Friday, 23 November 2018

Something edible (Kάτι φαγώσιμο)

Συγγνωμη, μήπως μπορείτε να μου δώσετε λίγα χρήματα για να αγοράσω κάτι να φάω; There's very often a person asking for money standing outside a supermarket. Asking for money is always combined with food, because food is an absolute necessity. Imagine if this young girl had said: Συγγνωμη, μήπως μπορείτε να μου δώσετε λίγα χρήματα για να αγοράσω κάτι να φορέσω? it wouldn't go down well, would it? Beggars are never naked, and hardly ever wearing rags. Presumably, they have clothes. They can wear the same clothes every day for a long time and you wouldn't necessarily notice. This girl was wearing a thick dark coat; her leggings and jumper were visible, with boots to match. She looked pretty ordinary for a child. She wouldn't stand out in a Greek crowd. She looked like the kind of 'wanting' children I see in the Jumbo tatshop, who come along with their parents and grandparents and fill up their trolleys with tat.

But food is something different. You don't wear your food like you wear your clothes. If someone doesn't have food for a long time, it will be noticed.  So the beggar appeals for money to buy food to sensitise us into giving. Even if we are fat like the beggar girl, we all still need to eat food every day. Beggars are unlikely to be fat by choice: they stand around in one place, not moving much to conserve energy, and they probably eat a lot of salty sugary fatty food, stuff that can be taken out of the packet and eaten on the spot without needing to be heated. Not that we really know what they eat and where they live. We will never know unless we spend time with them.

Να βρεις δουλειά, κοπέλα μου, τόσοι Αλβανοί έρχοντε εδώ να δουλέψουν, said a woman coming out of the supermarket, just as I was placing a token into the slot on the trolley. Lots of Albanians do find work here. And you never see Albanian children begging. The woman had a point.

Συγγνωμη, μπορείτε να μου δώσετε κάτι φαγώσιμο; The girl's response showed the care she took to make amends for her forthrightness, hedging her bets by stating her plea in a melodic but saddening tone, and always beginning each sentence with the word 'Sorry'. It made it all easy too to pity her. The woman who spoke to the girl was already heading for her car. It was now my turn to enter the supermarket. It's embarrassing to have to confront beggars at this moment. They make it hard for you to avoid them because they are always standing close to the trolley station or the supermarket entrance. Presumably you haven't even taken your purse out of your bag because you haven't even started shopping. Anyway, you probably don't want to take it out at this moment. And all that talk about not giving beggars money because they may use it in unsavoury ways, eg on cigarettes, drugs, and whatever else we think poor/homeless people do with their money. And anyway, she's just a girl.

Συγγνωμη, μπορείτε να μου αγοράσετε κάτι φαγώσιμο; Something edible. She asked me to buy her something edible. She was asking directly. And pleadingly. Whether she had been coached to do this, or she did it for real was not my concern at this moment. We are less likely to judge people these days - most people have lost something, albeit in different ways. It would have made no difference anyway. I felt sorry for her. What a shitty life, being dumped at a supermarket by people she considers family, at a time when other children will be at home, or in private tuition classes or at sports sessions. That's what Greek kids do at this time of the early evening. But she wasn't that kind of Greek kid. She was a Greek Roma, and she probably didn't even go to school, let alone after-hours private tuition.

Θα σου πάρω κάτι, I said, continuing to push my trolley towards the doors.

Συγγνωμη, τί είπατε; Whether she was taken by surprise that I spoke to her or she didn't actually hear me, I don't really know. I repeated what I had said to her before: I'll bring you something. She hadn't asked me directly for money; I liked that. And she didn't ask for something 'to eat'. She asked for something 'edible'. Which led me to another dilemma as I swept passed her to enter the supermarket: what food do you buy for the fat poor? Do they have a place to cook/warm up food? Do they just eat ready meals? Is a packet best? We can't always assume that everyone eats the same things, and prefers the same kinds of products. For instance, in the UK, canned baked beans are touted as a 'nutritious' and 'filling' meal for the poor/homeless, but we live in Greece, where canned baked beans are practically a luxury product - apart from being expensive and imported, they have no place in a Greek kitchen. But dry beans - there's a whole aisle dedicated to that in every Greek supermarket! We are still a nation full of cooks! Does the girl eat fasolada, I wondered.

My first thought was that she probably wanted to take something 'home' with her, perhaps to share with her family - or carers, whoever they were to her - and that she wouldn't be eating whatever I gave her on her own outside the supermarket in these early hours of the evening. She's a girl after all, and she's not on her own. She's been dumped here by that carer to perform a task; she's expected to bring something back with her when she's picked up. Time is money, even for beggars. She needs to cover at least the petrol costs of her carer's commute.

Kάτι φαγώσιμο. Do lemons count as edible?  Lemons were on my list, which included a bunch of items on special: frozen peas, pork rashers, whole (raw) chicken and tea bags, all of which are 'consumable', but not in the sense that I interpreted the girl's words. My list of ready-to-eat food (all from the specials!) included bread sticks (too dry?), yoghurt (too cold?), tomatos (that's just water!), cheese slices (aha! - tomatos AND cheese...) and bread rolls (cheese and tomato sandwiches - some comfort food). The last thing on my mind was food allergies and self-imposed dietary regimes. Could a Roma even be vegan? I kept the girl in mind as I went from aisle to aisle, placing two of each item in my trolley: two packets of cheese slices, two plastic-wrapped plastic pots of tomatos, two daisy bread loaves, the latter placed in a separate plastic bag as I spooned each one off the shelf at the bakery section (those largish thin-film bags make great bin liners).

A few extras in today's shopping basket: shampoo was on sale, I remembered someone asking for disposable shavers, a couple of κουλούρια for my kids' κολατσιό at school (that girl doesn't go to school, poor thing, what bad parents she has), and that only-available-at-Christmastime block of parmesan which, though prciey, is my husband's favorite table cheese. Our expensive Greek life needs a few cheap luxuries like this one. Buy one block at the regular price, and wait until they reduce the price of the items that didn't sell post-Christmas. (Not for the girl. Of course not. And anyway, I did buy her some cheese.)

As I waited at the checkout, I looked out the window and sure enough, the girl was still there. And then, I suddenly realised that I didn't have my cloth carrier bags with me. I sometimes forget to take them out of the boot of the car. So I would have to sort out my shopping at the car. But what do I do with the girl's stuff? She'll be wanting it as soon as I came out of the shop. I would have to buy a plastic bag! (Oh no! Woe is me! Political correctness waffle, even in times of dilemmas!) Since the pay-for-bags law came into force at the beginning of this year, I have never bought one. An idea came to me: I can take the lemons out of the plastic bag that I placed them in at the choose-your-own fruit and veg section and put her stuff in there.

"Please place all your items on the conveyor belt" said the invisible woman at the checkout. "Put a divider at the end of your items" said the dour-faced checkout assistant, without even looking at me, even before she had started checking out my items (no 'please'). They rarely smile in this supermarket chain, and they don't converse or laugh much with the customer. The chain is cheap, so cheap it's busy, so busy there is no time for chit-chat. If they could do away with cashiers and use automated checkout, they would do that, but they know the average Greek customer wouldn't put up with it.

This supermarket chain was awarded Top Employer in Greece in 2017 (see https://www.typosthes.gr/oikonomia/122569_i-lidl-hellas-kalyteros-ergodotis-stin-ellada-2017), and again in 2018 (see http://www.kathimerini.gr/948765/article/oikonomia/epixeirhseis/h-lidl-hellas-top-employer-to-2018-gia-deyterh-synexomenh-xronia). But the awarding agency is not Greek - it has headquarters in Amsterdam. And just for the record, salaries at the main large Greek supermarket chains are pretty much the same (see https://www.aftodioikisi.gr/ergasiaka-ypallilwn-ota/idou-i-misthi-ton-ergazomenon-se-av-vasilopoulo-sklaveniti-lidl/). But it's mainly this supermarket chain where workers rush everything through the till before you have the chance to sort your items and they work 'robotically' (you have to push the trolley to a certain position, they'll ask you if the jacket in the trolley - your jacket - is your own, they won't handle your card when paying, etc etc etc, and it goes without saying that they don't smile much).   

Today's shop cost me 75€ - nearly five of those euro were for the girl: daisy bread (99 cents), cheese slices (€2.19, down from €2.99) and tomatos (€1.49). €75 is quite a lot of money for the average Greek to spend at the supermarket. I usually count how many supermarket bags I would fill for this amount. Not much more than five this time, I think: the parmesan was not really cheap (it was on pseudo-sale: see photo). Most of my supermarket shopping expeditions cost me about this much anyway: if it's not a luxury item like parmesan, it's something like time to stock up on pet food, or frozen pizza is on special, or something else. But as the saying goes: if you can afford €70, then you can afford to give up another €5 for a cause. It's not like you do this every time you go shopping. On an average Greek salary, you cannot afford to anyway. But the girl didn't ask for money, she asked for some food, and that made all the difference.

Συγγνωμη, μου φέρατε κάτι, όπως μου είπατε; said the girl, as soon as she saw me exiting the supermarket with my trolley. She hadn't forgotten. I was not a random passerby like I would have been to the checkout assistant who didn't even look at me when I was placing my items on the belt.

Ναι, σου έρεφα, I said, and I smiled as I held up the bag with the items that I had bought for her. She didn't even look at them. Nor did she see what else was in my trolley. And without a moment's delay, she said:

Αχ, δεν τα ήθελα αυτα. Θα προτιμούσα-- Not even a Συγγνώμη!

Για όνομα! I cut her off, the annoyance clearly showing in my voice, as I threw the bag back into the trolley and left in a huff. As I emptied the trolley into my boot, it suddenly occurred to me that the girl had no bag, and there were no items on the ground near her. She wasn't carrying anything in her hands, which she kept in pockets most of the time. By taking her words literally, I had also been taken for a ride. I rode the trolley back to the trolley station, passing the girl once more for the last time.

Συγγνωμη... Her voice trailed off, and then silence. She made no plea. I was now just another random passerby to her. I locked the trolley into the station and took out the token from the slot, carrying it ostensibly between my thumb and forefinger so that she could see it as I walked past her to get to my car.

The moral of the story? I would say it is that you should ask beggars what they really want, so you can both be happy, and this story would never have been told.

©All Rights Reserved/Organically cooked. No part of this blog may be reproduced and/or copied by any means without prior consent from Maria Verivaki. 

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

For rent (Ενοικιάζεται)

If you follow the local news in Hania, you will know how difficult it has become to find a home to rent in my town in recent times: just look at the news headings floating around (translated from the original Greek):
Species extinction in the case of apartments for rent 
Desperation in Hania: Students cant find homes to rent - they're deserting their studies
Chania: More demonstrations by students who can't find accomodation

So I didn't think I would have any problem trying to find a tenant for my late dad's apartment. I've always found tenants for the flat on my own in the past, and I decided to follow the same path. The times have not changed the tenants - but they have changed the way people look for a place to rent. We have more choices these days as to where to look, due to the use of the internet. Facebook Marketplace, ad in the paper, For Rent sign on the balcony, flyer at the university, and word-of-mouth. These different forms of advertising all gave me different kinds of responses.The ad was written in Greek: 
"68sq.m. furnished apartment in the centre of town, 2 bedrooms, each with a double bed and wardrobes, living room with 2 sofas and a small balcony with a street view, separate kitchen, bathroom with new whiteware, and a security door (no wifi). Rental includes power, water and utilities charges. No central heating. Suitable for students (2 flatmates)."
In Greece, square metres are always stated for an apartment, sometimes even taking precedence over the number of rooms which are also always stated. The living room/lounge also counts as a separate room. So if an apartment has two bedrooms and a living room, it is labelled as a three-room house (not a 2-bedroom house, even though that is what it is. It's also important to include information about heating and shared utilities fees (because they raise the price of the rental).

searching for a tenant gave me a chance to meet a wide range of people in my little town. Here's a cross-section of the kind of people I met, and who ended up renting the apartment.

The Student
This was the category of tenant I was counting on: a couple of students, flat-sharing for economic reasons, and enjoying the delights of living in the middle of town near all buzz areas. In fact, only one student - a young girl that didn't look much older than my own daughter - responded to the newspaper ad. "Could you lower the rent?" she asked me. I told her that the rent was already a very good price for two people sharing. "But I'm on my own," she said. So I guess that meant that she wanted to rent a 2-bedroom flat for the price of a smaller space.
   Students who don't suit the fiscal criteria required to stay in the state-provided accommodation near the university campus look for studio flats (known in Greece as 'garsoniera', from the French word garçonnière). Education in Greece is free, but parents optionally pay for private cramming-style tutoring for university entrnace examinations starting from high school, and if they enter tertiary education, for their children's accommodation while they are students - there is no such thing as student loans in Greece (bachelor university education carries no fees). So it's understandable that parents will want to rent a private space for their children. It's only in recent times - when we became short of money - that people realised it will be cheaper to flat-share. Nevertheless, it is actually still not so common for Greek students to flat-share. When they do it, it's with someone they know well enough to trust. The idea of 'flatting' with random people (that you never knew before you started living in the same house with them) is something they will be forced to do if they decide to go abroad to work (eg in the UK - they have no other choice, due to the high costs of accommodation there).
   From my side, as the landlord, I couldn't run the risk of subletting: there is no guarantee that a student renting a large house won't think about sharing a flat, if a suitable roommate came along. So I couldn't lower the rent for 'philanthropic' reasons. Airbnb has made us all think of ways to make a little money on the side. This has caused rents to rise - after they had dropped rock-bottom during the crisis.
   The funny thing is that while most students in Hania are looking for a home in the centre of town, the local tertiary institutes are not actually located here. Some students may also find work while they are studying, which alleviates the financial burden for their parents who may still be paying for their child's main expenses eg rent and bills. Students prefer to live in the town because the campuses are out of the way and not close to where the buzz of the town is. The new rental situation - rising rents caused by landlords wanting to maximise their profits via airbnb - has made everyone think along more western terms concerning location: if you want to live close to your own comfort zone, you have to pay for it. As someone recently wrote on a Greek forum for airbnb hosts:
If a student can't afford to rent in the area they want, they must put some water in their wine. You can not have it all. So if they were living in, say, a northern suburb in Athens, ad they passed into the Panteio university in Pireas, what would they do? Would they leave Halandri and rent in Pireas? Of course not, no one would do that. There are buses and a metro now. Self-evident things. Apart from that, we are talking about reality. Do you want a home in a certain area? You have to pay more money to live where you want. Do you want something cheaper? You have to be prepared to travel a little further away. You don't want to pay anything at all? Stay at home then. 
The Young Working Man/Woman
While the Greek student generally doesn't flat-share, because they are still not accustomed to this concept and they don't make their own financial decisions, many young working people are learning the importance of doing so once they start paying their own expenses. These kinds of tenants are more likely to have a better idea of what they are looking for in life, since they are more independent and no longer rely on their parents. That's why I really like these kinds of tenants - and I always drop the rent for them, because Greek salaries are generally still low, and I believe in giving people the chance to save money. This category of prospective tenants are more likely to request permission about what they can do in the apartment (a sign of political correctness, perhaps): one asked me if I don't mind smoking ("it's your life," I replied) and another asked if they could bring their pet dog (of course: there are big dogs living in other apartments in the block). These young working people show the direction which Greece is going towards: a modern global western open-minded outlook. So you can imagine how saddened I was that such people did not end up renting the apartment.
   The greatest problem with the young working people was that they already owned their own furniture, which complicated matters since I was renting out a fully furnished apartment. Nowadays, it's very easy to get rid of furniture that you don't want, but we are also living in a very material world which makes us attached to our belongings. Our spending power makes us place high value on what we already own because we are emotionally attached to it. We don't part with it easily when we think that it may not be easily replaced. It also takes a lot of will power not to become a hoarder. Second-hand furniture is now available all over the town (not so common pre-crisis in Hania), another sign of a changed society as we  come out of a crisis.
   Αs the landlords, we had made up our mind to keep the flat furnished. After renovating it at the beginning of the year, we replaced the old furnishings with new ones: new stove, new fridge, new washing machine, new double beds. I believe you have to keep the airbnb idea on your mind: the crisis has made us all more flexible.

The Older Greek
As I've mentioned many times in the past, most Greeks generally own their own home. In the days when property was not taxed, it was cheap to build, and cheap to inherit. Renting was for out of towners and immigrants. Half the people who repsonded to my ads were in fact Greek. I also got a couple of older Greeks responding to my Marketplace and newspaper ads. Greeks who need to find a place to live in Hania still tend to be out-of-towners, who often own property elsewhere in Greece. Locals who rent homes at an older age may own a property in a nearby village, but they may want to help their children who live in the town, to look after the grandchildren while the parents work. The furniture was a sticking point, as they all had their own, having accumulated it over the years. They also tend to have much higher expectations of what a home should be like, so I wasn't surprised that they didn't call me back (see the paragraph below).
   It was once very common for Greeks to let go of the family home and hand it over to younger people. Wherever possible, Greeks would try to make a suitable living space for their children within the family home. Those days are pretty much over for now. Peple have higher expectations of what a home is, and the state has found ways to catch people building irregularly.

The Well-Dressed Lady
We had spoken twice over the phone to arrange a time for her to see the apartment, which showed that she was very interested in the flat. But when I saw the woman in person, I realised that she would probably not be so interested after all.
   All landlords know the pros and cons of what they are renting out even though some try to hide the cons, showcasing only the pros. Not everything is mentioned in an ad. In our case, the pros are that the apartment is in a highly desirable location and a very peaceful neighbourhood (except when the rubbish collectors pass by - you eventually get used to that noise). We also haven't skimped on making the apartment safe: it's been completely rewired, and we have installed a security door. The apartment has radiators installed but they are no longer in use... If you are Greek, you will know why. Even before the crisis, apartments that were heated via central heating stopped using the system because not everyone was fair in paying their share of the usage. And ever since the crisis, it's become very rare for buildings with central heating to be heated, unless the heating system is autonomous (pay-as-you-use).
   And now for the stuff you don't mention in an ad. The bathroom floor is badly stained; we couldn't afford to change that. The kitchen cupboards are also old-fashioned; they are clean and tidy, but not in the style associated with a newly-fitted kitchen. Potential tenants of our apartment will not see the bathroom floor and old kitchen as priorities. They will view the location in relation to the price. The Well Dressed Lady looked very high maintenance... I never heard back from her.

The Albanian
Albanians started coming in great numbers to Greece once communism broke down. Albanian immigrants remind me of Eastern European migrants of the 60s generation - people like my parents who went to New Zealand. They are quite hard-working, and they are also good savers. For this last reason, they were the kind of people who showed interest in buying rundown/cheap property during the downturn. Albanians have integrated well into Greek society because they don't look too different from us - their children even intermarry with Greeks, and they pick up Greek very quickly. They also see themselves as living in Greece permanently. Their own country still has too many problems to make them think about going back home.
   Still, some made that mistake during the crisis, like the family I met, who answered to the classic Greek yellow ENOIKIAZETAI sign that I had pasted on the balcony of the apartment, for people to see at street level. They had been working on another Greek island, and when the crisis came, they found it difficult to survive there. So they went back home... where they also found it difficult to survive. They made the difficult decision to return to Greece, this time choosing Crete because it had more jobs available, being a bigger island. They were very keen on renting the apartment, and I was quite happy to rent it to them. I asked them for their tax registration number, which is required by law for the rental agreement. "We don't have one," they said. They were here 'without papers', undocumented migrants, so to speak. I had to decline the offer: I can't really afford to go down the illegal path... 
   I got quite a few calls from Albanians as well as other immigrants from former communist countries, mainly people who saw the ENOIKIAZETAI sign, and the ad in Facebook's Marketplace (there are differences in who looks for ads where). Pre-crisis, these people were the kind who wanted to live in the centre of town in rundown apartments that the locals had left for a place in the countryside: they didn't always own a car, they wanted to live close to their jobs, and those kinds of rentals were often quite cheap. Landlords did not take care of their properties in the same way they do now, in this changed social and economic environment. Then the crisis came, which brought about job losses in the private sector, meaning that immigrants couldn't afford even low rentals. Rentals dropped, airbnb came into the picture, landlords began doing up their properties and rent prices rose again. These are the kinds of tenants that are being pushed out of the rental market in the city centre. Either it's unaffordable, or the homes are no longer being used for long-term rentals. What's more, according to Greek law, you cannot do both: even if the landlord stipulates a short rental term (eg 6 months), a tenant has rights after living in rental accomodation for 3 months, and therefore cannot be evicted for three years. Tenants are still much more protected against landlords' demands, than landlords are protected against tenants' missed rental payments. Evicting a bad tenant takes time (about 6 months) and it's very costly, involving bailiffs and lawyers. (Sadly, I've been through this - I am prepared to do it all over again to protect my property.)

The Western European
I got one Marketplace respose from a Dutch woman. But she never came to view the apartment. No one else from Northern Europe answered to my ad. These kinds of tenants usually rent out of the town, in the countryside, preferring villa-style accomodation, at high prices, near other Western Europeans. If they rent in the town, they usually want a place with a garden (they often have pets). 

The Family with Three Kids
I felt most sorry for this case of potential tenants, because I could read the desperation on their faces. Our apartment is not set up for a family of more than one child because it has a double bed in each bedroom. While you can get away with two children of the same sex sleeping on one bed, it is unhygienic. But three kids? "One can sleep on the sofa," the mother assured me. So the living room would be its bedroom. What if someone wanted to watch TV all night? Presumably, the child would have to stay up until the TV was turned off. Or it would go and sleep in another person's bed (again, unhygienic) - and maybe asked to move later in the evening, disrupting its sleep routine. Where would it do its homework? This is the only category of potential tenant that I actually refused: I said something to the likes of "I'm sorry, but this home is not designed for your needs".

The Neighbour
I got quite a few calls from people in the neighbourhood, who had obviously seen the ENOIKIAZETAI sign on the balcony. "Hello, I'm calling about the apartment, on behalf of a beloved cousin/friend/aunt of mine..." I would ask the caller to have the interested party call me themselves. It never happened. My guess is that some people are just being nosy. One woman called me to tell me about a real estate agent who doesn't charge the landlord for finding a tenant (she charges the tenant instead). I thanked her for the information, but I didn't act on the suggestion. And then the real estate agent called me - my guess is that the agent got the information from the neighbour (read on).

The Real Estate Agent 
After 6 weeks of trying to find a suitable tenant, I decided that the time had come to hand over the reigns to someone else who would do the job for me. I had gotten quite tired of driving into the town centre after work, finding a place to park (usually not at all close to the apartment), losing precious relaxation time traipsing up and down the streets. I invited the real estate agent to the apartment to take pictures. She came with her partner, who took the photos.
   "Why are you renting it out with furniture?" she asked me. I was taken aback by this question. Hadn't she heard of airbnb? (Probably not, because, as I discovered later, she doesn;t speak English. Very unusual when you are dealing with property these days in Greece...) And anyway, airbnb or not, that's how I had been renting out the apartment for a long time. I couldn't see what was wrong with that.
   "My customer wants to rent an unfurnished flat." She actually kept mentioning this one specific customer that she had in mind. She even tried lowering the rent at one point. I didn't budge. I gathered that she was talking about a friend. Aren't there other customers too, I asked. She smiled. She knew I was on to her.
      "Can't you store your furniture somewhere?" Yet again, I had to remind her I didn't want to rent it out unfurnished. I explained that I was in the middle of a new renovation project, and those apartments will also be furnished. At that point - as you can imagine - she took a greater interest in me. And obviously, she stopped contradicting everything I said. And her next question was quite predictable:
   "Where?" I explained the location. "Oh, THAT one!" Her partner had already seen the renovations taking place which surprised me. But maybe it shouldn't. Construction has started up. I see many skips in the town filling up with old building materials. This is a sign in greater trust of the Greek property market. The economy may not be perfect, but property investment is paying off. 
   Even though I was not really enthralled by this real estate agent, since it wasn't going to cost me anything, I reluctantly handed her the keys. I was truly too tired to continue after that point. I explained that the ad in the paper was still going to be there for the next day but given the way the last 6 weeks had gone, I wasn't super hopeful. Her final question:
   "Are you interested in buying another property?" That kind of question gives you a clue as to what the property market is like at the moment: a lot of owners want to sell (presumably because they have too many properties and/or they can't afford to maintain them all tax-wise), but there aren't enough suitable homes to rent (due to the move to airbnb). 

From the university ad, I got no responses. There is state student housing available at the university, but this is reserved for low income families. The only place I could advertise there was outside a cafe, where there was a big billboard. It was covered in posters advertising political events. I felt that there wasn't much point advertising the apartment on that billboard, because the messages on it were very anarchic: capitalism is not welcome at state Greek universities. My guess is that the sign would disappear quite quickly. I still have no idea what happened to my ad. That no longer matters to me, because...

Late in the afternoon on the last day of the ad being run in the local paper, I got a call from a man who asked to view the apartment. His wife and young son came along with him. They were out of towners who had initially chosen a seaside suburb, which ended up being too far from their jobs. They regarded the location of my apartment as suitable for their work and their child's school. I noticed that they owned small model cars: that will help them with the parking issue in the middle of town. By the time I returned home, they had already called me to seal the deal. Phew. My patience won out.

(Spare a thought for the real estate agent - she called me the next day just before I called her to tell about my success.)

©All Rights Reserved/Organically cooked. No part of this blog may be reproduced and/or copied by any means without prior consent from Maria Verivaki. 

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Santorini: Life Among the Insular Greeks (James Theodore Bent)

Unlike nowadays, travel in the late 1800s was expensive, and journeys to places we think of as short and close to us took a long time. The tourists in those times were the wealthy educated explorers from the most highly advanced countries, namely the United Kingdom. They travelled to exotic places that few people in thse days had the chance to visit. Many of these early tourists published detailed accounts of what they saw and did in their journeys, which were rarely called holidays - these people were traveling for long periods of time and they saw these journeys as an occupation. Colonisation had stopped by then - what was there to be taken had already been taken - so they traveled with the scope of studying the archaeology of an area and trading with the locals, among other acitivities.

James Theodore Bent was one of those early tourists. He spent a long time touring the Cycladic islands, after which he wrote the book: The Cyclades; or, Life among the insular Greeks, which was published in 1885. One of the islands he visited was Santorini: he always referred to it as 'Santorin'. As I read through his descriptions of Santorini, I was surprised to see how much they resemble closely how today's world views the island. Having spent a few days in Santorini recently, I decided to use Bent's account of the island to describe my own experiences. The blue wording below is taken directly from Bent's writings. I have added my own photos, with black italicised captions. Quotes from other authors are also italicised with quote marks, to distinguish them from Bent's writings.

Sit back and enjoy the trip!

CHAPTER VI: SANTORIN (THERA) 
Before landing on Santorin and mixing ourselves with its people, we must consider for a brief space the particular feature of the island, namely, the volcano. The Hephaestus as they call it, has made of Santorin one of the most terrible spots in the world, and has had a powerful influence on the inhabitants.
The volcano island (Nea Kammeni), as viewed from the road approaching Finikia

... The island of Santorin proper is on the outer circle, eighteen miles from point to point, and twelve on the inner circle, and it is somewhat like a horseshoe; the remainder of the circle is made up by two islands, Therasia and Aspronisi, and three channels, by which the central basin or harbour is entered. 
Aspronisi (= 'white island') is the large white land mass, as viewed from the ferry boat as we approached Santorini
... The depth of the water in this central basin is immense; the cliffs go down straight into it, so that there is no possible anchorage, and vessels have to be tethered, so to speak, to the shore. 

 Ferry boats dock in a different port from yachts and cruise ships which cannot dock near the land. Passengers must be taken to shore via smaller boats.

Image result for map of santorini
Santorini's extremities: 
Oia is located on the top left-hand 
side of the 'horseshoe' while Akrotiri
is on the bottom left hand side.
The volcano in the middle,
Thirassia east of Oia, and the
tiny white rock called Aspronisi
are also part of Santorini
... the widest part of the island is scarcely three miles, the narrowest considerably under a mile at each end of the horseshoe of Santorin are the cliffs of Akroteri and Epanomeri. Epanomeri (= 'upper place') is now called Oia. Bent never calls it Oia - he uses only Epanomeri. Here is an expanation as to how it got its newer name:
"It is paradoxical that few know that the well-known name Oia no longer has any relation to that particular region. This name was obtained by King Otto's Decree, which was published in the Official Gazette on January 11, 1834, apparently in the spirit of certain scholars. Until then, from the documents and maps, we know that it was called Eponomeria (upper places) or the Castle of Agios Nikolaos, and its inhabitants were Epanomerites. Ancient Oia, which is placed by historians at the edge of the present settlement of Kamari, had no connection with the present region ... If Oia has to justify its present name, this could be constituted by the Homeric Oia which means "distant", and in this sense indeed Oia is the most distant point of Santorini..." https://www.ayiaekaterinaoias.gr/santorini/oia.html
There is only another feature which has to be considered at the south-east corner of the island of Santorin. There rises a mountain, Mesa Bouno by name, about 1,500 feet above the sea. This mountain and its spurs are not of the volcanic formation of the rest of the island, but consist of a rock formation common to most of the Cyclades. It is evident that this Mesa Bouno was an island, around which the crater has shed its shower of pumice
Mesa Vouno, as viewed from Perissa (we stayed in this area). 

... The soil is very light and thin, consisting chiefly of crumbled pumice: it seems favourable for the growth of nothing save the grape; in fact, the slopes of Santorin form one vast vine-yard. The roads are horribly disagreeable to walk on, being like the sand on the shore which the tide does not regularly reach. 

Santorini soil is very good for growing almosg anything, but little is grown due to water shortages. Most agriculture consists of non-irrigated crops: cherry tomatoes, white eggplant, round zucchini, short woody cucumber, yellow split pea (fava) and some varieties of grape are the main products grown on Santorini. 

... Santorin is a rich and prosperous island; nowhere in Greece do grapes grow so well as here ... Another eruption may suddenly come on, and cover Thera with feet of pumice or engulf her in the sea. And yet the inhabitants are happy, and, amass money year by year; for, as say the Greeks, 'he who has money has a tongue.' After Syra, nowhere in the Cyclades are there so many well-to-do people as there are in Santorin.
It's believed that Santorini became a wealthy island due to modern-day tourism, but according to Bent's account, we understand that Sanotirni has always been a wealthy island

The action of this volcano must have had, in the course of ages, a powerful influence over the inhabitants; for, from their position, the towns, built on the edge of the cliff overlooking the basin, are as if placed in an amphitheatre to overlook the mysterious workings of their volcano. ... Even the inhabitants from Ios, thirty miles from Santorin, and Anaphi, twelve miles east, and Sikinos thirty-five miles north-west, were subject in a less degree to the influence of [the volcano's] gases when the wind brought them in their direction. 
The islands of Sikinos and Ios, as viewed from Finikia, near Oia

... Everybody we told that we were going to Santorin had some new story to tell of its horrors, and the neighbouring islanders believe firmly that the crater of Santorin is the entrance to Hades, whither, say the Naxiotes, our good bishop has driven all the vampires and ghosts, so that they are very numerous here, and roll stones down the cliffs at travellers. 
Nea Kammeni, the volcanic island in the midst of the caldera
.
.. After these few remarks on the nature of the island we were about to visit the reader will better understand the impressions created. It is a hideous island, fascinating in its hideousness... On entering the basin of Santorin one experiences directly the pleasant impression of seeing something utterly new. To the left we were swiftly borne past a white line of houses perched along the edge of blood red rocks which form the northernmost point of the island. This is Epanomeria. Further on the red promontory of Scaros juts out into the basin, and on it are the crumbling ruins of the mediaeval fortress; above this, on black rocks, is perched the white village of Meroviglia, 1,000 feet above the sea, which commences a long line of white houses, nearly two miles in extent, which blends itself with Pheri, the present capital of the island.
Thirassia behind the volcano in front, the whilte village of Oia in the back right (Bent refers to it as Epanomeria), Scaros Rock (with the 'crown' on top), and Imerovigli on the right (Fira is hidden from view)

... Half the inhabitants of Santorin, in spite of the encouragement given by Government to the building of regular houses, prefer to live like rabbits in the ground. The capital and one or two of the principal villages now boast of handsome houses properly built, but some of the remote villages are still mere 
rabbit warrens excavated in the pumice-stone rocks as they have been for centuries.
Sighted on our walk from Fira to Oia (before we reached Finikia): a new hotel, perhaps?

The wall of rock is ascended by a newly made zigzag path, which joins Pheri and her port, 950 feet beneath her, which 950 feet are composed of countless layers of volcanic eruptions in contorted lines of black and red. Here and there a little verdure clings to the cliff; here and there the little houses peep, like owls, from out of the rocks ; and huge black boulders, which have been loosened and fallen in times of earthquake, stand ominously threatening on the next opportunity to roll down and crush the houses by the harbour.
 
The zigzag path is now a staircase, and it has been joined by a cable car.

Frequent accidents occur from the loosening and fall of these rocks, and a word peculiar to Santorin (κατράξις) has been coined, with the usual phonetic success of the Greek tongue, to express their crushing roll.
This made an impression on us was we drove up the mountain on our arrival

Altogether Santorin is an awe-inspiring spot, and we did not know whether to be glad or sorry when the steamer went away, and left us for a fortnight's stay in Vulcan's palace. Really if Pheri, as the capital of Thera is curiously called, on the same principle that in modern Greek Thebes is called Pheba (pron. Pheva), had but a few trees to shelter it, it would be an inviting residence in the summer, perched, as it is, high above the sea-level, and commanding views of an astonishing character over the basin, the volcanic islands, and the distance. 
If there were just a few more trees... 

All the houses of the poorer class which are not made in the ground are one-storeyed, with vaulted roof of stone and covered inside with excellent cement made out of Santorin pumice stone. These houses are firm and resist earthquakes bettern than flat roofs. 

A vaulted roof

... There are plenty of ships in the bays and creeks of the Burnt Islands ; for here they can get that anchorage which the steep cliffs of Santorin do not provide ; and furthermore by a ten days' stay in these waters the bottoms of the ships become clean without any effort on the part of the sailors.
The sulphuric waters surrounding the volcano islands are visible from a distance

... Before the last eruption there was a bath establishment here, consisting of a church and several houses, much frequented in summer time by invalids; all that is left of it is the vaulted roofs of two or three houses standing out of the water. Since that time, not a soul has ventured to sleep on this side. The aspect of everything is infernal beyond description; not a tree grows here, except a few figs, the fruit of which is considered of surpassing excellence. All is black, save a few bright coloured stones and streaks of sulphur; huge blocks of lava and broken volcanic bombs lie about everywhere.

... Pheri has many Roman Catholics in it, for in the middle ages numbers of Italian and Spanish families settled here: these families still take the lead, and possess the finest houses. There are the Dekigallas (De Cigalli) and Barozzi, of Italian origin; there are the Da Corognas and Delendas, of Spanish origin, said to be remnants of the wandering Catalans who haunted these seas in the fourteenth century, and some of whom reigned, as we have previously seen, in Siphnos. There is a convent, too, in Pheri, where the young ladies of Santorin are taught French; so the upper class inhabitants of this town consider themselves very Western indeed, and give themselves airs which are highly displeasing to the Greeks: never was there any love lost between devotees of the Eastern and Western dogmas.
The Catholic Cathedral Church of Saint John The Baptist, Fira

... Below Meroviglia the red rock on which Scaros is built juts out into the bay; on the top of it is the castle of the mediaeval rulers, and around cluster the old houses which were abandoned only twenty years ago because they were falling into the sea ; and the last inhabitant, an old woman, had to be dragged away by main force, so attached was she to the home of her ancestors. 
Skaros Rock, over the centuries 

From one point of view the crumbling ruins of the mediaeval town are interesting, for they show the strength of the vaulted cement roofs, which only fall to pieces in huge masses, the arches being firmly wedged together and levelled with cement; some of these houses are two-storeyed, and hold together in a remarkable way... 

On the following morning we set off for a long walk to explore the slopes of the island, which gently lead down to the outer sea. The aspect of the place is ugly enough in winter, and resembles a brown flat plain covered with hampers, for at Santorin they always weave the tendrils of their vines into circles, the effect in winter being that each vineyard looks as if hampers were placed all over it in rows and at intervals of every two yards. The Santoriniotes treat the vine differently to the other islanders, for here they plough their vineyards instead of digging them, and, contrary to the biblical injunction, I have often seen a bullock yoked to a mule in so doing. 
A Santorini vineyard in Megalochori, and a 'hamper'-shaped vine.

For the first two or three years after planting a vine they cut off most of the shoots, leaving only a few trailing on the ground, after which they weave them into the above-mentioned baskets, which in summer are quite hidden with leaves and fruit. This hamper increases in size year by year, until after  twenty years it is cut off and the vine is left with only a few branches, of which some are trailed round in circles and others left lying on the ground. This work is done yearly, and has the local name of κλάδον. 

The wine of Santorin is certainly most excellent, and is drunk largely in Russia; much, too, finds its way, via France, to England under the name of claret; but a cunning wine-maker has christened a certain brand 'Bordeaux, and hopes by this artifice it may sell in England without passing through a French cellar, which entails considerable reduction in profits. But the best wine in the island is a  white one called 'of the night' (νυκτέρι) because the grapes of which it is made are gathered before sunrise, and are supposed to have a better aroma from this cause. They make more wine here than anywhere else in Greece; they have seventy different kinds of grapes, the best of which are chosen.
Our wine purchases from a local products store in Akrotiri

... Without her vineyards Santorin would be a desert. There is not enough barley grown to support a quarter of the inhabitants, there is not nearly straw enough for the mules, which deficiency is supplied by giving them the soft shoots of the vines to eat, whereas the extraneous branches are given to the hens. Even the branches and old hampers which are despised by the mules and the hens are not sufficient to supply the inhabitants with wood enough for their cooking purposes.


 The hamper-shaped vine trunks are used ornamentally.
 
Every article of clothing and every household utensil come from without; even water in years of drought has to be fetched from the neighbouring islands; and as we toiled through the basket-covered fields, the thin light soil of which made walking such an exertion, we regretted that it was January, and not July, when all those baskets would be green and the grapes would hang temptingly around.

Two triaxial truckloads of bottled water from Crete were parked next t our car in the garage of the ferry boat from Iraklio. Santorini suffers from a severe water shortage. We showered with salty water at the hotel and tap water was not potable. Oia has a desalination unit (pictured below).
Everywhere we passed cisterns excavated in the ground and coated with cement. Some of these are thirty to forty yards in circumference, for Santorin is almost waterless except for that collected in these cisterns. Every house has its own cistern, and public ones are kept at the expense of the community at fitting intervals along the roadsides, and provided with a pail for drawing up the water, and troughs for the mules to drink out of only three natural springs exist on the island, and are in that part which is not volcanic. 


An old well in Perissa - this part of the island is not volcanic.

... In one of these [houses in a village], we lunched frugally enough off hard-boiled eggs and green pork sausages. They said we could get better food at the next village, but we were hungry, and, to use a Greek proverb, 'preferred our egg today to our fowl tomorrow' [Κάλλιο νά 'χω σήμερα τ' αυγό παρά αύριο την κότα]. The house was composed of two rooms, both in the rock; the outer one the family occupied by day, with a door opening into the street, a window over it and one on each side; the inner room the family occupied by night, and into this a ray of sunlight never penetrates.
A glimpse of something that looked like a dugout room in Fira: these rooms are nowadays often converted into 'cave pools'. 

These excavated houses (σκαπτά σπίτια) are the subject of special legislation in Santorin. Those dwelling in them have no actual right to the land over their heads, but then nobody can make a vineyard or a reservoir without the consent of the householder below.
In essence, one man's ceiling forms another man's terrace...

On our morning walk,
we found these walls
dripping with moisture.
Cactus pears were very common sights. They
were often found on what looked like abandoned
agricultural land
... The construction is thus. The bed of the torrent forms the street ; on either side are lovely gardens, for in this sheltered spot everything flourishes; luxuriant prickly pears and geraniums flower all the year round, and vines hang from trellises; the houses on either side of the street are in the rock. Each house has been chiselled out, and presents only a front wall with doors and windows. People say they are healthy; in fact, epidemics are exceedingly rare in Santorin. They are cool in summer and warm in winter, but they are damp; and, curiously enough, though water is so scarce, the inhabitants of Santorin suffer more from damp than anything else, for the moisture created by the sea air is not absorbed by the dry earth and gets into other things. Bread becomes mouldy directly, and so do boots, salt is always damp, tools rust in twenty-four hours, and those strings of beads (κομπολόγια) with which the Greeks delight to play, get as wet as if they had been dipped in water. Books decay as if from worms, and in an empty house you see spiders' webs hanging and sparkling with moisture in the sunshine...

... we visited many of these dug-out houses, and found their inhabitants prosperous and sharp-witted. From what I saw I quite think the Santoriniotes are the sharpest Greeks I have ever met; they indulge in neat expressions, too; for example, if you try to do something they deem impossible, after the manner of English travellers they will say, 'A blind man found a needle in the straw, and a deaf man told him that he heard it fall' [a well-known proverb all over Greece: Τυφλὸς βελόνα γύρευε μέσα στὸν ἀχερῶνα κ' ἕνας κουφός του ἔλεγε: «Τὴν ἄκουσα ποὺ ἐβρόντα.»] 

... Our next expedition was not so interesting; it was to the village of Pyrgos, high up on the hillside, where the coating of pumice clings to the lower spurs of Mesa Bouno and its twin peak, Mount Prophet Elias. As its name implies, Pyrgos is a fortified town or fortress much resorted to in days gone by, when pirates ventured into the basin of Santorin. It is just like all the island fortified towns, dirty and old-world, decidedly more picturesque than the long white line of Pheri, but less peculiar than Bothri. And then we toiled up the limestone mountain to the convent of the prophet, from which vantage ground a most superb view is enjoyed. Far, far away on the southern horizon are seen Mount Ida and other snow-capped peaks of Crete; to the east are the Sporades, Kos, Patmos, Ikaria, Samos, hugging f the coast of Asia Minoj whilst around us are scattered, like leaves in autumn, the many-shaped Cyclades.
We chose the highest village of Santorini to view the sunset: from Pyrgos, we caught a glimpse of Psiloritis in Crete (look closely next to the bell tower).

... The inhabitants of Akroteri were very busy visiting today; each housewife had put on her best, and had adorned her table with glasses and delicious sweets. I should be ashamed to say how many spoonfuls of rose leaf or orange flower jam, or how many glasses of liqueur we swallowed that day, being careful to remember to wish 'many years ' (Χρόνια Πολλά) to all around us before touching the beverage with our lips. Amongst other delicacies peculiar to Santorin is tyropita which, literally translated, means cheesecake. It is a curious composition, the first ingredient being a curd of sheep's milk (χλωρό), then some eggs, cheese, barley, cinnamon, mastic, and saffron.

... We had a biting northern blast for three whole days, accompanied by drifting small snowy weather such as we rarely have in England for misery; and when the only available fire is a brazier with charcoal ashes, which gives you a headache if you stoop over it, the only alleviation to your misery is to stay in bed or take exercise of an exceedingly active nature.

No automatic alt text available.
Yes, it DOES snow in Santorini! (This is clearly NOT my photo!)

Deciding on the latter course on one of these days I set off for the northern town of Epanomeria. The snow and wind cut our faces terribly; at times it was almost impossible to struggle against the blast. Up at Meroviglia the ground was hard with frost; we felt perished, and decided to return to our brazier and our beds, but our friend the demarch put new life into us by another dose of hot tea and rum ; so we plodded on till Epanomeria was reached. The road thither is very uneven; now you climb a rock, and are perished by the wind; now you are in shelter, and the sun scorches: such is the winter climate on a volcano in the sunny south.

As we approached Epanomeria the volcanic rocks grew redder, and at the town itself all the formation of the rocks is red. This the inhabitants have utilised to make their houses gayer, and here there are many fine large houses, built of stones hewn out of these red rocks, set together firmly with cement, and into the cement are inserted little red stones by way of ornament.

Approaching Oia (formely Epanomeria) on our walk from Fira (11km, a 5 hour walk with plenty of stopovers and photo time)

It is a flourishing place, where most of the sea captains and pilots dwell ; by one of these we were hospitably entertained on fried eggs, with pork sausages cut up with them. The captain was very talkative, asking innumerable questions about England and far-off lands. He told us much, too, about the shipping of Santorin that interested us; how when they have built a new vessel they have a grand ceremony at the launching, or benediction, as they call it here, at which the priest officiates; and the crowd eagerly watch, as she glides into the water, the position she takes, for an omen is attached to this. It is customary to slaughter an ox, a lamb, or a dove on these occasions, according to the wealth of the proprietor and the size of the ship, and with the blood to make a cross on the deck. After this the captain jumps off the bows into the sea with all his clothes on, and the ceremony is followed by a banquet and much rejoicing. I must say that the aspect of Epanomeria is more cheerful than that of the other villages, for here all the houses are above the ground, and the Venetian fort on the headland forms a pleasing addition to the gay red houses.



We had heard much about weddings in Greece, strange customs having been collected by various tra-
vellers from various points of Hellas, and the union of them all had given us a confused idea of what a Greek peasant wedding in a remote island would be... what I saw at Santorin... had its own peculiarities, but many of those peculiarities which we were accustomed to associate with Greek weddings were absent.

How many brides in Imerovigli?

... When the bridegroom reached the doorstep, the bridesmaid met him with a saucerful of honey and comfits, and a towel. He dipped his finger into the honey, and made three crosses with it on the door, one on the lintel, and one on each post. After this he ate a mouthful, which the bridesmaid put into his mouth with a spoon, wiped his fingers on the towel, and sank into a retired comer... The father had on a bright yellow coat and a red fez today in honour of his daughter's nuptials... He had just returned with the two priests and the best man (κουμπάρος) from his vineyard, where they had gathered the vine-tendrils, which were to make the crowns for the young couple; and now the pretty ceremony of making these crowns began.

... When the crowns were finished, and the singing over, they placed these symbols of matrimony again in the basket, and handed them to the priests, who headed the procession to the neighbouring church. It was piercingly cold when we came out of the warm cave, and snow was falling, but my neighbour pointed to it and said, 'This is lucky ' with an emphasis which at first I thought to be intended for a sarcasm, but on reflection the Greek saying occurred to me, 'Happy is the bride that it rains upon' («Όσες σταγόνες της βροχής πέσανε στο χορό σου, τόσες να είναι οι χαρές νύφη στο σπιτικό σου»), and if the greater rarity of snow occurs it surely must indicate some great good luck. We in England have chosen the sun as indicating prosperity to the bride ; in Greece they have chosen rain, the result of difference of climate, no doubt.

Honey and almonds are still served on festive happy occassions, eg weddings and baptisms.
In Santorini, this is known as 'koufeto'.

... After the religious ceremony was concluded we were all invited to return to the house of the bride's father, where in the most limited space possible they danced a συρτό abominably and administered refreshments: divers kinds of jam, mastic, liqueurs, and plates of honey and almond, which last delicacy had to be eaten with a knife. In Santorin they do not keep up marriage festivities so long as those we saw at Sikinos or as in Mykonos, in which island ten or fifteen days of festivity are considered usual, and at a peasant wedding, which was concluded the day we arrived, they told us that no less than twenty lambs had been slaughtered, not to mention other food. But most of the quaint old customs relative to marriage in Greece have been abandoned for exactly the same reason that they are abandoning the costumes because they are too expensive to keep up...

Our muleteer was ready for us next morning in his plain clothes, just as if nothing had happened the day before; and we started on our longest expedition on the island to the south-eastern end, where on the slopes of the limestone mountain are the chief remains of Grecian antiquities. Our road led us through the large village of 'great place' (Μεγαλοχώρι), with evidences of Venetian splendour,... 
Megalochori is the first village you come across when driving away from the port after arriving to Santorini by ferry boat 

... and then on to a spot called Emporion, which name testifies to the 'trade' that was once carried on here in days now long gone by; yet still it is a well-to-do place...
... At the entrance to the village there is a medieval tower, planted against the mountain side, and near it a tall waving palm tree; vineyards are spread all around and the spot looked very picturesque as it climbed up a cleft of the mountains...


 The palm tree that Bent mentions sitting next to the tower no longer exists. Next to the bus stop, there is a more contemporary remnant of days long gone (the Π is missing)

... Before the rush of the water the stalks of the water willows bent and swayed. Out of these willows the Santoriniotes make capital baskets, and drive a good trade by selling them to their neighbours. Why they are more energetic than the other islanders I cannot say. Barren and dry as Santorin looks by the side of its neighbour Naxos, its inhabitants are energetic and prosperous ; whereas in Naxos, where nature, has done all for them she can, idleness and poverty prevail.
Thirassia island, as seen from Imerovigli, facing Scaros Rock

One more journey remained for us, namely, an expedition to the lost limb of Santorin, the island of
Therasia, an expedition which will be to me an ever memorable one. It was only a short sail across the harbour, an hour's run with a good breeze, but our breeze to-day was rather too good, and we were drenched to the sun before we set foot on this inhospitable shore. Everything here is the same as at Thera, only on a smaller scale ; a few boathouses form the port, a wretched zigzag path leads up to the row of white houses eight hundred feet above, each with a vaulted roof, which form the Chora. It was St John the Baptist's Day, an universal holiday, for St. John the Baptist follows ^ next after the Epiphany in the Byzantine calendar. And, despite our drenched condition and the biting north wind, we enjoyed participating in the blessing of the sea which happened to be taking place. Down the zigzag path the procession wended its way, headed by priests carrying crosses, and two acolytes carrying lanterns ; after them came all the inhabitants of the town, a hardy seafaring race. On the seashore a litany was sung, during which all the people knelt around, and with his cross the priest blessed the waves and then threw it into the sea. There was a general scramble now to get the cross, for the man or boy who secures it gets as a reward for facing the cold and the wet some coppers from the bystanders, which later in the day will buy him enough wine to make him very drunk and drive out the chill... Therasia is more pastoral than Thera On the southern slopes a good deal of grain is grown, and women with their faces enveloped in white handkerchiefs were tending their goats, walking about with huge sacks on their backs in search of fodder for their niules. I remarked that here nearly every woman wore white, whereas in Thera black was the fashion. Beyond this point there was nothing whatsoever to lead us to believe that we were on a different island.
Our last Santorini sunset, as viewed from the ferry boat heading for Crete, somewhere in the horizon

Santorini has been captivating people's attention for many centuries. Click on the link here:  http://www.greece-is.com/santorini-in-the-mid-1920s-through-nellys-eyes/ to see what Santorini was like innthe 1920s (photographs taken by Nelly's). 

Bonus information: Santorini on a shoestring
I foresee limits on tourist numbers in Santorini in the not too distant future, due to overtourismso now seems to be a good time to go, before Santorini closes its doors to the masses. Santorini is one of the easiest choices for Cretans to take an island holiday away from their own island. You can get to Santorini (also known as Thira by the locals) from Crete via Rethimno or Herakleion (but not from Hania) in 2-3 hours by ferry boat. While Santorini isn't known as a budget holiday choice, there are in fact cheap choices available for budget travellers like ourselves. Transportation, accommodation and food were my main priorities:
transportation from Crete: Golden Star Ferries via Herakleion (€39 per person, per journey). The journey lasts just over 3 hours. The faster ferry boats are more expensive.
accommodation on the island: cheap accomodation in Santorini is found on the non-caldera side of the island. Via booking.com, we secured one room - 4 beds & a fridge - for 2 nights near Perissa beach, for just €90, at Katerina and John's hostel.
transportation on the island: we took our car on the boat (€60 return) with a full tank (petrol costs are considerably higher in Santorini than they are in Crete). The local buses on the island are cheap but not always convenient. Without a car, there are many places on the island that you wouldn't be able to get to - there's a lot more to see on Santorini than the caldera. My husband enjoyed the challenge of driving on the narrow bendy roads of the island. Parking in Santorini is difficult at best, but this guide was very helpful: https://santorinidave.com/rent-car-santorini.
food: We never go anywhere without our dakos construction kit: garden-grown tomatoes, mizithra, paximadi, olive oil and oregano; a grater, knife, bowl, plastic plates. Breakfast wasn't included in our hotel, so we bought along fruit and biscuits. There was a very good 24hr bakery across the road.
- water: water is a contentious issue in Santorini, with environmental overtones due to the impact of overtourism. Santorini's water demands far outweigh what the island can supply naturally. This is something that, as Cretans, we are totally unfamiliar with - we use tap water 98% of the time for all our drinking needs (cooking and washing is 100% tap water). To avoid buying bottled water at outrageous prices (in throwaway containers), we carried some with us. Having our own car was useful for many reasons.
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Arrival at Oia, after walking five hours (including stops for taking photos) from Fira

And if you want to do the Fira-Oia walk, like we did, make sure to carry lots of water with you. The Fira-Oia walk is like doing the Samaria Gorge - but in the Samara Gorge, there is plenty of water along the way, so that all you need to carry is a water bottle to fill up as you walk. But in Santorinim you will find some places to sell you water up to Imerovigli; after that, you will be alone and exposed to the sun, with hardly any places to buy water - and you will certainly feel the need for it.

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