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Newsletter Number Three

Published 2 July 02

Three months have quickly passed, and summer is starting full swing.  The ferry port is evidence of this, as each ferry brings eager tourists ready for island life.  We have had our share of tourists here at our pension:  Scandinavians,  French, New Zealanders and Israel, to name a few.  Even a surprise visit from Michael's brother and sister-in-law who live in Virginia.  And our son Justin, and his fiancée, Ana from Oregon.  So it has been a busy month, indeed.
 
Michael's brother and sister-in-law were unfortunately here only a short while, but left marveling that they "love it here, and will be returning soon... and wouldn't this be a fabulous spot for a summer holiday house"...etc.  Words we love to hear!  Our son and his fiancée made themselves right at home, and using us as a jump off point to visit other islands when they needed a change of scene.  We all managed to go to Santorini together for an overnighter...and then they went to Samos and Ephesus (Turkey) later.  Definitely a trip we plan to make at some point.  Each island has something wonderful about it; either historically or geographically.
 
One day my son suggested we all go to the mountain town of Lefkes and take the old Byzantine trail down 3 km. to the little sea village of Podromhas.  He knew it was something I was eager to do, and had not done yet.  We left one scooter at the bottom of the trail, and ferried ourselves up to the top where we also left one scooter.  (Lots of songs and dances to figure the simple math of that one out - must be the heat that muddles our brains!)  We walked through Lefkes, admiring all the little alleyways, and the view.  I gave them a bit of history, such as during earlier days Lefkes was the capital instead of Pariokia (now the main town and port) because of the pirate raids!  Safety in the hills!  We also attempted to visit the Byzantine Museum, but true to Greek style, it was closed.  While we walked we kept admiring the sea in the distance, all around us were olive groves, tinkling bells of goats in the far off ravines and old windmills on the hills above us.  It was exciting to know we were following in the footsteps of such an old and active time in commerce...and pondered just who and why and when it all took place.  The walk was over before we knew it! 
 
We left Michael and our son to go get the scooter and meet up at the local park.  In the meantime, Ana and I got lost in the little village alleyways, and had to ask an old kindly gentleman the way out!  Neither of us could understand one word he spoke, but he told us over and over with such a gleam in his eye I wondered just what he WAS telling us!  We nodded our faked understanding of his "instructions", clucked in all the right places, smiled a lot...and proceeded to get lost some more!  Finally, common sense took over and viola!  We found the road and our fellas!
 
Weather-wise it seems to continue being quite windy.. thank goodness there are coves that stay calm for swimming.  The sea is just now starting to feel definitely warmer due to hotter days.  One day recently, we purposely chose a beach that had some great breakers and found ourselves body-surfing!  We felt like children....laughing at each other while letting ourselves be knocked down by very large waves; coming up for air only to be knocked down again!  (All that fun on the way home from grocery shopping! ) One habit we have adopted is coming back, taking a shower, and sitting down with a cold beer on our balcony to rest or flop on the bed for a late afternoon siesta.  Not a bad way of life, huh?
 
The owner of our building, Wolfgang and his wife and children are taking a 3 week holiday in Germany.  So we have become surrogate farmers!  Meaning that Michael feeds rabbits and chickens twice a day, collects eggs, and waters what is left of his garden.  I have taken over washing and ironing the pension sheets and towels.  The gardens in Greece are interesting:  in the States gardens would now be coming fruitful, while here it is nearly finished.  I am not sure when it starts again....I suppose it finishes early because it starts much earlier than I am used to.  We are now picking just a few odds and ends:  green peppers, tomatoes, and lots of onions.  There are  several rows of sunflowers that are grown mostly for the rabbits.  They really relish the seeds and leaves of them.  The bunnies were so tiny when I first met them, and now they are quite big, but still adorable.  Hard to believe they are being raised for food!  I try not to think about it.  Also we are becoming more used to saving kitchen scraps (vegetables and fruits) for the chickens.  The compost pile in the corner of their field is their gourmet restaurant!
 
We have a caper bush!  Apparently this bush is quite common to the Greeks and grows all over the Mediterranean.  One day Antonia, the owners wife, stopped by and in Greek and German tried to explain to me about a low lying bush that was growing next to the road, and under a taller bush. I was about to tell her that we almost pulled it out because it appeared dead and only became green and full of lovely blossoms that week.  But from her motions and languages, I could tell she wanted to tell me something...so I strained to understand her.  In a few short moments it was apparent to me that this plant was something special....she knelt down and started picking the little buds and pantomimed saving them in a container, putting water over them and then throwing the water away for 3 days in a row.  Then, she shook something over them...what? what?  Ah, salt!  Then throw that away, put them into another container, cover with vinegar and store in the fridge for several months.  After all that charades and excited arm waving, I am amazed how women who don't speak the same language can stand and "talk" - even exchange recipes!    I have carefully completed the instructions using salty sea water instead of  shaking table salt over them!   At the moment they are in the fridge, ageing.  Not sure how long they are suppose to age....but the internet is helping to fill in the gaps of this experiment.  I tried one the other day, and it was not particularly good, so perhaps it takes longer to age.....I will try again later.  You can't hurry a good thing!   Fingers crossed.
 
We have enjoyed watching the World Cup from different places:  our reception room TV, and local tavernas where it is interesting to be a part of the crowd, listening to people make comments about the different teams.  We watched the Americans play in just such a setting.  Most of the Greeks were rooting for the American team, so we could shout and carry on without any evil glances!  Our office TV has only 3 channels, and they do not come in very well.  But we enjoy videos on our own TV...and are amazed at the selections to rent.  We are looking for one that one of the town policemen we have met is in!  It shows him waking up a crowd who are asleep on the beach, using a megaphone.  Actually, he told me that scene really happened in real life.  Back in the 1980's tourism was just starting to take off on the islands.  The problem was not enough hotels rooms.  So the people just took to sleeping on the beach as the ferry had left and they had no place to stay.  One problem compounded another....and the police did not want them sleeping on the beach night after night...so decided one of them had to go and wake the tourists and get them up and moving on their way.  Well, back then, the police had not learned many manners, I guess, because the tourists where rudely awakened...which angered my friend, Dimitris.  So he complained, and as we all know, the complainer gets to think of a better way!   Which he did.  He got a megaphone, went to the beach early in the morning (8:00 AM), loudly, but in a friendly voice said, "Good morning tourists!  It is a LOVELY day, and you must GET UP NOW and SEE IT!  BREAKFAST is waiting your stomachs, so please wake now, and enjoy this lovely day!  THANK YOU VERY MUCH!!"  He became famous amongst his colleagues for that episode, and when the Brits came to make a movie (unfortunately a Grade B) he was asked to do this part for the scene!  I guess that makes him a star!  He certainly is handsome enough!
 
I have been meeting some wonderful Greeks and local expats, which give just the right flavour to the day.  Dimitris is one...he is very knowledgeable about Greek history and loves to share it!  A Swiss painter who paints without a brush, using only his hands...and shows his artwork all over the world....(it is not my taste, but he and his partner are so very interesting and friendly) and a lovely Australian women who just had twins...and loves people to stop by and entertain them to free her for awhile.  A walk with a pram on a beach is quite an interesting way to meet people and start conversations!  So our days are not only the pension, but intermingling with others here on the island.  Everyone has a story... 
 
I write only the about fun and interesting things, because as we all know there are downsides and boring times as well.  Fortunately, very few.  I just don't want people to think we are living in utopia and having nothing but fun.  We work, and we work hard, but we enjoy life also.  Just the other night Aliki had a local festival with free grilled octopus, retsina, music and a big beach bonfire.  The party was in celebration of a religious holiday called Whit-Sunday, and Whit-Monday.  It went on for a long time: we finally came home and went to sleep with the faint sound of the music in the background, but it did not deter the puppy across the way from yelping all night long!  We still have to spray for bugs, the mosquito's still love me (not Michael), my scooter had a flat and a new tire cost as much as a car's, the hotwater tank sprung a leak, and I got a parking ticket!  So, you see, island life is just like anywhere else!  The nice thing is that for the most part, our hotel guests never have to experience it....they just party late, sleep late, read and swim a lot, and get to eat out more because they are on holiday!
 
From what I am hearing from our guests, they enjoy Paros and each person has found areas they feel are special to them, or discovered areas even I did not know about!  They are filling up our guestbook with lovely comments....
 
I will end with this:  just watched a gigantic red sun completely and quickly swallowed by a blue sea!  In my mind it is totally comprehensible how ancient Greek mythology and pagan beliefs came about....nature is awesome.
 
Yassis!
Karin
 
 
Michael's meagre contribution:  a little philosophy.
 
Karin does such a wonderful, evocative job of describing our life on Paros that I see no gaps to fill in.  If any readers have any questions of us, please ask.
 
As I browse travel sites on the internet and read questions I try to answer what I can in order to share our knowledge.  Also I enjoy and learn from other's answers.  Just last week someone wrote to say they were planning a three week trip to Greece.  What should they look for? what to avoid? which islands were best? any tips?  Someone else wrote back the perfect answer.  "I recommend the Lonely Planet Guide Book.  They take about 750 pages to answer your questions."
 
We are glad to help with specifics such as ferry schedules, rates, good places to stay, eat, local buses, what things should cost and the like.  Yet each visitor is different; there are no bests.  No one likes to suffer the consequences of a mistake, yet having an adventure turns an ordinary day into a lifetime memory (Ask Karin about our Samaria Gorge experience!)  A little discomfort from stretching your boundaries is good for the soul, I believe.
 
My major advice to prospective travellers is to have a good attitude and everything else will fall into place as it should.  You may not walk the most direct route to your destination but you will learn, experience and grow more by not trying for pre-packaged perfection.  Besides plans never work out anyway.
 
Finally, we have all heard the number one travel advice:  Pack light!  This month I finally met someone who follows it.  Experienced travellers who were here for a week with only what the rest of us would call a day pack each.  Well done, Doug and Maryrose.

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