Zerky in Greece

Map of Greece image

Zerky at the Acropolis in Athens photo

Zerky at the Acropolis in Athens

October 13, 1967 from Athens, Greece.

Dear Zerky, When we crossed into northern Greece south of Lake Ohrid today, the Greek border official became very interested in your passport, Zerky. After studying it intently, he informed us that Xerxes had been defeated by the Greeks in 490 BC at the Battle of Marathon. As always before going into a new country, we had been doing our reading about Greece, so I wanted to correct him by telling him that Xerxes had not been defeated at Marathon but rather Xerxes’ father, King Darius the Great. I also wanted to explain to him, in excruciating detail, how Xerxes came back to Greece ten years later and kicked the shit out of the Greeks at the Battle of Thermopylae. But I decided it best to not challenge him on the history of his own country, some people like to think that their history belongs to themselves so they can make it up as they go along. A bunch of Greek Colonels recently staged a coup d’état here, and Greece is now under military rule.

Too much traveling must have corrupted me, Zerky, here I am in one of the most interesting countries in Europe and I am bored. The most exciting thing about Greece is our decision to leave. Even though the beaches in Peloponnesia are wonderful, I am getting tired of beaches and you are too, because the waves keep knocking you down.

Your mother and I have been stricken by an infectious malady we caught on a beach a few days ago from an elderly German couple traveling in a Volkswagen bus similar to ours. They were winding up a two-year trip from Germany that started when they took the ferry across the Strait of Gibraltar to Tangiers in Africa. From Morocco they drove all the way down to South Africa, and then back up to Kenya on the other side of the African continent. There they put their car on a boat from Mombassa to the Persian Gulf, from where they drove back to Europe through Iran, Turkey and Greece. They are now on their way back to Germany. We spent most of the day with them, listening to their stories and asking questions, after which they assured us that driving through Africa really is possible. “All kinds of people do it,” they said. That is why we are bored with Athens, Zerky, and why Romania is no longer part of out immediate plans. Perhaps we will be able to go there on the way back, but we are now heading for Tehran and then on to the Persian Gulf where we hope to catch a boat to Kenya. Then we will drive back to Spain via South Africa. We shall see lions and tigers and elephants, little Zerky! Well, maybe not tigers, but we shall still have lots of fun.

Yesterday we bought two new tires. After only twelve thousand miles, the tread had disappeared off both of the rear ones. Those so-called roads in Yugoslavia sure took their toll. We have been so busy getting this sort of junk done that we haven’t had time for much sightseeing. We did make it to the Acropolis and to the National Museum. You preferred the Acropolis because you could climb around on it.

Our bus is now loaded to the gunwales with baby food and diapers, crammed into every cubic inch of space there is in and on top of our Volkswagen. You have over two hundred jars of German baby food and close to a thousand bulky disposable paper diapers. Once we leave Athens, we do not expect to be able to buy either of them. So take it easy, this stuff has got to last.

The recent takeover of the government here by a military junta is very much in evidence. The army is everywhere and not just idealistic young soldiers either but battle hardened, ill-tempered old career officers standing on all the street corners. So we will be glad to get out of here next week as soon as we finish getting all our shots. After our taste of Yugoslavia, Asia has us chomping at the bit. Tarzan chomps on bones and you chomp on Legume-Boeuf Foie de Veau out of a jar. We see many such jars in your future.

—Excerpted from Letters to Zerky

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