I know it’s early, but this is goodbye. I have nothing else to say about Greece. In November we’ll move to France and start a new blog. See you there.
Family members, friends and others are increasingly concerned about my welfare. To them, Greece looks pretty much like a battlefield, with fierce fighting, casualties, combatants and sometimes hidden snipers. Although there is a real war in Libya, less than 600 km away from Athens, Syntagma Square and the narrow streets of Plaka still hold the headlines.
From afar, it looks like this: starving Greeks, fighting for a morsel. Bankrupt banks, queues for bread, violence, crimes and, most disturbingly, misdemeanors.
Even a trip to the supermarket might turn fatal. My father asks me what’s going on. Why have I chosen to live in such an unstable and violent country ? The national debt casts a shadow on my financial status. Friends ask me if one can find gas at pumps.
Well, to be completely honest, I must admit that it is quite hard these days to find bread at Arista Supermarket. I’m referring to Ciabata bread, which pops up irregularly at the bread stand. It might just be a marketing scheme, to make customers loiter around the supermarket, waiting for the delicious Italian loaf.
The strikes do affect us, though. Most of all, the ferry strikes. Our trip to Skopelos still hangs in the balance, for instance.
There are water shortages, which turn our lives into hell for a couple of hours. We don’t know what causes these one hour/week shortages. Could be the workers going on strikes, or mere negligence.
There is a lot of negligence here, starting with leaving the cars unlocked and windows down at Arista. Also, the German nudists’ attire does leave some bits to be desired.
There is also violence, apart from the daily exploits of seagulls, geckos and hawks. For instance, one of our neighbors roughed up his two and a half years old son, by pulling his ear, for the heinous crime of pushing all the color pencils off the table and onto the floor.
About gas at pumps… now that’s a different story. It is sometimes hard to get a full tank without the aid of an employee. You sort of soil your hands a bit.
Perhaps it’s time to learn the truth about riots in Athens. It’s simply part of the local traditions. Much as killing a pig for Christmas, in Romania, or unleashing fireworks at Easter in any decent, well-respected Greek town.
The anarchists in Athens will keep clashing with police forces, but it’s mostly done for sport. Some say it’s the lack of other, more physical interactions, such as those with members of the opposite sex, but that’s just crude student jokes.
What is the difference, really, between fighting in Athens and, say, the bull run in Pamplona ? Or the old, violent, form of football in England, 150 years ago ?
Let’s not give in to wicked rumors spread by those who seek to show Greece as a nation falling apart. Or by those who gain by showing Greece in a bad light, thus increasing their tourism revenues, on the expense of the scared tourist.
Take it from someone who actually lives here. We’ve never felt safer anywhere else.
The cleanest and best organized coffee and bougatza shop in Kallithea is definitely Danny’s. Seeing him sitting down with his village cronies, sipping coffee… that’s the best way to start a weekend trip.
We stop just before his shop, park the car and I go inside. Except for one time, I’ve only ordered frappe. Danny is the frappe master. He’s like a little Japanese robot. This is his routine for a couple of sketo, me gala, paketo – no sugar, with milk, to go.
Take couple of plastic cups, place on counter.
Pick teaspoon, open coffee lid, take 2 teaspoonfuls of instant coffee, place into plastic cups.
Open water tap, pick plastic cups, pour 25 ml water.
Place cups on counter, open ice box, place 3 cubes each into cup.
Open fridge, pick up Nounou condensed milk can. Pour. Stop. (If milk finishes suddenly, repeat until correct level of milk attained).
Open water tap, fill cups, then slowly tap the cups on the counter, to settle the foam.
Place lids on top of cups.
Insert pink and green straw. Go to cash register, hand over the cups, take the 3 Euro, wish customer a good day.
Danny’s shop is in the center of Kallithea, very close to the traffic lights. Tell him I said hi.
So far this year, weather has been a bitch. It snowed for about 5 minutes in January. It didn’t settle, but I should have known by then that a long and cold spring would follow. And it did.
It seems that every cloud in the region is aimed at Halkidiki, defying all odds of wind direction and speed. April, in particular, made me think that I’m living in a meteorological black hole, that sucks all storm fronts in the Mediterranean. Bleak skies, weeks on end, as if in a Cormac McCarthy post-apocalyptic (how oximoronic of me) scenario.
Each day I checked the Poseidi Sea Surface Temperature page, only to be disappointed. It actually fell in April, by at least a degree. It’s now 2 degrees behind average, but slowly climbing. The weather forecast in my iGoogle page said the same thing every day: wet and cold today, but plenty of sunshine tomorrow. Every day, same forecast. Wet today, nice tomorrow.
Sure there have been some sunny moments, but overall tea consumption in April surpassed December. That is how I measure coldness. I went through about 3 packs of tea bags in one month.
I noticed that I have the symptoms of an insane person. I truly believed that each tomorrow would be sunny.
Now, though, things are really improving. 27 degrees tomorrow, a sunny weekend. If I can trust the weather forecast, that is. Because today it rained again.
I got lucky today.
I went fishing to the newly discovered excellent fishing grounds of Nea Skioni harbor. To a lazy-ass fat boy like me, the place is heaven.
Ample parking space, a nice flat tarmac where I can put my chair, and running water, so you can wash your hands when you’re done fishing. Last, but not least, the very conveniently placed Fishing Tackle and Bait stores, owned by a lovely bunch of Turkish looking people. They’re in the center of Nea Skioni, literally down the alley you drive on towards the harbor. Things couldn’t be better.
If you’re not so lucky, you can buy fresh fish (freska psaria) from next door, the Ichtyopoleio, owned by the same family. The whole experience is like a fishing drive-through. If you’re the adventurous kind of fisherman, who prefers to stalk his prey in remote, dangerous places, then Nea Skioni is not for you. But then again, perhaps you’d like to take the children fishing. The place is ideal.
Hard core fishing aficionados may try fishing on the pier,which is reached by climbing (just a couple of feet, really) a breakwater. I’ve also fished there, but inside the harbor is definitely my kind of spot.
Although I’ve caught bigger fish there, today I broke the record of most fish caught in one sitting. I didn’t count them, but they should run in the tens. OK, 20 maybe. I’ll show you photos later.
They’re small, but I’ll enjoy them fried, with just a wedge of lemon. Although I might try some Fava beans and a nice Chianti.
This weekend we lived at last in a society. About 10-15 children and roughly the same number of parents came to the tsoloridi.
They started coming on Friday, March 25, Greece’s Independence Day.
The kids had a kite, several bikes, pets and lots of energy. They played football, hide and seek, one of them even played Lara Croft in our living room, on our computer. She pretended to be thirsty, my wife let her in and gave her some water and the kid just sat down and started playing. I was having a conversation with one of the neighbors and when I came home I was surprised to find a child in the house.