Monday, 28 February 2011

Ouzo/Tsipouro meze prices ...

Skiathos is not cheap for anything as you know ...

A recent price comparison in ouzerias, between Skiathos and Volos

Skiathos:

Ouzo/Tsipouro €3
Ouzo/Tsipouro meze €3.50

Volos:

Ouzo/Tsipouro €0.50
Ouzo/Tsipouro meze €2.50

I always wondered why the locals seemed so happy in winter in Volos, and the ouzerias are packed regardless of the weather ...


Like a winter mist ...

The rain has returned ...

Its dull and its grey here at the moment. Grey buildings, grey skies, grey seas, grey mist, and a fine rain that blends them all into one. If you ski, then when its like this its called a 'white out' so Skiathos currently is a 'Grey out'

The cafes are little huddle groups, in one they play backgammon, and the crack of dice reverberates around the plastic tent that is the seating area. In another they play cards, this afternoon, someone had electronic scrabble.

The trick is to buy a large hot drink, and slowly sip it over the hours, with your friends enjoying a game or two. You get to pass the time, and stay warm at the cafe owners expense. This is a popular way of passing the time and not having to pay to heat your house.

The island is feeling the lack of funds, no-one has any money to spare. Huddled over a hot chocolate, you are saving money. The cafe owners do not make any money, at this time of the year. But they do run up large heating bills which have to be paid in May/June.

So when you are here in Summer, and that cappuccino seems expensive - well yes it is, and now you know the reason why ...




Academy night ...

Nice one Colin ...

He did it, Best actor for The Kings speech, and very well deserved.
Best actress to Natalie Portman for Black Swan, and yes i think they got that one right too.
Two very humble acceptance speeches - Just right.

We have two members of the academy here on Skiathos, hope their votes went to the right people from this small rock here in the aegean ...

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Carnival ...

The weather stayed dry, but freezing cold ...

We continue with the run up to Pasca here on Skiathos. Church was very busy this morning, and Nikos was ready and waiting at the Bakery, with the smell of fresh bread wafting through the doors into the square.

The Paralia was busy this afternoon, Adults and children wrapped up against the bitter wind chill. Plenty of loud music to keep the adults entertained and the children happy.

Many though stayed at home in the warm, rather than watch the brief parade.

Next stop - Clean Monday ...


Saturday, 26 February 2011

It stopped raining ...

For about an hour this morning ...

Shutters opened and grey heavy skies again, and the drip of raindrops on the roof. A steady trickle of water flowing down the street, and over our still blocked storm drain.

Daylight brings a new addition to the storm drain, it seems overnight some friendly soul has dumped some asvesti down there. A fresh look to the blocked grills, and a watery white line heading down the cobbles.

Looking good for Monday on our San Francisco friend, the rotating weather wotsit. However i wish we had some of that snow, that our friends in Grass Valley, California have - that would be fun ...


Friday, 25 February 2011

Logs for the fire ...

This afternoon i was in the wood pile ...

Its getting near the end of winter, time to sort the logs in readiness for use, or store them for another six months. Yes its still cold at the moment, We even had a brief interlude between the showers too this afternoon, but the weather could change at any moment (Monday looks good) Logs size A (Large) separated from Logs size B (Small)

Small logs are great for the trusty woodburner (Inferno encased in metal in the corner of the room) what i am short of is kindling. I have been reserving a fencepost, that was washed up on Aghia Eleni for this purpose.

So this afternoon i was hand sawing this, into nice logs 20cm long for the woodburner. This post has been here around a year, so was nice and dry. It was still worthy of the effort, and the assistance of my little helper, loading and unloading the logs from an apple crate.

Tonight to the roar of the fire we had heat, and the pitter patter of rain on the roof. Its still cold but the wind has abated for now ...




Greek Wedding Invitation ...

We are delighted to have been invited to a Greek Wedding ...

It was a lovely surprise, as we have never been to one before. Living near the church, you see many weddings, and its quite a social occasion. A great opportunity to dress up, look your best and enjoy the special occasion.

The invitation was left with a Greek friend to pass on to us. A lovely card specially made. It was handed over, along with an update of what was inside, before we could even open it.

Despite not being the first to read the contents, its a lovely surprise, and we are looking forward to going to the wedding.

Living on an island, your Greek friends, do like to keep up to date, with what is going on ...



Chilly ...

It was a breezy night ...

The rain was beating down on the roof, rubbish blowing around the street all night. It was a lazy start to the day.

Nikos the baker had a lie in too. I went for the bread late at 10.30am, when i walked in he was in a higher state of anxiety than usual. I thought he had sold out, truth was the bread was about to come out of the oven. That was all he had, no pies, no doughnuts or croissants etc. So this morning we had hot bread, not warm bread for breakfast.

I had to criss cross town this morning, meeting the postman, he have me a note to go to the post office to collect a packet. Even the post is relaxed here, sometimes they deliver, sometimes they dont. Today the bills could be delivered but a jiffy bag not.

Two electricians shops visited, neither had what i needed - both awaiting deliveries and the 'shrug of the shoulders' indicating 'avrio' Try again next month

The whole island is awaiting deliveries, Our normal ferry the Express Skiathos disappeared to Piraeus with engine trouble, in December, and was still there two days ago.
The Express Santorini took over, and then did not come on Wednesday 23rd. It has been sent to Libya to collect Greek nationals, who are being evacuated from the civil war there.
Today, the Express Pegasus arrived, her vehicle deck full to the doors with lorries and cars. It arrived very late, and it seems its top speed is a pedestrian 18 knots. It took quite a while to dock, its quite a large boat, and the strong north wind did not help.
The assembled crowd watched as the wind and thrusters made heavy work of lining the boat up correctly. The harbour was packed with cars waiting to get on and the usual scramble to board and to exit when the ramp was lowered.
There may be a few things in the shops later, for a while at least.

Last night we seemed to escape the worst of the storm, but the rain and windchill this morning, certainly are letting us know its a while until summer ...



Thursday, 24 February 2011

Weather warning ...

Its been a bit rough the last few days - but its winter here in Greece.

A few of my friends are getting pretty unhappy that there is no sunshine. Some are distinctly rather grumpy. It makes me wonder if they are prepared for island life.

Its not all sunshine in Greece, its part of the Balklans, and the winter here froze troops to death in the Second World War. Currently its not raining, but the smoke from the chimney is passing the windows at speed, in a downward direction.

Its been wet on and off since Sunday. There has not been any ferries for two days. The best place to be is indoors, and warm. I have learned over the years that the rain in Skiathos when it comes, sometimes lasts for a couple of weeks. Sometimes it comes at you sideways !

Our rotating weather wotsit, says it will be nice on Monday, so all you can do, is throw a log in the trusty woodburner, and open a bottle of red. However the weather has been **** and probably there is none left, as everyone else has the same idea.

Friday has a weather warning, for our locality - click the link to see how it was mentioned in ekathimerini.com today. Seems we are getting away light, but our close proximity to Evia means it may be a little interesting in the morning ...


Tsiknopempti ...

Its Tsiknopempti (Charred Thursday) today ...

Today in preperation for Lent, you are supposed to have a barbecue, and eat as much meat as you can. Its also a time for wine dancing and singing.

However today its a day for coats jumpers and umberella's, a glass of red and a good book by the fire.

Tonight we will have meatballs, always a good option when the weather is bad. Now the bookcase is completed a glass of red has been earned.

Yammas apo Skiathos ...


Grey and breezy morning ...

Looking out of the window, the skies are grey and heavy over the hills ...

It must be quite windy too, when the Olympic from Athens landed this morning. I could hear the propellers on the aircraft very clearly from the airport, as they changed as they taxied.

Take off was quite clear as well, and i am presuming he did not land on the Paralia. The airport is at least 3km away from where i am.


Good Morning ...

From 10km down under the sea ...

Interesting start to the day. an earth tremor at 07.41 this morning.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Quiet day ...

No Ferry today, apparently its a national strike day ...

Needless to say its pretty grim watching TV, as anarchy spreads in Athens. Riots and setting fire to policemen get you no-where.

Pretty depressing really ...

Elsewhere i read, the Elgin Marbles may be returned from London, if Athens agrees that they belong to the British Museum.

I am still trying to work that one out, I thought they belonged to the building with scaffolding and banners on the hill in Athens, where the staff are always on strike ...

Weather widget update:

Thursday: Rain
Friday: Rain
Saturday: Light Rain
Sunday: Light Rain

Flat pack update:

Bookcase is partially complete, local issues if you make noise or use a drill between 2pm and 5pm and after 7pm.

Unless you are Greek, where of course it is your right - regardless of the law

However it is ok to rev up and use a 750cc motorbike outside, with no silencer on the exhaust, for up to two years without any problem at all ...

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Good news ...

For my learned friend in Middlesborough, who visits the blog most days

Mucky jobs ...

The trusty log burner is roaring again ...

Its been cooler of late and as you know by now, rather wet. There is no accounting for this, however, this has had an adverse affect on the log index, and further more the smoke index.

The trusty log burner, like all smokers in time, started to get a bit wheezy. You see all this burning of wood gave the old girl an attack of emphysema.

Emphysema is a long-term, progressive disease of the lungs that primarily causes shortness of breath

So after we started to get a bit smoky, and short of breath indoors, we realised there was a problem of the chronic type, in the old girls tail pipe.

Thats why at 08.30 this morning, i had my first induction in chimney surgery with my friend Jacques - Who even though he hates this job, has to do this on two chimneys, at his house - every three weeks, He burns wood 12 hours a day to keep warm up in the hills.

We emerged, blackened, and with half a bucket of crispy dry soot (No 37 at your local Chinese restaurant)

Now three Olive logs later the washing is dry, and there is not a dry smoky eye in the house ...


The water run ...

There must be snow over on the Pelion ...

How do we know that ? Well the water from the spring at Taxiacharis is cold - today for the first time in ages, i had cold hands getting the water.

It was rather cloudy and overcast, and we were visited by the cats looking for food, as i have said before they are in excellent condition. Then some sheep came up to investigate us, and that made juniors day seeing the fluffy creatures in the books come to life.

49 litres of water, seven cats and eight sheep and some lambs. Just another afternoon, here on the rock ...


Monday, 21 February 2011

Flat pack fun ...

Each day i have been assembling the flat pack furniture from IKEA ...

So far i can give it a 9/10 as i have had to read the instructions, to avoid embarrassment.

It actually is very good, and what i thought would be MDF, is actually well made pine. One advantage of this is that if you tire of it, you can send it up the chimney ...

Now all i need is my mate to pop round, as the next two are what i would call challenging installations. Hopefully this will happen in the morning, when the girls are at Zumba class ...

Just one thing though is wasted, in all the packaging, which is recyclable.

There is a little allen key shaped like a clock winder. I now have five of these which i will never use again. What happens to the thousands of these in every store, and most boxes have two types of them.

So Mr IKEA take them back and use them again - Tell me its not a good idea ...

Sunday, 20 February 2011

My Weather wotsit ...

Is a little off cue for today ...

Yes its a partly cloudy, in fact its very cloudy, and its raining too.
The forecast for the next few days though, is wet and wetter still

Monday: Light Rain
Tuesday: Rain
Wednesday: Light Rain PM
Thursday: Heavy Rain
Friday: Rain

Now it looks like the wellies may be required, and water wings too.

But for now its on with the trusty Merrils, because its Sunday. That means i have to get to the bakers before church comes out at 10.00, and they sell out in five minutes flat ...

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Stormy night ...

The wind was blowing early evening on the Paralia ...

Secured shutters were rattling, in the breeze. The rain started to fall around 9.30pm. Quickly the raindrops on the roof became heavier. Water started pouring off the roofs into the street, in mini waterfalls. The water flowing down the street, swiftly became a roaring torrent.

Laying in bed it was like Dante's inferno, shutters backlit by lightning, thunder that shakes, and reverberates around the houses.

This morning its now quiet, and still, clocks are re-set after the power cut that affected parts of the island. The streets are dry, Its like the storm was a dream that never happened ...

You know what they say about 'Friday Night Dreams, that are Saturday told' - They come true ...


Thursday, 17 February 2011

On the dot ...

At 17.30pm the phone rang ...

And outside were two guys with our IKEA delivery - Hows that for service ?

Margaritas you have my future custom ...


What's that ...

We knew the Santorini was back, when she announced her arrival with a blast of the horn.

Hanging around dock gates can get you noticed. Getting excited when the Margaritas lorry, rolls out of the belly of the Express Santorini, is something else.
First the milk, then the refrigerator lorry, then someones new windows, a broken down fiat - Then a very heavily laden down Margaritas truck ...

Its a good job everything from IKEA is flat packed, if it wasn't then it would be by now. Fingers crossed its all made it here intact.

The call came at 13.45pm, asking would i like to come and collect the parcels - No thank you, you can deliver them, i suggested. As if i can just pop round and pick up 150kg of flat packed MDF.

The couriers are the same - we have a parcel for you, paid to deliver to you, paid too if they don't. Some even send goods back, rather than deliver them, or even call you, which is very annoying.

They will call again after their afternoon nap, i have not paid them so guess they will be here afterwards.

More excitement for the street - coming soon ...


It's looking good ...

There is a blue ferry heading south from Volos ...

Its 9.30am and the Express Santorini Ferry from Volos is on the screen ...



Looks like the island is not going hungry again today.
But whats more important to me is - my IKEA delivery may finally be on its way.

Who needs milk, when a flat pack is on its way ...

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Flying Dolphin 15 ...

13.53pm and Flying Dolphin 15 arrives ...


Its not a ferry but the people made it here, however fresh supplies and the cars and trucks are still on the mainland.

All part of life's rich tapestry - Living on an island ...

No Ferry ...

The Express Santorini ferry did not run yesterday (Tuesday 15th) and according to Marine Traffic has turned back to Volos harbour this morning.


News is that the ferry is broken, but we don't know the extent of the problem.

Hellenic Seaways ran Flying Dolphin XV yesterday to collect passengers and are doing the same today

Express Skiathos - Broken down and is in Piraeus
Express Santorini - Broken down in Volos

Bring back the Alkyoni quick as supplies are needed in the shops ...

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Flue's ...

Now winter is here everyone has their eye on the Flue ...

Not the nasty HN51 'flu' infectious type, its the chimney. Here most people burn wood, its around €80 a pallet, and in my case that seemed about one tree trunk.

Here there are three options for keeping warm, Electricity, Oil or Wood. Now most people burn wood, many have oil, and a few get by on electric. This year many people have been buying new flues - or chimneys to burn wood.

The favourite tax dodge was to buy heating oil, and then drive your 4x4 on it, saving a fortune. The government has made heating oil, the same price as diesel. Now everyone pays the same rate of duty, and the island is echoing to the sound of the chainsaw, as we return to wood as the primary source of fuel.
The cheapest wood is free, it arrives on the beach every morning. However this year there has been little of any to retrieve. Some people must be on there in the dark loading up their 4x4's, as there is very little free wood available.

So the winter flue once installed, you can burn away your logs, keeping warm sitting by your log burner. Some of the houses use their wood burner to cook, its a slightly different type, and the lanes are often filed with woodsmoke around lunchtime, as the meals are prepared.

The chimney needs regular cleaning, and thats not a very popular job. Which is why yesterday afternoon, my neighbour had an Albanian friend cleaning theirs. In the siesta period when you can make no noise in town, he had the chimney to bits, was hammering away at the core, and was black with soot, and grease up past his elbows.

A greasy chimney is a potentially high source of ignition for a fire, and in town this is very dangerous. How many of the tavernas clean their chimneys in winter i wonder ?

Monday, 14 February 2011

Monday Feb 14th ...

Something strange going on around town ...

Greek men, unshaven, usual attire, are wandering around with bunches of roses.
Is it their morning watery Tsipouro eyes, or a touch of emotion i see before me ...

Its the name day of Valentinos (male) or Valentina (female) celebrate their name day on February 14

We call it Saint Valentine's day ...

"Saint Valentine (in Latin, Valentinus) is the name of several (14 in all) martyred saints of ancient Rome. The name "Valentine", derived from valens (worthy, strong, powerful), Of the Saint Valentine whose feast is on February 14, nothing is known except his name and that he was buried at the Via Flaminia north of Rome on February 14"

So tell me, did poor Valentine have anything to do with Cards, Chocolate, or Roses ?

Answers on a post card to Skiathian, Small rock in the Aegean, Somewhere off the mainland of Greece ...


Sunday, 13 February 2011

Geranium cuttings ...

My Geranium cuttings, seem very popular with the neighbours ...

Every night at least one goes from the flower pots outside the door. They are cuttings that i took down at Troulos the other week. Now they cost me nothing, just time to go and get them, and plant them up.

So i am thinking - and my Greek readers may laugh at this ...

Presumably they are taken by someone going up the hill, on their way home after dark.

Is it OK for me to go up the road, and steal them back again, later in the summer when they are in bloom ???

Or do i replace them with some 'Prickly pear' cuttings from the Bourtzi ...

Saturday, 12 February 2011

A morning cruise ...

On the Express Santorini ...


After a nice sleep, refreshed and after breakfast it was down to the dock to pick up the car. A night in the city car park on the docks was just €7. A quick whiz round the block to Avis, and it was Giannis who gave me a lift back to the ferry terminal, where the Express Santorini was waiting.

I had never had a ride on the Express Santorini, however i did know, that it was once a French cross channel ferry back in its youth. It has nice lines and i love, that when it arrives in Skiathos it announces its arrival with a blast of the ships horn that echoes into the distance.

It has a nice if somewhat dated interior, including quite interesting mural paintings. One of which seemed to be Honfleur over the forward staircase.

It was launched in 1974 as the Chantres and much to my surprise i learn, that it was the last of the old train ferries. It was also the last ferry to use the Dover Western docks, which is now the cruise terminal. So cars and lorries now sit, with the ghosts of old SNCF railway wagons, on what was once the train deck.

Its nice to return to Skiathos in a little style, and know you have touched base with a little piece of history.

On arrival it was the usual bedlam, but this time we were part of it too. By the time i had unloaded three packed Ikea bags, a Jumbo bag, a chair and our overnight kit, i was well acquainted with the ferry ramp. Moving quickly dodging lorries, cars motorbikes and the mad rush of people off and on the boat.

Now all i had to do was get it all to the house ...

Then an angel appeared - Stamatis on his scooter. He has his own arrangements somehow shipping his produce from A-B via the ferry. Today of course was no different. However he insisted on transporting our goods back to the house.
So off we went up Papadamatis street, dodging trucks and cars. Stamatis, our overnight bag on his back, and an IKEA bag balanced on the petrol tank. Me on the back, holding two IKEA bags one each side, like drop tanks.

Apparently we were quite an interesting sight ...

Back on the harbour i loaded him up with his goods, and he headed off into the distance riding one handed - with two crates supported behind his back, held in position by his free hand ...

He also filled my pockets with six red eating apples, and four bramley apples from his cousins farm in the Pelion which are sold in the bakery.

Thats what friends are for, 'A friend in need' and as Greek friends go he is the best ...







Friday, 11 February 2011

Flying visit ...

Off on a journey, what better way to start than a trip on the cat ...


Its not often that i leave the rock that is my home, but today this was one of those days. Every morning (Unless the weather intervenes) i hear this boat arrive at 8am from Alonissos.

Down to the harbour and bumped into my neighbour, and her daughter who was off to Thessaloniki. So we were spotted even before we were had left, no secret departure for us today ...

We had seats near the front, and were able to peer through the curtains as we were whisked along at 27 knots. We sprinted up through the Gulf of Volos (Pegasitic Gulf) past Trikeri on what was an almost calm sea, arriving in Volos on time at 09.45am

Next stop was Giannis at Avis for a hire car, he is based on Skiathos in the summer. He gave us a lovely Suzuki SX4, at a very special price. I was a very happy bunny, as we headed out of town on the bumpy national road.

Then in one of those special moments, i selected fifth gear, and increased the speed to over 100kph. Two things its very hard to do on Skiathos and impossible in the tourist season.

Music playing on the stereo, on to the new road and whizzing along at 120kph (and higher) we were soon at the tolls at Larissa, €2.90 paid no queues here and away again.

Greek motorways are so different to those i am used too back in the UK. These are clean, smooth road surfaces, no pot holes, lined with freshly trimmed Oleander bushes - and hardly any other traffic ...

Off the motorway and back on to a bumpy national road, and one swift U-turn later into the retail park. Great roads, huge car parks which you could probably land an aircraft on - and we parked right outside IKEA at 11am for the 'Greek' Swedish experience


There were around 20 cars there and we virtualy had the store to ourselves. Friendly helpful staff, a safety officer, even checked that we had seated junior in the shopping buggy correctly. Seatbelt adjusted and fastened and away we went.

We were there eight hours ...

It was amazingly a very pleasurable experience. We wandered the store, tried everything we liked. A nice lunch - Poached Salmon - Yes 'i know' but when you like somewhere that does not sell it, It was melt in the mouth lovely, and the first in 14 months. Swedish beer (Nice) and cheesecake.
Junior had a great time in the toy department, we had fun in the warehouse, and the credit card had a nice time too ...

Even getting the flat packed stuff transported was a great experience, the staff could not be more helpful making the arrangements. We left the store, were directed to get our car and bring it to the loading bay to load our bags. It was only 50 metres away and the car park may just have had that many cars in it.

We were not finished yet ...

Junior slumping in the trolley seat, we headed into Jumbo - only we took the wrong door, and were in the supermarket. Help was at hand, one of our Greek Skiathos friends was right in front of us, (Spotted again - by now half the island, probably knew where we were) she swiftly advised us the prices were more expensive than Skiathos - That was a shock - so too, was when she told us we were not in Jumbo.

Back out of the door, a swift trolley change, junior fighting hard not to fall asleep, from the formula 1, supermarket type, to the battered Jumbo version.

Everybody raves about Jumbo, cant say that i am all that impressed. It seems like a large version of a discount store stacked high and sold cheap. The majority seems to be imported goods, and cheap clothes. There was not anything there i particularly wanted to buy. We still came away with a bag of things, but as i was told quite clearly - 'This costs around 10 times as much on Skiathos' - and it seems that is quite true.

The store was very busy, staff all seemed grumpy and tired, and a security reception lady missing her previous vocation in the Stasi. I can't say that i would hurry back there again but you never know. I had had enough too, the car was full, just enough room for us, and off we went back to Volos.

Volos is a busy city, lots of traffic cars and buses, two of which tried to take the side out of the Suzuki. So i parked in the port car park, and we headed back up the street to the Hotel Electra

Its a Great value hotel in excellent location just minutes from the harbour and ferry port. I have stayed in a number of hotels in Volos for a night before going on to Skiathos, This for me is the best one, and the same price or cheaper than the others. Its in the pedestrian area so is quiet, The room was spotless, nice bathroom and there is a buffet breakfast in the price too.

Hungry again we ordered a pizza take away and two beers from downstairs.

Then after a rambling conversation about the high cost of the beer (€2.50 each for a 500ml bottle) I won the day, when realisation finaly dawned, that this was half the price on Skiathos. Junior now wide awake after a nap in the car , trampolining on the beds, before being confined to the travel cot and a good nights sleep ...