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Monday, May 27, 2013

War and Peace by John von Daler

    An old man sat down at the next table on the terrace of the little Greek cafe. In between his sips of coffee he managed to become a part of our conversation. You know, vacation stuff, weather and food.

We complimented him on his English, but he waved off our praise.
"I'm no great student. These islands have been occupied so many times that I learned without trying. I just sit here at the cafe and soak up coffee, ouzo, wine and languages. I speak French, English, Italian, German and of course Greek. Not Albanian. You count the wars." 
Later on driving up the road in our rented car we saw the bald head fringed with white as we rounded a corner by an olive grove. 
We offered to give him a ride and he got into the back seat after he had handed over a magnum bottle of Retsina to us for momentary safe-keeping.
We asked what the occasion was.
"No occasion," he answered. "Just my daily walk up to the top of the mountain. When I turned over the cafe I used to own to my son-in-law, I made an agreement with him that I could sit there as much as I wanted, 
that I could eat and drink as much as I wanted and that I could have a bottle of Retsina every afternoon."
He settled back into his seat as if his story had finished.
"But what do you do with that huge bottle?" I asked.
He waved a flat hand towards the window as if to say, See it all!
"After lunch I walk up the hill with my bottle. I go to an olive grove at the top. I find a nice tree to lie under. Then I open my bottle and drink it while I watch the Ionian Sea. Sometimes I fall asleep."
We drove him to the top. After he got out nobody said a word.

Take my book
to the top of your mountain:

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