Aegina, Greece

I fell in love with a small island in Greece while reading a book that ended its tale in a small island in Greece. This made the island all the more special for me, as if I was meant to be here at this time. Aegina is a short boat ride away from Athens, it is everything every guide book has ever promised you, or so the rich of Athens will tell you, who come here to get away from the city.

It is easy to forget just how smothered we are in the UK, everything is set out for you and made safe, and yet here, ironically in another island you can breath again, you are free. In Aegina you can drive around tiny cobbled lanes, skirting around the stray white nondescript cats of Aegina and the fish caught that morning, you can park your hired scooter or quad-bike (the choice is yours) any where you like, never worrying about fishing for the last bit of change out of your pocket for parking.

What is there to do but sit back and relax? Explore the island in your own time, driving past giant cactuses and fields of pistachio trees. Visit the majestic Temple of Athena, drive up the long winding mountain to walk around the ancient Greek ruins. Pistachio’s are grown on the island and celebrated every September with the festival of Fistiki (Pistachio). Aegina produces every type of thing you can think of to do with a pistachio, and it is a delight to wonder around the island and find them all! My personal favourite being pistachio butter, very much like peanut butter.

I am looking forward to returning to the island of Aegina, a rare feeling for me as I am usually enthralled but always eager to move on. But, I would also like to see more of Greece. To stay in Athens and Thessaloniki.

 

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And the Mountains Echoed in Greece

“All my life I have lived like an Aquarium fish in the safety of a glass tank, behind a barrier as impenetrable as it has been transparent. I have been free to observe the glimmering world on the other side, to picture myself in it, if I like. But I have always been contained, hemmed in, by the hard, unyielding confines of the existence that Baba has constructed for me, at first knowingly, when I was young, and now guilelessly, now that he is fading day by day. I think I have grown accustomed to the glass and am terrified that when it breaks, when I am alone, I will spill out into the wide open unknown and flop around, helpless, lost, gasping for breath.”

Khaled Hosseini, And the Mountains Echoed

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Each of us are weighed down, burdened by our own particular set of responsibilities, a brand unique to ourselves, our situations and our lives. My own responsibilities I have worn as a heavy chain around my neck for too long. This is not to state that I choose to be free of my responsibilities, a choice that is too reckless, too heartless and remote a decision I could ever make. But I do have a choice to live with my burdens. A choice that is not to accept a weight that encumbers our lives, but a choice to accommodate that weight, shift it a little on your back so that the weight is less cumbersome.

This is a new skill I feel I will have to practice to get right, and yet a skill that is essential to not just survive in life, but to be happy. I must learn to enjoy the days when the weight of responsibility grounds me, but make sure I have the days when I am free to move, to explore. If I am careful to plan for those days, it is easier to enjoy the days I am forced to be still.

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In Khaled Hosseini’s third novel, And the Mountains Echoed, the stories move the reader constantly along Afghanistan, France and Greece, through sixty years of relationships, often so close that their lives are a burden to each other, others remote, but all touching and shaping their lives in amazing ways. This is life; inescapable and alluring.

Towards the end of the book is a touching story of the little girl Thalia, who was mauled by a dog at 5 just years old. Her story is set in an island in Greece, and I read this part of the book while staying at Aegina, another island in Greece, thinking about the people who have touched my life, wondering if those people who seemed so remote at the time may have had the biggest influence.