Today is February 14, Valentine’s Day. Allow me to tell a love story!
The hero is our friend of many years, Draganche. The heroine you get to meet later.
In 2006 Draganche has set his mind on grabbing a summer job on a Greek island. That way, he’d get to spend the summer seaside and return with a few euros in his pocket.
Poring over the map of Greece, he decided on Thassos. It was the nearest. He’d been told it’s pretty. Not least, he’d heard of this lady, Seka, who already gave a job in her Aqua Bar to a friend of his. When he asked Seka in advance for a job, she told him there were no vacancies, but he showed up at her place, nevertheless. As charming as he is, he got a part-time job, washing glasses for the start.
He worked hard from the start, doing everything he was asked to and offering to do more. He labored diligently and, on the rare off time, he was acquainting himself with the island (he still does that).
Toward the end of that first summer, as Draganche was already worrying about how he was to return home with his long-since violated Schengen visa, she showed up at the cafe. Tijana. The heroine of this story.
Today Draganche says that everything went smoothly. Some say, however, that he fell on his behind and, after he recovered, launched an all-out offensive.
A decade passed since. Tijana and Draganche have been married the past eight, with two princesses, of six and three.
Each summer they spend the first three weeks of August on Thassos.
Sometimes, after the put the girls to bed and take seats on the balcony, they imagine what their live would have turned out like had Tijana, as friends were suggesting, gone to Zakynthos that summer of 2006..
When I planned a summer holiday back in the mid-1990s, I had a vision of a dream destination, a picture of what a place to spend the summer should look like.
It had to be an island. Only an island can be a gateway to a full adventure. Surrounded by the sea, it offers the isolation, the peace promising a real rest. Long sandy beaches, pebbled beaches, stone beaches and all those make-believe beaches to be found only in the heads of true dreamers, such as myself. Beautiful scenery for boastful photographs, blue lagoons and hidden coves were just a part of it. Excellent food and friendly locals were presumed.
It was to be expected that I’d head toward southern Greece, but – coincidentally or not – a different part of the country stole my heart that year.
Until then, just thinking „north“ would spark images of a land of snow and ice.
I was looking for a substitute, something to replace the Adriatic where I had vacationed all my previous life. The weather there may have still been excellent, but the political climate took a bad turn and I unrgently needed a replacement for beautiful islands I had been used to.
There is a seriously spectacularly beautiful island, with amazing beaches, they told me in a travel agency. Northern Greece, they said. It isn’t far. It isn’t large and it’s not expensive, they promised. It’s called Thassos and it has all that you need.
It sounded too good to be true.
And so began my Thassian adventure, long ago in 1994.
Summer. I’ve been in love with the summer all my life and, aside from the love for my child, it’s the only unbreakable love.
Sea. The other magical word making life prettier. Shallow, deep, blue, green, salty, magical. It is for the sea that all of us adventitious folk brought us to find refuge here.
Island. The third enchanting word the pull of which I couldn’t resist. It conquered me a long time ago, in elementary school, when I became aware that nowhere else will I be completely happy, as I swallowed the salty liquid streaming from my eyes as with my parents I sought an empty place on a ferry taking us toward home.
Later, when war rendered holiday destinations inaccessible, we had to find another refuge. At one summer holiday in the mid-1990s I found my future home, Thassos.
As we approached the island that first time, our eyes were riveted on the marble quarry, lit up by the sun and shining brightly white from the mass of emerald. Azure waters, endless forests and a welcoming place they said was the main town won me over for the rest of my life. Only a huge Coca-Cola billboard stood out with its red from the greenery looming over the town.
After that, no coast was less beautiful, the water less clean and the local population less hospitable.
I stepped off the ferry, inhaled deeply and looked around. A polite gentleman was there, calling out a ride to abeach – I later found out it was Makryammos.
I felt at home right away. Ready for the sea adventure.
I first visited Thassos on a student vacation in 1993. A decade later, I moved in permanently. Today I’m a Thassian, with a child born here and with several businesses I run, alone and with my husband. How have I found myself here? I think it couldn’t have gone any other way!
Already on my first holiday, I got an offer to work, in the disco/club Just in Time. For a student from Nis, a not so flourishing city in the time of wars in the former Yugoslavia and sanctions against Serbia, any additional income was more than welcomed. Particularly as work was also fun. Anyway, it all went down well enough for me to get an offer to work again the following summer. And the one after that. One of those summers I held a job at the Hard Rock café, which the older visitors may remember.
After my third summer in Thassos, I thought I should try out another place, a bigger place. The search for a life better than the one on offer in Serbia at the time took me to Cyprus. I spent seven years there. It wasn’t bad, but I was discontented. On top of that, all that time I remained connected to Thassos and one man from Limenas.
After moving to the island, I started working with him. The Aqua Bar is our business. I proudly believe our café contributed to the livening of the whole street along the town beach.
As much as summers turn into a blur of days and people, the remaining nine, even 10 months pass slowly in a placeas small and as isolated as Limenas. It took getting used to and using it, for business projects and entertainment and self-care. When I don’t work, I work out. I recently completed a half-marathon in Drama, in northern Greece.
Training, I also became acquainted with the best that Thassos offers – its fantastic nature. I like to run along a path through the forest near the town. To climb up the mountain until I reach some fibne vantage poiont on the sea far below. To return home physically drained and ready for the challenge to remain creative on my own, without the driving pressure that people are under in cities on the mainland.
Often, when I look around Limenas, so small and so dear, I reflect how I traveled for a long time, from that first vacation and easygoing jobbing/partying in a disco, but only crossed some 300 meters on the other side of the town!
Then I look at my son, without a care in the world, happy and safe in Limenas, and then I am also happy to be here.