Taxi service

Taxi service
TAXI SERVICE, for all your holiday needs while you are travelling in Hania. If you're coming to Hania and you need a taxi, maybe we can help you out. For quotes and prompt service, drop me a line at: mverivaki hotmail com

Monday, 31 May 2010

Winner! (Νικητής!)

Here are the answers to the quiz in the previous post.

1. This is the pomegranate tree in our garden. I took the photo just before it began to sport its pretty red-pink blooms.
1.CIMG9183 2.CIMG9184
2. This is our lychee tree; it has not produced any fruits yet (look at how big it is!), but we have seen success with other growers in the area, who have told us that it can take p to 5 years before fruits appear for the first time.

3. The willowy herb is fennel, the leafy one is parsley, nettles can also be seen, as well as a tiny sprig of mint in the earthy patch at the back.
3.CIMG9182 4.CIMG9179
4. This is the rocket (arugula) herb, in amongst the nettles, all ready to bloom and go to seed.

5. These are the remains of a cauliflower plant, which have long leaves that look like huge green tongues.
5.CIMG9180 6.CIMG9181
6. Broccoli plants look like cauliflower plants, but their leaves are curlier.

7. Is it a man? Yes! Is it a Cretan? Yes! And - it's also a watermelon carving.
7.cretan man 8.gavros and horta
8. These horta are vlita (amaranth) greens; they grow in the summer, when this photograph was taken.

9. Perlagonium is used to fragrance spoons sweets like quince, grape and bitter orange.
9.perlagonium 10.seasonal produce
10. The orange fruit is tamarillo, the red fruit is persimmon, and the little red flowers are a kind of ornamental pepper.

11. Kumquat is grown commercially on the island of Kerkira. It grows well here too, but its culinary uses are relatively unknown.
11.kumquat tree 12.CIMG5867
12. This is a pumpkin vine by the roadside, and I used to harvest the squash flowers from it, but I won't be able to find it again, because the road was recently paved and footpathed, so the soil will have been turned over so many times and finally cemented, that this vine won't grow wild here again.

13. This bulb is a squill. It has no culinary use; not even animals eat it. It is a New Year's good luck charm.
13.CIMG6857 14.CIMG9185
14. Well, this one is a sad story... Our very sick neighbour planted these peppers, but he had a terminal illness, and his family has little interest in gardening, so here the peppers stayed, and they went to seed, so I expect to watch another bumper pepper crop blooming here soon in its place; long live Vasili...

Thanks to all for taking part in the fun. The winner was chosen by random number generator programme which can be found on random.org - thanks to Joanna at foodjunkie.eu for the idea. 15 people left a comment, so the numbers entered in the programme were 1 and 15.

And the winner is number 5 - the fifth person to comment on the blog post is Maria from kalisasorexi.com 

Congratulations! Now email me your address (mverivaki at hotmail dot com) and I'll send you the book.

©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.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Receipts (Αποδείξεις)

Just before my book draw - click here; winner announced on Tuesday.

Dear Mr P ,

Things seem to be getting from bad to worse in Greece, don't they? How long will it be before Greece is told to take a hike out of the EU? I'm not too worried at this stage about that happening, but if it does, it will throw a spanner in the works concerning the Greek psyche, don't you think? My European identity was beginning to grow on me, but if we leave the EU, not only will we find ourselves in the throes of an economic crisis, but an identity crisis as well. Way down here where I live, it feels out of place to rename myself a Balkan. Either that, or give myself the now defunct Ottoman label, which would probably not go down too well on the general populace, so let's brush that aside for now, and deal with it when the time comes, shall we? Just as long as we don't forget that the issue may well come up in the near future, because some people no doubt are already thinking about it, aren't they? We don't want to look as though were caught 'στα πράσα' now, do we?!


How many receipts have you gathered so far in the place where you keep your stash? Maybe you are in the special category of people that don't have to collect them. No such thing, you say? Well, judging by the number of receipts people are leaving behind in the supermarket, the mini-market, the fast-food outlets, the canteens, the tavernas and all sorts of other places where I've been keeping my beady eyes open for more evidence of this happening, there seem to be quite a few people who appear not to need them. One customer even told the Chinese owner of a clothes shop that she was quite happy not to accept a receipt (if she got the obvious - there is no need for me to explain what that is because everyone in Greece knows what is meant by that).

Are you wondering whether I'm picking up those miscellaneous receipts and adding them to my own expenses? Yep, sure am, even though they often list things I never buy (namely cigarettes). In fact, since I'm one of the few people who seem to be taking this receipt business seriously (judging by some peop;e's behavior - see previous paragraph), the owner of the mini-market where I buy my weekly newspaper always asks me if I would like some of those uncollected receipts (for free, of course). If no one wants them, I may as well take them, right? More to the point, am I missing something for actually collecting receipts? Or do I live mainly among people who are above the law?

How are you going to check what I've claimed as having spent? I've already collected about 300 receipts* so far, and it's not even the middle of the year. Sounds like you're going to have to employ (and pay with money we haven't got) extra staff to help you cope with the new workload. Will you be inputting all this data onto EXCEL files" You do know what these are, dont' you? Are you seriously going to trace all the transactions via a firm's VAT registration number? For every single tax-filing citizen of Greece?** Boy, you've got yourself a handful!

What will you do when you discover that, as in my case, I have been to the supermarket three or four times in one day? Will you say, 'don't believe you?' You have only asked us to take note of the DATE, VAT number of the business and the TOTAL AMOUNT of each transaction we (say we) made. Do you really care about what we bought? Or how much it cost us (which is usually more than what other Europeans pay for the same product in their own countries)? Or whether I had to go to different branches of the same business (the same VAT number appears on the receipt regardless of the branch)? Well, I guess that's just throwing a few spanners in the works, isn't it?

Thank goodness the car is breaking down more often, thank goodness I needed to change my computer this year, thank goodness we decided to buy the new outdoor furniture this year instead of the last - I'm clocking up the expenses to no end. But are they permissible? You've still got a good few months to play around with me on that one before we file our tax returns again. I suppose you're not interested in the reciepts I obtained for services rendered on my recent family budget holiday (Paris and London); you're only interested in whether Greek businesses pay their taxes, not French or British businesses (and apparently they do pay their taxes there, but they have still managed to run up debts there too).

At the end of the day, what will this receipt-collecting business have proved? Where would you like to see me spending my money? Are you going to judge me by them? How do you feel about people learning to save their money instead of spending it? Can't I choose what I do with my money? What will all this evidence prove? When you rifle through my jumbo-size receipt folder, here's what I think you'll discover:
  1. that a large proportion of my income is spent on food (164 of my - to date - 283 permissible tax-rebate receipts are for food purchases: most people will tell you anyway that the supermarket, and food, in general terms, is where the largest share of their spending goes)
  2. that we don't go out for a meal much (only 3 receipts came from tavernas, and half a dozen were for snack food: the cost of living has escalated all of a sudden, and when this happens, dining out is one of the first things that is put aside for more prosperous times
  3. that my clothing purchases are on the cheap side (I have only 10 clothing receipts, totalling 330 euro, and I call that expensive even for cheapskates like myself: during our recent trip to London, we spent 114 pounds on clothing from PRIMARK, buying 25 items in total for all members of the family, which included 6 men's business shirts, all of which were much better quality than the stuff we buy in cheap Chinese clothing shops in Hania
  4. that I don't eat fish often enough (only 5 receipts concern fish suppliers: I was surprised to discover that I was cooking it for the family only once a month, but it shouldn't be such a big surprise when you discover how much it can cost - which is something up for discussion in a future post)
  5. that I started smoking recently (collecting other people's receipts if they have been discarded has become a way of life for many people: I am willing to place a bet that next year, come tax-return-filing time, accountants will be fiddling figures for their 'special' clients by removing receipts from some people's tax returns and distributing them in a way that suits others - I could even cook the books myself, by adding a few dates here and there for supermarket purchases in an EXCEL file - you don't seriously think Mr P and his gang are going to look at every single receipt sent in by every single Greek tax payer, do you???)
You haven't learnt much more about me than you already know, Mr P. But what I want to know is why should I be telling you this anyway. Why should you expect to have the right to find out what I do with my money, when we don't have the right (as yet) to know where you got yours from? Is this going to be a way of life now for the lower rungs of Greek society? Did you expect to find out anything different about the average low-income earner? I think you're barking up the wrong tree, George. You're chasing the wrong people, and by doing this, you're helping to destroy the few threads that remain in the basic structure of Greek society:
  1. People have minimised their use of their local kiosk because it didn't issue receipts, because you, George, hadn't planned efficiently before introducing the new measures: how could you expect kiosk owners to issue receipts when they were never required by law to have a machine to do this?
  2. People are preferring to do their shopping at the supermarket instead of going to the open-air street markets (the laiki) for their fresh supplies for the same reason as above - this also implies that they may be buying reduced quality or one that is generally not preferred by them, and it also implies that multinational companies will be gaining their ever-increasing share in the food business with their gloablised products, since most people will go to a supermarket to ensure they can pick up a receipt for their transactions.
  3. People are being forced to cheat the system in order for the system not to cheat them, a basic example being the collection of other people's receipts - a more extreme example is to show loyalty to regular customers, as in the case of an accountant helping a rich client.
  4. In the extreme case, we may be seeing a brother-against-brother state, where there is a lack of trust among people, since it is obvious that deception, corruption and tax evasion is still continuing despite the austerity measures.Greek society can be so predictable at times.
We lost our reputation in the world, we lost our economic power, now we are looking at losing the basic structure that our society was built on - the end of the geitonia as we knew it. It's a heavy cloud that hangs over Greece today, and it's not just the Icelandic ash and desert dust that's causing it.

*** *** ***
It's not far from the truth to say that Greece is a poor country with rich people. We've become a laughing stock around the world for knowing who owes money to the state, but not doing anything about collecting that money. These debts have been largely ignored because of the influence those owing money exert, and the fact that they have their own people in powerful positions, who can cover up their misdemeanors, by cooking their books accordingly. If Greece could just get her VIP citizens (doctors, entertainers and bar/nightclub owners are the main culprits) to pay their taxes just like the unimportant Greeks like myself, the IMF wouldn't have picked up another customer so quickly. The Greek government knows full well who owes taxes to the state, and has also publicly released the names of those φοροδιαφυγάδες. It doesn't take a great brain to realise that just a handful of Voskopoulos-type tax-evaders owe enough to get us out of the can forever.

Let's not put all the blame on the 'aeritzides' of Greek society. It's not just the tax-evaders that have damaged the economy: it is also those that are in positions of power, turning a blind eye to the tax debts of the evaders, while they themselves profit from such activities. Ever heard of a state-employed tax inspector with 3 million euro in their bank account? They're living the high life here in Greece, and all at the ordinary citizens' expense. It will be very difficult to learn to live an OPA!-less lifestyle from now on. Even more importantl;y, it's going to take a whole generation to teach people that they can't live on 'fakelakia' and 'rousfetia', and another generation to get used to the idea, so that they have no role model to look up to, their ancestors, the people who used to do this for a living. Opa.

If you want to enter my book draw - click here; winner announced on Tuesday.

*as at 28 May, 2010
**at this rate, I will probably collect approximately 800 receipts for my family, excluding my husband's taxi-related ones, which comes to 400 receipts per person; times that by the number of Greek tax-payers (the population of Greece is about 12 million)

©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, 25 May 2010

Employment (Εργασία)

When I finished my studies in New Zealand, I didn't know what job I wanted to do. The obvious one was in teaching, but my qualifications did not steer me right into this course; I went there by accident. During my studies, every day after school or university, I worked in my parents' fish and chip shop and McDonalds during the weekends and holidays. I reeked of food smells at the end of my working shifts, I had to hear out customer complaints, and I suppose I was really put off by the whole food work sector. It was smelly and dirty, people complained easily, and it always involved evening work. I knew that these jobs were not in the work sector that I had expectations of entering, but even so, I still didn't really have a clearly defined job in mind when I finished my formal education.

After six years of tertiary studies (BA in Linguistics, MA in Sociolinguistics and Diploma in Teaching English as a Second Language), I realised that teaching was something that cold possibly interest me, but I could not be a NZ schoolteacher, because that required another two years' training in Teacher's College. At the time, when NZ immigration policies were in a transition period and the world was becoming more mobile, there were few options available to me to teach English as a second language in NZ, as I did not fit into the desirable paradigm of the NZ ESL teacher; for a start, the students were mainly Asian, and the teachers who were being hired tended to be Asian emigres, as well as people who had spent time teaching English in Asian countries*. Apart from the massive economic changes that had taken place in New Zealand at the end of the 80s, for which I was completely unprepared with my arts degree, the climate of political correctness gave more opportunities to non-Europeans than it did to middle-class white people in the fields of immigrant education. Middle-class whites belonged to the 'office' sector - lawyers, accountants and other kinds of pen-pushers, who had done their OE around Europe wearing jandals and sneakers, and were now coming back 'home' to 'settle down' into a respectable life, where they would take on responsibilities such as wearing a suit and tie (or scarf) to work, maintaining one partner instead of sowing wild oats, and entering the property market with their 'first home' (which obviously denotes that there will be a 'second home' coming along after that one). As the product of a comfortable but sheltered life that was culturally attuned to another homeland, I had clearly been brought up incorrectly. I was the wrong sort of Kiwi with the wrong sort of education: cheers Aotearoa; yiasou Ellada.

I had heard from my compatriots that teachers of English as a foreign language in Greece were highly sought after. Being a native speaker of English was more than enough to secure a job teaching English in a private language school in Greece; you did not need any tertiary qualifications. You could even become the owner of a such an institute (known in Greece as a frontistirio) yourself simply by procuring a certificate of proficiency in the English language (the kind that organisations like the Michigan and Cambridge Examinations Boards offer). Since my studies related to this field, I started working in one such frontistirio in Athens, and to my surprise, I actually enjoyed what I did. I had a lot of things that I wanted to teach my students, and generally speaking, they showed interest in what I had to tell them. My boss thought I was quite good at what I was doing too: he gave me a pay rise after one week (seriously).

There was only one thing I absolutely hated about my job, from the very first day that I started, to the very last time I was in a class with a group of schoolchildren. I hated the hours. I had already worked evening hours for 10 years in NZ, something I detested; I hated every minute that I had to leave my home in the searing heat of the middle of the Greek day until the late night hours when I left the school to come back home again. Is Greece the only country in the world where primary and secondary school children go to public school during the day (or the afternoon every alternate week, a system which is being phased out slowly, but is still lagging on even now - something to do with not enough school premises), then private school from the afternoon until the evening, finishing on most nights at 10pm? The children in my last teaching session (it started at 8.30pm and finished at 10.20pm) had been turned into zombies throughout the day, before they came to my class. 

Although I didn't have a family then, I wondered how on earth I could even contemplate doing that with a job like my one. Did the state seriously believe that a woman (English language teachers in Greece are 90-95% female, judging from all my work/teaching environments up till now) would be raising children who she would see in the morning before she dropped them off to school, and then in the evening when Dad (or Grandmother) had tucked them into bed??? Not only did I have a gripe with the hours, but the work was not available for the full year - I was 9 months in work, and 3 months without, which meant that I would have to fill out countless forms and collect a myriad of documents to go on the unemployment benefit for that period, which at the time, covered my rental costs (and nothing else).

During my frontistirio days, I was working with quite a few other English teachers who were Greek citizens born in other countries (like myself). They were much better than I was at telling jokes (while I was much better at teaching English than they were). Every now and then, for example, when Katy couldn't control the class and they weren't listening to her boring lesson, you could hear her from the next room screaming at the pupils: "Well, at least I didn't end up working behind a supermarket check-out!" 

In those days, it sounded funny, because I didn't have kids myself. Now that I do, I know that working behind a supermarket check-out is better than being unemployed, especially in a place like Hania, where the jobs available are not always the ones we desire or dream to do. There is a lot of work available in Hania, but it mainly revolves around agriculture and tourism. The jobs are not the kind you normally associate with promotion or careers. Not only are they hands-on, dead-end, service-sector jobs, but they are also seasonal, and at the end of the season, you are unemployed. Working in a supermarket sounds much more stable.

When I decided to move to Hania, my old employer referred me to my new employer, who had enough work to hire me for just two days a week in his institute. I accepted work one more day per week in another frontistirio in another town 75 kilometres away from where I lived. Because I finished lessons there after the last bus had left, I had to spend the night in that town and leave the next morning. Working three days a week does not bring enough earnings to live independently, so I took on another job for the remaining two days, working during the midday period (2-5pm); at least I had a couple of evenings free, unlike most of my colleagues, who wouldn't have been able to claim that job in the first place, as it not only required a university degree, but post-graduate studies as well. These were all 9 months on/3 months off jobs too.

I gave up working in the frontistirio world two years ago, when my kids entered primary school, because I found that my psychological state of mind was suffering, and all because of those wretched late evening hours. I decided that either you were born a day person or an evening person; I was a definitely a day person. Summer was approaching, and I decided to look through the papers, not for more work of the kind that I had already been doing, but to see if there actually was a different kind of work available, that a prospective employer would consider me for. My only priority was that the work could not involve evening hours, as I had already been doing that for 17 years, and this is the reason I wanted to change jobs.

The job situation then is not much different from the one people looking for work in present-day Hania would be facing. A random look through the local newspaper* just after the start of the tourist season reveals a limited range of jobs: of the 133 job ads, 62 of them involved the food industry, mainly as cooks, waiters and other positions in cafes, bars and restaurants, while another 20 were directly involved in the tourist sector (souvenir shops, rental car agencies, hotel work, etc). Then there were jobs relating to a specialised trade, eg aluminium welder, horse-riding instructor, manicurist, etc. I have never seen any state-sector positions advertised in the classifieds; they come through government circulars or (nowadays) related web sites. There are also other jobs that do not seem to be advertised through the newspapers, notably supermarket jobs; these are often found out about through word of mouth, employment offices (?) or from insiders. Obviously, the newspaper ads do not accurately reflect the employment situation in Hania. It should also be noted that the job situation in the winter changes drastically, since most (if not all) of the businesses related to tourism close down.

There are also some issues relating to the wording of some ads that would make me think twice about applying for the jobs: "No foreigners" or "preferably a Greek" is a common theme (also appearing in housing ads), as is "must be good-looking", especially concerning hotel/bar work and always in connection with female workers. When an ad states "must have papers" or "must speak Greek", this shows that the job is probably not suitable for Greek people, eg babysitting or caring for senior citizens, who are often cared for in their own home; most likely a Greek woman will already be caring for a member of her own family, so this kind of job wouldn't suit her. Some ads also state "free of military commitments", which denotes that the work would be more suitable for males; wording such as "free of family commitments" gives a clue as to the hours and location (open all hours, a lot of travelling required). None of the ads mentioned the wages/salary; in contrast, nearly all mentioned the hours.

Eventually, by a stroke of luck, at the same time that I decided to give up working in the language institute,  the graduate position I already held became a part-time day-hours position, so I didn't have to look for another job after all. I know I'm lucky to be working where I am, doing work I'm particularly suited for (proofreading, translating, teaching in an academic environment), in a town with very limited opportunities for creative work. But I can't help thinking about the probability of my children finding work that will be based on their qualifications in the same way that their mother did. Maybe they will have to accept that if they want to stay in their hometown, they will have to take on any job that comes their way (including becoming a taxi driver). Either that, or they must learn to think of the family home as their holiday home, while they live away from it, like their grandparents who immigrated to New Zealand for the chance to improve their lives, and their own mother, who emigrated from New Zealand, returning to her parents' homeland for a chance to improve her own life.

Crete is one of the regions in Greece where there is work all year round. In the summer, there is the service sector in the tourist industry, while in the winter, there are jobs in the agricultural sector, and positions for teachers in private educational institutes. They may not be the job a young person starting out his/her work life is seeking, but it shouldn't be treated as the end of the world if you are doing a job you don't really like. You may have decided that quality of life is more important than having a career. You may see more benefits in location of residence than range of work choices. But wherever you work, you need a good work ethic. You need to remember that you will start at the bottom, and that the conditions will seem harsh for a long time. Forget about comparing your earnings in Greece with those in, say, Germany or the UK, or the US; that is false economy, since you are not taking the daily expenses of living in such places into account. That will only make you think you are being wronged (maybe it is they that are getting too much for what they do).

I'd like to see a different approach to working in Greece: instead of the one where everyone is constantly complaining about the low wages and the limited range or work, and looking down on work in the trades or service sector, I'd like to see people taking pride in their work so that they will be more effective, efficient and productive in what they do. There is work out there, but it's not always going to be the kind we 'want to do' (which is why foreigners do it instead, from cleaning dishes in a restaurant to picking olives, from selling koulouria on the street to painting and building houses, and they are always in pocket; Albanian migrants are said to have a sizeable proportion of their income in bank accounts). I don't think a 3-5 year period of economic hardship is going to make the Greek people change that part of their character so easily.

*It was the fashion in English language teaching circles of NZ at the time to go to China on some kind of pre-arranged teaching contract.

**Haniotika Nea, daily newspaper in Hania, 30-4-2010. Many of the ads were similar, especially the waitering and hotel jobs; some of these ads referred to more than one available position. 

UPDATE: A check in the same paper one fortnight later reveals that some of the jobs advertised at the end of April are still being advertised in the middle of May (!), with roughly the same number of ads in total (128). And in the beginning of July, we find a mere 65 ads (half the number at the beginning of the tourist season), half of which are concerned with the food sector. Very little changes in this small summer resort town in the middle of the Med...




Don't forget to take part in the draw for a book prize - click here.

©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.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Quiz! (Κουίζ!)

I wonder what you have been learning all this time that you have been reading my blog. It's time (once again) for a quiz to sharpen the mind; all the answers to the question can be found by looking through older posts.

1. What fruit grows on this tree? They will be ready to be picked from October onwards.
1.CIMG9183 2.CIMG9184
2. What fruit grows on this tree (despite the fact that we have not seen any on it yet while it has been growing in our garden)?

3. Can you name the four edible herbs common to Greek cooking that are pictured in this photo?
3.CIMG9182 4.CIMG9179
4. To what herb do those little white flowers belong to?

5. What has just been lopped off here?
5.CIMG9180 6.CIMG9181
6. And what was hacked off there?

7. Is it a man? Is it a Cretan? Yes, and what else is it?
7.cretan man 8.gavros and horta
8. What species of horta are these greens?

9. What is the main use of this plant?
9.perlagonium 10.seasonal produce
10. What species of fruit and vegetables can you see in this photo? (Disregard the chicken's foot.)

11. Where is this citrus fruit more commonly found?
11.kumquat tree 12.CIMG5867
12. What do I forage from this corner?

13. What is this bulb used for?
13.CIMG6857 14.CIMG9185
14. Why has this peck of peppers not been pickled?

Leave a comment on this post with the answers to any (or all) of the questions and you may win this book by Myrsini Lambraki, a Greek celebrity chef well-known in the food world for her book about wild Cretan greens, and her interest in Cretan cuisine in general...


... which is filled with aromas and taste from Crete. Many of the recipes are similar to my own ones. Now you won't have to drag the laptop in the kitchen or print out the recipe when you want to cook Cretan food.

This competition will run for the next ten days. The winner will be announced at the end of the period, where I will also give the answers. If you want to take part, please make sure I can track you down (ie don't leave an anonymous comment). The winner will be picked randomly, even if they don't know all the answers; hey, neither did I until I came to live here!

©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.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Taxi! (Ταξί!)

 If you are coming to Greece (the country hasn't been obliterated off the map yet, you know) on a summer holiday this year, your biggest worry is probably not whether you will need an umbrella (sunshine guaranteed) or if the food will be good (you already know that if you are reading this blog). One of your biggest worries is probably going to be how to avoid being ripped off in this smash and grab country which was recently bailed out of poverty by the IMF.

Apparently one of the biggest rip-off artists this country has ever produced is taxi drivers: according to the popular press, Greek taxi drivers don't take you where you want to go, they don't use the taxi meter, they ask you where you want to go before you get in the cab (and leave you in the lurch if they don't like your destination), they tell you an inflated price, they take you round and round in circles to charge more money, and they perform a whole host of other pranks to find a way to make themselves rich while you pay them half your holiday budget just to get from the airport to your hotel. At the same time, it should be remembered that this kind of thing happens everywhere, not just in Greece

But when a Greek taxi driver DOES take you where you want to go, USES the taxi meter, DOESN'T ask you where you want to go before you get into the cab, DOESN'T leave you in the lurch even when your destination was out of their way (which they DIDN'T tell you in the first place anyway), DIDN'T inflate the price, DIDN'T take you round and round in circles (as if he didn't have anything better to do himself), but simply did his job, we never hear about it in the reviews, do we?  

Of the 25,000 taxis in Greece, half of them are yellow, ie they are Athenian cabs and work in the greater Athens area, what is known as Attiki (Attica), which consists of approximately 4000 square kilometers; that's just 3% of the land surface of the country (which is approximately 132,000 square km). Attiki is where close to half the population (approximately 5 million) of the whole country (approximately 11 million) make their home.It's hard to keep track of 12,500 taxis in a capital city with a density of over 1000 people per square km, as it would be in any country in the world. But these days, every legal taxi carries a microchip stuck to the windscreen, which a traffic officer can zap with an infra-red light to check its status.

Taxis were, until this year, a privileged profession. Anyone holding a B-category professional driver's licence can become a taxi driver, but buying a taxi licence is very expensive. It depends on the region; a taxi licence in Hania costs about 200,000 euro - that's a serious amount of money to invest in an occupation which you may end up not enjoying in the long run, and that doesn't even include the money for the actual car. In Athens, it is a guaranteed source of income, and you can make your money in a few years time, provided you work hard and you are young enough to do that, because eventually your nerves will wear out and you won't be able to hack the pace. You will have been accosted with knives and guns enough times to wonder how you managed to stay alive, and you will have seen so many hoons on the road and so many crashes, that you will realise that there is no such thing as a traffic accident, but they are all perpetrated by stupidity (which is why the road toll in Greece is very high).

cabbie's dinner
My husband gets asked by other cabbies where he gets his delicious sandwiches from, because they always smell good, and they are placed in one of those commercial paper bags specially made for hot dogs and rolls (available from paperware stockists).

One of the most infamous cases of an illegally operating Greek taxi occurred a few years ago. The driver was literally caught in the act - completely by chance of course: how on earth can traffic officers stop and check every single taxi on the road in a built-up city without causing more chaos than already exists? The probability of this incident happening was a chance in one (or two) million: While putting in a normal day's work driving up and down the busy streets of Athens, a legal taxi owner-operator got stuck in a traffic jam (which is all part of a day's work in Athens). While he was waiting for the queue of traffic to decongest and continue on his way, he had plenty of time to survey his surroundings and take in little details like the licence plate number of the taxi cab stationed in front of his. It was exactly the same as his own. After the initial shock, he collected himself enough to call the police on his cellphone, who managed to catch the unlicensed driver and confiscate his car. At the same time, by catching that one guy, a racket was discovered involving false licence plating, garages which ordered a lot of yellow car paint (to change the colour of a vehicle and make it look like an Athenian cab), and other illegal activity. On being questioned, the fake cabbie insisted that he had bought himself a Mercedes and simply wanted to find a way to pay it off more quickly...

At the moment, you buy a taxi licence off the previous owner, not a state company. But very soon, in line with EU regulations, the taxi business will be freed up and become a more public profession, rather than the closed racket that it is at the moment. Unlike the London cab business, where there are black cabs (expensive) and mini-cabs (private cars used as taxis, that are much cheaper to hire than a black cab, and you don't need to be a registered 'knowledge' holder), Greece has only one sort of taxi, the one with a meter, and no other kind of cab service is presently legal.

Whereas once it used to be cheap to take a cab in Greece, this is no longer the case. If you are coming here on holiday, keep in mind that taxi fares have gone up considerably. Do not base your idea of how much a fare should cost by what it cost the last time you were here; and don't ask the taxi driver how much it will cost to go to a particular place - he should be able to give you an approximate indication of how much it will cost, but ultimately, it all boils down to what the meter writes up, and the meter should ALWAYS be turned on. If your taxi driver doesn't turn it on when you enter the taxi, tell him/her to do so. If s/he still doesn't want to turn it on, then ask to be taken back to your original pick up point so that you may take another cab. The rest is up to you. And when you get to your destination, don't forget to ask for the receipt, after paying the driver - yes, taxis are now legally required, for tax purposes, to issue paper receipts, whether the customer asks for one or not.

It used to be cheap for everyone (including us low-income-earning Greeks) to take a taxi and drive for miles. That's not the case any more. Rising petrol prices, the green-living policies and the austerity measures which introduced new taxation systems (all taxis must have a machine installed in the cab in full view of the customer that issues paper receipts) have raised the price of taxi fares to a level unknown before in Greece. Taxi fares now resemble the luxury that such a mode of transportation should be.

*** *** ***
Economic crisis (or volcanic eruption) or not, those of you who want to come to Chania (or Hania - it's the same place) may be wanting some information about the taxi services here. For a start, you don't flag taxis down in Hania. There are taxi ranks at all the main pick-up points, like the airport, the harbour, the main square in the town, and other service areas dotted around the city. There are grey taxis (which means that they are registered in a village), and blue taxis (which means they are registered in the urban area of the province of Hania). Hania is a small town, and taxi drivers know each other or of each other - a stranger in the crowd stands out easily, so it is easier to curb and put a halt to illegal cab activities altogether.

taxi

In the meantime, here are the official indicative prices for journeys made by the Ermis taxi company in Hania.

Luggage, scheduled pick-ups, telephone appointments at an arranged time and minimum fare fees also apply; they are not included in the list of prices in the table. The Ermis Taxi company (which has over 200 cars in its fleet, while the Kydon company has about 25 - go figure) has a special van available for hire if you have disability or mobility problems, at no extra cost (the driver receives a salary and performs a community service rather than working for himself). Taxi drivers' yarns about their work experiences are free of charge; just ask for a good story...

RADIO TAXI CO-OPERATIVE ‘ERMIS’
INDICATIVE FARES for 2010*


CHANIA TOWN
AIRPORT
AGIOUS APOSTOLOUS
STALOS
AGIA MARINA
PLATANIAS
AIRPORT
€23
--
€32
€35
€36
€41
GOLDEN SAND BEACH
€7
€30
€7
€8
€9
€10
AGIOUS APOSTOLOUS
€8
€32
--
€8
€9
€10
KALAMAKI BEACH
€8
€33
€7
€7
€9
€10
STALOS
€11
€35
€7
--
€7
€8
AGIA MARINA
€13
€36
€10
€7
--
€7
PLATANIAS
€15
€41
€12
€7
€7
--
GERANI
€17
€45
€13
€10
€10
€8
MALEME
€20
€47
€15
€12
€12
€10
KOLYMBARI
€30
€48
€25
€22
€21
€20
KASTELI
€42
€65
€38
€35
€34
€32
OMALOS
€55
€78
€55
€55
€60
€60
THERISSO
€23
€45
€25
€30
€30
€32
ELAFONISI
€85
€95
€80
€75
€74
€73
PALEOHORA
€85
€108
€75
€75
€70
€70
SOUGIA
€75
€95
€70
€70
€70
€70
SFAKIA
€80
€97
€82
€85
€87
€90
RETHIMNO
€70
€87
€76
€78
€80
€85
PLAKIAS
€100
€115
€105
€107
€109
€110
HERAKLEION
€150
€160
€155
€160
€160
€165
LIMNOUPOLI
€12
€35
€12
€13
€15
€17

  • HANIA (town) to SOUDA BAY (ferry port): 10 euro
  • Hourly charge for day-trip hire: 35 euro/hour
  • Airport surcharge fee (due to arrival wait-time): 5 euro
RADIO TAXI COOPERATIVE – PREFECTURE OF CHANIA
ERMIS
Mournion 38 – Tel: 28210-98700
IR No.: 998454319 – Chania Tax Office B
You can also book our taxi: call 6977-399-306 (when you have arrived in Crete).

Happy holidays to all. You can also find this information on One Day in Hania.

UPDATE 25 May 2010: Signs with inidicative prices (slightly different from the table I have posted above: some destinations have lower prices, while others have higher prices) of taxi fares covering the 2010 summer season have now been posted around the town. The one I have included below is found close to the Agora (the central market in Hania), therefore it lists prices to/from Hania. In the same manner, a sign posted at the airport will list prices to/from the airport.

inidicative taxi fare prices hania chania

*UPDATE 22 June 2010: As of 1st July, 2010, taxi fares will increase by 11%, because of the changes in the way taxi drivers will be taxed from this day onwards. In order to get an idea of the new indicative prices for the destinations listed in the tables above (in both the text and the photo), you need to add 11% to the price shown.

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