Feb 29, 2012

Dimitri - The Greek Guide

This article is my entry for Around the World with Expedia contest hosted by Indiblogger and Expedia.co.in

Driver:     (noun) somebody who operates a motor vehicle

Guide :     (noun) somebody who supervises a tour.
(transitive verb)  to steer a vehicle, as well as to help somebody learn something.

Taxi:       (noun) a car, usually with a taximeter, whose driver is paid to transport passengers

What is one word in Greek for all of the above?

Have you turned into compiling a dictionary on your blog or is it some kind of quiz contest?

I was expecting you to ask. No! I have not started compiling a dictionary here, nor is it an effort to showcase my knowledge about the language.  Actually, I am just trying to arrive at the exact role that Dimitri played for us in Athens. 

Dimitri who?

I am sorry, now I have evidently managed to confuse you. Usually I always begin at the beginning, a very good place to start. But today seems to be a day when you find yourself stuck in the middle –perplexed whether to read ahead with a hope that I may clear the confusion or just skip this blog, and find something more interesting.

(with a glare that could kill..) Do you intend to get to the point or should I really find something better to do?

Ok, sorry.  No more diversions. Actually the Expedia (http://www.expedia.co.in) has organized a competition wherein travel bloggers are required to submit stories on interesting people they have met while travelling in India or abroad. Given this opportunity, it is just fitting that I’d write about Dimitri.

For this let me go back to 2007. We were planning a trip to Europe in May that year & our first halt was scheduled at Athens.

Sir Richard Francis Burton had said - Of the gladdest moments in human life, methinks, is the departure upon a distant journey into unknown lands. So, glad I was, but, the more I read about Athens, the more I got to know about the infamous Greek taxi drivers and that started worrying me. That is when I came across George the Taxi Driver’s website.

George? I thought you were talking about Dimitri.

(My turn to glare with a look that could kill!) Listen, I am getting to Dimitri, provided you stop interrupting me. 

George & his organization comprising few Greek Taxi Drivers were recommended highly for their skills in ferrying tourists around. After a few email exchanges we asked George to provide us his services during our two days stay in Athens, which he readily agreed to.

So here we were climbing down the stairs of the Hotel at the appointed hour to meet George when I received a call from him. With an impeccable command over English, he apologized, expressing his inability to be our taxi driver personally. However, he had made the necessary arrangements and someone from his team was waiting outside the Hotel with the vehicle. We were a bit disappointed as well as irritated, but there appeared a suave and handsome Greek (‘he looks much better than most of the bollywood heroes’ was whispered aside between my wife & my daughter).

Can I see his picture please?

Sorry, I do not have a picture, but you will have to take my word (rather my wife & daughter's word) for it. However, if you continue reading, I will share some of the pictures that we took during that trip. Now, if I may get back to my blog.

So, this was the beginning of our two days’ association with Dimitri during which he was what a perfect guide should be: A good host, looking after your comfort as a representative of his country, an enjoyable companion, ready to provide you with insights of the land & people who are strange to you; knowing when to keep his counsel & leave you in peace; providing advice when sought, ready with delightful courtesies & surprises.


Dimitri was all of these and much more. He chalked out an interesting itinerary for us over two days, taking us to places like Corinth Canal, Ancient Corinth, Mycenae, Nafplio, Epidaurus, Sounion & the City of Athens itself. If his command over the history, geography and the architecture was simply amazing, the effortlessness with which he could explain the difference between Doric, Ionic & Cornthian columns to us or speak to us about the history of Mycenae actually made me wonder why he was not a teacher.


His take on the current Greek politics & economy, which sounded like a local crib to me in 2007, proved to be so insightfully right as the events unfolded in the year 2011.


It was not only his knowledge about his own country that was astonishing. Rather he seemed to be taking equal interest in India. It was he, who actually made me realize the deep rooted connection & similarities that India & Greece – two ancient civilizations – share at the fundamental level – a plethora of Gods for all occasions, the journey of Alexander in his bid to conquer the world, and Democracy.


There is one memory, sharply etched in the depths of my mind, which increased our admiration for Dimitri. He had driven us to the Attica Zoo, a large, delightful zoo. Unaware of how large it would be, we had asked him to wait for us for half an hour, after the course of which we would have returned.


However, time galloped along, and we ended up having taken about 3 hours! After we came out, we found Dimitri patiently waiting for us, in spite of the sweltering heat. He brushed aside our apologies and was eager to show us the rest of his beloved city. Patience was just one, of his most admirable qualities!


While dropping us at the Hotel on our final evening in Athens, he hesitantly brought out a small packet – a gift for my daughter – about 10 years old at that time, an amulet to ward off the evil eye. The gesture was so thoughtful and yet not at all unexpected from Dimitri. As we hugged & parted company, I realized that while he was the perfect host we hardly got to know much about him. It was too late by then to find out. However, I promised myself that sooner or later we will visit Greece again, this time to explore the kingdom of Alexander with the help of Dimitri – my Greek word for a Taxi-driver-cum-guide.


Sudhagee said...

Superb narration and a great post.

The Bohemian Teacher said...

The post is lovely and your pictures are so gorgeous! can't wait to go to Greece asap! :D good going!

anil said...

Great post Ashish! Very different from your usual style of writing, but a wonderful way to write it. As usual your photographs are outstanding. Loved the one of the tree rising above the city!!

Snehal Kulshreshtha said...

I.N.C.R.E.D.I.B.L.E and A.S.T.O.U.N.D.I.N.G.... I hope my sentiments are conveyed in the Caps that I have used with the stops indicating that this took my breath away...

Vaish said...

Gorgeous greece!!

Sujatha Sathya said...

lovely entry for the contest! and such awesomazing pictures - too good

The Fool said...

Excellent pictures and nice to learn about Dmitri. Congrats on winning the consolation prize at the expedia contest.