Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Novel virus, novel times, novel getaways

This novel virus that seems to have upended the earth and all of us who inhabit it, has certainly made this a novel time in our lives.

Greece is on CPOVID-19 lockdown - streets are empty

In Greece, where we live as boomer-aged American expats, we are on government ordered lockdown. It began Monday this week at 6 a.m. We learned of it on Sunday evening thanks to Greek media, social media and the country's emergency alert system.

For the next two weeks, we must notify the government of our plans to leave our home and only six categories of destinations/reasons are permitted for leaving the house. Grocery stores, banks, pharmacies as well as being out for dog walking/exercise are among those permitted destinations/reasons. Fines of 150 euros ($163US) per person per violation will be levied if you are found being out of compliance with the directives. We ventured to the village grocery last night and passed only one other car - our area's sole police car was slowly cruising through the village checking for compliance.

Pantazi Beach  near our home is empty

Airlines have pretty much quit flying to Greece and all hotels save for three in Athens and three in Thessaloniki and one in each regional capital are closed.  All non-essential business is closed. Hopefully, the closures will only be until the end of April.

So we are staying home. . .not just because the government has ordered us to do so, but because the number of COVID-19 cases continues to climb here and we'd prefer not to be among its statistics.

Our home lower left, Taygetos Mountains in the distance

Our Stone House on the Hill has never been so clean (nor the skin on my hands as dry as it is from the scrubbing I have done on it and myself). Our garden has never been as weed free. But we are vagabonds. . .travelers. . .who still have the travel bug. So what do we do to ease the itch of that travel bug?

Our regulars here, know the answer. We head to novel destinations.  We've hit quite a few in recent weeks and I thought I tell you about a few of them in hopes that you will share some of yours in the comments below or by emailing us.  It was great hearing from so many of you after last week's post, so hope you'll continue to stay in touch!


Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque - Abu Dhabi - a Middle East treasure

I am currently immersed in an action packed spy thriller/romance by Ken Follett, 'Lie Down with Lions' set in Afghanistan. Now I am likely never to visit Afghanistan in this life time, but this 1980's era book brings the area to life and makes me think back to travels we've had in other parts of the Middle East. It has me entertained and thinking about where to expand our Middle Eastern travels when we can travel again.


On the Nile near Aswan - great memories

I can thank Egyptian author Naguib Mahfouz for setting me,'Adrift on the Nile' with his 1966 novel. It's main character, a drug-addicted and bored, civil servant and his circle of friends provide an interesting portrait of the country's middle class - at least as it was then. I became hooked on Mahfouz when I read his Cairo Trilogy set in colonial Egypt many decades ago.

Egypt has been on our minds because we just had friends visit last week (who got out of Greece just before everything shut down) and before coming here they had visited Egypt.Their tales and photos activated the travel bug and our desire to return to this magical country.


Me at the Hapsburg Palace in Vienna

I time traveled back to the mid 1850's and took a sneak peek into the lives of Europe's powerful ruling family, the Hapsburgs, in 'The Accidental Empress' a historical novel by Allison Pataki.  This is a love story about Emperor Franz Joseph and the woman (15-year-old girl, actually) he married. His Empress Elisabeth, known as 'Sisi' was beloved by those they ruled.

We saw so many statues of Franz Joseph and tributes to 'Sisi' while in Vienna last fall, I wanted to know more about the two.  We ordered not only some history books about the Hapsburgs but this book as well after our return. It was a good entertaining introduction into the time and the ruling family.


Budapest street after dark

During our time in Budapest last November we happened upon a bookstore that had a section of books written by local authors and had been translated to English.. The novel, 'Budapest Noir' by Vilmos Kondor was among the souvenirs we bought during that stop.  It is a murder mystery set in 1936. No one but a crime reporter for the newspaper (the book's main character) wanted to investigate the murder.   It was such a good read that we went in search on line of other of his novels, but we have found no others have been translated into English.


My garden - African daisies are in bloom

A good friend, an avid gardener and  reader, recommended a vintage book, 'Elizabeth and her German Garden' by Elizabeth Von Arnim. First published anonymously in 1898, it was a fictionalized account of the author's life and the creation of her garden at the family's home in Nassenheide in Pomerania.  While, as a bumbling gardener myself, I could relate to her efforts, the book was far more than a garden journal. Set in the final years of the 19th century Germany Elizabeth offers some interesting insights to the every day life of minor Prussian aristocrats.

Goat bell door bell - Kotroni village

So where have you traveled to in your easy chair? What novel destinations have you visited lately? Any recommendations for us?

We do wish you well during this unsettled time.  Take care. Stay healthy. There will be plenty of time for real-time travel when this comes to an end.  

Hope you will be back next week as we do have a few travel tales yet to tell ~ as always thanks for the time you have spent with us today!

We are linking this week with:


  1. We are on lockdown yesterday in Hawaii, but fortunately thee's a lot of outdoor places to walk around with social distancing here.

    1. Sounds much like being in Greece. A friend labeled this as 'found time' so I am using that phrase - sounds better than lockdown! Be safe and stay well. Hugs from Greece!

  2. So, how do they know? Do you have to carry a permit?

    1. We notify via text message or do have to carry a written piece of paper (or official form) that is time dated and you had better be where you said you were going to be or it is a fine of 150. The first two days netted 1,700+ fines.

  3. Yes, you do - either the form printed out, a handwritten statement or the phone on which you texted and got a response from the government.

  4. I was surprised to read that you had to notify the government when you want to leave. Here in NJ, with he second most cases in the country, I haven't gone out all week, after driving home from Florida a week ago(it feels like a lifetime ago)! I do get out for a walk everyday, and I'm looking forward to warmer weather when we can enjoy our deck. I'm trying to stay positive and take one day at a time, but I do have moments of sheer panic. I can't wrap my head around the world we are living in. Stay well!

    1. It began as a voluntary distancing and reduced activity but so many from the metropolitan areas were heading out to the countryside and islands that they have made it a government mandated lock down. We can still go about necessary business but must notify the government of our intentions. It has just been expanded to after Greek Easter. Somehow it is curiously comforting. Take care and stay well!

  5. These places look so very beautiful and bright. Thanks for sharing your adventures.

    1. And thank you Sandy for commenting! Stay safe and well!

  6. Here, in my corner of the world, we're on the 10th day of our partial lockdown. Walks and jogs are prohibited. Only 1 member of a household is allowed out of the house to shop for grocery and essentials.

    Stay safe!

    1. Thankfully we are allowed out for exercise and two people can still leave the house together. Hopefully this will be under control within the next couple of months. Stay safe and well ~

  7. I am enjoying your Carona Lock Down posts. It's interesting to see how it is working in different countries and city/country locations.

    1. It is amazing to have world news at our finger tips, quite literally, and be able to see how our fellow world citizens are handling this menace. Stay safe!!

  8. The truth is, that the Greek government has been very quick to take some very serious prevention measures against the coronavirus , on a very early stage of the virus’s attempt to take a foothold in the country. Ever since early March this year, when coronavirus cases in Greece were less than 10, all of them alive in hospital quarantine , when schools started closing down, people being advised to avoid crowds , athletics and other events being postponed or indefinitely cancelled, followed by theater and movie halls closures, as well as bars, restaurants, hotels, cafes, while police started to massively evacuate swimmers from public beaches, sun-beds, beach bars, water-sport activities, cruise vessels etc.
    There were still relatively very few cases of the virus in the country, mostly imported from people coming from abroad, when all shopping centers and any non-essential retail shops were ordered closed by the government. Also right after that, all external borders were ordered shut, so all land vehicles, foreign sea vessels and foreign airlines have been denied permit to touch on Greek territory, as well as any person without a permanent residence in Greece, with the exception of those carrying Greek students and travelers coming home from abroad. Also domestic airlines stopped traveling abroad except to collect Greek citizens trapped in foreign terminals with no other place to go. Those in the latter categories , are being immediately put on arrival in a compulsory two week quarantine, during which they are repeatedly tested for the disease. Any attempt to violate this measure is fined with at least a 5,000 euro bill.
    All these measures seemed to be extremely strict for Greece at such an early stage of domestic infection, but now it is apparent that they do bring countable results.
    According to the statistics of the European Health Security Committee in Germany, now Greece is ranking among the countries with the lowest coronavirus cases and with a very low number of deaths by it.

  9. Ever since day one, doctors and researchers in medical labs in Greece, have been collaborating to find a cure for the pandemic and are already making significant progress towards it. The “Hellenic Group for the Study of Sepsis in Serious Illness”, in Athens Greece, co-ordinated by a very well known doctor in Greece, who is a Professor of Pathology –Infectious diseases at the 4th Department of Pathology at Atticon Hospital in Greece, discovered the mechanism by which this virus causes the collapse of human immune system, leading to severe pneumonia, which is the main cause of death in coronavirus patients. They found out two types of molecules in the patient’s blood, which if blocked by biological agents, then the damage caused by the virus can largely be prevented and hopefully help curing the patients.
    Additionally , several tons of raw material for the domestic production of chloroquine , that seems to be beneficial for coronavirus patients, have been bought by the government. The substance is available for use to all Greek hospitals and clinics, together with a mixture of anti-viral and other drugs suggested by the Greek medical community that seem to be largely effective in the treatment of coronavirus patients in Greece so far. Also the medical research team of a well known Greek cardiologist, suggested the use of colchicines for the cure of coronavirus to be added in the patients’ medication in Greece, as they found out it can prevent cardio-pulmonary complications caused by the coronavirus and ultimately help in curing the patients. His suggestion is expected to be approved by the Greek National Public Health Department and increase the rate of cured coronavirus patients in Greece even further. News like these can give us serious hope that the coronavirus days are now numbered.
    Thus , due to quick reflexes of the Greek government and the excellent scientific skills and dedication of the Greek medical community, Greece has been largely able not only to protect its citizens by limiting the virus’ expansion on its territory earlier than any other eu country and keeping any losses at a minimum level, but is also decisively contributing towards the effort to find the final cure, so coronavirus will be an easily treated infection and not a threat to humanity any more.
    Most of all, the prevailing Greek mentality “people first and economy later” has been major in keeping the pandemic at very low levels in the country. Sadly this was not the case for many other countries of the western world, where they didn’t take enough measures early enough and are now facing-or are about to face in the weeks to come- massive uncontrollable devastation. So, we can all over here consider ourselves lucky, that during this deadly global nightmare, we find ourselves in a place where we can be relatively much safer than many other people who live elsewhere.

  10. From what I learn through my international connections , medical experts in other countries (the US included) cringe in disgust at the inexcusable delay, or in many cases almost complete lack, of public safety measures against the pandemic. That delay is expected to have a heavy cost in human lives, with the 65-plus age group being the first to pay the death toll. In fact, they admit that there’s a coronavirus hurricane coming, of such a magnitude, that , in its peak, would make China’s and Europe’s medical drama put together, seem like a stroll in the park.
    For now we can all here live the vagabond lifestyle through books and films and we stock up on skin moisturizers for our frequently washed hands, while be thankful, that we’ve been adequately protected so far by the local authorities, so we get informed about the pandemic around the world, only through the news and not be there to experience it first hand. That is important to keep in mind, as, let me tell you, I know for a fact that death from pulmonary embolism and suffocation due to acute respiratory distress is Not an elegant way to die.
    I am choosing to keep my anonymity here, cause my intention is not to draw your public’s attention towards me, but rather to alert and urge your international readers, whose authorities are slacking in taking serious safety measures, to lock themselves indoor on their own and ask their personal or family doctors for advice and guidance, as to how they can be protected, as this could make the difference between life and death for them and their loved ones.
    I hope you enjoy your Greek house and garden, and your solitary walks in the countryside, while meticulously keeping those safety measures through which, Greece is trying to keep you healthy and Alive, so you would have more to live and things to write in the years to come.
    Farewell and Goodbye.
    PS: I send my post in three parts because of the limited number of characters in each post.

    1. Thanks so much for the time you took to write these comprehensive comments. Much appreciated. We are grateful to Greek leaders for the strong and decisive action they have taken to curb the spread of CV.


We have been having problems in recent weeks with our comment section and I am not quite sure how to fix it. Thanks for letting us know. Some comments have been coming in as emails, so I will respond to those as I get them.


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