999 steps above the sea – Twin Cities
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999 steps above the ocean – Twin Cities

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Shortly earlier than leaving on a trip to Greece along with his children, Peter Stathopoulos of Burnsville discovered that he had ALS. Upon returning, he wrote 15 tales concerning the journey to protect reminiscences for his household and himself. The first of these tales appeared within the Pioneer Press in July 2018.

He has compiled the tales right into a guide, “TRAVELING WITH THE FATES,” out there on Amazon and Kindle. A whimsical Christmas story may even be out there Nov. 7 on Amazon and Kindle, and on his upcoming Touring with the Fates weblog. His e mail tackle is pstathopoulos@stay.com.

Right here is Chapter 9 of “TRAVELING WITH THE FATES: Vignettes from a visit to Greece.”

 

“Erato, the place do I depart the important thing?”

The angel spoke, “You possibly can maintain the important thing with you.”

“We’re leaving Athens right this moment.”

“Sure, I do know, however we rented the residence for the entire three weeks,” she stated. “We figured you and the youngsters would possibly need to depart your suitcases right here in Athens so you may journey lighter to the mainland and the island.”

“You’re critical?”

“In fact.”

This struck me as an obscene luxurious and an unbelievably spot-on reward.

 

Nafplion, a southern seaport city on the Peloponnese, was our base for the following week of this journey to Greece with my three grownup youngsters, John, Nikos and Maria. It was a simple drive from Nafplion to lots of Greece’s most compelling historic websites.

It was particularly simple for me: John drove whereas I sat within the passenger seat, my proper hand already too far gone for the stick shift. Life occurs quick. In any case, John’s 5 years navigating Montana’s switchback mountain roads made him a greater driver than me, good hand or not.

“Don’t fear after I run STOP indicators,” he picked up shortly on rural Greek driving etiquette. “I’ll decelerate a bit, but when I cease we’ll get rear-ended.”

Nafplion is only a brief drive to Agamemnon’s palatial compound at Mycenae, the place historic kings gathered and agreed to mix their armies for the Trojan Battle that was concerning the value of copper and tin – or, should you want the romantic fantasy, to save lots of the beautiful Helen from her Trojan kidnappers.

And it’s a day journey, taking the good distance, to a village excessive within the mountains that hosted a shock I’d later jot down in a photograph guide as a miracle, if not a Miracle.

 

I had final been to Nafplion after I was 19 and now needed to share its magic with my children. I recalled a younger curly haired Stathopoulos wanting to breathe historic air dashing up 999 steep steps alongside a winding precipice.

The Palamidi fortress stood on the prime of the small mountain like a battered previous big, most fascinating to my teenage self for the methods it was damaged by time.

I remembered standing on the prime of the cliff trying down over orange tile rooftops to the ocean. Teal water within the horseshoe bay gave approach to darkish blue seawater, and I imagined waves of troopers and migrants rowing lengthy boats to those shores over hundreds of years.

Now 36 years later, this rocky hike to the citadel was close to the highest of my listing of issues to do with my children. They shared my ardour for journey, for his or her Greek roots, and for the panoramic view we might get from the highest. In addition they knew this was our final journey collectively.

We began midmorning to get the climb in earlier than the solar obtained too sizzling. Nikos was tempted to dash up the hill for the joys of the run, however he hung with us for the better pleasure of camaraderie and taking within the wildflowers and rocks and views alongside the best way.

Twenty steps up, I paused to absorb Nafplion from just a bit above road degree. Ten steps later I paused once more, gazing at a rampart winding up a smaller hill throughout the road and some hundred ft away.

I hadn’t seen that rampart my first time right here, or perhaps over three a long time I worn out the high quality strains and stored the thicker ones. That was extra probably.

One other 20 steps or so and I ended to admire the flowers and aloe bushes that regarded like fancy cacti to my Minnesota eye. Weeds captivated me all over the place, particularly these adorned with vibrant little yellow or purple flowers that prospered within the desolate warmth.

“What number of steps?” I requested Nikos who, along with being a strolling GPS, comes with a built-in counting machine.

“Seventy-two.”

“Not even 100?” I squinted into the solar.

“Greater than 50,” Nikos spoke the optimistic.

“You don’t have to depend for me,” I informed him. “Simply benefit from the view.”

“The counting occurs behind my head. It doesn’t distract me. I solely concentrate while you ask.”

Each time we rounded one other curve up the hill, I ended to gaze out on the metropolis and the ocean, gasping for breath.

Numbers weren’t comforting me on our hike, not like those that had given me peace the evening earlier than. Was I this out of practice?

“Don’t wait, I’ll meet you on the prime,” I informed the youngsters, however they paused every time I ended to breathe. Quickly I began dropping my steadiness on one leg, catching myself with the opposite. I thrust my left arm out the best way I used to do with each arms to maintain steadiness.

At first I discovered it humorous, odd, no matter you need to name the feeling of a chook about to fly off a precipice. The upper we climbed, the extra I swayed with every step. The trail grew narrower, the drop steeper, and I seen my children trying again at me extra usually with concern of their eyes.

“What number of?” I requested the lean human counting machine once more.

“562,” Nikos stated.

“You guys go forward,” I beat again the a part of me saying we have been already greater than midway and I ought to carry on going. “I’ll catch you on the backside.”

“I’ll keep right here with you,” Maria walked down a number of steps to the place I slumped on a rock towards the cliff wall.

“No, I’ve climbed it as soon as. I would like you to do it. You haven’t any concept how a lot this implies to me. I’ll be within the café down the road.”

We had handed a small café with outside picnic-style tables a block from the foot of the hill. I had a chilly orange Fanta soda on my thoughts. Orange Fanta shortly grew to become my daytime drink of alternative in Greece, the place by midday my physique was a sandy thirsty seaside.

My children vanished across the subsequent bend up the mountain. I sat with my again towards the rocky wall propping my chin up with each fingers admiring the rooftops, tall white sailboats and small fishing boats. A lone freighter took me again to after I had a working physique, and an island out at sea evoked a time simply three weeks earlier after I had desires for the longer term.

Fifty steps from the underside I discovered the best napping rock, a stone slab the size of a coffin and broad sufficient that I wouldn’t roll off it if I fell asleep.

I clasped my fingers behind my head and shut my eyes beneath tall thin-crowned pine timber. Daylight dabbed my eyelids. A pair younger children got here operating up the steps, the mom scolding them in her British accent to decelerate.

She stopped and requested me, “Are you OK?”

“Higher than I’ve ever been. You will have stunning children.” They regarded like they have been about eight and 10 years previous, excited to be climbing what I gathered was the largest hill of their lives up to now. “You’ll need to maintain them to the within on the best way up.”

“Did you hear that?” she requested them they usually ran laughing up the hill forward of her. The sky above me by way of tall timber was dappled blue and white, and two crows circled excessive above.

My thoughts remodeled the crows to falcons and I contemplated what number of Greeks, Venetians, Turks, Franks, Moors, you identify it, who referred to as Nafplion residence over the centuries studied the universe mendacity on their backs proper right here.

They lived, they ate, they liked, they died.

 

Having climbed midway up the hill solely to come back down for a nap and assume momentarily about heading again up for an additional shot, I believed concerning the Greek half-god Sisyphus who pissed off Zeus along with his conceitedness – main Sisyphus to mutter beneath his breath, “You’re one to speak.”

For this, Sisyphus was condemned to eternally push a boulder up a mountain, solely to have it roll down simply earlier than reaching the highest. His torment was to get up the following morning, each morning, and push the rattling factor up once more.

I puzzled when the time would come that I’d really feel this manner every morning, and what a reduction it might be the day I let the boulder roll again down for retains.

On that day, my soul would stand on the prime searching over the valley of life and, as they sing concerning the bear who went over the mountain, I’d see what I’d see.

Within the meantime, let me interpret the parable of Sisyphus in another way. The story shouldn’t be about futility. It’s the other: Each time we push that boulder up the hill, we plant new seeds of life.

I image eternally John, Nikos and Maria climbing to the highest and to the Palamidi fortress, gazing out over the ocean and imagining their future as I had at 19:

Nikos along with his soul within the clouds whereas totally having fun with his time on earth;

Maria along with her ft on the bottom and her thoughts capturing for the celebrities;

And John a bit of every, with a persona so welcoming that he by no means will get an opportunity to purchase his personal drink at a bar.