Travels to a Different Time: July 1970: In Pigadia on Karpathos: The Incredible Friendliness of the Greeks! Getting Invited to Our First Party! Anti-Greek Riot in Toronto

As a 12-year-old my travels have been in the New England States and in Canada. I will say the Greek people are incredibly friendly. Why is this? In many of the smaller cities and towns there are so few tourists I think we are a novelty and Greeks are very proud that we have come to visit their country. They want the world to know how hospitable they are.  Also there are so many Greeks here that have family members in Canada, The United States, England, Australia and South Africa and they want to know more about life there. Perhaps they feel they are repaying Canadians like us for accepting so many Greeks? There was a big civil war in Greece a few decades ago and times were rough. Also during the Second World War Greece had its Jewish population decimated by the Germans and its brave resistance fighters paid a terrible price for their resistance. In some cases whole villages were murdered by mass executions and in a couple of cases families of resistance members were locked in churches and the churches burnt. Yet there are so many German tourists here bringing in lots of cash to what still is a poor country.

A Greek told me about a big anti-Greek riot in 1918 in Toronto where some scumbag Canadians rioted after a Greek disabled war veteran struck a waiter in a tavern and that sparked an anti-Greek riot as there was jealousy amongst the sum bags about the hardworking Greeks and their success in the restaurant business. There was also a rumour that Greeks were pro-Nazi a terrible insult to the bravery of the Greek resistance against the Germans and a dirty lie. I was so embarrassed hearing this story and the person who told me could see how bad I felt but offered comfort and said that I had nothing to do with it and I would grow to love the Greek people the longer I stayed in this country. The fact that he had tears in his eyes made me feel so very low Canadians could act in this shameful way. My mother then told me a story about my grandmother Relyea who had taken my Mom out for an ice cream in Toronto when she was a child. There was a Greek scooper who put the scooper back in a container of water that was cloudy with ice cream remnants. My Nanny said that Greeks were unclean! I just shrivelled up like a raisin when I heard this story. My own grandmother.

The fisherman dropped us off in the main city of the island of Karpathos called Pigadia. We went to an outdoor café for a “portocalada” which was carbonated orange juice. We did find a small and very clean hotel. Mom and I had a room and Flick and Bruce stayed on the rooftop with their sleeping bags, The owner’s wife was a real nag about sand in the rooms. The next day a real jackpot for a Canadian boy used to a big breakfast. Fried eggs although they were swimming in olive oil of course which I took advantage of and dipped my bread in it! We stayed another couple of days with delicious fried eggs for breakfast. While we were sitting in a café a couple Dinos and Poppy were at the next table and out of the blue asked us to a party at their house in a mountain town called Orthos. So that day we hopped on a bus and went to the party. We ate so many delicious snacks. I think a Greek hostess is proud when you compliment her food and if you do well “have another” is the result. I found the party a bit boring but when you don’t speak Greek it is hard to be part of the party. We left at 1 a.m. and I think the party was just warming up. The Greeks seem make the most of their summer! When we left Poppy asked us to return and stay at her house for a few days. How very nice and hospitable. When we go walking in the evening in these smaller towns people sitting outside their houses come out and ask us to join them. Mom will have a coffee and of course cookies and I have a special treat which is vanilla I think on a spoon in cold water. So I spent a few evenings outside on a terrace watching the world go by connecting with other human beings who I am beginning to see not as Greeks but fellow human beings. This is what travel can do to a young mind.

Published by Robert K Stephen (CSW)

Robert K Stephen writes about food and drink, travel, and lifestyle issues. He is one of the few non-national writers to be certified as a wine specialist by the Society of Wine Educators, in Washington, DC. Robert was the first associate member of the Wine Writers’ Circle of Canada. He also holds a Mindfulness Certification from the University of Leiden and the University of Toronto. Be it Spanish cured meat, dried fruit, BBQ, or recycled bamboo place mats, Robert endeavours to escape the mundane, which is why he has established this publication. His motto is, "Have Story, Will Write."

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