Holiday Diary Cont: Some of My Snaps

Now that I am home, the daily posting will probably come to an end quite quickly. However, I already have more photos from today when Kirsty’s mammoth pumpkin (this is not a euphemism) was ceremonially baked, and enjoyed by all.

Those photos will follow.

in the meantime, here is a first selection from the past week: Continue reading

Other Places, Other Mores

Above the clouds somewhere between Thessaloniki and London Gatwick. I have eaten; drunk; looked through my photos; gazed down at mountains, houses, seas and pasture; read the magazine from last Saturday’s Guardian; read some more of my book; and am now listening to Abba whilecontrarily resisting an inclination to doze.

By chance I am in the same seat as I was on the way out with the same family around me. I have been reacquainted with Panda, leaned back to allow Beth-Anne a better view out of the window, exchanged smiles with the parents.

Obviously this will not be posted until later.

It has been a good holiday with a good bunch of people. We haven’t circulated a list of emails, but a couple of us have swapped contact details. This seems realistic. To expect acquaintanceships forged while sweating up hills to turn into life long friendships is somewhat optimistic. But one of the joys of a group holiday such as this is that you can have as much or as little company as you want. It’s nice to wander into the bar and see familiar faces. The boredom of check in is relieved by chatter and there is always a group ready to look after bags while an individual or two wander off to investigate shops and facilities.

Whether I ever return to this part of Greece is debatable. But I shall be back in Greece, that’s for sure. I hope by then the situation is more stable, and the waiter I spoke to last night who is looking forward to his first holiday in four years at the end of this month, will feel financially more secure.

Welcome though visitors are, I have an uncomfortable feeling that the Greeks are becoming servants in their own country, catering to the wishes of ever more demanding tourists, and working increasingly long hours. I hope I am wrong about this.

I have been visiting Greece for years. It is one of my favourite countries where as a foreigner I have almost always felt welcomed. Maybe because this is the first time I have stayed in a resort that has grown out of tourism, it is also the first time I have felt uncomfortable about some of the ways I have seen Greek culture marketed, and to my mind, debased.

It seems wrong to see Greek Nights advertised in local tavernas. Surely every night should be a Greek Night in Greece? And if it isn’t, what does that say about the corrosive power of mass tourism?

I don’t regret the old toilets; I only came across one hole in the ground, and mercifully I was in walking boots at the time. Most meals were hot, rather than the tepid ones I remember from previous visits. Stray cats and dogs seem better treated than before, which is wonderful in itself given the economic climate, but two very young cats at the hotel were evidently pregnant and there was a tiny orphaned kitten at yesterday’s taverna. Her siblings have gone to new homes in the Netherlands and Monaco, and the staff were suggesting one of us might like to take her. With the end of the tourist season approaching at the speed of a runaway train, pray to all the gods at once that she and others like her are scooped up by visitors and local families ready to give them a chance.

But now as Greece recedes and England beckons, I am looking forward to being reunited with MasterB who was in his own perilous situation not so far away from my destination airport when the students I got him from rescued him.

In some ways, scavenging strays in Greece’s tourist hotspots are better off than abandoned pets in the UK who do not find armies of visitors willing to slip them tidbits from the groaning tables in high season. Colonies of semi-feral cats in London are quietly caught are destroyed. I do not think I have ever seen them featured on postcards or cuddled by waves of cooing foreigners.

In the meantime, Mark, the younger of the two children of the little family beside me, has decided to paint his face a rainbow of reds, blues and greens. It doesn’t seem to have harmed him; on the contrary, he has caught the eye of a young girl in a pink dress and matching plaster cast.

Perhaps the romance of travel is not quite dead.

Kalo Himona

This is probably going to be one of my last Holiday Diary entries. This time tomorrow I shall be heading home, back in a London that is several degrees cooler than here.

Apparently it reached 28C today. I wanted some beach time, so after a taverna lunch on top of the hill at Parthenonas, I opted to join two others and come back by taxi instead of sticking with the group and returning on foot.

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A wise decision I feel. A chance to have my cake and eat it. So there was a swim in the sea, and some lounging on a lounger under a pretty but not very effective sunshade. Another group member who had taken the whole day off, joined me.

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Of Mosquito Bites, Bee Stings, a Chained Dog, and Lots of Up

I thought I might upload some pictures, but it wasn’t to be. Today we walked up from a town where I drew some much needed cash from a hole in the wall.

Maybe I should make that we walked Up. I have plasters on my ankles from early morning mosquito bites in exactly the right places for my boots to rub.

We have nearly all been bitten. Jackie’s bites look like works of art. They started as small punctures, turned into pink, swollen patches and are now a patina of hues.

There has been a suggestion that we should have some sort of awards ceremony: most bites; biggest bite; smallest bite; bite in most embarrassing place.

Anyway, we went up and in the foothills met a village where it seems many of the original habitants have sold up and gone. So a typical village in Greece has become a place of holiday homes and self catering for the mainly German visitors.

Lots of cats, and a dog with a death wish who chased cars. I was pleased to see happy dogs wearing collars. Later in the days we met a young, very underweight dog chained on the hillside. He was thrilled to see us. I gave him water and someone else had a biscuit for him. I wanted to take him home. He wants company and something to do. His future is something I find hard to contemplate. Continue reading

Of Early Mornings, Kitsch Boats and Transient Friendships

It was our free day today. I opted to go on a boat trip to see Mount Athos. Naturally I didn’t read all the available information and was somewhat taken aback by the appearance of the boat. I have never seen, let alone been on, a boat as kitsch.

I am going to make you wait for another post to see the pictures, but it featured pirate statues, gold dolphins, two lion statues, rigging and no sails, toy cannons, and a pretend castle. That’s probably the half of it, but my horrified yet fascinated gaze edited out the wrist, and I could not bring myself to photograph some of its excesses.

The boat was a big clue as to the tone of the day. A day off where I had to get up earlier than for any of our walking days.

Don’t get excited about my photos of Mount Athos; I’m not. We had to stay a respectful five hundred feet from the coast, but I suspect the commentary, in German, Russian and English, and generally in that order, reached some of the monks at their labours or devotions. Continue reading

In Answer to Your Comments

My apologies for not replying to your comments. Believe me I have tried. The rationing continues. If I wake in the middle of the night, as I tend to do, I shall post this then.

In the meantime; my thanks to Jan. We have supplementary questions which may earn you even more admirers: to wit, are these fungi poisonous, and how likely are we to see them in the UK? I now have a reputation to keep up. Members of the group zealously pointed out fungi to me to photograph today. I haven’t looked at the results, so they may be an out of focus blur. I don’t think I managed to catch a pic of the adder we disturbed I a sunny path. It shot away from us, and must have thought the paparazzi had turned up. It may well still be recovering. Continue reading

Scavenging Ducks and Blue Skies

I think this will be a draft. The Internet is failing again; presumably too many people are trying to use their rationed time just now. Last night I woke up coughing at two and scheduled my photos. Tonight I hope to sleep through.

Another walk today. Not over demanding, and to be frank, not over interesting either. It started well at a harbour and a short boat trip to a very plush marina with some seriously expensive boats. Some had kitsch written all over them.

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But as a walk, it never really took off. We went up, we came down, we went up again. There were some good views. Not a walk I should choose to do again. But the weather is perfect. I have been in Greece at this time of year before and got soaked; shivered in fleeces in the evenings. But the sun is shining in the day and skies are gloriously blue once the sun has burned the cloud away. Pretty damn perfect. Continue reading

Walking, Swimming,and Resident Animals

I was wrong about the cat. No, let me rephrase that. I was right that there is a cat. I was wrong in thinking she was the only one. So far I think I have seen six different cats, and heard a major row between two of them about half an hour ago.

The cats laze in sunny spots. One has taken possession of the shop. He looks the healthiest, so I imagine he gets more than his fair share of treats from visitors.

There are also dogs. I have met three. They like to accompany people down the steps to the beach. I presume they swim with the guests too as their coats are salty. Original sea dogs.

I don’t know if I mentioned the beach. Actually I should make that beaches as I understand there are two close by, but so far I have only been to one of them.
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