June 24, 2008

Kythira, Greece (Roots Found!)

It’s official – I am Greek! Other than the sure proof of a sign with my name on it (albeit spelled with two N’s), I now have the birth records of my Grandparent’s which places my early bloodline on the beautiful island of kythira. And I couldn’t have asked for a better origin. The island, which is South of the Peloponnese, has all the elements of a fully functioning paradise; waterfalls which flow into blue lagoons, mountains covered in fragrant wild flowers that command spectacular views of the clear, blue sea, valleys and gorges scattered with the remainders of earlier inhabitants, small picturesque towns with cafes and fishing boats, beaches that could win “The Best Of” award, and the relaxed pace of the locals who are not frazzled by hoards of boisterous tourists frequented by so many other islands.
I arrived fully connected thanks to my Uncle Andreas who made sure I was set-up with transport, a local place to stay and a list of places to visit. After renting a car and whipping around the picturesque, curving roads with no sense of direction I landed in the good company of a nice Greek boy who luckily had two weeks knowledge of the island tucked in his swim trunks and was kind enough to accept the position of tour guide and with my superior driving skills and his superior navigational skills, the exploration had begun. Covering the up’s and down’s, in’s and out’s of Kythira’s diverse landscape was all it took to fall completely in love with the place from which I come.
Beyond the beauty though, there was a sense of belonging and pride. Walking the only street of my Grandmother’s small village and seeing the house in which she was born made my life feel powerfully connected to her spirit and visions of her pinching my cheeks and calling me “koukla”, the smell of her cooking, the way that her lap felt when she used to place me on it while she mended my Grandfather’s torn socks and the sound of her voice muttering Greek curse words while chasing John and I with a broom when we were misbehaving seemed to float in the sweet air around me. I bathed in the memories and felt truly at peace.
I had found the side of family connected with my Grandmother. Now it was time to move on to my Grandfather. Armed with his birth certificate and a photo I drove to the five house village where he was born and flagged down the first person I saw who guided me with language-barrier-hand-signals up the hill to the home of Koula Kassimatis. She invited me in for coffee and we started reviewing information, convinced we were somehow related, until she took another look at the photo and burst out “Angeliki and Yannis! Of course I remember them now. Your Grandmother was very clever (now I know where I get it from) and we used to call your Grandfather “Gatos” (or cat in Greek)”. Her 92 year old Mother came to sit down and nearly cried upon looking at the photo and started telling stories of my Great Grandparent’s, my Grandparents and my Father. Koula told me we were from different lines of Kassimatis but she proceeded to get her phone book and write down the name of an Uncle living in Athens. Mission Accomplished.
Earlier on my travels I thought I could retire in Dahab, Egypt spending my days gazing at the Red Sea but waking in the morning and looking out from my balcony over the hills which my Grandmother used to roam put a break on that fantasy and it became clear that I was being led back to the place where it all started for me.


jessica said...


Altered Space said...

Grrr, I was just beginning to wonder "where in the heck is she?" Had I know you were in the hands of the Israeli Interrogation forces, ohmygawd, I would have sounded the alarm. They are not kidding around over there. Whoa. Glad to hear from you and that you are savvy enuf to navigate the rough stuff. Trip just sounds awesome. Am thinking about Indonesia, little Flores Island, maybe around October. Not sure, jes lettin it all roll around in my head. xoxo Sand


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