When I was idly kicking around this past Sunday, lolling on the bed before the wide open window, the memory of Ferne Arfin’s travel essay ”A Boring, Unnerving, and Ultimately Enchanted Evening” suddenly popped in my head. It was published in the Christian Science Monitor in 2003, and somehow this tale of a woman traveling solo in Greece and the impromptu gallantry of three young Greeks who serenade her in the streets of Athens has since stuck with me as one of those magical, serendipitous, unforgettable moments that you can never plan for while traveling.
“You like music?” asked Apollo. “Greek music? You like that?”
“Yes,” I finally replied.
“Bouzouki music? You know? You like bouzouki?”
“Mmm, I guess so.”
“You come with us later. We play for food, you know. Where you stay? We take you. Eat. Listen to music. Don’t say no. You come. Say yes. You eat. You listen. We play.”
It’s a sweet story. The woman makes her leap of faith over understandable trepidation—language barriers! no idea of where she is! a strange taxi carrying off her passport and tickets into the night!—and experiences something wonderful.
At about the same time that I decided I was doomed, we arrived at a local party. A half dozen people sat at candle-lit tables arranged on the pavement. There were no neon signs, no blazing windows, no menus or waiters to indicate that this was, in fact, our destination – a typical local taverna.
Inside, a motherly woman hugged my companions and ushered us to a table where the third fireman – with my belongings – waited. A typical Greek meal, steak and French fries, appeared on the table. Then two mandolins and a guitar were produced. For the next two hours, my new friends sang and played for our supper.
This whole scene probably came to mind because the warm sunlight filtering down through my open window reminded me of how that story feels, all balmy on an evening that careened on adventure. Not to mention summer sends my travel dreams into overdrive. But as much as I relish planning for a trip (and the anticipatory pleasure that gives me), it’s unscripted moments like these that I end up remembering most vividly.
(photo by Anna Wolf)