Greece, land of light, sunshine, white walls, little churches perched high up on the hills, Bougainvillea, geraniums and hospitable people whose past stretches back to ancient times. Every time I go back there, I know I belong though I’ve never been more than a visitor to these ancient shores. But Greece is literally in my blood. Or Greekness. My mother’s Greek family were originally from Constantinople (now Istanbul) They lived in an area which is now called Fener, once an elegant, wealthy area.
My grandmother, Nina Safralis, had a beautiful flat in Phanari and used to tend pots of roses on her balcony. The flat looked something like the one below.
Even when she was very old and her mind going a little, Mum (Diana Safralis) still spoke several words of Turkish and remembered the exact address 88 years later! She thought it was Kikiksokak off the Grande Rue de Pera (now Istiklal Caddesi)
going down to Kikisokak
As a child, she had it drummed into her in case she ever got lost. When I visited Istanbul for the first time, I found a street called Kinali-Kikiksokak but not sure if her old house was still there. It now seemed to be a children’s playground. Mum’s parents divorced and she went to live in Greece with her mother and never returned to Turkey though it’s said her father re-married and she had some half brothers and sisters.
Grandma and Mum moved to Thessaloniki and then on to Athens. Mum became and actress when she left school and she met some interesting people . She was a really beautiful girl with fair looks and green eyes. Her mother was also green-eyed and had reddish hair, not at all typical Greeks and I am also fair with green eyes. My suspicion and some history digging while in Istanbul has made me think these ancestors come from the area which is now in Macedonia. According to my mother our history stretches way back, to the Byzantines. I need to work on this.
Some cynics don’t believe in ‘love at first sight’. But I assure you from their and my own experiences . . . it’s a very real and often devastating experience.