The Philippines, Athens and Cyprus 2023

The Istanbul airport is probably the closest thing our current society has to the Egyptian pyramids. It is truly huge. The way I classify an object as “truly huge” is if during the attempt to walk the length of said object I experience knee pain then it is “truly huge”. The massive structure is like the letter “E” on its side, on a couple legs. All the vertical lines represent gate locations. The horizontal part, in addition to more gates, is almost a half-mile long packed pile of duty-free shops, cafes, restaurants, a large hotel and more; all of it making your average sprawling American outlet mall look like a newspaper stand by comparison. The other factors that made this airport so impressive are:

1) It’s not even done yet – 2028 is its projected completion date. It can handle 80 million passengers a year now and should be up to 200 million by 2028 which would dwarf the top spot held by Atlanta at 110 million.

2) When I flew through Istanbul four years ago, I had an 11-hour layover in their old airport that had all the charm and utility of a registry of motor vehicles. I wandered around this temple of decay and did my best to grab cat naps at empty gates before travelers filed in for the next flight. I believe 17 minutes was my nap record on this layover (you can read about that here).

This time, Pam and I reserved a room at Yotel which is a fairly large hotel located within the terminal. It was not cheap but since my impression is that Pam has recently decided that she is the “Pam” in “pampered”, she made it clear that she is worth it. I am of a mind to agree with her. I’m also glad I broke down and accepted her wisdom on this matter; after nearly ten hours of flight in an economy seat, a shower and 5.5 hours of sleep in a nice bed was erotic.

In the Philippines, we were picked up by Pam’s mother Andrea and her driver Carl. An hour later we arrived in Los Baños. The most fascinating element of this property is that it is also the location of a Montessori school that Andrea owns and operates. Things looked the same as six years ago except for the 25 or so chickens that have taken residence on the property.

UPLB campus

The following day I drove Pam and her mother to Patio Ysabelle, an attractive event space owned and managed by Andrea’s sister Odet and family. I always enjoy coming here. There are a handful of charming structures on the property with a pool. We were entertaining ourselves at the newest cottage with sensational Filipino fare catered by some local inspired cook. In attendance were some of Pam’s cousins, Andrea’s former classmates, Pam’s aunt Cora and her sister Nikki.

The women promptly went inside where they told stories and laughed a lot. The men congregated on the front porch where we laughed less and drank more. I brought a bottle of Jameson whiskey that was genuinely appreciated by Cora’s husband Jim. Also in attendance was Andrea’s brother Pete from Hawaii, making him the only brother in a great sea of sisters or Adam Sandler in the film Punch Drunk Love.

Pete went inside at one point to swap stories with his sisters. They told stories that had been told many times. One involved a fake treasure map drawn by Pete that actually fooled several residents in the neighborhood into thinking that a great treasure awaited them. But Pete didn’t just dish it out, he could also take it. By “it”, I mean a pail of urine that one of his sister’s dumped on his head in an act of revenge.

The next day Nikki and her three girls Bea (15), Kiara (12), and Siri (9) appeared at our doorstep. While Nikki, Pam, and Andrea ran errands in town, I read and wrote while this next generation of ladies learned from a distance on their respective devices.

Nikki returned and took the young ladies to purchase bathing suits. I instead purchased a small bottle of Jameson whiskey at a 7-11 like a burgeoning alcoholic. We all then hit Laguna Springs to surrender our bodies to the restorative waters of the main spring. The place is rundown but it’s cheap and great fun. If I had to guess, the first case of plantar warts in the Philippines happened in their shower but it’s best not to focus on that and instead enjoy the weird tilapia that nibble dead skin from your feet and legs as you sit in the hot spring area. I’m not sure these are the same fish that are served to us from the weathered kitchen that makes family dinners but the possibility did cause Nikki to refer to the process as the “Circle of Life”. If you really wanted to let your hair down, you could rent one of the bedrooms that surround the large rectangular pool connected to the hot spring. Something about the second floor of rooms that had a common hallway/balcony that overlooked the pool smacked of temporary housing for men that got kicked out of their houses. The only thing missing were low stakes poker matches.

On Friday, loud awful singing could be heard close by the house. Only 40 feet from the property is a tiny shop of sorts with tables. There is a tarp overhead for shade and the “floor” was a combination of broken concrete and dirt. Sitting at one table was a group of tricycle drivers that decided to fire up the karaoke at 11:45AM. I tossed around the idea of singing a few songs with some new friends but Andrea warned me not to go down there too late since they could get drunk and belligerent. I decided to sing in the shower instead.

Saturday the entire Aniban family (Nikki, her husband Jake, oldest child Diego; and daughters Bea, Kiara, and Siri) picked up Andrea, Pam, and I to head to the fascinating destination of Lake Caliraya. This high-altitude artificial lake was created in the 1930’s by Americans in effort to tap into hydroelectric power. Now it has become a sort of resort area. We were to spend one night here in two floating cottages. Once settled, Jake and I did it right with a couple cigars.

That night we dined on classic Filipino fare in the larger floating cottage that was cooked by the inn. The night turned downright social and luxurious when Nikki broke out a Spanish ham that came with a cutting board and metal clamp. Dark chocolates, wine, and Jameson whiskey also made their mark. Siri (who was adoringly turning into my shadow) then strong-armed us into some unicorn-themed card game that I failed to even remotely grasp. That and the fact that our young mentor and competitor had the accidental(?) tendency to tweak the functions of certain cards in her favor limited our chances of victory.

Nikki and Diego drunk on ham

I returned to my cottage around 11:30PM and fell asleep to the distant sound of karaoke.

After breakfast one of the staff untied our cottage from the dock and ignited the attached outboard motor and suddenly our cottage became a bizarre little cruise ship that slowly made its way through the immediate area of of this large lake. I’m still not sure what inspired somebody to create a cottage that turns into an absurdly slow boat but there was fun to be had. As we puttered along, Jake took out a surprising amount of apparatus to make coffee. There was an expensive and precise hand grinder, a digital weight scale, two Moka pots, a pot to heat milk in and an alcohol-fueled burner to heat this all. And yes, he also had an electric frother. The end result was more than impressive.

What makes this picture so great is that while a young lady sleeps, her father talks to a random peeping Tom who in fact is driving the cottage into the middle of a lake.
See what I mean?
A picture taken by the boat driver. He literally took 50 pictures of us in this same pose, making it fun and easy to select the only one picture needed to capture the moment. Bring back cameras that use expensive film that allows someone only 20 pictures per roll.

Siri continued to lead me into various activities like kayaking across the water to an island, reminding me I had no choice in the matter in accepting her companionship (and orders).

The following day Pam and I hired a driver to pick up Nikki and drive to Quezon City next to Manila to do some lady-banking. The traffic in metro Manila is unholy. It doesn’t seem to matter the time of day; the traffic will break you so plan your pee removal wisely. I learned this the hard way in 2016. Pam, the Anibans, and I were making a simple journey from Patio Ysabelle to the Aniban household, 30 miles away in Quezon City. I had enjoyed a few beers and, confidently and foolishly, boarded the Anivan (the Aniban’s customized van) without relieving myself right before departure. What should have taken 45-55 minutes on that seemingly relaxed Saturday afternoon turned into hours on the freeway. My overtaxed bladder nearly brought me to tears. Someone handed me a bottle to sort things out but as I was in the back of a van with a large nuclear family I met only a couple days previously, I suffered a debilitating stage fright. My takeaway from that experience was to never underestimate metro Manila traffic.

While the ladies banked, Jake and I drank chai tea and smoked cigars (inside the house!). The ladies returned and we all went to a swanky Manila mall and in the style of Genghis Khan dined, at Shabu Shabu which allows patrons to cook their own food in pots of boiling soup.

Later Pam and I took Nikki and the three young ladies to the slightly upscale family restaurant Nono’s for dinner.

Valentines Day. Learning from last year’s foul mistake, I remembered to secure flowers for Pam. Perhaps in an effort to overcompensate, I also bought flowers for Andrea and her teachers…but in a calculated manner: Pam got the largest bouquet, Andrea got a slightly smaller arrangement and her staff got smaller yet fully appreciated bouquets. To hide my intentions, I ran out of the house while Pam wasn’t looking and texted her that I was buying matches. Lame but it worked.

On my way to get the flowers, one of Andrea’s three-year old students looked at me and asked her teacher, “why is his hair missing?” Filipino men bald but less, I think, than whiteys. When our niece Siri sneezed around me, I told her she must be allergic to awesome people (me). She torched me by countering with, “you must be allergic to hair”. Little fart face.

A couple days later, Nikki came to Los Baños with the three dames. We hopped into a couple tricycles and went over to the train tracks where the trolleys are. We rode them on their customary ¾-mile journey and walked over to a vegetarian restaurant on the UPLB (University of the Philippines Los Baños) campus.

Would you please look at how devilish Siri looks in the lower left? Pam in the middle and me to the right. Bea, Kiara, and Nikki in the background.
The Los Banos Express

From where we sat, we could hear the variety of sound created by the fair, a mere 150 yards away, that had been expressing itself for the past few days. It was a large setup with children’s rides, games, a large stage with music, and stalls beyond counting filled with crafts, foods, and anything else you could imagine. Between sets, the band on stage got off and was replaced by a young energetic gentleman who voiced his distaste for the current president Bong Bong Marcos.

Pam, Siri, and I were walking together when we suddenly realized Nikki, Bea, and Kiara were nowhere to be found. I tried to find them but it was useless. The grounds were large and the thousands of people present turned my well-intentioned task into a fool’s errand. We did find them on the way home. Kiara had a small box of pizza that she bought at the fare shortly after we lost them, leading to our separation. I asked her how the pizza was and she said, “It was good, totally worth losing Siri for.” Mean but funny, young lady.

Before we knew it, Pam and I were on a 13-hour flight to Istanbul. We again went through the futuristic beast of an airport and then connected to Athens. Although sleepy, we stumbled our way up to the Acropolis to absorb the impressive ruins that were well over 2000 years old. Before going on our trip, my friend Matt the toy maker gave me one of his action figures to take with me so I could take pictures of it in random places. Boldly I decided to photograph “Pheyden” in front of what are among some of the most renowned archaeological ruins in the world. The grounds in the Acropolis were packed with visitors from all over the world, all wondering why I was taking pictures of a tiny orange toy in front of the Parthenon.

Pheyden in a banana tree in the Philippines
Pheyden owning the Parthenon
Way less interesting
Pheyden in front of what was probably once a hardware store in the Acropolis

Sunday we hired a driver named Stavros to take us out to the charming seaside town of Nafplio. On the way, Stavros stopped at the Corinth Canal, the village of Corinth, and the archaeological site from 350 BC known as Mycenae. The last mentioned is an imposing site perched on a rocky hill and hosts some impressive masonry work, especially when taking into account the age.

Corinth Canal
Baldy and his babe in Corinth

As impressive as the site was, it could not compete with the interest everyone on the site showed in a shepherd who was higher above us all on the neighboring mountain. What initially drew our attention to him was a loud explosion that seemed to be caused by a firearm or some other explosive device that created a small cloud of smoke above him. Frightened by this, the flock of sheep started to nervously find its way down the mountain. For the next ten minutes, the shepherd seemed to shout Greek obscenities at his flock while following them down. Had Jesus and the other patriarchal members of the Bible witnessed this event, I hardly imagine they would have compared themselves to shepherds. It is also fascinating how a top-notch 3000 plus year old archaeological site will never intrigue us like a pissed off shepherd.

Pheyden standing in front of the mountain where an angry shepherd cursed his flock
Pheyden searching for the ghost of Agamemnon in a cave in Mycenae

And this trend continued the following day at other profound sites in Athens known as the Roman Agora and Kerameikos. In both sites, for some bizarre reason, there were several tortoises walking around these ruins that were all surrounded by a very urban atmosphere. The ones in the Roman Agora were tame enough but at Kerameikos, they were angry or horny or a combination of the two. In two cases, there seemed to be an “aggressor” who was trying to bite the face (or perhaps kiss?) the face of another tortoise. One tortoise seemed to mount the other and made strange hissing noises which was great since I had no idea tortoises made sounds. Yet again, the tourists forgot about the ancient ruins in their midst once a more juvenile source of entertainment was provided. In this case, filthy exhibitionist tortoises putting on a show worthy of the seediest of red light districts would suffice.

Tortoises in the Agora
Get a room
Some decency, finally
Changing of the guard in Athens
Pam adding some Southeast Asian flourish to Athen’s swanky marina

The following day, Pam headed home and I flew over to Cyprus. A driver of few words picked me up from the Larnaca airport in a black Mercedes van and briskly drove me into the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Only Turkey recognizes the TRNC which was born after the 1974 war between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots. Before 1974, Turks and Greeks tensely shared the island in a more integrated fashion. After the 1974, Turks went north and Greeks went south and the “Green Line” was placed as a demilitarized zone between the two. Because the TRNC is not recognized by the US (or pretty much anyone else in the world), I had to enter a port in the south and then drive to the north. I could not enter from or exit to another country from the north or I would potentially have issues when I came back through Greece or the US.

After my four-day stay in the north, I will be brought south again where I will spend six days more. These first four nights are being spent at the five-star wine vineyard hotel known as Gillham Vineyard Hotel. I was brought to my room which came complete with a lovely balcony that looked north through a valley and into the Mediterranean Sea. The wine and food here are exquisite and the staff lovely and diverse. I had interesting conversations with staff members from the Philippines, Iran, Tajikistan, Israel (one of the owner’s sons), Nigeria, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Russia, Indonesia and India. Sixtos from Nigeria would love to visit the US but fears the violence he constantly hears about on the news. The same goes for Sai from India who became saddened to hear of the two Indians killed in Texas earlier this year. I assured them both that our violence-obsessed media should not govern their decisions when it comes to US travel.

The balcony off of my room
The breakfast I was expected to finish (an omelet was still enroute)

I asked how Nana from Iran and Riz from Tajikistan came to be Muslims working in a vineyard. They laughed and said they were laid back Muslims that drink. They both expressed frustration at the fundamentalism that exists in their country. I now see wine as the bringer of peace and understanding in our different cultures.

The following morning, two gentlemen dropped off a rental car for me. Three days cost $120, including drop off and pick up at the hotel. I thought this was low but when I saw the car, I saw why. It was nine years old with 85,000 miles on it and was filled with wear. Fortunately, it ran like a top and all things considered, I was happy to be driving a little shitbox since it allowed me to blend in a tad. Hysterically, right before the two men got in their car to leave, one of the guys said, “I’m not sure how much petrol is in the tank” and made a quick exit. I turned the car on and the low gas warning light came on. Ha. Well played you dirty turds. Thankfully my hotel is up high in the start of the Kyrenia mountains so if I ran out of gas, I guess I could put it in neutral and roll down to a gas station.

After filling up, I journeyed over to St. Hilarion Castle. St. Hilarion is described as an obscure saint who lived on the site as a hermit in the seventh century. In the 11th century, the Byzantines fortified it into a castle. After 15 minutes ascent by car, I spent another 30-40 minutes climbing a stone stairway, stopping at various watchtowers, religious quarters, and the most thrilling privies I’ve ever seen. The place was something out of Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones.

St. Hilarion Castle
Judging from the lower right corner of the picture, this was clearly the place where Byzantine knights would go on their smoking break.
Where folks would literally crap off the side of a mountain. My guess was this scary privy location was designed to overcome the lack of fiber in the resident’s diets.

After that, I visited the 13th century ruins of Bellapais Abbey. The Christians are gone from here and for the most part, all of the other Christian sites in northern Cyprus since the Turks are in charge here now. That said, it was fantastic to enter the refectory and see some older gent with longer hair, wearing sunglasses and holding a cane who pleasantly smacked of a retired roadie sitting next to his wife, singing a beautiful song. If you closed your eyes, you would think you were listening to the ghost of a monk that sang here often hundreds of years ago. I thanked him on the way out.

Bellapais Abbey

The following day I drove to the east coast city of Famagusta. Before entering the city I first visited the ancient ruins of the city Salamis. There is evidence of folks being here in the late Bronze Age but things seemed to get cooking by the ninth century BC. These folks in question are thought to be Greek. It was considered a place of power and wealth due to its importance in trade. But after a couple earthquakes, the silting of the harbor, and Arab invasions, the city declined and was eventually abandoned around 700 AD. Walking around it was surreal. Would New York City or London or Tokyo look like this someday? Of course but the ruins of our modern cities wouldn’t be anywhere near as classy as these. The artificial and toxic building materials employed today look foul as they age.

Pheyden kicking an alarming amount of ass in Salamis

I then went into Famagusta and walked around the old city. Fascinating was the Lala Mustafa Pasha mosque which was a medieval church that was converted to a mosque in 1571 after the Ottomans took over making a profoundly unique place of worship. In a small plaza, I purchased a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice from an experienced lady under a tent. After much effort of squeezing many oranges through an old manual device, I had an unbelievably gorgeous and generous glass of orange juice for only 20 Turkish Lira (about $1). Please bear in mind that it costs 50 Turkish Lira to use a public bathroom here. So if I have this correct, the Turkish Cypriots put a value on orange juice that is 150% higher on the way out of the body than on the way in.

Lala Mustafa Pasha mosque

I returned back to the hotel and had a massage from a small Indonesian woman named Putu. She began the session by cracking my back like a veteran street fighter would crack his knuckles before a brawl.

The following day I made the 90-mile and near three-hour drive to the very end of the Karpass peninsula, the long tail in the northeast that ultimately brings you within 60 miles of Syria. I visited the Golden Beach and the monastery located at the very end which is part of a large area that is fenced off from the rest of the peninsula. The purpose of this fenced off land is to contain the feral donkey population that came into existence when the technology of the tractor outmoded the donkey. Farmers abandoned theses creatures and they soon became wild. Many tourists purchase carrots and feed them to these wild donkeys, creating rather docile animals that stand in the middle of the road waiting for handouts, even approaching cars and sticking their heads through open car windows. One donkey saw it fit to drool all over my passenger side window.

Golden Beach
The sensitive side of Pheyden
They really are asking for it

Content and tired after the day’s activities and another great meal, I went to pursue sleep but sadly was unable due to two British couples in two rooms that were next to mine that were in full tilt drinking mode. I overheard they were military (probably up from one of the bases in south Cyprus) enjoying a rare night away from their kids. After a wine tasting in the afternoon, more wine in the early evening, wine with dinner, and a couple more bottles brought back to the room, they had music jamming, doors slamming, and loud voices for all to not enjoy. At 12:30AM, my patience expired. I entered the common hallway and approached an open door. Inside I found a woman staring at me and a guy in tiny underwear smoking or vaping or whatever. I asked politely if I could close their door. The man said, “yeah, sorry mate…”. They got the message and quieted down.

The following morning I was driven south to Larnaca. The border crossing took much longer this time; instead of one check point, there were two or three. For me, there were three. A Greek officer wanted to know if I bought any alcohol or tobacco. As we pulled away, my Turkish driver told me cigarettes are half the price in the north so naturally a real problem has emerged for the Greeks in the south since people like to buy them cheap in the north and sell them in the south.

After speaking with the Greeks in the south, I could see they were noticeably more irritated about the current divided state of their country than the Turks. “Their country doesn’t even exist!”, Nick from the car rental office said with force.

When I reached my Airbnb in Kalopanayiotis, I had a lovely conversation with my host’s mother but when I told her I had been north, she seemed to be biting her tongue. Because of this, I tried to smooth things over by saying my purpose there was to enjoy wine at a special vineyard hotel. She returned calmly but defensively, “but we have wine here in the south”. I was now seeing the wisdom of keeping my northern travels to myself.

The next day I did a semi-challenging six-mile hike through the mountains on the western edge of the village. The views were tasty and I sweat like a diabetic pig on a treadmill in a sauna. I was the only one on the trail which is a rare delight for any hike, especially one with beautiful views on a cloudless 67-degree day.

When I returned, I smoked a Cuban cigar, washed up and returned to Byzantine restaurant where the manager remembered me. He snapped his fingers, pointed to his best waiter and said, “Angelos! Bring Mr. Chris to a table by the window!” Moments later, a complimentary glass of wine landed on my table, clearly a reward for the patron who visited three or more times.

The following day I drove south and over to one of Cyprus’ most famous monasteries: Kykkos. The monastery was large and well kept. The sheer volume and craftsmanship of the religious mosaic tiled pictures was staggering. I can’t even begin to understand the time it took to create these complex images. The monks seemed crusty but I bought some of their honey anyways.

Driving away from the monastery, I passed by a large group of cats in front of one of the monastery buildings. Cyprus has a cat population that defies calculation. Two in this particular group stood out since they were having wild drunken frat party sex for all to see. I laughed since it’s downright silly and great how unabashed animals are when it comes to humping. They always choose the darnedest places to reproduce. In the Philippines, two stray dogs were getting it done in the breakdown lane of a highway. The number of spectators those morally bankrupt tarts achieved also defied computation. Maybe that’s why they chose that spot. These two freaky felines decided to sex it right in front of a monastery as if to ridicule the crusty monks and show them the joys they will never savor.

Monastery bells used to scare off the horny cats

After dinner I popped into a cafe for a glass of wine. I spoke at length with Dimitris the bartender. He was in his late twenties or so and had the full time job of a forest firefighter. He made a point to show his appreciation to the British for formalizing the forest fighting practices in Cyprus. The British take a bad rap for their colonizing practices (much of which are deserved) but it is interesting to hear about some of the positive things they leave behind.

What I found more intriguing was his take on the Turks. Born long after the events of 1974, Dimitris did not seem to harbor the same resentment that the older generations do. I guess this is understandable. Some of the acidic bitterness fades with the passing generations. That said, he could understand the anger of the older generations since they may have had relatives and friends die in the conflict.

Today was my last day in Kalopanayiotis. I rode the glass village elevator up to the main street and obnoxiously sipped a double espresso at a small table outside. I got in the car and headed south first to Pedhoulas where I visited an over 500-year old tiny church that oddly enough, ranks as my favorite among all the churches I’ve seen in Cyprus and Athens. The church of Archangel Michael was technically “Byzantine” but it felt like a much more small, humble, and pure version. You could have easily piled 20 to 30 of these little churches into your average Byzantine church. All of the churches I have seen thus far have a decadence and complexity that challenge the Las Vegas strip with their power to dazzle and overwhelm. This little one however was so down to earth that I literally walked by it twice, not realizing what it was. The main part of the church couldn’t have been more than 10 feet wide by 20 feet long. If I were to liken this church to all the possible grails that Indiana Jones had to choose from in the Last Crusade, this church would have been that final simple one he chose, “the cup of a carpenter”.

The church of a carpenter

After that, I ascended Mt. Olympus in my vehicle and stumbled upon a sloppy ski slope. The snow up here was melting and the skiers were gloriously awkward for the most part. People parked their cars, sauntered over to the ski area, suited up, grabbed on to a rope tow that elevated them to the top and hoped for the best. It was all so disorganized and informal and wonderful. I wanted to go out to get a closer look but was unsure so I asked a weathered gent sitting in front of a small shed if I could walk out there. “It’s up to you!” this crusty bum-hole answered in an irritated fashion for absolutely no reason. On the way down, I stopped at a viewpoint. I struck up a conversation with two Nepalese gentlemen. They were both working at a sushi restaurant in Limassol and decided to take a bus up to Cyprus’ highest peak for the day. I told them how much I enjoyed their country four years ago. It was starting to amaze me how many international workers Cyprus attracted. At a gas station, I encountered a chap from West Africa. I asked him how he liked Cyprus. “You just mind your business here” was his answer.

One of Mt. Olympus’ many triple black diamond trails

I arrived at my next destination around three or four in the afternoon. I foolishly drove right through the town center and again faced absurdly microscopic streets. The owner of my inn was undeniably a cat lover (and a nuclear scientist as it turned out). She adopted over ten cats and would even take them to the vet when needed. Lefkara is known famously for its lace but it seems to be the cat capital of the universe.

Olive tree in bloom at my inn
The mean streets of Lefkara

The next day I visited a nearby 700-acre olive farm owned by the mayor of Lefkara and his arguably eccentric wife whose spirit animal is likely an eagle. Her face was built for theater. When she saw me (I was the only one there) she treated me like a long lost nephew. She explained her property, showed me an 800-year old olive tree, and then gave me a blow by blow description of all the olive-centric products she sold. Her hands moved wildly to match the intensity of her eyes. If someone beyond earshot saw us talking, they would have thought I was being yelled at.

Gurl’s olive farm
An 800-year old fart of an olive tree

She then proceeded to place about 20 various olive products on a table before me to sample. It was impressive and I ended up buying olive oil, olives, olive lemon jam, and two delicious tapenades that would end being tossed by an airport security dink in Athens. He said it was a liquid but as I was explaining to him that tapenade is more of a paste, he unceremoniously dropped it in the bin. I do hate him.

From there I visited the nearby quaint village of Kato Dhrys and strolled around its quiet, tiny, picturesque streets.

The even meaner streets of Kato Dhrys
An example of some of the amazing tile work to be found in Cyprus

The following day I drove to the monastery of Machairas. At one end was an ominous 16-foot tall statue of a heavily armed militant chap with an eagle behind him. Later I discovered the man was a famous Greek Cypriot insurgent leader named Grigoris Afxentiou. I’m not sure who the eagle was. It seemed like a strange setting for such a statue, sort of like a chubby smiling statue of Santa on top of a mosque.

I can only imagine the things you need to do in life to have a statue like this made of you after you die.

Once inside, I roamed around the courtyard where the church was and started talking with one of the monks, Niktarios, who was far more friendlier and gentler than some of the other crustier monks I saw at Kykkos. I told him that when I married my wife, I “married up”. He laughed and said he never heard this expression. Niktarios followed by indicating that people are equals in a marriage and that we bring different talents and skills to bear in any good relationship. I agreed and told him that Pam may move mountains as a scientist and provide wonderful health coverage but I can hang a picture on the wall better than anyone. He smiled. I opened up the pictures in my phone and found one of the bed I built five years ago and he was impressed.

Church inside Machairas

On my way back I hit the charming little village of Vavatsinia. Here I enjoyed a traditional Cypriot meal at a charming restaurant that offered views of the surrounding valley. Inside a fire roared and the incredibly amiable owner told me how the fire warms the sleeping child. I asked him what he meant by that and he pointed behind the bar. To my surprise, a three-year old boy was fast asleep in a tiny cot right about where a keg of beer would normally be found.

From Vavatsinia I took the road to hell option to return to Lefkara through Opa. The first half was paved but littered with small rocks and debris. The second half would have been sensibly navigated with a 4X4 vehicle but I proceeded anyways in my meager economy sedan. Not a soul haunted these mountain roads that were constructed of dirt and sorrow. At one point I crossed through a stream and dodged tree branches as I climbed a hill that had little trenches carved out by previous rain water.

This month-long dream was now ending. On my way back to the states, I had to spend a night in Greece, near the airport. That evening I walked one mile down to the water to eat at a popular restaurant. I sat in a large covered tent that was filled with a buzzing Saturday night crowd. Two figures stood out while I sat there alone. The first was an older gentleman who approached me about seven times so that I might buy whatever it was he was selling from a bag slung over his shoulder. No matter how many times I or the other patrons politely but clearly indicated we had no intention of buying his wares, he would come back 10 minutes later as if we were new hot leads. Like Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman, the man was far beyond his prime and sadly courted some brand of senility.

At one point, a waiter tried to shoo him away like a feral cat but the old man persisted. This is ironic because the second figure of note was actually a cat that would beg occasionally for scraps at the tables. Judging by the cat’s fat appearance, it was clear this kitty was a superior salesman than the old man. It was like watching a scene from Glengarry Glen Ross where the old man was the down on his luck Shelley Levene portrayed by Jack Lemmon and the cat was the younger more successful top closer Richard Roma portrayed by Al Pacino.

I walked back up what felt like a perfectly consistent ramp to Peri’s Hotel. As I went, dogs made sure to bark at me the entire way. The next day the older owner, Peri himself, drove me to the airport in an old Volkswagon Passat. I sat in the front passenger seat while his Japanese breed of a dog tried to lick my face. Peri shared his philosophy of simplicity with me. He waved his hand and said, “Look at this old car! Why get a new one? It’s runs fine!” I laughed to myself as I lost count of the various lit warning lights sprinkled over his dashboard. At the airport I thanked Peri for the ride and he gladly accepted a tip I gave him.

5 Replies to “The Philippines, Athens and Cyprus 2023”

  1. Really enjoyed reading your journal Chris, esp the Cypris part. Also good to know you are doing well.

  2. Chris, you never cease to amaze me!! I have laughed out loud through the entire narrative. My 2 favorite take aways are “Pam is the pam in pampered.” and the carpenter’s church!
    Love you and hi to Pam!
    Auntie Gail

    1. Dear Gail force winds… I appreciate you wasting 20 to 30 minutes of your life investigating my last bit of travel work. And I tell you, I almost considered putting that cute little church in my suitcase and taking it home with me.

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