Gazing out towards the endless beauty of the Aegean Sea, I slowly looked back. The simplistic beauty of a white domed church perched on the cliff edge overlooking the town was at once perfectly balanced with the warmth of the morning sun and blue sky. The beauty of Greece experienced in my travels pierced me with profound clarity. This ancient land and its people, despite many hardships over the centuries, had the courage to treasure its traditions and gift of hospitality. It seemed that adversity was balanced by a spirit of hope and fortitude. The character of the nation was reflected in the land and its architecture; faded and worn yet proud, warm and truly beautiful to behold.
Walking along the path overlooking the ocean I peered over the whitewashed sea wall. Carefully embracing the domed church and buildings perched along the cliffside, it extended beyond as far as the eye could see. In reverie I gazed for a long time at the simplistic architectural beauty of the church before peering over the wall. White wisps of clouds floated effortlessly across Heaven, contrasted with such amazing beauty against the blue skies and water. The gentle lapping of distant waves below, mingled with the cool wind upon my face created a profound sense of immense joy within the depths of my soul. As if from an inner silence words slowly formed with within my mind
“The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork.”
The winding cobblestone streets of the medieval old city were a delight to explore. Colourful crumbling facades adorned with vibrant bouquets and and painted wooden doors were everywhere to be seen. The locals walked about the streets looking to their daily chores with radiant smiles beautifully complemented the chatter of voices and traditional music emanating from the numerous cafes and stores dotted along the streets. Occasionally the serenity was punctuated by the surprising madness of scooters flying effortlessly through the meandering narrow streets, hilariously at odds with the otherwise relaxed atmosphere of this tranquil town.
The walk down the cliff face was arduous. Several hundred deep stone steps hewn out of solid rock, formed a long meandering path from the cliff edge to the shoreline. The muscles in my legs burned with the intensity of effort, nevertheless I carefully descended the stairs full of anticipation and joy. After reaching our destination I paused briefly and looked back from whence we came. Blue domed churches amidst white washed buildings overlooking the caldera captured my imagination, an awesome display of sheer beauty.
Walking along the cliff edge overlooking the caldera, my heart was full of joy as the sun’s rays peeped over the horizon, illuminating the earthy colour of the stone houses perched along the cliff face overlooking the ocean. The sweet smell of baked bread permeated the morning air. A few more steps and I entered a bakery barely visible, a hidden gem amidst a sea of white washed buildings. An elderly lady looked at me with big beautiful eyes, warm and pure with a childlike innocence yet sad with wisdom born of pain and suffering of years gone bye. She fixed her eyes on me, and for a few seconds all I could do was look with reverence at her face. Eventually I spoke in basic Greek, “Good morning aunty”, a term of respect and reverence for elderly women, reserved even for strangers. “Good morning and how may I be of service to you” she replied with a warm intonation looking into my eyes while smiling. We spoke at length exchanging pleasantries before I politely asked for some bread. After paying, I noticed some sweets and looked at the change in my hands. “Aunty how much are the croissants?” She looked at me with compassion “Please take one my behalf”. I was deeply touched and responded “Aunty I have money to spend please, I would also like one for my wife. She responded without hesitation “Then take one more for your wife and don’t worry about money” I was deeply touched in my heart, and I walked up to her pleading “Please aunty I would prefer to pay”. She looked at me with those warm beautiful eyes “You have a good heart that much I can see; please take what I offer with all my heartfelt pleasure. I responded “No aunty it is you that has a beautiful heart and not myself; I pray that God blesses you in every way”. Slowly, she came out from behind the counter and reverently pulled out a bible and said with her warm voice, “This is what I read in my spare time; the grace of God is what grants me hope and strength to continue in life”. My soul stirred and my heart rejoiced with sheer joy. Holding this beautiful person at arms length I embraced her and kissed her cheeks. This elderly lady whose face manifested hardship and suffering had the capacity to love a perfect stranger. “God bless you aunty, and may the love of Christ sustain us in all things” I uttered while holding her within my arms and resting my head against her beautiful face. Her arms clasped me lovingly as if I were her own son.
The Venetian bay was calm, as the sun cast forth its luminous rays upon the quiet town stirring in the early hours of the morning. The beauty of the Renaissance era was manifested splendidly against the calm deep blue of the ocean. I paused in awe and looked out yonder in profound reverie. In a moment of serenity, I pondered at how the creative beauty of mankind blended so perfectly with the majesty of nature
Walking along the Venetian harbour, I felt at ease. The sun cast its radiant glow over the blue water lapping against the yellow sandstone walls. The picturesque walk was complemented by a lone man selling sea sponges on a boat bobbing gently in the water. From early morning to late afternoon, he would be ply his trade; despite rarely ever selling anything he was blessed with a radiant smile full of joy. I was drawn to this man with whom I struck up a friendship, talking to him every day. Harris as he was known was a sailor, having travelled extensively around the Greek islands, and settled long ago on Crete where he had raised his family. He had seen times of prosperity and more recently adversity. I offered to pay Harris to take me around the Greek islands, knowing that he had difficulty making ends meet, however he answered, “My boat is in disrepair, nevertheless I would take you around for no money whatsoever”. One cold winter day he asked me if I wanted to have a drink of schnapps with him. Out of respect I said yes. I admired the heart of this man, even though schnapps was not to my liking. Harris then proceeded to order a couple of drinks from the restaurant across the street from his boat alongside the quay. I was deeply touched yet saddened as Harris was willing in a moment of sheer hospitality to spend several days wages on a couple of drinks in order to please me. I remonstrated with him not to order any drinks, as I thought that he had the drinks within his boat. He asked “Why not, it’s fine! Are you worried about the money?”, as he noticed the concerned look on my face. After reassuring him that it was okay he finally relented. Suffering had merely tempered his heart, and in this man I sensed a deep sense of humility and serenity despite providing for his family in difficult times. Never before had I experienced such hospitality amidst suffering. I told Harris “May God bless you and always be with you”. Harris responded with a sad smile of conviction. “And that’s the greatest gift that one can ever wish for in life”
The climb down the sheer cliff face was arduous; high steps hewn out of solid rock wound their way down to the cave house overlooking the caldera. A beautiful view overlooking the brilliant blue of the aegean immediately transfixed me in a state of reverie. Looking back from our track I paused in a moment of profound awe. “The simplistic beauty of the white washed stone walls, contrasted against the beautiful blue domed churches were amazing to behold”. I was immediately transported back to a time far gone, yet mesmerising in its simplistic beauty.
Passing down a narrow cobblestone street I suddenly veered left towards the ocean, winding my way down a narrow staircase. The thought of exploring the unknown stirred my heart with childlike enthusiasm. Looking back from whence I came, I looked upon a windmill. Located on the cliff face overlooking the ocean, its white washed walls manifested a simplistic beauty contrasted against the blue sky. The wind swept clouds formed a beautiful mosaic adorning heaven itself. A lone figure perched atop a cliff face, I felt a sense of profound peace in that moment of solitude.