Summing up Greece
11 December 2022
This is our A – Z of Greece:
A is for Alpha, Athens, Acropolis and Adventure
• Alpha beer, Andreas' favourite is a classic Greek lager , served ice cold is perfect for the Greek summer.
• Athens – the city that has grown so fast and just keeps on growing as the Acropolis looks down on the sprawling landscape.
• This is the 6th year of our Adventure, the 4th cruising in Greece.
B is for Blue, Beaches, Bazooki and Bureaucracy
• Blue skies and blue water. When a cloud, very occasionally arrives in the beautiful endless blue sky we are quite miffed!. The sea goes from the colour of dark blue ink to azure blue to stunning turquoise. We never tire of either.
• Beaches with long stretches of golden sand that run for miles and miles and tiny bays with a beach just big enough for two .
• Bazooki – its distinct musical sound is the soundtrack of Greece.
• Bureaucracy - the Greeks have made this an intellectual art form, understood only by themselves.
C is for Cicadas, Caique, Chapels and Cemeteries
• The sound of hundreds of Cicadas will be one of my everlasting memories of Greece. Its hard to understand how such a tiny creature can make so much noise.
• The beautiful chapels and cemeteries leave me wanting to be buried here looking out to sea. The chapels are adorned with beautiful icons. The cemeteries are bright and colourful, decorated with lots of artificial flowers.
• The many exquisitely colourful caiques (small sturdy fishing boats) bring back hair raising memories for Andreas.
D is for Dolphins and Dogs
• We squeal with pure delight when we see dolphins. We feel very privileged when they play around the bow and come alongside, turn their heads to make eye contact and disappear as quickly as they arrived.
• It doesn't matter where we are; a tiny remote island with just a handful of inhabitants or close to a major town, there is always a barking dog !!!
E is for Easy living and energy efficiency
• Our life is simple and easy. We live in a small space. We don't need half the ‘stuff' we think, or are indeed led to believe we need. We live very comfortably. We want for nothing. We have solar panels and a wind generator so we can produce our own power. We have small solar panels designed to charge up our mobiles. We have learnt to live with very little and it is very empowering.
F is for Ferries, Friends and Feta
• Ferries – big ones, small ones, fast ones, superfast ones. There is always one to be seen on the water. They have transformed island to island travel and now that we drive to and from the UK we really enjoy the experience of putting the car on one and letting the ferry take the strain.
• We have met many people on this adventure. Some have just come and gone. Others we treasure and will remain friends forever.
• Feta – goats cheese – a classic Greek food, fried (Saganaki) or crumbled into a salad dressed with oregano and olive oil.
G is for Goats and Gyro
• There is something very hypnotic about the tinkling of goat bells and the sound will be another everlasting memory. I hear them early in the morning but often struggle to see them as they seem to blend so well into the background.
• Ahhhhh, the Greek Gyro. Spit roasted pork or chicken, onion, lettuce, tomato, fries and tzatziki, all wrapped up in a pitta bread. Exceptional. Greek street food at its best.
H is for History and Horta
• Greece is absolutely steeped in history. There are some stunning architectural sites, most of which are well tended and preserved. Others are forgotten and overgrown. I can't help but think that the Greeks don't fully get just how amazing their country is. Weather, beaches, beautiful islands, culture, history, food.....
• Horta. Basically a dish of local weeds, hand picked and then slow cooked to within a inch of its life and served with lemon juice and olive oil. Sounds horrid. Tastes divine.
I is for Islands and Ikaria
• There is no such thing as a typical Greek island. Each has its own distinctive personality, history, architecture and flora.
• One of our favourites is Ikaria not only for the family history that it holds but simply because it is beautiful with its radioactive hot springs, forests, lakes and rivers.
J is for Just In Time
• The Greek answer to everything - “ it will be done /ready" just in time.
K is for Kaliméra, Kalispéra, Kalinychta
• Three important Greek words. Good morning, good afternoon and goodnight. You will always get a welcoming greeting whether in a shop, a cafè or a taverna. The Greek people are very polite.
L is for Lush and Loukamades
• Believe it or not, some islands are very lush and very green. Ikaria has beautiful pine forests with lakes, streams and waterfalls. Other islands are lush with green trees that look remarkably like heads of broccoli and are so dense you feel as though you could walk on them!
• Andreas would walk to the ends of the earth for Loukamades. A very traditional dessert dripping in honey and cinnamon.
M is for Moussaka, Music and Meltemi
• Moussaka - my top favourite traditional Greek dish. Slow cooked , soft aubergine and a rich meat sauce and a creamy white topping......Yumbo.
• Music – traditional Greek music just makes me want to get up and dance.
• Meltemi – the North easterly wind that blows throughout most of Greece during the summer. It does keep you cool, can give great sailing but can also be a big pain in the butt !!!
N is for Night
• Night skies. When anchored off a tiny island with no light pollution we see thousands of diamonds in the sky. It is a wondrous sight and my question is always “there have to be others ‘out there', surely”?
O is for Ouzo and Olives
• I've become a real fan of Ouzo -a dry anise flavoured aperitif, served over lots of ice and with mezes (usually small fresh fish, fries, olives and feta).
• Olives – big fat juicy olives from Kalamata are my absolute favourite.
P is for Pastries and Paniyeris
• Oh dear, the pastries. They are our down fall. Bougatsa, galatabouriko, tiropita, cakes, bread....... the Greeks just love sweet treats so the temptation is humungous!!! We try to be good – honest!!!
• A Paniyeri is a festival that takes place in the town or village square. It starts at around 7pm and continues until 7am. Flowing red wine, spit roasted goat, salads and bread. Greek music and Greek dancing with an amazing atmosphere. Generally the festival is to celebrate annual saints days of which there are very many!!.
Q is for Quay
• Not a great fan of being tied up on a quay. They are usually busy, noisy and we are sure our cockroach invasion was from time spent on Patmos Town Quay. Having said that, sometimes they are all that is available when we need water and supplies.
R is for Rugged
• By complete contrast to the lush islands, there are some that are very majestic and equally as beautiful. Steep, rugged sides, plunging straight down into the sea and hardly any vegetation at all.
S is for Sunshine, Sunrise, Sunsets, Smells and Sparrows
• We never tire of the wall to wall sunshine or the sunsets that make you feel good to be alive. Watching the colours of the sky change from yellow, to orange, to pink and then red as the sun sets is another memory that will stay with me forever.
• After a day of sailing in open water, we can detect the Smell of Humanity when about 2 miles from shore. Its usually a foody smell!!!
• Sparrows, in the UK were seriously on the decline a few years ago. Here in Greece they are very much alive and kicking in huge numbers. Due to the plentiful crumbs left by diners in the tavernas and cafes.
T is for Turtles and Tamerisk
• We get very excited when we spot a turtle. Unlike dolphins they don't want to play. They just surface, stick their head above the water and then just disappear.
• The Tamerisk tree will be found along many beaches, offering much needed shade from the hot sun . I had one in my garden in South Wales and have every intention of planting one in the garden of wherever we end up when our Big Adventure ends.
U is for Umbrellas and Unfinished projects
• Where there are umbrellas dotted along a beach there will be lots of people and lots of noise. Guaranteed!
• Greece is littered with half finished projects. We could not understand why until a local taxi driver explained they were built without a licence and the authorities ordered all works to stop until the correct paperwork was applied for and issued. In some cases this process took years !!!
V is for Vassoliki
• Vassoliki, Andreas’ mum. I think of her often and wonder how she really felt swapping Athens and Ikaria for Reform Street in Battersea. I guess that's what love is really all about. I so wish I had met her.
W is for Water
• We have seen water that is as crystal clear as gin. Where you can see every grain of sand on the bottom despite being anchored in 5 metres and you just HAVE to jump in and join the fish swimming around the boat. It is also the most treasured comodity and you simply do not waste it.
X is for Xerokambos
• I just love the bay of Xerokambos on the island of Leros. I would live there.
Y is for Yassass, Yammas and Yaya
• Yassass - Another important, although informal, Greek word used to say hello or goodbye.
• Yammas – quite simply is “cheers".
• Yaya – grandmother. The backbone of Greece and the islands. Wherever you go you will see them. Usually dressed in black. Always smiling, cheerful and loving.
Z is for Zzzzzzzzzzzz
• Snoozing in the shade of the cockpit or under a Tamerisk tree on the beach. Its hard to beat. The afternoon siesta is still a big part of Greek life, more so in the summer. Its the only way to cope with the intense heat.
Summing up Greece
11 December 2022
Still lots more to do !!!
Summing up Greece
11 December 2022
Athens. And it is still growing !!!
Summing up Greece
11 December 2022
Andreas remembers vividly having to risk life and limb being transferred from ferry to caique on arrival at Ikaria.
Summing up Greece
11 December 2022
11 December 2022
From Lipsi to Leros we finished on a real high - thank goodness. We sailed the entire 12 miles downwind on our genoa, into the huge bay and right to the marina entrance. We were positively orgasmic!!
We had a week before Stiletto was due to be lifted and a lot to fit in. First we needed to go get the car which had been sat under cover for almost 7 months just outside the marina entrance. We were a bit nervous of what we would find but had absolutely no idea that we were in for a very emotional and very frustrating time.
As we got to the car, there was a mother cat and several kittens sitting beside it, basking in the sunshine. As soon as we started to take the cover off, mother ran away and the kittens darted under the car. We got the cover off and folded, reconnected the battery, the car started first time and we drove into the boatyard assuming that the kittens had moved once the engine had started.
We parked up the car and spent the next couple of hours attempting to ‘sort ourselves out'.
Later that evening, after I had cooked supper, we both decided that a ‘chocolate fix' was the order of a long day. Andreas left the boat, got into the car, drove into town, picked up a slab of our most favourite chocolate, drove back to the marina, parked up, got back on board and we devoured the lot! That was the first chocolate for several months.
Next morning, he went off to the shower block for a long, hot shower. His exact words to me, on his return to the boat were.......... ‘ you are never going to believe this, but the kittens are sat in the sunshine under the back of the car” !!!!
Too right, I was not going to believe it. He had driven into town , how could they possibly be there?
But believe it I had to . For sure, the three kittens were all under our car. We thought that we could just grab them and carry them back to mum. No. As soon as we got close, they disappeared - up into the engine !!! We then realised, in total shock, horror and surprise that these kittens had not darted off as we had initially thought, but had found safety (?) in the engine, and, had remained there, unscathed while Andreas drove into town and back. Holy Moly!!!
So, we needed to get these little sweeties out of our engine and reunited with mum asap. Not only because she was still feeding them but we needed to use the car and no way would we drive anywhere now knowing that they were hiding in the engine.
To cut a long-winded story short, it took 2 days to capture these little minxes. And on day two, we discovered that there were not three, but FOUR kittens !!!
It took 3 of us, a landing net, and some soft cat food to capture them. By day 2, (which was actually day 3 if you include the day we discovered them), they were very hungry and thirsty and when we slid the landing net under the car, put some food down and they dropped down, I scooped up the net and we captured first one, then another and then finally the remaining two. They put up a fight. One bit my finger, but we disentangled them from the net, carried them back down to the marina entrance where mum was living, and there she was. Waiting. We put them on the ground, mum immediately went up to them and within a few seconds they were all latched on and feeding.
What a fiasco, and despite the inconvenience and the worry that they may die, we were thrilled that after 3 days, it all ended well.
So, getting back to Stiletto, we spent the next week preparing her for the winter. I laundered all the bedding, throws, cushion covers. We stowed the dinghy. Washed the sails. Took down and stored the genoa. I cleaned the oven and the fridge . We had to re-pack the car several times in order to get all that we were taking back to the UK into the boot. On 16th November we were lifted out of the water and Stiletto was put on sticks in the boatyard for the winter. The plan being that when we return to the marina, we spend a couple of weeks getting her ready for the re-launch on May 31st.
Our ferry from Leros to Piraeus was at 00.05 on 17th November. We had booked a cabin and once boarded went straight to bed arriving refreshed at 9am the next morning. A half hour drive got us to Athens were we spent 5 days visiting Aunt Koula, cousin Joyce and her husband Kosmas, and being tourists. We also caught up with Steve who we had originally met during our time wintering in Sicily, and had a lovely couple of hours over lunch catching up.
The ferry departure time from Patras to Venice had been brought forward some weeks ago by 4 hours. We couldn't understand at the time why, but all would be revealed later.
It's a 32 hour ‘mini cruise'. We had a lovely big cabin, right at the front overlooking the bow, and we basically spent the time chilling, reading, playing cards and eating. The second night was horrible. Big winds, big sea and in the very early hours I made the mistake of lifting the blinds to see huge waves breaking over the bow. At one point I felt quite scared. Our original ETA was 6am but after speaking with reception the night before, she showed us the weather site (Windy – which is what we use) and the screen was purple so we knew that we were in for a bumpy ride.
It was a sleepless night and we were up and ready by 6am. At 7.30, to our surprise the anchor was dropped outside of the huge lagoon that Venice sits in. . An announcement was made that we were anchored because of the weather. By now, the sea state was calm and the winds had subsided so we were not sure quite what was happening. The next announcement was requesting that if a doctor was on board, would they make themselves known to reception. And here we sat until 2pm when we were told that the Port Authority had said we could proceed. We docked at 3.30pm and were off by 4pm. No further announcements, explanations or apology. As a sailor, I assumed that the bad weather had slowed us down to the point where we had missed the tide to get into Venice. There were several large tankers also anchored who were also given clearance to move as they followed us into the long and shallow channel. A very frustrating day, made worse by the fact we had an 8 hour drive to the hotel in Lyon in the dark.
Next day, a much better day for the drive to Caen, a good sleep and we didn't have to checkout till midday for a 3pm departure, arriving Portsmouth at 7.30pm. Home.
And this is where we shall be for the next 5 months, in our bijoux apartment in Gosport. But boy, its COLD !!!!
Muse for this post: We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.