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

Friday, December 28, 2018

Greek Life ~ Our Trip Around the Sun

No, you never see it comin', always wind up wonderin' where it went
Only time will tell if it was time well spent
It's another revelation, celebrating what I should have done
With these souvenirs of my trip around the sun
                -- Jimmy Buffett, lyrics, Trip Around the Sun

Our village, Agios Nikolaos
Several times in the last few days we’ve remarked, ‘This winter certainly isn’t like last. . .’ or ‘Last year . . .” comparing the weather, or state of the garden or happenings in the village.  And each time, I’ve thought how amazing it seems that we’ve completed our first trip around the sun living in Greece; fulfilling the challenge we gave ourselves to ‘live differently’ while we were still able.

The Stone House on the Hill
In our case, for you new readers, that means in a home at the edge of an olive grove on a hillside in Greece’s rural Peloponnese.

(For regulars here, I promise more tales of our Arabian nights will be forthcoming as I am feeling a bit like Sheherazade with more from our Arabian and Indian travels than I’ll ever be able to tell you. But as the year comes to a close it seems a time to reflect on this trip around the sun of ours and life’s souvenirs we’ve gathered along the way.)

Winter “Wonder” land

Honestly, I’m not sure if I’d have bet money we’d make it as full-time ex pats at this time last year.

Stormy seas, stormy skies, stormy day in Agios Nikolaos

We moved into full-time ex pat life just weeks before the winter storms arrived and what a winter it was!  Weekly, it seemed during the month of December, the wind whipped down the gorges of the Taygetos Mountains, howling and shrieking; a wind strong enough to knock over potted plants while rain came down in the proverbial buckets.

At the time, if we were honest, we’d have to say we wondered what had sounded so appealing about this ‘living differently in Greece’ idea. . .

20181129_075418For a day, sometimes two or three we’d hunker down to avoid the nasty weather in our Stone House on the Hill even though it was dark and cold thanks to power outages caused by blown transformers or downed power lines.

Even with a roaring fire in the fireplace and candles scattered about, let me tell you, you can start going stir crazy in cold, dark houses.

‘It isn’t a normal winter,’ the locals would say.

‘Haven’t had power outages like this for a decade,’ long-time ex pats would say.

‘This is driving us nuts!’  we would say.

In January – as you regulars here know – we set off for our Hawaiian timeshare life and had I not had my cats awaiting my return I might not have come back and doubt if The Scout would have resisted.

Springtime Came Early

Kalderimi near our home in the Peloponnese

By mid-February though we were reminded that most of the time our area – best known for the groves of Kalamata olives that carpet the countryside here – is downright breath-taking in the spring and luckily spring comes early!

The countryside was covered in blooms and you may recall I wrote about taking outings on the ancient kalderimi, cobble-stoned roads that were built decades ago for hooved animals that linked the villages. (They lace the countryside here and are most popular with hikers and outdoor enthusiasts., If you are considering a visit, you might want to time it to see the springtime blooms and experience these roads less traveled. )

20180529_102452Spring was also the time we began in earnest planting flowers and vegetables in our garden. I had visions of the harvests I would have. . .

The sunflowers towered over me. I built bamboo frames (as they do here) for the promising tomato plants. Strawberries were going to be plentiful.

I would make jam.

I’d probably have to freeze some of the tomatoes.

I’d give away potatoes.

Yes, the promise of spring. . .

And then Came Summer

And with it the realities of that Mediterranean sun. . .these photos taken in July tell the garden story. No amount of watering (morning and night) nor the addition of shade (using beach umbrellas) could save the garden.  My harvest was humbling (it’s okay, you can laugh as even I can laugh now) and is shown in the bottom photo – a few garlic, tomatoes, almonds, and potatoes.

PicMonkey Collage
Summer realities in the garden
By August another reality hit and that was the loss of our olive crop to the pesky dako, the olive fly that has destroyed crops in Italy and France, and now is invading Greece. We had no harvest this year, nor did many of our Greek friends. Ours is a hobby, so was disappointing, but we could almost cry for our many Greek friends who have hundreds or thousands of trees and who lost their crops on which they depend for income this year.

Reality set in back in August
Many versions of ‘why’ exist but the most often given is that Spring's warm, wet weather also nurtured the fly’s eggs and thus doomed the crops.

PicMonkey Collage
Hot time in the summer in the villages
Crop failures aside, summer was a wild, wacky time in the villages.  Streets closed to traffic in the evening and taverna tables filled the roadways. We are so used to our American friends never having heard of our area, that we were stunned to see the hundreds of tourists who flock here every summer from other countries.  It was hot, but it was grand!

Autumn’s Arrival – how quickly it came

By this point in our grand adventure of living differently, we’d given up the idea of being homeless in America. We’d made it for almost a year.  We realized that boomer-aged people who have money in financial institutions and medical care providers in the US, and well, who have to deal with the government (Social Security and Medicare) really need a residential address in the U.S. Greek addresses (which we don’t even have) and Greek phone numbers just don’t fit in the forms (we were square pegs trying to fit round holes).

PicMonkey Collage
Another adventure in living: Manson, Washington State
Autumn brought a return to the U.S. so we could move our belongings into our residence we’d purchased back in July (it can be done from Greece) in Central Washington State. For now the home will serve as a landing pad when we visit, provide that much needed address, and be our fall-back plan and destination when the time in Greece comes to an end.

Winter Comes Again

December 28, 2018 Stone House on the Hill
Winter has returned to The Mani, this place where we’ve lived while taking that trip around the sun. This year storms have been few, temperatures are mostly spring-like.
Our trip around the sun has been filled with making new friends and creating ‘our world’ here, continuing to learn the nuances of a new culture, struggling to learn a Greek word here and there and planning for ‘next year’.

We will be reapplying for our resident permits in the spring and if granted we can continue on as full-time residents for another three years.

And you know?  I think we just may do that!

A toast to you on solstice in Abu Dhabi at The Grand Canal
Our wishes to you all for the Happiest of New Year’s and we hope your travels – whether in real life or armchair – take you to places you’ve always dreamed of visiting.  And our thanks for coming along with us on this journey and all the others on which you’ve joined us. We appreciate the support and cheerleading when we needed it and all the  kind words and comments you’ve made along the way.

Hope to see you back here next week and bring some friends along with you!!

Linking this week with:
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Communal Global

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Stone House on the Hill ~ Living in a ‘DIY’ World

DIY – abbreviation for ‘Do It Yourself’
            -- Webster’s Dictionary

DIY or Do It Yourself projects are the focus of some of my favorite blogs, television shows, FB posts and publications.  Always inspiring, they provide step-by-step directions to living in a colorful, clever world that you’ve designed, painted, built, sewn, or otherwise created by yourself.

The Scout completes the clothes line
Long before it became the catch-phrase for creativity, Do It Yourself, was a way of life in the rural area of Greece where we make our part-time expat home. And it continues to be the way repairs and projects are completed even now in our part of the Greek Peloponnese.

To be honest, it has tested the skills and abilities of these two city-slickers from suburban America, each of whom are more comfortable and confident at a computer keyboard than brandishing a hammer or screwdriver.

PicMonkey Collage
Dozens of parts and directions in Greek
In the States, we have been known to pay a wee bit extra to get items assembled before delivery or to hire a handyman to make repairs or changes. While we still hire help for many of the projects we’ve undertaken in Greece there is a remarkable (for us anyway!) number of things we’ve accomplished by DIY. 

By the way, ‘It’s Greek to me” is favorite phrase we use when directions for the DIY are written in Greek. Thank goodness for illustrations: we’ve often resorted to matching parts and screw sizes to the drawings and then guess at what we are to do with them. 

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The Stone House on the Hill - the Mani, Greek Peloponnese

Slowly, slowly, or siga, siga as they say in Greek we’ve strung a clothesline, assembled coat racks, and constructed book and storage shelves. Each completed project bolstered – a wee bit --our DIY self confidence!  Just enough that by last fall we were dreaming up things we could DIY at our Stone House on the Hill:

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Chalk painting the chest of drawers - DIY project

Our first project – such a tiny step for most DIY folks but a giant leap for us -- required finding a paint store in Kalamata (our big city an hour north), then explaining we wanted to purchase craft ‘chalk’ paint, wax to finish the project and the tools to apply both.  (Keep in mind neither of us had ever ‘done’ chalk painting but I’d been insistent  we do it – after reading those darn inspirational DIY home decorating blogs. . .) 
“You know, you create your own hell.”  --Warren 'Dean' Starr 
While we still had the painting bug --  and upon discovering they make a paint for bathroom grout, we tackled our guest bathroom.  A dark-colored gray grout had apparently been popular (because it didn’t show the dirt) when our 10-year-old house was built. From ceiling to floor it was used, making the room look, well. . ., dirty.

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Painting the grout white - a DIY of tortuous, tedious measure

If we each painted, we reasoned, we could probably change that room in a day. Once started we couldn’t change our minds either. So with teeny-tiny brushes and cloths to wipe the excess, we set forth. What. A. Joke. Hours and hours, days later, our DIY was done.  Happy with the end result, but vowing never to do that again!  

“Life is trying things to see if they work.”
— Ray Bradbury
So how much stone did we order anyway?

Having spent a week of gloriously beautiful fall weather indoors on that tedious project we headed outside for the next.  We had a vision for our garden area, so we set to work.  You might say that we had rocks in our heads, both literally and figuratively, on this one!

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First step, hauling the stone down the steps
We ordered brown gravel which we would use to create new garden cover at the front of the house, to the side, and in parts of the upper garden.  Darn, those Pinterest photos of Mediterranean gardens!! First task, hauling the gravel from the bags in our parking area, down the stairs and to the gardens. (If you are wondering, we used plastic pails and made hundreds of trips up and down those stairs – a better workout than going to the gym!)

I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge
-- Robert Fulghum

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The 'before' garden DIY project photos
We added a new Greek word: kopiastiki, to our vocabulary. It means ‘backbreaking’.  Finally, we accomplished what we had set out to do:

Garden in front of The Stone House on the Hill

From the front of the house down into the grove. . .

Olive grove terrace garden - The Stone House on the Hill 

  To the side garden. . .

Our vegetable garden - The Stone House on the Hill 

And in the upper garden. . .

PicMonkey Collage
We added a winding pathway through the upper garden

“If you want a thing done well, do it yourself.”
– Napoleon Bonaparte 

Before we returned this spring we told ourselves  that this stay we’d get out and do some hiking on those wonderful old trails that still link the villages scattered about our hillsides. We’d go to the beach – something we have yet to do. We ordered books that we’ve been wanting to read. But then I saw a cute little strawberry planter on FB that you could make from a laundry basket. . .it just required a few supplies.  Then a video came across for making concrete plant stands and stools which could be so cute . . .

So what will we be up to this spring at our Stone House on the Hill? Not sure yet.  But we do hope you’ll be with us again next week as we settle into life in Greece. And if you are in the neighborhood in real life, stop by. There’s always time for a visit!  As always, thanks for the time you spend with us at TravelnWrite ~ Safe travels to you and yours.

Linking this week with:
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration


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