Thursday, September 22, 2011

Greek Kindness in Katakolon

Beach-combing in Katakolon w/cruise ships in background.
This past summer I made a promise to a Museum curator in Greece. My husband and I had been traveling and arrived that morning in Katakolon, Greece. Katakolon might not roll off the tongue, but most of us have heard of Olympia about 90 minutes away.

Having spent his traveling cash on airfare when he missed the ship days earlier, he had only 10 Euro in pocket change as we waited for the tiny high-tech train we'd just missed.

With an hour's time to kill we noticed a humble little museum across the tracks. So we traipsed through the weedy adjacent field, and peered in.

Katakolon Museum, Greece
"How much?" we asked. Although it didn't matter because we didn't have a spare Euro, so we shrugged and said "oh, we haven't any money", and prepared to sit in the sun waiting for our train.

"Come on in," she offered, with genuine hospitality. That was our first surprise. What awaited us inside was no less inspiring.

"I'll let you know when the train comes," she offered in perfect English.

She then stood up from her seat behind the entrance booth and proceeded to give us a one-hour private tour of the museum's artifacts, wooden models, dioramas and ingenious inventions.  At each well-marked display she shared the history, demonstrated the invention and even let us handle select items in spite of the 'do not touch' signs. She even posed for this photo with my husband. What heart! And we hadn't paid a cent to visit. Such are the kindnesses we experienced from the Greeks.
Early Greek sundial-style clock adapts to the season's light.
High-tech, tiny train.
An hour later, we and 20 others crowded into the two-car train destined for Olympia, with ancient ruins larger, more spectacular and more preserved than I could have imagined.
Olympic Field, Starting Line.
We walked most the day and barely saw a fourth of what was to been seen, the context of the archeological site made richer by our morning visit to the Katakolon Musuem.

In addition to the traditional tourist stuff, like my husband pretending to launch off the starting blocks, we had Gyros for lunch in Olympia, and pulled money from an ATM as the train had cost double what we'd expected. By end of day, we again had only 5 Euros left.

Upon our return to Katakolon, we headed across the train track to present those few Euros as compensation for our earlier museum visit. The museum was now closed.

Museum of Ancient Greek Technology
At that point she was setting out beverages in a cafe-style tent adjacent to her museum. She was pleased to see us, and said that we had 'touched her heart' by coming back. We know the truth. She made our day, our visit, our trip. Our hearts were the ones touched. I promised to blog about her museum. We shook hands, and prepared to head back to the ship.

And after a day of sightseeing, I really wanted an ice cold Coke in one of those little glass bottles, but alas, didn't have a single Euro left.  Best not to push our luck.