I’ve been thinking a lot about Greece these days. I will admit: I miss it. The nice thing is that we were good at bringing back souvenirs – thoughtful, lasting ones – and seeing them strewn about our home in Montreal puts me in a good (although sometimes wistful) mood.
We visited the Spyros Vassiliou Atelier one afternoon early into our stay, and fell in love with Vassiliou’s bold, striking style. Vassiliou, who died in 1985, was a painter/printmaker who liked to paint modern Athens in all of its ugly, beautiful sprawl, often weaving in religious icon imagery which is also so prevalent in Greek art. We told ourselves we would buy one of his prints and returned a few months later to select the one we wanted. (Actually, we wanted one so badly that we had to make three return trips. The first two didn’t work out because the studio was closed and in typical Greek fashion, we had no way of knowing until we showed up and saw the sign taped to the door.)
We liked this print for its vivid sea blue and the small ferry boat in the corner. It reminds me of one of my favourite things about flying into Greece – there’s this point where you’re close enough to landing that you can start making out details below and one of the first things I always notice are the ships. They look so small compared to the huge, blue sea surrounding them. The print is now hanging up in our staircase.
We walked into a church one day and found dozens of these small tin images tied to various icons. We later found out they were tamata, votive offerings found in Greek Orthodox churches. Depending on what you’re praying for, you offer up the corresponding tama – in this case, the saint was known for taking care of eye problems.
We bought some from a nearby kiosk, a euro each, and now they decorate our front window. I’d like to think of the image of the book as my offering for my novel.
This is my grandfather’s calling card that I found among his things in Athens. I keep it in my wallet. His name was Dionysius and if I’d been born a he instead of a she, we would’ve had the same name.
We also brought back one of his paintings. My grandfather was a wonderful artist, and I’d already claimed one of his paintings as my own a few years ago, but we added a second to our collection. It’s small – the size of a trade paperback – of some murky trees.
This pomegranate liqueur won’t last as long as the other things, but it’s potent stuff. We bought it at Brettos in Plaka, put it on a shelf and forgot about it until Valentine’s Day when we mixed it with some tonic water and ice cubes. This drink will be even better in the summer, I think. It’s March now – spring’s not that far off, right? I don’t mind saving it for a bit longer.
(If you’re going to Greece, I recommended some of these places in this post awhile back.)