Tuesday, December 8, 2015

O’la Kala’ ~ All is Good in our Corner of Greece

“Looking forward to hearing more reports from The Mani.”
“How are things really going in Greece?”
Your comments and questions to recent posts – similar to those above --  prompted this week’s report from Greece:

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Traditional dance - Oxy Day Celebration - Kardamyli 
First, we can’t speak for all of Greece, as it is a country spread out over 131,957 sq. kilometers, (50,949 sq. miles) with a population of more than 11 million people. It’s northern border runs the length of Albania, the Republic of Macedonia, and Bulgaria. There are so many Greek islands that the generally accepted number for their count is 1,425 with 166 of them being inhabited.Greece colour.png 
 
World news brought Greece to the forefront of headlines back in June when the country’s economic situation shook all the world’s markets.
 
Since then we’ve all followed the story of what a tough time Greece and the wonderful people who make up this country are having. Greece’s financial lifeline cast by its European Union lenders has tightened with demands for accountability and severe cuts to government spending.
 
 
Since spring thousands of Syrian refugees have landed by the boatload on Greek beaches; most needing food and rest before moving on. The Greek government and its citizens have stepped up to provide food, clothing and shelter for those uninvited and unexpected arrivals.
We are far removed from the front line of the exodus from the north here in The Mani but local food and donation drives have been held to send help to those areas serving the refugee population.
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Greek flags displayed for Oxy Day
In recent weeks we’ve noticed Greek unions (opposed to the austerity measures) are stepping up their schedule of strikes. A bomb went off in Athens last week – no injuries, as those responsible for it called to warn authorities in advance of its detonation.  A few days ago Greek fighter jets tailed a Turkish fighter jet they claim got into their airspace over the Aegean.
We’ve not been impacted by the strikes here in the village. We saw the report of the bomb on a television in a village cafe (where a Greek man told us it wasn’t a terrorist bomb; it was ‘just Greeks’ and they warned people in advance).  We watch air force planes fly over the coast every so often, none of them appear to be chasing Turkish jets.
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Just harvested olives waiting their turn in the press
What we can tell you about is our little slice of Greece, the Messenia’s Mani, where olive harvest is underway in full force now, with truckloads of olives arriving at all hours of the day and the presses running into the late night hours.
 
Our home and the surrounding villages are near the Messenia/Laconia border, both prefectures within the Peloponnese.  We are far removed from the headlines of Greece; much like living in Washington State on the US west coast removes us from the headlines of Washington DC, our nation’s capital.
 
 
 
 
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By the truckloads olives are deposited into the press
Here residents may make reference to ‘the crisis’ and the impact of capital controls but there is no hand wringing and  ‘Oh, woe is me’ – in short, they don’t dwell on it.
 
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Eggs for sale at the supermarket where we shop
 
Grocery store shelves are well stocked, with imported as well as locally made products. Some of you would be surprised to see HP Steak sauce and Wheatabix and Kellogg’s breakfast cereals, Heinz ketchup, S&W canned products, Hellmann’s mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, Kikkoman soy sauce and other brands ‘like home’ in plentiful supply.
 
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Christmas decorations are going up throughout the area
  
Christmas – true Christmas, not ‘holiday’ – displays are (now that December is here) going up in all the villages; something we find a curiously refreshing break from the PC-bickering in the United States.
 
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The Kalamata Yacht Club has had a busy summer
 
 Storefronts in Kalamata, a city of 95,000, about an hour away from us, are decked out offering designer clothes and furnishings as well as practical every day items. There’s a beauty shop on every block it seems and the cafes along the pedestrian mall are lively places; this time of year filled with more Greeks than tourists.
 
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Heading into the village 
 
There are still limits of 60-euros per day on bank machine cash withdrawals from your Greek bank account. We can use our account in the States and withdraw much more, but are also limited to the 60-euro limit on our Greek account.  Something, though the media headlines back last summer didn’t mention it (at least back in the States) was that those Greek bank debit cards could  be used at retail stores to make purchases of groceries, drugs and other items.
 
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Village of Stoupa has calmed after the summer's tourist crush
A handful of sun-seeking tourists remain in the villages. They are being replaced by the winter visitors who may be fewer in number but who still beat a steady path here from northern European countries. Snow birds, we might call them in the United States, as they ‘fly’ south when winter arrives.  The beaches were packed and the villages filled with tourists all summer long and only a couple weeks ago began heading home. They were wise enough to not let headlines scare them away. 
 
Of note, is that Delta airlines has announced increased flights between Athens and New York and British Air is introducing twice a week flights between London Heathrow and Kalamata in the 2016 season.
 
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Scenes from our corner of Greece - the Peloponnese

Those of you wanting more of an in-depth look at Greece and the events leading up to its current situation would likely find a book by James Angelos, second-generation American-Greek of interest.
Angelos, a former correspondent with the Wall Street Journal, has written a book – The Full Catastrophe, Travels Among the New Greek Ruins -  that is easy to read and filled with real life stories of Greece.  He puts a face on this economic crisis.

As we’ve sadly learned from New York, Paris and San Bernadino, life can change in an instant. But for now, reporting from the Stone House on the Hill in the rural area of The Mani, I can assure you that all is “o’la kala’’~ all is good.

That’s it for this week but we do want to welcome to our new readers who’ve signed up to receive TravelnWrite posts in their inboxes.  Thank you!

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However, you arrived here, we are glad to have you with us. Hope you’ll be regulars. Until next week, happy and safe travels to you and yours~

Linking up this week:
Photo Friday
Travel Photo Thursday
Wordless Wednesday
Our World Tuesday
Mosaic Monday
Through My Lens



30 comments:

  1. Mani is such a beautiful place. I had visited years ago. I was wondering how long you folks have been living in Greece. You seem to have settled in quite well. Yes we are all lucky that we live away from the hustle and bustle of Athens and we have a bit of earth on which to survive. I have subscribed to your fun and refeshing blog.

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    1. Hi Mary, nice to have you at TravelnWrite; so glad I happened upon your blog which I am signing up to follow. We are part-time ex pats and bought our home here one year ago next week. Watch for the 'year end' report, coming soon!

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  2. Really interesting to hear what things have been like since the economic upheaval. I really liked Greece (smaller places, not the big cities) and miss the sun and warmth! I'm sure it's a bit weird seeing Christmas decorations when the temperature is in the 70s and 80s.

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    1. In a way, yes it is different seeing decorations up in a warm, sunny setting but then people in Australia and Hawaii would probably think rain and snow was odd for Christmas. :-). Thanks for stopping by, always appreciated!

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  3. Lovely to see how life goes on in your corner of the world despite an economic upheaval and a flood of desperate refugees in other areas. I love how the days seem to be focused on enjoying moments as an expat living outside the US rather than the pervasive political bickering, fear mongering and nightly doom from the news. Life seems simpler...

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    1. Life in this ex pat mode does simpler even with the red tape we sometimes encounter, doesn't it, Anita? I'll be following your adventures. . .enjoy!

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  4. Great article and Jackie you have portrayed Greece and especially The Mani honestly and with an eye of someone who loves it so well. A wonderful place holding many secrets, the biggest that not a lot of people have even heard of it and that's why we love it so much too. Of course what makes it so special is the Maniots themselves who have welcomed us so warmly.

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    1. Thanks! I take your comment as a real compliment because you've lived here longer than us and know this place well. Thanks for writing~ and reporting this on FB!

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  5. You have chose to live in one of the most blessed sites of Greece but I can assure you that life is beautiful and peaceful in many other parts of this country.
    May you have a happy countdown to Christmas and hoping that one day soon or later we meet each other!
    Hugs, Olympia

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    1. Olympia, I was hoping you'd add such a comment. I've got friends throughout Greece and all are saying times are tough but life remains good here. Looking forward to meeting you and I have set that as a goal for our spring visit! Time we head your way and see what a beautiful area you live in as well. Hugs, Jackie

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  6. Very interesting to read about your comments about the impact of the economic crisis on this region of Greece and delighted to read that life seems to go on without major changes. Greeks have survived many other crises in their long history; they will pull through this one as well. Thanks for this fascinating piece!

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    1. I think you are absolutely correct: Greece is the cradle of civilization and they've managed many attacks throughout history. They will win this battle as well (I hope)!

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  7. O, what wonderful photos you send us....sooo pretty.
    I bought olive oil yesterday at World Market and "Jackie and Joel" were in my mind. :)
    I think we've all prayed for Greece to get their financial feet back on the ground.
    oxoxox

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    1. Thanks for stopping by BJ and it is nice to know you thought of us when you bought olives. One of these days you may find products from The Stone House on the Hill on your shelves (of course pigs will be flying overhead when you do) :-) !!! Hugs, J.

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  8. Very good stuff with good ideas and concepts, lots of great information and inspiration, both of which we all need.

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  9. This was such a informative article on Greece. I was there last Dec and I have fond memories of the place and people there. I did read about the economic turmoil they went through recently. I am sure they will pick up fast!
    The number of islands they have stunned me!

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it Indiana! Here's hoping they will soon rebound as there are some wonderful people here in need of a positive turn in their government's financial situation.

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  10. Hello, glad to know "all is good" there. All is good here to even though we are pretty close to all the stuff that is happening with regards to San Bernardino. Thanks for doing these updates. I prefer to read the current events in Greece from you than from the media.

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    1. Thanks Ruth, nice to know I am giving another side to those headlines!

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  11. I was very interested to hear that Greek Debit Cards could be used outside of the banks to pay for things. That is a much better scenario than the 60 Euro a day cash withdrawal scenario that we got in Australia too. Lucky we have our own reporter on the ground in the Mani!

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    1. We also found that fact interesting as well as that credit cards could be used. The media made it sound like destitute people were lining up for just a bit of cash and had no other options. I'll keep my reporter's hat on for a while longer!

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  12. Hi Jackie, your life in Greece sounds idyllic. I can just imagine the hustle and bustle of the olive season. How long does it last?
    I didn't realize there were so many islands in Greece.
    Hope the economic situation gets better soon - I can only imagine what it must be like being able to get only 60 Euros of your own money each day.

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    1. I also thought it terrible until a friend pointed out that how many people would get money every day anyway and if they did that would be 1,800 a month which is a lot of cash for an average family for a monthly withdrawal. Hopefully the controls will slacken and life can get on even more solid ground here. We had a lot of work done in our absence and thought contractors would be knocking at our door the first day we were here. We've been here over two months and have yet to receive bills, so it can't be all that bad in this area anyway.

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  13. I'm so glad you are safe and well, dear Jackie. XO Wishing you a beautiful and happy holiday. :-)

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    1. Thanks Krista and a very happy holiday season to you and Bear as well!

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  14. Part of me has wondered if you have a flow of refugees walking by the Stone Houst on the Hill. On the other hand, as you pointed out, I knew that Greece is a big, multi-island country and that you might be a ways off from where the news grabbing situations are. I'd love to see more photos of Kalamata. I imagine olives everywhere.

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    1. I will do a post on Kalamata and its olives. Olives, olives everywhere! Thanks for visiting Michele!

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  15. There's something to be said for living a little off the beaten track these days. I didn't realize that only 166 of the Greek Islands are inhabited. Maybe I'll look into buying one of the smaller ones for me and Indy. Princess, Tom, and the kids could come for a visit! :)

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    1. You are so right Nancie and we are amazed at how well we've adapted to this laid-back rural village lifestyle! You buy the island and we will all come visit.

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  16. Interesting tour of Greek. Wonderful images.

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