Adventures in Greece as we pursue the dream of buying a boat and cruising the Mediterranean.
This has been a crazy busy week as many of our friends can attest. Trying to organise to meet up has gone from “sure we’re doing nothing” to “we’re out at the moment, but we can do from 11.45–12.30, but then we’re off again”.
The boat related news is that we’ve signed the MOA (Memorandum of Agreement) and paid the deposit on a boat. This is has been in progress for quite some time, so it’s a relief to finally get that locked in. What does it actually mean though? Essentially it outlines the agreement for what the seller needs to provide and what the buyer has to do in order to complete the transfer of the boat subject to certain conditions. It doesn’t mean we’ve bought it yet, but it means we’re on the railway tracks and as long as there is no disaster, there’s no hopping off — there’s every expectation this is the one. Yes, we thought the same back in Samos where we had an MoA then too, but this time we’re much better prepared and the sellers are much better prepared too. We have to go to sea trial before the 16th of April which is the last chance to back out (and only if there was something major wrong), once this is done, we’ll share some more about it all.
The other major event was saying farewell to Erik which was sad for all of us. He was one of the first people we met here in Athens some 7 months or so ago and we’ve met up with him almost every week since, usually twice a week to walk, chat and share experiences. We’re happy for him that he’s able to get home to his family through all the various lockdowns etc., but sad because we’ll miss his friendly presence here in Athens too. We met on an ice cream tour so it was fitting that we bookended our time together with another ice cream as we said goodbye.
We also managed to see the last few archaeological sites that are opened before April, which saved us some cash as they all double in price from April 1st for the tourist season.
We visited Hadrian’s Library and the Roman Agora, both quite small, but still interesting enough in their own way and correspondingly cheap given their size. If you didn’t have time here in Athens, walking through the library doesn’t show you anything that you can’t see by walking around the outside. In fact, the majority of it is really ruins of later churches that were built on the site afterwards. The only original features exist primarily because they were incorporated into another building.
Of the two sites, I preferred the Roman Agora, primarily because of two features. One is the Horologian of Andronicus (Temple of the Winds) which originally housed a astrological computer, but is also interested because it’s really one of only two buildings that remain essentially intact from Roman times, including the roof. The other is the public toilets for the market. This is a square building that had an open sewer / water running around the outside of the square, and toilet seats along the edge, you’d face inwards and do your business, just you and approximately 60 of your fellow citizens. Awkward, but interesting all the same.
The other major site of course is the Acropolis. The last time we were here (late September) it was almost 40C in direct sun and we did not enjoy it at all, this time it was a much more pleasant 19C and we had a great time. As we walked up the hill, a tour guide asked us to join her tour which had just started, she had one German lady, Hannah with her, who was happy to do the tour in English. We negotiated down to €15 each and agreed. It was interesting to get a more detailed perspective on what we were seeing and we spent some time chatting with Hannah afterwards and shared numbers so we could catch up later. For the record, the guide originally offered the tour to Hannah for €60 so you can definitely negotiate down!
It is of course Easter this weekend for much of the world, but for the Orthodox church it’s a month later, so there isn’t a great deal of celebration at all. The Easter eggs are appearing in the stores though which is fun and we were able to buy some for us to enjoy with coffee on our Sunday afternoon. There is a big tradition of ceremonial breads here in Greece and one of them is a traditional Easter bread which is starting to appear in the stores as well with a red dyed egg baked into it.
Hannah joined us for dinner one night and brought home made Apple Strudel for us to enjoy with dessert. Then later in the week she invited us to her place to enjoy coffee in the afternoon. We were amused when we arrived at her place as we recognised it — it’s the same building our friend Ginny stayed in earlier in the year. We’ve enjoyed meeting and spending time with her and sharing our knowledge of Athens. She joined us for pancakes and easter eggs this morning before a long walk to the cemetery and back.
We spent time with Camille and Simon one evening as well for dinner. As we were walking to Simon’s house, we saw a group of (probably) Bangladeshis playing cricket. There’s very limited open space here in the centre of Athens, so a big square, a light pole for a wicket and away you go. With the start of daylight savings, this is much more practical into the evening as well.
Other street scenes that have amused us included the woman who picked up a large pile of cardboard packing boxes and tied them down to the roof of her car with a piece of string, we’re not sure how far she had to go, but I’m also fairly convinced the boxes wouldn’t make it there with her.
The bars continue to open for “take out” drinks too — there’s talk of opening restaurants in the next few weeks, so there’s a lot of activity around cleaning and prepping for opening, but given there was several hundred people, maybe almost 1,000 crammed into the streets around our house last night, we think most people have just given up on the whole lockdown idea to a degree. The cops came by 5 minutes before curfew and yelled at them through a loudspeaker and they did disperse, but it seems that enforcement is very thin on the ground. As a greek policeman told a friend “I don’t get paid enough for this shit”.
There are more tourists around, not just us, and it’s interesting how the character of the streets is changing. They opened Greece to vaccinated Israelis on Tuesday (they don’t have to quarantine), and we’ve already met several who basically said “the minute they said we could come, we booked a flight the same day”. There’s a huge pent-up desire to travel and get out of your own space at the moment. I think this in part is contributing to more of the bars trying to do take away, but also we see a lot more of the various street vendors out now, spruiking flowers and other items they think tourists may like.
I’ve also finished teaching English this week, it’s been a very interesting experience and I am continuing to work with the Habibi Center to help organise and run some things. Basically I can use my time with them to impact more than just the few people I can help teach and I’m going to be focussing on that going forward, including an app idea I’m developing in conjunction with them and another NGO here.
Well that’s the main events this week, the plan this coming week will probably involve spending some more time with Hannah and gearing up for the sea trial and survey of the boat in the next week or so.
Until next time,
Tim & Karina