Finding Love in Greece
Mode of transport: Bus
Euros on hand: 150
Status of debit card: Defunct
I’m always in a rush to leave a major city in a foreign country. I’d go so far as to say I despise cities.
Everyone is always looking to cheat me. Taxi drivers are evil. The city is run down, and not knowing where I am leads me like prey to the wolves.
So, I leave–and quickly.
After a harrowing series of bus rides that landed me in the heartland of Greece, my bus pulled into Kalambaka, only eight hours after arriving at the Piraeus bus station in the morning. My ultimate destination was Meteora, where monks had built monasteries hundreds of years ago, high up in the mountains.
Throwing my stuff on the bed of the hostel, I heard a woman’s voice next door and, naturally, went over to introduce myself.
(Note: there is something about traveling that gives me the super-hero power of being able to talk to complete strangers, especially women, in a way that is way less awkward than back home. If I could only bottle it up and take it back with me…)
Hearing her name in English, I immediately knew that she was an Israeli. I therefore responded with ma shlomech–how are you–in Hebrew.
Her smile won me over from the get-go. The rest is a blur, but we pretty much shared the next 18 hours together. Having spent a good chunk of our day on a bus, we were both eager to walk around; we met downstairs and took off to explore our little town.
Along the way, we found a very intimate (one might even call it, romantic) Greek restaurant. Everything about our dining experience was exquisite: the ambiance was set by an older man playing guitar at one of the tables; we ate sumptuous appetizers and shared a delicious main course; and the service had us feeling right at home.
And, in case you’ve been paying attention, this one (also) wasn’t a date.
But it was a perfect evening.
After dinner, we did a little window-shopping and walked back to the hostel. There, we met two Canadian women and an Australian having pizza in the common area. We chatted for a bit, but we were both tired and excused ourselves to go upstairs. Our rooms were right next to each other.
She mentioned something about having quite a few roommates. Having a big room all to myself, I casually mentioned, Well, I’m alone in my room, if you want to hunker down with me.
Or something like that. I’m not even sure if she caught my invitation. I didn’t say it very loudly; perhaps because I didn’t want to come on too strongly and ruin a great evening. Honestly, I just wanted to snuggle with her. I can’t lie, though. It was good to have the bed all to myself.
There was a bar/restaurant next to the hostel (owned by the same couple), so we met for breakfast in the morning before catching a bus up to Meteora. Bread (slices), coffee, orange juice and two hard-boiled eggs for 3.5 euro.
The views up top of the mountains were unbelievable. Reut and I walked a long way, snapping pictures of each other–and sometimes together–along the way.
We lived in the moment, and even her impending deadline (catching a bus) didn’t dissuade us from making the most of our day together. We left the monastery visit a little earlier than I would have liked, but it didn’t feel right to just let her go while I stayed in Meteora.
After taking the bus back down to Kalambaka, we found a place for lunch and sat outside. Chicken gyro sandwiches for 1.7 euros! It had taziki sauce, vegetables and was stuffed with french fries. Can we say, score?!!
Both of us could sense that our time was coming to a close. We shared how happy we were that we got to meet. As I walked her to the bus station, I started to think about my plans. Were they flexible? We had 10 minutes before her departure. Maybe I should just go with her, I thought.
I had everything in my backpack. But, unfortunately, my schedule didn’t permit that kind of spontaneity. So, as her bus came, we kissed each other on the cheek, shared a nice hug and said our goodbyes. I definitely felt some love between us.
Interactions like these are why I heart solo-traveling. There were certainly a lot of moments of confusion, aloneness, lostness, etc. But meeting her made it all worth it.
It’s what Tyler Durden might have called a single-serving friend. But Reut was much more than that. When the connection is right, meeting other solo travelers can create some truly magical moments.
Post-note: I really don’t hate cities anymore. I surrendered to Athens, and she loved me back. Even got to see the Greek play Oedipus at an ancient theatre my last night.
as always, thanks for sharing