Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Easter in Greece ~ A Soul Food Fest


It is Easter Monday in Greece ~ we're wrapping up a weekend of fests and feasts. Today, technically a holiday, seems the day set aside for resting up from the weekend's activities which took place as part of Greece's most significant holiday of the year.

Greek Easter is magic. Being in this country for an Easter is a feast for your soul and your stomach!


Decorations have been on sale for weeks


Since we arrived more than a month ago the signs of Easter's arrival have been appearing in both homes and businesses.  Medical appointments, work projects, meetings and other  activities requiring a set date have been scheduled before or after "Easter Week" because that is when all focus and activities turn to the holiday.



Easter vendor booths line Kalamata's pedestrian street
Easter's date in the Greek Orthodox religion is determined by using the modified Julian calendar while Easter in the rest of the Christian world is set using the Gregorian calendar. That's why this Easter took place nearly a month after the 'other Easter'.

 The celebrations in Greece begin two months before Easter with Mardi Gras, Carnival Apokria, which ends on Shrovetide Sunday.

Decorated white candles to be used on Easter Eve services were on sale

That is followed by Kathara Deftera, or Clean Monday (Ash Monday) which is a festival day in itself. Then comes Lent and . . .

Then Comes Easter. . .

Early this last week our nearby villages were a bustle of activity as finishing touches were being added to businesses that were reopening having been in hibernation all winter. New paint, flower planters suddenly bursting with blooms -  all was made ready for Easter; a time that also seems to kick off the beginning of tourist season as well.

At midday on Good Friday a slow, mournful tolling of the village church bell in Agios Nikolaos seemed to start the weekend - it was such a sad, s-l-o-w chime that it seemed designed to match the footfalls to the cross on that long-ago day in Jerusalem. It was such a haunting sound that it gave you goose bumps . . .whether a believer or not!  Greek flags are flown at half staff that day, including on government buildings, to mark Christ's crucifixion.

The Bier awaits the Processional on Good Friday
 
That evening after dusk, a church service in Agios Nikolaos was followed by a processional - The Procession of the Epitaphos of Christ - through town in which the flower bedecked bier is carried. Similar services and professionals were taking place in cities and villages throughout Greece. We didn't make it to town for that activity, opting instead to visit the bier in church in the afternoon.


Saturday night, however, we joined the hundreds who turned out for the midnight (closer to 11:30 p.m.) service and lighting of the white candles from the single candle, the Holy Light, that was lit by the village Papas, Priest, to signify the Resurrection. (It is said if you make it home and your candle is still lit you will have good luck.)





'Christos Aneste! - Christ is Risen!' calls the Papas
'Alithos Anesti! - Truly He is Risen!' - comes the Response




And it was time to light the candles. . .and set off the fireworks.



Then came the feasting on Sunday. . .

The smell of roasting lambs filled the air in villages throughout the valley

Traditional red eggs on the table

So much food we had to use chairs - this doesn't show all the food that came to the table
We joined two sets of our neighbors at a restaurant in one of the small villages up in the Taygetos Mountains that frame our valley.  The place was packed with Greeks, ex pats and a few tourists.  Throughout The Mani  restaurants were cooking up feasts and serving meals over the course of the afternoon. We began our dining at 1 p.m. and ended three hours later. What a feast! The menu included roast pork, roast lamb, zucchini pie, spicy cheese, tzatziki, beets, roasted potatoes, salad, bread and traditional Greek Easter bread for dessert - so much that we didn't have room for it all on the table.

I couldn't help but note that while traditions are strong in Greece, technology -- as it is everywhere - is now a part of life.

Cell phones and candles - tradition and technology

A family's feast - and a selfie or two to remember it all!

Yes, Easter Monday, is a much needed day of rest for everyone.  It's a day filled with wonderful memories and a chance to start anticipating next year's festivities.

If you were among those celebrating this weekend, a big Kala Pasha! to you. And to all of you, thanks for again being with us.  We appreciate your time and wish you happy travels~

Linking up this week with:

Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday
 Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Greece ~ Do We Stay or Do We Go? The Schengen Shuffle

 
We do the Schengen Shuffle - as I call it -  every time we come to live at our Stone House on the Hill in the Greek Peloponnese.  That means we can set the travel dates, but not the length of stay.  90 days in, then 90 days out.

Our Stone House on the Hill is small when compared to the mountain behind us
When you are an American traveling on a tourist visa - as we are - to one of 26 European countries participating in the Schengen Treaty (aka Schengen Border Agreement) you have to abide by its 90-day rule. The agreement while making borders hassle- and visa- free for residents of the Treaty countries, puts limitations on the stays for the rest of us who also are here without visas. So strict are the rule, that it can impact you even if you are transiting through an airport within the Schengen area. If you've hit your 90-day limit in one country and are heading home via an airport in another Schengen country, the authorities can deny you entry into that country for the few hours you planned to spend at the airport waiting for your next flight if your schedule has you exceeding the limit.

          Schengen Countries:
    • All European Union countries, except Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania and the United Kingdom, are members of the Schengen Borders Agreement.
    • In addition, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein are also members of the Schengen Borders Agreement (but they are not European Union members).

An old olive oil press now on display in the village of Milea
In our case, 90 days would sufficiently cover most of the spring and fall seasons we planned to be here. But now that we are adapting to this part-time ex pat life, we are finding its inflexibility a bit confining. If we stay 90 days in the spring we must wait 90 days to return in the fall. So what if we want to come back or extend our spring stay by a week or so to attend a summer event? Or return a week early for the Agios Nicholaos Sardine Festival? Or Kalamata's White Night in August - a shopping entertainment extravaganza that makes US 'White Sales' simply pale in comparison?

No way. Can't do it, unless. . .

. . . you have a Resident Visa.  Then you can come and go as you please and stay as long as you want.. You could move and live here full time. But obtaining a resident visa isn't a simple matter for Americans in any Schengen country it seems. It can be done as has been proven by fellow blogger friends and U.S. ex pats, Anita and Richard who've moved to Portugal and told their journey through 'visa land' in their blog, No Particular Place to Go  and Karen and Rich, in Spain,( Enjoy Living Abroad). Both couples have just recently obtained Resident Visas for their respective countries - a cause for much jubilation to be sure!

The Land of Kalamata Olives and Taygetos Mountains

To Visa or Not to Visa?

We've toyed with the idea of obtaining a resident visa but after the paperwork and documentation involved in buying a house, we needed some down time. We'd spent too much time in Greek government, law, and accountant offices and banks. Now, rested up two years later, we are ready - we think. . .maybe - to tackle the residency process.

In order to buy the house we had to obtain Greek tax identification numbers (standing in line at the tax office still a vivid memory). Did I ever tell you that we each file an annual income tax statement here? It's required if you own property whether you earn money here or not. Once we had the tax ID number we could present it and numerous documents from the U.S. (including a copy of our marriage license which we ended up needing at the tax office but not the bank) to open a Greek bank account, which we also had to have to buy the house.

Both are requirements for a resident visa. Why,we already had a jump on the process, we thought! Then we got the additional ' what is required' list from our attorney:

1) current passports

2) visa stating that you are intend to apply for residency in Greece as economically independent individuals. ('For the details you must ask at the Greek Consulate.')

3) electronic fee payment of 300 euros ($339) per person. This will be issued from a Greek bank and it will be attached in the application for the residency.

4) Health insurance coverage :
 a)  If it is an American policy it has to state clearly that you are covered in Greece. The minimum costs that should be mentioned are:
for Permanent total incapacitation at least 15,000 euro
for medical care at least 1,500 euro
for hospitalization at least 10,000 euro
Your participation must be at least 20%.

b) If you choose to do a Greek Insurance the above should be covered. Your participation must be at least 20%.

5) your tax declaration  as well as any other official document showing your income. Each one of you must have a minimum amount of 2,000 euros ($2,260US) per month. This is the amount that Greek state sets as minimum.

All of the documents must be certified by a Notary stamp.


Gulf of Messinia and Taygetos Mountains from The Stone House on the Hill


Well, at least they no longer require a medical exam and chest x-ray - those were requirements up until two years ago.

However, they do require a face-to-face interview in which you explain why you want the permit. An American couple who live here full time, completed the process over the course of some six months and said they had to appear before a panel of Greeks and explain why they wanted to live in Greece. A painless, but somewhat intimidating step at the time, they now recall it with laughter.

We've researched and found health insurance through a Greek company which meets the required thresholds. We've yet to meet with our attorney -- that will likely happen sometime before we leave this spring. We'll then gather documents and Notary stamps this summer and begin the formal process in the fall after we've purchased the insurance.

For the time being we'll continue the Schengen Shuffle. 90 in and 90 out.


Olive trees and Mountains - The Stone House on the Hill sits amid them both

How about you? You've probably found a place in your travels where you've dreamt of living. Have you found such a place?  Did you check out the visa requirements for doing so?

That's it for this week ~ We'll be back with more tales from The Stone House on the Hill next week and hope you be back here as well.  To those of you in Greece, Happy Easter Week.

Linking up this week with other bloggers at:
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday –  Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Kyparissi ~ One of Greece's Most Beautiful Villages


So picturesque is the village of Kyparissi that it has been included in the coffee table book, "The Most Beautiful Villages of Greece". . . yet, it might be one of the least visited destinations in Greece.
 
Parilia - from main the dock


Its relative inaccessibility is to blame (or thank) for the lack of tourists - for the time being. Unless you have your own private yacht or water taxi, the only way to get there is over a road one travel guide describes as 'one of the most frightening roads in Greece'.

A narrow route leads to this Greek treasure in the Peloponnese

The narrow winding road (with a few guardrails here and there) clinging to the face of the Parnonas Mountain range is currently the only land route into the village. Work that was started 20 years ago on another - reportedly less harrowing route, along the coast from the north -- has an estimated completion date of sometime later this year, 2016.

"Poppy" parked in the municipal lot across from the church

Thus in addition to being beautiful, the village remains refreshingly untainted by hordes of tourists.  There are just enough hotels and restaurants to make it welcoming but not enough to make it overrun with visitors.

Kyparissi from the road that leads to it

Our first spring road trip from our Stone House on the Hill in the Greek Peloponnese two weeks ago was to Kyparissi, (kip-ah-ree-see), about 3.5 hours drive to our east. Kyparissi is Greek for Cyprus and we were told the town's named for those tall, stately Mediterranean Cyprus trees so prevalent throughout  the Peloponnese. For you history buffs, it's the ancient sanctuary of Asclepius and was once called Kyfanta. Today's Kyparissi is made up of three villages, Vrissi, is the highest and you squeeze between its whitewashed buildings on the road leading to the two that share its crescent-shaped beachfront, Parilia, on the south and Metropolis to the north.

Greek breakfast buffet - most were homemade taste treats

The Scout had done his research and found us a family-owned 10-room hotel Paraliako, not far from the beach in Parilia. For 45-euros a night or about $50 US (as it is still low season) we had a room with a large deck and view of the water and it came with a huge buffet breakfast for two. Greek breakfast offerings range from fresh tomatoes and cucumbers to in season and canned fruits, yogurt, honey, jam, pastries, pies (filled with spinach and feta), hard-boiled eggs and cereals usually round out the choices.

Beach linking Pailia with Metropotis


Our hotel was located footsteps from a corner café that drew both coffee and wine drinkers, To Kafe tis Maritsela and by walking around the corner and just a bit further, we were at the beach.  We dined our first night at Trocantero, a restaurant, just across the street from the beach; a place owned and operated by Panagiotis "Bill" Volis who returned to this, his ancestral village, from Montréal where he's lived much of his life.

Another beach - this between Cavo Kortia and town

On the morning after we arrived, we set out early to avoid the ever-increasing spring-time heat in Greece and walked to the far end of the bay where crews are laying a final layer of asphalt on the new road.  It was on the walk we visited Cavo Kortia, a hotel/restaurant combination that drew us back for dinner that night and may be the place we stay next time we visit (although it would be difficult not to stay with Stella Vasiliou at her Paraliako again). 

View from Cavo Kortia restaurant toward town

Cavo Kortia, about a half hour walk from the center of town or a short 2-kilometer drive offers large, posh, spacious rooms - double the size we had in town - and this time of year the rate was 40-euro a night.  The owner was out working on a minor construction project when we stopped to inquire about the restaurant hours.  He insisted we sit down, enjoy the view and he served us coffee (which came with a plate of cookies) - and of course at no charge.  Yes, this is still unspoiled Greece!

The new road from Leonidion will pass Cavo  Kortia


Like so many areas of the Peloponnese the surrounding hillsides are laced with hiking trails. In recent years rock climbing has been drawing more and more outdoor sport enthusiasts to the town and a few years ago it celebrated its first Climbing Festival. Cliffs like the ones pictured below call out to climbers.
 
 
There are organized walking tours available - but we were quite able to cover a lot of ground without anyone showing us which way to walk.  A local resident, James Foot, an accomplished water color artist, often conducts week-long watercolor workshops. Those 'shoppers-off-all-things' among you might want to find another destination as the town has only a 'super market' that most would call a small grocery store and an even smaller store, a pantapoleon, which is Greek for a small store that sells everything -- everything but touristy kitsch and souvenirs, that is!
 
Two nights were just about right for the length of the stay, this time of year.  If we'd wanted some beach time, we'd have needed another night.
 
If you go:
Don't mix up Kyparissi in Laconia on the eastern 'finger' of the Peloponnese, with the town of Kyparrisia, which is on the west coast of the western most finger.
Accommodations:
Paraliako, operated by Stella and Voula Vasiliou, http://www.kyparissi.com, info@kyparissi.com or Cavo Kortia, www.cavokortia.gr, info@cavokortia.gr

Again thanks for joining us on the road in Greece. We've got more tales so hope you'll be back with us as we explore more Greek villages. Thanks for all the comments you've been leaving for us and safe travels to you!
 
 
This week we are linking with these fine bloggers:
 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Greece: Takin' the High Road

Just so you don't think we've taken leave of our vagabond senses here in Greece with all the home and gardening projects at our Stone House on the Hill, I'm putting those tales aside this week -  and telling you about our travels. 

On the road in Laconia Peloponnese

As I've said in earlier posts, one of the reasons we wanted a home base on this side of the Atlantic Ocean was to give us a jumping off point to European destinations; trips that didn't start with a nine or ten-hour trip from the Pacific Northwest just to reach Europe. 



I took the photo of the map while our flight to Cairo three weeks ago was passing over Greece. It shows the 'hand-shaped' Peloponnese.  Our home is just south of Kalamata (on the left side of the middle 'finger' and Kalamai on the map) - putting us in an excellent spot for explorations anywhere in the region.

From here we can take no-muss, no-fuss Greek road trips throughout the Peloponnese and all of Greece for that matter. Pronounced pe-lo-po-nih-sos, this chunk of land lies to the southwest of Athens and was a part of the mainland until the Corinth Canal was opened to ship traffic - now a short bridge connects the two massive land parcels.

Our Greek road trips are a lot more spontaneous, inexpensive and simple when we aren't hauling a carload of suitcases packed in the U.S. Pacific Northwest for a month-long stay (and it doesn't take many to fill the tiny cars here).

"Poppy" our bright red rental car waits patiently while we gaze at the views
Our rental car is bright red, so we've named her "Poppy" - she matches the poppies that are currently in bloom all over the countryside. And with road trip temptations calling out from every direction: mountains, gorges, villages and cities, the most difficult part of a road trip is choosing which directions to take off on in Poppy.


Just up the road from The Stone House on the Hill

Last week we hit a lull in projects and while we await stonemasons, plumbers and other professionals, we decided to set out and explore.  An overnight bag stashed in the backend we headed up the hill on which our home is located to connect with the main road four kilometers away. We hadn't gone but two kilometers when we slowed for the first of many animals we were to encounter. These are the kinds of traffic slow-downs we enjoy.

Shipwreck near Gythio
Our destination was the eastern coast of the 'finger' to our right. It takes only 45 minutes to cross 'our' middle finger and from there we headed northeast along the coast.  Just outside Gythio town, on Glyfada beach there sits a wrecked boat, the Dimitrios. While the real story may never be known its tales come in two versions: first, it was carrying drugs to Europe when it was impounded and then abandoned and the other version was it hit poor weather and the crew abandoned the ship. Take your pick. Or make up a new one - it probably will work.




From there we left the coast line and headed inland through groves so laden with oranges and blossoms that we rolled down the car windows for the aromatherapy treatment - the air was heavy with the scent of blossoms.



Just as our 'middle finger' has the Taygetos Mountain range for its backbone, this finger, the Laconia prefecture, has the Parnonas Mountain range running its length. Our destination was the other side of that range, where we'd be in the shadow of Mt. Pardon, 1,839 meters, 6,033 ft. As the road began ascending the range in a ribbon of switchback turns, we couldn't help but wonder who had braved the sheer drops and craggy cliffs to build it.




Traffic was light  - we met very few cars - which is good as the road continued to narrow and climb the cliff face.  Every once in awhile the narrow ribbon led us to and through small villages tucked away in the hillsides. Sometimes, like in the photo below, it wasn't animals, but delivery trucks that caused us to pause. We couldn't get past on the tiny roadway. (When he finished, he backed up for us to pass.)



While we'd read about this route not being for the faint of heart, I have to admit that it really isn't one the faint of heart or those with a fear of heights should travel. . .




The heights made for some spectacular views as we climbed higher and higher, then began our descent. . .


. . .on a hair-raising 10 kilometer stretch of road leading us to a place where George Bush and Princess Diana have been, but likely not many mainstream tourists to Greece. Where were we heading? Well, that is the tale I will tell you in our next post.

Hope to see you back with us again and until then safe and happy travels to you and yours~
Welcome to our new subscribers and followers - hope you'll come back often.

This week we are linking with:

Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration


Tuesday, April 5, 2016

'That' Mediterranean Garden

 
"My garden is my most beautiful masterpiece."
                                      -- Claude Monet


Anyone who has traveled in the Mediterranean region – France, Spain, Italy, Greece – probably read that title and immediately remembered ‘that’ one special garden that snatched your heart and sent your imagination soaring.  You likely thought back to following – or wishing you could follow - the uneven stone pathway that wound through it, letting your imaginations determine who created it, when and why.

Maybe you just imagined yourself as its owner and pondered the many ways you would spend time in it. Mediterranean gardens seem by their very nature to  prompt such flights of fancy.


Wild mint and African daisies line the stairway to the grove


If you are like me and other such travelers, you tried to recreate such a garden ‘back home’ - most likely - again, like me - in a climate that is not Mediterranean. If so, (like me), you’ve failed at your attempts.  I can't tell you how many gardenias, lemon and orange trees have died under my watch in the U.S. Pacific Northwest.

"He who has a garden and a library wants for nothing."
                       -- Marcus Tullies Cicero

So half the joy in finding our Mediterranean Stone House on the Hill in the Greek Peloponnese was its garden. Built on a portion of a long-ago olive grove the property cascades in terraces down a hillside coming to rest at the edge of one of this area's many gorges. And most of the property is a garden.

It is a garden that stretches from high above the back of the house, winds itself around one side and front where it meets the olive grove. At the time of our purchase, it was clearly overgrown and under loved. It beckoned with potential and challenged us to discover its secrets . . .and I told you in an earlier post about those first days of uncovering our 'secret garden'.



Lemon Tree patio at The Stone House on the Hill


It needed work - lots and lots of work as we were to learn. But each time we set forth with shovels and hoes, I'd fantasize about creating a place to spend future idle hours reading some of the world’s great novels or writing one. Or I'd think of myself just sipping morning coffee or wine at the day's close; in each scenario basking in the wonder of it all.


A portion of our crop - The Stone House on the Hill


Even the thought of bringing this Mediterranean (potential) masterpiece back to life had a rosy, romantic glow about it. However, it didn't take long though for reality to set in. The process hasn't been quite as idyllic as you might image. Centipedes and spiders welcomed us. And that rich red soil is about as hard as the stones that seem to make up 90% of the land mass here.  Despite following 'how-to' book recommendations, in the last year I've managed to buy and then kill one French lavender plant and the two remaining are at death's door. One rosemary plant -- they normally grow the size of bushes here - has also bitten the dust under my part-time green thumb.




New pomegranate tree in upper garden is a gift from houseguests; Iris, African daisies are in full bloom

"However many years she lived, Mary always felt that 'she should never forget that first morning when her garden began to grow'."
                                                                        -- Frances Hodgson Burnet, The Secret Garden

On the flip side, our successes have been many and we've loved seeing the fruits of our labors. This is the first time we've been here early enough in the spring to see the garden come to life. We do bask in the wonder of it all as there is always something blooming or sprouting or wilting away. And we do indulge in time spent in our Lemon Tree patio. Yet, 'We've only just begun' just like the lyrics of  the old Carpenter's song of the 70's. We've got more in the planning stages so you'll get another garden tour one day.


A carpet of wildflowers in the grove - The Stone House on the Hill

Speaking of gardens and blooms, I'd be remiss if I didn’t tell you the olive grove  has been carpeted with blooms this spring – wildflowers of white, red and yellow have made it a place that would have inspired Monet.

What's a garden without a cat posing in it?


And each time I am in the garden I think of all that would have been missed had we not decided to have this one last fling, to throw doubt to the wind and grow olives instead of old. 

As Frances Mayes, one of my favorite writer’s, once said:

“Life offers you a thousand chances. . .all you have to do is take one.”

Our first two weeks of this spring stay at The Stone House on the Hill has been marked with on-again off-again internet (which has helped the garden tremendously because we weren't tied to electronics inside).  And as a reminder of the agricultural setting in which we are in, the internet problem was the work of  the mouse that chewed the internet cable last fall and returned to do the same this spring. With luck I’ll get this posted and be able to respond to your emails and comments.

Iris, once buried under vines are flourishing this spring
As always we love having you along with us and next week we'll start telling you about some of the Peloponnese wonders that guidebooks haven't yet discovered. Hope you’ll be back and until then, safe travels to you and yours!

We are linking up this week with:
Mosaic Monday – 
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration

And for those who want to try your hand at creating a Mediterranean garden, let us recommend this book, Gardening, the Mediterranean Way by Heidi Gildemeister as an excellent resource:

Product Details

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Leaving Home ~ Heading Home

"Never make your home in a place. Make a home for yourself inside your own head. You'll find what you need to furnish it - memory, friends you can trust, love of learning, and other such things. That way it will go with you wherever you journey."
~ Tad Williams

P1020136
Our Stone House on the Hill
We arrived home last week.

We also left home last week.

Here again; gone again. 

Such is the life of part-time ex pats.

Restless nomads, with a desire for roots, but not in one place. Or senior citizens who’ve realized that the time to be a bit wild and crazy is now while we’ve got the  energy and health to enjoy it.

By whatever label, we’re settling into the rhythm of this ‘here-there’ ex pat lifestyle.









DSCF0960
Touring real estate meeting owners
We’d shared the ex pat daydream for years. But it wasn’t until  two years ago that we decided to ‘at least’ look at some houses.

Greek sellers don’t plaster “For Sale” signs on their homes as we do in the States, so you don’t really know what is for sale until a realtor shows you.

And then, you usually visit the house while the owner is there! Again, not the way it is done in the States.

Our daydream, however,  was moving toward reality.

Even after finding this house, we were hesitant to make the commitment. Would it end or enhance our vagabond lifestyle? Even if we found something, did we want to travel 6,000+ miles between two homes. Of course, Greece’s charms had already drawn us back, time and time again in recent years, but did we want to put down roots here?

We took the plunge later that year, hitting a few rough edges of the purchase process along the way, and finally landed on our feet at our front door by December.

Fast forward two years. .  here we are, at home – for a few months --  in Greece.

P1030149
Entry table - The Stone House on the Hill

“There is nothing more admirable than when two people who see eye to eye keep house as man and wife, confounding their enemies and delighting their friends.” 
– Homer, The Odyssey

“So, what’s it really like?” ask some, a hint of a frown or a wiggle of the nose giving away the true question.  “Is is just wonderful?” others ask with such enthusiasm that they almost wiggle out of their seat. “You are living my dream, tell me everything.” some say with a deep catch in their voice.

If I do my writer job well, you’ll get a taste of  what it is really like through our next series of posts. We plan to introduce you to both people and places that make up this new part-time world of ours.

P1030351
Sunset in Stoupa with friends and neighbors
Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.
-- George Bernard Shaw

Creating a new world: I’ll admit one of my fears about buying a home far away was losing touch with long-time friends back (at the U.S.) home. Articles about ex pat life caution that you should expect that to happen. Well, it has in a manner of speaking. While we’ve got a few friends who stay in touch regularly, others don’t.  Just as they said it would be in those articles. . .

What we hadn’t expected were all the new friends we’d make here. Friendships are being forged with both Greeks in the area and the many ex pats who populate the valley on either a full-or-part-time basis. With fewer than a dozen Americans to be found, our ex pat friends bring a whole new world of European experiences, language and culture to our lives. 

P1030412
Our view of the Messinian Gulf

A house is not a home unless it contains food and fire for the mind as well as the body.
-- Benjamin Franklin

Slow down – we moved too fast:  In the first year, our neighbors used to watch us racing around the property – moving things, hauling old items out and new ones in, digging in the garden, patrolling the grove looking for ‘what needs to be done’. Perhaps it is just the way ‘we Americans’ operate. Part, though, was the fact that we are part-timers here. With a time limit set by our tourist visas of 90 days per visit, we didn’t have the luxury of ‘waiting until . . .’ to get a project started and completed.  New deck furniture – for a time – looked nice, but wasn’t used.

20151025_172114
Tom, on table, Princess in chair - photo taken fall 2015
With major projects now completed, we’ve decided to follow the example set by our stray-cats-who-adopted-us, Tom and Princess. Afternoon sun is meant for ‘cat napping’ reading and sipping wine – there is no more perfect way to spend time. (The photo above was taken during our last stay - I am sad to report neither cat has been seen since we've returned.)

Life isn't a matter of milestones, but of moments.
-- Rose Kennedy

Exploring our New World:  One of the reasons we were drawn to this centuries-old area where everything is steeped in history, is that it is all new to us. So much to explore, to learn, to see and experience that there will never be an excuse for boredom. Exploring by car is quite simple. Driving here is far less stressful than on our congested roadways back in the  Pacific Northwest – we certainly prefer the traffic ‘jams’ here.

PicMonkey Collage
Traffic jams we've encountered 
P1030434Village life, These postcard--perfect places, dot the landscape around us. Each village with its own personality – tavernas, cafes, mom-and-pop family run businesses – make shopping trips more like a visit to a friend’s house than doing chores.

Occasionally we are frustrated by our lack of ability to describe what we are wanting to buy (sometimes Greek and English don’t mesh). We think of how easy it would be to find it at the big-box-store-shelf in the U.S. . . .but then at the big-box they don’t often give us the handful of nails we’d come to purchase or a screwdriver to use with the screws we’d purchased as has happened to us here.

P1030330
Stoupa Village
Developing cultural competencies:  Back in the U.S. I spent a lot of time in a volunteer position, sitting in conference rooms talking about the need for developing ‘cultural competencies’ – which loosely defined means both an understanding of and skills to better teach, work and live with others from different cultures.  Here I am no longer just talking the talk, I am walking the walk. But the tables are somewhat turned as I am the newcomer to a country.  Each day is a learning opportunity whether it be a new Greek word, a new approach to repairing something or a lesson in religion and history.

PicMonkey Collage
Religion, culture, history, cuisine - lifelong learning opportunities abound here
Celebrating life: Greek Orthodox Easter is coming in May and decorations, candles (to be used on Easter Eve at church) and candy are for sale in every store. The Easter we celebrate back in the U.S. was just another Sunday around these parts. What we would think of as Good Friday was Independence Day here, celebrated with community parades, students marching and a band playing. We also have the 3rd Annual Kardamyli Jazz Festival coming up in May.. There will be any number of ‘Name Days’ to be honored during our stay; those are Saint Name Days, by the way – and if you are named after that saint, it is your day to celebrate in much the same way you’d celebrate on your birthday.

We think this ex pat life has given us much to celebrate as well. So hope you’ll be back to celebrate and explore our slice of Greece with us.  Until then, happy and safe travels to you and yours~

Linking this week with:

Mosaic Monday – 
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...