The day Greece lived on cash

Up to now you would never have known about the Greece Euro exit discussion from the ground. Shops took credit cards as usual, people looked warm as usual, tourists enjoyed everything Greece has to offer as usual.

Today feels different. I started the day settling the remainder of my hotel bill in cash. The supermarket only took cash, so did the pharmacy. Banks are closed for the week they tell  me. I have a suspicion those credit card machines work just fine, in reality the Greeks want tourists to give them cash. It may have something to do with the Finance minister overnight announcement that tourists will not, for the foreseeable future, be subjected to the €60 a day withdraral limit Greeks ought to abide to. I cannot blame the locals for being cautious, wanting to hang on to the paer rather than trust electronic funds, if I were them I would do the same.

I moved hotels today  and encountered amazing hospitality from the hosts! True generous, kind natured people, going out of their way to make you feel happy. They are worried, everyone around seems a bit more uneasy, yet in this corner of Mykonos everyone is better off than most Greeks, so perhaps this is not the most representative corner of the country. Out of my patio I can survey a blue golf swarming with private yachts, there is a beach party going on, my hostess tells me the locals are determined to ensure tourism is unaffected as they have already started getting some cancellations from weary Europeans.image

I wish them luck but I feel a bit sad myself. The day is beautiful and the place marvelous, but I feel a bit like someone having a party while the neighbours have a wake.

If you care to see how bad it is for some Greeks at the moment the link below is quite instructional:

Greek referendum on the Euro deal

So proud of the announcement to hold a referendum on the EU in or out by the Greeks.  It may go either way but I cannot help thinking that this is the cradle of democracy so let them live by thir sword and decide their fate the democratic way. Too bad for this beautiful country that it has to go through so much turmoil.

Grexit…. Not while on holiday!

image Anyone with a TV, at least in Europe, should by now be aware that Greece is fighting to renegotiate it’s mandatory payment to its bailout creditors – the International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank and European Commission by 30 June…or else. Intense negotiations in Brussels for the past week or so have reached no mutually satisfying compromise. The Greeks imageare trying to avert the imposition of tax and pensionable age increases, which will further kneel it’s poverty descending people. The creditors want guarantees before choking up more money…? The latest is that an agreement needs to be reached by Monday, as Germany is fearful of the effect any further delay may have on the unstable, bouncing Euro. Here in Greece and all over Europe there’s talk of Grexit, the possible EU departure of Greece, a return to the drachma, nationalising banks…pandemonium. The Greeks are fearful for their future but fed-up with Europe and crave a return to a more autonomous democracy. Europe is fed-up with Greece the unreliable borrower. Who’s right? Probably both. Who gets the blame? Both should. The Greeks don’t want to raise the pension age citing the 25% unemployment rate and general near poverty of it’s pensioners. But it is workers paying for the national pension funds, so, common sense entails, longer working lives would mean greater (though later) pensions. EU do not see the argument, Greeks do not grasp deferred rewards as a functioning system…. I’m no politician or international fund manager but how could anyone hope that Greece and Germany would ever see the world the same way to begin with? The EU utopians had been so utterly oblivious to differences in perception, ethos, way of life and priorities among the peoples of Europe. How could they be so blind? The North take life as seriously as a megalithic construction, rise early, work hard, save money, live a structured, mostly rational existence by the clock they invented and manufacture so faultlessly….The South live on a different temporal scale… A proverb present in slightly different versions all around the Mediterranean basin speaks to the mañana symptom ever present here, and says something like ‘don’t do today what you can do tomorrow’. Southerners want relatively little out of life because they are driven mostly by the appreciation of pause and sentiment: life is to be tasted not rushed through, a simple existence shared with friends and family is more precious than success and material possessions. Of course this is a huge overgeneralization, and not all Greeks are Zorbas just as not all Germans are Merkels. But there are evident trends and fundamental differences between Northern and Southern European people just as there are differences in the landscape, fauna, weather, shade of the blue of the sky and variety of birds who bother to sing in the morning across this continent. It’s not a natural expectation to think all people share the same view of life and are happy with the same thing. So what is really the surprise about Greece vs German run EU at the moment? Could it ever have been any other way? If Greece exits, next it will be Spain, Portugal, possibly Italy. Then there will probably be a Northern EU and a Southern EU, and maybe this is how it should have been all along. Yet are we all so different? Ever-since I have arrived in Greece the predominant language imagearound is German….more German-speaking tourists can be encountered sipping the Greek drinks, soaking in the Greek sunshine, enjoying the food, the sights and the sea than any other EU nation. And they enjoy it all with the same gusto as the locals do. In the beginning of the season German newspapers ran stories around a possible Greek backlash against German tourists…”spit in the ouzo”, they called it, disgusting, I know, but a legitimate fear in a way. Yet no such thing is happening. Greek people are wise enough to know it’s governments, representatives of national assets and average societal views, rather than individual people, that are responsible for the current ideology clash. They’re nice and hospitable to the German-speaking tourists just as they are welcoming to all tourists. For in the end, in those moments when we choose to enjoy life, we all appreciate the same simple things.

Getting lost in Naxos

As a travel destination Naxos, the largest of the Cyclades, provides the opportunity of a balanced experience of both culture and nature. Naxos town (Known as Chora) is a postcard worthy classic Cycladic town with a twist: the Castle on the hill as well as the labyrinth design of its old town, reminiscent of it’s Venetian alleyways, make it feel a bit Italian.
Coming in from the port, the one striking image is that of the Palatia islet, home to the Portara, symbol of Naxos, a lonely freestanding marble door. This 2500 year old structure is the only surviving portion of an attempted Temple of Apollo, ancient structure that never got completed and, over the years, got dismantled so the marble can be used in the building of the town. Impressive in it’s size and precision of the stone cut, the Portara is the favourite place to watch the sunset from, the evening pilgrimage of every good tourist.

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As for Chora, the most interesting part, as mentioned, is the old town, clustered atop the hill above the harbor. To understand the town one must first understand the history. After the 1204 sacking of Constantinople, Venetians siezedmany of the Aegean islands. Marco Sanudo captured Naxos in 1207 and united these under the Duchy of Naxos. Eager for independence from the Doge in Venice he eventually broke away from the Republic and allied himself with the Latin Emperor, thus becoming the Duke of the Archipelago. His allies and descendants ruled directly for 300 years.

The old Venetian nobility devised a class system which is still apparent in the layout of the town itself. There are two distinct neighbourhoods: the lower Bouros, with narrow lanes and modest size dwellings, where the native Greeks lived, and the higher up Kastro, more palatial in appearance, as it was once occupied by the Venetian noblemen and their families. The Castle and Catholic Cathedral were founded by Marco Sanudo himself, and Venetian-style houses in the Kastro still bear the old families’ coats-of-arms.




In an old tower of the Castle one finds the Venetian museum, which I visited. It’s filled with antiques and quite well provided for, considering it is a private museum, founded by a direct descendant of the most notable of the old families, Barozzi – della Rocca.


The waterfront is more typically Greek, happy and carefree and filled with cafes and restaurants. The food is fresh and of outstanding flavour….and the Greek salad comes with a sheep worth of feta, so don’t try and loose weight here 🙂

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Santorini magic

Two full days in Santorini and I’m enchanted and exhausted at once. Clocking in 7 – 8 km per day beween the three villages of Fira, Firostefani and Imerovigli, up and down the hilly track, I feel I relate to the poor donkeys, the main transportation from the port to the upper village in Fira, who must be the hardest working donkeys on Earth.  Yet though my body is depleted my soul is full and joyful for this island must be one of the most enchanted places on the planet.

I will let the  images relate my 48 hours of experiencing views, walks, sunsets, friendly cats, hard working donkeys, excellent coffee and breathtaking beauty.

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Hello Norway – a brief encounter with Oslo

For a while I have been meaning to visit another Scandinavian country. The opportunity finally came and I got to attend a conference in Oslo, last week. It was the best thing ever to have the company foot the bill, as, frankly, Oslo is insanely expensive. Most tourists complain about the high cost of justabout everything but you don’t get to appreciate just how scary are the prices until you land there, and then choke up 150 Euro for a taxi ride into town. Needless to say when I eventually returned to the airport I did so by train….

Oslo, from what I could see, is a rather small city populated by some 600000 inhabitants. The weather is usually of Scandinavian quality (i.e., low, grey, clounds, rain, a bit of sunshine, more rain) and the town is kind of industrial looking. Not too pretty, other than the compact city centre, where the Parliament, National Theatre, University and Royal Palace are scattered along the main street. You could walk this from one end to another in approximately 40 minutes.



A bit to one side, by the harbour, one finds the City Hall, an edifice resembling the Lincoln Centre in New York (though proportionally smaller) which is famous the world over for being the setting of the Nobel Peace Prize, which is given out each December in a much publicised ceremony. The conference offered a reception at the Hall, and I have to say, I was quite proud to be walking up the same stairs as some of the world’s greatest humanitarians.

Finally, in a modernist corner of the waterfront somewhat removed from the centre proper one finds the new Opera House: a large Carrara marble monstrosity that took 12 years to build and cost 120 million Euros so that people can walk up and down the slanted structure. Personally, I dislike this type of architecture, but some people like it…judge fir yourselves.


Alive and in Spain

Oh, ok, so after renewing my annual subscription and realising I pay for silence…I decided it’s time to get back online.

Being on vacation helps. Currently in Spain, land of sunshine, 38 degrees in May, cerveza and tapas, but,  let’s not forget, centuries upon centuries of culture ….

Not too many words on this momentous relaunch … Just a few images from Madrid.

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New York New York

Start spreading the news… New York is THE city I feel I belong to the most. It’s really strange given I’ve never lived there …. and yet, something about the place speaks to me. I love it, and don’t know why…I see all its faults, cracks and limitations, quirkiness, ugliness and occasional heartlessness …and yet I truly and absolutely love it. The first time I went there I fell in Love with the city instantly and, at the time, put it down to its similarity to London, where I grew up and came of age. Yet, somehow, New York is more ME than London: less majestic, less historical, equally gritty but somehow, more alive. A recent trip to London made the comparison easier this time: whereas London is my first love….New York is the forbidden steamy affair! I just irrationally and inexplicably  LOVE New York. Shopping may have something to do with it. Midtown is a shopaholic’s Nirvana and during my very brief 30 hour trip I still managed an interlude to 5th Avenue…One and a half hours later I came out with a big smile on my face, one top, one pair of nice trousers, one bag and 3 pairs of shoes…. You couldn’t have enough choice for that mad spree anywhere else… So now I am enjoying my Parisian evening listening to Sinatra and musing over how cultured, elegant Paris is my home, yet New York has my superficial materialistic heart 🙂 image image image image image