Thursday, 14 February 2019

Driving One Crazy?

So, to the ongoing saga of getting our driving licences converted to Greek ones. TBH, it's the last piece of the jig-saw when it comes to our living here. Of course, with the prospect looming large of Britain exiting the European Union, it was all the impetus we needed to get on with it, since, if we don't have Greek licences after the UK has left, there is the real possibility of having to take a driving test again.

So, off we went to the KEP office, armed with my list that I'd nicked from fellow blogger James Collins (thanks James, big help BTW!) to sort out the €30 'parabolo', and I know I nattered on about this in the post "How Will You Find the Time?" But here's the rest of the story, and it's not brief.

Firstly, just to help you get some idea of how involved it is to get your licence converted to a Greek one if you've turned that magic age of 65, take a look at this photo...

And not all of the papers are visible in this shot either!
Impressive, eh? See, to change your licence to a Greek one if you're fortunate enough to be still under 65, is dead easy (laughs). You need to go to a lawyer, and get an official translation of your UK licence, rubber stamped (of course) and signed. The lawyer will also have to rubber stamp and sign photocopies of your residency permits and passports.

You'll also need to have four photos, mugshots just like passport ones, and they must be exactly the right size. Oh, and you have to go to the KEP office, get them to print out the "parabolo" as I mentioned earlier, then take it to a bank or post office and pay a €30 fee. Once you've got all that done, you're ready to go either directly to the KTEO office, or to the local KEP, where they'll give you yet another form to fill out and hopefully begin the process, which takes several months!

Now, here's the thing, if you just happen to have passed that magic number of 65, age-wise, it all gets much more complicated. That's what accounts for the dossier that you see in that photo. Of course, here I ought to mention that I'm not actually 65, that's only what my birth certificate shows, but there must be some mistake somewhere, because I could have sworn I was only 19. Incidentally, never trust a mirror, they'll always try and convince you that you've turned into your Dad overnight.

We'd gone to the KEP office in Arhangelos to hopefully get things under way, and the woman there (not the nice fella we'd seen the previous time) told us that it was better if we went directly to the KTEO office, on the edge of town. 

"See, if you ask us to process it, we only have to go through them anyway, so you'll get the whole thing done quicker if you go direct."

Seemed to make sense to us. So, since Arhangelos is already half-way to town from our place anyway, we bit the bullet and headed further north. Once we got to the KTEO centre (it doubles as a vehicle testing centre too) we went inside and, to cut a long story short, well, shorter, we eventually got to the right office. 

If you've ever read Charles Dickens, or indeed watched any half-decent TV dramatisation of one of his books, you'll know what an "office" in 18th century England would look like. Well, this office in the KTEO building did a pretty good impersonation of that. There were two modestly-sized desks, behind which sat a couple of clerks, one female, one male. They were at right angles to each other, but, what catches your eye first is the shelving system you see behind them, which occupies probably 60% of the room's floor area. From floor to ceiling you see nothing but cardboard files and folders, all stacked vertically and cramming every available space from wall to wall. I can't remember the last time I saw so many physical files in one room. It makes one wonder just what percentage of the Greek bureaucracy has yet made it to computer systems. It ain't much that's for sure.

As it happened, for some miraculous reason we arrived at the desk to find no one in front of us. We'd not been in there more that a minute when we had four of five people queueing up behind us. It all started so well. The girl behind the desk looked at my various papers, all rubber-stamped and signed and everything. She began by printing out the next form for me to fill in and sign, then stopped, re-examined something (had to have been my date of birth) got up from her desk, apologised and left the room. She came back three or four minutes later and suggested we go and see her colleague Kosta in another office along the corridor. 

Oh, oh. Once in Kosta's office things soon took a turn for the worse.

"You are 65 years old," he said. I felt like saying, "You know what? I knew that!" But thought better of it. Never get on the wrong side of these people, that's something I've learned over the years. 

"Well, you need more than this. You need to pay two more "parabola", plus you'll need a signed report from a cardiologist, as well as the same thing from an ophthalmic surgeon. Come back when you have those."

Visions of running from pillar to post and forking out Euros like confetti flooded my mind. I asked him to explain further. To his credit, he whipped out a piece of paper and wrote it all down for me. Two extra 'parabola', much like the €30 one, but one costs €50 and the other €18. The cardiologist and the eye surgeon will charge €10 each for their services. Oh joy.

Thus it was that two days ago I was back in Arhangelos getting my Cardiologist's signed form and the one from the optician. The cardiologist, when you tell him what it is you need, sits you down, takes your blood pressure and then asks you for a photo to attach to the form. Be warned, you'll need one for both the cardiologist and the eye surgeon. Fortunately, purely by chance, I had a few floating around in the file I carry with me. Phew, another visit to the photographer narrowly averted. The eye surgeon slides a card in front of each eye and gets you to read a few numbers on a wall chart. Then he too fills out his form, stamps it and you hand over your ten Euros.

I have (truly I have!) cut this story down as best I could. Once I got home with all the forms, the two new 'parabola' plus the two reports from the Cardiologist and the eye surgeon, I decided to check over the €50 and the €18 parabola. Couldn't tell the difference. The only obvious difference is the charge that's specified on each of them. Thus, my friends, if you're 65 or over, you'll have forked out the following if you want to have your driving licence converted to a Greek one, something which you are best advised to do now that the UK is clearing off from the EU:

1. €50 per head for the lawyer's services (driving licence translation/photocopy of passport plus residency permit, all rubber-stamped and signed of course)
2. A total of €98 paid for the rather suspect "parabola" (three of them!)
3. €14 a head for passport-type photos.
4. €10 for the cardiologist's form.
5. €10 for the eye surgeon's form.

My friends, it's cost me so far €182. Plus we've paid out €60 for my better half's version as well.

And they say the Greek government is broke.

Saturday, 9 February 2019

Waves of Emptiness

A photo-heavy posts for you today. First, a few photos from the local beach here in Kiotari from Wednesday February 6th, around midday. 

Then a bunch of shots from Friday February 8th, mid-afternoon, in Old Rhodes Town.

Hope you like them...

Could almost be Cornwall!

We know this stretch of beach well, and yet we couldn't recall ever seeing that tree so engulfed in the sea before. After some pretty horrendous winds recently, the beach has effectively been eaten away. There will be a lot of beach-landscaping done before the season begins, that's for sure.

Just a tad quieter than August, eh?

You won't see cars all the way up Socratous St. like this in the season.

As you can see, there are places open all year round. This one's only this quiet because it's siesta time.

There are some major renovation works going on in the Street of the Knights. Don't worry, once the season begins it'll all be done and dusted. But then again...

"You're NOT taking ANOTHER photo, surely!"

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

The Thing is, What Do You Wash it Down With?

On Feb 1st, on my Facebook "Published Works" page, I posted a photo of my wife's superb Briam, just before I made it disappear. Fortunately, she'd made enough for me to do the same trick the following day too.

Here's the photo, in case you haven't seen it...

I was asked by one or two people to share the recipe. Now, here's the thing, I can do that, but you have to remember, the recipe you're about to see on the page I've photographed below is only half the story. Firstly, though, here it is...

You'll need to click for a larger view to read it all.
The page is from an excellent book which she often consults. It's called "The Complete Book of Greek Cooking" and it's written by Rena Salaman and Jan Cutler. It's also wonderfully illustrated throughout with excellent photographs, as you can see from the page above. Here's the cover...

Now, although my better half does consult this and other books, it's also a fact that she knows how to cook a lot of traditional Greek food as a result of her Greek heritage. But it never does any harm to have a peep at books like this too, does it? Which brings me to my comment about recipes like this one being only half the story. When you look at the ingredients, they're not really a fixed thing. They depend on the season. For example there is no mention in the recipe in the book of carrots or aubergines (eggplant, guys). If you look closely at the photo of the dish that I demolished, you'll see broccoli in there too. So the thing about briam is, you chuck in whatever you have in the larder.

If you make it right, though, which my beloved certainly does, you'd have to go a long way to find a nicer-tasting dish, ideal for winter evenings when it's cold and rainy outside, and the log-burner is blazing indoors.

That brings me neatly to the reason I named this post "The Thing is, What Do You Wash it Down With?" If you've ever been invited to a meal in the home of a Greek family, you cannot fail to have noticed that very often, taking pride of place on the table along with the food, is a bottle or two of regular Coca Cola. I mean, c'mon chaps! But it's true I tell you. We get invited to various friends' homes quite often during the winter months, and there are often ten people around the table. Yet, where you or I would have a bottle or two of Retsina, or perhaps a nice chilled white or full-bodied red, your average Greek household will think you can't enjoy a nice meal without washing it down with that brown, fizzy stuff that's full of sugar and cleans old coins brilliantly.

It's happened so often that we've come to realise that they must really believe all the hype that they used to pump out about Coke back in the days before advertising standards made them stop it. The bloke who's credited with inventing it (although he borrowed from a few other drinks in the process), used to claim that it was a cure for many diseases, including morphine addiction, indigestion, nerve disorders, headaches, and even impotence!! Apparently, a typical can of the stuff contains 38 grams of sugar, so goodness only knows how much is in a bottle.

Ah, well, there you go I suppose. When you live in a country where the home cooking is indescribably healthy, wholesome and tasty, I suppose one can forgive them a weakness for fizzy caffeine-charged fluid that's better used to clean your loo (in my opinion). Still, all the more reason to take a bottle along with you when you get the next invite. 

Not that bottle!!! I mean a glass one, preferably with a cork.

And finally, a couple of photos I took the other day. We've actually been enjoying a few more typical winter days of late, with bright sunshine and temperatures around 18ºC. T-shirt weather, in fact. The rains have certainly made the countryside look beautiful though, don't you think?