Thursday, August 12, 2021

Greece: The Good, The Bad, The Reality

'It' began about two weeks ago when a heat wave coming from Northern Africa, blanketed Greece, taking temperatures in some places to new record-breaking heights.  

Hillsides are tinder right now in our area

Then just more than a week ago, 'it' seemed as if our adopted country had gone up in flames as at one point there were more than 150 wildfires threatening historical sites, forests, agricultural land, animals, olive groves and homes. 

And if that wasn't enough, three bank ATM's in our area were bombed. Yes, the blown-to-bits kind of bombed that your read about happening 'elsewhere' . . .'it' is the kind of thing you don't expect to happen in your own area.

Burn bans are in effect every summer - simply too dry here

Then this week - just as we had thought we might make it through this 'tinder' season with a continuous water supply-- 'it' was apparent that our reserve tank was precariously close to empty. Not a good thing with the surrounding countryside literally 'crispy dry'.

'It' --  is the reality of life. Those experiences and events, both good and bad, that can happen anywhere we live, even in The Mani, a place that most the time it feels a bit like paradise. So many of you have written asking about how we are doing and/or sending good wishes, that I am using this week's tale to update you on life in Greece:

The Wildfires

For days we watched firefighting efforts

Unless you've lived on the moon or had no access to media in recent weeks you have seen the horrific images of wildfires sweeping across Greece. They are not exaggerated. It has been, and continues in some areas, to be horrific. 

Some of the most severe blazes were/are on the island of Evia and others north of Athens and here. . .just down the road from us in the Peloponnese.  We spent several days watching fire fighting planes and helicopters travel back and forth to the Messinian Bay for water which was dumped on blazes to the east of us.
Milea village in January

The fire closest to us threatened a large monastery on a hill above Milea, the small village, about 10 miles from our home. Fire fighters got it under control last Thursday but it came back to life on Friday and appeared to be heading our way.

'Don't know if you are home but there is a big cloud of smoke rolling over your hill. What's with that?' texted my fellow American expat friend Jean who lives down the hill from us.  She had her 'go bag' packed shortly after sending that message! But before I got ours ready, the wind had kicked up and turned the blaze towards the port city of Gythio.  You might recall, two weeks ago I told you about setting off for Crete from Gythio, about an hour's drive southeast of us.

Fires in the Peloponnese - FB photo

Residents and tourists in Gythio were evacuated Friday night. Luckily it was brought under control before reaching the village and their displacement was short.

By Saturday it had turned again and was headed towards Lagada, the village about a 10 minute drive south of us.  Our volunteer fire fighters (well, trained and devoted) put out a call for help to build a fire line and stop the flames. More than 120 villagers responded to save the town.

Gythio, Mani - photo from FB

Sadly our Greek headlines are reporting a number of individuals have been arrested in the country and are believed to have set a number of these fires.  A special prosecutor is organizing an investigation into the fires and possible arson links between them. 

Today, thunderstorms, instead of bringing much needed rain,  are starting new blazes to the north and east in Greece.

The Heatwave

Even the cats laid low during the heat of the day

While its not completely unusual to have temperatures soar in Greece this time of year, the duration of our high temperatures sucked the life out of us.  Chores and errands were done in the morning and we retreated inside to the air conditioning until sometime in the evening when we ventured out again. It is hot - very hot - in Kalamata when the temperature hits 110F.

In the good news column, tourists continue to flock to our area though and the heat didn't deter them from enjoying the beaches.  A number of  'tourist sites' like Ancient Messene closed in the afternoon when temperatures got too high.

The Attack on the ATM's

Remains of an ATM in the Mani

One thing that has been completely out of the ordinary this year is the recent bombings of three ATM bank machines in two nearby villages.  We aren't talking a simple break and enter, but a blow-it-to-bits kind of bombing.  Two ATM's were hit a few weeks ago and the third last weekend.  Law enforcement is investigating and we locals are shaking our heads, as this is one of those times we'd like to say, 'never happens here'. But then it does. . .  proving again that bad people do bad things everywhere, including in our slice of Greece.

Water Woes

Filling our near-empty tank with water, a summer routine

With wildfires being the main focus these days, the last thing we wanted was to run out of water this summer, as we have in the past two years.  But as fire fighting efforts continued there were scattered reports of low water and no water throughout our area. By this week we were among those who had no municipal water flowing into our water tanks.  We finally resorted to buying a load of water but it appears (knock on wood) that our drought was a temporary one and we have water flowing again. 

And, the Good News

Just off the main highway near homes - last year.

I saved the good news for last!  About this time last year I wrote a post critical of both water supply and garbage disposal in our area. Trash collected by the municipality from our community dumpsters was being dumped on private land and mountains of trash had been allowed to collect there.  That mountain is gone this year. The municipality stepped up to the plate and took action.

The Green Corner - a good news happening here!

And a group of dedicated volunteers - Greeks and expats -  have gone to work creating a recycle center, staffing it and making it work.  What a joy it is to make a weekly trip to the Green Corner as it is called knowing that our trash, separated into various categories, really is being recycled!

Thank You!

So our thanks to those of you who've contacted us asking if we were safe or sending good thoughts our way.  It is so nice to know we have such a network of friends out there!  We are safe. And aside from some smoky skies and maybe a moment's pause here and there, we were untouched by the nearby fires. We are saddened for all those who have suffered as result of the fires. And we are thankful for the more than 20 countries that sent assistance to Greece in way of equipment and man/woman power to fight the fires.

The Scout has been scouting out another adventure for us, so we are off again soon.  Hope you'll be back with us for another tale or two of  travel and life as boomer American expats in Greece.  Stay safe and well ~

Linking soon with:


  1. Glad to hear you are safe and joining local initiative for a better community. Great report. So many signs of climate change around the world. How do we adapt?

  2. Oh my, that's a lot to deal with! Stay safe, and stay cool!

  3. Hi Jackie, it must have been terrifying being so close and having to think of evacuating. I'm glad to hear that you're safe. This year seems to be sending us lots of signals that things aren't right: today, we heard of a 7.2 magnitude earthquake in Haiti and there's a storm approaching. So much upheaval and unrest.
    What am I missing? There must be a strategic way to bomb the ATM without blow up the money.


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