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Archive for the ‘Greece’ Category

Dec
23

2014 Wrap: Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and a Prosperous Chinese New Year

Posted by Mei on December 23, 2014

Australia

We went back to Australia last year 2013. My father had a stroke and my mother was not coping with any of this. We and I mean our sons Adric and Jared, and relatives from all over the world, family friends and neighbours all pitched in to help in this very dire time. The help came in many forms, moral, emotional, time and effort support was very important to me. I am very appreciative of it. Thank you; you know who you are. I had not realized that paying bills, house maintenance and shopping were becoming a burden to them, when they lived at Meadowvale road. We got my parents into a lovely facility at Highercombe in South Australia. They have individual rooms. It is fortunate that the facility will look after the daily necessities and they don’t have to stress about anything. This is good and bad, because with mum’s negative outlook it is easier to do less and less. But luckily I can ask the facility to organize things, and a doctor goes there once a week and they can see him if they want to or if the nurse wants them to. We then had the pleasure of selling the house, cleaning and getting rid of a lifetime of possessions. All a lot of fun in 47 degrees C. Good thing the evaporative cooling worked. We stayed with Adric, Suzanne, Terry and Michael in Melbourne. Thanks guys.  

 Rome

We flew to Greece and stayed a couple of weeks and then headed to Rome. We spent ten days in Rome. Rome was a fantastic place. We did a mixture of tours and audio tapes. We saw the Vatican museum twice. We truly loved the Galleria Borghese. Went for an audience with the Pope, us and about 100,000 others. We did a lot of walking in February. It wasn’t very cold but the down coat was great. We used cross-pollinate to find the apartment and it was central and clean. I especially liked the apartment near Campo de Fiori. PopeKevin and the guard OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Meersburg

We caught a train to Germany and went via the Benina Express, the carriages were built with the views in mind and the roof was almost clear. This train avoids many of the tunnels and the panoramas were exceptional. We visited Kathy, Joerg and Paul in Meersburg. We spent a few days on road trips looking at the towns with lovely restored old towns. The restorations are done lovingly and fortunately tourism pays for this big effort. Reinvigorating murals on multistory houses etc. The regular modern buildings are very ho hum and dull. You could be anywhere. Kathy took us to an old house that had storks building nests on the roof. It was unusual enough that there were coach loads of people taking photos.

Kathy Kevin and Joerg

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Ionion Islands

We flew back to the Ionion Islands. We really enjoyed our stay in Levkas Marina. Levkas is a lovely Greek town with it’s own traditions and charm. The marina was terrific although it chose an odd time to upgrade the toilet/shower blocks, but I guess timing for that exercise is never good no matter when it is scheduled. I certainly thought the start of the charter season was exceptionally brilliant timing. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA P3253503OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Corfu

Kathy and Joerg came to visit us. They landed in Corfu and we led them to the marina at the base of the old English fort next to the Liston. It was such a beautiful spot. I think they would have been happy to explore Corfu instead of cruising. The Greek Corfu Easter is supposed to be absolutely amazing with a lot of amphorae filled with water and pushed off high balconies, we missed this but was there for the parades of the orthodox priests including the Patriarch of the Ionion, the 16 brass bands and the concert in the St George Church. DSC_0042

 Meganissi and Scorpius

We visited Magganissi and I think Joerg and Kathy liked the island. We sailed around Scorpios Island for a sticky, now owned by Ekaterina Rybolovleva (25), it used to be owned by Athena Onassis (29). They had a birthday party on it and Celine Dion sang. The Ionian was abuzz with helicopters, chris craft, giant white boats and paparazzi.
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Lakka, Paxoi

 Erikoussa

We went to Erikoussa our last taste of Greece. The Erikoussa hotel/restaurant was lovely and the owner was very nice. Water was crystal clear 8m deep. The owner of the Erikousa hotel was entertaining and told us of his travels. We moaned about the diving in the Med, it seemed like a desert after SE Asia. He told us he went night diving near Corfu and was awestruck by the numbers and sizes of the fish. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Boot, Italy

We sailed across to Maria St Leuca, (the heel of Italy). Anchored outside the marina and it was full of little ity bitty sandflies. So annoying and the place looked very boring. Didn’t get off the boat it was that charming. Galipoli (heel) had a little island and was just another walled city, it had feint echoes of Dubrovnik, but with the same nic nacs, plastic junk from PRC. In Rocella Ionica (instep) we met some Kiwis and they had just come from Sardinia and told us where to go, we could spend months there, anchoring out. They also knew the Balearics intimately. We had repaired the red ensign Terry gave us, a while ago, and we started to fly it.  

Toarmina, Sicily.

Toarmina is very pretty. but the anchorage was very sloppy and rolly. It doesn't worry us after staying at the Republic of Singapore yacht club, sloppy anchorages are just easy. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Aeolian Islands

We had a fright last night. We were anchored at Isola Vulcano, yes there is a bubbling crater there. Early in the morning I woke to hear Kevin climb up into the cockpit. Then to my horror I heard a clear British voice, "Good Morning", beat, "Would you like a cup of tea?", I threw on my clothes in a groggy fugue, and was at the cockpit ladder when Kevin started the engine and was working his way forward to pull up the anchor chain. The wind had changed direction and this little yacht, well fendered, was just about to bump us. Kevin and Mr Tea fendered off.   The wind hit 26 knots and a few boats dragged. It was wild.   We saw these strange boats in the Messina Straits. They are designed to catch sword fish. The habit of swordfish is to lie just beneath the surface and bask in the sun. The captain spots them from his perch and creeps up to the swordfish and a guy at the end of the bowsprit harpoons them. It must actually work as you can see on the last photo. They sure have a lot of swordfish dishes. Swordfish 1Swordfish 3                 We visited Stromboli Island, Its an active volcano and spews out lava every few minutes. That night, we followed some tripper boats to a viewing spot halfway around the island. Seeing the lava flowing down the mountain like a red sparkle river was really amazing. The red jets into the air, were spectacular. I couldn't take photos as it was so sloppy, impossible to hold the camera still. Stromboli 1OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 Sicily

We visited Palermo. There was a very scruffy air to the town. It felt like a difficult place to live. We enjoyed looking at the cathedral and there are some wonderful buildings. I read Peter Robb's book "Midnight in Sicily", interesting to get some insight into the world of Palermo. I read a thread about the resistance to mafia extortion in Palermo. A group of young people started up a campaign called Addio Pizzo. The word pizzo means pecking, like a chicken pecking up the scraps, the Italians use this as a euphemism for extortion.  It means Goodbye Extortion. They got a few businesses to refuse to pay the protection money and they proudly carry the sticker. We were on the look out for the sticker and found one shop, a tourist shop selling Sicilian made olive oils etc. They also have a travel agency using services that do not pay pizzo. It sounded heartening and the mafia have ignored these people considering them as very small fry. The police were a little astonished and try to keep an eye on them. The police feel like they are not alone and decided to give this organisation a property for their office. A property they had confiscated from the mafia. Lots of people join the organisation and shop at these shops to help support them. I think consumer choice is a wonderful concept. I think the mafia is regretting they didn't squash them in the early days because they are gaining momentum. I hope this grassroots organisation will overcome the habits of the oppressed. The mafia has been hurting in this economic downturn, they were hoping to do better by lending money at their horrible rates to the desperate businesses, but what happened was that businesses just gave up and closed shop. P7034506OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  

Ustica

From Palermo we sailed to Ustica. It very tiny volcanic island and a ferry ride from Palermo. In fact it’s a place Palermo people hang out when they want to get away from it all. Has a special charm. The small walks around town revealed alleyways with lovely murals. The harbour is very small and we took one of the three berths available for our sized yacht. There is absolutely no room for anchoring as boats are packed on the buoys lined up like sardines, side by side with no swing room. A couple of yachts turned up much later that evening and were asked to tie up next to a concrete slipway, outside the harbour. It was a good thing it was very calm. Ustica has a marine national park and there are many dive boats operating.

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Sardinia

Sardinia is the nicest cruising area of Italy, At least of what we’ve seen.  Caglairi (capital of Sardinia) has about 150k people. There is more money here, and the councils are very good, the buildings look much better maintained.    

Cagliari

Cagliari has a lovely old town. But the most interesting aspect was the cemetery. We had never walked into an Italian cemetery and it was eye opening. Mausoleums that resembled little roman temples with Corinthian columns and gorgeous sculptures, some with mosaic archangels, Mausoleums that resembled Frank Lloyd Wright glass box structures. There were these walls about 10m high that had five rows of tombs, A multi storey resting place. The old town was fascinating as many of the usual suspects invaded the island at one time, The Phoenicians, Carthageans, Roman, Vandals ??? Spanish and the Moors. Interestingly the symbol of Sardinia is the flag with the four Moors. The reason for this is steeped in a very muddled explanation. No one really wants to tell us and we suspect some serious skulduggery. Nevertheless it is waved around with serious pride. Another aspect that makes Sardinia unique in the Mediterranean is the Bronze aged Nuraghe people 1900 and 730 BC  These people were unique to Sardinia. DSC_0085 P7094625

The coast on the east side of Sardinia is lovely, beautiful clear emerald water.

 Gelato Anyone?

Gelato Anyone?

Maddalena National Park

The Maddalena islands are worth a look. We visited the house where Garibaldi lived out his years. Garibaldi was the general who united modern Italy, and gave the reins of power to the Italian king. He is considered the true patriot.  

 Emerald Coast

We rang Porto Cervo to find out how much a night cost and it was 313 euro/night. so much for the world's most expensive marina. If you want to know what people do when they can buy a 100m white boat and not blink at the price? Come to the Costa Esmeralda to see them in their element.  The big white boats in Costa Esmeralda are like Thai fishing boats, they are everywhere. There are some boats that are too large for even Porto Cervo. We were anchored next to Dilbar in Golfo Pervero. It was weird to see staff and body guards swarming around the big guy and guests. Even swimming with him. We saw Abramovich’s Eclipse, Paul Allen’s Tatoosh, and countless numbers of yachts > 50m. They all probably have chefs on board but they prefer to dine out. No dinghies for them, only helicopters. But risky life I reckon. It was a V V windy night and the helicopter is struggling to land. Big risk appetite too I guess. DSC_0078 (2)DSC_0118  

 Balearic Isles, Spain

We left Sardinia and went to Menorca, we motored most of the way. We met Rick and Robyn off Endangered Species in the last anchorage in Sardinia. They had been moving fast from Turkey, and going to cross the Atlantic.. They had not seen anyone in cruising mode for quite a while. There are a lot of yachts sailing around Italy but the charterers and the Italian boat owners do not stop and chat like the long term cruisers. They dinghied up to our boat and asked, “Is this Duncan and Robin’s boat?” They were fun to be with. They were off to the Caribbean; their back yard and were already licking their lips in anticipation of a rum drink. They tried to get us enthusiastic about crossing the Atlantic. It turned out they knew quite a cruisers from SE Asia. It’s a small bloody world, huh? They were tired of motoring and didn't like the shop hours 9am- 2pm and opened at 5pm – 8pm. We discussed dining hours with some friends from Norway.  They eat breakfast at 7am, lunch at 11am and dinner at 4pm. I was a little shocked at 4pm, but could see the 4-5 hour gap as sorta in tune with my hunger patterns. We eat at 8am, lunch by 12-1pm and dinner 6-7pm and have done this most of the cruising life. But in Spain they have lots of little snacks to keep going because the gap is really long. They are at work by 8 or 9 so they must eat breakfast around 7am, they rush out for a snack between 11-13, if they get a chance because they get off for lunch at 2pm. No wonder they have coffee stands and snacks for stand up and run peeps. The biggest meal is at lunch and it is huge. Three courses usually and then a nap. Nothing much is open, not even a bank, only things open are restaurants and supermarkets. That’s in the old town/ CBD. The quietest time in the city is 6-7pm. Everyone is still at work, or resting. The chef only arrives at the kitchen at 8pm, we know this because a bunch of 12 Australians and new Zealanders were out looking for a decent restaurant meal at 7pm in Cartagena. Last Friday night we were walking past some restaurants and were shocked to find out no-one had started eating their mains and it was 10pm. They have big barn shopping open 10 am to 10pm everyday e.g. like having a Bunnings, next to a Harvey Normans, Good guys and Big W in the same area surrounded by car parks. Very soulless places. They are quite far outside town and very, very hideous. No one has tried to make these places look nice they are the retail equivalent of industrial parks For me the Spanish are able to enjoy a lot more hours in the day then we do. If I could get past my hypoglycaemia I would be able to enjoy it too. They are generally a slim people, certainly spend a lot of time on the evening walk with friends and their late meals. I’m sure the afternoon nap is like a power boost. We went to Palma de Mallorca and was pleasantly surprised. We had heard it was a cheap place for package tourists, but the town we found was quite sophisticated and fairly expensive. The church with the Gaudi hanging above the altar was certainly worth a visit. It is in fact the centre for boating in Mediterranean Spain. There was a lot of yachting hardware, rigging, sails, watermaker, liferaft service etc. We expected all the yachting centres along the Spanish coast to be similar. We were wrong.
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Kevin, Rick & Robin

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Mediterranean Spain

We sailed to Barcelona to catch up with Adric. It was lovely to see him. He has got a different job with his company and is working in IT in the web department. Jared back in Melbourne also got a new job within his company, and working in consulting. They both like the shift and are happy with the direction. We were in Port Vell and a quick walk to the Ramblas. We were there about two weeks and we saw practically everything. I really liked the modernista buildings and the Segrada Familia was stupendous. I thought the Picasso museum was interesting tracing his life and “periods”. What a phenomenon. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA                           OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA   We bought a Brompton bike in Barcelona. It seems like such a bike friendly place, flat ground and huge boulevards. That is until we discovered it was the bike theft capital of Spain. It made me a tad paranoid about our combo locks. Apparently 4.5 seconds to break. We have used these locks half way across the world. But the evidence was clear, especially if you looked at the bike racks in Barcelona, giant thick freaking D locks plus a motorbike chain on the tires, seat and frame. Also there were several skeletons on the bike rack, say a frame chained to it, nothing else. Ulp!!! As we crawled down the coast, we met up with Enki II in Valencia. Alex, Diana and Claudia were enjoying the rounds. They were edging the yacht towards the Canaries. They wanted us to come along. We started to think about the jobs we needed done. Kevin wrote it all down and it was huge. Because we were not preparing for a crossing when the boat was in Greece there were a substantial backlog of must do items. I honestly didn’t want to be so goal orientated that we miss major bucket list sites like Alhambra. Or get tense and anxious about it. The Spanish people are very nice and there is a lot of depth to this society. We don’t have to rush home. We won’t be back to Europe for a long time. Once we get to the Caribbean it begins the sleigh ride home.   OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA We got to Cartagena and liked the place. We had intended to stay for winter here. We got stuck into the prep for the Atlantic Crossing. New batteries, fix water maker, fix gen set leak, get new sheets, our dyneema preventers failed. The more we thought about the list the longer it got. We set a date the 1 October to have everything finished. We didn’t make it.  

Portugal

We did a trip to Portugal to see Peta and Michael. They were going to stay in Cascais. We caught the train there from Cartagena. It was a long boring trip the scenery wasn’t great. I think we crossed the mountains in the dark. It was fun to visit them. Peta chose the hotel that overlooked the water. They got the room with the view. Unfortunately it was above a tub thumping Irish Pub. It was also bad luck the window frame was wraped and would not close. Ear plugs didn’t cut it and Peta decided to sleep on the bathroom floor with the door firmly shut. Poor Michael almost stepped on her when he tried to get to the loo. We went to Sintra by bus. It was really lovely to be in the mountains. The best ruin had to be the Moorish castle. A view to kill for.  
Kevin, Peta and Michael

Kevin, Peta and Michael

Spain

We flew to Madrid and went for a walk around the old city. It is a beautiful city. I was fascinated by the impact the discovery of the Americas had on Spain. I stumbled across the Columbian Exchange; widespread transfer of animals, plants, culture, human populations, communicable diseases, technology between the new world and old world.  The plants will astonish you. The better nutritional properties these plants had on the old world actually kept more people alive. This probably contributed to the population explosion. Read this about potatoes.  Apparently the wheat crop to make bread is dicey at best. Not reliable supply and lot and lots of labour. Keeping the flour dry and insect free was probably tricky too. Peasants from Britain, Ireland and France were always on the knife edge of starvation. It took till the 1800 before the common folks began to realise that the potato would keep them alive. I was also curious about the other foods so widespread in Asia especially the Chilli. What did the Indians and Thais do without chilli and how did it get there? It appears that the Portuguese traders spread the plants throughout the world. The most perplexing fruit for me is the dragon fruit, introduced to Australia by the Vietnamese. Have you seen the plant it looks like a cactus.  
Two Aussies in Madrid

Two Aussies in Madrid

 

Cartagena

We are back in Cartagena now and Christmas is around the corner. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Just yesterday I happened to look at the lottery system in Spain. We have had many people trying to sell us these lottery tickets and we have waved them aside, not paying any attention to the detail. Yesterday I decided to see what it was about and discovered the El Gordo Navidad is the biggest lottery in the world. The prize pool is 2.4 billion euros. I kid you not. They have a participation rate of nearly 100% and the whole country sits in front of the TV (22/12/2014) for the Draw and it lasts 3 hours. They have two children from an orphanage who get the numbers from two huge spinning balls and one sings the lottery number and the other sings what the prize is. Yes as you can deduce there are a lot of prizes, there is apparently 5% chance of winning something. Before the draw everyone knows that each ticket of the first prize is worth 4 million euros this year. There are 160 tickets of the same number and each ticket costs 200 euros. You can buy a decimo or a tenth of a ticket for 20 euros. Last year an entire village bought all the tickets with the same number and scooped 540 million Euros. The lottery has been going since 1812. But hey it is the Spanish equivalent of the Melbourne cup; the draw that stops the nation. We went into town to get some of the action but alas the lottery shops were closed on Sunday, the last day to buy the tickets was Saturday. But you know about clouds; there is a draw called the El Niño (now why do I know that name???) and it is drawn on Jan 6 for only 540 million Euros. We will buy some tickets, wish us luck. Next year we will spend some time touring Spain and in the Spring we will take the boat into the Atlantic and sail north till mid August and then turn around and head south and cross the Atlantic at the end of next year. We are not sure how far north we can get and it will be weather permitting. This post was an epic, I had dropped of the planet and now I’m back. My new year’s resolution; smaller ones in the future and more regular.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and a Prosperous Chinese New Year.

                                 
May
26

Corfu

Posted by mei-sm on May 26, 2013 We stayed in Mandraki harbour (40 Euro/night including elec and water) in Corfu. It is a lovely spot at the base of the old fort. It is easily walking distance to everything in Corf town. The ferry terminal contains the harbourmaster, customs and immigration.   Corfu is interesting to explore. The architecture is different from any of the Greek islands we have visited, Corfu was out first Ionian island. We hired a car and scooted to the beach at Palaiokastritsa and went to the highest peak. The visibility was OK but not crystal. Still the island and the architecture were pretty to look at.   We had not heard from Maxine and were getting worried. When she called she was at a café within 200m from where we were. Adric left the next day and we checked out of Corfu.   Albania We were excited to go to Albania. We had heard so little about this country. We had a pleasant sail there wind from the south, less than a half meter swell. Albania is very mountains especially along the cost and it was lovely. The Orikum marina was pleasant enough, reasonably priced and the clearance easy (24 Euro/night including elec and water, 30 euro for clearance in/out). A walk to the little town of Orikum was enlightening. Soviet style concrete boxes for apartment and shops. It felt a little bit like asia with the mouldy walls and electrician’s nightmare. Vlora had a modern main street and the ethnography museum was interesting. We mistook a black flokati poncho for a bear skin. The Albanian shepherd would wear this up in the mountains.   We had heard the capital Tirane was interesting.  The bus arrives in Orikum at 0615 we were told. We got there with 3 minutes to spare and noticed a few things, no one waiting and the sports barman looked bored. We asked him about the bus and he said 0600. It should have passed us if it had left on time. We were walking on the same road. We were a tad perplexed. We walked off and started back, then decided to stop for a coffee along the way. Mid sip of his coffee Kevin noticed a minibus zoom past with Tirane on the windscreen. We rushed to the bus and stopped it from moving. Yes it goes to Tirane at 0615. Yes well we said and jumped on. He drove to the bus station and stopped the bus and got off. We looked at the sport’s bar and noticed several people having coffees and …well waiting. It finally dawned on us that were must be in a different time zone. In fact it was one hour different +2 UTC, not at all like Athens or Istanbul (+3 UTC). We had woken up at 4am and counting.   The trip into Tirane took 2.5 hours. Sleep came in useful as the landscape was fairly flat; there were more uninspiring soviet style concrete apartment blocks. There were also many new private houses in the country side.   We wandered through the city to the NationalHistoryMuseum. Quite interesting. Had a nice meal and caught the 2pm bus back to Orikum. Titrane stops at 2 – 5pm for a siesta. Montenegro We arrived this morning. We did an overnighter to the Gulf of Kotor. Most of the trip the wind was southerly (15-20knots) with 1m seas. Quite OK, lovely sail. When we got to the coast of Montenegro the winds dropped to 10 knots, but a 3m westerly swell was running UGH; chunderous.   We are now at Trivat in the Gulf of Kotor. The Porto Montenegro marina guys drove us round to the CIQP. (marina was: 65 euro/night, not including water + electricity, Vignette sticker was 126 Euro per week). An Aussie runs the marina. It is also entirely OK to anchor in the bay and do the clearance yourself.  The cost may be less for the vignette if you bypass the marina.      
Apr
24

Nisyros

Posted by mei-sm on April 24, 2013 Whisper HR position Course: 200T Current Speed: 0.1 Wind: 7.8 There is a large crater in the centre of the island. The sulphur encrusted rocks are interesting to look at. There was steam and sulphur fumes billowing out of a few holes. We decided not to go inside of the crater. There were footprints in the hot mud at the bottom but no large man sized holes. There are a couple of villages that overlook the crater. The island is sparsely populated and it appears that most people live around the Horia and some at Nikea and Pali. The architecture is mostly Cyclades with a few large monstrosities. The cutest building was the church on the top of the hill overlooking the crater called Ayios Ioannis Thelogos. We had med moored in the Pali harbour. There were a few restaurants, hotels, motorcycle and car rental joints there. All apparently geared up for yachts. We went to Mandrake, the main ferry harbour and had a coffee. We met up with the crew from Neptune II who had walked there. The kids were still buzzed and played chassies around the concrete paths. We went up to the old town wall on top of the acropolis and discovered it had been built in 350 BC. The building blocks were enormous. It took us about half a day to see the place and it is probably a nice place to go hiking as the hills were covered with oak trees and very green. There were many terraces bounded by rock walls. A huge labour intensive endeavour to maximise the fertile acreage. Unfortunately presently there is hardly any agriculture at all. Heikell indicated that there were many people working on the island nearby that had a large pumice mine. When we got back to the boat Gary played happy birthday on his saxophone, and Vanessa. Marina and Elliot were there bearing gifts. It was all very sweet.
Apr
18

Rhodes

Posted by mei-sm on April 18, 2013 We sailed into Rhodes Mandraki Harbour. It's a very nice town with a large medieval city for the "Old Town". The pavement is not cobblestones but an interesting pebble mosaic. The crusades ended out here and the Knights of St John (pronounced sin-gin) built the city to a medieval ideal. Walls within walls and large moats.  
Rhodes Castle

Rhodes Castle

Rhodes though can trace its history back to 2000 BC. Rhodes was very central for a few millennia, juxtaposed between Alexandria, Athens and Constantinople. The strategic location became a magnet for invaders and traders, consequently the island became very multi-cultural. Walking around the medieval city you can almost imagine the men in tights. The Greeks do not dress up for it and maybe they should. Rhodes was occupied by almost every strong invader in the history of this area. Imagine my surprise when we were greeted by the marina manager who looked like Vince Colosimo. There was lots of space in the Mandraki harbour as it is still early in the season. Further in was less bouncy. The cost was very reasonable.
Kevin and the Marina Manager

Kevin and the Marina Manager

We wandered around town looking for the usual things a Cosmote sim for Kevin. His phone and data are good on his Samsung note but my WS35 Sony Ericson router struggled with Cosmote. I stuck the Vodafone sim in and it worked like a treat. There have been no new upgrades for this router for years and it is falling behind. Norm and Pauline arrived and we took them shopping the next day. That's the life, looking for good supermarkets. The Pappou on Kanada street was excellent. Fresh meat, cheese and smoked meats, and a very good all round supermarket. They gave samples out of the cheese and meats. I wanted to taste the mandarins and Pauline was hesitant so I nodded at the shopgirl and mimed opening up the orange and she nodded enthusiastically. Truly they expect you to try the produce; especially in the markets. We tried out the new shopping bag and to my amazement managed to fit all the 6 wine bottles, 4 -sixpack of beers, assorted cans, fresh meats, cheese, salami and all the fruit and vege. We also found the vege shop opposite sold a very dense bread, like a sourdough. It weighed an absolute ton. Norm and Pauline were looking for some friends who owned a butcher shop in the old town. These friends were cousins of Norms mother's bridesmaid. We asked the Pappou butchers if they knew of them, was told the shop had operated for 30 years and had been closed for 10 years. We went with Pauline to the Vodafone shop and discovered after we topped up the sim card that Pauline's Ifone took a mini sim. She was about to buy the mini sim when the shop assistant asked if it was locked? It was a Telstra phone so I was betting it was locked. Pauline is now emailing her daughter to find out. Fun for her to be on the call waiting queue of Telstra. Hellstra! Hellstra! Helstra! Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!
Nov
27

Santorini

Posted by Mei on November 27, 2012

Mei and Kevin in Santorini

Santorini is an interesting place. It has been forever changed by the tourists a bit like Ubud, Bali. The locals however are few yet have managed to keep a firm grip on the style and look of the place. It is a bit like a theme park. But they don’t hassle and they are friendly. We stayed in a hotel room that was an ancient windmill. It had beautiful views of the caldera (cauldron). The views from most angles were breathtakingly beautiful. We went to the archaeological site call Akrotiri an ancient Minoan city. 1700BC a volcano engulfed the city.  They discovered it last century and have been excavating pretty much until recent times. The excavations have been suspended due to the economic crisis. They had built some very good walkways and a shelter to keep the site undamaged and accessible to the tourists that throng there. Santorini gets a million tourists a year and the Akrotiri is a hot ticket. The museums are interesting especially the archaeological museum which displayed the antiquities from Akrotiti, and the Santozeum; live sized frescos have been recreated by Kodak Pathe. We saw 3-5 cruise ships every day hovering in the caldera, The crater is way too deep to anchor safely. The cruise peeps have to catch a gondola ride up to the rim or grab a donkey and lurch up the cobblestone path which is sporadically covered with donkey doo. It’s fun to watch some of these peeps with those fancy carbon fiber trekking walking sticks with shock absorption walking on the cobble stones. The walks are really not that rough or that steep. But Kevin says they were very old. There were people doing a home made wedding shoot. The bride naturally had heels too; fun with the cobblestones. There is a bit of industry and wine is grown and manufactured (since 3500BC).  The vines are grown without trellises and look quite messy on the dry volcanic soil. There are wine tours, tastings etc. They also grow capers and have caper leaves as a specialty.  The leaves taste just like capers. The chess sets have the Greek Flavor. One of the Greek myths and the other of the Cycladic earth mother figurines.

Greek Gods Chess Pieces

Cyclades Chess Pieces

Strange to say but for all that blah blah about Europe being VV expensive; Greece is not that expensive to live. Even with 23% VAT and 18% on food. The boating hardware and bits are easily as cheap or cheaper than west marine catalog prices (even with the tax).  Cheapest food is a Gyros in pita with shaved pork or chicken, yogurt and cucumber, lettuce and tomato for 1.5 Euro. Average dinner at a café/bistro is 20-30 euro with alcohol for a couple. One euro is 1.2 AUD. Beer is almost the same price as coke. A six pack of beer (330ml) costs 3.8 euro, The marina we are in Athens cost 23 Euro a night.. Electricity is .29 cents/KWH, water is 6 euro for 1 Ml. but anchoring out is free in the med (not always so in Croatia). Fresh food and vege is cheaper than Australia fruit in season 1-2 euro/kg, pork chops 5euro/kg, chicken maybe 3-4 euro/kg. and it is the only place in the world that gives invoices with fruit bought at market stalls. They are trying to stamp down on Mavra (black) that the max cash withdrawal limit is 2k at the bank/day. In Turkey, the cheapest food was the chicken donner 1.5 TL (similar to Gyros but the wrap is thinner and bigger 30cm diameter) Beef donner 3TL. Food at a Turkish diner for a couple without alcohol is 20 TL. Tea and they drink stacks of it all day is 0.75 – 1.5 TL. One TL is about 50cents AUD. Alcohol is expensive a six pack is 14 TL but each bottle of efs is 500ml. Fresh fruit and vege was very cheap, can’t remember just how much. Fantastic quality but not the variety we have in Oz. The yat marin Marmaris in turkey cost about 9 euro/ day however daily rates were expensive, one week at the daily rate cost as much as a month.  There were places that charged 50-80 euros/night we did not visit. The imported goods like boat bits are considerably more expensive. We paid 1440 USD for a rocna 33kg. ( We needed a better anchor than the 60 lb CQR, which repeatedly dragged in soft slimy mud) . However things made in Turkey are very reasonable. Of course we’re talking of food where the locals eat and not tourists. People were telling me that the countries in the black sea were even cheaper than turkey. So far the most expensive place on the planet that we’ve been to since 2010 is AUSTRALIA.
Oct
08

Athens

Posted by Mei on October 8, 2012 We've been in Athens almost a couple of months. I really like it. The Greek peeps are nice, just like back home really. Athens is big into six story apartment blocks; everywhere you look. One unique thing that seems to define Athens to me are the cars. I find these cars adorable.

Coffee - Freddo Expresso

In Australia we all love our Italian coffees.   In Asia we tried the Ipoh White Coffees. They're OK but I wouldn't want to bring it home. I don’t like the instant mixes. In Turkey the Tea was better. In Melbourne the iced coffee is usually with an ice cream, too rich for me.  In Asia the iced coffee seemed to be kopi or instant with ice. It’s not that great. In Greece, on a 40 degree day, hot exhausted and desperate for a pick me up. I saw a coffee frappe on the menu. Greek tourist menus are in English with a lot of explanations. I noticed this is made with instant coffee and thought yuk. Kept reading and spotted a Freddo Espresso and a Freddo Cappuccino; what on earth? A coffee I hadn't seen before. What was I missing? I loved It. If they don’t have it in Oz yet, this is how to make it. Ta Ta Freddo Expresso
Jul
19

Northern Sporades

Posted by Mei on July 19, 2012

Red Sky at Morn, Sailor Be Warned

We left Nea Skioni at dawn. I noticed the very large red sun creeping over the horizon. Hmmm... The forecast was for 12 knots gusting to 16 from the NE. Perfect winds for Pelagos, Sporades. A beam reach. What we didn't look at was the forecasted wave heights. Two meter seas caused quite a roll on the yacht. Burying the rail was to become common. Convincing Kevin to reef harder was difficult. The wind was 17 knots gusting to 22 knots. Being beam onto the swell was bloody uncomfortable. We anticipated ten hours of this. We had the headsail reefed to the first reefing spot and the main to 1.5 reefing. We were still burying the rail once every seven to fourteen waves. We finally ended up reefing three points on the headsail and main. What was interesting was every time we reefed we did not loose any speed over ground. In fact  because we stayed more upright we had less wetted surface and we actually went faster. God knows it was more comfortable. In Nea Skioni, we went shopping and met an unusual lady.

Omos Kira Panayia, Pelagos

This was our first Island in the Sporades. The anchorage was calm, turquoise water, clear and the temperature was 25 degrees with a cool wind. Heaven!! We  were in a small bay with six yachts tied to the rocks and one at anchor. We decided to tie to the rocks. It seemed like the more courteous option and certainly less angst on our part. The temperature actually felt too cool to swim. The rocks by the water were jaggered flesh shreddingly sharp. We were afraid to let the dinghy even brush it. The hills were rounded and very rocky. There were all sorts of shrubs and some olive trees. We saw some goats, and some peeps on donkeys and horses. Pelagos is in a marine national park to help protect the monk seal.
Jul
10

Northern Greece

Posted by Mei on July 10, 2012

Limnos

We arrived in Greece on 6 July 2012. We have till October 3, 2012 in Schengen.

The brand new wharf at Myrina was interesting, it looks very nice and there were nice shops nearby. It is a tourist town but fairly low key. We were told that the tourist were expected in about a weeks time and they wouldn't stop coming for a while. It appears we have once again dodged the tsunami of charter tourists.
We drove around and encountered some villages. Kondias had narrow lanes with sudden angular deviations and just wide enough for two donkeys and a cart. We were in a small shopping trolley of a car and it was six inches either side at times. Thank God we had cell coverage because Kevin's samsung note was working flat out for the navigation. We saw some ancient windmills in Kondias. We went to a ruined city called Poliochni. The city began it life in 3500 BC and was abandoned in 1500 AD. It lasted 5000 years and yes the streets were wide enough for two donkeys and a cart. The Gallipoli campaign HQ was in the Moudros harbor, some 60 nm from the Dardenelles. They might as well have been on the far side of the moon. It was interesting parking in a harbour in Greece. Every evening the locals and tourist go for a stroll, it is the coolest part of the day and temperature is about 25 degrees. perfect. Where do they go, the harbour front is the prime location. We have group after group of people stopping to chat to us simply because of the Aussie flag and the fact most of these people knew or lived in Melbourne. Several lived within 5km of Beaumaris. There is a large Byzantine fort at the harbour. Early at dawn we noticed the deer foraging on the harbour front council gardens.

Mt Athos

We sailed past Mt Athos peninsula (south side) yesterday. Mt Athos is a huge volcanic cone. Between the rock, scree and pine forests are these tiny areas devoted to monasteries. Women have not been allowed on this peninsula for 800 years. Intriguing to say the least. They allow 100 orthodox male visitors /day and 10 non orthodox. You can get a 4 day pass (~30 Euro) and you can trek from monastery to monastery. you walk on steep mountain trails, with the donkeys. There exists 21 century conveniences like buses, ferries, solar panels and mobile phone towers. Food / accommodation is free, you just need to book.

Some of the monasteries were enormous, some looked exceptionally hideous. Most were located in areas with fantastic views upon cliffs, near the top of the mountain and on beaches. All had farms where they grow their own food. Many had scaffolding up waiting repair.Orthodox Christians from all over the world including Australia have their own little meditative monasteries/retreats. I suppose it is the Vatican or Mecca or Lhassa of the orthodox christens. Is this where the priest retire too?