Sunday, September 29, 2019

To Flush it or Not ~ A New Normal

Shortly after arriving from the Pacific Northwest at our Stone House on the Hill last summer, our young houseguest took me aside. From the look on his face, I knew he had something serious on his mind.

'My mom told me we don't put the toilet paper in the toilet here.  We put it in the little bin by the toilet. Is that true??' he asked in a voice tinged with disbelief.


The Stone House on the Hill - Greek Peloponnese

'Very true,' I assured him. 'It is normal here to do that.' I went on with a lofty explanation of doing things differently when you travel to new places and how in many places in the world tissue is tossed, not flushed. My grandiose teaching moment was lost on him though: he was still processing the 'don't flush it' idea.


Lemons growing at our Stone House on the Hill

I concluded our talk by confessing that when I return to the States I sometimes have trouble remembering that paper is flushed. Tossing, not flushing, is my new normal.

Toilet etiquette is just one of the many things that we've had to learn to 'do differently' as ex pats living in Greece.  


  
Sunflower bouquet at our Pacific Northwest home

Normal is as Normal Does


It has been some 7.5 months since we have been anywhere outside Greece thanks to that longer-than-expected wait for residency permits which kept us 'in detention' there. We had a pretty intense dose of all-things-Greek. 


Manson, our U.S. home under last year's harvest moon

(Note to new readers: this fall marks two years since we took up full time residence in The Mani, a region in the Peloponnese where the famous Kalamata olive is grown. Last fall we replanted our U.S. roots by purchasing a home in a small town in eastern Washington State.)



Manson is surrounded by apple orchards and vineyards

Ten days ago we made our annual autumn trek back to the States. In the short time we've been here I've found myself bemused and sometimes frustrated at the number of times I've had to stop and think about what the name of something is in English or how to complete a task here. 

Case in point: At the hardware store I had a difficult time coming up with the name of what I needed to clean a paint brush.  In my mind I was looking for what we call in Greece, 'white spirit' . . .I told the clerk  'paint remover' and found myself with a lot of products designed to take paint off surfaces being repainted. Finally, we came up with it: 'paint thinner'! 

Some 40+ wineries now make this area their home as well




Also surprising is the number of things that we once did by rote that now seem so very 'different'. It just doesn't seem normal. Take for instance. . .

. . . filling the car with gasoline.  In Greece, the attendant directs you to the pump then pumps the gas and washes the windows for you. Takes your payment and brings you change, telling you to have a nice day as the transaction concludes.

Here you pull up to the pump of your choosing and insert a credit card at a machine in the bay and once it is accepted, you pump your gasoline, take your receipt and drive away. The only human contact you might have is if your card isn't accepted and you must go inside to see the clerk. It gave us pause the first couple of times we visited the gas station - we've been spoiled by Greek behaviors.


Lake Chelan remains the major attraction of this area

. . . or using that little plastic credit card. I am amazed at how many times we pull it out to pay for goods and services here. In our everyday life in Greece the only place we use the plastic is at the large supermarket on the highway between villages or when shopping in the city, Kalamata. Certainly not at the small shops and restaurants we frequent in the village.



Our surrounding countryside in Manson

. . .or those do-it-yourself checkouts at large supermarkets. If you are smart enough to check yourself out, you need not talk to any employee during your shopping experience. How impersonal is that?  As long as a human is there to check me out, I plan to have them do so.

Our route to Wenatchee - the largest city near us

. . .or the focus on privacy. Privacy is a big deal in the U.S. and I had forgotten what a big deal it was until I was discussing it with friends over lunch this week.  The two were talking about the security precautions they take to protect their identity -both on-line and in real life. They actually sell little ink things (not just marking pens) here to mark out your information before tossing printed matter! Then we talked about all the security steps to be taken in computer land.  It was --sorry, but this phrase works best --'all Greek to me'!

I told them about how we get our mail delivered to a café in the village.  Packages are delivered there, important documents as well I suspect.  You pretty much sort through and see everyone's mail -- and you pay it little mind. It isn't unusual to take a package addressed to a friend or neighbor to them. We don't think about theft - of mail itself or a person's identity.  There is something curiously refreshing about it.

Even the hotel in Manson welcomed us back last year


I've been reading up on repatriation, the term that describes expats returning to their home countries, to write this post.  And the experts warn that  'reverse culture shock' can be very real.  They say those who've worked in other countries may find themselves suffering from identity loss when they return home. 



Showing friends our new community

Individuals may struggle with reestablishing friendships as interests and activities and life focus has changed - not only for those returning but those who stayed behind.  Adapting to the new community you return to can be as difficult as adapting to the foreign one you just left.

They advise staying in touch with those back home so you are able to pick up where you left off. No problem there - we have a circle of friends who've stayed in touch regularly by phone, email and social media. 

It is harvest time in the Chelan/Manson area

Experts do suggest following 'back home' news media and social media to stay in touch with changes occurring there. Again, no problem there thanks to our various subscriptions, Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and others.

Re-patriots can experience stress, depression, social anxiety and disenchantment. Many articles say some re-patriots need counseling or support groups. Whoa! No need for that! 

Wine grapes, three weeks from harvest

However, in none of the articles I read, did they mention toilet etiquette. That apparently is one area of re-adjustment the experts haven't yet flushed out!

A toast to new 'normal'

On that note, I'll close for this time around with a wish for continued safe travels to you and yours. I'll be back with more tales from the expat travel world soon.  As always, thanks for the time you spend with us ~

Linking sometime with:

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Wordless Wednesday









Monday, September 9, 2019

Lights, Camera, Action, Popcorn. . .Greece!

Stolen jewels. A hint of romance. A bit of danger.  A scene that makes your heart race, with Hayley Mills, the Walt Disney star of the mid-1900's trapped in a Greek windmill and escaping by clinging to the canvas blade as it spun past.

My introduction to Greece

That was my introduction to Greece. 1964.

Thanks to Walt Disney's movie 'The Moon-Spinners' filmed on Crete, starring Mills, Eli Wallach, Irene Papas and Pola Negri - I had an action-packed introduction to Greece. It planted the seed . . .

I knew that someday, I was going to Greece (Back then, I certainly wouldn't have thought I'd be living here, but I sure did want to visit!)


A movie sent me chasing Greek windmills. . .

It was Pauline Collins as 'Shirley Valentine'  who 'took' Pacific Northwest friend, Barbara Cantwell, to Greece via the movie of the same name. The 1989  film, about a bored, middle-aged housewife -- Shirley Valentine --who ditches her mundane life and her husband and heads to Greece on her own, was filmed the island of Mykonos.

While Barbara lives on an island in Washington State, she continues to escape to a Greek island 'with' Shirley.  

Scenes of Greece 

For our English friends, Bill and Val Kitson, it is watching that toe-tapping 2008 'Mamma Mia' -- filmed on Skopelos island -- that is a must-watch prior to trips to Greece. They say it helps build the excitement for their bi-annual trips to Crete (this spring they watched it before they left and after they returned)!



Bet your toes start tapping . . .OPA!

And I bet everyone of you has seen at least the beach dance scene from the 1964 film, 'Zorba the Greek', in which Anthony Quinn as Alexis Zorbas and Alan Bates, his boss interlink arms and dance the 'siritaki' on a Greek beach. 

Mural in Stoupa - Kazantzakis and Zorbas

The movie was based on a novel written by Greek author Nikos Kazantzakis, who lived for a time -- a century ago -- just down the road from us in Stoupa village. He'd tried to mine lignite from a hillside behind the village. His mining operation foreman was George Zorbas. . .which gave rise to the subsequent novel.

Me in Crete on 'Zorba's beach' the movie dance was filmed here

The 1964 movie was filmed in Crete.
 .

The idea for this big-screen getaway post can be credited to the former Seattle Times travel editor, Brian Cantwell, (Barbara's husband) for whom I used to write travel tales. After reading my post about 'novel' destinations he asked about movie getaways to Greece (still thinking travel stories) So I set out to find some movies and was amazed at the number I found! Those highlighted are but a sample.  Some, you've probably heard of and others, probably not. 




Ill Met by Moonlight 


Take for instance, 'Ill Met by Moonlight' a 1957 movie shot in Crete. The movie is based on a real life incidient during World War II in which a Nazi commander was kidnapped by British armed forces and Cretan resistance fighters.  The one who led the effort was none other than Patrick Leigh Fermor, the British writer I told you about a few weeks ago. His Greek home (now officially open to the public) is just a few kilometers from us.



Patrick Leigh Fermor House in Kalamitsi


And while speaking of him, another movie, 'Before Midnight' was filmed at his home in 2013.  The film was the final one in a trilogy of movies that began with 'Before Sunrise' (1995) and 'Before Sunset' (2004). Featuring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, it was shot in 15 days. The PLF House was loaned to the production crew by Benaki Museum.


Donkeys on Hydra are still used as transport vehicles


The Academy-Award-winning 'The Guns of Navarone' filmed in 1961 on Rhodes had a $2 million budget which was quickly blown because of the costs of filming there: the terrain was so rough that many of the locations could only be accessed by donkey and they hired 1,000 Greek soldiers to play the German army.


Island escape and escapade


One that I'd never heard of before writing this piece is 'Surprise Package'  a 1960's movie also filmed on Rhodes. The movie is about an American gangster sent back to his Greek homeland and is supervised by a corrupt police chief and the plot thickens from there. The stars include Yul Brenner as the gangster and co-stars include Mitzi Gaynor and Noel Coward.

Greece for your eyes only

A more recent movie, 'For Your Eyes Only' (1981) takes James Bond through locations in England and Italy and includes scenes shot in Rhodes and Meteora in central Greece where six Greek Orthodox monasteries are built atop stunning rock formations.



Boy on a Dolphin - Sofia Loren room in Hydra hotel

A 23-year-old Sofia Loren played a beautiful sponge diver in 'Boy on the Dolphin' a movie filmed on the island of Hydra in 1957.  Today on the island there is a statue in a park overlooking the sea of a boy on a dolphin to commemorate the movie. We also stayed in the Sofia Loren room at Hydra Icons hotel last year.  


Heading to new adventures this fall


Summer has on its way into the history books and September is definitely showing signs of autumn.  And for those who've been with us awhile, you know that autumn is the time of year we straddle two worlds: Greece and the US.  The next time you hear from us, we will be in the village of Manson on the shores of Lake Chelan in Washington State.  We have a lot to learn about that place we made our 'other home' last fall and hope you'll join us in our journey of discovery!

Thanks for the time you spent with us today!! Safe travels to you and yours ~

Linking with:

Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday



Wednesday, August 28, 2019

On Leonard Cohen's Hydra Island


'Oh like a bird on the wire,
like a drunk in the midnight choir
I have tried in my way to be free.'
--Leonard Cohen

Hydra - Leonard Cohen's home for a decade



We've just returned from Hydra (E-drah) island. It is the one getting a lot of attention these days thanks to this year's documentary, 'Marianne and Leonard: Words of Love'

Several of you have written us about
Nick Broomsfield's film that tells the story of Leonard Cohen, the Canadian singer, songwriter, poet and novelist who spent a decade living on this island in the Saronic Gulf, just off the coast of the Peloponnese. Marianne Ihlen, the ex-wife of Norwegian novelist Axel Jensen, (who also lived on Hydra back then) was Cohen's 'muse' and girlfriend during his time on the island.

Cohen died in 2016 at the age of 85, many long years after his time on Hydra. But still, if you've read his poetry or heard his music or watched the recent film, you can't help but think of this wordsmith when you visit Hydra. 

A home in Hydra



It takes only one visit to understand why Cohen's creative juices flowed while living here. And after several visits, your own creative juices seem to come to life as well. Even a short stay will refresh your senses.

If ever we were to live on a Greek island, we both say, Hydra would likely be the place. While it swells with tourists each summer, it remains for most of the year, a small charming place where you could lose yourself to your imagination, take an afternoon nap without apology or spend an hour or more at a harborside taverna sipping an icy Aperol Spritz. 

The road around Hydra - two- and four-footed traffic only



Even though you can buy trendy fashions at small boutiques and pricey baubles in tiny jewelry stores during the frenzied summer months, it still feels different; like you've stepped back in time on this island. Perhaps so, because Hydra doesn't allow motorized vehicles other than the small garbage truck that makes its rounds each day.  

Suitcases carried to the hotel and guests walked ahead


Horses, donkeys, and mules stand at harborside to take you or your suitcases where you need to go.  Human-powered hand carts are also available.  And generally you walk (or ride a horse or donkey) to where you need to go.  That part of the island is probably much like it was when Cohen began living there.

The port town where the majority of restaurants and tourist accommodations are clustered along narrow whitewashed pathways, is the largest one on the island. The last census - in 2011 - tallied 1,900 living in it and less than a few dozen residents in the nearby villages .  So there might be a few hundred more now, certainly not a place that is over-populated or 'over-touristed'.

Back in September of 1960, when Cohen was 26 years old, he purchased a three-story white washed home for $1,500US using a bequest of his recently deceased grandmother. The building had no electricity, plumbing or running water. He liked it that way.  In fact the story behind his famous, 'Bird on the Wire' is that he was inspired to write it as he watched his island being transformed with electric wires. He wasn't pleased, but one day he noticed a bird on the wire. . .

One of the yachts visiting Hydra during our stay



He'd likely be blown away now as he watched the summertime ferries disgorge hundreds of tourists each day. He'd also likely gasp at the size and number of yachts that moor each night in the tiny harbor. He'd probably be stunned at the many shops along the harbor catering to those visitors these days.

Fishing boat's arrival Sunday morning brought shoppers and cats



In the fall the boutiques, restaurants and accommodations begin shutting down for the season. There's always a few accommodations and restaurants that stay open year round, but  there are decidedly fewer options for travelers than during the warm weather months. 

A blustery wind and rain storm welcomed us to the island last November; the place so empty, it seemed our own private island. Hotel and restaurant choices were few. Another gusty, chilly wind greeted us in March just as the island was waking to 'the (tourist) season'.



Hydrofoil from Athens stops several times daily in Hydra in summer


Last week the place was teeming with ferries and yachts in the harbor and the town pulsating with visitors. The contrasts between seasons are vivid and each had its own special charm.
Overlooking an island village



With the summer wind much more welcoming (meaning, less fierce!) than the wind on our previous trips, we set off on foot to visit the nearby villages and were gobsmacked by the vast beauty the island has to offer

We understand why Cohen was inspired to write:


Days of Kindness

Greece is a good place
To look at the moon, isn't it
You can read by moonlight
You can read on the terrace
You can see a face
As you saw it when you were young
There was good light then
Oil lamps and candles
And those little flames
That floated on a cork in olive oil

(Those little floating corks in olive oil are still used in Greece!)

Off to another village in what seems another world - Hydra



That is it for this week. We thank you for your time with us and hope that if your travel plans ever bring you to Greece, that you include a night or two on Hydra. It's magic!

For those seeking information about Hydra (getting there, places to stay, etc.) visit: 
Hydra Direct 





Linking soon with:

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Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday







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