Robert & Teresa Payne
Robert & Teresa Payne do free-lance writing and photography
FORGET IT! Forget Rome,
forget Venice, and forget Dubrovnik. Too smoggy, too expensive,
and too crowded," he said, taking a yellowing National
Geographic may of The Balkans from his backpack. With a blue
felt tip pen he made a series of check marks beside a string ofislands
south of Athens.
advised the well-traveled young Californian. "Take to the
back alleys of Aegina, Spetsai, or Poros. Keep an open mind and
just poke around asking questions and talking to the locals. It's
fun because with Greek villagers, you never know what to expect."
As our train rolled
toward the Adriatic, our new found friend explained his back-alley
theory of travel: "Travel is about the only adventure left
in the modern world. And the essence of adventure is not knowing
exactly what will happen next. For that reason, I never take any
guide books, and I even promise myself I won't ready anything
in English...especially the European edition of the Herald
Tribune. Take my advice. Latch onto something local that catches
your interest and investigate."
Following his advice,
we settled in Poros, an island village only two hundred yards
off the coast of the Peloponnesus. After renting a ten-dollar-a-day
room at the HOtel Galatea, Teresa and I boarded a nine-foot water
taxi and putt-putted across the two hundred yard strait to have
a beer at Demetro's Cafe.
Demetre had stretched
his blue and white awning over the sidewalk, and in its shade
we drank a chilled bottle of Fix, the beer on the Aegean.
Sitting back, we noticed
Demetre's awning picture-framed the white-washed building that
rambled up Galatea's steep slopes just across the strait. Doorways
and windows- all painted different Easter egg colors- looked so
perfect it would have been easy to believe some high-powered decorator
from the pages of Architecural Digest had been paid for the job.
"How do they do
it?" asked my curious spouse. "How do those Greeks mix
such perfect pastels? This island has no paint store. Nobody's
going to take a ferryboat ride to Athens just to get a quart of
I asked, stewing on her puzzle. "No paint store could mix
colors like that anyway. Must be an artist in town." Butter
yellows, powder flues, and faded olives-all different; yet each
seemed to come from the palette of Chagal or Dufey.
I brooded further on
her little mystery, finally decided it could prove fun to track
down the mixer of all those crazy colors. Tomorrow I would take
to the back alleys and slip about this island asking questions.
That decision made, I ordered another Fix.
The next day confirmed
the fact no paint store existed on the island of Poros. But I
did locate the source of all paint sold here: a tiny general store
offering evrything from Jap-flap sandals to kerosene lanterns.
A brassy little eleven
year old named Tackey tended the store while his dad was off to
Athens. Tackey had the earnest look of Star Wars' Luke
Skywalker. This, combined with his smart-aleck brand of English
learned from youthful American visitors left me wondering if I
would get a straight story from him.
paint, have we got paint," he announced, whisking me to the
paint department which consited of a pair of two-foot shelves
in the rear of the store.
The upper shelf held
half-liters of enamels- reds, blues, greens, and yellows; the
lower shelf held the tatexes- also all primary colors. Not a pastel
was to be seen.