Week 13 - Lockdown begins

Adventures in Greece as we pursue the dream of buying a boat and cruising the Mediterranean.

Week 13 - Lockdown begins

Adventures in Greece as we pursue the dream of buying a boat and cruising the Mediterranean.

Week one of lockdown and the streets have definitely taken on a very different quality. It’s possible at almost anytime of day now to walk out and see sights like this, on what is normally one of the busiest corners in the heart of Psyrri — literally no-one.

The street outside our apartment, usually you can’t move for people, tables and chairs.

It’s definitely made Athens take on a very different quality. In some ways it feels a lot more sinister than normal. Part of this is because of the shortening days and darker nights, but I also think that there’s an underbelly to the neighbourhood we are living in that is a lot more exposed than usual.

There are fewer police around than normal, one theory we’ve heard for this is that basically people in the centre like us are either tourists or live here — there’s no reason for anyone to come to the centre now everything is closed, so they’ve moved most of the police to the suburbs where there is a lot more challenge enforcing lockdown and there are more people around.

Regardless, the few police we’ve seen have taken zero interest in us and our daily movements and we’ve yet to be stopped and asked why we are out and about. On Monday we were walking towards the market when we saw a guy leaning up against a wall, pissing on the ground and smoking a meth pipe. Two cops rode past on their mopeds and literally just shook a fist at him yelling “Stop that” as they rode off.

Behind the markets is definitely a “sketchier” part of town and as we were browsing for pumpkins on Tuesday, another man walked up behind me and asked “Do you want to buy marijuana?”, another illegal substance here. On Wednesday we went to the Asian market and we saw two guys sitting on the doorstep outside the supermarket shooting up heroin in plain day light at around 11AM in the morning.

This has definitely been one of the more unexpected consequences of lockdown, I suspect that most of this activity has always been here of course, it’s just that with so few people out and about it’s far more visible than it’s ever been.

Fortunately all the markets have remained open, so getting out to buy food is easy and continues to be an adventure. Early on we did find the meat market to be quite intimidating and it’s still a bit of a challenge coming from Australia and the US. The problem at the meat market isn’t that you can’t get what you want, to the contrary, if you can describe it, you can get it. It’s more that it’s a much more visceral experience than we’re used to!

We tried to buy two pork tenderloins and the butcher went digging inside the carcass of a pig hanging on the stall only to report that, sorry “we’ve already sold it”, but then was able to find one still inside a carcass inside his cool room. When we purchased chicken thigh fillets, they simply took a pile of drumsticks and deboned and skinned them on the spot.

Lockdown margarita’s on the penthouse rooftop

Our landlords have really been amazing, they are such kind and thoughtful people. We were inquiring about renting the penthouse suite above us (which has 3 terraces and 360 panoramic views) for New Years Eve, and they just gave us the keys! We’re able to access it at anytime now, they just asked we not use the internal facilities (which are obviously all cleaned ready for the now extremely unlikely next guest). So we have access to four outdoor terraces now, including a view of both Lycabettus Hill and the Acropolis.

While we’re careful about following the lockdown requirements, our friend Camille remains “inside our bubble” as one of the people we still see, sharing some exercise a few times a week (allowed) and brief visit to test out the latest Margarita recipe.

My lockdown mission to craft the perfect margarita has progressed well and I think we’ve nailed the basic “fresh” margarita now, and are branching out into a few variants to try and find the best. People were right that we didn’t have enough tequila to hand, but we were able to pick up some extra bottles!

Food retail does continue and new shops are occasionally opening, even during the pandemic. A new speciality croissant store opened up last week and we’ve been enjoying having some really great pastries for the first time in a while!

Eco product testing for use in marinas where grey water is dumped in the sea

Deliveries are a challenge because the property manager’s reception is closed, so it took about 10 phone calls and a lot of waiting to finally receive the package that had all of our new eco detergents in it. We’re planning ahead for the boat and trying to find sea-friendly detergents that don’t have phosphates and other things in them that damage marine life. Not “that” big a deal really, but we also want to find local Greek products instead of shipping them in from the UK. The above finally arrived, so we get to test them out before we have to use it “for real”.

Karina had several excursions to sort out a specialist and some medications for her arthritis which turned out to be a much better experience than we’d anticipated. Not too much paperwork (you only need your name and fathers first name name to be uniquely identified, they don’t issue an id number!). We were nervous because the insurance company had declined to cover her for this as a pre-existing condition, but then the specialist cost €40 and the medications under €15 for a course of drugs that in the US would have been anywhere up to 1000 dollars. An x-ray was €10! Turns out socialised healthcare services really aren’t that bad!

I had an appointment to extend my visa which went smoothly, if slowly (2 hour wait for the documents to be processed), but I now have an extension up until the middle of February which will hopefully give us enough time to get my residence permit sorted out.

On to week 2 of lockdown, but to date it’s been a relatively pleasant and full first week. The case numbers here continue to rise, reaching 3316 new cases yesterday (up from 2,900 new cases last week), so it’s probable that the lockdown will be extended — certainly the messaging from the government is indicating that’s going to be the case. It’s looking like a very quiet Christmas and New Year period.

Until next time!

Tim & Karina.