Category Archives: Greece

Around a Greek coffee in Bucharest talking about Greece


Bucharest Old Centre

Around a coffee in Bucharest is debated the future of Greece; so close to the Balkans in spirit and fact.
It’s interesting how the Greece crisis is perceived in various parts of the world. It happened that I spent these events in Bucharest, a country at the receiving end of the EU funding where traditionally everybody has an opinion. I read various articles in the American papers and in spite of different points of view many realize that Greece’s debt is un-payable. Surprisingly even the IMF stated the fact.
European Union was not a marriage of love and will hardly become one at least of acceptance for a long time. The centuries of disdain, suspicion or even hatred combined with the opposite mentalities had to make space in less than 20 years to love and understanding in a climate that is less affluent than in the second half of the 20th century. If you ask people from various European countries what their personal opinion about the European Union they mention more the divorce than the union. Of course none would want to lose the freedom of movement and some commerce facilities but the common currency is deeply hated, minus its convenience. According to them, from the French to the Greeks, euro brought poverty across Europe, but is really hard to pinpoint the role of the currency itself versus the new competition in the market that may be the real culprit. It’s hard not to be the king of hill after you have been one. Of course a lesser union would send the continent to a minimal role on the global market that changed way faster than the more relaxed European spirit.
The EU expansion toward the Eastern Europe was neither a humanitarian act nor a charity. The German and French economies needed new markets to absorb their products, poor markets that can be easily controlled politically. Their domination and their will is perceived as overburdening in Romania where the majority of supermarkets, malls and businesses that can bring jobs and good salaries comes from them. The persistent lack of business sense and attitude of the local population that is wideapread in these new integrated Eastern European countries made the foreign corporation task much easier, adding to them also an aura of beacons of civilization.
However the Greek PM’s speech at a time when the entire world listened made many aware of the profound anti-democratic way the continent is ruled. It is mind-boggling to understand that all the laws are generated by an un-elected commission, ruled by an un-elected president that are sending the packages to a “sort of elected” parliament who mainly rubber stamp the decisions. At least in Romania, the country allotted seats in the European Parliament are strongly coveted assuring their future politicians a salary that is unmatched in the local market. If you speak with people from various European countries all are complaining about this system that remind the Eastern Europeans of the orders coming from Moscow during the cold war.

Unfortunately the solution for Greece is a no-solution, a process of kicking the can down the road, for the Greeks with a tragedy and for the EU with lots of patting on the back and congratulations that would be passed in oblivion when the next payment phase will come. Because is no way that the Greeks would be able to pay back a debt that is way bigger than the country’s mentality can ever produce.

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Posted by on July 14, 2015 in Blog, Greece, Romania


Crete to Athens


Parthenon, Acropolis, Athens

We left the boat at 6:45am and went to the train that brought us to Omonia where we left our luggage in a storage box for E3 and walked to Monastiraki Sqaure. On the way we stopped at a breakfast stand for a last taste of pies, natural juices and frappe and continued to walk through Plaka, by the Roman Agora toward the Acropolis. We got tickets for E12/adult (kids free like everywhere in Greece), and we walked up with hordes of tourists that packed the place in a way not encountered in this trip. The hill was swarming with people and we visited the entire site in the incessant wind that made hard to set the tripod and shoot stable scenes. All nationalities were there but, like in most of the places we visited in this trip you had the feeling that you hear more East Europeans and Russians than westerners.

After the Acropolis we visited the Dionysus Theater that I was never able to visit in the previous visits, some cisterns and a foundry in the same area and went to the Greek agora, Hephaestus temple and the Ceramics Museum. We left the agora we went to the bazaar streets around Monastiraki and I took some shots at the Hadrian Library and the folk museum. Latter I left by myself for a 45 minutes in Plaka shoot but after spending days in the beautiful islands I did not find it so attractive. We returned in Monastiraki, bought train tickets for the airport for E6/pers or E10 for two and walked to Omonia to get the luggage. We got in the train and when we had to change at Sintagma I got out and did a quick shoot in the square. I got back in the train, arrived at the airport where we changed and repacked to check in two backpacks and ate in the end at McDonalds because no other place accepted credit cards.

We arrived in Frankfurt with a little delay being waited by a guy from Leonardo Hotel who brought us in 20 minutes to the hotel. We slept well; got a superb breakfast, the best in the entire trip, a German breakfast, and left for the airport with the same guy at 7:00 am and arrived at 7:28 at here we are back to JFK at 10:30am.

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Posted by on July 13, 2008 in Blog, Greece




Panagia Kera. Kritsa, Crete

We packed and got a receipt and left quickly the car being parked in front on some paid parking spots for which we did not have tickets. We left towards Agios Nicolaos following the road to Kritsa. The village is no big deal, touristy with people having their merchandise hanging on the street in front of the store. Laces, leather shoes, carpets and weavings. We left quickly after a short walk to shoot and stopped outside Agia Panagia. The church is renovated outside and does not have that old look but the frescos inside are amazing. Unfortunately no pictures are allowed and they even follow you inside to be sure that you don’t sneak any. They have also a nice icons shop, a great tradition in Crete. On the way back we stopped at an olive oil mill driven by donkeys, a museum that had an amazing shop on top full of natural products. When we wanted to leave and got in the car to leave, a man called us back and introduced to us Dora the donkey that turns the mill. He showed us the process of making manually the olive oil. Outside was a wine press and the rakki alembic. In the end he refused the entry fee of E1.


Ierapetra, Crete

From there we drove on the beautiful Mirabello coast and all the way to Ierapetra, a city of white houses with a beautiful promenade on the shore of the Libyan Sea and a Venetian fortress. I went to visit and take shots in the citadel with great views over the town. At the info center they advised us to drive to Heraklio on the new road on the coast, the same way as we came, this taking 2 hrs comparing with the one through Lasithi that may take 3 hours. So we drove directly all the way to Knossos following back the Mirabello Coast where we parked right near the ruins, the large empty parking lots speaking volumes about the lack of tourists. At the ticket booth we gave the last Euros, less than the needed amount for the entry fee, and luckily he gave us tickets for one adult and one for student. You rarely can pay by credit card in Greece and this makes life hard when you come with no Euros.


Knossos Palace, Heraklio, Crete

Knossos Palace is amazing. Now, at my second visit, I enjoyed it a lot, its reconstruction giving a better understanding of life in the palace. The rebuilding done with cement is imitating wooden beams. We spent almost 3 hours inside the ruins and left around the closing time at 6:30pm at the closing time, and went directly to get money from a nearby bank. At 7:00pm we arrived in front of Motorclub in Heraklio, parked the car and went for a walk, shot some video on a commercial street, went to the Venetian fort and stopped at a restaurant on the shore for a quick dinner of baby smelts and Greek salad. At 8:00pm we took the car and we were driven to the port by the guy from the agency to the ferryboat Festos Palace where we boarded and were assigned the cabin, 5-007. The boat was huge with 9 decks, a pool, Jacuzzi, discotheque, many restaurants, lots of shops and even one cinema. We stayed on the deck watching our boat leave followed by ANEK Lines that had the departure at the same time and followed us parallel the entire night. We slept all the way through Piraeus and we walked up when the boat got in harbor, at 5:30am hanging out longer in the cabin because we knew that the boat stays open till about 8:00 am.

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Posted by on July 12, 2008 in Blog, Greece




Malia Palace, Crete

The beautiful morning started with walk on the beach. I asked for a receipt and the owner, Dimitrios, a very spiffy gentleman, came and we followed him to another of his places, a bar on the beach, where he gave me the receipt and a business card with a mobile number. We followed the coast towards Malia where we went directly to visit the ruins of the Minoan palace. E4 entry fee. The palace is Interesting and quite large but not really great. It had some nice large pithos and beautiful walls to walk through. We went to the modern village of Malia for breakfast. We parked the car in the area of the clubs, very kitschy and probably a Zoo at night time, and we had a really great breakfast in a bakery, with cheese pies and spinach, frappe and kefir, etc.


Agios Nicolaos, Crete

We left towards Agios Nicolaos where we arrived around 1:00pm. We strolled on the shore and went to the harbor and asked in the info office what else is worth a visit. Agios Nicolaos is not large but it is pleasant to walk. Outside of the town are the village of Kritsa and the church of Agia Panagia that are worth a visit. We continued the walk on the shore to the public beach and went to the harbor and back into the center of the city and to the central lake where we took lots of beautiful pictures.

We left at 5:00pm towards Elounda and continued to Plaka on the Spinalonga peninsula and found out that the last boat to the Spinalonga island leaves at 5pm; E8. We chat with a guy from a restaurant who said that there are very few tourists and mainly few Americans and asked me if this might be related with the looming recession. I told him that is related with the $ exchange rate mainly. He regretted their absence because they are considered very good tourists, paying well and consuming a lot. We left towards the lighthouse at the end of the peninsula but the road was a dirt road so we gave up and continued on the paved one. We saw some nice villages where chickens were roaming the alleys. In other village men were hanging out in the main square for an evening chat.


Elounda, Crete

We returned to Plaka for a late swim and we drove back to Elounda, 4.5 km to get a hotel and eat. We stopped at Marin who offered an apartment for E50 after a long show and wait and, as the restaurants in Elounda were not on the shore, we returned to Plaka at Taverna Ostria, right on the pebble beach and had a great dinner of mushroom and fish soup with Ouzo and finished with some Cretan rakki, in a restaurant filled with cats. During the night a Brit came drunk, spoke loudly and left his door opened that banged in the wind all night. The island is a vacation spot for Brits.

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Posted by on July 11, 2008 in Blog, Greece




Red Beach, Santorini

Lazy morning with a swim in the pool and a longer breakfast followed by a stay on the beach chairs on the black sand. Gave the phone card to the guy at the hotel. Called Thrifty to tell them that I would like to bring the car around 5:30pm and they agreed with no fuss and no extra charge. It is an American company but still it is operating in Greece!

We left at 10:00am to buy tickets for the boat to Heraklio and to my surprise there were cheaper than the prices quoted the day before. There is only one slow boat in the middle of the night but not every night, and 1-2 fast boats leaving late afternoon, 17 45pm, that take 2 hours. Price is E36, as they repeatedly told us, but they sold the ticket for E24. We left at 11:00am to the Red Beach and took a bath in a super crowded and not so clean sea. From there you are able to take a boat, the only access, and go to white sand beach but we did not do it. We left the crowded beach that is really red from the red stone surrounding the area and stop for a beer and some pies at one of the stands near the beach. These stands that abound in Greece are a blessing with fresh cheese and spinach pies and cold beer, frappe and ice cream at relatively low prices. From there we drove around the end of the island and arrived at the lighthouse, beautiful but very windy. We returned at the hotel and spent some time on the black sand beach where the heavy wind that started in the morning was blowing everything away. The wind was present all the time in the islands and it was a blessing toning down the scorching July sun. The previous day was a windless day and it was almost unbearable hot. But starting this morning the wind began to blow wildly and the sea was extremely choppy, a bad day to go with the small boat to the islands.

We left the Blue Palace Bay hotel and drove to Athonis Port on the winding road going down the caldera. We dropped the Matiz that had no AC or no inside lights to the guy from Baltimore who said that for E25 it was OK this way. Used car salesman attitude! This is the price on the entire island but the advantage of getting the car from the harbor is that you don’t have to take another bus to return to the boat. The boat was delayed because of the rough sea. Another boat came, going also to Heraklio, but is hard to know all your options when you buy a ticket. .Many times are more than one boat at the same time and prices vary. I had a Greek coffee whose price jacked up 5 times since I was last time in Greece. I got some info about boats coming back from Heraklio to Piraeus in an agency in the harbor but the price that I got the night before in the agency in Fira could not be found on the charts. A cabin for the night ride is around E65.


Kokini Beach, Crete

Finally the boat arrived and left with more than one hour delay and after a smooth ride in spite of the choppy sea we arrived after 2 hours in Heraklio together with a large group of Romanians. After some confusion regarding the location of the boat in reference to the city center and a quick discussion with a cabbie who wanted to drive us to Agios Nicolaos, we got on the main street and we bumped in the first car rental place, MotorClub, where we rented a Hunday for E40 per day, double than prices in Agios Nicolaos, bought tickets for the returned boat to Piraeus, and drove on the coast to Kokini, about 20 minutes out on the coast on a highway that did not look for a while to have any exists. In Kokini we stayed at Marilisa apartments E45. We had dinner at a nearby Greek taverna of fish and wine ending with Cretan rakki that no matter that they say is not strong, it definitely is. I took a pleasant walk on the beach, located one block away from the hotel, before going to bed.

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Posted by on July 10, 2008 in Blog, Greece




Pyrgos, Santorini

After a quick breakfast preceded by a swim in the pool we left to explore the island. First stop was at a traditional settlement, Megalohori, a village with narrow streets with its stones having the ribs painted in white. It was extremely hot, the first day with less wind that forced us crawling close to the walls hoping to get some shelter in the central church unfortunately closed. Old ladies were peeking from behind the blue gates offering a shy kalimera. The village is small and it took probably 1 hour max to cross it back and forth.

From there we continued to Pyrgos, an old fortified village, whose streets are circular ending on top on fortifications. Everything is sparkling white with blue window shades and it looks like is repainted every year. We walked the fascinating labyrinth of streets till the top where is located the castle, a fortification from whose top the views over the islands and over the inside churches are spectacular. At the entrance in the castle was an old man with a donkey who was posing for tourists. He was selling also tomatoes, wine and grapa. After Pyrgos we planned to go to Gonia Episkopia and Vothonas but we took the road to Kamari and went directly to the old citadel of the island, Archea Thira. The mistaken road proved to be a savior because it was already 1 30pm and the archaeological site was closing at 2 30pm. It is no entry fee to the site, though but the gate closes. After you enter Kamari, a resort similar with Perissa, you start climbing on a hair spin road like you won’t believe. It takes about 15 minutes to get on top considering that you stop for incoming traffic, and you park the car and start walking up the hill, getting right away to a 6th century basilica and continuing on stairs guarded by trees bent by wind to the main complex. The site is well dug and interesting but the best are the view over both sides of the volcano. It takes about 1 hour to visit it at a relaxed pace and at 2 30pm we were escorted out and they locked the gate after us. We descended to Kamari and stopped right away, just outside of the village, at the Gonia Episkopi, an old church founded in the 11th century by Alex Comenus. The thieves attacked the church and stole all the valuables but the frescoes and the remaining icons are still beautiful.


Oia, Santorini

After that we drove to Vothonas where we tried to locate some sunken houses but nobody knew exactly what we were talking about so we gave up and we drove all the way to Oia on the coastal road. Oia is very different than Fira. Less people, relatively less stores imprint a more traditional atmosphere. Obviously this is relative, Santorini being the top tourism destination in the Cyclades. It is only one street on top of the crater with some occasional derivations going down. The main street is full of shi-shi restaurants and bars and art stores. The blue domes of the churches stick out of the white of the houses. When you reach the end of the street the view is stupendous. It is not the avalanche of houses from Fira but a smaller and I would say much nicer view welcomes you. If you have time is worth exploring all the alleys that descend and ascend and have on them traditional houses. .Windmills, churches and houses covered with flowers abound. The sunset is a major tourist event in the Greek islands and people congregate in unbelievable numbers to see it. They get their seats one hour in advance and you can watch how the all the places that have sunset view are getting literally packed. People watched a beautiful sunset and in the end the entire crowd applauded ecstatically the beauty the miracle of nature. From there we left to have dinner at “Seagull”, a restaurant overlooking some blue domes of a church and hanging in the caldera. After dinner I had a chat with an Polish artist who was living in Santorini and had his art exposed at one of the galleries. He told me many things about the dynamic of the island, about his buyers, still mostly Americans, and obviously about the prices in Euro that jumped even 7 times since the Drahma was replaced. After the evening ice cream, we did not forget to buy water and a cell phone card for the Romanian guy working in the hotel.

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Posted by on July 9, 2008 in Blog, Greece




Sunrise in Perissa

When you are sleeping in a hotel located an eastern side beach would be sacrilegious not to wake up one morning to see the sunrise. I woke up at 5:30 and went to the black sand beach in front and watch a magnificent sunrise. It did not look like one but it ended up being a perfect picture sunrise. Latter on, a dive in the pool and a quick breakfast kicked off the day.

We left before 9 to Accordo travel where we bought tickets for a day trip to the three other islands in the Santorini volcano caldera after that going quickly to do some shopping at the supermarket and pharmacy. A bus came at 9:00 and picked us up from the agency and dropped us at Athinos port where the boat was waiting outside of the harbor. The harbor was full and the boast could not come to the shore so we waited more than one hour in the reassurance of the guide that this would not shorten our trip. So we passed our time trying to make some international calls but it did not work so easily. Finally some ferries left and the boat came to pick us up and we started to sail to the island in the middle of the caldera.


Nea Kameni, Santorini

The island that we visited first, Nea Kameni, is a national park with an active volcano in the middle, it was formed between 1570-80 in a completely empty caldera. It came out of the sea and the volcano is still going strong today, being spots in its middle when the sulfur presence can be smelled making the ground around green. If you dig a small hole on top it is so hot that you can obviously boil an egg inside. The entire island is looking like a giant dug it from the lava that flowed many times in recent history. The trip on the island last for about 2 hours, on top the guide giving us a entire presentation about the geological and social history of Santorini. From there the boat took us to the older of the two islands in the middle, Palea Kameni, formed in an eruption at 49AD that has in one of its gulfs hot springs at the shore of the sea. The boat cannot get closer to the shore because of the rocks and you have to swim quite of a distance to the shore where the hot springs are. A nice white chapel is located on the shore near the springs. After about 45 minutes we left to the third stop, the larger island of Tirassia, that closes the circle of Santorini. The island is nice and its shore became recently, because of the tourist boats, full of restaurants in spite of the lack of real beach. One of the restaurants has also a remodeled windmill in operation. From the shore, one of the attractions is to mount on a donkey for E5/pers and climb the hill to the top village that is not interesting but commands beautiful views of the shore. You can also walk up in 15-20 minutes arduous walk. The views are stupendous and they justify the stroll or the donkey ride. The boat stays quite long, almost 2 hours, docked on the island giving you enough time to eat and do the uphill hike.

From there the boat goes to Oia and dropped the tourists who want to spend the sunset in Oia, part of an extended trip and returned to Athinos port from where the bus picks you up and brings you back to your hotel. We grabbed the car and went back to Fira, parking in the same top parking, for another night stroll and a well deserved dinner in one of the hanging restaurant at Fanari. Great dinner and great views! We were amazed how you can eat hanging over the caldera.

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Posted by on July 8, 2008 in Blog, Greece