Monday, 17 July 2017

Living up to the Name

Yeah, well, this blog is called "Ramblings" after all, so here a some truly rambling bits and pieces from the past few days.

Then I'll shove some photos on toward the end.

Talking to a couple of guests on one of my excursions recently, Russell and Paula, we got to comparing notes about our experiences with local Greeks and they told me an amusing tale about something that happened to them while on Corfu some time ago. After we'd agreed that the negatives about the Greek people (don't cross them where business and money are concerned etc.) were well outweighed by the positives (they'll always remember you when you re-visit, even after some years have passed, they exhibit a generosity of spirit that's without parallel, that kind of thing) - we swapped stories about what makes Greece unique. I started with my thoughts about a recent promo ad I'd seen on a Greek tourist website. It concerned a tourist walking in the countryside and helping himself to an orange or two from some trees beside the road. Well, maybe you've seen it before, but I love it. Check it out here. It's called Cretan hospitality, but it applies all over the country really.

Russell and Paula told me about a time when they were staying on Corfu some years ago, when they'd decided to take a shortcut across an olive grove on their way back from the beach to their accommodation one day. Normally we don't associate Greeks with rowdiness or of groups of youths mocking tourists by cat-calling and the like. Yet, as they set out through the trees amongst some fairly rough ground underfoot, they'd seen a pickup truck on a nearby track with a few Greek men inside the cab and also on the flatbed behind, who'd shouted at them and generally made gestures with their hand and arms.

"Huh," thought my friends, "Not the kind of behaviour we'd normally associate with Greeks. We're blowed if we're going to react to that." So they simply ignored their apparent mockers and continued on their way.

Later that evening, whilst sitting in a local taverna they'd spotted one of the young men they'd seen in the pickup. What surprised them still more was the fact that he approached their table to talk to them. Not sure if I have all the details correct, but maybe he was even waiting at tables in the taverna in question. I rather think that he was. Anyway, he came over, patted Russell and Paula on their backs and said, "Well, I'm glad to see that you're both OK. Didn't you hear us this afternoon? We were trying to warn you that the route you were taking is renowned for its high snake population! People have been bitten while going that way in the past. We did try to warn you!"

I've made an unlikely new friend of late. During my "Rhodes by Day" and "Rhodes by Night" excursions, I frequently carry a large plastic bag full of empty plastic water bottles with me, which I have to deposit in the coach's luggage bay before we set out from Kiotari to pick up the guests along the way. It's a constant source of annoyance to us how difficult it is here on Rhodes to recycle plastic. There are now, thank goodness, plenty of sky-blue coloured, bell-shaped bins at the road-side all over the island for people to deposit glass. There are even a few rather impractical metal cages about the place for cardboard too, but not nearly as many as there ought to be. I also get frustrated when I come across the occasional wheelie bin that's clearly marked as having been provided for the recycling of say for example, metal cans, yet the Greeks locals have usually stuffed these full of regular household rubbish, but plastic recycling is virtually non-existent outside of Rhodes town.

Even within the town there are only two places to recycle plastic bottles that I know of as of now. Each of these is a machine which requires members of the public to deposit plastic bottles one at a time, and still uncrushed too. Neither of these machine is very well positioned and if you go there with a vehicle it's a near impossibility to park anywhere near them. That doesn't encourage folk to have a go, now does it?

So, if you have a couple of dozen 1.5 litre table water bottles, you have to leave them uncrushed, which means carrying a huge plastic bag full of mainly fresh air and then stand at the machine for a quarter of an hour while you feed in one bottle at a time, waiting for the automatic mechanism inside the machine to crush each bottle individually before it deposits it into its inboard receptacle. I have spent many a quarter-hour at this machine and, even worse turned up there with several large plastic bags full of bottles, only to see that it's broken down again and leaning against it when I arrive are already innumerable plastic bags which others have brought along and simply left there out of frustration rather than take them home again or deposit them in a regular bin, most of which are to small for that anyway.

So, almost once a week of late I've arrived in town with my guests, extracted my plastic bag full of bottles from the luggage bay of the coach and carted it with me to the Top Three bar before giving my guests all the useful info that they need before they go off exploring. Once they've all gone off happily and I've finished my frappé I lug my huge-but-very-lightweight bag a few hundred metres to the machine that's situated beside the Old Town wall facing the fishing harbour, where I expect to pass about ten minutes or so stuffing bottles in one at a time. I know how to live.

A few visits ago I arrived to find a man who quite resembles Grizzly Adams (only older!) already busily feeding the machine from one of four or five huge plastic bags that he'd brought along - on his moped! Instantly he greeted me and we began talking. He apologised for the fact that he had lots of bottles still to feed into the machine and explained that he'd pushed the button for a ticket. The machine has two buttons at eye level, beside the feeding aperture on each section (sections of the machine are demarcated for plastic bottles, cans and glass). You push one button to waive the right to any reward for recycling your stuff, the other counts the number of items you insert and then issues a ticket that you can use in several supermarkets and stores to get a discount on your shopping bill for that visit. To be honest, you'd have to feed in probably a thousand plastic bottles to get as much as a couple of Euros back, but this man was going to get what he could anyway. From the look of him his clothes had no idea what a washing machine looked like, yet he was friendly, talkative and well mannered.

I offered to let him add my bottles to his ticket, an idea with which he seemed delighted and so, with a couple of his huge plastic bags still to go, he stepped back and allowed me to get mine done while he waited. It was while we talked that he said that he spends most of his time scouring the town for plastic bottles, stuffs them into his well-used and quite holey plastic sacks and then ties them to his tiny moped and trundles to the recycling machine. Pure diligence and tenacity leads to his being able to do a bit of shopping for bread and milk, basic staples.

In fact, since our first encounter I've spotted him several times going about the town on his moped, often almost completely concealed amongst a cushion of huge plastic sacks, full of bottles that he's going to take to the machine. He looks like he's about to take off.

Since our first meeting we've met at the machine quite a few times. Seems he goes there at the same times each day and thus when I get there our paths are fairly sure to cross. He says how it drives him barmy to see so many plastic bottle discarded on the streets anyway, but that in all sincerity he also needs any help he can get with his shopping bill, which is an added incentive to do what he does. He is a pensioner and has seen his income diminish by 50% in the past few years, yet the electricity bills, the property tax and the water bills (for water that many don't even have coming out of their taps this current summer) increase relentlessly. I find him to be gentle, friendly and deferential. Old style Greek in other words.

I'm glad now to have made his acquaintance and sorry that I'm not really in a position to do much else for him. Each time I arrive at the machine to find him already there he breaks into a huge smile and greets me with "Αχ, καλός το! Τι κάνεις φίλε μου; Ολα καλά;"

In fact, the last time I went I'd chosen a different time of day and this time encountered a woman. She was what I'd describe as scrawny of figure, ageing hippy in style, and ever so slightly shabby to the point where it was evident that she had fallen upon hard times. As I approached I'd seen her pressing the ticket buttons on each section of the machine, evidently in the hope that someone had deposited their recycling and gone off without bothering to retrieve their ticket. From this I deduced right away that she was looking for any way she could to augment whatever meagre income she has.

Once I'd begun feeding my bottles into the machine she stood to one side, just a couple of metres away and displayed an air of "will you look my way?" about her. When I did she asked me, in an entreating manner: 

"Do you want the ticket for your bottles?" 

Of course, I told her that I'd push the button but that she could have the ticket. Her gratitude was way out of proportion to the meagre financial gain I was offering her and, as I walked away with the job done, having handed her the ticket that the machine had spewed out, folding up my plastic sack for the next time, she could still be heard saying "Σας ευχαριστώ πάρα πολύ, σας ευχαριστώ, σας ευχαριστώ".

And so to some lighter stuff. A bunch of recent photos...

This is the Triton, one of the two boats we use on my Bay-to-Bay excursions on Sundays. She's a beaut, eh?

The Triton at anchor, while the guests work hard at enjoying their dip.

You'd probably never guess, but this balcony overlooks the Top Three Pub, where I usually sit with my first frappé of the day when I arrive in town on my Rhodes excursions. A little piece of tranquility amongst the hubbub of the town.

An almost hidden windmill at the junction just up above the old hospital

House in Eleftheriou Venizelou street.

The brand new and much improved menu at the wonderful Odyssey Taverna in the old Town.

I just liked it...

Peer through a wrought iron gate half-way up the Street of the Knights after dark and you'll see this fountain.

This is the Nimmos taverna, situated right near the Akandia Gate entering the Old Town from the South East corner. I've seen it many times but never eaten there. I recently discovered my old friend Antonis (2nd photo down from this one) working there and he told me about their very good value set meals for 2 (see sign in 3rd photo down from this one). I'll definitely give it a try some time soon. 

Another view of the Nimmos. That's the Old Town wall to the left.

Antonis is a really nice chap. Don't buy him a comb as a present though.

I'd say that those are pretty good prices for two people together.

I bumped into Nikos who runs the Jungle Tour while sipping a lunchtime frappé at the Konstantinos in Stegna yesterday. We had a chat during which he revealed much about his background, which I found fascinating. Next post folks!

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