Stratos Stratigakis, Kastoria

For many years, Stratos Stratigakis taught at a tuition center in Athens. The job was exhausting and he worked long hours to earn a living for himself and his family. One Sunday morning, he had an idea: «I thought of sitting the exams and getting appointed to a provincial school. I’d sat the exams before but hadn’t even bothered to go and collect the results. But this time, my mind was made up,» he told Kathimerini. A few months later, he arrived in Kastoria at the age of 41. «It was Sunday, August 25 when I arrived in Kastoria and I remember wondering where everyone had gone. I thought they must all be on holiday because the town was practically empty.» It took him a little while to adjust. «It is strange to be walking along and see signposts for Albania.» He settled in Mesopotamia, a village 10 kilometers (6 miles) out of Kastoria. «Do you know how wonderful it is to ride a bicycle with your child beside a frozen lake? To set out at nine in the morning to go to the bank to pay your bills, get your glasses fixed and be home again at 10 a.m.? That’s what quality of life is. It’s three minutes on foot from my house to the school and one minute by car. In Athens, my day lasted 21 hours, because three were spent commuting. «There’s no competition here; relationships are good. In Athens, the law of supply and demand makes for high prices and poor quality; here it takes you 10 minutes and costs you 10 euros to go out to eat.» There isn’t much that he misses: «Only the cinema and theater, nothing else,» he says. «Athens pushed me to my limit; I used to get angry at the slightest thing. I couldn’t bear the traffic congestion and the crowds. I felt my life was on the wrong track and my children were suffering in an apartment. Here I live in a house with a garden and I realize that we were living like rats in Athens. «I’ve forgotten what anxiety means. At Christmas, I went to Athens and somebody pushed in ahead of me in the line at a bookstore. Under other circumstances, I would have demanded an explanation, but I just said: ‘Go ahead, pal; I’m going to Kastoria.’»

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