Imagine a solo traveler girl like me, buying a flight ticket to Zakynthos in Greece, not knowing anything about the island I would land to. I only knew one thing: I would sleep in my tent in a camping by the sea. I have chosen to sleep in a camping because the prices for rooms were insane high, and I could not find anything under 40–50 euros/night for a single room. So I have looked for camping sites in Zakynthos which are near to the Vasilikos beach and the Marathonissi island. Another important thing for me was that the camping site is green with lush forests, for obvious reasons.
Ride from airport to the camping
So I arrive in the airport of Zakynthos, looking for a bus to take me to the camping. But I see no buses, just taxis. I ask around to find out if there is one bus coming later maybe and find out that the only way to get out of the airport is by letting 25 euros leak out of my pocket for a taxi.
No way I will pay that for a few kilometers so I ask the same girl, which way is the town. It’s noon, it’s august, it’s Greece, so a burning sun is just a normal companion. The girl asks me if I can wait for 10 minutes, as her father will pick her up and they can give me a ride. So they do. Then I hitchhike again to finally arrive in the camping. The girl who took me in the car, is Abbey. She is english, 34, and leaves on the island for a couple of o years. She had two small pups in her lap, which she has just taken to the vet. Abbey works with dog rescue NGO’s that take dogs off the streets and put them for adoption worldwide. Abbey fosters the pups until they are 4 months old, because they can not travel outside of Greece before that age. How beautiful is that? So my 25 km ride from the airport to the camping worked as a charm.
The Camping Tartaruga in Zakynthos- first 2 days
In the Tartaruga camping, I chose a cosy spot in the shadow, set up my tent, drank one beer or two and socialized with my German camping neighbors. Then I went to the sea. The camping had a small cosy tavern, with an amazing sea view. They were serving home cooked dishes, so I definitely wanted to try some. In the evening, I pick a table of my choice, with sea-view of course, and soon an Irish guy and the German family join me. Than I was thinking. A couple of hours ago I was in Budapest, waiting to fly to Greece and thinking how crazy I am to go again in a new place with no plans.
And here I am, sitting at a table with 4 people I have never met and we enjoy a beautiful Greek dinner spiced with international subjects. The German guy talks about German cars, power horses and no speed limits. The Irish guy tells us how he has crossed 7 countries in 3 weeks on the motorbike and how scenic the TransAlpina road in Romania was. It is a unique thoroughfare over the southern Carpathian Mountains and part of the world’s most amazing roads list. He also says that he enjoyed Bulgaria more than any other country because of its kind people. He wants to see more pictures of Romania, so I show him. He is amazed to see that my country is not only a big village. Uthe, the German woman wants to know more about the political situation in Romania and how things have changed in the last years.
We had exciting conversations for hours and beers and hours…when the hours were out and the beer too much, I just excused myself and went to sleep.
The next morning, I go to the beach tavern to drink the coffee and hear two girls taking greek on a table next to mine. Thinking that I need some advice regarding good places to visit on the island from locals if possible, I go to them. The next thing I know is that they invite me to spend the day with them touring the island and 7 days later we say goodbye, as I was heading to Lefkada and they were going back to Athens.
What happened in these 7 days? This is when the great story begins.
The next days and where the adventure starts
After spending a whole day on the Marathia beach with the girls, which still is one of my favorite beaches on the island, they tell me a friend of theirs has invited them to spend the rest of the week in his summer home in Zakynthos. My plans were to continue my journey on the island, go and see other beaches, and the shipwreck beach of Navagio, which was on the top of my list. But Maria and Val ask me if I would like to stay for another day, if their friend agrees to host me. So I think: “yes, I’d love to“.
The next think I know is that I arrive at the summer home and meet the other friends of Maria and Val. So the full team is made of five greek boys, two greek girls and me. We have cooked, laughed, danced, sailed and stayed under the sun or moon. We would spend the days at different beaches, and the evenings eating out or cooking together. The nights were the best time to gather in the garden, smoke, chat, drink, listen to music and lie in the hammocks to watch the moon.
Such a chill time, such an authentic way of enjoying each others company, without knowing one another. We were a handful of strangers that had one thing in common: joy, or Hara in greek. All of my friends are from Athens and one is from Corinth. Maria works on IT projects, Val is an insurance professional, Christo is finance accountant in a marble company, Spiro works for the government, Costas has his own company selling sport gear, the other Costas is a hair stylist and Nikos – I don’t know what he does, but I will ask.
One of my favorite moments was when we sailed around the islands and we swam in the turquoise waters, near the turtle nests beaches. It was an adventurous sailing because the boat engine stopped working in the middle of the sea, so we were ‘hitchhiked’ by another boat. It took 2 minutes to get help, as Greek people are really emphatic and care for the others.
The next favorite was the traditional greek food like: kolokithoftedes which are meatballs with zucchini and feta cheese, then graviera cheese with pasta and Gemista – stuffed tomatoes and/or other vegetables that are baked, until soft and nicely brown.
The next thing I will do is going to Athens, some day. Now I have 6 more reasons to do it.
What are my impressions of Greece and Greek people after this adventure:
- greek people are warm-hearted, ready to help you, and they listen, really listen. If you have a need they will try to help you themselves, or if not call a neighbour, a cousin, an aunt – anything to sort it out.
- greek people share everything with you, like you were family: their home, food, drink, car, smoke. Actually when we ate, something in the car, for example, everyone would get a bite until there was nothing left.
- they are problem solvers and solution oriented and are ready for spontaneous cases, like having to jump out of a boat which is about to set loose 🙂 . They have really strong instincts.
- they like music, chilling out, enjoying coffee, sea breeze and dance in a certain slow pace. Nothing is in a hurry in Greece. The only exception, is when they drive towards to beach.
- Oh they love to laugh, and they laugh until they lose their breath and then they start joking all over again. I haven‘t understood much of Greek, but laughing came naturally to me just by seeing them laugh.
- it is so easy to be yourself around them
- I love them