Monday, February 15, 2021

Kalamata - And Not the Olive!

When you think 'Kalamata' I suspect you have an image of  the spicy, tart olive that crowns Greek dishes everywhere.

Kalamata olives for sale by the kilo at the public market

When we think 'Kalamata', we are envisioning the port city about an hour's drive away from us on the Messinian Bay. The one that is drawing thousands of tourists each year to its beaches and cultural sites as well as those foodies who are drawn here for its culinary scene. 

Kalamata  the port city on the Messinian Bay

I will admit that before moving as an American expat to the Mani region of the Greek Peloponnese, I am not sure I had ever heard of the city that has become our 'go to' place for doctors, house and garden supplies, shopping, and even overnight big city getaways.

Kalamata waterfront is one of our favorite places

"I go there sometimes once a day," our realtor told us when we bought our house six years ago. At the time I couldn't imagine driving so far, so often. It didn't take long for the distance to become rather routine for us as well. It is only 33 miles/53 kilometers from our Stone House on the Hill, but because the highway that takes us there is a two-lane, twisty, turning kind of road, it can sometimes take a full hour or more to reach this city by the sea.   But the route takes us through  picturesque villages and the Taygetos Mountains provide a backdrop to them all. 

Kambos village en route to Kalamata and Taygetos Mountains

Soon after we settled in as full-time residents, we were traveling the route as often as once a week as we always had some sort of chore that required a trip there.  But as the chores and errands eased up we started allowing ourselves to enjoy this bustling city that boasts the second-oldest Chamber of Commerce in the Mediterranean (right after Marseilles, France).  

Freighter waits outside Kalamata for a load of exports

We've taken a  few of our houseguests on whirlwind trips to the city, but we've never given it the credit it is due for being a down-right fun place for tourists. In fact we didn't recognize all that it had to offer until I began writing an article for The Mediterranean Lifestyle magazine about 'Kalamata - The City'.  The Scout and I made several trips to the city just to explore its tourist sites - and believe me there are many!

I am pleased that I was able to showcase the city in the article that was published in this February's magazine. To read that article (which includes information on all those places like museums, art galleries, and historic places we discovered as well as  tips on the cutting-edge culinary scene) simply click this link: Kalamata - The City

So many dining choices - so little time 

I wrote nearly 1,200 words and still didn't have enough space to sing all of its praises.  I didn't get a chance to talk about the funky Art Hotel right in the heart of the commercial district that was far less than 100 euros a night and put us within walking distance of shops, and bars, and restaurants. Our overnight stay wasn't nearly long enough to get to them all.

Our room overlooked the central plateia, square

I also didn't have the space to show the wonders of the weaving room at the Kalogrian Monastery - the looms once used by the nuns to make silk products that they sold from a small shop in their still functioning nunnery. These days the silk material is made elsewhere but items made from it are for sale in the small display room just inside the entry. I've got to tell you, no future visitors will ever get away without a visit to this sanctuary in the heart of Kalamata.

The silk weaving looms sit idle at the monastery now

I'll keep this short as I want you to have time to check out the full article I included above- it is chockablock full of photos of our discoveries and recommendations. We hope that you are staying safe and well and that even with limited travels you are able to find some new wonders in your world as we did in discovering Kalamata.  

At night the city turns on its magic

As always we appreciate the time you spend with us and hope you'll share these posts with others and that all of you will be back for the next installment!

Linking soon with:

Monday, February 8, 2021

In Greece ~ You've Got Mail!

"You've got mail," messaged our friend, Stella, from the neighboring village, "I saw a letter for you at the Stoupa post office."  

Stoupa, our neighbor village, home to the post office

Now that was news!! But what to do? Hop in the car and go racing to the substation that afternoon or wait until the next day in hopes it would still be there. We did wait until the next day and I found it in a tray of  unclaimed letters that we now routinely sort through when at our tiny substation of a post office. You never know what missing treasures you might find in that bin! 

Getting mail is one of those multitudes of things we  realize we took for granted when living in the United States. After email came along, we snidely called the tangible stuff delivered each day, 'snail mail' with no concept of what real 'snail mail" meant. It, like uninterrupted electricity and internet during a storm, a supply of domestic water during the summer months, regular garbage collection, and road repair are among those things so routinely available or provided that we gave little thought to them. And, I might add, little thanks for them - until having the opportunity to experience life without them.

The road beyond us awaits repairs

For those of you -- and I know there are quite a few of you out there -- who are considering the expat life, these little, but often continuous, upheavals of routines and expectations once taken for granted, are among the things you will need to be able to shrug off. . .that, or you will soon be wearing straight jackets as your uniform.  

I sometimes laugh at myself when I say that we chose the expat life because we 'wanted to live differently' because sometimes it is so very different it takes a bit to comprehend how very different it is!

You've Got Mail or Do You?

Before Brexit and Covid - still a game of chance

While mail delivery to Greece has always been a game of chance, a combination of a change in local postal delivery, Covid lockdowns and Brexit made for the perfect storm;  a vast Never, Never Land between sender and recipient which seems never-ending. 

That would be where we live - no address!

Our long-time readers know that we live in a rural area of the Greek Peloponnese, just outside the fishing village of Agios Nikolaos. We have no street address, in fact our street doesn't have a name. We describe our location as the 'bad road between Agios Dimitrios and Platsa' (referring to the road condition - not the neighbors) although we often  describe our address as it relates to a neighbor's house because they are better known in the village. 

Our address? The road to Platsa, that's it!

For having no address, our mailing address is a marathon long: Kossava, (for the area), Agios Dimitrios (nearest village), Messinias Mani (the region), 24024 (postal code) and Greece (our host country). 

And the former longtime postman knew that meant: leave it on the mail table in Gregg's Plateia, in Agios Nikolaos and we'd pick it up there.  Really quite simple. . .until . . .

Local Changes ~ Local Confusion

We got a new delivery system and new mailman.  Then Gregg's Plateia was closed (as most eateries continue to be) as part of second COVID lockdown, now in its fourth month. With Gregg's closed and no commercial business open in our area, the new postman had nowhere to deliver 'Kossava' mail.  So it was left in the new Stoupa post office to be picked up by us there.   

Simplify the address, we thought. . .

However, in an effort to simplify delivery, we'd started notifying senders to change it to one that reads:  c/o Gregg's Plateia in Agios Nikolaos because that mail does get delivered to a business in Agios Nikolaos while the lockdown continues.

All we've accomplished was to add to the storm as now some mail goes one place, some is the other and some remains in Never, Never Land.  

First, Covid, then Brexit

For a short time, mail delivery was negatively impacted when France closed its borders to - both people and parcels - coming from the United Kingdom  after the new strain of Covid was discovered in the UK.  The photos of transportation traffic jams were enough to give anyone hives. . .especially those who had ordered items from the UK and who suspected those items were somewhere within those big trucks parked on the highways unable to move.

On January1st, when the United Kingdom left the European Union, the reverberations were felt even in the village.  All mail delivery to and from the United Kingdom stopped. For a few weeks leading up to New Year's Day and for a period of time after, our British expats friends here found themselves unable to mail anything back home or receive it as well.

Customs form  - new normal for UK And EU

Logistics between the UK and EU had to be worked out. Customs forms are now required for parcels sent between the two, declaring contents and value of the goods being shipped. Some people are posting on FB even this second week of February that parcels sent to them prior to the breakup are being held by customs officials for lack of proper customs declarations.

Even we Yanks felt the pinch. I had three books on order from Book Depository in London and two items that had been delayed in shipping from (yes, we shop on line when in lockdown with all retail stores closed for months at a time).  All eventually arrived in late January bearing the appropriate customs declaration forms.

It was during a Zoom visit with friends back in the States a few weeks ago, that I realized how different our world is from that which we left behind. In the course of the conversation they mentioned how frustrating it was to place an Amazon order and expect same day delivery and have it arrive two days later.  Days, mind you! We now consider it speedy if  something arrives within the month!  Sometimes we think it a miracle that it arrives at all!

Life Goes On

Christmas cards on display - on our mantle

As it turned out that letter Stella alerted us to was a Christmas card sent from the United States well before the holiday but it arrived in the village just after we'd flipped the calendar page to February. Actually, it made good time as it arrived within a month. We've had a half dozen such cards arrive in recent weeks -- all are on display on the fireplace mantle, now replacing those shown above which arrived in December and January.

The best part of all of this is that we have learned to make do with what we have and not to fret about that which we don't have. If missing mail is the worst thing we suffer during a pandemic then so be it! We'll take it. 

I have to tell you, though, that getting mail, real, open-the-flap-and-pull-it-out-of-the-envelope kind of mail, is a real treat when you are an expat.  We recognize it take a bit extra effort to get that international stamp and get the item mailed to us and we appreciate that effort so very much!

We got mail! 

As I mentioned above our lockdown has moved into its fourth month in Greece. The supply of COVID vaccine has been much less than expected in the European Union so vaccinations are going slowly. But thankfully, not as slow as the mail!

Until next time, we thank you for your time and hope you are continuing to stay safe and distanced! Next time I plan to tell you about Kalamata, the city, not the olive. . .it is one of Greece's hidden tourist gems!

Linking soon with:

Through My Lens
Travel Tuesday
Our World Tuesday
My Corner of the World Wednesday
Wordless Wednesday


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