Crete Part I: Welcome to Sivas!

Or as the locals would say, “καλώς ορίσατε!”*

We left for Crete bright and early on the coldest, wettest day I’ve seen since I came to England. I was definitely glad for the thought of sunny Greek weather when the sprint from the minibus to the terminal at Leeds-Bradford Airport was enough to leave us all soaked clear to the bones. It literally took me until we reached Chania to feel warm again.

We drove along the coast, where the water was the bluest blue I’ve ever seen, and then took narrow, windy roads through the mountains. Our journey was punctuated by tiny mountain villages, traffic jams caused by sheep, and sections of macadam washed away by spring runoff.

I also learned very quickly that Greek drivers are absolutely insane. We saw maybe two cops during our entire stay, and traffic rules were more like traffic “suggestions.” Sign says stop? GO FASTER. Sign says no passing? Go ahead and pass the guy who’s already passing someone else. Getting to your destination is a just a real life reenactment of Mario Kart.

I think I have a few new gray hairs.

But we made it safely to Sivas (*phew!*) and settled into our accommodation. Our group was spread out among several rental properties, and Cheryl, Liza, and I stayed in a beautiful stone house close to the main square. I think we all loved the patio the most—it was a perfect place to sit and read or study. The wifi was mostly useless, so it was nice to not have the pressure of keeping up with social media and stuff like that. I definitely got a lot of work done on my book when I wasn’t working on school stuff.

Sivas is a very small town—as in, so small, you could clone every resident twice and it would still be smaller than Cimarron.** But though she be but little, she is fierce—there is color and character absolutely everywhere you look. The people are wonderfully kind, and welcomed us with open arms and eager smiles. The lady who runs the honey/meat/olive oil/raki*** shop would chat our ear off in Greek, regardless of the fact that we didn’t understand a word she said, and always sent us home with a special gift of some sort. The waiters at the tavernas and the coffee shop became our good friends. And all the old people–and there are a lot of old people in Sivas–would sit on their front steps and greet us with a friendly, “Yassas!” (hello) or “Kalimera!” (good morning).

Of course, it wouldn’t be a good Greek village without multiple Greek Orthodox churches in town. Cheryl and I almost went to a service on Sunday, but the thought of a 2 hour sermon entirely in Greek scared us off. I’m kind of regretting that decision.

But the thing I loved the most about Sivas was how peaceful it was. After being in the city for so long, spending two whole weeks in a quiet village surrounded by mountains and olive orchards was just the therapy my frazzled nerves needed. I loved sitting on the patio and just listening to the sounds of the country. It wasn’t silent—the barking dogs, random pheasant in someone’s aviary, and happy school children made sure of that—but they were happier sounds than bus brakes and police sirens.

There is definitely something to be said for the slower pace of life in Greece. I felt calmer. I learned more. I felt close to God. There was no pressure to hurry (unless you were driving). It was more important to just sit and be.

What a wonderful place. I can’t wait to share the rest of my pictures with you.

* Say, “kahLOS oREEsa-te”

** Cimarron, NM, is home to Philmont Scout Ranch, where I have worked on and off over the past 7 years. It has a population of less than 1,000 people.

*** Raki is a type of alcohol. In other words, I can’t comment on what it’s like because I didn’t have any.

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