Where the road ends | Part 1

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"Go tomorrow. No today. Full moon." With his free hand, the man taps the counter, following the melody on the radio. I then realize it to be no counter, but a wooden pulpit.

"Werewolves, I suppose?" I challenge the man, with a grimace, and glance around to be sure I haven't entered a chapel by mistake. Apart from one yellowed poster showing a Christ Pantokrator, there is nothing religious about the room. Nevertheless, I remove my cap.

"No understand." Of course he does not know the word. Werewolves do not exist in Greek mythology, do they? "No bus today. Full moon today. Crazy village." He insists. "Come tomorrow. Bus tomorrow. Go tomorrow."

I have seen Greeks lose their temper for less than that, and I decide to abuse from the man's good will. Maybe he is the chaplain, doubling as tourism agent.

"How much would a taxi charge, to take me there?"

"Taxi no go today. You no go today. Understand?" He points through the dusty windows of the small office. "My village beautiful. You stay here. I find pension."

He is reaching for the telephone. But I have no intention to stay. This village, at the bottom of the mountain, is charming indeed. Yet, from the sole postcard I have seen of the village I am headed to, my destination is no less than stunning.

"It is beautiful here." I don't want to make my rejection sound personal, and hurt the man that has been so patient and kind. "But I want to bathe in the sea tonight. Celebrate the full moon. Efkaristo poli." I thank him, and walk onto the street.

I do find two taxis at the main square, under the shade of a centennial oak. When I mention the name of the village I intend to go to, both drivers shake their heads.

"How much?" Since I am not sure they understand me, I take a crumpled bunch of drachmas out of the pocket of my shorts.

"Friend, you are not welcome there tonight." The younger of the drivers does speak good English. "I'll take you tomorrow." And he mentions the most exorbitant price for the drive. I could return to Athens on that money, I think - by plane.

"I want to go there today. I am missing the seaside, you see?"

"You can't." I realize the men have not looked at me once, their eyes fixed on the backgammon board.

I gasp. Of course I can, I think, and I will. "Are you going to tell me it is because of the full moon?" I inquire further.

"Yes." The man snorts. " Full moon. No one is welcome there on full moon."

"Why?"

"Tradition." The man replies, dismissing me with a wave of his hand, indicating his patience is through.

*****

I could stay in town for lunch. There is a lovely tavern on the main square, the tables under a flamboyant red bougainvillea. But I've grown impatient, and instead, having bought the biggest bottle of water I could find, and the four last spanakopitas at the local bakery, I am on my way.

My backpack is not heavy, and I feel confident as I stride across the village towards the mountain in the back. I know the village I want to reach is on the other side of this huge wall. I won't need to escalate it. There is a road perfectly delineated against the gray rock, winding up to the ridge where it disappears from view - giving to the other side, where my destination lies.

If you want to know why I am so determined to reach this village - I don't have any particular reason to give you. I have seen a postcard, a single one of it, at a secondhand bookshop in Athens. I am guessing the picture was taken from the top of the mountain I have started to climb, depicting the little village of white houses and its port set on a dramatic peninsula cutting the light blue sea like a righteous sword. The faded postcard was from two decades ago, and perhaps because it was written in Greek, and I did not read a word, I left it behind. Now I regret not having bought it. Yet, I have kept the name of the village in mind.

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