We gave him forty minutes. In Greek time, that’s the blink of an eye. In German time, it’s an eternity. As an Australian living in Germany, I’m suspended somewhere between the two and I began getting impatient after about fifteen. The airport pick up was part of our accommodation, accommodation we were keen to reach before midnight. My travel buddy, who had been on the road for about 4 days, journeying from Sydney to Muenster via Abu Dhabi, Dublin and Duesseldorf, was particularly keen.
We caught the last cab left in the empty airport carpark. It was that or walk, like a lost looking Nordic traveller (who inexplicably had walking poles – what is it with the Scandos and walking poles?) and Santorini doesn’t have the best streetlight system in the world … in fact, I’m not sure it has any.
Our cabbie was a study in dexterity. He managed to have a conversation on his (hand-held) mobile, respond to radio call-outs and drive (on the wrong side of the road, it’s more practical on the island because drivers are in a constant state of taking over vehicles travelling at less than 100km/hour). He had excellent braking abilities. Thank fuck.
Our landlord was sitting on a scooter outside our accommodation. He looked surprised to see us. Never a good sign. He slithered off his scooter and tiptoed over (large man, surprisingly small feet). He looked even more surprised when we mentioned we were due to check in.
‘Yes.’ We gave the name. He shook his head.
‘Yes. Yes. We booked, we have emails.’
He studied us for a moment, trying not to grin. Clearly he knew something funny that we didn’t. ‘Come.’
His wife was watching a Steve Carrell movie in the living room/reception. Our booking form was sitting on the reception desk.
My travel buddy nodded. Something dawned in his small, endearingly piggy eyes.
‘Me.’ He pointed at himself. ‘Airport. Now?’
‘Yes. But it’s fine, we caught a cab.’
He started laughing and pawed at his mid length grey locks. ‘Someone here. Already. Someone Tammy. In room.’
‘No, I’m Tammy.’
Something dawned in our endearingly sleep deprived eyes … our room had been appropriated by slimy, canny, nasty travellers. As had our airport pick up. Our landlord hadn’t even asked their names. At any point. In the van, during the check-in process. And now a fake Tammy and her fake Liv were dossing down in our room, freshening up in our shower.
On the way to our landlord’s brother’s rooms (there’s always a brother or a cousin on hand to save the day) I asked him the nationality of our room-stealers.
How we all guffawed.
So we’re here. It’s baking hot from the moment the sun rises to the moment it dips, swollen, behind the flat Aegean. Time has stopped. The language is quicker, more emphatic, more dramatic. The food is garlicky, fresh, the water salty. The same houses that stood, unfinished last summer, stand, unfinished, now. Nothing ever really changes too much here. And that’s a good thing.
Let the summer begin.