I mentioned in a recent blog that we had visited the Greek island of Samos for the wedding of our son Owen to Marina. Her Dad Manny was born in the tiny village of Stavrinides which is situated in vineyard country, high up in the mountains of Samos. As a young fellow he immigrated to a new life in Sydney. The trip up the mountain was a pretty scary one as the road was narrow and twisty. It was however an exciting drive up the hairpin bends in our little hired car.
We stayed in the Armonia Bay Hotel on the coast which is a lovely little friendly, family run hotel, owned by the Mantoglou family with gorgeous views over the sea.
View from Armonia Bay Hotel
Why I mention the hotel is that one morning over breakfast Mary overheard an American, who was staying at the hotel, talking to another guest about the wonderful friendliness and warmth of the Greek people he had encountered. He went on to say that he found the same welcome from Irish people when he had visited Ireland. Mary was delighted to hear this as we also had felt that the Greek people were the friendliest people we had met anywhere.
When we were leaving the table Mary said to the man that we were from Ireland and that she enjoyed his comments. In that case he said “it probably tips the balance in favour of the Irish”! We left breakfast with a smile on our faces!
On the way back to our room we said that in future when we met visitors to Ireland we would go out of our way to be friendly and welcoming to them.
Last week we were in Kerry for a few days and were walking the beach in Derrynane. Walking just in front of us I noticed a man walking with a few friends and instinctively I felt that he was Greek. He was tall and handsome with a big shock of white curly hair.
As he was with a few other people I didn’t want to just go over and interrupt him to talk with him but I said to Mary as we walked on, I just know he is from Greece and he probably is from Samos and could easily in fact be from the mountain village of Stavrinides where The Greek Wedding took place.
As always my good lady scoffed as my imagination took off and we continued to enjoy our walk in the Kerry mist and recall the incredible wonderful sunshine we had experienced on the beaches of Samos. My mind however was still talking to me!
As we finished our walk and were returning to our car the man from Greece just happened to be sitting on the slipway down to the beach near the lifeguard’s hut and gave us a big smile as we approached.
Well that was too much for me and I stopped to chat with him, yes to say hallo but mostly to satisfy my curiosity as to his origin!
I said “Hi” and asked him were they enjoying their holiday and he said yes it was their first time in Ireland and that they were doing The Wild Atlantic Way and loving every moment of it.
I then asked them where they came from even though I was slightly disappointed when I heard that he spoke with what was definitely a New Zealand accent. He said that he was living in New Zealand and in fact his wife was born there but being a rugby fan he always wanted to visit the home of Munster Rugby. I asked him was he born in New Zealand too and he replied that no in fact he was born in Greece!
I knew it!!!
I replied with eagerness and asked; were you born on the mainland or on one of the Greek Islands? He said with a smile and rather proudly I thought. He said “I was born on the Island of Samos a small island not far from the coast of Turkey!”
This was truly astonishing and he could see the fascination on my face as I explained with excitement that we had just returned from a wedding on his island.
When we were on Samos for Owen and Marina’s wedding we visited three tiny mountain villages during our time there. The first was Stavrinides where the Greek Wedding took place. The next day we went to the village of Manolates the one we could see across the mountain from the Greek wedding and where they were able to hear the music from the wedding as it wafted across the thin mountain air. The third mountain village that we made a visit to a few days later was called Vourliotes. Another lovely mountain village with stunning views.
Photo from Stavrinides with Turkey in the background
The man from Greece could see my interest and said that although he was born in Samos he was very young when his parents immigrated to New Zealand with him and his two brothers, to try to make a better living for themselves in New Zealand as the economy in Samos at that time was not doing very well. He said that whilst he loved New Zealand he still missed his own little Island.
I pried a bit further and asked him on what part of the Island he was born. He said with a smile that he was born in a tiny mountain village that we would never have heard of. Quick as a flash I said “was it Stavrinides”? “No” he said quizzically but he was surprised that I knew it and said “but you are very close”. Manolates I asked? “No” he said “amazed, “in fact I was born in the next village which is called Vourliotes”.
When I told him that we knew it and had visited it he was a bit overcome and I could see a tear forming in his eye as we talked about the square where we enjoyed a fresh orange juice in the midday sun and where we had picked up a local lady at the bottom of the mountain and given her a lift to up the mountain to her village. When we saw her later coming out of a coffee shop in the village she greeted us like old friends. This lady was also called Mary which was a nice coincidence.
Yes the world is getting smaller and more dangerous but perhaps we can all do our little bit to help by reaching out to visitors to our country that we come across because there is no doubt that the best antidote to violence and anger is friendship and kindness.
Let us all try to make a friendly connection with those we meet.
Ted Dwyer Family Business