Prior to my last day in Greece, I decide to head out to a secluded mountain village called Rogdia. What with the constant flurry of activity that volunteering entails, in addition to my determined daily sightseeing, I’d become a bit fatigued. A getaway up into the mountains for a few hours of phenomenal views and peace is just what I need.
Rogdia is a 10-minute drive up from the Hotel Handakas in Amoudara. I take a taxi up there, which costs me 18 euros on the way up and later, 15 on the way back. The higher cost of the departure rather than the return trip is due to the fact that there’s an additional charge for calling the taxi.
The taxi drops me off at the entrance to the village. I negotiate with the driver to have him return to pick me up and take me back at 6pm. If you decide to embark on a similar trip, make sure to request a driver that speaks some English. There’s no taxi stand in Rogdia and phone service is shaky at best.
It’s 3pm when I arrive, so I set out for a bit of exploration before I settle into a spot to write. Rogdia is a small, quiet village with a rustic charm to it. The streets are narrow and in some state of disrepair.
I wander further through the town to its outskirts. There aren’t that many people out at this time, which many happen to allocate to a siesta.
It’s peaceful. I walk aimlessly, feeling completely relaxed and unhurried. I don’t seem to feel the heat of the Greek sun beating down on me all that much today, I note. Maybe I’m starting to get used to it. Occasionally, I encounter living beings.
I turn left at a crossroads and eventually come to a rickety-looking gate.
I pause for a brief instant, and then push it aside. It nearly tips over. I begin the trek upward, following a path that winds up the side of a cliff. As I get higher, I become extra careful with my steps. Looking down, I notice a car slowing to a stop and the driver craning his neck out of the window, staring at me. It’s times like these that make me mildly curious as to whether I’m doing something stupid. I press onward, eventually reaching a section that has a railing.
Once I ascend to the top, I find myself facing elegant black gates. And that’s when I realize that someone’s Venetian-style villa is situated up here. I look at it, and then survey my surroundings in awe. From my vantage point, I can see Rogdia, the ocean, and all of Heraklion in the distance. I gotta get me one of these cliffside mansions.
There’s more hustle-and-bustle later on as I’m sitting in a shaded area overlooking Heraklion, though that’s relative. It’s still quite quiet. Occasionally, I can hear the laughter of children and their parents calling out to them. I become so accustomed to this sound that it takes me a while to realize that there’s movement behind me. And a shadow. I turn around.
I see a young girl dressed in a pink tank top and white shorts, seated on a matching bicycle. Her skin is deeply tanned and her dark eyes are sparkling mischievously. I smile at her, and she smiles back and waves. And then leaves. I think nothing more of it, and continue writing.
About five minutes later, I feel a stare at my back. The girl is back. She stops closer to me this time and gets off of her bike. She approaches me, looking curiously at me and my notebook, and sits beside me. She speaks to me in Greek. I shake my head.
“I’m sorry, I don’t speak Greek,” I tell her. Her eyes widen. She’s holding two gel pens. She offers me one insistently; it is a bright pink colour, contrasting sharply with the regular blue pen I’m using. I take it.
And then her friends ride by on bikes. Noticing them, she gets up and runs to them, talking excitedly. Their eyes turn to me. I freeze.
“What is your name?” One of the boys asks.
“How old are you?” The other chimes in. “Where are you from?” They nod to my responses and eagerly chime back with their own. Idly, I wonder how I went from being a lone wanderer to the attraction of the village. Things happen so fast, sometimes. And these children speak so quickly in Greek with occasional smatterings of English.
We all whirl around as we hear a loud voice calling in Greek. An elderly woman stands at a distance from us, shaking her finger at the kids. They look at each other and, with another round of speaking in Greek, run off down the road. To run an errand, perhaps? I’m not certain. The elderly lady smiles at me and then keeps walking.
“19,” I hear an exclamation from the kids.
“Ah, 19,” Another says. I chuckle.
It’s a completely different world up here, I think as I start heading back in the direction of where my taxi will be waiting for me. No suspicion and wariness of me, as a foreigner and adult. Not on the part of the kids, nor the adults. I had half-expected the elderly woman to lambaste me or the children thoroughly for interacting with each other. At the very least, to give me the side eye. But she had smiled.
It’s a mad, mad world, in the best of ways.