Friday, 16 December 2016

Geof's Christmas 2016 Skiathos Newsletter ...

I found the latest newsletter in an old Yahoo account. Geof is probably getting lots of interesting letters from Russian ladies, as a result of the latest hack ...

Its a great read, and I am sure he will not mind me sharing it here ...

Hello & welcome to the Christmas 2016 Skiathos Newsletter.

I have a bit of a gloomy start to this one, but it gets better as it goes along :o)
What is happening in Skiathos at the moment? Well, not a lot! Usually, after the season closes, and the locals have money in their pockets, they frequent the cafes, tavernas and tsipouratheka, to meet, talk, eat & drink, in the old Greek tradition of “Paraya,” (company). This is a basic facet of Greek life, good company is what they all seek, and they will spend many hours talking with friends and discussing the latest news (which in these days means, “the latest crisis”). This year, it is very quiet Even though Skiathos has a thriving economy, thanks to tourism, and the locals have money to spend (unlike on mainland Greece), everyone is now afraid of what the future will bring. There is no sign that the “Troika” of the European Commission, European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund, will ease the austerity measures imposed on the Greek people, and people are losing hope that their lives will ever get any better. Taxes are going up all the time (VAT was almost doubled on the Greek Islands in the last 3 years, from 13% to 24%!), but the Greeks don’t see any benefit of this. Instead, more belt tightening measures are introduced. But how much can you tighten your belt before you starve? Nevertheless, we in Skiathos should not complain, as we are doing OK. The problem is that the fear is there, so people do not go out, do not invest their money, and stay at home hearing ever more bad news on the TV. The money is not turning over, to create more benefits for all.
People who come here on holiday do not see these problems as the locals are always cheery and welcoming, and still have that basic foundation of Greek life, “Philoksenia”, the befriending of strangers. And the tourists are, of course, very welcome. Without them, our lives would be as hard as those of the Greeks on the mainland. Philoksenia comes from ancient Greek times. If a stranger appeared at your door looking for food and shelter, you invited him/her in without asking questions, shared whatever food you had (whether it was a lot or almost nothing), and gave them a bed for the night. The underlying basis for this was that maybe the stranger was a god! By the same token, one of the most heinous crimes back then (& still now) was to abuse that freely offered friendship and shelter in any way. So, when you come to Skiathos for your holiday, know that you are helping many people in many ways, but also understand that you are receiving something of real worth. It’s not just down to sun, sand, and sea, you are receiving the genuine friendliness of a warm-hearted people.
In the meantime, that which makes Skiathos so special, is still here. The beauty, the green of the forest, the incredible views, the beaches, the nearby islands and the mainland (where you can find wonderful tavernas), the quieter north sides beaches, the walks on unspoilt trails, the sailing and boating, the water sports, the diving and snorkeling, and the wonderful, affordable food. In all our travels, we have seen some amazing places, with spectacular scenery, beaches many kilometers long, old forests, different foods, warm hearted people, oceans that go on forever, - but Skiathos seems to distill all of these things into one island. When we return here, we always find ourselves saying. “Ah, but Skiathos – this is special!”. We wouldn’t want to live in any other place on the Earth.
What is happening is that they are digging up the roads again in Town to get the new water pipes in place, which we hope will eventually lead to the Town water being drinkable again. This will help minimizing the amount of plastic water bottles being used. The recycling company (born out of the ashes of The Green Fox), has been working very well, and is getting many tons of plastic, paper & cardboard, metal and aluminium cans, off the island. The airport will shortly be taken over by a German company so we should have a bit more efficiency there. We hope that they will, at least, fix the toilets! Unfortunately, the new Gym has a problem as no vapour barrier was put down before the parquet floor was laid, and that is now swelling up and becoming uneven. Steps, apparently, will be taken - hopefully before anyone trips up! The roads in Skiathos have now become very good, with the company that extended the airport having used airport grade asphalt when resurfacing. The worst road is now the one to Aghia Eleni, but that is slated to be re done this spring. The dirt roads going to the North side always get eaten by rain in the winter but the plans are to have these all re-graded in the spring time. We are dickering with the Town Council to see if they will give us some material so that we can put more concrete down on our road, particularly on the up and down bits, so that we don’t have to bring a machine every spring to smooth these out. We will put in the labour, if they will supply us with the materials, otherwise it will be too expensive for us.
Our bookings for next year in the two villas (www.zorbathes.com) are already very good, and we have not even got to the New Year yet, which is usually the time when we receive most of our reservations. We have upgraded The Barn Villa with a brand-new kitchen and we are planning for a shadier area outside on the patio. The villas rent very well, and the feedback on TripAdvisor is always 5 star! If you would like to share the peace and quiet we offer here, don’t wait too long with getting a reservation in!
Real estate is selling steadily and well. We are still far from the heady days of the early 2000’s, but the market is slowly picking up. We are now getting enquiries for plots of land and that didn’t happen for quite a long time. A client is looking for land to build a hotel, so that is an encouraging sign. The Xenia Hotel is being re-built and there are plans to develop all the land around with small villas, each with its own pool. I refer to “we” as I have passed over most of the work in the real estate brokerage to my three Greek partners: a civil engineer and two architects. However, the locals don’t want me to retire and I will almost certainly be a consultant for Skiathos Property for some time to come. See all our properties at: wwwskiathosproperty.com
On the weather front, Skiathos is becoming dryer and dryer. Among the many hats I wear, I am still, basically, a farmer, and we continue to grow a small patch of organic vegetables for our own use (giving any excess to our guests in the villas). So, the weather plays a big role in our lives. Fortunately, the Donald has told us that there is no climate change, it’s just a Chinese hoax, so we don’t have to worry about that any more. This year should have been an olive year (they usually produce every second year), but with very little rainfall last winter (& not much the winter before) the olives couldn’t get enough moisture from the ground to sustain a crop, and all the olives fell off the trees! Although Skiathos now doesn’t rely on its olives for a living, we all miss not having our own olive oil from our own trees. Likewise, our orange and lemon trees have fruit, but they are much smaller than usual, even though I spent a lot of time watering them during the summer. If we don’t get good, long rains in the winter, the trees cannot support a crop. So far, we have had a bit of rain, but our stream beds continue to stay dry and they should be running strongly by now. I worry!
We are off to Bucharest for Christmas, to see some friends there, and experience something a bit different. Our daughter Mara will be joining us from Copenhagen at Athens Airport, and we will all fly from there. Christmas is a pretty quiet time in Skiathos, with, fortunately, none of the commercialism that pervades now. New Year’s Eve is even quieter, as it is a family occasion for the Greeks and nearly all (sometimes all!) the tavernas and cafes are shut in the evening. Some bars open after midnight, but that is far too late for old codgers like us!
Well, I will leave you all with the sun shining in through my “office” window, the taste of my home made tsiporo (delicious) in my mouth, and the crackle of the log fire in our hearth.
I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and a happy and healthy 2017.
Regards,
Geof.

2 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Hope you enjoyed it, I always enjoyed reading them too. He writes with passion about the real Skiathos which sadly the summer tourist does not see. Near his house, the fields have wild crocus, must get a photo one day - better still meet him for a glass of his red wine (Chateau Baldry) by his fireplace once again :)

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