|Sunday afternoon Agios Nikolaos - streets are empty|
Well, that is the way it was. In fact, only a few days ago. Back before corona virus made itself an unwanted visitor in Greece as it is doing in so many places around the earth right now.
In last week's post, I wrote that back when I started writing it - now a dozen days ago - we had 9 identified cases in this Mediterranean country whose population numbered 10.9 million in 2017. Before I got that piece published, the cases jumped to 45.
In those dozen days many things about life in Greece have changed. First and foremost is the COVID-19 numbers: 228 cases, (38 identified on this past Saturday alone) and sadly, 4 fatalities.
Going into Lock Down
|Gregg's Plateia - usually the village hub of activity|
Back a dozen days ago, the cancelled Carnivale celebrations were just the start of actions being implemented to curb the spread of this killer. Like dominos toppling into each other the prevention steps and related closures picked up momentum last Friday.
|Not the time to visit Agios Nikolaos|
The Greek government's response team is taking the threat seriously. And while what I tell you about life here right now may sound somewhat draconian, let me assure you it is comforting to know that tough decisions are being made, being implemented expeditiously and the citizens are functioning within our new guidelines. Not questioning. Not whining. Life is continuing. . .just differently and more cautiously.
An editorial praising the government's swift actions in Ekathimerini, our English-language Greek paper noted that 'political rivalries have been put aside' and 'the main opposition party is on the same page.' It concluded: 'Energy cannot be wasted in political fighting when lives are at stake.'
How is that for a refreshing approach to politics in a time of pandemic?
Life in a Time of Coronavirus
|Restaurants are closed - the village feels and looks empty|
Greek schools closed for three weeks shortly after the Carnivale celebrations. Then came the cancellation of events and closure of archaeological sites and museums and other attractions. Last weekend all restaurants, bars, tavernas and cafes were closed for two weeks. If an establishment has take out beverages or food options you can stop by long enough to pick up the goods - but no more than five people are allowed to be together inside the establishment and they must stand two meters apart.
The police were patrolling the village on Saturday to assure compliance.
|Wildflowers are in bloom in The Mani despite the crisis|
By Saturday evening the government announced that all seasonal hotels, Airbnb, and other rentals registered with the tax office as 'seasonal' if open now must close by March 23rd. They will remain closed until April 30th.
* the border - air, sea and road - between Greece and our neighbors to the north, Albania and North Macedonia is closed.
* flights from Spain are no longer allowed to land in Greece.
* ferries traveling between Greece and Italy are allowed only to transport goods - human passengers are no longer allowed.
* cruise ship and sail boats are not allowed to dock in Greek ports.
* all organized beach and ski resorts are closed.
* retail operations are curtailed and services like hairdressers, nail salons, closed.
Violators face fines of up to 5,000 euros.
There are no restrictions on movement within the country. But who wants to travel?
The few retail operations limit the number of people inside at one time. Grocery stores were ordered to limit the number of customers inside at one time. (Not a problem, I might add, in our village.) People are behaving sensibly here. We even have lots of toilet paper available although hand sanitizer and wipes are not to be found.
Clerks today are wearing gloves now and some have face masks. Some stores are displaying large bottles of hand sanitizer and require you to use it before entering. Some are going about business as usual.
Is It Social Distancing or simply a Wellness Retreat?
|Stoupa Beach Friday evening|
We are now three days into this new Greek world and seem to be surviving quite well. In fact, it took this new behavior to make us realize how our daily life at The Stone House on the Hill, has been a sort of undefined social distancing all along. We go into town for errands or entertainment, usually related to food or drink. We've still got the grocery store and takeout and a bit of social interaction when running errands. Right now we don't even have neighbors in five of the seven houses on the hill as they've not yet returned from winter travels.
|Our Stone House on the Hill far left, the village below|
You know there are some people who pay enormous amounts of money to experience a wellness retreat - those get-away-from-television-people-phones kind of experiences? Those getaways that now sound a lot like high priced social distancing to me.
I Googled a few of those getaways and found them described as focusing on variations of spirituality, cuisine and art, and health - some within a cultural context. Whoa! That is exactly what we seem to be doing here -- and it is free of charge, every day!
So for those of you out there who are wringing your hands at being told by some governing body that you have to stay a bit closer to home, (and I know you are out there because I read FB!) just think of it as a wellness getaway:
|Our new activity: hiking in the Mani|
Your mind will be at ease knowing you are staying out of harm's (germ's) way, you have time to read those books you haven't yet gotten to, there's no excuse not to pursue some long-dreamed of hobby or you could dig out the cookbooks and see what culinary talents have been lying dormant within you!
Where ever you are in the world we hope you and your loved one's are safe from COVID-19. Continue to take the recommended prevention steps being recommended by health professionals around the world.
I leave you with a thought from a FB friend: 'Viruses are contagious. But so is panic, fear, hysteria, calm, grace, empathy, love and kindness. Choose wisely which one you will spread.'
Hope to see you back here next week. In the meantime, how about a comment or email to let us know how you are doing in your part of the world?
Linking this week with:
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
My Corner of the World Wednesday