Thursday, 6 September 2007

Simply Greece

















There is something wonderfully seductive about the Greek way of life and it’s simplicity. Ever since my first trip to Crete as an eighteen year old girl I have, for over twenty years had a love affair with Greece-not the ancient history, art and architecture or mythical Greece, but it is the people of Greece and their outlook on life that capture my heart.

When the only place left on the Manos Website for a late getaway was a 1 star apartment in a tiny unspoilt island called Meganissi, satellite island to Lefkas we jumped to book it. We go to Greece to ‘lose ourselves’ and forget the worries and strains of daily life. I think out of twenty three years there has only been one year when we I haven’t visited Greece; the temptation to spend a week or two without a phone ringing or not knowing what the news headlines are always proves too much.
Meganissi is one of the Ionian islands but unlike it’s sisters, Kephalonia, Corfu, Lefkas etc time really does seem to have stood still. We reached it by ferry from Nidri, on the island of Lefkas, and were immediately struck by the contrast between the bustle of that busy resort and the quiet solitude of the picturesque harbour and fishing village of Vathy that we sailed into. We all felt the immediate sense of peace and calmness, the harbour entrance is flanked by chapels which apparently are there to bless all those arriving and leaving and to give boats safe passage. It must be one of the few last remaining truly authentic and unspoilt Greek Islands.















The Greeks are of course all great philosophers and love nothing more than to talk and put the world to rights. And as we stepped off the ferry the blue tables and chairs of the first taverna that we saw were already full of the local men sitting with expressos and ouzo discussing politics and world events while they whirled ‘worry beads’ and flicked them around their wrists.

Meganissi is an island, the antipethese of the larger commercial Greek Islands like Corfu or Crete; as we stepped off the ferry it was like taking a step back in time-unspoilt, charming and full of unadulterated natural beauty. The island is a miniature Greek Island, measuring just 20 sq kilometres and has a population of only approx 1400 people. There are only three villages, barely more than hamlets and with little tourist development. In each, a labyrinth of tiny lanes and alleyways like ‘kantounia’ form a maze of whitewashed stone houses and courtyards full of tin-potted plants to the top of the hillside. It is this that evokes the bygone eras, especially with so few cars on the island. .


How I wish I'd had more time to paint or sketch the small and spartan, clean little houses which are the stamp of the rural life of the village's inhabitants. Those remaining inhabitants of the island are farmers and fishermen, whilst those who have left were expert boatmen and sea captains.
















The main trade is still fishing rather than tourism and the fishermen go off for several months at a time on trips leaving the women sitting and tatting lace and shawls under the shade of the vines. For those left there are still olives to harvest, sheep and goats to milk and chickens to feed. In bygone years the villages were the centres of activity. Everybody would join in with the olive harvest to make oil to sell and corn was grown and milled in one of the many windmills to make flour. Nowadays, olive oil continues to be made on the island but in smaller quantities and is produced by machine instead of donkeys. Flour is no longer made so all that remains of the windmills are the round stone built towers that balance on hilltops and capes, bereft of their sails and looking forlorn.



A recently made road skirts the coast of the island making some of the little bays more accessible and gives a hint of development which may come in the future. However, for now it remains unspoilt, the most secluded bays can still only be reached by boat. The wildlife and habitat of the island is best observed on foot, although my boys found it too hot to do much walking. Paths and tracks twist across the island amongst the olive groves and maquis and the smell of pine emanates throughout. We hired a car for the week which helped with the mountainous tracks which give way to sheer hanging cliffs and the most spectacular views.















The beaches were typically Greek, although in Meganissi you often had the shingle and pebble stretches all to yourselves, even the week we were there which was ‘peak season.’ Sun loungers would have been a luxury and not in the vocabulary of this island so unfortunately the reed mats and towels didn’t provide cushion enough to be able to lie down and sun bathe for too long. But the discomfort was worth it to see the distorted faces the Workaholic Hubby pulled when trying to make a quick dash in and out of the sea!

















The electricity was a typical Greek experience in that it went off several times a day sometimes leaving no power for half a day at a time. We soon stopped plugging in the kettle so as not to overload the circuit and chose instead to stick to retsina and Mythos beers in the end. And it was a little problematic when for the last two and a half days of the holiday there was no water AT ALL to our apartment. Apparently the island had a shortage of water (Deliveries of water by tankers have to ‘shared out’ amongst the islands) Because our apartment was up the hillside the water pump was not powerful enough to pump the water up the hill it was so steep. But Workaholic Hubby managed going up and down the 30 or so steps to the sea, collecting buckets of sea water for the toilet, and our regular Taverna “The Rose Garden” kindly allowed us to use their shower blocks.

Nothing spoiled our enjoyment of this lovely island. It was as they say in Greece “Easy, easy...no worries...”

There were few other children except the locals for my boys to play with and no entertainment or organised activities. In fact there really was very little else to do on Meganissi other than soaking up the relaxing atmosphere of the picturesque villages and harbours, sitting in the shade of the simple tavernas, and ‘people watching.’ But my boys managed to charm the Greeks who adore children anyway with their attempts at speaking Greek. Over 20 years ago I had a baptism of fire backpacking across the Pelopenese and through ‘bandit country’ when no one for miles could speak English. Over the years I can now speak enough Greek to order food, book rooms, find my way around and converse in basic terms and whilst I am far from fluent, they appreciate so much any effort to speak their beautiful language. We manage, as we shrug and scowl and find pidgeon Greek and English between us to reach an understanding. I have tried to influence the boys to make an effort and this has been repaid by the joy on the Greeks faces as the boys try to get their teeth around the tricky words.

Another day I shall tell you the tale of my youngest, ‘Quiet Mousie’ and the trouble he landed himself in when trying to speak Greek in a restaurant. And also of an encounter ‘Workaholic Hubby’ had with Panos, “The only Gay Greek in the Village” and owner of our apartments...


So until another day


Bye for now





19 comments:

Crystal Jigsaw said...

I think some of those pictures should be entered into a photography competition, they are truly beautiful and capture your wonderful holiday to perfection.

You have been missed by us all. But to read about the amazing time you have obviously had is definitely making up for that! I, personally, very much look forward to hearing about your husband's encounter and Quiet Mousie's conversation.

Love Crystal xx

Un Peu Loufoque said...

Just what I needed after the shxxxy day I have had an idyllic Greek Island break! Thanks CCA

Suffolkmum said...

Fabulous. I so long to take my children to Greece - me and R used to go a lot, but I haven't been since the children were born, and have long been trying to find an unspoilt destination - it sounds perfect and your photos are stunning, my favourite is that one of the fishing boat. Can't wait to hear about the onl Greek gay in the village! Lovely to have you back.

mountainear said...

I've had to rush over here to get a fix of Greek island life. You could be describing Paxos - though I suspect the latter is now a little busier. Your pictures are beautiful and really transported me there.

Alan and I fly to Paxos tomorrow - our 9th visit over about 20 years I think. When the boys were small it seemed such a safe place for them, friendly too. It's reassuring that children still play on the quayside, fishing for tiddlers, tourist and local children alike.

Your common room picture is so evocative of the milky light and flat sea that the evening brings, just before the lights begin to twinkle.

...not long to wait now!

ska said...

modern obviously! and rosie sepaks a litle too now! so sweet

ska said...

oh mousie, how I envy you! we go regularly to greece as my husband studied ancient greek and now has learned odern greek too. We love it nad it's a toss up between greece and france for our escape abroad. I actually leaned to sail from Nidri and have sailed to Meganissi so this brought back wonderful memories for me.

Milla said...

That was lovely! It's hard getting back, isn't it.

toady said...

You may wish you'd kept your little island a secret - sounds absolutely wonderful. I hope you have returned feeling rested and happy.
Toadyxx

muddyboots said...

lovely photos, & a great island, we sailed in from the sunsail club at vounaki, saw dolphin and all sorts, great holiday blog!

bodran... said...

It looks beautiful and so tranquil you lucky things..xx nice to have you back xo

vic said...

It looks lovely, so serene!

Sallys Chateau said...

Lovely relaxing ten mins, (deep sigh.)

Faith said...

Lovely but maybe a little too quiet for me. Your photos are stunning. I do love Greece.

Withy Brook said...

You really did take us there and the photos are fab. Thank you for a lovely holiday shared.

Cait O'Connor said...

I am awake in the early hours and your blog has transported me to a wonderful place and I feel relaxed again. It sounds my sort of island. Great photos.
Thank you, I look forward to next instalment.
Caitx

snailbeachshepherdess said...

That was wonderful...have they signed you up to write about the place because you just did a very good advertising slot for the island. Those pictures re beautiful.

annakarenin said...

Ditto SBS that was a wonderful travelogue to read I really enjoyed and the photos were superb and I bet you look fine in a bikini - jellie belly ha ha?? you look incredibly slim and love the hats.

Westerwitch/Headmistress said...

Lovely lovely homework.

The guests we had from Israel would do well to read your blog about your holiday and electricity and water problems and your postive attitude to it. We have water pressure problems sometimes which can make the shower head in The Farm House a bit difficult to get the water temp right . . . however for these particular guests it RUINED their holiday . . .yeah right and if it hadn't been that you would have found something else wrong. They said they were never coming back . . . hooooorrrraaayyyy.

@themill said...

Sounds like Halki - it's amazing how little water you can use when you know it has to be delivered to an Island by boat!