Since February it has been carnival season in Greece and they have celebrated it in a variety of ways, according to the local region. A lot involve the children dressing up in whatever fairy or scary costumes they choose and there also seem to have been a lot of scary clown masks and decorations going on as well. Monday here was their first day of Lent and it’s called Clean Monday, as people give up whatever they are supposed to for that period, traditionally it would have been meat and in fact carnival derives from Latin words Carne vale meaning farewell to meat. Another tradition that seems to be upheld is the flying of kites by families and we saw a lot of that on the Monday as we cycled to the Corinth Canal for a closer look.
It was on that day and cycle ride back that we committed a crime….
We scrumped a sack full of oranges. Normally we wouldn’t, but the fence was down on the side of the orchard and many of the oranges were already on the ground rotting. So, with no guard dog in sight and our Katerina saying that they mostly go waste we borrowed a few and I might say they have been the tastiest, hopefully we weren’t caught on camera!
The next few days before we left Greece have really been all about admin- trying to get insurance for Buster, checking out batteries on both Buster and my bike, both of which have proved fine and we are happy with the information we have on both, with a big thanks to both Gouliarmis Motorhomes and Kassimathis Cycling again underlying the friendliness and helpfulness of Greek people.
This week also provided some retail therapy as well which life near a metropolis like Athens and Piraeus offers, the great American invention of shopping Malls. Nothing much was needed but needs must (for David more so) and so we headed off to them. Decathlon, one of our great Spanish time wasters and dull weather shops was explored -proving dull on this occassion. Our first M&S outside the UK was also visited- same as the UK, overrated and overpriced, but David did rejuvenate his underpants section with some lovely spotted ones to be had as well. Ikea saw us add another pillow to the van, rather than using the two cushions for David and we also added two pasta bowls to our weight rather than having to keep refilling our cereal bowls many times for pasta or soup.
Another highlight of the week was catching up with fellow motorhomers we had met in Spain in 2016- The Clunes, who we hope to be travelling with through the next section of our journey. We had already arrived in the pre-arranged small beach area just outside Athens where the locals were playing their version of boules, when a few moments later they pulled up in their Adria, much to the amazement of the locals who thought it was a convention happening, but after the first few minutes interest soon passed. The last time we were K and J, we had had a lovely afternoon that soon passed into evening with the next day not being our finest, but thankfully restraint took hold of us this time and we headed off the next day with all of our brain cells functioning normally.
Parking the van both in the small city car park in Piraeus and on board the ferry to Chios was interesting, with both times thankfully the communication between the parking attendants and David being much more in tune than whenever David and I give instructions to park to each other- strange that!
For me, I knew I was going to like Chios and I did, even with arriving in the dark at 4.30am. We headed straight away from the port and to the rural area to the south. It’s here that the really interesting part of the island happens- mastic. The south part of Chios is the only place in the world where the lentisk tree flourishes in the mild, dry climate of the south of the island. Its centuries old tradition and industry and the full story of it can be seen in the Chios Mastic Museum. Sounds dull you might think, but it wasn’t as the history of its growth and production was told and it’s now a UNESCO world protected cultural tradition. The shop was also amazing and now the health benefits of mastic have been discovered it should survive modern day living and we nearly went mastic mad.
Greece then gave up it’s last truly wonderful surprise with Pyrgi, Mastihohoria’s largest regional village looking like a jewellery box as its facades are decorated in intricate grey/black and white patterns, some geometric and others based on flowers, leaves and animals. The technique is called xysta, using equal amounts of cement, volcanic sand and lime and the patterns then scrapped of using a fork. Obviously, some needed work and there is a lot of restoration going on, but we had never seen anything quite like it on our travels. Chios has an amazing history due to its proximity to Turkey and has been in the news as of late because of the issues with refugees between old rivals Turkey and Greece, but it shouldn’t be discounted as it had a unique character, a bit of a hybrid.
We then did a big shop, stockpiling like we believe the UK currently is just in case certain items cannot be easily acquired in Turkey- beer and wine were high on the list with a few packets of wipes just in case, after all we do now have a lot of mastic products on board with which we can barter along with David’s new spotty M&S underpants.
As I sit writing this week’s blog we are in a wonderful spot, flat, tarmac, sea views and absolutely secure, the locals are truly friendly after their initial hostility, but it won’t be appearing on Park 4 night any time soon…
Buster has been busted and is has now been held in captivity since arriving late last night and quite honesty a very bumpy ride across from Chios. It would appear green is the colour and insurance is the game as we handed over all our documents at the border without the magic of a green card.
Tom Hanks – The Terminal film script
BC= Border Control. GG= Karen, David & Buster
BC. Green card????
GG. No, we don’t have one and we have been told we can get one at any border 24/7 according to Turkish AA.
BC. No, not at this border. Izmir and that’s not until Monday
GG. Gosh, what can we do, are we stuck
BC. You and that van stay here, till Monday and then you get green card GG. Could we possibly have sea view and do our laundry, perhaps fill up with your water?
BC. Uhm, OK
Buster, poor thing then had to undergo a full-on intrusive body inspection and health X-ray which took longer than most NHS ones I’ve ever had. Water, potatoes, Ad blu (which Buster loves) had to be taken off before the X-ray and horror of horrors our orange supply. Thankfully not the wine supply as that would have covered two shifts and I think that was beyond their level of care. Buster passed both tests, although they were a bit concerned with him being a bit gassy and having a few unknown lumps on his inners. We explained both, Buster had just been loaded up with gas, which he controls very well, and the lumps being our frozen meat supply- we didn’t elaborate too much on what meat. Our lovely hosts then turned into walking, talking Lonely Planet guides as to where and what we should see in Turkey before parking us up for the night and tucking us in!!
The next day, after a lovely sleep only disturbed by the melodic call to prayer, our hosts let David and I out to look around the town and spend some money, but Buster had to remain where he was, but he was happy surrounded by his fellow big boy lorries queuing up and awaiting to board a Greek ferry that does apparently exist upon our searches (until June this year) going from Piraeus to Cesme.
At this point you are asking why we didn’t have green card insurance before entering and you would be correct, but Elddis did all they could with their insurers and David has done equally everything he could in his power to try and get it before entering, including talking to two Turkish insurance reps, who came close to supplying- but the system was and is down-we don’t know why- system or the fact it’s the weekend, and no one can explain due to poor translation. Having said that we have had a lovely time, including the most stunning lunch in town and are now spending the evening in our new luxury campsite.
Tomorrow, we hope the insurance systems will spring to life and Buster is busted out or otherwise Buster might just have to turn 007 and bust out. In the meantime, we have left our shoes outside the door!
Top Tips of the Week
Don’t eat in a Goodies burger restaurant-truly rubbish
Make sure you have a green card when entering Turkey.
The Route This week
We did get from Chios to Cesme (Google does not know you can do this directly) but are stuck in the port as we publish this!