Saturday, 1 August 2015

Point and Click

Well, it's a bunch of photos again this time, starting off with a few from the Old Town taken last Tuesday. Here are a few more corners that took my fancy, like the one above, which I came across while navigating my way to check out the location of the Hotel Andreas, which is run by Constance Rivemale, who's originally from the San Francisco Bay area in the US. Having checked out the location with the hotel's website, I found it easily enough. Here's the front entrance...

 Having been in touch with Constance and agreed to drop by some time, I simply made a reccy on this occasion after finding that I didn't have enough time to make my presence known. Constance, if you are reading this, I shall ring the bell next time! Frankly, I loved the hotel's location, situated as it is in the elevated part of the Old Town a little away from the hubbub and thus the perfect place to unwind with a splendid view over the rooftops of the World Heritage Site that is Rhodes Old Town.

Having established that I'd now know my way to reach the Andreas, I wandered about snapping this and that. Turning a corner I ran into a very personable American lady who introduced herself by telling me that she was quite lost. She wanted to find her way back to the harbour and so I was only too pleased to walk with her whilst showing her the way. Turned out that she runs a very special bookshop in Santa Barbara, California. It's called Chaucer's and that's the link to its website right there, you just passed it.

As we walked we talked about a lot of stuff, predominantly our love of books, of course. She told me that they'd decided on using a "dirty old man's" name for the store as a laugh. If I remember correctly, it was also because Chaucer had been considered too risque for the students when she'd been at school, so it was a spot of revenge too. I rather like it though, don't you? As we approached the main square we parted company, but not before I'd given her a card about "Ramblings From Rhodes" [ever the opportunist] and promised to take a look at her website.

Back home and this photo below, taken in our kitchen just yesterday, shows you just how many figs we're picking on a daily basis at the moment. It seems that ours here in Kiotari are a good two weeks ahead of most trees in the area this year. We walked past a few in Pefkos yesterday morning and they were only just beginning to turn. Dont' forget though that, if you're out here any time soon, there are some varieties of figs that remain green even when ripe. You just have to test them for softness. If they're soft, a gentle twist will separate them from the tree and you can then shove the whole thing greedily between your jaws and sample the absolute delight of the sweetness that is a fresh fig from the tree.

Ok, right. So where's this then? I'm referring to the next two photos below. Rhodes residents need not answer. I'd be interested to hear if anyone living elsewhere in the world who visits the South of the island can identify the place though. It's surprisingly close to quite a lot of development, yet an amazingly photogenic spot, don't you agree?

And, finally, last night was the August "blue" moon. The moon is full still as I type and the last few photos below were taken just a few hours ago on our local beach. We decided to go down there at around 6.30pm and stay until dark, while watching the moon rise over the ocean. It was quite magical.

We'd decided to take a picnic, but my better half really surprised me by pulling out all the stops and producing a wonderful potato salad, along with a Greek salad and some mini cheese pies. Also in the cool bag was a chilled bottle of white wine and thus we enjoyed a perfect al fresco meal, on a beach that was gradually becoming deserted as the light faded.

Is my better half a wizard or what?

Once the moon had cleared the horizon, we packed up our stuff and wended our weary way home. All in all, it had been a blast of an evening. Good craic as they say in Ireland. 

I dunno, living out here is a bind, eh? Can't quite believe it, but as we move into August, we approach our tenth anniversary on Rhodes. Yea, I know of some who gripe, but it's all about your attitude both to life and to people. I'm the first to admit that I can put my foot in my mouth rather too often for my own liking. But I usually try and right the wrong if at all possible. Generally though, if you look at life with a smile, people smile back at you. 

Haven't you found that?

Thursday, 23 July 2015

A Mix of Midsummer Musings...

First and foremost. Yippee. Our fig tree has now begun producing in earnest and it's looking like a bumper crop this year. I picked this lot at dawn this morning and there were more ripe figs on the tree but I couldn't get any more into the bowl...

This amazing tree, which goes from strength to strength, will go on producing well into August and I'll be taking bags of 'em on my Bay to Bay excursion as usual to offer the guests. It's always fun seeing who'll take the plunge and try a fresh fig when they've never eaten one before.
Thank goodness something's working out right in the food-producing stakes in our garden. We put in about eight tomato plants a while back and now, whilst we gaze enviously at other people's vines looking all lush and luxuriant, ours look like a few withered up twigs, from which we managed ( a few weeks ago now) to harvest four modest tomatoes. I say "modest", I mean they weren't hanging there fluttering their eyelids and asking to be taken into consideration for picking, but rather they were about the size of the biggest marble I used to have in my marble set when I was a nipper.

On the Greek night excursion last week we had an interesting situation on the way home after the evening had come to an end. There are usually four of five coaches in the parking area and one by one they'll fill up with their slightly inebriated revellers and slip away into the night. On this occasion my coach was the last one in the parking area and as I was about to board, having waited for yet another guest who'd decided that a trip to the loo before we departed would be a smart move, a fairly distinguished-looking couple approached me with some degree of anxiety and told me that their coach had apparently left without them. Dear dear, the rep or driver (or both) on that bus hadn't done a very good job of gathering their sheep had they. 

"Where are you staying?" I asked,  
"At the Sunrise Hotel, Lothiarika," they replied. 
That's a good 45 minutes down the road and it was approaching 11.30pm by this time. After having a quick word with my driver we let them on to our coach as we knew that we were going right past the door of their hotel. It's not one we stop at, but we regularly pass it. Most of the guests there this year are from France and it just so happened that this couple were British, but had lived in Paris for many years. Chic or what?

The story wouldn't be particularly noteworthy had it not been for the fact that, as we were passing Arhangelos, we came up behind another coach. My driver said, 
"Gianni, that's the bus that left without this couple we're giving a lift to."
Of course, that's something a driver would instantly know, since the drivers all hang out together while their passengers are pacing the floor learning the simpler version of Zorba's dance.

We followed the negligent bus all the way through Kalathos and as far as the left-turn for Vlicha beach, which the bus in front took, thus ensuring that we'd now be passing the hotel in question about fifteen minutes before it did. It seemed pretty obvious to us that the driver and his rep didn't realise that they were two people short, and so we decided not to try contacting them. After all, the couple now stood to get back slightly faster than they would have done on their own coach.

But here was where I had an idea. I trundled back along the aisle and explained to the couple what we'd seen. I said:

"Now, when you get off the coach, wouldn't it be a blast if you didn't mind hanging around just for a few moments, so that, when your coach turns up and slows to a halt and the driver is opening his door in the expectation of seeing you two come along the aisle to get off, he'll instead be a bit fazed when he sees the pair of you standing there glaring at him?"

I sooo hope they decided to implement my suggestion. I'd love to have seen the faces of that driver and rep.

For a few weeks now we've been following our normal pattern for the high summer months of walking down for a swim at around 6.00pm, when the temperature drops to an almost bearable lower 30's. Our route follows a dusty track which drifts alongside the "allotment" as we call it, of Agapitos, an old fellow who farms an olive grove within as well as a pretty impressive vegetable patch too. Don't even ask me how good his tomato plants look.

Every morning and most evenings his old white pick-up will be parked outside the gate while he tends to his plants and animals. In there he has a caged area containing a half a dozen or so dogs, and another with chickens and a cockerel. The dogs amuse us because, on the occasions when we go past and Agapitos is not there, they'll howl with enthusiasm as we pass - some thirty metres from their cage - and each of them will do something different to attact our attention. They vary in size and shape enormously, but six tails will be vigorously wagging as they go delirious with hope. One large black hound in particular we always look for. He'll jump on top of a makeshift wooden hut that's been fashioned to keep them out of the sun if they want it and he'll always be sporting a large battered aluminium bowl in his mouth, while he gazes our way vainly hoping for something to be put in it.

Now don't get me wrong here. I know that there are many Greeks who keep dogs chained up 24-7, but this isn't Agapitos. He really loves his dogs and when he is present, they'll be running all over the compound as he lets them roam free. He'll also take a couple of them out for a walk a few times each week, which we know for certain because on more than one occasion I've been staring eye to eye at one of the mongrels as it's bounded up to me and placed both huge paws in the centre of my chest.

A couple of days ago we were wending our sweaty way back along the track after a swim in the sea, which is now a gorgeous 28ºC by the way, when Agapitos spotted us and hailed us with a "Hold on!"

Rising at his leisure from his bent position as he'd been tending some plants, (of course, such a Greek will never do anything like this in a hurry. Having lived here long enough I fully understand why too. It's usually too flipping hot to move with any despatch. You'd need another shower ...every five minutes or so) he strolled over to a large white plastic paint pot, the kind with an aluminium handle for carrying it, and rummaged inside with his hands. Lifting something from the pot, he then trotted sedately over to his block-built shed with the corrugated iron roof which is quite near to the gate where we were standing, casting us a smiling glance in the process, while we stood and perspired in anticipation.

After having ducked inside the shed he emerged with both hands cupped around a couple of cucumbers of exhibition quality girth and a few eggs of varying sizes. You always know when the eggs are fresh, 'cos they'll be all different sizes. He came over to the gate and proffered his gift which we accepted eagerly, of course.

"There," he said, "Those are real eggs. Not like you get in these big supermarkets. You'll find the yolks are yellow. Not red."

Now, when he said 'red' he almost spat the word out with disdain. Of course, for 'red' read 'orange'. You know how some egg yolks are more orange than they are yellow? Well, now we know why. Agapitos continued,

"No farmaka! [chemicals]. My chickens eat natural food and the egg yolks are yellow, like good egg yolks ought to be. You see a red yolk, you can be sure there's farmaka used in the breeding or farming those hens. Antibiotics and stuff. Not mine!! These are organic eggs. delicious, you see of they aren't."

You know what? those yolks were truly yellow and those eggs were delicious. My gratitude for the excellent and as it happened timely-provided cucumbers knew no bounds. 

It was only slightly tinged by envy at the pathetic state of my own vegetable patch though.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

So, Where Are We Now?

Look at that folks. Let's be honest, with all that's been going on of late, the scene above, which is the Il Porto Café/bar/restaurant in Kiotari by the way, is still looking the same. Good eh? A few more people might be nice though.

Just read some news this morning about Mr. Varifocal, sorry, Varoufakis, and his views about the deal they're putting together. Now, as you'll know if you visit this blog with any regularity, I tend to steer clear of politics and stuff. But this time I'm going to make a few observations. 

But first let me establish some ground rules. 1. I dont' do politics and 2. I don't pretend to understand the workings of the international banking and political systems, except to say that they're all probably riddled with - let's just say "irregularites" shall we? 

Right, good. That said, I'll make a few observations as a layman living and working in Greece.

I have read with interest and some bemusement hundreds of comments from folk who don't live in Greece yet seem to know what should be done here. I've lived here for ten years and so can claim to have a fairly good idea about daily life on an island in Greece under the current crisis.

It seems to me that loads of people didn't want Mr. Tsipras to do this deal. All kinds of expressions like "betrayal", "blackmail" and the like are being bandied about. Now, I'm no expert, but one thing that's patently clear to me is that politics is about compromise. All those folk clashing with police in Athens, or spouting on Facebook, expressing their view that Mr. Tsipras shouldn't have done this deal, what alternatives would they suggest? It's always been easy to protest. 

I have been championing the message for months that the situation on the ground on the islands is such that tourists can still come here and probably spend a couple of weeks having as good a Greek holiday as ever without even noticing that there is a crisis going on.

But that was about to change. If this deal hadn't been struck then we most certainly would have been facing a lack of literal cash circulating among the populace, a shortage of fuel and a virtual halt in imports, all of which would have had catastrophic effects on tourism, which is of course Greece's main industry bar none. Now as someone living and working among Greek people I talk to them all the time about how they're reacting to all that's going on. You know what? At grass roots level it seems to me that most people just want the uncertainty to end. It has been affecting tourism, since people believing all the media hype in the UK, Germany, Lithuania (I talked to some Lithuanian friends just this week) and elsewhere have been cancelling their holidays, however misguidedly.

But if this deal hadn't been struck, then in very short order tourism here, not to mention normal life, would have been hit with a brickbat within weeks. I have no idea how many people work in tourism on the Greek islands, but it's got to be hundreds of thousands. Before very long there would have been massive lay-offs, meaning no more wages, meaning rents not being paid, shops not taking as much over the counter ...the domino effect would be huge and incalculable.

I know people who own tavernas, excursion boats, apartment blocks and cafés personally and by and large they are sick of months of arguing and ever increasing worry and anxiety. Now they just want to know that the banks can open and the tourists can still come, knowing that their holiday is still going to be a good one.

 It's reached a point where many Greek folk don't care any more about how it's done, as long as a degree of normality can be resumed in their daily lives. This deal which - as I understand it - Mr. Tsipras himself has said he doesn't like, but is pragmatic enough to know had to be struck for the reasons I've referred to above, will at least restore some immediate equilibrium here, which is vital to the income and wellbeing of most of the populace.

All around me here on Rhodes I hear audible sighs of relief. So, where are we now? We're awaiting the arrival of you Mr. and Mrs. Grecophile, or simply Tourist, to come and enjoy your Greek holiday, which once again I can say with a degree of confidence, will be brill!!

(No I am not a supporter of Mr. Tsipras, or anyone else for that matter. I don't pretend to understand a lot of things. But when something or someone looks reasonable to me, I say it!)

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Four Snaps

Just four snaps from the past few days. 

Apologies to Amanda Settle, who's idea I nicked regarding photographing a detail at the kantina near Lardos Limanaki...

The landing stage at Stegna, where we go ashore for lunch on Sunday's Bay-to-Bay. The ship is ours too, the Mandelena.

A moment onboard during the cruise back to Lindos on a Bay-to-Bay Sunday afternoon.

At the Kantina near Lardos Beach and Limani. It's so near to our home and we've been promising ourselves a frappé there for months. Finally got there on Monday July 13th.

As above. Not a bad spot for a drinky-poo, eh?
That's it. Just wanted to share these with you. More ramblings soon.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

When all else fails, dance!!

Taverna Mimakos has a wonderful sea view, which disappears into the darkness as the evening draws on and the sun sets
Y'know, the internet is awash with stuff from people like me, those who live on a Greek island and are aggrieved by all the misinformation that's been going out about the situation here during the financial crisis. And I don't suppose we'll be stopping any time soon, not until at least we get the idea that people understand that all the essential ingredients for the perfect Greek holiday are still as they ever were on most, if not all, of the islands. My "Bay to Bay" excursion for tomorrow is over-subscribed, ...again. I have two coaches converging on St. Paul's Bay in Lindos tomorrow morning for another brilliant swim-cruise along the coast on board the Mandelena.

Plus, the Greek night at Taverna Mimakos that I'm doing every Tuesday evening this season is a rip-roaring success. I keep hearing that tourists aren't coming, and I'm sure there must be some truth in that, yet I continue to experience nights like the one you can get the feel for on this Facebook page. Take the time especially to watch the three videos posted on that page by Boros György László, which give you an idea of the atmosphere that prevails during the evening. It's anything but subdued.

As you can see from my everso-slightly not-so-good photos, you could be forgiven for not thinking there was a crisis going on at all. See, the thing is, whilst it's very true that many poorer Greeks are definitely suffering under the current situation, by and large they're determined that life should go on as normally as possible - and it does.

When you arrive at around 7.30pm at Taverna Mimakos for the Greek Night, you're greeted by "Mimakos" himself, Dimitri, a stocky 50-something Greek who's sole mission is to make sure that every one of his several hundred or so guests on any given night has a flaming good knees-up. He welcomes us all every week and immediately sorts the nationalities of the guests according to tables, so that Russians can meet others from their country, Poles from theirs, and so on through the French, the Italians, the British, the Scandinavians and a few others besides.

Once the show gets under way it's pretty relentless. While the guests are fed and watered with an abundance of Greek cuisine and free-flowing white and red wine, the six dancers of the "Rhodean Dance Group" not only go through a series of dances from various islands, but they also clap their hands sore getting the audience to join them both in the clapping as well as on the floor itself. In the second part of the show the lights are dimmed as Mimakos himself dances the Zembehiko, which they announce as the fire dance for obvious reasons. You will have seen why too from one of those videos on the Facebook page linked above.

The band is, as is often the case nowadays, only two men. One plays the keyboard, which produces an array of sounds including a very convincing set of drums! The other the Bouzouki and a pretty good Bouzouki player he is too.

By the time the show comes to its climax at something approaching 11.00pm, the audience has melded into one multi-national family and Mimakos, whilst the finale is taking place and the individual dancers and musicians take their bows to rapturous applause (or, as the keyboard player pronounces it - Applaouse) vigorously waves a huge Greek flag left and right on a long pole until the lights finally come up and it's time to shepherd our charges back to their coaches.

The staff have all charged back and forth servicing the tables for several hours, a fact made evident by the patches of sweat on their blue shirts, the several hundred revellers have experienced a great display of the Greek spirit on a surprizingly low budget, and yet more visitors to this great country have seen how the Greeks enjoy themselves and revel in their country's rich cultural heritage.

On the coach going back to the hotels the guests are raucous, but well behaved, given that they've all had copious quantities of wine and other alcoholic beverages, and they invariably descend the coach at their respective hotels and studios with a wave of bonhommie which is well illustrated by the fact that last week, given that of my 11 or so Russian guests staying at the Miraluna in Kiotari, none of them spoke any English, one man descended the bus after his wife and grasped me in a huge bear hug. Exhaling 100% proof breath all over me, he gabbled on in Russian with a huge grin across his face, and so I gabbled back in English and we both laughed, each of us thumping the other's chest as if to say, "it's what's in there that really matters."

And we'd be right.

Monday, 6 July 2015

You Can NOT be Serious...

Y'know, generally I try to keep politics off the blog. What I like to focus on are the positive things in daily life about Greece and of course Rhodes in particular. But I have to confess to being more a than a little fed up with what I keep hearing coming through the media in the UK, if not elsewhere on the planet too, about this beautiful country.

First and foremost, I can cite a "good" example of the bad impression, the wholly inaccurate impression, that the public abroad is being given about what's going on here. Bear with me, it's coming below.

Yesterday (Sunday) I did my usual Bay-to-Bay excursion. it's a really wonderful day trip that leaves all the guests feeling well and truly chilled out. We cruise along the impossibly beautiful east coast of the island from St. Paul's Bay in Lindos to as far north as Tsambika beach, where we do our first "swim-stop", then make our way back to Stegna, where we go ashore for a scrumptious lunch in Grigori's restaurant, plus we give the guests plenty of time to laze about in one of the beachfront cafés in the resort or perhaps on the quite beautiful beach that Stegna can boast of, before returning to the boat (The Mandalena) for the next leg of the cruise. We stop mid-afternoon for another swim from the boat at the picturesque golden sandy beach of Agathi, in the shadow of historic Feraklos Castle (see this post too), before once again cruising at a leisurely pace all the way back to Lindos for a 4.30pm arrival and the transfer of the guests back to their accommodation.

I had guests yesterday from four different countries. There was a handful of Russians, a couple of dozen Poles and a dozen or so Germans. We also had nine from the UK, including one couple that I was delighted to see again, because they'd done the same excursion with me last summer too. The whole bunch of 50 or so grown-ups and children gelled together seamlessly and everyone had a thoroughly good time. Chatting with one of the British couples, we got around to the subject of how the British public perceives what's happening here in Greece.

   "When I told my mother we were coming to Greece again she was mortified," said my female guest. "She said, 'please don't go to Greece - you'll get mugged.'"

Fortunately, my guest had the good sense and indeed the knowledge to reply to her concerned parent, "Mum, if you think that, then you don't know the Greek people." Of course, they stuck to their guns and they came. They're having a wonderful holiday. Now. Here. On Rhodes. Shock horror.

This is what you would have seen on the trip yesterday for example (tongue firmly in cheek for the captions by the way)...

The beach at Stegna, Sunday July 5th 2015. So unsafe for tourists, eh?

This is Andonis, son of Kosmas, who runs the boat the "Mandelena", jumping overboard out of sheer fear...

That's our boat, and this is again Stegna Beach. Look at all the muggers, I was literally trembling with apprehension.

One of my young German guests at the bow, expecting a Greek to assault him at any moment for simply being German.
You know what I think? I think that the BBC (for example) has a reporter in a hotel in Athens. That reporter goes out into the street and looks for some graffiti on a roller shutter and then tells the camera how society here is falling apart. When, though did you last see one of those reports coming from one of the islands? Hmm? And how much graffiti and low-life can be found in every city around the world?

Here on Rhodes (and it's pretty typical of the islands in general) daily life goes on. People sit in cafés with their frappés, you can buy water melons or freshly picked cherries or nectarines from roadside vendors, you can draw as much cash as your own bank in your country permits as a daily withdrawal limit from the local ATM, several new ones having recently been installed at key positions for the convenience of tourists here in the south of the island. Waiters stand at the entrance to tavernas trying to tempt passers-by to sample their delicious local cuisine, tourists amble the streets of Lindos feeling the cheesecloth shirts and fiddling with the trinkets festooning the souvenir shops, Greek Bouzouki music wafts across your ears as you order your Retsina and Greek salad, old ladies are hanging out their washing and cats are stretching lazily on shady windowsills and door steps.

And over all this hangs the pallour of fear and menace, right? WRONG.

I want to do something here that I've never done before on this blog. I'd like to ask you the reader to do your best to contact the media in your country and tell them that they're getting it wrong. Just because Greece has a major financial crisis to contend with does not mean, does NOT mean that people coming here for a vacation need overly concern themselves. You know the best way to help Greece climb out of the pit she's in? 

Come here for your holiday. Dead simple. See for yourself. 

Those who have not allowed themselves to be put off by the hype that's pumped out through the foreign media can all testify to the fact that here in Greece, particularly on the islands, the holidaymaker would be forgiven for not even realising that there IS a crisis.

Next month my wife and I will have lived here on Rhodes for ten years. I am sometimes asked, "Would you leave, maybe go back to the UK?" Our answer, which is echoed by thousands of ex-pats all across Greece, is a resounding "you must be joking."

Saturday, 4 July 2015

A Post About Someone Else's Post

I've never done this before, but I would be remiss not to share this with my readers. It's marvellous.

Amanda Settle, I take my hat off to you...

Click here folks.