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Ten things you should know before dating a Greek person

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So as it happens, Dave and I have now been “dating” (what a stupid word) for almost a year and a half now, and living together for over a year. Wow! Unbelievable.

And – Dave is from the UK. I used to live in London – which is geographically located in the UK, but it’s not really England. That was ten years ago too. I thought I knew some stuff about the English – you know, the stereotypes. Perhaps I was right to a certain extent, but there is always more than the stereotypes.

I realised that there are several cultural differences. There are things Greeks take for granted when hanging out (or dating) a Greek. Those things do not necessarily define “Greekness” – what is Greekness, anyway? But for someone considering dating a Greek person, it’s helpful to have a look…

FAMILY

1. Greek people will need to speak to their family several times a week – if not a day. They will also need to meet their family “quite often”.

2. Greek people’s mothers will remind them to take their jacket. No matter how old they are.

FOOD

3. Greek people will need to eat food, REAL food (= a dish containing tomato sauce and olive oil) several times a week. Most Greek people will also have to eat loads of meat (I am not one of them).

4. Greek people like ice-cold coffee.

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5. Greek people will insist that Greek cleaning standards are higher than everyone else’s – although this is only in their own homes and not outdoors. It particularly applies for dishwashing.

6. Greek people like having friends over for a coffee or meal. The more, the merrier.

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7. When Greek people travel, they will compare EVERYTHING they see or do, with what they see or do back home. The sun will always be less bright, the sea less clear and the food less tasty. (I am definitely guilty of all three).

8. Greek people will invariably moan and complain about everything going on in Greece – but they firmly believe that it’s the best country in the world.

GENERAL

9. Greek people do not like planning everything. Some Greek people like planning, but they still don’t want to plan EVERYthing. Many Greek people plan their summer vacation at the last minute.

10. Greek people will generally be a little late for their appointments. Ten of fifteen minutes is acceptable. If you are Norwegian, you’ll definitely need to work hard on this 🙂

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This post might seem funny at first, but as they say, there is truth in every joke. Share if you agree!

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Secrets to staying young, being happy, and achieving success

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Just random thoughts, most of which have been copied from Quora answers…

  1. Follow a healthy diet, which includes drinking a lot of water.
  2. Exercise.
  3. Get enough sleep!
  4. Never stop learning.
  5. Laugh and find humour every day.
  6. Play. We do not stop playing because we are old; we grow old because we stop playing.
  7. Have a dream. When you lose your dreams, you die.
  8. Anybody can grow older. The idea is to grow up by always finding the opportunity in change.
  9. Have no regrets. The only people who fear death are those with regrets. Remember, people don’t  have regrets for what they did, but rather for things they did not do.
  10. Avoid fear.
  11. Avoid stress.
  12. Love!

Two weeks on Peloponnese beaches – part 2 :)

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If you’ve already read Part 1 of our Peloponnese trip, you must be super-eager to read Part 2 🙂

Based at our campsite in Mavrovounio, we decided to go on a tour of Mani on the following day. Looking at the map, you will see the Peloponnese has three peninsulas on the south – Mani is the middle one. On that day we drove past the south part of Mani, south of Areopoli and Gytheio.

The first place we visited (and by far the best known activity of the area) were the caves at Diros. I have been there twice before, but I don’t mind visiting this place again and again. What makes this cave unique, is that most of the route is done in a boat! Pictures were allowed in this cave, so here is one. Geez, I should get a new camera.

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The tour of Mani took us several hours, as the roads are pretty windy, but was totally worth it. It’s a super mountainous area – Mount Taygetos is over 2,400 metres tall! My favourite place was an amazing village called Vatheia, where all houses were made of stone.

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We mostly drove on the road close to the seaside and visited a couple of beaches there, but unfortunately we didn’t get to see all of them. So we have to go back at some point! If you can read Greek, have a look at this article for a list of beaches in that area. If you can’t… too bad 😛

After an exhausting drive, I went to bed at 22.30. Wow!

This was our temporary home in Camping Kronos. If you are ever in the area, I really recommend this campsite. Though the facilities are not very new, this place has a soul!

(Yes, Dave somehow fits in that tent).

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Next day we set off to Kalamata. We had been told to stop at Stoupa on our way there, but honestly this was the most disappointing place of the whole trip. Lots of crowds, and super touristy – it actually looked like a resort for German pensioners. So we drove on, and found a little taverna by the sea after Kardamyli, where I swam for a while and we had a quick lunch. Eventually we arrived in Kalamata and stayed at campsite Fare for a couple of nights. For a city campsite, that wasn’t too bad – plus it was close to the town, so we went for an evening stroll. If we didn’t know there is a crisis in Greece, there is no way we would have guessed, as everyone was out and about. Crisis? What crisis? I also had a quick talk with a local waitress, who was very surprised when she heard that we are touring the Peloponnese, and said she hoped to do it as well, which I thought was very sad – after all, she lives there…

I somehow managed to survive the cockroaches in the campsite (even the one that was moving around in the toilet), and the next day we set off to Mystras, which is a Byzantine settlement close to Sparti. It took us almost an hour and a half to drive those 60 mountainous kilometres, that offered some stunning views and some pretty cool tunnels, like this one!

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I had visited Mystras a few years ago, but I guess we were lazy and had just visited a few parts of it, and therefore I didn’t remember that the site is huge! There are actually two entrances to it. Tip: If you’ve been in the car for over 2 hours and are therefore desperate for the toilet, make sure you go to the main entrance at the bottom, rather than the one of the top, as they don’t seem to have a toilet there!

Mystras used to be a very important Byzantine settlement, second only to Constantinople (Istanbul)! We should have realised then that it would take us several hours to go through all of it. Obviously, there are a lot of churches there – my favourite one was the most remote one, called Perivleptos.

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We also climbed all the way up to the castle. If you are looking up from the lower entrance, the castle will look like it’s very far. Guess what – it is!!! But the views were pretty cool, so I guess it was worth it – though I was personally thinking about my next beach day 🙂

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When we left the site (after having bought two extra bottles of water each… July in Greece is pretty hot) we were absolutely starving – which is natural, considering we spent a little more than four hours in Mystras. We were super lucky as we found an amazing restaurant called Ktima Skreka very close to Mystras. This was one of the few restaurants in the small village of Pikoulianika since a long time, and currently is owned by the grandsons of the original owner. This was by far the best meal we had in the south peloponnese at very reasonable prices, and I really really wish we could go there more often! YUM!

Next day it was time to hit the road again – our next destination would be a beach called Finikounta, on the south of the left peninsula of the Peloponnese. But there were more ancient sites to visit, and it was Ancient Messini’s turn. This is another big site, and again we managed to arrive there in the afternoon, when the sun is hottest – we are actually very good at that!

The ruins in Ancient Messini date from around 5th – 2nd century BC, and within the settlement one can find sanctuaries, public buildings, fortifications, houses, tombs, a theatre and a huge and very well preserved stadium. It is quite possibly the worst sign-posted ancient site in Greece (I haven’t been to all of them yet though) and it is quite possible to completely miss the stadium which, in my opinion, was the most impressive structure. How can you miss a stadium? Go there and see what you think. The red arrow below points at myself sitting at the stadium!

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Another thing I found impressive there was this plant. No, it’s not what it looks like.

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So we drove down, on the east coast of the region of Messinia. We passed by a few nice areas, and ended up at Camping Thines, right on Finikounta beach. This is a well organised campsite, where a lot of families choose to go, and where the door closes at midnight. So our return at 23.30 wasn’t received with great enthusiasm by our French neighbours, who declared that “WE SLEEP”! Organised campsites like that are not really my thing, but this was was definitely good, and there was A LOT of space around tents – which you don’t always get in Greek campsites.

The next day was finally spent on the beach, doing pretty much nothing – for the most part I was dozing off and Dave was typing away on the tablet (nerd). Bliss!

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In the next couple of days we managed to visit three castles – Koroni, Methoni and Pylos! If you are ever in the area but have limited time, I would probably suggest visiting Methoni, which is a real castle and very well preserved. Koroni has kept the castle structure and surprisingly people still live there, while Pylos castle is pretty big and imposing. Views from all of them were obviously very nice. If I was a queen (or a king!) I think I would have preferred to stay in Methoni castle, as the sandy beach next to it was really nice!

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Though, to be fair, one of my favourite beaches and spots in the area is Tsapi beach. It takes a while to get there, but it’s super amazing – there’s a campsite (where I had the second best meal in the Peloponnese), a taverna, and an uncrowded beach with very clear water (at least when we were there).

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Leaving Pylos, I realised that we didn’t have too many days left until I had to get back to Athens to go back to the office 😦 So I figured we’d find somewhere to stay close to the coast near Kyparissia, where I really wanted to spend a few hours. The highlight of our room stays in the Peloponnese was definitely Terpsi rooms, at the village of Terpsithea, where we had a huge room with complete kitchen and even washing machine at the extraordinary price of 30 euros / night! They were not right on the beach, but close enough to the beautiful beach of Elaia, a few kilometres away from Kyparissia.

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This was a very quite spot, until a group of scouts appeared out of nowhere. Apparently, on this weekend there was a bit scout meeting from all around the Peloponnese! I hope they cleaned the beach afterwards, as I managed to collect a big bad of trash before they had even arrived. I wonder if we are ever going to get better at this???

Our next day was a bit of a weird day, as we visited three rather weird buildings. Dave wrote a very comprehensive post about it, but I could sum it up as a fairy-tale castle, the temple of Epicurius Apollo up in the middle of nowhere (which can be explained by the fact that Iktinos, the architect who is most famous for designing the Parthenon, was exiled in the area), and the church of Agia Foteini near Tripoli. I think this horse outside the fairy-tale castle really liked me!

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To complete our day, we spent the night at the weirdest rooms for rent I have ever stayed in the past few years – not refurbished, but definitely with a character that reminded me of my grandma’s balcony back in the 80s. The owner was great though – and there was even a ping-pong table 🙂

Our last place to visit was Mycenae. To be honest, since ancient Greek buildings were never of great interest to me (this has started to change though… I guess I’m getting old!!!) I hadn’t quite understood what Ancient Mycenae was about – I thought that we would see some ancient tombs. However, this site, which is quite big, contains the remains of a castle and a city established in the 13th century BC. That is 800 years before the Acropolis and the Parthenon were built… I was most impressed by their underground cistern, to which entrance was unfortunately not allowed, though it used to be in the past. Why didn’t I just go in there? No clue!!!

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And with this we took the way home. That was a lot of information to take in, even though I had been to most of these places before, and it left me a little tired… and looking forward to the next trip 🙂

Tips for the south Peloponnese in summer:

  • Bring very light clothes. The Peloponnese is warmer than most of Greece.
  • Don’t go to historical sites from 11.00 – 16.00. Many of them are open until 20.00 anyway.
  • Go to the beach!
  • Drink plenty of water!
  • Drive, drive, drive – and try to come in a jeep if you can 🙂

A few numbers…

  • Number of nights we stayed:16 (of which 9 in rooms and 7 in campsites)
  • Number of kilometres travelled: 1920
  • Money spent on gas: 197 (the Starlet Jeep is very efficient)
  • Money spent on accommodation: 414 euro (where are the good old days of couchsurfing and free camping!)
  • Money spent on food / drinks / ice cream: you don’t wanna know!

Two weeks on Peloponnese beaches – part 1 :)

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Among the referendum, capital controls, and other general madness, Dave and I decided to take a two-week break and go to the Peloponnese. In fact we decided to go there because two of my best friends were getting married close to Neapoli Voion, in the area of Lakonia, but we thought it would be a good idea to extend our visit and see some places where I had been before, and also some new ones 🙂

The wedding took place in a small church overlooking the sea. I won’t go into lots of detail about the wedding here, but I should mention that Greek customs require that the groom’s male friends shave the groom (yes, properly shave him) before the wedding! Somehow I was invited to this all-male event, and this was the result 🙂

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Future advice to self: If you have a wedding to go to in the evening, don’t go swimming at 4pm as your hair will never dry and though beach hair looks good in several occasions, it’s not the best style for a wedding. Obviously Dave doesn’t have that problem. My hair dried eventually, a couple of hours or so after the wedding!

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Next day, everyone left to go vote for the “Yes / No” referendum… but we decided to stick to our plan and continue our trip!

Our first stop was a small island called Elafonisos with the famous Simos beach. This was by far the best beach we saw in this trip, and in retrospect I would have liked to stay there another day! However, there were more umbrellas than 15 years ago when I was last there… I also loved the sunset from the west side of the island – red sun sinking in the pink sky.

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On the next day we visited a cave in Kastania area which has been open for a few years only, and as it’s a bit remote it doesn’t attract big crowds – it’s really nice, but photography is not allowed which we thought was a shame. More photos = more advertising = more visitors! In the evening we arrived at our next stop, Monemvasia, and swam in Pori beach – a really long sandy beach and almost no people! Bliss!

We spent a few hours on the next day checking out the churches and other buildings on the rock of Monemvasia. I had been there twice before, and it’s a shame that visiting the castle was not possible due to reconstruction. Perhaps next time! To be honest I was not so impressed with the castle this time, possibly because it was too hot and I couldn’t wait to go to the beach! So we asked around and were told to go to Xifias / Ampelakia beach, six kilometres from Monemvasia. That was a small family beach close to the road, and I didn’t find it particularly relaxing – Pori was much better. What I loved, however, was our little drive after our swim – we arrived at a nameless village with a little cemetary literally next to the sea. It might not be the happiest of places we saw, nevertheless that image stayed with me.

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Our next destination was a small coastal village called Limenas Ieraka, which is really a lagoon. To get there we first had to go up the mountain and then down again, and the view over the village was amazing – this place could have easily been in Switzerland!!! We stopped for a quick snack and I went snorkelling – super clean water, and lots of fish! The Mediterranean is not exactly well known for its sea life, still snorkelling here was both refreshing and relaxing.

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We then set off for the picturesque town of Gytheio, which would be our next stop. On our way there, my eye caught something really strange along the coast. It looked like a piece of rusty metal somewhere far and high… but as I was driving, I thought I had made a mistake. A little later, though, that piece of metal came up again. It looked like a mast… Crazy? Yes! But true. We went down to the beach to discover a huge shipwreck just sitting on the sand!

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It turned out that the boat had reached the coast in the beginning of the 80s, and noone had cared to do anything with it – apart from tourists and visitors, who no doubt have taken thousands of pictures. To me, this was one of the highlights of our holiday 🙂

Getting to Gytheio, we decided to stay there for the night. We had the biggest dakos ever – even Dave couldn’t finish it! But the best meal was the next day, on a beach called Mavrovounio, where we stayed at the camping that time forgot – Camping Kronos, one of my favourite places to relax. And so, this was our first camping meal – we somehow managed to forget the olives, feta, peppers and onions, still we call it a greek salad!

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And this is the end of part 1 – click here for part 2! For those interested, you can check out our full itinerary here… Can you guess where Mavrovounio is? 🙂

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Grisis

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I suppose some of you have been following the news regarding Greece quite closely over the last few days. If not, here is a very brief summary…

Well, first of all, you might have heard that we’ve had the crisis in Greece since 2009. This has affected lots of things – from salaries to VAT to unemployment rates to number of protests… you name it. Hard austerity measures were imposed, and in January 2015 the people voted for a new government, that promised to be different and to lead the country out of the dead-end.

On Saturday, 27 June, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras announced that there will be a referendum on 5th July, and people can vote for “Yes” or “No”.

What is the actual question that people are asked to answer? You can read more about it here, and if you understand it 100% please let me know, you will probably be the first person outside those who wrote it who can make total sense of it.

This announcement was followed by a statement that there will be a limit to money withdrawals from banks, of 60 euro max per day per card. Ouch. On top of that, some foreign companies don’t accept Greek credit cards anymore. Double ouch – at least for those who travel or somehow need to make transactions with foreign companies. And Greeks can’t send money abroad anymore – this includes those whose children study abroad. Triple ouch.

This is now being followed by massive queues at ATMs (predictably), along with massive queues at gas stations and massive queues at supermarkets – as well as big gatherings in Syntagma square and elsewhere in the country, where supporters of “Yes” or “No” show their intentions.

Times like that, it somehow makes a little more sense to leave everything and start travelling… Perhaps in my new mobile home. This is Dave’s bike case 🙂

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The tactual museum in Athens

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Living in a city means that there are lots of things to do. Lots of gigs, galleries, talks, and museums. Athens has many museums – the exact number is rather unclear, as it depends on what you call a “museum” and what you call “Athens” – but Dave has put a rather comprehensive list in this blog post, and he plans to visit at least one museum per week. As he is using a lottery system, we can’t pick out the next museum ourselves – it’s down to luck.

We drew the number, and this week it was the tactual museum – a museum intended for blind people, where people can touch the exhibits, unlike in most museums.

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There are only five museums of its kind in the world! It is open to everyone to visit, and it’s something I highly recommend. I had been meaning to go there for years now, but I always postponed it for some reason.

When we arrived, they told us a few things about the museum, they gave us a mask to cover our eyes and they encouraged us to wear it before looking at the exhibits.

Now as some of you know, I have a 99-year-old grandmother, who has lost her sight since many years now. Although she is not 100% blind, she can not see properly.

Trying to understand what was in front of me with my fingertips was something I had never really done before – at least not so consciously. It was a pretty big shock to feel like a blind person. I guess the best way to describe it is “helpless”, or perhaps “limited”. It actually freaked me out, to think that some people cannot see what most of us can…

Touching copies of world-famous statues was also quite a thing. I could understand where the eyes, the nose and the mouth were, but there was no way I would be able to distinguish if it’s a man or a woman – at least not if they had clothes on.

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Obviously Dave refrained from touching certain parts of certain statues. Aye!

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This was a great day, full of emotions. This museum made me appreciate how lucky I am – and how much we tend to take things for granted sometimes…