It all started with a travel poster of the Greek Island of Mykonos tacked on to the ceiling of my houseboat on Portage Bay in Seattle. It was centered directly over my bed, and seemed improbable on a rocking houseboat in the rainy Pacific Northwest.
And so in the early Spring of my senior year at University of Washington, studying oceanography, I inquired about previous owners of that houseboat. I learned that Dr. Thomas Hopkins, a young PhD in oceanography, had moved to Greece recently to head a project. He had been the Mykonos poster culprit.
It was pretty simple yet very astounding. I sent a letter inquiring about working for Dr. Hopkins. Around about mid March in 1973 I received a postcard from Greece. It simply said, "You're hired. Plan to arrive in Athens as soon as possible after you graduate..."
The rest of the semester quickly passed and my excitement and anticipation mounted. I didn't even bother to attend the graduation ceremony. I sold my Landcruiser jeep and my stereo. I turned over Rakk the cat to a friend for catsitting. In June I was aboard a charter Boeing 707 that departed from Boeing field for Brussels, Belgium. I had found an inexpensive routing to Athens incorporating the hop to Brussels, a train to Munich, and Europabus across Austria and (the then) Yugoslavia to Greece. It was a long haul, with several overnights in interesting places.
The bus pulled into the Athens bus station around 10PM on a hot night in late June. Dr. Hopkins was making my introduction to Greece very mysterious. I phoned him from a pay phone after figuring out the kiosk telephoning system on streetcorners. "Welcome to Greece," said Tom Hopkins. "Find a taxi and tell the driver 'Syntagma'. Call me from there". The shadows and heat and mustachioed characters around the bus station had me on edge. The taxi driver took me directly to Syntagma, and I counted out the unfamiliar drachmas (they were about 25 to the dollar then). Another kiosk on the corner of one of the biggest squares in Athens. Hundreds of Greeks sitting in the shadows sipping from little cups. The smell of balkan tobacco in the air. Again Dr. Hopkin's voice on the phone which had been handed to me by a disembodied hand floating over a pile of pistachio nut packages. "You made it? Good! OK, find another taxi and tell him: Aghia Peraskevi". This was a different, more difficult pronounciation for me. The driver studied me as I fought with the unfamiliar words, and pointed to his back seat with his chin. I hopped in the taxi and was off to some pretty big adventure.
An oceanographic study of the Saronic Gulf
Search for the lost city of Eliki
The fall of the military junta
Writing in Greece 1975-6.
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Copyright © 1995, Paul H. Kronfield, Revised July 9, 1996