Tuesday, May 7, 2013

island lessons: The Kindness of Strangers

Today turned into a little adventure. The plan i had was: to drive to Arta, to visit the prehistoric ruins there.
 the drive there is interesting already, leading through fields that come with red poppies, and olive trees, and the peeks of churches and towers in the distance.

There are also some towns along the road. And it was right in the middle of one of the towns that my car started to make strange sounds that grew louder...

"No," I thought. 
"KLACK KLACK KLACK," the car went. 
So i took the next turn to a sidestreet. Stopped at the street side. Got out. And hoped to see some plastic stuck a the tire... but of course, that would have been too easy. Flat tire it was. 

Now what?
Well. Now ask somebody for a petrol station. So I walked over, to 2 Spanish men on the other side of the street, explained, and asked... and they went to check my car, discussed, and then asked me to open the back of the car, to see if there is a spare wheel there. There was. "So let's change," they announced. And went to work. Just like that. A mere 10 minutes later, the tire was changed. And I was stunned, and asked for their address, to send them a thank-you. "It’s okay," they said. "It's no problem." I insisted, feeling just happy that the world sometimes comes with this double surprise: a problem, and the helpfulness of people.

From there, it wasn't that far any more to the neolithic place, so i thought I might as well drive on. And arrived at the next task: seeing that it is the most important prehistoric site on the island, with own webpage, I assumed it also would have an own sign on the town entry of Arta. Well… not so.

So how to find a historic site?
Drive through town, guess and try, and hope to come across a hint. Which somehow worked. At one of the crossings, when I thougth I might try and head back and try the road that leads southwards, there was a single pink sign: “Sestres”, and pointed toward a tiny road.

Some minutes later, I was there.
And saw the gate: Closed.
Despite what it said on the webpage.

Now what?
I parked, got out, went to the gate – there were 2 others, travellers from Ireland, and just as we looked at the monolith that was visible inside, we saw 2 women walking past it - inside the site. “How did you get there? Is there another entry?” We asked, feeling that this might turn out okay after all.

“Well, not exactly another entry,” they said and pointed at the fence to the left. “We thought it would be a pity to be here and not see the place. 

So we followed their route, to have a quick look and take a photo. I'm glad i went. It's a special place, with its deep stone connection to the past. 

And it felt a bit like travelling in Asia, with those chance encounters, the hints and the help.

It also made me think of a line from there: That when travelling, you learn to trust the world. Or rather: that you have to trust the world to some degree to travel, the people who cook for you in their restaurant, the people who rent you a room, and a car, the people you ask for directions, and somehow,  the world, in general.

With this thought, I drove back, and halfway back home, stopped i another spot i haven't visited before: a small town at the seaside (photo to follow). It looked deserted, one of the places that probably only gets buys in summer holidays. There was a bench at the bay, and i sat down to enjoy the sea for a bit. Some minutes later, an elder couple arrived - the woman walked up to me, asking if i knew where the bus stop is. Turned out, they went for a bay walk that turned out longer than expected.

"I don't know about a bus stop, but if you want, I can drive you to the next town, it's on my way," I offered.

They smiled, and I smiled, too, happy to be forward the favour so soon.

"I'm so glad I walked over to you to ask," the woman said to me when we drove off.

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