NissosMykonosWe are now back to the winter routine after a wonderful trip to the fabulous city of Prague. We loved the city and had a great time. Regular readers will know I usually don't use so many superlatives. However, I won't write about Prague on this Greek island blog; I will post to a travel blog and then put a link here.

This photo is in the new Nissos Mykonos ferry of Hellenic Seaways.

Meanwhile the Paros ferry situation is looking very good. There are over 23 ferries per week from Piraeus to Paros and back in January with two new routes. One by Zante Ferries which may not continue into the summer and one by Hellenic Seaways which should be permanent as that company seeks market share from the popular Blue Star Ferries.

Winterferry1These two photos show the nearly empty Blue Star on the day after Christmas. This is only the second time I have been on a Paros ferry that was not busy, even in the winter. Summer visitors would definitely not recognize all the empty seats; then there are loose chairs set up in the hall ways.

Winterferry2

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Reader beware! Time for a rant. We were seduced and screwed by Olympic Airlines.

Last month when planning our 8 day trip to Prague for Christmas the best flight from Athens had an early afternoon departure time which meant either an overnight hotel stay in Athens/Piraeus or taking the morning Olympic flight. The pros were the airport is only 3 minutes from our home; the flight is only 20 minutes long; the cost is less than the hotel and ferry combined. The con is Olympic Airlines.

einsteinOlympicWe have always advised travelers that they are difficult to deal with because they allow over-booking by passengers and travel agents so that they show full when they are not. We also knew they are strike prone because the employees are objecting to EU mandated privatization. We knew flights were often canceled for unknown reasons so we very carefully watched the weather and the news stories. Yesterday I rode over to the airport and asked about today's flight. I was answered with a shrug and a comment that they know nothing about tomorrow today.

Sure enough we show up ready to go 45 minutes before and the airport has an eerie feeling; no activity and a group of workers lounging over the baggage equipment smoking and chatting. The flight has been canceled supposedly due to a mild breeze from the "wrong" direction. I am guessing more likely due to somebody not wanting to come to work that day.

Now we are taking the evening ferry to Piraeus for midnight hotel arrival and noon departure for airport where our "best flight" is now very expensive due to change charges. And our holiday in Prague is one day shorter.

I would appreciate comments from anyone who has anything good to say about Olympic Airlines. If I asked for negative comments I am sure I would be flooded.

A while back we came upon an article about the rich and famous buying their own private Greek island--and the Beatles failed attempt to do the same. Read more here.



The six minute ferry ride between Paros and Antiparos passes by a very small private island that holds two villas and various out buildings. We don't know much about the owners but did see them dock at Antiparos the same time we got off the ferry. They looked ordinary. We heard that they bought the island in the 1950's for something like $5000.

However, the Antiparos villa owner that everyone talks about is Tom Hanks. For awhile every large villa or luxury boat on Antiparos was said to be his. Actually his villa was pretty much completed this year although he only spent a few days there instead of his usual few weeks.

These two photos are of his house. I only included the second one because it shows our house as well--one of the white dots along the shore in the far background.

We finally watched Mamma Mia last night. One word: GREAT!

If you love any Greek island, you will love this flick.


If you are in the USA, the DVD will be released on December 16th. You can pre-order from Powell's at this link:
http://www.powells.com/partner/26823/biblio/00025192010347

We are slowly getting into the season this year; a little on line shopping and a few community events. The Christmas lights started appearing last week; I hope to get mine up this week.

As I have mentioned before many Paros expats are artisans of one kind or another and most are always looking for ways to support their Greek island life style. So through out the year there will be art and handicraft sales.



This particular one was set at the Aqua Marine taverna here in Aliki. The spirit was quite festive. Denny, the chef/owner, made a special onion and cheese soup. Being Belgian he did not call it French Onion.


This photo didn't turn out well but I do want to show the setting of this Aliki taverna on the harbour.


Sunday evening was warm and calm so we drove our scooters into Parikia for the annual tree lighting. It is quite the cultural event with the whole town turning out.
Our highlight was the live creche. It was very symbolic; the angel was being angelic, Mary was being accommodating and the wise men were wrestling.
Do notice the live sheep in the background.

According to a recent news article all modern photos of the Parthenon are about to be obsolete.

From the Athens News Agency:
Parthenon restoration completed: Scaffolding will be removed from the Parthenon Facade during the next few days and visitors will be able to view the restored largest part of the marble roof with its friezes that made the monument, the work of the architect Mnisiklis, renowned in ancient times.

It seems that whenever and wherever I travel there are major structures with scaffolding around them. I guess it is good that they are being worked on; yet it never seems to end.

Please comment with your experiences. Especially if you know of a major attraction that has scaffolding removed.

Here is a link to a fun video for Lacta Chocolate. It was filmed on Paros this summer. I actually drove through one of their filming sets on my way to the Villa Randiana one morning.

If you are young enough to see the whole video let me know if I am in it or not. Most likely I am on the cutting room floor as I am too old to be handsome and too young to have an interesting face.

Enjoy: http://www.loveatfirstsite.gr/en/

Warning: It is quite large so very slow loading.

Thanksgiving is an American holiday and the Americans are thin on the ground in Paros. So Karin and I created our own celebration.



We had a cooked breakfast then rode our scooters to the other side of the island for some shopping and a hike up a hill to an old monastery, Ag. Antonios. After lunch in a gourmet sub shop we headed home and took it easy for the afternoon.

For our celebratory dinner we had beef in Belgian beer at a village restaurant that caters to expats. We then went home for a series of phone calls to family back in the USA. Our 10 P.M. is there Noon. Despite our own consumption we envied their turkey, mashed potatoes, etc. especially our son-in-law's specialty, Raspberry pie.


Enjoy Karin's specialty, a photo-journalism account of our hike, HERE


I was happy to take a trip back in time today. When I first got my motor scooter about 7 years ago it took about 3 Euro to fill the petrol (gas) tank. This past year it took 5 Euro quite easily. Today it was empty and I still could not get 5 Euro into it--hurrah!

The prices are Euro per litre.

Since the balance of our recent trip to Turkey was pretty much a typical tourist experience I have decided not to write about it in detail.

Search any travel guide site for good information. The site we found particularly helpful with advance planning was Tom Brosnahan's Turkey Travel Planner


We enjoyed Turkey very much. We had been just a little concerned about traveling in a Moslem country but now know better. Everyone we talked to was helpful and friendly; we saw a great many smiles. The only experience we had that touched on the political or the government was when I clicked on a link to YouTube. Up popped a page that said this site was blocked by some government agency whose name I don't remember--that applied to all of YouTube.



I will show a few of my favourite photos that are not of the major tourist venues.

The first one above is of an Istanbul kiosk. A bit more elegant that what you see in Athens.

We enjoyed the markets. Surprise, Surprise we had no problems with pushy sales people.

Each of the fish vendors try to out do their neighbor in artistic display.


The spice market is called the Egyptian Market for historical reasons.

I just rediscovered this Picasa album that Karin put together back in September. Enjoy our little trek with friends.

We are always on the lookout for books and movies about expat life in Greece. Our Dutch friends recommended Who Pays the Ferryman? . This was a popular TV series on the BBC in 1977 and was also translated into Dutch. I included the graphic below but the DVD is currently out-of-stock. You can find a review of the novel HERE




OK, so we are on the ground at a remote train station on the Greece border. Now what? Next train is 4:00 AM tomorrow and it is now 5:00 in the afternoon. How will we spend the time? Looking around at where we were was a bit of a shocker! An ancient old wooden building, painted in the atrocious boring colour of gun metal grey, seemed to be our home for the next 11 hours! But the Station Master said he had to leave and would be closing! (See photos in previous post)

It turned out he closed his office, but left the waiting room open. Not that it was much of a room. One long wooden bench, and a few hard chairs, a motor scooter and a HUGE weighing machine! Michael and Martin, the German backpacker (we finally realized we must introduce ourselves if we were to be "best friends" for the next 11 hours), decided to leave me at the station, while they walked up a road that went up into the hills. Behind the station was the remnants of an old abandoned village. Interesting, but eerie. Broken windows, empty rooms, very interesting wood houses. I suddenly felt frightened and alone, and nervous. My gosh, I was directly on the border between two countries that are not the best of friends, having a pretty violent history not so long ago. Hmmmm..... I started pacing. And looking around.....

Next to the station I discovered a smallish building that was a little snack bar and had some booze inside and a man nearly asleep--decided to ignore him. While I know I am not young anymore, my mind starting working, and I was nervous that since he was old, he might not mind that I was old, and "come on to me". Ha, ha. Still.....it was only us. My protectors (Michael and Martin) were gone. And they seemed gone so long....I tried calling them on my mobile after 40 minutes. All I could hear were dogs barking....were they attacking my protectors? Would night come and they would not be back? It was starting to get dark.....Oh, what to do....Woe is me! Etc.
Suddenly, I saw them. I was mad and happy. Decided to be happy and let mad go. They had found that the road went to a village about 20 minutes up the road. While they did not actually go into the village, they saw it. So the decision was made to walk there and spend some time, finding food and warm shelter. Michael went into the snack bar and the man told him he was leaving! Leaving? Maybe going to the village? Yes? Great! So we asked for a lift up. The man really frowned when he realized he had to put 3 people PLUS luggage into his car.....but he remained friendly. (Editor: Karin charmed him.)

Once up at the village, he told us to wait in front of a restaurant. It was closed, but we understood him to say it would open soon! And it did. Two young women came, welcomed us in, and from there it only got better and better! We ordered a nice dinner. Then free drinks started arriving, free snacks, a dessert were all offered! The owner came in with his cronies and some young men were watching a football match. The atmosphere became like a huge party of laughing, drinking, and talking back and forth. We were included and made to feel like honoured guests! About midnight, we decided that we must leave, or we would be too drunk to make it down the hill! It was dark outside with few lights to find our way back down the road to the station.

Once in the station, Martin promptly laid out on the bench and Michael and I sat and nodded off, waking up, dozing while sitting up. We walked around, we felt chilled, we wondered how it could seem so long and only 15 minutes had passed. We felt like we were in the twilight zone. Then a man arrived and opened the office--without even a glance at us, he proceeded to start his paperwork. Imagine, coming to work at 3:00 in the morning! We envied him his coffee.... We did buy our required sleeping car tickets from him.

Then a train pulled in....a beautiful Turkish train. A man got out with a briefcase full of passports of the lucky sleepers on the train. While they processed the passports, we sat and watched. As they finished, and were about to leave we heard another train pull in. This was the train to take us on to Turkey but we could not get on it yet. We sat, we waited--for about another hour until the fancy train from Turkey left. A very official looking policeman came along and asked us for our passports, taking them with him. That is a weird feeling, to relinquish your passport and have them leave with it. Next we were told we could get on the train. We collected our things, and had to walk and pull them over 3 tracks with weeds to get to our train. I felt like a refugee leaving a communist country for freedom! It just felt unreal.

The sleeper car was weird. It had that little narrow aisle way that European trains have, but then you entered the sleeping compartment by going up two stairs! Once in the tiny cubicle you climbed ladders to get to the bed which was about 12 inches from the ceiling! Twins, one for Michael and one for me. The luggage was on the floor or on a rack over the door. It felt claustrophobic! I was telling myself that I must close my eyes and PRETEND it is big and spacious! We lay down immediately, only to have to get up and answer a knock at the door to retrieve our passports.
In a few minutes the train started to move!!!!!!!! Oh boy! Finally, at 5:00 AM we are leaving! The train moved VERY S L O W L Y....and crossed the bridge of the river dividing Turkey and Greece. Soldiers outside with guns, barbed wire, bright lights! And then....the train started to go faster but soon stopped again.

Another knock on the door with another official asking for passports. He looked at them and said, "Come with me." Oh, oh, what's the problem! Then we remembered that a Visa was required at a cost of 10 Euro each for Irish, 20 for Americans.The German lad did not have to pay anything. It didn't take long to pay and we were back in bed drifting asleep. We heard knocking on doors and it got louder as it got closer. At the knock on our door, we answered and got our passports back--pretty Visa stamp inside.

Soon the train was moving again and we were racing through the night across Turkey.

This is a continuation of our recent journey to Turkey. The previous episode ended with us at our Thessoloniki hotel near the train station. That evening we went to buy our tickets for the next day; no luck as the strike was still on here. We were told to come back after 5 A.M.

So we got there about 6:15 for our 7:15 train but the agent would only sell tickets to Constantinople(Istanbul to everyone outside Greece and Cyprus) on the evening train. We did not want to do that because the purpose of not flying was to see the mainland of Greece. I asked about the connecting train at the border town of Pithion; she replied with a wave of her hand and a shrug of the shoulders and said, "Maybe?" So I relied on my internet info about the connection and bought two First Class tickets to Pithion.

The rest of the story is by Karin.

When we walked out to the platform to get on the train, I was SHOCKED to see a dusty, run down looking dark blue train covered in graffiti! Some of it actually could be called interesting...but still! Michael looked at me looking at this train and said, "I did go ahead and get first class tickets". Well, good.

Our car was one of those European types with an aisle running down one side, and glassed in rooms with 6 seats inside and a door. We spread out our stuff so people getting on might think our compartment was full...and it worked!

When the train pulled out, we expected to go East...but went West. Oh my gosh, were we on the WRONG train? Nothing to do but wait and see what towns we went through and find them on the map. I thought I had a pretty good idea the towns the train would go through....Kavala, where St. Paul landed from the Holy Land, and Apallonia, a place he also stopped. I thought it would be nice to just realize that he had been in this area so long ago.

After heading West, the train swung North and as towns sped by, I realized we were going to go East eventually, but first we had to go far North, up to and along the FYROM(We both received "Welcome to Macedonia" messages on our cell phones.) and Bulgarian borders (except for a huge mountain range between us we could have looked at our neighbors!)

The train was quite comfortable, so we relaxed, and while Michael read some, my nose was glued to the window as I ticked off towns on my map! We rolled along through fields of sugar beets, some towns with industry. The towns were quaint, and very Eastern Europe looking! Very rural.....not a lot of real modern equipment...but more large wooden carts, some even with horses. Some of the tractors looked ready for retirement! Many village houses had large quantities of wood stacked for the winter. It had that "old country peasant" look. The day was beautiful, the sun shone down in rays as the clouds lifted from very rugged mountains.

The train was only about 5 cars long, only one was First Class. My goodness, coach class was pretty sad. A gypsy family was in one car. A heavy set man needing a shave was snoring with his head bobbing out into the aisle! A lady with a mop was cleaning.....and keeping her eyes on the gypsy kids. She wanted to keep them in their car and not go elsewhere, which I was glad of. The snack car...how to describe it? I have seen pictures of Russian women going to the store and the shelves were empty! That is what I saw....a lot of shelves with about 5 items on them. A long stand up counter along one side with dirty cups and plates. A "not very sharp looking" man behind the counter to take your order! Oh boy! Glad we had some food with us. Not much, but more than what was on offer here! I ordered coffee and it was terrible, so threw it down the toilet. Toilets...pretty stinky. Say no more.

We passed through the town of Drama...which has a nice name, I think! Lots of open fields, saw a sheepherder and his dog, fruit trees, olive trees. I suddenly thought..."California"! We saw some lovely lakes, some lovely valleys, really a great journey.

We arrived at Alexandropolus about 2:30 PM about an hour late. Plus we had about a 1 hour wait for the connecting train to take us to Pithio (the border). While standing on the platform, waiting, a young German backpacker on his way to Australia by way of Istanbul joined Michael and I for a chat.

The next train was a REAL shocker! A very short train and so ugly with horrible graffiti this time. No first class....everything about our trip seemed to change. On the other train, the countryside was wonderful, the seats comfortable, the windows clean. Now the villages seemed to all have military patrols. Men with rifles watching the train pass. On the map it appeared we were on the border of Turkey and heading North again. We were following a river with patches of forest, (a bit like Sauvie's Island along the Columbia River in Oregon) and directly on the other side was Turkey. It felt unfriendly, and I thought...."Russia".

Five minutes before our station another passenger, who we guessed worked for the railroad, urged us to have our bags by the door and ready to get off quickly. So when the train stopped and the conductor opened the door we were there ready...a couple of men (station masters?) from the Pithio Station come up...not to help us off, but to start shouting that we should not get off the train! Because of excitement, because of language differences, and confusion, we did not understand why we could not get off! "No get off, No train! Stay on train"! No matter how many times we told them we had to get off, that this was our destination, we kept being told that there WAS NO TRAIN, and to stay on! If we had stayed on, we would be in Bulgaria!

The conductor was only interested in getting us off! His duty was to get us onto the platform so the train could continue. Well now, this was becoming bewildering. The conductor won. We got off and he jumped back on the train, and the train started moving immediately. Meanwhile, the Pithio Station Masters did not know what to do with us. What we found out they were trying to tell us is this: The train we were to connect to...had left 2 hours previously, there was no train until 4:00 AM the next morning! Just what they expected us to do if we continued to Bulgaria is anyone's guess. At least they would be rid of us!
The only other person to get off with us was the young German back packer, who, being German and use to precision was totally stunned at the looseness of schedules, the lateness of trains, etc. Welcome to Greece, young man!

What do we do for the next ten plus hours? That is the best part of the story. Tune in for the next post!
Clue: We did not spend the whole time in this waiting room with the switchman's motorbike.

We are well into the annual round of dinner parties as expat friends depart for their home port. Still we manage to attend other events as well.

There was a used book sale to benefit PAWS, the animal welfare group. I bought one quality book and four cheap ones plus managed to take this photo from the hillside above Parikia. Well worth the trip.






Another quality event was part of the continuing Art Appreciation series hosted by IPAC. I have written about these excellent presentations before. They usually last about an hour; for this one two hours went by very quickly. The presenter, Orfeas John Munsey, Music Director of the Aegean Center for the Fine Arts, combined his musical experience and insights with a selection of beautiful music recordings. He brought the subject, Monteverdi -- The Revolutionary alive in such away that the audience was not only entertained but educated in a such way that we will always retain an enhanced appreciation of vocal music.

Orfeas is on the right; on the left is Peter Seibt, President of International Paros Art Circle

Every month on Paros has a full schedule of cultural events. Read more on our full service Paros web site at http://www.ParosParadise.com/ParosFestivals.htm


Yesterday we took a Sunday scooter ride into the nearby hills just to enjoy the sunny day. It culminated at the hilltop Monastery of Ag. Theodhori. It is one of the more populated and therefore well maintained and active establishments.





On the way we noticed this odd building. Is it a large dovecote or a small house? I am guessing it a guest house for a nearby villa.







On another subject: we have heard many times that the Paros tourism industry is relatively young. This is well driven home by a collection of photos from 1978. You can really see old Greece just 30 years ago. Take a look at http://www.sanchristos.com/Europe_78_Paros_Cyclades_Greece/

Our carefully layed plan was to take the train from Athens to Thessaloniki in order to see more of mainland Greece. We knew there was a general strike scheduled for that day but one never knows ahead of time what will be affected. So it was not a surprise but a disappointment to see the hand written note on the ticket window--"No trains today or tomorrow." We asked about buses and were directed to the main station 4 km away with the warning they probably would not be running either.

Our hotel clerk directed us to a travel agent next door who directed us to a bus stop around the corner. It took awhile to find it as there were no buses and no station; it was a small storefront with one cluttered desk and two chairs. The man inside had enough English to say Yes, there would be a bus tomorrow for Selonica (the old name) at 9 A.M. Just show up and pay the driver. We were not confident but had no other acceptable alternative.

The rest of the story is told in Karin's evocative style:

When we left our hotel we told the girl not to clean our room until after 10:00 AM just in case this "bus" trip did not happen! She seemed surprised to know there was a bus just around the corner...not too promising. Well, we did get tickets, and because we were early, thought we would get right on the bus that was waiting in order to get good seats! Wrong! Only about 5 or 6 seats left in the entire bus! (We found out later the route started at Piraeus.) So we plunked ourselves down and waited, and waited (seemed a long time because the driver had the radio on and it was rap! Oh, My God, I thought.....he had better turn it off when he starts because my head is going crazy and we have about an 8 hour trip ahead of us!


Two young (cute) men were sitting in front of us and told us they were from Hungary (Transylvania); they had been working in Santorini and were now going home for the winter. They ended up being very helpful as one spoke 4-5 languages; the other 3.


OK, so off we go....music is different, not too bad. Wove ourselves out of Athens and took part of the same highway we were on when we went to Delphi last spring but we kept on the same National Highway going towards Thessaloniki. What did we see? Lots of cotton fields! Pistachio orchards. Lots of pretty villages which are completely different from Paros. These had red tiled roofs, small gardens, large villas. Everything from tiny to big.

Turns out this bus is headed for Romania. It is a Romanian bus, Romanian driver(s), Romanian crowd except for us, the Hungarians and 4 Koreans. When the music was to their liking, they laughed and sang, and clapped! We were a very happy bus! Amazing! Fun! Loved it!

This bus stopped at many stops. I had been worried because I hoped to go to the loo a few more times than probably the driver might like. But no worries! He stopped every 1/2 hour (or so it seemed!) Lots of coffee breaks, and a nice long lunch break.



When we did stop for lunch, the bus made a few funny turns and ended up behind a typical truck/petrol stop/restaurant. But he could not get in as the gate was locked, so someone had to go find someone to let the bus in! The man who came had a trailer full of grapes, so he unloaded his stuff before even opening the gate for us! Only in Greece; no fuss, the attitude is that he has a job to do and you (the bus) can wait, I guess.

One other break was at a German outlet store called Lidl. I saw them in Ireland, now they are everywhere. The bus stopped at the store, the two drivers went inside and bought a load of sodas! They put them into a built-in ice chest for future use? Don't know. Weird.


But the weirdest of all was stopping for 4 men at the side of the road in the middle of nowhere! These men had about 6 to 8 HUGE bags (with zippers) that were very heavy. They got on the bus, but WHERE to put their stuff! The large luggage racks in the lower level were already jammed full. Well, I did not know there was a toilet on the bus, they unlocked it and stuffed it full. We were across from the back steps to go out, they also filled the entire stairwell! So much for security!! Michael and I decided this bus was no ordinary bus...and maybe these men were moving contraband! Ha,ha.




Some of the mountains we crossed had crags like Oregon/California where there are some real rocky mountains. At times they seemed like Swiss Alps with chalets and mountain streams, sometimes forests as well. The scenery and atmosphere drastically changes once you get into Macedonia. The houses look almost like Russian dachas, the countryside has deep canyons, heavy clouds above mountain tops. In one mountain village there was a marvellous castle/fort on top of the hill. We started seeing planted rows of trees that looked like birch saplings. (sort of what you see in pictures of the French forests). We passed through a huge delta and lush agriculture areas.Michael was disappointed when we passed beneath the famous Mt. Olympus because it was totally obscured in heavy clouds.



As we entered Thessaloniki, Michael looked at his map and decided that we should ask the driver to let us off as close to the train station as possible. (Since we were SUPPOSE to be on a train, we had planned a hotel near it - and also because we were to leave from it the next morning.) Well, we got one of the young men in front to ask the driver and so off we got....!!!! A bit daunting to be standing at the side of a street in a huge city (2nd biggest city after Athens) without much idea where to go next! I managed to ask in Greek a lady in the shop how to find the correct street and understand her directions! YES!

By the way, those young men shared goodies they bought along the way, we shared our cookies, and I had a nice chat with one of the Korean girls (her English was not very good, but we managed). It gave us both a warm feeling when they all waved goodbye as the bus drove away.

To those of you living in or near a large city and thinking about going to Greece this post will be off topic. For those of us living in relatively remote locations a visit to the mall is interesting and exciting.

Our recent journey to Turkey started with the standard, ho-hum, ferry trip from Paros to Piraeus. After we settled into our hotel near the train station and couldn't buy train tickets because of a strike we took a trip on the Metro out to The Mall.

First it was very convenient from Metro Station to Metro Station. Second it was foreign to have street vendors lining the short walk into the mall. Then it was impressive. There are at least four levels of shops; high fashion and popular clothing on the middle two, computers, music, appliances and the like in the basement. Cinemas and food court in the middle as well. We didn't make it to the upper levels but it looked like they had a bowling ally. The food court included Ruby Tuesday and Starbucks from the USA; we had chinese food as a treat.

As we were on our way to the lower cost economy of Turkey we didn't buy anything but should we ever be in the market for upscale fashion--haha--we now have another place to go besides Ermou Street in central Athens.

There is a Village Cinemas in our Washington County, Oregon home town. I wonder how many in the whole world?

I have not been posting to this travel blog because I have been travelling. The 12 day journey through parts of Greece and Turkey turned out much more hectic than I had planned it. So while I did have periodic internet connection I did not have time to compose my normally witty and insightful comments.
However, I did gather a lot of content for future posts. I will start with the last Greek island we visited on our way home, Patmos. We arrived after dark and left at sunrise, so here is the only decent photo we have.


Saint John wrote the Book of Revelation on Patmos. From what we did see we decided this was a delightful island that to which we should return.



Our first day back on Paros found the olive oil harvest well under way. The October weather has been 100% delightful for people and for olive ripening. This photo is of our neighbors working next to our villa.
Both photos by Karin.

Well, I got quiet a shock when I went into the OTE office to pay my phone bill. It was all high tech modern! I wish I had before and after photos.

Before this month the office hadn't changed since I arrived in 2,000. It still had three obsolete phone booths in the corner--the type where you tell the operator you want to make an international call, she then schedules it and rings you back when the connection is made. (Of course at my young age I had only read about such things.) Anyway the room also had a big counter with a payment booth at one end and a receptionist desk at the other. There were two desks in other corners and a manager's office in the back. Scattered elsewhere were a couple display cabinets, a table with brochures and various stacks of other boxes and debris.

Today there is a cluster of 3 open work stations, each with a plastic, flex-pipe for wiring and who-knows-what. In one back corner there are two modern, plastic booths for cashiers. Along three walls are mobile phone displays and other packaged accessories. Thats it: all open, airy and light. How depressing!

Our beautiful island is losing its charm and quaintness, bit by bit. Of course when we first arrived we heard the same thing from those who had been here for five or more years before us. We had really liked the book by Fionnuala Brennan about the good old days. We now know Fionnuala and some of the characters from her book; they still love the new Paros.

Also the telephone company modernization was put into perspective by the Michael Palin book that I just finished, Hemingway's Chair. Its story line centers around a British Post Office and its similar modernization. The idea being, I think, that customer service representatives no longer have the professionalism and respect that comes with their own desk. They are just cogs in a mechanical system. Next they will be replaced with touch screen computers that will answer all your questions--as long they can be answered by response A, B or C.

Here is a Greek version of an old joke. I stole it from another blog.

Here’s a poem I wrote down from a bar wall in Santorini.

Heaven is where…
the cooks are French
the mechanics are German
the policemen are British
the lovers are Greeks
and its all organized by the Swiss.


Hell is where…
the cooks are British
the mechanics are French
the policeman are German
the lovers are Swiss
and its all organized by the Greeks.

I am not just a grasshopper playing in the glorious sun. I am also an industrious ant preparing for winter.


This is 100 Euro of oak fireplace wood. It should last us through the winter along with what other wood we have scavenged from the beaches and construction sites. (There is 500 kg. in 3 rows.)


Our open fireplace is our main source of heat in the evenings, November through March. During the day we have strategically placed electric heaters. Our house is plumbed for radiators but we have not invested in a boiler. We would rather travel in the winter.


To fill out the post here is a photo of an unusually broad sail boat that anchored off our beach for a few minutes in August.


Vicki Preston, Publisher of Paros Life, celebrated her 50th Birthday with an Open House gathering today.

The indoor highlight was this cake including a map of what Vicki likes to call Paronaxia.



The outdoor highlight was the crisp clean air that brought the neighboring island of Naxos so much closer. On my way to the party I could make out buildings on Mykonos as well; on an ordinary day we barely see that island.


The last few days have been warm and sunny with cool, clear nights. Whenever I step outside the Mister Rogers theme song pops into my mind: It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood!

This is Tsoukalia Beach in front of Vicki's home.

In sync with the election and tonights VP debate I am passing on this little tidbit:

In a biography of John McCain, "The Nightingale’s Song," the author Robert Timberg writes that McCain, then a Senate aide, was a fun guy and "much in demand for overseas escort duty," adding: "In an Athens taverna, he danced on a table with Senator Joseph Biden’s wife, Jill, a red bandana clenched in his teeth."

I don't have any photos of table dancing so here is my favourite video from the Aliki Festival:

Sorry for no posts recently. I have been distracted by other projects, personal guests, laziness, what have you.

So here are a couple photos to ease back into the normal routine of autumn.
Of course I cannot do this scene or my quality camera justice. This is the island of Sikinos from our veranda--just floating in the mist over the still sea.
As I was seeing off my friends on the Blue Star ferry I noticed bubbles in the air. Looking up I saw this guy toasting adieu to our island.
I also noticed that are a great many more people leaving the island than arriving.

I have not published high season Paros beaches before because I do not think they are representative of our island. Remote coves are more our style.

BUT here are a couple photos that I took in early August on my way home from work. Work being checking guests into their private villa.

The first is taken from the road above Farangas beach near Aliki.

The second is from the parking lot at Golden Beach, aka Christi Akti.



Please click on the photos to see the detail. Comments and questions are welcome.


With the ease of Picasa web albums Karin has become quite a photo journalist. Do click the link below to see her latest endeavor. She turns a pleasant Sunday afternoon drive into a memorable experience.




Please come back here to comment and thus encourage her to do more.

We were invited to the wedding of Will and Laura held at Parosporos Beach.

The lovely bride, traditional English wedding speeches, Greek food and the location all contributed to a great occasion that will rate high on our list of memorable Greek island events.





We also posted a video showing part of the ceremony with the waves crashing in the background. See it and other Paros videos at
http://www.youtube.com/paroshep

Well, I have not been blogging because I have been consumed in a project that has nothing to do with the Greek islands.




But we did manage to have a beach barbecue to send off our Amsterdam friends.







The Club Med cruise ship was there and we could hear music and clapping from their party.
This photo convinces me I need to buy a tri-pod for night photos.






The next day we went to a wedding at Parosporos Beach, photos to follow.

Time to break my writer’s block by posting a few bits and pieces.


This photo is of a painting hanging at Lavantis Restaurant in Parikia, Paros. It includes a quote from a Pablo Neruda poem loosely translated as:

I want to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees.






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Escorting some guests through the gauntlet at the port reminded me of this quote from last year:
“There are so many people waiting for you at the dock and trying to get you to come to their place to stay. It is like being a rock star and having reporters screaming at you for a photo.”
From a Travelpod blog.

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Another year of awards for Greek olive oil including First Prize in the medium green fruitiness category for the Kritsa Agricultural Cooperative in Lasithi, Crete.

Contestants in this year's awards included 76 olive oil producers from
the 10 member-states of the International Olive Council (Egypt, France,
Greece, Iran, Israel, Italy, Morocco, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, and
Spain)

Read more at his old post.

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I have also written before about Greece’s slow absorption of EU integration rules. The latest report says they are only 1.4% not in compliance. This is their best score yet. On average the rest of the EU, including the new members, have only 1.0% of Internal Market Directives for which the implementation deadline has passed that are not currently written into national law,

EU-wide in terms of open infringement procedures, environmental rules are the source of the highest number of cases (23 percent),taxation and customs union rules (18 percent)are second.

No time for posting due to problems with reinstalling my computer's operating system.



So here are some photos taken today in the Krios area near the Panorama Village villa that we rent out.



The masts behind the large boat to the left belong to the Med II. More about it in previous posts.


I have written several times, e.g. Taste the Place, extolling the virtues of enjoying Greek food and wine at its source. Now I can say unequivocally that same applies to art.

Last week Karin and I drove our scooters up a long, narrow, rough road several miles into the central hills of Paros to an abandoned village. A few of the houses have been upgraded and re-occupied but there are still no electricity lines. My words cannot describe the beauty of the setting that our Dutch sculptress friend, Reina Ramakers, creates in. Hopefully these pictures will convey the quality of the experience.

Likewise my photos just hint at the quality of the work produced by the two artists who were exhibiting. I was very impressed with the photo galleries on their web sites. They are in Dutch so just browse around and you will find them.

Reina Ramakers

Jessy Boelen



The two artists


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