1. “Δέκα-οκτώ- δέκα-οκτώ- δέκα-οκτώ (theka-octo-theka-octo-theka-octo)”: For those of you who don’t know Greek, this is, literally, “eighteen-eighteen-eighteen.” There is a bird that makes exactly this sound. They even call it the “theka-octoura,” or something like that. When I first heard it, I thought I was having auditory hallucinations (not an infrequent occurrence in Greece).
2. The cacophony of church chimes: Some are beautiful. Some make you want to toss yourself over that Grecian cliff…yes, the one right outside your door. The first time they wake you up, you swear to yourself, never again, I will find every church within a five-kilometer radius and stay outside that radius. But even if you do manage to find every church (which is unlikely) there are, for example, over 100 churches in the town of Skopelos alone…so, good luck with that! By the way, they go off every half hour, the deep dark night included—so you may want to request noise-cancelling headphones on your birthday list.
3. Crashing dramatic thunder and rainstorms: Did I mention this kind? The kind that have grown adults cowering under the table? Or that Grecians island roofs suggest protection rather than actually provide it? I spent one such extremely long night mopping up the floor with the only towel I had. The rain was dripping down the inside of the walls—a situation that made buckets useless.
4. Low-pitched drumming of the ferry boats: Yes, the ones that arrive at 5:00 am.
5. Irritating voices on loudspeakers, often early in the am: What is that extremely annoying noise—a cross between a sick animal and—dare I say it—a human voice? Are they actually saying something? Yes, they’re usually selling something…anything from onions to dirt to political candidates.
6. Cats in heat: I’ve come to the conclusion that one of the joys of American city life is never having to deal with these bizarre screams in the middle of the night (unless, of course, you live in poorly insulated apartments, and what you’re hearing aren’t cats…).
8. Raised dramatic voices: Number 7 or a football game is often a prerequisite, but certainly not necessary, not in the least.
9. Confused roosters: If you somehow manage to escape the church chimes, and you’ve forgotten your alarm clock, no problem. Greek roosters consistently crow at 2am, 3am, 4am and finally 5am. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to avoid sleeping in.
10. Three am garbage collection: You’re in the middle of Athens and there aren’t any nearby roosters? Don’t worry, there’s the 3am garbage collection. Be sure to stay on the ground floor to experience the full affect. The first time this booming shaking noise awakened me, I thought Athens was having another of its frequent earthquakes…or we were under attack. Nope. Just the friendly sanitary engineers. (Thank God, they were engaging in Number 8 so I could tell the difference.)
11. Waves: One of the loveliest sounds on earth, it almost makes up for the previous ten…almost.
12. The whining and rumbling of motorbikes: Again, if you have the unbelievable experience of no churches and no roosters and no 3am garbage collections, there’s always the motorbike. Remember, Greeks stay up all night—so you’re only gonna escape this one if you’re on a motor-free island, like Hydra (but it wasn’t quiet , even there…another story).
13. European sirens: You know these from the movies. They’re real, and they sound exactly like they do through your surround-sound home speakers.
14. The Da-daaa da-daaa da-daaa da-daaa of the Greek ring-tone
15. The chattering din of an extended family of birds at 6:30pm: The animal (and people) wildlife in Greece provide you with so many time-telling opportunities. You really can get by without a watch.
16. Blessings and Greetings: This is definitely one of my favs and includes such lovely expressions as: “Kalimera,” “Kalispera,” “Kalinixta,” “Ti kaneis?” “Yeia sou,” “Na eisai kala,” “Filakia,” “Kalo Xeimona.”
Would you like to share some of your sounds of Greece?