The Dogfather

When we first came here, we were greeted by three dogs. Vangelis, Harry and a black pup. We knew about the dogs from the previous tenants. We knew they would attack the tires on our car, but that they would be excellent guard dogs. The previous tenants even left us some dog food in the outhouse, in order to befriend the dogs.

Vangelis is the leader of the pack, a huge, ugly looking, viciously barking, tire biting son of a bitch. Literally. Harry has bad hips, but overcomes his handicap, managing to be Vangelis’ right paw dog.

At first, I was quite afraid of the dogs, except the puppy, of course. Then, one day, I went to take out the trash. The trash bin is outside the “tsoloridi”, beyond an electric gate. I felt safe on my side of the gate, even though the dogs could easily go through it. Venturing outside was a marvelous feat for me, as I’m very much afraid of dogs. You might think that this is how I learned to stop worrying and love the dog. But I cheated. I took some dog food with me and I bribed them, so as to leave me alone. I purposely submitted myself to extorsion, becoming a small time Dog Mafia pawn, taking the vig to the Dog Dons.

First contact was next. One evening, the dogs followed us and we decided to give them a little treat. We fed the puppy separately, because we didn’t want the Vangelis and Harry to bully him and steal his share.

We thought that perhaps this would improve our relationship, but we were confused when they jumped at our tires again. Dogs will be dogs, but above all, the Mafia would be nothing without enforcing it’s methods.

Then, on a dog day afternoon, as we were returning from Thessaloniki, I realized we didn’t have a name for the pup. So I called him Costas, although I never checked his gender. Being a bitch called Costas would really be a bitch, I guess.

The story evolves towards a positive outcome, it seems. We feed Costas almost every evening now and we’re tempted to adopt him, although he probably belongs to a neighbor. He’s big, probably about 3 months old and has huge paws. Right now he’s a small time Mafia dog, bulied by Vangelis the Don and Harry Bad Hips, but in a year’s time I expect he’ll be a made dog.  He’ll eventually take Vangelis down one day and become the Dog Don himself.

I’ll be honored if then he’ll consider me “a friend of ours”. Perhaps it won’t be necessary to bite my tires anymore.

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Coffee epidemic in Thessaloniki

Findind a parking spot in the center of Thessaloniki is a piece of cake, if you own a Smart. I don’t.

After one hour of circling the center, I managed to find two spots. One of them was in front of a gate. Someone was leaving and I rushed to take his spot. As I was wrapping up the near-perfect parking maneuvers, I noticed a big latch in my rear-view mirror. I can’t park in front of gates. Would you like to know why ? Because the morning I was leaving Bucharest for Greece I found out there was a Logan parked in front of the gate. One hour later, as the Police were leaving and the ticket was firmly attached to the guy’s windscreen, we pushed it. We were lucky. Now, how was I to park in front of that Thessaloniki gate ? Never in a million years. So I got out, backed up through that very tight dead-end alley and tried my luck again.

The second parking spot was conspicuously empty. I jumped at it, only to discover that it must have been previously occupied by a Smart. Our car was just too big, so we left. Fists clenched, tears in the corner of our eyes, looking straight ahead at the thousands of cars miraculously materialized on the street which seconds before was empty.

So, how do you park in Thessaloniki, on a very busy Saturday, at noon, in the center, close to the White Tower ? I’ll skip the “one price at the entrance, another inside, so you need to leave or be conned” underground parking scheme part.

What you need to do is double park and stalk. Someone is bound to leave. And then… you rush, only to find out you’re parked in a no-parking zone anyway. But this is Greece. You gotta do what you gotta do… and eventually break the traffic laws.

We walked past 10.000 cafes today in Thessaloniki and yes, I’m probably lying. I’m sure there were more. Around 10 million people, the entire population of Greece, was having coffee, water and cookies in Thessaloniki today. Amongst them, about1 million foreigners. Some of the foreigners were drinking beer. Probably Dutch.

We were making our way through the busy promenade, stacked with people and coffee cups. Sent no doubt by the Ministry of Tourism, around 50 Sudanese, Moroccan and Pakistani salesmen were pushing fake Prada, Louis Vuitton and Rolex amid this crown, making it all look picturesque.

The few people who were working were either waiting tables or bringing more coffee, water and cookies with their distributors vans.

Apart from the cafeine junkies on the promenade, Thessaloniki was calm, quiet and lovely. It seemed like everybody was in the center, sitting on comfy ratan chairs, staring at the ships, sipping coffee, bragging, chatting and trying to look good. To me, it looked like either a coffee convention or a coffee epidemic.

As to protest the criminal lack of parking places in the center of Thessaloniki and for fear we might catch the obvious coffee virus which was wreaking havoc through the streets, we didn’t have any coffee. We left, got off the highway and explored the villages on the coast. After an incubation period of 2 hours, the coffee virus went into full swing and we stopped for frappe in Nea Moudania. Plenty of parking spaces there.

The haze

I’m writing this on the terrace, overlooking an olive grove and a stretch of mediteranean pines. Quite windy today, but what stikes me is a haze towards the sea. The sun is pretty strong, there are no clouds, and still this fine mist makes the light seem soft and watery.

For the last 3 days I’ve been watching the growth of a mushroom in the yard, wondering just how big it will get. I know I’m supposed to mow the lawn, but I just don’t know when to do it. Am I supposed to mow it in winter as well ? I’ll check, but I’ll just have to leave that mushroom alone for the time being.

Yesterday I was writing in the same spot as today and after 15 minutes outside I noticed a constant noise. For the rest of the day I believed I had moved next to an Air Force Base and that my life will soon turn into a nightmare, with sonic booms and vicious, noisy dogfights.

But last evening, as I was driving along the beach with my wife, we noticed the huge waves and their supernatural roaring. No jets here. No wonder the restaurant Vasila, perched above the beach, closed for the winter. Were it open, the waves would have reached the kitchen and would have given a new meaning to marinara sauce.

We live on a peninsula on a peninsula on a peninsula on a peninsula on a peninsula. Poseidi, in Kassandra, in Chalkidiki, in the Balcans, in Europe.

At the tip of our small, tit-looking peninsula there is a lighthouse, described as “Powerful” by my Greek adventure partner, a.i. my wife. Last night, as we passed the “Restricted Area. Hellenic Navy Territory” sign, the beam was shining through the same haze that I see today. Eerie.

It looks like another spicy sunset today. Am I able to stare at it while sitting on the couch, with the fireplace on, do you ask? Affirmative.