Greece

I am back from a week in beautiful Greece. Tanned, relaxed and de-stressed, with some lovely memories to treasure of stunning scenery, warm hearted people, delicious food and much laughter.

Greece is an odd place, for someone like me, who is used to the stark lines of modern city life; its hustle and bustle, its tall skyscrapers, its regular timetables. In Greece, the buses come if the drivers feel like it. If they want a siesta, or a long lunch, or a chat with a friend, the bus is late, or doesn’t arrive at all. A timetable is nothing but a rough indication, and no one expects the times to be adhered to. In Greece, if it’s broken, it stays broken. Hence the blind windows and concave roofs of beautiful old houses, usually earthquake victims, sitting alongside newly built hotels and apartments; no need to fix it, equally no need to tear it down to make more space. It’s like they’re much loved, battered old bears, buttons hanging by a thread and stuffing leaking out, no longer useable, but unthinkable to be thrown away. It’s the same with old cars, no longer water-tight boats, old mattresses…they will sit, where they were last left, until they disintegrate entirely. Anywhere else such things would be rubbish, eyesores, a public disgrace. In Greece, however, they are a symbol of a nation that doesn’t take life too seriously, and lets what will be, be. People take time to talk to each other in Greece; they have long lunches, afternoon coffee, loud, raucous, heavily gesticulated conversations over shop counters and restaurant tables. Children are left unsupervised by their parents until 10, 11pm in the evening; they stick together, play sensibly, walk each other home. Life is slower, more communal, more trusting. Their economy might be in freefall, but they know a thing or two about quality of life, those Greeks. It was a pleasure to have been in their company for a week. I only wish it had been longer.

We stayed in Nidri, a bustling resort on the coast of Lefkas, an Ionian island (along with Corfu and Kefalonia) and the only one of the many Greek islands that is attached to mainland Greece. Normally we go to much more isolated places and ideally we would have liked something quieter, but even so, it was a lovely place to stay, as you can see from the photo above. All around were stunning tree covered mountains and sparkling, crystal waters, and in the distance rose the mountainous landscape of the Greek mainland, and the soft, blue tinged silhouettes of its neighbouring islands, most notably Skorpios; the private island of Aristotle Onassis, who married Jackie O on the island and is now buried there, among the peace of his own pine groves.

We took trips to other islands; Meganissi, very close by, is a delightful and peaceful little place with only three towns and a tiny population, and the church at the top of the post is perched on the cliffside of its biggest town, Vathi.

We also went to Kefalonia and Ithaca, fabled home of Penelope and Odysseus in The Odyssey, on a cruise that took us around the Ionian islands and deposited us on a couple of gorgeous sandy beaches that are only reachable by boat. Below is Fiskardo, a beautiful harbour town on Kefalonia, where Captain Corelli’s Mandolin is set. Fiskardo is a very expensive and desirable place to stay, and there were a lot of very plush yachts and catamarans moored up in the harbour on the day we visited. It’s also famous for its excellent fish restaurants.

The views across the seemingly endless sea were breathtaking, with islands rising like the backs of sleeping giants from the calm waters. I found myself wondering how they had got there, and who had been on them before me, especially those that are no longer lived on; what evidence of habitation did they hide amongst their dense undergrowth, if any? And for those that were still inhabited, was life lonely for the handful of people who live in the scattered houses I could just about glimpse through the trees?

Thank you all for your lovely comments and wishes of a good holiday; they clearly did the job as a marvellous time it was indeed. I also, unexpectedly, managed to finish all five books I took with me to read, and they were all magnificent in their own ways; I look forward to writing about them all over the coming week. I will leave you with a final photograph of two very happy holidaymakers; taken this morning, before my mum and I flew home.

47 comments

  1. What gorgeous photos! There must be a hundred different shades of blue there. I think I would have enjoyed a vacation like that very much. So glad you and your mom had a great time and you even finished all your books. Lovely photo of you and your mom by the way–you look so alike! And both very happy indeed!🙂

    1. So many shades of blue! It was just stunning. I bet you would enjoy it – I hope you get to go some day and enjoy it like I have! Thank you – we felt very happy!! Funny – we don’t look much alike in my opinion, but then other people always say we do!

  2. As if there was no such thing as time. That is very much like a place I would want to be in. Personally, it’s the deadlines you have to meet in the city that stresses you. Greece must be so easy to love.

    1. Yes, if only! I know, it’s true – so much of my life is scheduled and it’s so nice to kick back and do nothing but what I want for a week!

  3. As someone who has lived in Greece for 15 years, I find your observations to be one of an outsider and therefore inaccurate. Greeks do care if things don’t work or don’t arrive on time, but we also know that we cannot squeeze blood from a turnip. There is much we tolerate and accept because we do not have the power to change it, so we leave earlier in the morning for work, not all of us take a siesta and a lot of us have two jobs.

    What you experienced was someone who is comfortable and wealthy enough to buy the hospitality and smiles of people who wanted your money. There is a huge difference between a non-Greek who spends money and one that earns money in Greece and takes it away from a Greek. If you were the latter, as I am, you would see a very different Greece.

    1. Thanks for your views, Corinne; it’s always interesting to hear the thoughts of someone with more experience of a country and its culture than me. I read your comment with much interest and I can appreciate that especially at the moment life is very difficult for many and that my experiences must seem alien to your everyday life.

      I appreciate that of course I will see a different side of Greece to the native, or permanent resident, and that people’s attitudes towards me as a tourist would be different if I did not have euros in my pocket. However I can only recount my experience as a tourist, and as such, it is as accurate and as faithful an account as I could produce. I wrote about what I saw, heard and experienced, and of course, life on the islands will be very different to the life on the mainland, just as it would be for a Londoner and someone from a more rural community in the UK.

  4. I’m so glad you had such a lovely holiday! You and your mum look so happy and relaxed. Your photos are beautiful, too. I’m always interested in hearing about Ithaca, because of my name! Thanks for sharing!🙂 I look forward to your book reviews…

    1. Thank you Penny! Of course – such a beautiful name! I didn’t see much of Ithaca but what I did see was beautiful – lots of lovely old buildings and golden beaches…I’d like to go back for a longer holiday one day!

  5. It looks beautiful! I’m glad you had a good vacation, although I think the lateness of buses, etc., would drive me batty. I’m big with the structure and the well-ordered plans. :p (Still might go to Greece someday. I’d love to see Ithaca.)

    1. Thank you! Yes, I thought it would me, too, but when I go on holiday I go into wind down mode and I don’t care – I even walk slowly and I HATE slow walking people at home!

      You MUST go to Greece – it’s the ultimate place for relaxation in beautiful surroundings, and the food! go just for the food!

  6. Glad you had a wonderful time Rachel and what stunning photo’s I am green with envy. I dont think my break to the Isle of Man is going to quite compare lol.

    Lovely pic of you and your mum too.

    1. Thanks Simon! Haha – well I’m sure the Isle of Man is very picturesque! Glad you like the photo – good thing my mum doesn’t do the internet because she hates having her photos shown to people!

  7. Beautiful – you look so relaxed and happy! And all those waterside shots are making me jealous, even though I only got back from my holiday a couple weeks ago. Maybe I can put a kiddie pool in my living room and just open the windows really wide.

    1. Thank you! I was feeling relaxed and happy…until I got back to work! That sounds fabulous…if you can’t go there, fake it! You could get a little toy boat to float as well, and make yourself a Margarita to drink, poolside!

    1. Thanks Claire! I know – sweltering! It’s nice to not come back to the freezing cold I normally do after a foreign holiday but it is a bit much to have to watch the blazing sun from inside an office!

  8. It looks so gorgeous! I don’t know if I’ll ever have the opportunity to see Greece but I hope so🙂

    I’m reading Captain Corelli’s Mandolin at the moment; loved seeing a pic of where it’s set (even though I’m sure it’s changed lots since the war!)

    1. It is gorgeous! I hope you’ll get to go – you must go at least once in your lifetime!

      Are you really? I’ve never got past the first three pages! Kefalonia is lovely – I’ve had a holiday there before – and there are some breathtaking beaches you must see!

  9. You and your mum are so glamorous-looking in that picture🙂 It’s a great one of the two of you! You look quite relaxed. I am so glad you had a good time, and what great pictures!

    1. Thanks! We try!😉 We were very relaxed by the end, though now two days back into my usual routine and I feel just as though I’d never been away! I’m glad you liked the pictures!

  10. That sounds wonderful – I’d love to go to Greece – all that beautiful weather. We’re holidaying in the Lake District in September and I just know that it is going to rain every day!

    1. It really was! You should go! Oh well – rain is bearable when you have beautiful scenery – I’d love to go to the Lake District funnily enough – maybe we should have swapped holidays!

  11. Glad you have a good time in Greece.
    And thanks for the nice and positive writeup, it’s like
    an oasis in the middle of the desert(negative or even hateful press about Greece).
    A Greek in Germany.

    1. Thanks Michalis, I really did – Greece is a beautiful country and I’m only too pleased to present a positive image, which is nothing less than it deserves!

  12. I can hear the waves lapping from here! Such a wonderful report to tempt the senses but you didn’t mention just how much baklava you ate!

    Gorgeous photo of you and your Mum, Rachel!

    1. Oh I love that sound! Well Darlene, I was a very good girl – none at all, actually! Lots of pastries and icecream though!!!

      Thank you – a bit of sun and a decent night’s sleep does us the world of good!

  13. A lovely travelogue as bright and sunny and inspiring as your lovely words and pictures of Greece and, most notably, of you and your mum. What a treasured time you and she have had together and how nice for you to share it with us all.

    Five books! I’m impressed, but then, you always impress us.

    Ithaca. Often, when introduced to someone and my name is asked, I will respond, Penelope, the long suffering one (in light hearted reference to my husband’s propensity for projects he has a tendency to take forever to complete). How I would love to sail by such fabled places. . .

    1. Oh Penny your words are always so beautiful! Thank you.

      You should make a trip to ‘your’ island – Ithaca is truly lovely and I know you would love the experience. You can fly to Kefalonia and catch a ferry – it’s very easy!

  14. Its been a while since I stopped by your site due to computer problems. Now, with a handy notebook I am setting up my favourite book blogs again. Stopping at your first picture I thought I recognised the chapel, the shore opposite and as I read on I found yes, I was right…Nidri. Since 2000 I have been here for several weeks every summer as I am lucky enough to have a small yacht which we keep just up on the mainland beyond the airport Aktio which I am sure you flew into. Nidri is like a second home to me. I know many of the shop owners and Margarita at the Flisvos is a great friend. Her taverna is right next to the Elite bar shown in your photo. We are welcomed back each year with open arms. Our plan is to retire to Greece, possibly on the mainland where is overlooks Lefkas Town…..thank you for bringing memories flooding back before I even go this year. Sailing round the islands has given us hours of pleasure.

    1. Fran, what a wonderful coincidence! I spent my entire holiday feeling envious of the lucky people who owned boats and had the luxury of weeks of time to spend sailing around the islands…sadly I only get a week off and have no idea how to sail, but I now dream of one day owning a boat! I would love to retire to Greece myself…I have a good forty years to wait though! I am so glad you get to enjoy this beautiful island for so long every year, and that you have the pleasure of enjoying it from the deck of your own boat – you must look forward to it so much! The taverna owners in Nidri are amongst the loveliest I have ever met across Greece – I’m not surprised they give you such a warm reception every year. I hope you have a wonderful visit again this summer!

  15. Oh, it looks so GORGEOUS! I love Greece – we stayed in Kefalonia last year actually too and I loved it. We are also looking at the possibility of going to another island (I fancy Paxos or something of that speed – i.e. slow) in September (I live for my holidays and now France is over it’s the law that I have something else to look forward to).

    Glad you had a great time, Rachel. And you are the spitting image of your Mum!

    1. It really was! I wish I was back there now! Kefalonia is amazing, isn’t it? I’d love to have another holiday there. You must have a Greek holiday in September – I can recommend Meganissi if you want a peaceful holiday – it’s so small with only three towns, and you get to it via public ferry from Nidri harbour on Lefkas. It’s a beautiful place. Also, Molyvos in Lesbos – absolutely divine, I went there last year, and had the best time – deserted beaches and delicious seafood, perfect!

      Thank you – it’s funny people are saying that because I always think I don’t look like her at all, but looking at that photo, we do actually look very alike!

  16. Beautiful (the sea, the sky and you – what fabulous hair)! Maybe someone has asked this already but do you ever think of moving there?

    1. Oh thanks Jodie! Sadly I got it all lopped off last weekend and am currently feeling like I’ve been shorn, however, most people declare it is an improvement from my super long haircut of before so I will choose to believe them! In answer to your question – yes, frequently. However I know I couldn’t live there full time, as I’d miss the variety and distractions of city life – I need constant stimualtion! It is my dream though to one day buy a teensy white washed villa perched atop a cobbled hilly street with a sea view and go there for the summer months and really recharge my batteries. A week isn’t enough! Plus I want a boat.

  17. I bet it looks lovely shorter, but it takes ages to get used to (had mine lopped when I was 16 and it used to grow down my back). Well what sort of person doesn’t want a boat?

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