling, so I went to eat in the hotel's reastaurant. A wooden trattoria with Italian food.  I cose the tagliatelle with wild boar. And a glass of wine. This is where I met Elena, Maurizio's wife. A tall lady with a big smile. She made sure I was ok. She even brought me a salad Maurizio had made because I would wait for the main course. He had put a rose inside... Such a beautiful gesture...

The day had come to an end. I went to bed early and set up my alarm for 6.30 the next morning. The reason I was here would be fulfilled tomorrow.

2b continued...

ps blogger is giving me a hard time with the right lining of photographs. So I decided to change the format a bit. Do you prefer this one, or the previous one? I'd love to hear your feedback...

Τετάρτη, 18 Ιουλίου 2012

Day 1: Milano

I have been planning this trip for the past three months. Zermatt - a village on the Swiss Alps - would be my final destination.

The day came to take the train to Athens and another train to the Airport.

Trains are lovely and I met a wonderful girl with Downs Syndrome and her mom, who were also going to Athens. We had a lot to talk about and we became friends! I love trains, because one can make unexpected aquaintances...

milano centrale
There was a lot of waiting, looking around the shops of the airport... I did not buy anything, just some masticha sweets in case I wanted to munch on something while travelling...

On this trip, I was really proud of travelling light, just one small back pack. I am training myself to travel light. Since I was travelling to the Alps, the weather would be cold and I had to have warm clothes, which take much space in the suitcase.

My favorite part of flying is take off and landing. I could not stop looking down from my window... It was sensational.

I arrived in Milano expecting the weather to be cold, but in fact it was really hot and humid. 

Took the train from the airport to Milano Centrale, the central station of Milano.

The station left me speechless. It was really grand, tall ceilings, carvings on the wall, a real piece of art but also in the spirit of Mussolini: make buildings bigger - taller - full with carvings, he wanted it all.

 I wandered around to find my hotel, which I did not check on the map... The area is full of hotels and full of tourists. Milano even has trams, something I did not know and surprised me! Found the hotel. It was on the 4th floor of an old building. The elevator was one of these ancient elevators in which you can see the booth descending. It just about fit me and my backpack! These elevators can be intimidating, but I used to have an elevator like this when I lived on the 6th floor of an ancient block of flats in Athens. Very familiar. 

I would only spend some hours in this city. I was told by a friend to go see the Duomo, the main Cathedral. Left my luggage, put on a small dress - it was hot outside - took the metro and got to Duomo.

The metro is old and dirty, a bit like London's underground. Very sufficient and very easy to figure out. Like London.

The square of the Duomo was busy with tourists and expensive shops. Even Zara was really expensive, let alone Benetton... It was sales season, but still everything was too expensive.

Milano is a flat city, so most of the locals go around in bicycles. And they are sooo classy! Beautiful women wearing tiny dresses and high heels, riding beautiful, retro bicycles and handsome men in suits riding bicycles.  It is a stylish bicycle heaven! If I had more time I would surely pick up one of the bicycles from the renting sations scattered in the city...

The time passed and I felt my stomach complaining. I was hoping for dinner where the locals eat, not the busy tourist restaurants. Yet, I did not have the courage to walk any longer. I found myself next to a classy restaurant behind the Duomo. My mind was harassing me: It will be expensive. It will be crap. "What the hell" I thought, " I deserve a classy dinner next to the Duomo". I sat down and ordered a risoto milanese and a glass of white wine. I was waited on by a handsome smiling young Italian...

As the dawn approached, so did the mosquitoes. Zanzare in italian. I thought mosquitoes are a greek priviledge, but I was wrong. Small and vicious. Drank my blood like crazy, leaving white itchy circles on my skin...

Paid 20 euros for my dinner - not so much after all... - and took the metro back to the hotel.

On my way home I bought a pizza for breakfast from an extremely touristic restaurant near the hotel. When I went back to the room I discovered the pizza guy had made my pizza in the shape of a heart! Italians! I love their sense of humor!

I slept like a log with the company of a fan. I did not dare open the windows and get bitten by more mosquitoes...

I had an early start next morning.

I had to go back to the airport to meet Sylvia - whom I did not know - and some other Greeks who were arriving to go to Zermatt on a rented mini bus....

2b continued....

Παρασκευή, 6 Ιουλίου 2012

Excavation II, being a tourist in your own area...

We joined the excavation for three days.

We did not really participate in the digging because we are no experts, but we learned a lot and we saw the foundation of a building come out of the soil.

It was the first time I actually saw archaiologists work in situ and I felt exhitement while the building was coming into the light.

The idea that people were living there years ago, was really new to me! Temperatures were really harsh, but they were working under the shade of a temporary shelter.

Some people hope that this excavation is in the tracks of Achilles kingdom, but in truth there are many different places in the region that fight over this. It will take a lot of time and research to see the time frame of this village yet to be excavated. Nevertheless, it was interesting to hear all views about this and have conversations over the subject.

Me and my friend G. Decited to treat the whole week as an exploration - hiking - swiming week. The first day it was the river I talked about in my last post. The second day we decided to go to an inside swiming pool with thermal water. Our region is full of thermal  fountains and this is one of them. It was such a luxury having hot water come down my neck, massaging me with its force! Such a clearing experience! The pool had different spots so you could massage different parts of your body: your neck, your spine, your feet, your abdomen....

Pure bliss... the rest of the day was spent relaxing and sleeping a lot!

Excavation continued the next day and we were planning to go swim in another thermal site, but they were closed. isntead we had iced tea under a huge tree in a forgotten village, speaking to the locals and relaxing in the shade. It was siesta time so noone was around. We walked around in the deserted hot streets of the village, eating fruit from the trees and talking about the joys of life.

The whole area is pretty underdeveloped but it's really charming. Most of the villages stand on the banks of the river. In the summer it is pretty dry. They still have flour water mills, gun powder mills and they make traditional tsipouro. The locals are proud of their villages and will always bring out their extra cold water for you to drink when its hot. They will treat you with their traditional sweets. They will stand and watch you leave, the way your grand mother would stand there with a smile on her face.

My week was really exhiting and I can't wait to do some more exploring!

Τρίτη, 3 Ιουλίου 2012


Today and for the rest of the week, I volunteered for an arcaeological excavation!

I'm a first-timer in this and it was really interesting. 

I was expecting an Indiana Jones kind of setup, but it was really nothing like that.  

We went to the mountain really early in the morning, before July's heat came burning. Some knowing people took us in a place where you could see fragments of pottery lying about in the dirt. The place is believed to have something to do with Achilles. They have scanned underground and found remains of a town. This happened last year and this year they will begin digging. 

I got the impression they are hoping to dig up something important, but they will not know until later. 

Today they put up the poles indicating the excavation area. All we did as volunteers was look and walk around. Fresh air and HUGE grass-hoppers!

We then left and were planning a walk in the river. 

We took our shoes off and cooled our feet into the river's fresh water. Blue dragonflies were the residents of this magical place! it was the first time I put my feet into a river. It was so refreshing!

This is a different summer and I love it!

Δευτέρα, 2 Ιουλίου 2012

The river is flowing

So the word was spread that me and my sister are into children, theater and the arts.

We got invited to do it next week.

A two day activity project in nature which involves children putting up tents and spending the night in nature with their parents. In between they are going to be entertained by art and theater activities.

Very creative and very new to me. It is surely going to be fun!