Showing posts with label Peloponnese summer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Peloponnese summer. Show all posts

Monday, June 10, 2024

A Song of Summer

It was early when I heard the soloist; the sun was just peeping over the hill behind us. With the temperature already in the hot zone as I sipped my first cup of coffee a few mornings ago, the sound of music was loud and clear.

Sunrise and the song of summer

In this afternoon's warm summer breeze, it seemed as if the olive tree branches swayed in time to the music; the song echoing across the grove, now sung with gusto by an entire choir. 

On both occasions I was hearing what I will forever consider 'the song of summer' and theme song to our expat life in Greece: 

A choir sings a summer song in surround sound

The song of summer is sung by the cicadas.

A Cicada Kalokairi 

Kalokairi is summer in Greece

Kalokairi is the Greek word for summer.  'Kalo', or 'kala' in Greek is 'good', so calling this bright, sunny season kalokairi makes absolute, perfect sense to me. (It is one of the few words I now have down pat in my fledgling Greek vocabulary).  

Kalokairi is such a happy, upbeat season that it seems only right that its arrival is announced by musicians who will continue their sizzling soundtrack until autumn takes over.

Residence permits - a ticket to the 'summer concert'

The song became our theme song back in early June 2017. It was then, upon receiving our first Greek residency permits, we could stay here as long as we wanted. Our time would no longer dictated by those tiresome 90-day Schengen Zone limits. Giddy with the newfound freedom, we agreed to extend that stay, just because we could! 

Instead of an actual date though, I told The Scout that I wanted to stay 'until the cicadas sing' to announce summer's arrival. Up until then, I'd missed these troubadours of summer.

Summer scenes in our world

Stay we did. Until the end of June. The cicadas had begun their summer serenade. And that's when those little critters' song became not only metaphor for the onset of summer but also for our seismic shift in life. We moved to Greece four months later.

Cicadas in Cultures

One thing we've learned since moving here is that pretty much everything we encounter in the modern-day world has some deep-seated roots in Greek history, culture and/or language. 

Cicadas, pronounced 'se-KAY-das' or 'se-KAH-das', are no exception.


Stories handed down from ancient Greeks tell of men who were so obsessed with singing that they forgot to eat and drink. They were turned into cicadas by the Muses and given the task of keeping tabs on which humans were showing proper reverence to the Muses, those goddesses of music, poetry and myth.

Cicadas important in Chinese history and culture 

Even in ancient China the cicadas represented 'rebirth'.  They certainly did for us that summer as we closed out our life in the United States and moved to Greece.  That was definitely a 'born again' into a new world and culture experience!

During the Han Dynasty (206BC - 220CE) amulets shaped like cicadas were placed on tongues of corps to symbolize rebirth and immortality. Cicadas in today's Feng Shui are powerful symbols of longevity and happiness; their image is used on jewelry and charms. I've not yet found any such amulets paying homage to them in Greece, but I'd certainly be wearing one if I ever do.

Sing it Again

Summer in our world - file photo 2021

I always feel grateful when I hear summer's song reverberating across the hillside on which we live. The song, once only a promise of what summer could be in Greece, now carries memories of the summers we've spent in this adopted world of ours. Now I can't imagine a summer without the cicadas' song playing in the background.  

Summer songs ring out in our Mani area of Greece

Along with the cicadas' song, other signs of summer are reminding us that the new season has arrived. Oleanders are brightening the landscapes with their white, pink and rose-colored blooms. The air is scented by the wild sage, and thyme scattered about gardens, groves and hillsides. 


Signs of summer in nearby Stoupa

Temperatures are hovering at 90F/32C with predictions of it reaching 100F/37C later this week. 
The water supply is at its usual low and fire danger is its usual high. Sunbeds are filling with sea and sun enthusiasts who have traveled here for a small dose of what we enjoy as everyday life. 


Summer sunsets at our house

All is good - ola kala - in our world.  Hope whatever season you are welcoming that all is good in your world as well. Safe travels to you and yours~ 

And in closing I want to give a 'shout out' to a group who we recently met while they were vacationing in the area.  Thanks for taking the time to come and introduce yourselves and tell us that you are readers of 'TravelnWrite' after you spotted us in the village - we hope to see you again on a return visit! .  

Sunday, August 13, 2023

The Mail in the Telephone Booth

 'There is mail in the telephone booth at the Kafenion,' wrote a neighbor on Facebook last week. 

Mail delivery in the Mani, Greece

While that probably sounds odd to those of you reading this, it was good news! It meant mail was being delivered again!  

Mail delivery, summer protests and road work are my topics this week.  While vastly differing subjects, each provides a look at real life in Greece this summer of 2023. This one is for those of you who turn a critical eye to my reports and photos of beautiful sunsets, of the quaint village settings and those featuring the fun times we have with friends here, and ask, 'But, what's it really like?'


Agios Dimitrios village

The dusty, abandoned booth in the small village of Agios Dimitrios, at the foot of the hill where we make our expat home in the Greek Peloponnese, seems to be one of the new 'substations' for mail collection.  Other mail drops (almost literally) are said to be somewhere outside the small grocery store in nearby Agios Nikolaos village and at a taverna in Stoupa village, just down the road.  

Of course, figuring out which of those places one might find one's mail. . .well, that it yet another story. Because our mail is addressed to a business (Mani Money) in Agios Nikolaos, it doesn't come to the phone booth near us. While they continue to deliver parcels to Mani Money, we are told, letter-sized mail isn't being delivered there. Those are going elsewhere. . .somewhere.

You've Got Mail. . .maybe, or maybe not!

You can't make this stuff up.  It happens in Greece.  And we expats find ourselves becoming so inured to it that we discuss the logistics of finding our mail as matter-of-factly as we do the weather.  

Now some techno-enthusiasts are probably wondering why 'snail mail' is even important these days.  It is here because many still receive phone, electric and water bills via snail mail. Believe it or not, a number of banking, government, and other official transactions often require us to present such a bill as part of our identification and authorization process. That paper copy has come in handy more times than you can imagine.

Delivery is also key to successful mail order, as on-line shopping is a means of commerce used by many of us living in this rural area. 

Mail at Gregg's - in the good old days

Many of you longtime readers, recall 'that back in the good old days' our mail was delivered regularly to Gregg's Cafe in Agios Nikolaos. In fact, it served for several years as our mailing address. We'd go have coffee and sort through the mail, picking up our own on an on-your-honor system.  The cafe owners kept a watchful eye out for us. They knew it - and us -so well that once my friend Marti received an envelope from Washington State addressed simply to 'Grandma' at Gregg's. 
That system crumbled when the village closed for Covid.
 

Covid shut down the village and mail delivery Gregg's pictured on left.


Our new delivery model operates as a self-serve, on-your-honor system.  Of course, if you see mail addressed to a friend now, you are likely to collect and deliver it as they may otherwise never find it again.  With the new self-service system, old mail is picked up and new mail replaces it. There isn't yet a timetable for when the new arrives and the old goes away.

 
Me in Covid days at the Stoupa post office

The new haphazard system was instituted after the real brick and mortar substation in Stoupa was closed this spring and its two employees let go. The original explanation had been that the operational contract had expired and a new one not yet awarded. Later media reports told a different story: several post offices were closed throughout Greece as a result of cost cutting measures. There was no indication they would be reopened. 

The Mani and our villages

For the time being, we are somewhat 'mail-less in the Mani'. But there are bigger things unfolding in Greece this summer, like. . .

The Towel Movement  

The Towel Movement, while you may not have read about it elsewhere in the world, is a headline- making topic in Greece.  It is the name given to a growing protest against what one might call, 'privatization' of Greek beaches.  The movement's epicenter is two Cycladic islands, Naxos and Paros, where citizens have issued the call to take back beaches. Technically Greek citizens have the right to access and use beaches when they please. In reality access has been limited on many popular beaches.


Stoupa's beach fills with sunbeds in the summer - all for rent

Over the years, beach-front hotels, tavernas, bars, and eateries have taking over beach areas in front of their establishments. They place sunbeds there which are rented out by the hour or day.  The businesses are required to pay for a license to operate a certain number of them.

Many here recall when for the price of a drink and some food one could use a sunbed. Now you pay rent and the cost of the food.  So, this summer it seems some beachgoers in some areas of Greece have had enough. They want their beaches open -and their cry is being heard by media and government officials. Their movement has been labeled The Towel Movement.

On the flip-side (of 'the towel') others observe that the beds are popular and being used, so what is the fuss? Most are removed in the fall and beaches return to their natural states.

Pantazi Beach just below us - in August 2023

In our area, Stoupa's main beach and its nearby cove beach, Kalogria, historically have served up the most options for sunbeds. But this summer Pantazi Beach, the beach just below us in Agios Nikolaos, welcomed Cube, a new beach bar and eatery. It offers sunbeds for rent as does the long-time Pantazi Beach Bar, operating at the opposite end of the beach.  And between the two, a beach vendor set up shop at water's edge offering kayak and SUP board rentals. 

All seem to be popular as the beds are often filled, and the beach is alive with the sounds and laughter of sun and sea seekers.

Pantazi Beach 2020


For the record, we aren't beachgoers, other than to sip coffee or krasi (wine) at a table at one of the two Pantazi beach bars - it is from there we will see how The Towel Movement shakes out. 

On the Road Again

The mail delivery might be topsy-turvy and the Towel Movement soaking up the public's attention, but our immediate focus is on being back on the road again.  Crews moved into town weeks ago determined to fix a section of the road along the sea that floods every time we have a major storm.  Over the years, the street surface has warped, and underground pipes have surfaced and broken. 

Road closed, take a right here. . .

The repairs though required closing the road that serves as the main north-south access road between Agios Nikolaos and Agios Dimitrios villages.  A smaller track road can't accommodate large delivery trucks and municipal garbage trucks.  

Someone was thinking outside the box when they came up with a brilliant, if slightly different, detour route. And I doubt if any environmental or shoreline protection agency was consulted before using:  The Beach. A rocky sort of area at the south end of the municipal parking lot.

The beach - a two-lane detour route; road to the left, sea to the right


Amazingly, the two-lane sand and rock road has worked well. Drivers have been courteous and cautious as they make their way past each other on a surface that could easily break a shock absorber if not traveled gently.  The repair work continues, siga, siga, slowly, slowly, just like we drive on the detour!

And that's enough 'behind-the-scenes' look at expat life in Greece for this time around.  We will be back with more travel tales and reports from Greece and hope you will join us again and bring a friend or two with you! Until then, wishes for safe travels to you and yours~

Monday, July 9, 2018

Greece ~ Summertime and the livin’ is easy. . .

“Everything good, everything magical happens between the months of June and August.”
                                                                           -- Jenny Han

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A summer's eve at The Stone House on the Hill
The cicadas, those miniature merrymakers of summer sambas, have filled our Greek world with their song since late May. They are the troubadours who herald in the summer season known here as kalokairi, summer.  On this Monday afternoon, their sizzling melody seems as intense as the Mediterranean sun’s rays.

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My garden is wilting, the olive grove dry. . .
They aren’t the only ones singing. In recent days while doing my morning chores at The Stone House on the Hill I’ve been humming a customized version of that Porgy and Bess tune, ‘Summertime and the livin’ is easy. . .’, substituting ‘my garden is wilting, the olive grove's dry. . .’ for 'the fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high'.

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Summer - the Messinian Bay looking toward Kalamata
Summer, kalokairi, arrived bringing temperatures in the high 80’s and low 90’s (30C and up), sunshine and blue skies. It is a season that has beckoned us for three years to stay longer. This will be our first summer spent entirely in Greece.

And so far we are finding it to be as postcard pretty as it appears in those tourist promotion photos!

PELOPONNESE MAP BEST OF GREECE HOLIDAYS[1]In the past month or so, we have had houseguests with whom we’ve toured our area. Other times we’ve headed out on own. Sometimes we go no further than our village or our deck to remind us just how spectacular summer can be in Greece!.

(For those new to the blog and our story: we live just south of Kalamata – near Stoupa on the map to the left - in the Greek Peloponnese. We moved here full-time last October.)

So on this sweltering summer afternoon while I am enjoying our recently installed air conditioning, I decided to give you a quick look at summer in our Slice of Greece.


South to Limeni:

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Limeni, Peloponnese
Less than an hour south of us, Limeni is the name of a traditional settlement, a settlement of the family Mavromichali.  Petros Mavromichali is a famous leader of the Maniot people back in the first half of the 19th Century, particularly noted for leading revolts against the Ottomans. The settlement is built along the shore of one of the prettiest bays in our area.

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Tourist accommodations are dotting the hillsides at Limeni
P1070715Today the area is a tourist draw as new ‘small settlements’ – rentals and vacation accommodations -- are springing up on the hillsides overlooking this horseshoe shaped harbor.

Because Limeni and its neighboring New Oitylo village at the harbor (old Oitylo sits high on a hill above the two) are so close to us, it is an easy destination for a long lunch at one of the many tavernas or restaurants that line its long stretch of beach.

This area plays prominently in the area’s pirate history, but that’s a story for another day. . .for now we are now off to another seaside destination, just outside Kalamata. . .

North to Kitries

Whether you  follow the beach road from Kalamata, or head to it from an inland route, Kitries will literally be where the two roads intersect and end. We’d lived here for some time before we got around to following the recommendations of friends and finally visited the place. But once we saw it, we knew we’d be regulars to this picturesque spot on the Messinian Bay.

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Fishing boats at Kitries
Kitries was our Sunday drive destination a couple weeks ago. Much like Limeni, it takes less than an hour to reach this small protected boat harbor, filled with an array of fishing craft. Once upon a time, the place was an important anchorage, home to five of the Beys (Turkish title for‘chieftain’) of the Mani with large fortified walls. Any signs of walls are long gone, replaced by tavernas and restaurants.

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Tavernas at Kitries 

Those tavernas were coming to life during our morning stop and preparing for a summer Sunday onslaught of sun-seekers.

Speaking of onslaughts. We are often asked by somewhat incredulous first-time visitors: "How did you find this place?!”  Difficult as it is for our American friends to comprehend, the Mani, is a popular tourist destination and quite well known on this side of the Atlantic.  Let me show you a section of that beach road to Kitries:

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Sun and beach seekers filled the road along the bay
For miles (kilometers) cars were parked bumper-to-bumper on the beach road. The only other place that has looked like this in our travels has been the North Shore of Hawai’i’s O’ahu island during surfing season!

East into the Mountains – Milea

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Milea aka Milia village
We never miss a chance to take our guests up into the Taygetos Mountain range, the backbone of the Peloponesse. One of our favorite stops, less than 30 minutes away is Milea (aka Milia) village. The village, actually is located on three levels, but our favorite stop is the section in which the main road cuts through. You can’t drive this route without literally cutting through town (but that could be said of a number of places in this part of the world as well).

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Can you spot the Pappas?
When visiting, we pull off the road and park to the side of the church, near the one taverna in this part of town and the nearby small bus stop.  We seldom see signs of residents, although on Easter we finally spotted the Papas in the church talking with another set of tourists.

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The village taverna
Philip, a retired-from-New-York-business-owner, has returned to his village and runs the only taverna in this part of town out of the home in which he was raised. He regales us with tales of growing up in the village – back then he walked the old trails and cobblestoned kalderimi to get to the harbor to catch a ferry to Kalamata. The roads we consider tiny are still relatively new in this part of the country. Summertime is a good time to head out on those roads, slow our pace, and sit and listen to stories of yesteryear.

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Unexpected finds on the mountain roads include this mural on a shed
“Rest is not idleness and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.”
                                             -- Anna Godbersen

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Kitries, Greece
“Summertime is always the best of what might be.”
             -- Charles Bowden

We hope that whatever the season you are experiencing, that you have the time to get out and experience its sights and sounds! We’ll be back next week and hope to see you here! Thanks for you time today and safe travels to you and yours.

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

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