Tuesday, July 21, 2015

A Tale of Two Packages

“Only a masochist with deep pockets would want to pursue [it].” That phrase is from author, Marjory McGinn, describing her registering of her car legally in Greece, the operative word being legally. That was after the villagers tried to persuade her to do it . . . let's just say, a more successful way. I’ve been thinking of that lately as I await a package that I regret ordering online and having sent to me here, in Margariti.

I love Greece, Epirus in particular. And I accept the fact that “business” is run a bit differently than in other parts of the world but I’m not here on business, so that's fine with me. That being said, when I ordered something from and had it delivered to the Margariti address, I did it, more or less as an experiment – sort of like tying a message to a balloon and seeing if anyone ever gets it.

I expected nothing but hoped for the best. And I was pleasantly surprised when, two weeks later, I got a text from Amazon saying the package had been delivered. So Nick went to get it from the post office but the postmaster said he hadn’t gotten anything for us even though the tracking number showed that it had been delivered—but it had not.

Okay,” I thought. “I tried.” And with all the optimism of a person on vacation, far from the stress of work or bill-paying, I cheerfully continued to hope for its arrival. At some point, I called a representative at which resulted in a full refund and the representative saying that if the package did eventually show up, it was still no charge.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Greece's Doctors

I recently had an unusual encounter with a doctor. It was quite different from my first visit to a physician's office in Greece back in 1983--for a severe case of food poisoning. The doctor back then also had his office in the port of Igoumenitsa, but to get there, we needed to take a bus from Margariti on a narrow winding road around several mountains--not a very pleasant trip even in the best of health.

As I recall that day, I remember the doctor well. His office was small and unremarkable. He spoke perfect English and he attended to me with great care and kindness. The medication he prescribed was very effective. Overall, it was quite a reassuring experience, as I'd been staying in the somewhat primitive conditions in which Margariti was engulfed at that time.

Over the years, there have been other doctor visits: dentists, pediatricians, general practitioners. All providing very good care for a small affordable fee.

This most recent visit however, felt a little different. I needed to see a dermatologist. One was recommended by someone in the village. So we drove the  17 miles to Igoumenitsa, about a 20 minute drive with the new smooth and modern Egnatia Highway. Once there, it took us a while to find the doctor's office because it was located away from the center of town, in a residential area. The sign to the office was small and somewhat hidden by vegetation. The office itself was on the first floor of a residential building which was reached by walking through a gate into a beautifully manicured yard. It was shared with a dentist as indicated by another sign and it appeared to have a home on the upper floors. This is not terribly unusual in Greece but it's the first time I, personally, have seen a doctor who is outside of the business center of Igoumenitsa.

The unusual part came when the young doctor opened the door to the waiting room to usher us into his inner office.

Monday, July 6, 2015

A Warm Traditional Zagorian Home

When I read his book, The Ionian Islands and Epirus: A Cultural History, Jim Potts' description of Zagori, an area in the Epirus region of Greece, was somewhat familiar to me as I'd been there several times. However, I never expected to be as fortunate as I was recently when Nick and I were invited to Zagori's village of Vitsa to spend time with authors Jim Potts and Maria Strani-Potts. Entering their restored Zagorian home was like passing through the doors of time, into another world and era.

Though the materials used for the restoration of the old house were new, the design remained true to that area's ageless architecture which makes use of the most abundant construction materials of those mountains: a variety of stone and wood.

The original front gate has the charm of its weathered wood. That gate leads into a courtyard that is partly covered by an upstairs room of the house. It is adorned with wall coverings taken from the sides of an old cart, while a metal milk container is fashioned into the pedestal of a small table which sits between two comfortable-looking chairs, making a very inviting sitting area, so inviting in fact, that a small bat has taken up residence inside a small blue light on the ceiling.

A working cistern also sits in that covered part of the courtyard and Jim told us that it was used at times when the restoration rendered the indoor plumbing unusable.

From there, the courtyard opened up as we walked through a lovely archway into an open space with trees and flowers. The front door of the home sits unassumingly in that bright courtyard and walking past the strings of beads that hang in the doorway, we were led into an adorable well-stocked kitchen from which Maria and her friend, Fantina prepared us a wonderful local feast.



Off the kitchen is a narrow winding staircase that leads to the second  floor where the main sitting room is full of fun artifacts from the couple's life in different countries.

Friday, July 3, 2015

The Economic Crisis in Epirus

Days before I boarded my flight to Greece, I'd heard that the economic crisis was heading toward a critical turning point. I worried about civil unrest, the banks running out of money or not being able to use my ATM card. . . but of course, not enough to cancel my trip.
On the last leg of the journey, I traveled aboard a somewhat empty ferry from Corfu. While sitting inside the lounge, I  watched the panic unfold on the television, not quite sure what the Greek newscasters were saying and when I finally disembarked in Igoumenitsa, the chatter of English-speaking tourists deepened my concern.

I cannot tell you what is happening in the cities nor can I tell you about Greece's islands or all of her countryside villages. I can only tell you what I see and hear on the Northern coastline of Epirus.

The banks are closed. They've been closed for the past five days. Small business owners are unable to get the supplies they need to conduct business because there is no way to pay a supplier electronically, so businesses sit idle and orders go unfilled. The ATM in Amoudia was filled the day before yesterday, so said one fisherman as we relayed to him that it is now empty. In the supermarket in Kanalaki, the flour and rice shelves are empty, though there seems to be plenty of other products. The ATM there has money but only $60 per day per card. If I were a younger person with a family, I would be taking that $60 and stocking up on canned goods. The roads have very little traffic on them. There seem to be more motorbikes than cars. At $60 a day, it's probably foolish to waste money on gasoline for a car. There are far fewer tourist than in years past. In fact, some of the seaside towns such as Plateria, and Amoudia, towns that are mostly visited by Greeks on day trips, are so deserted that they remind me of a time long ago before the Egnatia Highway and the influx of easy travel. It's a circumstance that I have often pined for with the new era of crowds and summer commotion, but now that the empty beaches and empty eating places are back, I can't say that I am glad about it. As the saying goes: Be careful what you wish for; you just might get it. 

I have to admit, I'm feeling a bit uneasy.

Best Bookstore in Greece!

This adorable little bookstore in Parga, Greece, has increased in size with each year that has passed. They've also added books written in languages other than Greek. This year they added THE NIFI to their English-language collection and I am so incredibly amazed that they've sold out! A new order is on the way, but if you bought one from this bookstore I'd like to say a big THANK YOU! and I hope you enjoyed it.

If you're still in Parga and looking for another book to read, I'd like to humbly suggest YOUR OWN KIND, which I hand delivered to them yesterday.

Happy reading!

I'd love to hear from you!