Friday, March 23, 2018

In Greece: ‘Come, tell me how you live. . .’*

“It is okay. . .do not worry,” she said her smile reflected in the mirror before us. “It is okay.”

I mustered up a grimace of a smile and squirmed a bit in my chair saying, “Signome (sorry). . . but it is the first time for me.”

“Do not worry. . .” she repeated as she bent over my head, paintbrush in hand and went to work.

Sunset in the village of Kardamyli 
She was correct – I needn’t have worried. My first visit to a beauty salon in Greece turned out to be perfectly fine.  Although for the rest of the day I sported a 'do' that I likened to US newscaster Diane Sawyer's 'do' in the 1980's, the procedures used on me were the same as those of my long-time friend and hairdresser in the States. 

20180313_153655Voula, the hairdresser’s English was limited and my Greek simply a whisper of necessary phrases. A Greek friend had written in my notebook new phrases I might need, like, “I want to look at the colors. . . Mix the colors. . .Highlights.’

I’d pointed to them as Voula offered a reassuring smile and repeated the English phrase, “Do not worry.”

Then it was done. Check. Another ‘first’ in this ex pat life behind me.

Sometimes that little notebook seems to be our cheat sheet to living. It holds phrases, words, names, notes on things like how to order a loaf of bread at the bakery (using Greek words and not pointing) and an oft-used chart of the Greek alphabet and its translation to letters in English.

We've found at times the approach to completing a task is so vastly different from what we knew that we don’t think we’ll ever get the hang of ‘it’ -  whatever ‘it’ happens to be at that particular moment. Other times they are so remarkably similar that we sail through with the greatest of ease and then chuckle at the similarities; much like the hair appointment.

So, how do you live?

During our six-week sojourn back on U.S. soil we were often asked about living in a foreign country –  not deep soul-searching questions like, “How’s your view of the world changed?” or “How have you changed?” but more questions about day-to-day living here in the rural countryside of the Greek Peloponnese. There is a certain curiosity about living differently. So today I'm answering a few of those questions again . . .

* You have a washer and dryer don’t you?

Clothes are hung on the line to dry

Yes, we have a washer: brand new with a multi-page handbook – all in Greek – that undoubtedly tells us all the settings and special things it can do. We don't read Greek so we've pushed the button that makes it run and each load is washed for the same length of time in whatever the temperature the machine was set at when we purchased it. (No longer do I have to worry about delicates vs. normal settings, hot vs. warm water.)

No dryer. Clothes, bedding and towels are hung outside to dry but for a few weeks in deepest, darkest December and early January, when storms and cooler temperatures prevent drying. Summer’s drying time is a couple of hours and other season’s could take a couple of days.

Wash day is determined by the weather – not the amount of dirty clothes. (When necessary, we hang things on the foldup/fold out clothes racks inside.)

*Do you still go to a gym to work out? Are there places near you to walk or jog?

PicMonkey Collage
'Stairmasters' at The Stone House on the Hill

There are exercise facilities in Kalamata, the big city an hour to our north, which makes it too far to go to on a daily basis.  We do get a workout in the yard and olive grove. Numerous articles have been written about exercising in your garden so we think of ours as our garden gym – and being on a hillside provides a natural ‘StairMaster’ workout.

We could ride bikes along the village roads if we were so inclined – we aren’t. And so many paths and walks to be taken in the nearby countryside that we will never get to them all.

*Do you cook at home? Is there a supermarket nearby?

From my kitchen cupboard
Some, we think, believe that every night we eat roasted goat and Greek salads at a seafront taverna. Au contraire!  Since settling in we eat at home most of the time with one or two dinners out a week. 

As evidenced by the items pictured above – all of which I purchased at supermarkets here – we can get a taste of the old life quite easily.(BTW, we prefer the oregano-flavored potato chips sold in Greece.)

What is nice about shopping here is that we can get items like Italian cheeses for a fraction of the cost we’d have paid in the United States. We also have some great fresh Greek cheeses. On the other hand, I paid nearly 7 euros (about $8.50US) for a small jar of Skippy peanut butter. but when you miss peanut butter, you pay the price – and eat it sparingly.

A vegetable garden in the making 
We are testing out our green thumbs this year by expanding our vegetable garden. It isn’t really necessary (thank goodness) as we have municipal markets (think Farmer’s Market) that operate year round in the two cities on either side of us, Kalamata and Areopoli and also have visiting fruit/veggie and fish vendors who sell from their pick ups or vans  and who regularly come through the villages. Sometimes we get lucky and the flower vendor comes through town as well, although we have several nurseries nearby.

PicMonkey Collage
Flower vendor in Platsa

*So do you have water, sewer, garbage like in the States?

We do have ‘city water’ at our house; just not quite sure which village provides the municipal water.  However its high mineral content makes it undrinkable from the tap (just like our timeshare in Scottsdale, AZ) so drinking water comes from the fountains scattered about the villages. We have a septic tank.

We take our garbage to municipal bins located throughout the villages and on the roads between them. From those regular garbage trucks pick up the refuse and deliver it to waste sites. We do have recycling efforts here and bins to separate plastics, paper, metal and glass.

PicMonkey Collage
Getting drinking water and hauling garbage

But ‘making a water or garbage run’ usually is tied into having a cappuccino or a glass of wine so those 'chores' end up being a treat.

Cappuccinos after a garbage run - what a treat!
As the weeks have become months, we find ourselves acclimating to our new routines and ways of doing things.  Like anyone who’s moved to a new home in a new area, we must think a bit more, be a bit more flexible in our approach to doing thing and celebrate each new ‘first’ that is successfully accomplished in our new surroundings.

We’ll be back next week with travel tales and stories of life in Greece.  As always, we appreciate the time you spend with us here and love reading your comments and emails.  Safe travels to you and yours ~

*The title  for today’s post is borrowed from one of my favorite reads: an autobiography written by Agatha Christie Mallowan (the Grand Dame of mystery books) that chronicles her life back in the 1930’s when she and her archaeologist husband, Max, lived at ‘dig sites’ in the Middle East.
It is a small book but a fun read for those who want to live differently or just want to take an armchair getaway to another place and time.

Linking up this week with some or all of these fine folks:
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Communal Global
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration
Best of Weekend

Friday, March 16, 2018

Greece: On the Road Less traveled ~

I took the road less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.

                                      - Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken

The Kalderimi less traveled
We set off one morning this week to explore a road less traveled. . .less traveled these days, anyway. Once upon a time this kalderimi. was the main thoroughfare linking two ancient villages in Greece’s Mani. Now, one of the area’s many hiking routes, it is carpeted with spring's wild flowers; the blooms soon to be replaced with summer’s sun-burned sepia soil and gray stones that make up its underlying surface.
‘In the former Ottoman countries, a kaldırım (Turkish) or kalderimi (Greek καλντερίμι or καλντιρίμι; plural kalderimia) is a cobblestone-paved road built for hoofed traffic. Kalderimia are sometimes described as cobbled or paved mule tracks or trails.’
                                                  -- Wikipedia

Lagkada's narrow road becomes the kalderimi
While many we know think we took the road less traveled just by moving to Greece, we‘ve but touched the surface of the Mani’s magic and mystery. It is outings such as this that will keep us entertained here for many years.

Lagkada village - Mani - Greek Peloponnese
This kalderimia was the original path between the villages of Thalames and Lagkada. The two are about a 20 minute drive south of our home. We began our walking ‘road trip’ at the village furthest from us, Lagkada, which is built amphitheatrically on the slopes of a hill.

Its history, according to some, dates back to the reign of Marcus Aurelius; a time when the Romans conquered the neighboring Thalames, which was on the major route between Sparta and the Messinian coast. The two villages are about two kilometers apart.

Lagkada, like many of the villages here, is populated with stone homes and Byzantine churches and punctuated with a few towers, for which the Mani is known.  The Kalamata – Areopolis ‘Highway’, a narrow two-lane paved road that replaced the kalderimi, bisects the sleepy village. The only signs of life on the day we visited were a few locals sipping coffee at the taverna across the highway from the Church of the Metamorfosi of the Soter; a church with murals said to date back one thousand years..

Scaffolding has recently gone up - restoration is underway at the ancient church
The kalderimi is now one of the many walking paths that draw hikers and out-door vacationers to the area in the summer months.  (Shhh. . .don’t tell them of its springtime beauty.)   We didn’t encounter anyone making for a much more pleasant experience than our memories of walking the paths between villages in Italy’s over-run Cinque Terre.

Cobblestones and wildflowers of the kalderimi
The stone surface is uneven and we could have used some hiking poles for a bit of balance, but did the walk in a half an hour with plenty of stops to 'ooh and ahh' at the flower bedecked olive groves we passed. We did wear shoes with sturdy treads although we could have used those with the no-slip soles.

Olive groves carpeted in wildflowers
There are organized hikes offered by companies in Kardamyli and our village of Agios Nikolaos but walks that follow the old kalderimia are quite simple and easy to accomplish on your own.

On the road less traveled
One of the best sources for Greek hiking opportunities we’ve found is the on-line Walkopedia. (By clicking on that link you’ll be taken to a list of hikes throughout Greece.)

Springtime in the Mani
Today marks a month since our return to The Stone House on the Hill, following our six-week sojourn to the U.S. We’ve spent the last four weeks ticking projects off our house and garden ‘to do’ list. As that list shortens our upcoming travel list is lengthening.When not welding a shovel or pitchfork,  The Scout’s been at work planning some new adventures. . .so hope you’ll be with us as we set out to explore Greece. . .

Mani wildflower
Where ever  the road leads you and yours this week we wish you a safe, happy, healthy journey. As always, thanks for the time you’ve spent with us ~

Linking this week with:

Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Communal Global
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration
Best of Weekend

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Greece: Sun, Sand, Sirocco ~ Must be Spring

‘All we are is dust in the wind
Dust in the wind
Everything is dust in the wind. . .’
                 -- Kerry Livgren, Kansas (group), 1977

That song was playing in a taverna last night in the village. No other song could have been more fitting this week. 

Sunset during Sirocco wind in the Mani
The famed Sirocco wind carrying the warmth and sand of Africa’s Sahara desert into Mediterranean countries to its north, made its annual appearance this week.  While we are told Greece doesn’t have a word of its own for the wind, we are coming to call it the Winds of March or the Wind of Martios, as the month is called here. It always seems to visit this time of year.

Maybe it should be the Winds of Spring, because it seems to bring the new season along with it as well."
'Springtime is the land awakening.
The March winds are the morning yawn.'
     -- Lewis Grizzard

The Mani became 'dust in the wind'
By whatever the name, it mutes our normally vibrant-colored Peloponnese and turns our world gray for a few days. It makes everything dust in the wind. Then as quickly as it comes, it goes.
The ‘bright side’ to the Sirocco, is that it’s a sure sign that spring is almost here. And not a minute too soon, I might add!

'I enjoy the spring more than the autumn now,
one does, I think as one gets older.'
         -- Virginia Woolf

Wild iris border the roadways
Actually it has felt spring-like since we returned to Greece in mid-February from our six-week sojourn to the United States. This is the first time we’ve been here that early in the year and we were surprised at the many wildflowers already in bloom.The first troubadours of spring, the tiny wild Iris, have lined the roadsides and bordered the groves it seems for most of the winter.

Olive groves are carpeted in gold
Then, as if those iris were the warm up act, a few weeks ago the countryside threw off winter’s coat showing all its springtime colors.

Our olive grove – that drought-stricken, barren area we arrived to last fall – has become an almost magical place – home to hobbits, elves and  fairies - if you let your imagination roam.

A tree in our olive grove
Red, yellow, white and blue are the colors woven together in this year’s spring carpet.

Blooms are everywhere
PicMonkey Collage
The Garden in the Grove at The Stone House on the Hill

Going Wild in the Peloponnese

It is the perfect time to explore the Mani countryside. The old limestone trails that once served as the only link between communities have become popular with hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. Ribbons of hiking trails curl and wind deep into gorges and wrap around hillsides.  Any number of walking tours can be booked or follow the trail signs with guidebooks and maps in hand and explore on your own.

A few days ago we hiked out beyond the end of the road, just beyond Trahilia village near us on a day that was ‘just right’ as Goldilocks might say. . .

Looking back at Trahilia

Another day we parked in the village of Platsa, just above us and set out to visit a spring nestled into the hillside some 1.2 kilometers away. As we walked through the village we passed its long-ago school-house-once-turned tavern, now abandoned, and admired the wildflowers growing as high as its once crowded tables.

The old schoolhouse-turned-tavern in Platsa
'There are always flowers for those who want to see them.'
                                 -- Henri Matisse

The path to the springs near Platsa
Whatever season you are welcoming in your part of the world, we hope it is as beautiful as springtime in Greece.  That’s it from The Stone House on the Hill this week.  As always we are grateful for the time you spend ‘with us’ and look forward to your comments. Hope to see you again next week and bring some friends with you. . .

‘Like wildflowers;
you must allow yourself to
grow in all the places people
thought you never would.'

Linking this week with:
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Communal Global
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration
Best of Weekend


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