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zondag 30 augustus 2009

Greece I - Preveza

It is the language I am battling with. This is the first time I feel illiterate in Europe! Anywhere else – even in Eastern European countries, I guess, though I didn't visit many – you can at least make out SOMETHING, at least read the letters, even if you don't understand the meaning. But here, in the cradle of our civilisation – so I keep telling myself – nope! I try desperately to learn the Greek alphabet... and keep exercising on shop windows, signs, cash receipts – even the firebrigade's headquarters. I was quite proud to be able to make out “pyros” at the beginning of a very long word, but then I got into trouble.

Why do they have to make such long words? Yes, once you can read them, you can often cut them into separate parts. But how to do this when you are reading like a 5-year old? Yachts are good for learning to read – because they have more or less obvious names. Nicolas. Gogo. Konstantin.There even was a Kassandra... Not sure how to take that, by the way. You wouldn't your boat to end like her, would you?

Some shop windows are easy. “Optika”, I know that one! I also could make out “Orthopedi”-something. But there are some signs, I can't make head or tail of them. But then, how to learn to spell a language which has six ways of writing the sound ee? Some languages have diphtongues, but in Greek the combination of two letters sometimes is the equivalent of another one completely different – can you still follow me? And then, they have even two languages, let's say “classic” Greek and spoken Greek – and the two have nothing in common. According to my Lonely Planet, more often than not a baker will be called artopoieion on the shop sign, but if you ask someone for a baker, you should use the word fournos- which has a far more familiar ring to it.

I will have to learn some Greek, at least. For though quite a few people speak reasonably well English (the young receptionist who worked in this hotel yesterday spoke it even remarkably well), some others – like the owner of this hotel – have no English at all, let alone any other foreign language . And I saw signs like “I speack English, Wir Deutsch sprechen”, “airlaine tickets”, etc.

Oh well. They do their best. Unlike those French tourists, who asked me in French where I had bought the ice cream I was having. So I told them. In French, of course. They thanked me and never seemed to realise it was rather a coincidence that someone in the little town of Preveza spoke their language as I did.

You know what? I am going to sleep on it. For tomorrow... is another day.

Read also my blogs on Greece "Ioannina - and more" and "Close encounters of various kinds".

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