Monday, May 2, 2011

It's All Greek To Me

A little note on posting: I'll be blogging when I can, so for today, this will be the third post. You can scroll down to read the earlier ones first.

I don't think I realized how many of our little catchphrases reference Greece. And while I've only spent about 24 hours on the island of Crete, I'll definitely have to rethink my usage of the term "cretan" in a derogatory manor. By contrast, the people here are lovely, helpful, friendly, and quick to smile. The language however - that phrase is dead on. For example, we're staying in Chania, which I’ve also seen spelled Khania, Xania, and Hania, all of which are the English translations. The Greek is Χανιά. I’ve found the best way to memorize Greek letters is not to think of them as letters. For example, “squiggly E” makes an “S” sound while the block "E" is the actual "E" sound. “Teepee” makes a “D” sound, but sometimes makes an "L" sound...I think. I cannot currently remember the difference between “Pi” and “Fun Pi.” On reflection, I think Greece is the only country I have ever visited where I arrived not knowing a single word of the language, not even Hello, Goodbye, I’m sorry, and Where is the bathroom – my four must have phrases in any language.I've resolved to master one word per day. Today, I learned "Hello," which is said like Yassas - the first "a" as in "at" and the second "a" as in "uh." One word down.

Interestingly, the rhythm of the language sounds like Italian, which has led to a host of other problems for me. I find myself trying so hard to understand, then I begin thinking in Italian myself (hard to do with a 1% vocabulary knowledge!), which leads to me trying to talk to people here in Italian. Why can't I do that in Italy? I did learn (thank you, Nathan) that Greek is the oldest documented language (Western language), Latin is based on Greek, and Italian is the closest of the Romance languages to Latin. So I suppose the rhythm and sounds being similar isn't all that odd.
Chania gives a great visual of how cities are built atop cities atop cities...
I spent my first day taking care of some admin stuff and just wandering about. I wanted a Greece SIM card for my cell phone (mobiles are different in Europe - I supposed I should do a daily life post on them another time). All Greek mobile numbers have to be connected to a passport. Talk about Big Brother watching! That is just weird...and creepy. Getting lost, stopping to eat and visit a couple of shops, having to make a second roundtrip back to my hotel for my passport, and lots of photo stops ate up most of my day. Tomorrow, I'm looking forward to walking through the Old Town, visiting the Textile/Folklore Museum, and taking every alley turn I find. The alleys are exactly what I hoped for, with gorgeous flowers spilling down the walls, lace curtains covering the windows, and small bistro tables set up outside front doors.

We ate dinner last night at a restaurant called Well of the Turk, a fusion of Greek and Moroccan food and delicious. The restaurant is small and tucked on a quiet alley, and the other diners (about four other tables) were so quiet. I'd expected a great many more tourists. I found them today. Chania has an Inner Harbor and an Outer Harbor - imagine a circle with a small opening set into the end of oval. Our hotel at the back of the Inner Harbor, and neither of us realized that the entire rest of the world was mucking about along the shore of the Outer Harbor. We'll head there for dinner tonight.

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