Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Dream in Naxos


Exactly seven years ago, I was on the island of Naxos, in the capital town of Chora. My husband and I were enjoying the second leg of our honeymoon, having traveled from Crete to this smaller island, following Ariadne's trail. We stayed at a charming hotel, the Anixis, located in the Old Town area, where cars are not permitted and where you get hopelessly, fabulously lost—for just moments at a time—in the maze of narrow, whitewashed streets that turn every which way and bring surprises of hidden doorways, bright red potted geraniums flashing against blue painted doorways. (Perhaps we did not escape Crete's labyrinth mythology after all!) The night before today's anniversary—that is, July 14—we were celebrating at the harbor: not Bastille Day, but the festival of Aghios (Saint) Nik√≥dimos. A splendid display of color streaked through the black night sky. There were fireworks, their red smoke lingering over the docks after each screeching burst of light. Never to be outdone in pageantry, the Church paraded the saint's icon through the town, lifted high under a gold canopy covered with red and white carnations. We sat on a sea wall and watched the procession on one side of us, the moored boats rising and falling in the explosive haze. The next night, we discovered a wonderful restaurant up in the Kastro district, where the Venetian castle dominates the hilltop. Or maybe this was the second night we dined there, as I know we were so pleased with it that we elected to return at least a second time rather than try anywhere new. The restaurant, a taverna called Oniro, which means "dream" in Greek, had a rooftop terrace where we could see the sunset colors washing over the ancient gate, the Portara. We loved the food, though oddly I don't remember exactly what we ordered. Seafood, certainly—and the ever-present horiatiki that I could never get enough of (as at La Miranda in Nice, tomatoes in Greece always tasted divinely like tomatoes). I do remember we drank wine, white and chilled. I also remember eating small-plate mezes to the accompanying duet of a couple's passionate lovemaking, their uninhibited groans and screeches coming from a house slightly downhill of us. Either no one else paid attention, or everyone did; it was hard to tell which. Of course, I provided my own public distraction when I leaned to far into my wooden chair and toppled backward. One sip of wine too many, to top off a lazy day of sun-addled beach combing? Certainly. Sloshed American newlywed tourist—lovely way to earn a stereotype. But despite a moment's mortification, no real harm was done. Actually, none at all. Nothing really mattered anymore, and certainly not ego; we were just living life, in the moment for a change. A perfect set of summer days.

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