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BS: Postcard from Thasos (Greece) 2010

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Roger the Skiffler 17 Sep 10 - 12:32 PM
Amos 17 Sep 10 - 12:45 PM
Roger the Skiffler 17 Sep 10 - 12:58 PM
Micca 17 Sep 10 - 05:20 PM
Slag 17 Sep 10 - 05:54 PM
open mike 17 Sep 10 - 06:00 PM
Roger the Skiffler 18 Sep 10 - 04:45 AM
Roger the Skiffler 18 Sep 10 - 06:11 AM
katlaughing 19 Sep 10 - 01:02 AM

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Subject: BS: Postcard from Thasos (Greece) 2010
From: Roger the Skiffler
Date: 17 Sep 10 - 12:32 PM

Was it a coincidence that Max and Charlie Noble waited until I'd headed off to Greece before they came to the UK?
        We'd been considering Thasos for about 15 years since friends of ours recommended it. We hesitated because of limited flights from UK to Kavala meant using one of the big travel operators. However, we travelled with them flight only last year and had no problems so we booked a studio in one of their "small and friendly" category. The travel arrangements worked fine with none of the delays waiting for ferries that we've been used to when we've cobbled together flight, accommodation and ferries. It was interesting travelling across Macedonia from Kavala airport to Kerimoti port . Very flat fertile farmland and the coast was marshy with low islands & sandbanks. Our accommodation was one of 20 studios in 2 blocks run by a very friendly family and kept spotless. They were about 500m to shops and tavernas and another 100m to the sea in lovely gardens with lawn, olive and other trees, roses, hibiscus, lavender and marigolds. George the owner (so many of our owners over the years have been Georges!) spent most of the day pruning, dead-heading, watering and mowing. Water, we quickly learned, was not a problem on Thasos. Springs abounded and water not only safe to drink but highly commended.
        Since our friends were there the resort had become very developed. I wouldn't want to be there in high season but at this end of the year it wasn't too crowded and the tourists were largely our age group rather than young ravers. It is not surprising it has been developed as there is a mile-long sandy beach, shallow sea, with moderate waves, safe for youngsters, backed by a semicircle of pine-clad mountains.
        Thasos means forest and we were pleased to see there had been no recent fires and the ones a few years ago had been replaced by new planting. The end of the bay where we were was known (for marketing purposes!) as Chryssy Amoudi or Golden Beach but was really Skala Panagia. The two villages in the hills of Potamia and Panagia (built for security in the days of pirate raids) each had a seaside presence for fishing or gathering olives from the coastal plain: Skala Potamis and Skala Panagia. Skala Potamia was the first to be developed and the growth of hotels and apartments (mercifully low-rise) gradually spread along the bay. Judging from postcards still on sale, the campsite was about the only feature of our end of the bay until recently. Now it was a rather run-down collection of cabins, tents and ageing caravans, but with a good shop. Caravans were a feature of the island. We have been on other islands where they are banned. Here, as well as those on the campsite, lots of gardens held a van or two for visitors or for the owners to move into while they let out their house. The fishing boat harbour also had caravans and shacks for summer use by the fishermen.
        OK, the accommodation and beach lived up to expectations. My other preoccupation is my (ever expanding) stomach. No problem. We could, if we'd been prepared to walk the full length, have eaten at a different place every night. As it was, I think we tried 7 or 8 establishments and never had a bad meal, with plenty of scope for trying new dishes (lamb with honey sauce, nettle soup any one?). I succeeded in having a different main course each evening. All this competition meant that we were very well looked after. Every place offered some complimentary dishes. One gave a free ouzo and bread sticks while you were choosing, and a free sweet and brandy when you asked for the bill. Most gave either a free sweet or fruit or drink or combination or a pre-starter like olive paste. We were surprised at the prices. Over the last few years we've budgeted at around 20 euros for lunch for the 2 of us (salad or omelette with beer) and 30 for evening meal (shared starter, 2 mains, bread, water, half litre of house wine). Here we found lunches were 15-17 euros, evening meal rarely exceeded 27, even the night we had fish it was under 40 euros. Our usual pre-prandial plonk was only 3euros 25 for a litre and a half.
        Menus continue to provide examples of fractured English: contra pork, fried proud, grinding baguettes, squeak salad, and, no doubt, for the devout Orthodox, God (frozen) and Solomon grilled . In the toilet of one lunchtime venue we were exhorted to "put the paper in the beans" (we avoided the beans there). We asked one owner what was the fruit liqueur he gave us. "Some liqueur" was his reply, presumably one of those that didn't come in a bottle with a label.
Toilets. Those of a nervous disposition look away now. We were surprised that some places on the island and the mainland were still using (at least for gents) what the holiday rep described as "French" toilets (a hole and two footprints, albeit modern ceramic and made by Ideal Standard.
        The beach was much busier than we were used to but sunbeds and umbrellas were free if you had a coffee or beer (guess which!) at the establishment which owned them . We saw no disputes between operators although it was often difficult for users to work out who owned what. The local people were not jaded by the advent of mass tourism, were all very friendly and professed to be impressed by our limited Greek, helped us extend it and pronounce it properly. One slight irritant was hawkers on the beach. We were used to the occasional African guy selling pirate CDs and DVDs arriving in a village on a moped for an hour but here we had a constant parade, though to be fair they weren't pushy. Apart from the CD/DVD guy there were two with suitcases full of watches that you just knew would fail by the time you got them home and even items of furniture like tables and mirrors. Four Thais, (one male and three females) offered massages and seemed to do some trade. When you hear the sound of slapping on a Greek waterfront it is usually a fisherman tenderising an octopus. Here it was usually a tiny Thai woman walloping seven bells out of a large Bulgarian. Yes, there may not be many flights from UK but as well as the usual Northern Europeans there were mainly tourists from Eastern Europe, predominately Bulgarian but also Romanian, Albanian, Slovakian, Czech and Polish. Slovaks we talked to who were staying in the campsite had come by coach on a 24 hour journey.   Most of the Bulgarians looked like shot-putters, and the men were even larger.
        Perhaps that explains why the buskers (guitar and accordion) on the ferry over played Kalinka. Yes, there was a nasty outbreak of accordians. Our meal one evening was interrupted by an accordion player whose female companion carried a tambourine that she occasionally tapped to no rhythmic effect- she seemed spaced out. His repertoire included such delights as Pack up your troubles and The Birdy Song! On the return ferry a different accordion player played the usual Zorba's Dance and Italian favourites then produced a trumpet that he played with the right had while he continued on the squeezebox with his left. The Saints has never sounded further from New Orleans.
        I would not have you believe we did nothing but lounge on the beach or eat. Oh, no. The sea was so warm even I took a daily dip, though it was tiring going out far enough to get your upper half wet. We also did some walking and two arranged excursions. We walked up to Potamia, first, using the excellent English language walks guide and map. There was an interesting church and a museum of a sculptor active in the US in the 1930s, Pygnotis Vaghis. While we were having a coffee (honest) in the main square there was the usual symposium of old men in the kafenion putting the world to rights and a van delivering vegetables. Then the local bus arrived and of course, couldn't get round the corner. One sensed this was a drama played out every day "But I always stop here to unload, although I know the bus is due. Yes, traffic coming the other way has to be diverted (by the taverna owner) down a side street so I can back up the minimum amount to let the bus through." After this daily excitement the symposium dispersed. As we left to take the track back down the hill water started gushing out of drainage pipes down the streets, much shouting and arm waving by the men present. As we went round a corner we saw the typical black-clad elderly woman who had quietly located the problem, lifted a drain cover and removed the obstacle (a torn black plastic rubbish bag) which had blocked the culverted stream which gave the village its name.
        Last year I invented a new Greek proverb: every tree its goat; every goat its tree. I now came up with another: every olive grove its old beer crate or plastic chair. This was clearly for the paterfamilias to sit on while supervising the picking of the crop by his wife and children. Thasos is famous for wood, marble, honey, chestnuts and walnuts, but also its olives which are black and wrinkled (no jokes, please). We also walked round to the next bay: deserted as it was a scramble down over or under a fallen tree. No sand just a marble pebbles and weathered marble boulders. Aptly called Blue Bay by the guidebooks it was very peaceful though there was a deserted cantina behind which probably operated in high season.
        The other local walk we did was to our hill village of Panagia. The church there was the usual richly frescoed and adorned Orthodox church and contained a faded cloth reputed to be Richard I's Crusader standard. It also had an Anglepoise lamp welded to a marble pillar to illuminate the lectern and ugly lengths of aluminium air-conditioning ducting to take the candle smoke outside and preserve the frescos. We were sorry to see the notice mentioned in the guides "If the church is locked, ring the bell on the backside" was no longer visible. I was a bit miffed that we had dressed appropriately before entering to find the female custodian who was there to enforce this, and the no-photography rule, was wearing jeans, and that Greek visitors were in shorts and bare shoulders.   The main feature of Panagia was its water. One square had a series of springs diverted into fountains and rills which ran through the village and one fountain in the main square was reputed to give long life. Certainly locals drank from it, filled containers,and washed hands in it. While Sheila photographed the springs I moved into another street to phootgraph an interesting old house and exchanged greeting with an old boy cleaning his car. We heard a car horn and moved aside as a car came past us, the driver (even older than us) was lying across both front seats and could hardly see over the dashboard. After he disappeared round the cornet there was a bang. We looked at each other, both shrugged (his was the much more expressive Greek shrug that starts around the knees and goes up to the eyebrows). We walked to the corner (OK in UK we'd have run, but this is Greece) while women came out on balconies an invoked various saints. Despite having at least 3 foot clearance on the driver's side, the car had run into the corner of a house on the passenger side, denting the wing and wheel arch and removing a chunk of plaster from the house. With much grinding of gears the car eventually reversed enough to make a second attempt at getting round the corner with the bent metal screeching as it rubbed on the wheel. At the next corner another car came into view and sensible reversed. Sheila had joined me at this point and having heard the story dragged me away lest we were asked to be witnesses. The car cleaner guy and I exchanged final shrugs and "po po pos", he patted me on the shoulder as if to say "this is Greece" and we parted.
        Churches: we were pleased that they were not only open but usually the door left welcomingly open. The church at the resort was very old, stone roof tiles and square with a vestigial apse but the usual icons inside. A couple we passed on our walks, equally tiny and stone-built, didn't even boast an apse. One of the larger ones had an icon of St George that was surrounded by votive offerings, not unusual but these were all military: swords, caps, badges. We also did a walk on a cloudy day up into the forest to a viewpoint over the village at the spot commemorating the shooting of a hero of the (Communist) Resistance in WW2. The only rain we had was over night which soaked the towels we had left to dry on the balcony, but we did a trip the next day so they had a day to dry again.
        Back at the studios there were two mysteries: why did they design it so you couldn't have the balcony door and the fridge door open at the same time and what was going on in the next door apartment. The usually genial George was heard politely but firmly asking them not to do something because "it damaged the sheets". They woman replied "it's a device". Our fevered imaginations envisaged the exotic (sex toys?) to the mundane (using the bed as an ironing board for a travel iron?). All suggestions welcomed.
        The two trips we did: one was with the tour company and took us back to the mainland, to the amazing ruins of Philippi (where we noted the Roman loos were more advanced than the "French" loo in the taverna we had lunch at)    , the Baptisery of Lydia (another modern but very ornate church, no restrictions on dress or photography) and the amazing caves of Alistri: almost a mile open to the public, incredible types of formations, not to mention piles of bat guano, and to the credit of the locals, the stalagtites had not been dynamited as on another island of our acquaintance. We had excellent English speaking guides throughout, one of whom had been an archaeologist on the vast Philippi site (Greek amphitheatre, Roman Forum and Agora with hypocausts and mosaic floors, marble paved road still showing cart ruts and three ruined early to Byzantine Christian basilicas). The drive across the plain was interesting as the crops were very varied: rice, tobacco, mulberry, maize, kiwi fruit, melons, asparagus, sunflowers and olives. Fish farms included eels which Greeks don't eat apparently (shame!) but export smoked to Scandinavia.
        The other trip we did with a local company as they were 10 euros a head cheaper than the tour company's identical island tour. Well, you get what you pay for. We were promised an English language guide. On the day we discovered we were the only English couple on the bus. There was a Polish couple, a German woman and the rest were Slovakian. The Slovak guide never paused for breath the whole day. Just as we were about to set off, his assistant, who spoke English, was informed she was to be the English guide for the 5 of us non-Slovaks. Poor girl. She did her best to translate for us with no microphone and no pauses from her colleague. Mercifully, she paraphrased what he was saying.   We visited a small archaeological site, several villages, the Monastery (staffed by nuns) of Archangel Michael (strict rules on dress and photography- the latter ignored by the Greeks visiting!. The small temple ruin site was next to a small VERY crowded beach with tavernas where we had lunch. Yet the other side of the ruins was a much nicer beach, albeit with no facilities other than a caravan snack bar that was deserted. We also had photographs at the viewpoint with Mount Athos in the background (far away and in cloud). Going through the capital Thasos Town (aka Limenas) we got stuck by a parked car. It was near a motorbike hire place. The bike hire guy didn't know who the owner was and despite our driver's horn blowing and imprecations, no-one emerged. The bike hire guy discovered the car was unlocked so he and the Slovak guide pushed it out of the way and put it back after the bus had got past, together with a long line of backed-up traffic.
        We were told that the small black goats roaming the island had been genetically proved to never have been domesticated. Certainly there weren't any signs of goat farming except in our resort where two large white ones were milked and brought (on a rope like a dog)to the olive grove opposite our studios to eat the grass in the evenings. Lack of goats (though we did see some sheep) meant that the task of keeping the grass down in the olive groves was down to scythe or, usually, and more noisily, strimmer.
        Finally, (I hear your sigh of relief, dear reader) the annual swimsuit survey. Our June holiday in Kea proved inconclusive. I feared the presence of so many chic Athenians with their brown and burgundy choices were skewing the statistics so on Thasos, with a larger, more diverse sample, I took an even closer study, which of course, has its own hazards (I still think the Mayor was over-reacting by confiscating my binoculars and stamping my passport "Never to return"). Well, tourquoise made a return, but finally I can reveal, if you take into account the major colour in a two colour suit, one half of a mix and match two piece, the one pieces (some of the Bulgarians were so poor they could only afford one piece of a two piece, I noticed) then it is true: Black is the new black and outdid all the rest.
        So, my fans, AGM soon at a phone booth with hot-line to Samaritans, and I'll leave you until next year.


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Subject: RE: BS: Postcard from Thasos (Greece) 2010
From: Amos
Date: 17 Sep 10 - 12:45 PM

Well done, Rog!! It is always a delight to vicariously absorb Greek bathing suits through your scintillating observations!!


A


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Subject: RE: BS: Postcard from Thasos (Greece) 2010
From: Roger the Skiffler
Date: 17 Sep 10 - 12:58 PM

I should have mentioned that marble is so common, garden walls and harbour breakwaters are made of it and carparks covered in marble chippings. I guess if you want to show how rich you are you DONT use marble. Lots of open air sculptures, though sadly covered with PAOK football team grafitti. I'll share some snaps with the usual suspects soon.

RtS


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Subject: RE: BS: Postcard from Thasos (Greece) 2010
From: Micca
Date: 17 Sep 10 - 05:20 PM

Good Oh! Roger, Its almost like being there!! was the wine resinated? or is that mainland?


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Subject: RE: BS: Postcard from Thasos (Greece) 2010
From: Slag
Date: 17 Sep 10 - 05:54 PM

Excellent, and I lilke email postcards. It seems you can get a little bit more info on them than the stamped ones!


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Subject: RE: BS: Postcard from Thasos (Greece) 2010
From: open mike
Date: 17 Sep 10 - 06:00 PM

this has way too many words for a post card...it will require a first class mail stamp to deliver all that narrative... where's the pictures?


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Subject: RE: BS: Postcard from Thasos (Greece) 2010
From: Roger the Skiffler
Date: 18 Sep 10 - 04:45 AM

It was turning into a three volume novel, wasn't it? I still omitted a few impressions.
OK I'm a miserable old B**** who doesn't enjoy beeing around too many people and it wasn't our usual small village, deserted beach, holiday so it was nice to be so quickly alone in the countryside. After the smell of suntan lotion, it was good to inhale the smell of pine and also wild sage which fringed the paths. On some of the flatter contours there were still olive groves and the aforementioned chairs/crates were good to act as rest stops for ageing hikers.There are supposed to be horned vipers but we only saw 2 dead snakes, one I'm sure was only a slow worm, the other too squashed (both roadkill) to identify.
There was a roadtrain (now popular in some British resorts as well) which took delighted children (and some overexcited adults) around the four villages (lit up at night!).
We didn't need an alarm clock as the smoke detectors in the studios were right over the kitchen area so as one of our neighbours insisted on making toast every morning, their smoke alarm was always going off. When we did our research the only negative comment on the accommodation was the paucity of kitchen equipment. Well, we only had, yoghurt, fruit, bread & honey style breakfasts so not a problem for us. We had a kettle, toaster, fridge , 2 hobs, one saucepan, one frying pan, fruit knife, corkscrew (but I always take my own Butler's Friend in case) 2 sets of cutlery, 2 mugs, plates, bowls etc & 2 tumblers. No spatulas, cooking spoons or breadknife. We didn't even want to cook a lunchtime omelette so we didn't need anything more. We DID buy a couple of cheap wine glasses from the local shop as we did in Kea for around 60 cents and left them for the next occupant.
There was a little attempt at recycling, though not as organised as on Kea, and the beach was kept very clean, one of the upsides of the end-to-end sunbed concessions. There was one patch between the two resorts where the beach was barely the width of a sunbed and with the waves breaking over and the road behind, we couldn't imagine them ever being used. Although it was crowded to our tastes, the piles of "in reserve" sunbeds hidden away in fields and yards behind the beach confirmed our view that it was not a place to go in June-August.
One of the bars had a quiz night, a karaoke night and a 60s/70s disco night. We were amused to see it seemed to be silent and deserted on those eveings though quite busy on other nights!
RtS


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Subject: RE: BS: Postcard from Thasos (Greece) 2010
From: Roger the Skiffler
Date: 18 Sep 10 - 06:11 AM

On our round the island bus trip we stopped for the Slovaks to buy, buy, buy: at a gold & jewelry shop (we used their loos but didn't buy!) and Potos weekly street market, fruit, veg and cheap clothes, including a large range of colourful underwear for the fuller figure- we found a kafenion and had a frappe while the others shopped.
RtS


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Subject: RE: BS: Postcard from Thasos (Greece) 2010
From: katlaughing
Date: 19 Sep 10 - 01:02 AM

Wonderful, again! I SO love to read of your travels, Roger. Thanks so much and I will take a look at the pix tomorrow. It really is almost like being there...the closest I will probably ever get there. Thanks, again, from one of your Adoring Public!:-)

kat & my Rog


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