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Matt's Greece Travel Blog

Greece, travel, guideIn 1996 I began my Greece Travel Guide. A friend told me I also needed to have a blog(the word did not exist in 1996), which would be sort of an ongoing journal of my experiences and thoughts about Greece. So in 2006 I began this blog page. Over the years it has grown and has become what is probably several books worth of insights and experiences about Greece, and various other related topics. There is plenty of practical information in here and a lot of stuff you would never find in a travel guide too. Well, maybe you would find them in my Greece guides but not a normal guide. This page is for the people who enjoy a good story, or a laugh, or some political insight about Greece and are not just looking for the cheapest hotel in Santorini or how many ferries a week go there. I may be prejudiced but I think it is some of the best travel writing you will find. If you are looking for ferry and hotel information you can leave this page and go to my Greece Travel Guides or my Athens Survival Guide and you will probably find what you are looking for. But if you want to have some fun and be entertained and maybe laugh a little bit or read something that may make you think or learn something new, just choose an article that looks interesting and begin there.

I have included Facebook like and share buttons here and at the bottom of the page. If you really like a story please let your friends know and if you love it let me know. My e-mail address is on every page. And of course the smiley faces are for the stories I like best.

Matt's Greece Blog Index

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"The World Moves in Mysterious Ways...": I walked back to get my car, still parked in front of Leonard Cohen's house. There on the steps, smoking a cigarette was Leonard Cohen. I approached him cautiously, not wishing to startle him and send him scurrying back to the safety of his home.

Undersea Adventure and Epiphany: I take aim and hit the octopus with a fatal shot. The only problem is that he doesn't know it's fatal. He is stuck on the spear but still fighting to get himself off. Michali Orphanidis, my spearfishing guru had told me that when I get in this situation I need to turn the octopus's head inside-out. It sounded easy on land, drinking beer in the Old Captain bar, but at sea it's a different story. First of all the octopus does not want his head turned inside-out. It's also my one free arm against his eight tentacled arms or legs. I decide to end it quickly and pull out my trusty knife. In a moment it's all over. I have stabbed myself in the hand.

A Visit to Poutsonissi with Dr. Aristotelous Liverides: I discovered that Poutsonissi was the island where Dr Aristotelous Liverides, one of Greece's most controversial 'intellectuals' was living in self-imposed exile after yet another of his projects failed to gain the respect of his peers, (or even some healthy criticism). Liverides, according to the article, now makes his home on the island where he "continues to write, engage in his passions of hunting and eating octopus, drinking retsina, and trolling people on Facebook." If I could combine an information gathering trip to Poutsonissi with an interview with Dr. Liverides it might be worth the trip.

A Room with a View:The other night laying in bed at the Hotel Herodion I saw Andrea get up and pull the curtains. I have seen this before. I know she is annoyed because there is a light that is bothering her and keeping her awake. I know right away what the light is that is disturbing her sleep. It is the Parthenon.

"Athens is a Paradise": The life of a tourist visiting Athens is a nearly carefree one. What is there to worry about really? Will there be enough time to squeeze in all the archaeological sites and museums? Will I have time to go back to that wonderful restaurant I ate at the first night? Will the taxi to Pireaus to catch the ferry show up on time? Will cousin Billy like the idiotic T-shirt I bought him in Monastiraki? Did I leave a big enough tip? I mean, you spend more time worrying about Athens while planning the trip and on the airplane, than you do once you get here.

Inside the Parthenon: Imagine if you could have the entire Acropolis for yourself for an afternoon. No tourists. Just you and someone knowledgable walking around and even going behind the scenes, like into the Parthenon itself. Well yesterday it happened to me.

With Rick Steves in Athens: “This has been really great Matt and I want to be sure that my readers know that I only scratch the surface but if they want to really know Greece they should visit your site. You really have carved a niche and you did it the right way. You just go out and enjoy yourself and write about what you do. I am envious, really. I would love to come back when you are here and it is not so damn hot, and really get to know this city. I think Athens has unbelievable potential and I think in a couple years this is going to be the place to be. RS

Leonard Cohen: For those of us who lived in Greece in the late sixties and early seventies it is hard not to think of Leonard Cohen as one of ours, in the same way that Liverpudlians felt about the Beatles. We all knew Cohen was living on the island of Hydra. Some of us had seen him. Some of us had shared long dinners with him at large tables in small tavernas. Some of us had seen characters from his songs, perhaps a beautiful woman dressed in silk scarves from salvation army counters, angelic blonde child in tow, walking along the cobbled streets of Hydra's port, a goddess on her way to some mundane human task like buying a loaf of bread or Flying Dolphin tickets for a journey to Athens to visit the gynecologist. Leonard Cohen belonged to us and even when we discovered that the rest of the world had discovered him too, we still felt like we had a special relationship with him, like an old friend from the neighborhood.

A Day in the Life of Matt Barrett: Normally it begins at 8am but my day began today at 3am with an SMS text message from my daughter and her two friends who had gone to Vourkari where the bars are. They had been waiting for a taxi for an hour and there were none around. After sending messages back and forth with the phone numbers of all the island's taxi drivers, all of whom were either asleep or not answering their phones, I realised the inescapable truth that I was going to have to get out of bed, get dressed, and drive to the port to get them or blow my shot at being named father-of-the-year.

Brigitte Bakko and Screwdrivers: Famous Movie Star Brigitte Bako and Travel Guru Matt Barrett for the amazing Pakistani-sold 8 Screwdrivers in One and Hammer-Pliers-Thingy. No holiday is complete unless you come home with one of these wondrous tools that will remind you of your vacation in Greece every time you use it. Its perfect to have on the road too. Feeling jet-lagged and can't fall asleep? No problem. The 8 Screwdrivers in Onehas everything you need to take apart your hotel TV or air-conditioner or even your laptop and put it back together by morning. And with the handy flashlight you can even do it in the dark!

Eulogy to Jack Marlowe: I was Jack's worst student ever. He told me this in 1972 when he expelled me from his senior English class. Twenty five years later he was still introducing me as his worst student ever. I don't think he really held it against me, at least not for the last twenty years of our friendship. First of all it was my father who had hired Jack to teach at ACS in Athens and like many teachers who had to put up with me I was given a lot of slack. When Jack finally kicked me out of his class I realized I had gone too far and I felt bad because I really enjoyed him as a teacher and a person. Plus it was my easiest class.

Tryfon's and Western Lesvos: Imagine a small taverna-cafeneon on the road from Kaloni to Eressos-Sigri in the village of Vatousa where the shepherds and the retired old men come to drink coffee and ouzo in the morning and afternoon and the occasional tourist stops for a beer or a soda or even a light lunch. At night they put charcoal on the grill and cook paidakia (lambchops) and provatina (mutton: like paidakia but more like steak) that comes from the owner's shepherd brother-in-law. Also grilled and rotisserie chicken, tomato and cucumbers and feta from their own farm and garden.

Greek Politicks for Dummies: In Greece where everyone is an adversary, the Prime Minister has the power to put his competitors where they can do the least amount of good, in a ministry that they are incapable of handling, and move them out before they master it. For those who show loyalty to the PM they may be rewarded with the Ministry of Culture where they can maintain some visibility and keep their careers going. If someone is disloyal he may find himself in Ipirus in charge of the newly formed Ministry of Bears and Lost Circus Animals or with no ministry at all. Its the perfect system... unless you live under it.

Hemingway, Athens, Paris and the Polish Guy: Hemingway did have an advantage over me. He was living in Paris and I am in Athens. He was living in a place and a time that by comparison was boring. You read the book and its mostly going to a cafe here or there and treating himself to a meal which he painstakingly describes and maybe he is joined by some famous writer that he is trying to avoid and they gossip about some other famous writer, or he goes to the horse races and wins a lot of money. And I live in Athens, which is never boring. If I walk out the door of my apartment I know something interesting will happen to me or I will see something that will have me thinking about it for the next few hours or days and will probably end up as dinner conversation. Yes but this sounds like an advantage, I hear you thinking. It would be except it happens all the time and there is so much of it that I have to shut myself in the apartment and not go out in order to write at all. Like the XTC song ...I've got 1-2-3-4-5 senses working overtime, trying to take this all in....

Talkin' Greek Baseball: 2 weeks to go before we move to Greece for a year and my thoughts today are on baseball. I am a long time Mets fan, ever since my father and grandfather converted me from the Yankees when they took me to a spanking-new Shea Stadium somewhere around 1963 during the NY World's Fair. My favorite player was Ed Kranepool who wore the same number 7 as my previous NY Yankees favorite player Mickey Mantle. I went to a few games. I remember these tough Queens kids standing outside the stadium, where they had a view of the bullpen, razzing relief pitcher Larry Bearnarth, who was my cousin's neighbor in Huntington, LI, and being sort of shocked that anyone with the opportunity to be close to a baseball player would use that opportunity to insult him. To me they were gods. Even Larry Bearnarth.

How Many Greeks Does it Take to Change a Flat Tire?: I am convinced that there is a concrete bunker somewhere in Athens, where the sharpest minds in Greece sit with the most high tech computers, plugged into every aspect of life in the country, from the traffic signals, to the ferry schedules, to what kind of ouzo is carried at the local cafeneons. Their job is to make sure nothing works correctly so that any small problem metastasizes into a major catastrophe one step at a time.

Gida and Cat Stevens: But I bring Cat Stevens up just to go back to that moment in Pop 11 when we were dancing around the room, three teenage boys who normally would go through great lengths to avoid looking uncool, swooning around the empty record store like drunken ballerinas in combat boots, high on music, oblivious to everything else. I miss those days and that feeling. I miss having the kind of friends that would feel so comfortable around each other that we could take leave of our senses and not care if we looked silly or who was watching.

Attika Department Store: Why would you go to a big department store when there are still small individually owned clothing stores? Why would you spend your money with a big corporation when you could buy it from the little old man down the street who has been selling clothes for decades and is barely getting by because these department stores and malls have taken so many of his customers. It's not just a question of convenience, it is a question of values too. The only thing a department store has to offer is convenience. If it is not convenient it has no value. And if you shop in a big department store, or Wallmart, or any of the corporate stores that fill the malls of Greece or your own country instead of the small individually owned shops which are dying out, then you should question your values as well.

Drunken Horses and Dehydration: Forget everything you know about horse-racing when you come to Agia Paraskevis. This is not Belmont or the Kentucky Derby or anything close, except for the fact that they are racing horses. There is no circular track. This is like drag-racing but with horses.

Simple Village Life: I am a victim of Greek Village Restaurant Syndrome. Anyone who has spent more than a week in a small Greek village knows what this is. You have three restaurants in the village, all in the square within view of each other. One restaurant is good, one is bad and one is OK. But if you want to survive in the village you have to eat at all of them.

THEY HAD TO WIN: Last night, little Greece, a country with a population of 11 million, beat Russia, a country with 150 million people, to advance to the quarterfinals of the European Football championship.

Life and Death in Kea: So yesterday was Andy's memorial service which Pamela put together. She had the family church swept and dusted. She hired the new handsome young priest, a former farmer from Boetia who was smart enough to realize it would be better to be a priest in a small island village than depend on EU farm subsidies for the next few years.

Don't Be Afraid: Of course things have changed since the 'December Riots' made such a lucrative international story for the media, and events that would not have made CNN a few months ago, are now reported as 'renewed violence'. But kids in Exarchia throwing rocks at cops or setting fires to garbage cans and old tires is not a riot or a revolution. Its something that happens in Athens, and has been happening in Athens for the last 20 years without anyone making a fuss about it, or visitors even being aware of it. Demonstrations in Athens are a nuisance but they are a part of life in the city. If you can't avoid a demonstration then you must be blind and deaf and even if you stumble into one by sheer incompetence, the demonstration is oblivious to you.

'The Weeping Meadow' Film Review: Angelopoulos, like many Greek artists, basks in the image of himself as the misunderstood genius, the true artist that only those who understand art can appreciate, who is crucified by the masses but will in the end find redemption and resurrection when we enter a more enlightened age. Yet when he attempts to make a film that is accessible to us common people he fails miserably, and what good is a messiah that speaks in gibberish instead of parables?

Greek Language Difficulties: I learned a lot of Greek by osmosis. All of us American kids did. We knew all the bad words of course. Malaka, Pousti, Gamoto, Gamisou. These just come naturally for some reason. But we could all say what we needed to say in order to do the few things that we did, take a bus, eat a souvlaki, order a coke or a beer, buy a ferry ticket, the same stuff that tourists do. We also knew enough Greek to play practical jokes on people who did not know any Greek. Like when my friend Gary came to visit us in 1970 and he wanted to learn how to say his name and we taught him to say he was a compulsive masturbator instead.

Greece is Hell?: One night when I was hearing the kinds of horror stories that always come up at dinner conversation I defended the Greeks, (as I often do). "They are cleaning things up. I saw in the paper today that they busted a cop for taking a bribe."
"You fool. All the cops take money." My friends said. " When you see in the paper that a cop was busted for being corrupt it means he would not take money and the other cops had to get rid of him".

Life in Remote Island Villages: The fish men come every day, several a day, always with sardines, gavros (anchovies), kolios (mackerel) and whatever else they happened to catch. The cafe owners never buy fish for their mezedes. People buy fish for the home meals. They gather around the truck and examine the fish asking questions about it, where it came from, when it was caught. The cats usually hang around the fish truck. Yesterday I saw one sitting patiently for half an hour while the villagers bought their fish, or discussed the merits of each fish. When the fishmonger was through he tossed the cat a sardine and drove away.

What's New in Matt's Greece Travel: Here is what I was doing all winter in North Carolina to pass the time before my next trip to Greece.

The Christmas in Greece That Wasn't: I am not a good flyer. I am not a particularly bad one. I don't panic and scream, and in bad situations I can quietly pray while others are watching the movie, reading or sleeping, unaware of the dangers I am sensing. On this flight I am starting to accept the possibility that I may die or even worse that the plane is sheared in half a couple rows behind me and my wife Andrea and my daughter Amarandi are among the victims and I become part of some Christmas miracle story in People Magazine.

Let the Greeks Save Greece: One hundred years ago my Grandfather left his village of Zarafona, near Sparta, and went to America, as did the parents, grandparents and great grandparents of thousands of Greek Americans. Starting from the bottom, he worked to build a life for himself and his family, while at the same time sending whatever money he could back to Greece to support his parents and family members left behind in a country too poor to support itself.

Who Killed Dick Caldwell?: To say that the reviews on Tripadvisor bothered Dick Caldwell would be an understatement. To Dick those reviews destroyed his business and ruined his life. It would not be too much of a stretch to say they killed him, though in all honesty they had plenty of help from Dick himself.

Molyvos: Another Hot Day in Paradise: "Another hot day in Paradise" said the British guy setting up chairs at the Olive Press Hotel pool bar. It was just after 9am and I was already sweating. I had planned to wander around taking photos of Molyvos all morning and then going back to our luxurious free rental villa to organize and edit them in air-conditioned comfort. But instead of climbing the narrow streets to the castle I felt my legs taking me down to the sea.

Goodbye to Hanna: The first I heard that Hanna had died was Ruthie calling from the street. "An old woman just died on the steps. She is a foreigner named Hanna." she shouted up to us from the street in a way that made her seem like a veteran of combat to whom death is no stranger. "What does she look like?" asked Andrea already knowing the answer.

Drinking (Good) Beer in Athens: In the beginning there was Fix. Later there was Alpha. Then came Amstel, Heneiken and Henninger and eventually Mythos. But by then there was no more Alpha and Fix. So for years there were really only three or four choices, all lagers or pils and all tasting about the same. People had their favorites of course and there is nothing like a cold Greek beer on a hot summer day. But the two or three major companies had a stranglehold on the country and it was almost impossible to get your foot in the door.

Summer is Over: The summer is over in Greece. Not officially of course. There are still 3 weeks left but as if by magic when the calendar changed to September 1st so did the weather

What Have I Been Doing? Yes I know that I promised to write more articles once I got to Greece and I haven't. But it is not as if I have been doing nothing. I have actually been quite creative

Back to Greece!: There is something wrong. In three days I will be getting on a flight to Athens and I am not feeling any of my pre-journey anxiety that normally would have me waking in the middle of the night in terror. Maybe I am just getting used to it after twenty or thirty years.

Matt's Greece Travel Guide Sold: With all the bad economic news coming out of Greece it's good to know someone is doing well. That someone would be Matt Barrett, whose travel blog Matt's Greece Travel Guide was sold late last night to a consortium of travel companies for 250 million euros or roughly 320 million US dollars.

How to make it big on Tripadvisor: I admit that the concept of Tripadvisor is a good one. You have travelers advising each other on where to stay, eat, drink and go and writing reviews. But what is one to do when you get a bad review?

Back in the USA: That's weird. I just woke up in Carrboro, North Carolina. Last thing I remember I was leaving Kea for a few days so Andrea and I could take our daughter and her grandmother to Athens so they can catch their flight back to the USA. How did I end up here too?

The Lost Turkey Blog-Part 1: I just found this on my computer. I don't even remember writing it but apparently I did on June 16th and forgot to post it. It appears that last week I was in Turkey. That is good too know.

Lost Turkey Blog-Part 2: Agia Sofia: It seems strange that after being set upon with swords, hatchets and sledgehammers there are now signs that say NO FLASH protecting the remaining artwork in the Church of Agia Sofia. It's like having a sign that says DO NOT KILL THE ANIMALS at the Museum of Taxidermy.

Greece News Roundup: I have a one hour ferry ride from Lavrion to Kea, after an overnight ferry from Mytilini to Pireaus and a one hour drive from Pireaus to Lavrion so I may as well bring you up to date on my adventures. It has been a month or so and I may leave a few things out but this is how my summer has been so far.

Agios Pnevmatos in Kea: This is the weekend of Agios Pnevmatos, the name day of the Holy Spirit, a three day weekend that is to Greece as memorial day is to the USA. Two days ago we were on this same beach and there were maybe a dozen people. Today there are about 100 people as well as a dozen yachts anchored in the bay and one guy trying to windsurf. It is probably everyone's first swim of the summer. The girls in their bikinis are completely white.

New Psiri Restaurants, Bars and Politics: SYRIZA which was used to getting about 7% of the vote and never had to have a plan for running the country because it never expected to be in a position where it would have to run the country, now has to come up with a plan. It is actually a pretty exciting time to be here. It may be the front lines of an historical change that is sweeping the world as a corrupt capitalist system falls, to be replaced by who knows what?

The Acropolis Rally: The funny thing about the Acropolis Rally is how many times I have just stumbled upon it. You may wonder how someone could stumble upon a major road race featuring world famous drivers in the coolest little cars, zooming out of Athens to drive around the back roads of the Peloponessos at high speeds.

Back in Athens!:The picture painted of Athens by the media, usually showing a lone beggar sitting on a curb or Loukaniko the riot dog, or a heavily armored cop standing next to a flaming garbage can, are isolated images meant to strike fear or sadness into the hearts of readers around the world and put a few euros into the pocket of the photographer. But they don't tell the story of Athens.

A New Greece? Sign Me Up:The best thing about the financial crisis in Europe and the political crisis in Greece is that there are so many knowledgeable writers out there who know what is going on that I don't even have to pretend I am an expert. I can just refer people to articles that tell the story. Like today for example.

Recreate Greece: Greece, the version created under the reign of the post-1974 Mafia, has to be leveled and in its place we must build a productive and respectable Western European nation. Is it difficult? Very. However, for the first time, circumstances are on our side.

From the USS Enterprise:This amazing photo was sent to me by William Clay who was in Athens in March 2012 on the USS Enterprise.

Hire a Greek: While sending money to your relatives, opening accounts to collect money in order to cover a tiny hole of the Greek debt, and maybe bringing two or three friends over to America, Canada or Australia, may be a temporary solution, something more drastic is necessary.

A Short Visit to Istanbul: One really does not get a full impression of a city by exploring it on Google Earth, but perhaps I am stating the obvious. Despite the loss of intelligence and awareness which comes with being jet-lagged, I was in awe from the moment we left the airport.

Ellada: I Miss You Already: I love Greece again. This is a good thing and a bad thing. Good because it means I will look forward to coming back and bad because I leave for America tomorrow.

Evia and Kypseli Purse-snatching: Rain. Rain. Rain. Rain. How could there be so much rain in so much of Greece and how could it have snuck up on me so quickly when I look at the weather forecast every day? Why does it happen that whenever I decide to get off my ass and be a real travel writer that my plans are shattered by heatwaves in the summer and rain in the fall?

Crisis Week in Greece: So here I am in Athens Greece at a time and place that historians may one day point to and say this is where it all started to go terribly wrong. Half the country is on strike. No buses, trains or metro and even the airport is closed with no flights coming in or going out. The government workers unions are having a big demonstrations downtown and after weeks of the students at universities and high schools being on strike and having in effect taken over the schools, today the teachers and professors have joined them and are on strike too.

Del's Terrace/Taxi Strike: I wanted to write a commentary on the taxi strike but the whole thing was so surreal I did not really know how to approach it or if I even wanted to pour gasoline on a fire. But it fizzled so thoroughly and so completely I wonder if the Greek taxis will ever recover. Clearly this was a strike where the head of the centipede did not know what any of the feet were doing and even the feet themselves were not sure.

A Story by John Marlowe: This story was written by my high school English teacher and friend Jack Marlowe, based on a story I had told him about my first visit to Lesvos. I just stumbled upon it again in the labyrinth of my website and re-read it and decided it needs a larger audience.

The Immigrant Problem in Greece: As my Gambian neighbor was leaving my apartment with his water and the peach Andrea had bought for our breakfast, he turned around and said "God Bless You." And no matter what you believe, God has blessed me and probably you too because any of us could have been born Gambians or Nigerians or Bangladeshi and be in this situation, in a far away land, with no money, no food, and forced to ask for water from your neighbors, with no way of returning home and no prospects for a better life. Who knows? Maybe in a few years we will be in this situation.

Greek Medical Week:This is Greek medical week. Not officially of course, otherwise it would have been capitalized and probably such a week does not exist. But for me this is Greek medical week. It began with my brother having to get an emergency hernia operation from the moment he stepped off the ferry in Mytilini. I heard from reliable sources that he was scared shitless but the operation went fine and he has a new found respect for the abilities of Greek doctors.

How to Eat Sardeles Pastes: It is a little rough, I know, but its our first video and was done with Andrea's little camera so even if it is not up to the level of a professional, at least once you have seen it you will know how to eat sardeles pastes.

2 More Greece Videos: I have two more videos. The first one is from Vatousa. It was one night when we had dinner at Tryphon's in the lower platia and came to the upper platia to discover we had been missing the party of the summer. The second video is from our series on how to do things in Greece, and is the follow-up to my How to Clean and Eat Sardeles Pastes. It is called How to De-bone and Eat a Fish in Greece

Another Day in Kea: I woke up this morning, had my coffee and read the news, then answered my e-mails. The phone rang. It was Yannis Hahathakis from the Hotel Aphrodite Beach in Lesvos telling me my brother is in the hospital in Mytilini because he needs an emergency operation.

Farewell to Lesvos: I am feeling kind of sad about leaving Lesvos, like I am leaving the real Greece behind and going back to the Greece that is a caricature of Greece, where fishermen are paid to wear Greek fishermen hats and every restaurant advertises mousaka, and the beaches are full of sun beds and you can't hear the waves because of the throbbing of the techno-crap music, and people buy mixed drinks for $12 and brag about how wasted they got the night before. Not to put it down or anything.

Lesvos-Thoughts at Sea: Sometimes I feel like I have put myself into a big black hefty garbage bag and am trying to think my way out of it and in the end I just give up and try to take every moment as it comes and accept that as far as the meaning of life goes, I really don't have a clear idea of what is going on so I might as well just let things play out and maybe in the process the truth will be revealed if I am nice to everyone and don't expect much in return.

Whatever Happened to the Greek Church?: It is Sunday morning in Vatousa and the village is filled with the sound of the priests commiserating the death of Christ. There is a loudspeaker outside the church which broadcasts the ceremony. If this is not enough to wake the dead, the next door neighbor is listening to another priest broadcasting from a cathedral in Athens or some radio station on Mount Athos or somewhere else holy. The dueling priests create a buzzing sound like thousands of bees, raising the vibration of the village and carrying it, cafeneons and all, up to heaven.

The Latest from Athens and Lesvos: In Athens they have been rounding up tourists and executing them in Syntagma Square. I am a little worried that this may hurt tourism, at least for this season, which is a shame. But I would not call the situation dangerous just yet. Well actually I am kidding but I want to see if this report ends up on CNN and then every other news site.

Sailing to Lesvos: I am on the NEL ferry boat European Express and everything is tilted. The ship lists, I don't know my port from my starboard but out one set of lounge windows I see the sea and out of the other I see the sky. But I am not going to let it bother me. After all the ship was built in 1974 which I suppose could be considered the modern age. True the Beatles had been split up for almost four years and the world had yet to hear Bruce Springsteen. But electricity, air-conditioning, and diesel engines were all in use the year this ship was built, especially in Japan where it was launched and spent the first thirty years of its life before being sold to Tunisia then Algeria and finally to NEL, the ferry company that used to be owned by the island of Lesvos, but is now owned by some rich Greek businessmen or at this point more likely the bank.

Typical Night Out in Athens: Whenever I go into Athens from the island while I am on the ferry I send out a text message to all my friends announcing my arrival so that anyone who is interested can text me back and join us for dinner. I pretty much know who is going to want to go out and who will have some excuse, and who will want to go out but in the end just can't get it together. Usually it is the same people who end up going out with us. Some people I invite even though I may not even want them to come, but I know they won't come anyway so why not make them feel good by inviting them?

Weekdays in Kea: So after five nights and four days on Kea we are on the ferry Marmaris Express heading towards Lavrion in rough seas. Well not so rough that I can't type or drink my double espresso with hot milk on the side, but let me call it pleasantly rough.

Revolution and Fish Tales: As events spiral out of control (not in Athens but in my personal life...) it gets more and more difficult to keep up with this blog. In the USA there was nothing to write about but here there is so much to write about that I have no time to write. A few days ago I was so angst-ridden that I tried to convince Andrea to cancel our trip to Greece. Now I don't want to go back to America until college basketball season starts.

Back Home in Athens!: Whatever happens things will chug along here the way they always do because people have to live and they have to eat and they have to work and tourism is their livelihood. The people on the streets have nothing against tourists. Their enemy is the greedy banks and crooked politicians, the same enemy you have though you may not have recognized this to the degree that the Greeks have. (Don't worry. You will).

Flashback: The Grande Bretagne: It's time for another FLASHBACK! This time it is the year 2000, when I first stayed at the Grande Bretagne. I have stayed there several times since then, always courtesy of my favorite travel agents, but back then the idea of staying at the GB or even having a drink there was wishful thinking....

Corinne Chandler of One thing Chandler is certain about when it comes to her website is that she wants to cast Athens in a positive light. “Athenians are very hard on their city and they often see only the bad in it -- like traffic, smog and strikes -- while forgetting to enjoy the vast variety of wonderful and unique things it has to offer,” she argued.

Life (and death) with Squirrels: Squirrels are very territorial and any squirrels in the area will make life miserable for my squirrel who will keep wandering from place to place, being harrassed by local squirrels until he eventually freezes, starves to death, gets run over, or miraculously makes his way Disney-like back to my attic after a series of adventures that no one will ever know. It is for this reason my friend suggests spray-painting his tail blue so if he returns I know I have to take him further than the ten, twenty or fifty miles I have already driven each squirrel.

Squirrels Pt 2 and 3 Greek Films: You gotta see these Greek movies. If you are not familiar with Greek flim you may not like them. You may think they are poorly made, over dramatic, too artsy or pretentious. But if you have ever sat through a movie by Theo Angelopoulos these will be easy for you.

November 17th and Today: There is a popular mythology that the student uprising brought down the junta. Sadly what it did was give us another junta, worse than the colonels and these guys went on to overthrow the government of Cyprus which caused the Turkish invasion. Then they freaked out and snuck off into the night and Karamanlis got the call to come back to Athens because there was no government. So Greece got its democracy back but at the cost of a still divided Cyprus.

The Rabbit Trip to Paros: I am on a ferry to Paros. We just left Athens 40 minutes ago. I am on a mission. Well, actually Andrea is on a mission and I am sort of being dragged along. We are taking a rabbit to Paros. I just spent 80 euros for the car and 30 euros each for tickets for Andrea and I. The rabbit travels free.

Paros and Antiparos (and the Rabbit): I am on the ferry Aqua Jewel going from Paros to Sifnos. The rabbit is on the farm and Andrea stayed with him. Yes. She chose life with the rabbit over me. But I have come to accept it. The rabbit provided her with something I can only reluctantly give her; something to mother. It is time for me to do manly things like go to an island by myself on the agoni grammi.

All Rabbit News All the Time: Andrea got a call from one of the farmers whose son wanted to raise rabbits. But the male he had bought could not get it up, no matter how many little rabbit Viagras they gave him, or no matter how many rabbit porno dvds they made him watch, no matter how many carrot dinners by candlelight with the Bugs Bunny theme song playing gently in the background. Their rabbit was hopeless and their female had needs that had to be met.

The Rabbit and the Wall Street Journal Interview: I was supposed to have the rabbit with me. He was going to move to Sifnos and live with Sarah and Stavros who own the Hotel Stavros but they have nowhere to keep him when they go to London in the winter, so the rabbit stayed behind in Kea. We had to rescue him from his duty as a stud rabbit when his mate suddenly died. He was pretty anti-social after that, probably he was depressed. It is tough to lose a mate and a job at the same time.

Krinello's Paradise, Moni Pytharia and Methymnaos Winery: During dinner Wendy asked me if I had ever seen the waterfalls. I was surprised to hear that there were waterfalls. The valley is green and rich so there must be water but I assumed it was all underground, at least in the summer months when there is no rainfall. The next day Sappho Travel arranged to have the owner of the property, a wild mountain man named Panayotis Krinellos, meet me at the office and take me to the waterfalls.

A Tribute to George the Famous Taxi Driver: Since the day we met and George told that he was going to be the best taxi driver in Athens, he has done exactly that. He bought the best Mercedes available, brushed up on his history and archaeology and has become a living legend. His success has created an army of imitators, some claiming they were the first and they are the best. But I was there at the beginning and the truth is that George was the first and is probably still the best at offering first rate service to travelers, the kind not usually associated with taxi drivers.

The Violence in Athens: "... well it looks to me as if foreign media are playing this for all they are worth which encourages the undesirable stuff ..i'm watching malcolm with the sea behind him talk about the events today in he certainly isn't there...making it sound pretty bad you'd def cancel your flight...but...i am 200m from syntagma and it's just fine..tourists drinking mythos..taxis running.."

Matt Barrett on Strike: I am going on strike. I am part of the Associated Union of Greecetravel Writers (AUGW) and I am going on strike to bring attention to the Greek government's lack of support for me. I will start with a slowdown and I will not answer any e-mail between the hours of 7am to 10am on Wednesday and if the Greek government does not cave to my demands I will declare a 24 hour strike on September 27th (my birthday) where I won’t even turn on my computer (unless the Mets are still in the pennant race.) What are my demands? I demand recognition for the members of my union (membership 1) and the dissolving of EOT (Greek National Tourist Organization) which will be replaced by members of AUGW.

Andy Horton, Rain, Rick Steves and the Greek Constitution: Andy has written some terrific movies that you have probably seen and if you study film you have probably read one or two of his books. He has also has a couple books about living on the island of Kea, written years before books by people living on Greek islands became as common as travel blogs.

Crisis in Lavrion: We got in the car and had an uneventful journey to Lavrion. Even though I was expecting the worst, since buses, trolleys and the metro were all on strike yesterday, there was little traffic and we made it from Kypseli to Lavrion in about 55 minutes and got to the ferry which we did not expect to catch, with ten minutes to spare. In fact everything was running like clockwork right up to the moment I ran over my sister-in-law with the car. It was not my fault. Well, it was but there were extenuating circumstances.

A Night in Exarchia: Last night I went to Exarchia to meet some friends and to visit one of my favorite ouzeris and I discovered the real reason the US embassy does not want its citizens to venture into this dark world. They don't want Americans to have fun!

Back in Athens: After a coffee we made our way to Alotino, our neighborhood jazz-bar hangout and met some of our friends for a drink, well several actually, before going back to Fokionos to Bakalogatos, the mezedopoulion, where feeling somehow immortal I drank glass after glass of amazing tsipuro from Lemnos, and ate anything within arms reach while talking more in one night than I had in a year of Fridays in America.

Is Greece Safe?: If you are worried about your safety to the point that it consumes you then what can I say? Don't come. But chances are that you will realize you let your fears get the better of you (I am an expert on this subject) and you will realize that while CNN made it look like all hell was breaking loose in Syntagma Square, on the islands it was business as usual, and on the islands the business is hospitality, or what we call tourism.

What the Heck is Happening in Greece!!!!????: I don't see a collapse of society in Greece. I could be wrong. I see it as growing pains and after the people vent their frustration and see that the government is going after some of the fat cats and the people who are responsible for the crisis, they will hopefully roll up their sleeves and start working together to rebuild their flawed but beautiful country.

Defeating the Pick-Pockets: First of all you have to accept that pickpockets exist in any city and if you seem like a victim they will find you. So the key is to make them the victim by you only appearing to be a victim. Here's how it works.

Unlicensed Drivers and TA Blackmailers: A week or so I received an e-mail from a gentleman named Zack Smith. I can use his real name because it was not his real name. Zack is a taxi driver in Greece and his e-mail said that if I did not remove another taxi driver from my website that he would destroy my name on the forums and turn me in to the IRS. Neither threat really bothered me as a tax-paying American citizen who does not read the forums but what it did make me realize is the way sites like Tripadvisor and Cruise Critic have lost their value because of people like Zack who use it as a weapon because they can remain annonymous.

Etz Hayim Synagogue in Chania, Fire: In January arsonists set fire to the Etz Hayim Synagogue. The building and over 2000 books and manuscripts were destroyed. Two Britons, a Cretan and a Greek-American were arrested and another American man is also being sought but they believe he has left the country. What makes this story odd to me is that this is not an example of Greek anti-Semitism which is a whole different thing than two Brits, a Cretan and a couple American jerks setting fire to a Synagogue.

How to Solve Greece's Financial Crisis: The march in Athens of the civil servants union would have been a great opportunity for Athenians, armed with eggs and rotten tomatoes, to strike a blow against every indifferent bureaucrat who ever sent you on a wild goose chase, every rude chain smoking secretary who filed her nails and gossiped on the phone while you waited on line to get her stamp on an official paper, for every tax official who came into your office and shook you down, and every person who held his hand out for a bribe to do something that is his job to do.

From PC to Mac and Greece Videos: People have been e-mailing me asking me of anything is wrong because it has been so long since I have written anything in this blog. They assume I am still getting over the death of my friend Dorian in November and the death of my friend Ed Leight exactly a month later, and while those were both major events and life changing experiences for those of us who were friends and family, I have had another life shattering event that I am embarrassed to say has derailed me even more than the death of my best friends. I bought a Mac.

London Guide: OK, I admit it.I have been moonlighting. Though most real web-designers would scoff at my abilities I have spent the last couple weeks helping my friend Dave put together a website guide for London. What makes it unique is that Dave is a London taxi driver.

When Giants Walked the Earth: There is a lot we don't know about our ancient past. But one thing most people generally agree on is that the ancient Greeks were pretty much like us. Maybe they thought a little differently but if you put him in a t-shirt, khakis, and flip-flops it would be hard to tell Plato from your average tourist. But what is one to make of mythology with the wars against giants, stories of the Cyclops and the Gods who dropped in on our planet as often as a celebrity sighting in Hollywood?

Dorian Kokas: Dorian Kokas finally got out of Athens the only way left available to him. He died today sometime after midnight.

George Papandreou Elected Prime Minister: For those of you in the USA who missed it, Greece has a new government. Maybe you read about it? With the American football season in full gear it did not really get the coverage one might expect when a European country elects an American as its prime minister.

Paradise Lost: Smyrna 1922: Wow. I am really depressed. I am so depressed I want to share my depression. I want everyone who reads my site to feel as depressed as me, at least for just a little while. Then you can go back to being happy. I just read Paradise Lost: Smyrna 1922-The Destruction of Islam's City of Tolerance by Giles Milton and though I have read several books and accounts on the Asia Minor Catastrophe as the Greeks call it or the Liberation of Turkey as the Turks call it, this book was the one that really made me question where we are going as human beings, based on what we have done in the not so distant past.

Paradise Lost 2-Aidini 1922: Probably the most interesting were several hundred photos from 1819 to 1922 from the town of Aidinion in Asia Minor, where Andrea's great grandmother came from. They capture a lost world for it was not long after these photos were taken that all the Greeks were forced to leave their homes, farms and businesses to 'return' to Greece, a country they had never lived in.

New Acropolis Museum: I have seen a few articles on the Acropolis Museum, one critical of the architecture of the building, claiming that it did not fit in with the Plaka. But the museum is not in the Plaka. It is in Makrianni and to fit in with the architecture of this neighborhood the building would have to have been a 5 story concrete apartment building with houseplants on every balcony.

Fires in Attika 2009:For the third day the fires are burning to the north of Athens. If I turn on the television I have a choice of images and interviews. If I go to my roof I can see smoke on the southwestern horizon, the setting sun actually makes it kind of beautiful. They say the city smells like smoke but I don't smell it and ashes are not raining down in my downtown neighborhood. In fact except for the TVs which are showing the fires, unless there is a game on, it seems pretty normal here.

Exploitation, Smelly Cheese and Mexicans: So anyway what does the guy do about the Albanian workers complaining about not getting paid? He turns them in for being illegal immigrants. They are arrested and sent back to Albania. Of course any money he saves on their wages he has to spend on bodyguards and security, but in Greece that's a status symbol. Having people who want to kill you means you are successful in Greece.

Syros, Lesvos and Tripadvisor Extortionists: Coming to a hotel and finding the owner recovering from a life threatening illness should bring out sympathy for a fellow human being, not anger for ruining your holiday. A travel agent works hard to put together an itinerary for you and everything is perfect except you don't like one of the hotels so you threaten to destroy his business on Tripadvisor if he does not give you money? Wow! In one summer a couple of my readers have given new meaning to the term 'Ugly American'. If it gets worse I may have to find another job.

Schools Out- Leonidio, Nafplio and Ancient Nemea: Have you ever seen those clear plastic balls that you can put your hamster in and he can travel around the house without being stepped on just by walking forward. Well, Athens kind of reminds me of that but with millions of hamsters all going in different directions: tremendous energy but no way to harness and control the direction. And after being a part of it for a year you want to see if the ball goes over the cliff or if somehow all the hamsters miraculously start moving in the same direction to avoid it.

Pickpockets in Athens: Yesterday Andrea and I took the trolley down to Syntagma where we caught the metro to Gazi. It seemed like every young person in Athens was on their way down there and the trains and platforms were full. As usual when I use the metro I had my cell phone in my hand and everything else in my left front pocket which had my other hand in it. All my other pockets were empty. I have never been pick-pocketed in my life and until this year I have never known anyone who has been pick-pocketed. But that changed very quickly.

Moms, Rough Guide and Rotten Fish: I have been reading A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. I don't know if you know him. He is a modern guru type, I guess made famous by Oprah. His teachings are a mixture of Baghwan Shree Rajneesh without the humor and a watered-down Course in Miracles. Maybe not that important in the context of the universe but helpful for those of us struggling within it. He wrote something, actually he was quoting Baba Ram Dass. "If you think you are enlightened try spending a week with your mother".

The Road to Agios Konstantinos: Skiathos is an island I thought I needed to return to in order to keep up with the demands of the people who use my website. The popularity of the movie Mamma Mia, has increased their interest in Skiathos and the neighboring island of Skopelos. There were scenes filmed on both islands as well as on Pelion which all have that pine covered hills to the sea look that some tourists prefer to the rock-barren Cyclades look. You would probably have a hard time finding your favorite Mama Mia scene in Skiathos or Skopelos but that does not keep people from wanting to go there and find that blue sea, pine mountain world where everybody runs around singing ABBA songs.

Porto Germanos, Ancient Egosthena, Amfiarion: This week we found an amazing site that few tourists or even Greeks go to. The ancient sanctuary of Amfiaraion is near the town of Kalamos which is near Oropos, in north Attika, where you catch the ferry to Eretria, Evia. It was a healing center and the most important religious sanctuary for the nearby city of Oropos during the classical period. There is a temple to Amphiaraus with some columns still standing, a sacred spring which still has water, baths, an ampitheatre, a long stoa, and the remains of dwellings and shops on each side of a small stream in a wooded area in the hills that lead to the sea. It reminds me of a small version of Delphi or Olympia but its just half an hour from Athens.

Jamie Oliver: So how did it happen that I went out to dinner with Jamie Oliver? Well first of all I don't want it to sound more intimate than it really was. It wasn't me and Jamie drinking wine while he ran back and forth to the oven to bring out some new Jamie dish for me to taste. In fact Jamie did not cook one thing. I had dinner with Jamie Oliver but unlike most people who have dinner with him we were eating food cooked by someone else, in this case the chef at To Kafeneon on Epiharmou Street in the Plaka.

A Week in Western Crete: You probably won't believe this but I went up on the deck where I could see the lights of Crete in the distance. I could smell olive oil. It was the smell of olive presses, a scent I am familiar with and I was not imagining it. Ten miles out at sea I was smelling the olive oil factories of Crete. It was something of an epiphany like when you hear for the first time that radio waves and light just keep going on and on into infinity. Crete was sending out waves of olive oil scent.

Marathon, Schinia and Sotiria Leonardou: Saturday night there was a concert in the Demotiki Agora with a few young Greek rock stars and Sotiria Leonardou. For those of you who have seen the Kosta Ferris movie Rembetika, Sotiria Leondardou had the starring role as Marika, based on the singer Marika Ninou. She also co-wrote the script and sang. Actually to me and many other fans of the movie Sotiria Leonardou is iconic. That happens when you have seen a movie a couple dozen times and fall in love with the actress, even though she is playing a role of a woman that any man would be fool to fall in love with. And here she was, singing in the Fokionos Negri Demotiki Agora for the second anniversary of the occupation of the building.

Megapanos Wines, Kainari and Klimataria Restaurants: Inside Taverna Climataria we were met by Alex, the waiter-host, master-of-ceremonies and he showed us the three big pots that were by the front door. Inside one was lamb, slowly roasting in something like a mastela pot. In the other two pots were the specialty of the house, giant pork thighs, slow cooking with potatoes, so tender they fall off the bone in a way that would make North Carolina BBQ masters envious. One thigh serves two people and I can't tell you how delicious it is though the potatoes are even better.

Cricket, Pahi, Megara and Strofi: I really feel for the Pakistanis. I meet so many of them and when I say I am American its like they have never seen one up close before. But the only time you see Pakistanis when you live in America is on TV and they are yelling and burning an American flag. Then you meet these gentle soft-spoken refugees who have gone through hell to get to Greece where it is slightly less fucked up for them than it was at home in Pakistan.

Apokreas and Ketheri Deftera: I am not one of those guys who stays late at the bars doing shots of tequila or other delicious but lethal concoctions invented by creative bartenders, but Friday and Saturday I did just that, the first night at Cafe Boheme at a costume party of international Athenians, and the second at Foibos Bar in Fokionos Negri until 4am with several other people who normally don't do shots either, including one who was a recovering alcoholic who I have not seen since.

Panellinios and the Search for Meaning: But there was one stipulation he had, one rule he demanded of all his students, disciples, sanyasins, patients, whatever it was I was about to become. Here it comes I thought. I have to wear only purple clothing, or change my name to Swami Goolabo, or eat only green leafy vegetables to purify my vibrations, or swear off casual sex or something else essential. He leaned forward and spoke these words to me which I will never forget: "No matter where we are in your personal training, you must not disturb me in the month of March. I am here for you the rest of the year, but March is my own." Wow I thought. What could this be? It seems pretty esoteric, like maybe he fasts and goes into silence for the entire month of March in order to maintain the self-knowledge required to be a guru, like teachers and doctors going back to school to see what has been discovered since they graduated. "I understand" I told him. "But tell me oh wise teacher. Why March and what do you do for that month?" "Because in March I watch the ACC and NCAA Basketball tournament" he told me. I didn't go back. I guess I figured he was suffering from the same ailments as I was.

Obama, Tavernas, Bars and Rashidi Graffiti: I got an e-mail from a Canadian woman in Mexico named Paulanne who was going to Greece to visit a guy she met on-line who dropped out of site as soon as she bought her airline ticket. Maybe this is a clever plan by the Greek National Tourist Organization to bring single women to Greece.

'Riots' in Athens: It was not until we turned on the TV that we knew anything was going on and not until the next morning when I went on-line and saw a CNN report of riots in Greece, sparked when the cops shot a 15 year old boy, apparently from my neighborhood. I called Pandelis Melissinos who told me that they had burned down a big building across the street from his shop on the border of Psiri and Monastiraki. He said they had burned down some other buildings in the area and broken windows and looted some stores on Ermou. I decided to go downtown and see how much of the neighborhood they destroyed.

'Riots' in Athens Part 2: Well things seem to be a lot more calm today despite the fact that two of the largest unions in Greece are having a demonstration in Syntagma Square, planned months ago, and there is a general strike meaning no metro, some buses some hours, no flights or ferries. Neither event has anything to do with the shooting of Alexis Grigoropoulis and those demonstrations, but when so many people have so much to complain about, some of these gatherings tend to run into each other or even conflict.

Mythology of Nov 17th: The one thing missing from all these reports of the riots and demonstrations in Greece is any mention of how nice the weather has been. If the 'anarchists' had all gotten together before a rampage and prayed with all their hearts to God for good weather, and God actually answered their prayers, the weather could not be any nicer. Beautiful blue skies and puffy white clouds in the background of my photos of riot police facing off against rock throwing demonstrators.

Back in Psiri and Kypseli: So after a week of rioting, looting and demonstrations the death toll is now at..... One. The same one as before the riots began. In other words even though it looks to the world as if Athens has become a living hell, the only fatality has been Alexis Grigoropoulis, the teenager whose shooting sparked this entire mess.

Happy New Year: For those who were worried about their holidays because of the unrest in Athens, things died down a couple days before Christmas and stayed quiet. The Greek press reported that the 'anarchists' who had occupied the University campuses were packing up their bags and heading home to their parents for a nice Christmas meal and some presents, maybe a gas mask from Thea Eleni, a little hammer from Papoo for breaking marble steps into stone sized chunks for throwing at the police. A new pair of gloves from mama to replace the old ones which had become singed from throwing leaky molotov cocktails and of course a pullover hat and scarf knitted by yaya. Its a touching picture of the family gathered around the tree, fighting the impulse to torch it.

Back Home in Athens: So I just spent 3 weeks in the USA and I am trying to summon up the memories of it and all I can think of was that I woke up every morning with my back hurting, my joints creaking, and feeling that overnight I had become an old man. I stopped feeling that way when I woke up in Athens, or at least that's when I noticed it. Some people claim Greece has a rejuvenating effect. We sent my step-mother here to die and spend her last few days in her beloved adopted country and she defied us all by rising from the dead and living for two more years, an active and full life I should add.

Paris Trip: Anyone who has a teenager knows that family holidays can be stress filled catastrophes even with the best of planning. Amarandi had a 5 day thanksgiving holiday and though I wanted to go to Crete, we assumed correctly that she would have no interest in going anywhere in Greece with us. But when I suggested Paris she showed some interest, enough to send me to the computer looking for flights and affordable hotels.

Paris Trip Continued: The last night in Paris we wandered through the neighborhood of Belleville which is today, probably what the Latin Quarter was before it became the number 1 tourist destination in Paris if not the world. A mixture of immigrants, artists, students and working class people who in the next few years barring a total economic breakdown, may be forced further out to the fringes of Paris as the area becomes what the Latin Quarter is now. But for now you can wander around and hear live music of all sorts coming out of small cafes and bars. This is the Paris that musicians younger than me come looking for.

3 Great Athens Hangouts: I know it has been awhile since I have written anything of substance and it may be awhile before I do. Partly it is the fault of the weather. Today is the first day that you could say that it is 'yucky' though its not even that bad, just cloudy. But the weather up til today except for a day of rain a week or so ago has been absolutely spectacular, especially yesterday when there was this parade of clouds from the west that passed over Athens and out the back door between Mount Pendeli and Hymettos. I took my beach chair and sat on the roof and watched the sky and it was very entertaining.

Baseball Players Wanted: For some reason PASOK was very enthused about baseball in Greece and invested a lot of money on fields and equipment. New Democracy for all their western leanings did not share this enthusiasm and cut off funding for Greek baseball as soon as they came into power. Despite this lack of funds the Greek National team went to Portugal and won the European Championships in 2008

Election Night (morning): So the election is finally over and unless you are living in a cave in Tora Bora you probably know that Barak Obama won. Last night we went to the Hilton where the Democrats Abroad had an election night party with a giant screen where we could watch CNN as the results began to come in at about 2am.

The McCain-Palin Strategy: In some parts of the country the horny white guys are the most powerful voting block, like North Carolina for example where they are so horny they elected Elizabeth Dole Unfortunately this is one of the problems with Democracy. The ancient Greeks did not allow women or slaves to vote. If Athenian women voted there would be no wars and men would have to come home early from the agora to mow the lawn and do the dishes, and if slaves voted they would set themselves free.

Kyparissi, Geraki and Kosmas: Kyparissi is one of the most remote and most beautiful villages in Greece. If you come across the coffee-table photo book called The Most Beautiful Villages in Greece by Mark Ottoaway and Hugh Palmer you will find it in there. For years, centuries actually, it was cut off from the rest of Greece, connected only by a dirt path which climbed through a wall of mountains and took days to get through by donkey. The only way to get there was by boat, first the caique from Leonideon or Spetses, then a weekly ferry and for a dozen years or so until they discontinued it, the flying dolphin.

Ochi Day: October 28th is Ochi day. It celebrates the day that the Italians under Mussilini sent an ultimatum demanding that Greece allow Italian troops to occupy the country. This was at the beginning if the Second World War when everything seemed to be going right for the fascists and nothing for the Allies. Actually at the time Greece was led by Metaxas who was himself something of a fascist, or at least a dictator, and Mussilini's demand was an insult to someone who thought he might like to join the gang or at least not bothered by it. Its like if you wanted to be in some social club and they said that you could not be an actual member but they will let you lay on the floor while they walk on your back and spit on you.

Automated Booking Sites and Ambushed in Psyhico: Last night we were ambushed in Psyhico. We had gone to Xoxlidaki with George from Fantasy Travel and after we ate took a little walk around the neighborhood to show George the big houses and walled-in gardens that is more of a collection of mini fortresses than an actual neighborhood. As we walked down our street a private security jeep went by and George said "At least you know you are safe in Psyhico because of all the security". Just as he said those fateful words a small motorbike came out of nowhere and the guy on it grabbed George's bag.

Mount Parnitha, Oropos, the Debates and Kea: General strike today. That means no buses, metro, trolleys and traffic backed up from the demonstrations downtown. I was not planning to go downtown anyway. Also Olympic is on strike and maybe the air-traffic controllers too. But I was not planning on flying anywhere today either. Luckily the tavernas are not on strike because I am planning on eating today and it looks like I will be doing that in the neighborhood.

Anavissos, Porto Rafti, Rafina, Schinas and Marathon: I sat down in the Agoni Grammi fish restaurant because I thought it was one I had not been to before. There was a couple at the next table reading the International Herald Tribune and after awhile the woman turned around and asked if I was Matt Barrett. I was kind of shocked. Its one thing when I meet people from my site in Plaka or at the rooftop bar in the Attalos. But in Rafina? She told me they had been following my site religiously. "Even here?" I asked. "Yes, we came to this restaurant because of you" and she showed me a print-out of my Rafina page from the Athens Guide and sure enough this was the restaurant I had reviewed. Maybe I should use my site more often when I want to find somewhere to eat.

Microlimano and Eating Fish in Pireaus: The other day I left home with a higher purpose. I was going to try to find a cheap taverna in Mikrolimano in Pireaus. Mikrolimano is a small harbor full of fishing boats, pleasure craft and surrounded by cafes and restaurants, mostly expensive ones. They make their money mostly on rich Greeks who can afford it and tourists who don't know what they are getting into. Some of these restaurants offer a bounty to taxi drivers for bringing tourists to them.

Diakofto, Peloponessos: If you are in Greece on a nice day in the off-season, preferably not a weekend, check out the north central coast of the Peloponessos on the Gulf of Corinth. One village follows another and when they are empty of their summer and weekend inhabitants its not only an enjoyable drive but there are plenty of nice beaches, cheap fish tavernas and cafes along the way. If you make it as far as Diakofto take the tiny train that goes up the mountain through some of the most beautiful terrain in Greece which will remind you of the Appalachians with forest of pine and rivers and streams surging through the canyon that the tracks follow.

Kifissia, ACS Cruise and Flisvos Marina: The weirdest thing were the floors of the American club. It had been Nazi headquarters during the Second World War and on one floor the tiles were German flags and on another they were interconnecting swastikas. It was the kind of thing that us kids noticed right away but our parents who were fighting the cold war did not. Other than the US Embassy and the American Air Base this was the most visible symbol of the United States and here were all these swastikas with American soldiers and civilians walking on them daily and not even noticing them.

REM in Athens: REM played a free concert last night at the old marble Olympic Stadium. I am sure they didn't play for free. It was a part of MTV's week of music so they were probably footing the bill. The show had special meaning for me.

Life in Athens: A friend of mine went on vacation to a Caribbean country. He stayed at a beautiful hotel resort on a white sandy beach where waiters came and took your order for colorful drinks served in coconuts and there were all sorts of activities to keep you occupied on the grounds which covered acres of property. But one day he veered from the manicured garden paths and wandered in the forest and came upon a giant cyclone fence topped with barbed wire. Obviously this was not meant to keep the guests in like a prison for Wall Street executives. It was to keep the islanders out. People who went to this island would fly in, take a cab or hotel shuttle to the resort and spend their holiday there, never realizing that outside the grounds there was a society that was not sharing in the benefits of tourism, in fact they were going hungry. Sometimes I feel like that cyclone fence.

Madonna, West Side Story and Back to School Night: Madonna never e-mailed me about going out for my birthday. Probably it was blocked by my spam filter. You know how you get those e-mails about Paris Hilton's video that immediately go into junk mail. Probably Madonna had as her subject 'From Madonna' and that raised red flags and it got deleted. Unfortunate because we had this really nice little get-together in the basement of the Taverna Psiri that she would have enjoyed.

Psychiko and Goudi: There is one table available but everyone else is drinking freddos and frappes and they don't seem like my kind of people. What is my kind of people? I don't know. Ex-rock stars, travel writers, lovers of food, wine and conversation. The men all looked like they were doing business deals and the women all looked like they were complaining about the men. I move on and check out four more places on Leoforos Vassiliou but they are all the same sort of upscale bistro-restaurant-cafe-bars. One guy in a suit is drinking a frozen margaritta and everyone else either has a glass of water or some kind of coffee drink. Its happy-hour but nobody looks happy. I walk to the Agia Sophia square and turn right past the old guy cafeneon that I was so happy to find a week ago. Now I don't feel like an old guy, at least not as old as the guys in the cafeneon and if I sit down and order an ouzo and a small meze I will be sitting by myself in the corner looking at the backs of their grey heads.

Sarah Palin: I have this friend. He is a musician but he lost his day job. His marriage is on the rocks. His kids could care less about him as long as he gives them money. Same with his wife. He lives in a crowded neighborhood that is falling apart. His mother has cancer and his father has alzheimers. He has been diagnosed with high cholesterol and told he must lose 30 pounds. He needs to borrow 10,000 euros so his daughter can go back to college and the banks won't lend him the money. Worst of all the woman he was madly in love with and had been having an affair with for thirty years just died and there is nobody he can share his pain with. He asked me to meet him for coffee the other day.
"Matt, I have a problem. I'm depressed."
"What do you have to be depressed about?" I asked him.
"I haven't written a song in 6 months. I think something is wrong with me. I think I am clinically depressed."

Rain and Economic Crisis: Well for those of you who don't know, there is a global economic crisis of epic proportions. So how are they handling it in Greece? Same way they handle other major world events. Going out to tavernas, eating, drinking and talking about it. I am reminded of when my friend Peter came to Greece and watched the events of 9/11 as they unfolded on TV. "Its too surreal", he told me. "I feel like I need to go back to America so I can be stunned like everyone else. Here it is hard to give a shit. The sun is shining. People are swimming, going to tavernas, music is playing. I am suffering because I feel guilty for not suffering."

Life in Psychiko: Psychiko kind of sucks. It reminds me of Xidera, Lesvos but in a sort of bad way. Wait a second! How can Psyhico, the firs high class suburb, home to ambassadors, ministers, embassies and millionaires remind me of Xidera, the most remote agricultural village on the island of Lesvos, which has not even had a policeman in 400 years?

Pakistanis in Greece: Which brings me to the point of this week's sermon. We are all blessed. If you have the money to travel you are blessed. It means you are paid well enough for what you do, to be able to spend a couple weeks in Greece. What you do has value in the society you live in. Call it luck, a blessing, good fortune, God's Will or whatever you want. But it is something to be thankful for because you could have just as easily been born an Ali, an expert with horses in a land of automobiles. And Athens is full of men like Ali.

Kea and Apartment Problems: Today was the hottest and most humid day of the summer. Luckily for us we decided to go to Kea to get our winter clothes and some of the stuff we left behind. The first thing I noticed was how quiet it is here. The loudest noise was the dekaoctades, the doves that repeat the number 18 over and over again (deka-octo). The second thing I noticed is that living in Athens had made me slightly insane and Andrea more insane than she normally is.

Schinias and Salamina: The danger in moving to Greece is that people drop in on you unexpectedly. Years ago when Andrea had the house in Plaka all types of relatives and friends and friends of friends, passing through would drop by looking for a place to stay. When people travel they are always looking for a safe harbor. For me a safe harbor is a nice hotel with air-conditioning, wireless internet and an easy walk to the beach, restaurants, bars or whatever is around. But for some people a safe harbor is something that is free, preferably belonging to a relative or at least someone you know. Andrea had her fill of relatives dropping in about twenty years ago with cousins and aunts who would plant themselves in her life and after seeing the sites of Athens and maybe an island or two, would fester on the couch, reading, sleeping and waiting for dinner.

ACS Orientation and Local Ouzerie: Today was orientation day at the American Community Schools of Athens. We jumped in the car, picked up Andrea's mother at the Alpha Beta Supermarket and drove through heavy traffic to ACS. For me it was a sort of homecoming. My father taught here and I and my brothers and sister, and Andrea and her sister all went here in the late sixties-early seventies. Even Andrea's mom was the school nurse or as she puts it "Director of Health Services".

Athens Mall: I was ready to not be impressed. I had been to the mall in Thessaloniki and it was just OK on the mall-o-meter. But The Mall in Athens will impress even the most expert mall aficionado. You can get there by metro on the Pireais-Kifissia line but we drove and though it is not signposted on the highway we somehow found it after missing the turnoff and exploring Maroussi. Parking is in the basement and then escalators take you to the first of five floors of not just clothing shops, but several electronic super-stores, a Carrefour supermarket, a multiplex theater and a food court on the top floor that included a Chinese fast food, KFC, a souvlaki shop, a pizza place, a half dozen coffee shops and an equal number of bistro type restaurants, an intenet cafe, an Italian restaurant, Ruby Tuesday's and a Hooters!

Moving to Psyhico and Prostitutes: The Greek government recently unveiled a plan to make prostitutes retire at 55 with the state providing social and medical benefits. That's great but what if you are a 56 year old guy attracted to women his own age? And how can the Greek government decide when a prostitute is too old? Isn't it a matter of taste? What about an old grandfather whose wife passed away and he wants to have sex with someone who makes him feel as comfortable as she did? He does not want a hot African babe in a G-string. He wants a grandmother in a flannel nightgown. We are not talking about a car rental agency or a ferry company where you have to protect the consumer by retiring machines that are falling apart. To some people the idea of a seventy year old hooker is a turn-on. If there is mandatory retirement at 55 then poor Pappoo will have to go underground to have sex with someone his age. We will be creating a generation of senior citizen criminals.

Kea Panagiri: Finally the wind stopped and as anyone who has spent August in the Greek islands knows that means two things. The sea will be calmer and the air will be hotter. Its pretty odd that the first 2 weeks of August would be Meltemi but I suppose it has to happen sooner or later. For me it does not matter. There is a stomach virus going around and though I won't get onto the specific symptoms of the disease leave it to say I can't stray far from the house and my drinking and eating has been drastically curtailed, probably not a bad thing since the Albanian worker who fixed our roof told me I need to go on a diet. Its one thing when your wife says it but when the Albanian worker says it its time for a reality check.

Olympics: No politics today. Just sports, weather and entertainment. The Olympics are on TV and it fills me with a nostalgia for Athens during the 2004 Olympic games. After being a part of the Olympics it just does not feel right to watch them on a little tiny screen. During the 2004 games every restaurant and cafe had a giant TV screen outside with hundreds of people watching. Its early yet but I don't sense the same kind of excitement.

Doujan Zammit and Greek Tourism: In bars and clubs all over the world large men are hired as a deterrence to troublemakers. They may be intelligent and friendly but if so that is not why they were hired. They are there because they are big and scary if need be. Its like hiring a gorilla who will react at the first sign of trouble but whose purpose is to be so intimidating that there will rarely be any trouble. But as anyone who has ever had a pet gorilla knows, when they get into the alcohol cabinet or medicine chest they tend to loose control and can actually go on rampages, destroying furniture, tearing up trees and eating the neighbor's dog. This is the problem with hiring them to keep order at a nightclub where drugs and alcohol are everywhere and not always kept from the gorillas.

Barbarians at the Gates: Its August First. My least favorite day of the summer, maybe of the year. Its the day when thousands, maybe millions of Athenians hop in their cars and leave the city for the islands and villages, clogging up the roads, the ferries, the restaurants, hotels and beaches, little realizing that their arrival destroys the thing they came here for: peace.

The Complainer: I agree that I am lucky to be able to spend a year in "the most beautiful country there is", but I also feel it is my duty to try to keep it that way. If someone, Athenian or from anywhere in the world, after reading my blog feels a twinge of guilt about the cigarette butts they left on the beach, or realizes that smoking in a non-smoking hotel room causes discomfort to the next guest, or that when he leaves a mess somebody has to clean it up, then I am doing my part. When you pretend problems don't exist they tend to get worse.

Kythnos: "For a travel writer you don't seem to like to travel very much" someone once told me. I guess not. But I sure like writing about it. So unlike real travel writers who see their writing as their payment for a life that allows them to travel, I see my travel as the dues I have to pay which allows me to write. And it ain't all bad. For every unpleasant place I have been there is an enjoyable one. And the thing about an unpleasant place be it a tourist infested resort town or some polluted agricultural-industrial backwater, is that all you need to do is find a nice cafeneon or restaurant, have an ouzo or two or a few glasses of wine, and make friends with the people at the next table or the guy who owns the place (or your wife), and you are in paradise. When you are surrounded by friends, good food and wine, it does not matter where you are, be it heaven or hell.

Serifos: The highspeed ferry from Sifnos to Serifos takes only about twenty minutes, barely enough time to park the car, go upstairs for a cup of coffee and then go back down to the garage to drive off the ship. Our purpose on Serifos is a simple one. We are going to meet Bobbis Bobolis, the unofficial minister of Serifos tourism who loves the island's beaches the way a mother hen loves her chicks.

Sifnos: We were sitting at Margarita's eating a grilled octopus and drinking ouzo when Dorian arrived off the Speedrunner on his motorcycle and joined our table like a black cloud. "That was the worst boat trip I have ever taken. It was so boring. What am I doing here? I am losing money. I am spending money. For what?" I answered, "To see some of your oldest and best friends, some of whom you have not seen in more than thirty years". That seemed to calm him for awhile but every time there was a lull in the conversation he started in again questioning the sanity of his being on Sifnos, in his insane way. We walked across the bay to Argiris Taverna. "I hate this restaurant!" exclaimed Dorian. "Its the worst taverna in Sifnos. I need gas. I have to find a gas station. I don't understand where my hotel is". (Andrea had taken him there three minutes earlier). And just like that Dorian was gone, off on his motorcycle and we were left in awe of the peaceful void his disappearance had created.

On Loving Greece: I suppose you could read my pages and conclude that I merely love Greece. I know the Greeks do. I get e-mails all the time telling me that my site makes them feel proud of their country but that's because I paint such a pretty picture. If I was a Corvair salesman I am going to promote the sporty interior, comfortable bucket seats, and classic body lines, not the fact that it explodes on impact.

Lesvos to Sifnos (almost): We left Xidera with a plan. Everything had to work perfectly for us to pull it off, or more likely the imperfections of the plan had to cooperate. We had tickets on the Nissos Chios from Mytilini to Pireaus which would get us in at 6:45am with enough time to catch one of the two ferries to Sifnos. The first was a highspeed which left at 7am. Then the Ag Giorgos, a big old ferry was leaving at 7:25. Hopefully our ship would arrive early and the Giorgos would leave late and we would make it with moments to spare. We almost made it.

Skala Eressos vs Xidera: Skala Eressos has that feeling of paradise-at-the-end-of-the-world. Its about an hour and a half drive from Mytilini through some of the most barren wasteland you can imagine. In the end you arrive in a lush green valley of farms and trees and hills with the main town of Eressos in the hills at the top of the valley and Skala Eressos on the beach at the bottom of the valley. Mecca for lesbians (sexual) for the last 20 years, it is home to some ex-Rajneeshians and other spiritually minded women and signs abound for massage, yoga classes and various therapies. But it is also a family destination as well as honeymooners and even a smattering of singles.

Karpenissi, Trikala, Meteora: I asked Billy where we should have dinner. "Go to Pellenion, in the third square. Its the only good place. If you eat anywhere else you will get sick." This seemed extreme to me. For every restaurant in the town to make you sick except one would have to be some kind of conspiracy. Its not possible, even in Greece. We drove to the restaurant and Andrea vetoed it right away. Big signs in English advertising mousaka and pastistio and fried squid, and tables in the hot square where it was still about 90 degrees with a handful of tourists drinking draft beer was not what either of us had in mind. Maybe it was the best in Kalambaka but if so we would not eat in Kalambaka.

Meteora to Thessaloniki: Thessaloniki is the most important port in the Balkans. It used to be dominated by its Jewish community which came from Spain in 1492. The predominant language of the city used to be Spanish. But the entire Jewish community was shipped off to the concentration camps where all but a few thousand were exterminated within hours of their arrival. Athenians think that Thessalonikians are provencial but I think it may be somewhat of an inferiority complex. Thessaloniki was a thriving city for centuries while Athens was a backwater and even today the locals seem more sophisticated and friendlier than their neighbors to the south. The city does not feel provincial. It feels like a big modern European city, cleaner and more organized and more livable than Athens.

Halkidiki and Thessaloniki: Sithonia used to belong to Mount Athos, the third penisula, inhabited by monks in monasteries and a state in and of itself just like the Vatican in Rome. Except the Greek government seized much of the land, and the state of Agio Oros as it is called, unlike other countries with armies had no way to resist. So unlike many places in Greece where you find traditional villages in the midst of heavy tourist development, there are few villages in Sithonia. Its a beautiful pine covered peninsula with some really nice secluded beaches and a few long not so secluded ones.

From Thessaloniki to Lesvos: Its 7:30 in the morning and we are somewhere between Limnos and Lesvos. I think. I am not sure because I don't know if the ferry stopped in Limnos because if it did I slept through it which is rare for me. Usually on the ferry I wake up when the engine stops just like I would if I was sleeping on a plane and the engine stopped, though with less a sense of danger and more of curiosity.

Kea: Red Tractor Farms, George the Taxi Driver and Undersea Photography: When you have three months in Greece there is no urgency and that can be a curse as well as a luxury. I went to bed last night in Kea thinking that right now I would be on the road to Karpenissi, in the foothills of Mount Tymfristos near the Sperhios River and beautiful Lake Kremasta. Yet here I am in my living room answering e-mail and updating my blog while Andrea goes through the mountains of old books in the house. So what happened?

Kea- Swimming, DSL problems etc: Its my 10th day here and I am not crazy yet. Almost but not completely. I spent the last 5 hours on the phone trying to get my DSL working and hopefully I have not screwed up my computer entirely with all the changes I made just to find out that the problem was in the phone line. The cool thing is that everyone speaks English and they don't keep you on hold nearly as long as they do when you call for assistance in the USA.(Or India or wherever the help-desk is). I forgot to mention that I am on the island of Kea and maybe one of 3 people in the village who have DSL.

Flight to Athens: This is just my third day here in Athens and already so much has happened that if I write it all I will be in front of the computer all day. I feel like I spent the last 6 months in America doing nothing and all the things that should have happened in that time but didn't, just happened in the last 3 days.

The Greek-American Curse: I have been in Carrboro, North Carolina for a quarter of a century and nothing is new, not even the new stuff. "Take a walk". Andrea tells me. "Get some exercise". But I have done this walk so many times that it makes me tired to even think about it. There are not that many places to walk to and to just walk in a big circle seems so tedious, like going nowhere and coming back to where you started from. "Lets go out tonight." Andrea says. But I have eaten in every restaurant I ever wanted to and the music in my town is geared for people 30 years younger than me. I can feel myself getting old in Carrboro, North Carolina. Then before I know it, it is time to go to Greece. We close up the house, say goodbye to the cat and the guina pig and get on the dreaded, yet somehow never as bad as I expect, flight to Athens. Suddenly I am walking 15 kilometers a day, easily.

Snow in Athens: Its snowing in Athens and all over Greece and it is snowing in my computer in North Carolina. Today half the e-mails I have received are photos of snow in Athens and I am going crazy because it is 61 degrees, sunny and humid (as usual) here. I got an e-mail from Athina at Fantasy Travel that said "SOS-Please put on the site that it is snowing in Greece and we have 60cm of snow and probably nobody will be able to get to the office for at least a couple days". My friend Erin in Santorini says its even snowing there and people are freaking out and driving to see the snow on the caldera.

All My Friends from Greece Video: My friend Stella said it best. "All My Friends from Greece captures Greece perfectly." But why? I didn't give Andy $10,000 to go to Greece and capture the 'real Greece' for my video. He took the song and whatever footage he had leftover from his last trip there and put it together and the general consensus is that it sells Greece better than anything anyone has seen. And what is the difference between this video which cost nothing to make and a million dollar high production travel video? People. Real People. Not actors pretending to have fun but people actually having fun.

Christmas and New Years in Greece: Athens was decked out in its Christmas finest. Lights and decorations were everywhere. Syntagma Square was packed with grown-ups and children. There was a big colorful merry-go-round, people selling balloons, degenerate looking Santa clauses with miniature ponies that children could sit on for long enough to take a photo for a few euros, clowns, jugglers, mimes and Africans selling designer handbag knock-offs and CDs. Ermou street, the main pedestrian shopping street was packed too though few stores were open on Christmas day.

Computer Problems and NY Greek Restaurants: Most people in my situation would probably have killed themselves at this point. But I saw the silver lining in this disaster. All those projects that I had planned to do and had been collecting material for, I didn't have to do them anymore. All the e-mails from people who wanted to do business with me or exchange links or be included on my site that I had put aside to answer when I had time, no longer needed to be answered. All my financial records were gone. It was a liberating feeling in a way like doing spring-cleaning by burning down your house.

The Britannic: The Britannic was the sister ship of the Titanic, built two years later and supposedly more unsinkable than the Titanic. We know what happened with the first unsinkable ship. It hit an iceberg and sank in about 3 hours. The new improved unsinkable ship hit a mine just off the island of Kea and sank in 55 minutes, a new world record for unsinkable ships. Luckily it was just being used as a hospital ship and it was on its way to pick up the wounded British soldiers from Gallipoli so only a couple dozen people died, ground into mincemeat by the propellers when the lifeboats were sucked in as the Captain made a beeline for Kea in a vain attempt to ground the rapidly sinking ship.

Greek Elections: I have had a few stressful issues, some personal, some about the war and politics, and I was complaining about being in America to a friend of mine who lives in Greece, an American who actually only lived in the states when he went there for University. I thought his reply was worth putting on the site. It will give you an idea of what the last elections in Greece were about, who won and what is wrong with the world that surrounds Greece. Kind of makes me want to move back there.

The Fires: I was planning to write about how much fun I had during my last few days in Athens, despite the heat, but by now you probably have heard that half the forests in Greece are burning or burnt and many people have died in their villages which have been destroyed. It is a national catastrophe. People are convinced it is arson, caused by greedy developers or angry anarchists who want to destroy Greece. There is probably a little of each. But in a country that has been parched by the summer heat with a population where it seems like everyone smokes and most people don't pay much attention to where they flick their butts, especially when they are driving, it is amazing that the forests have lasted this long.

The Fires 2: If Greece has to choose between forests and cigarettes I wonder which they will choose. I think I kind of know the answer. In the meantime for those ready to cancel your trips I think it is OK to go. And maybe in a week or so rent a car and visit Evia and the Western Peloponessos near Zacharo and Neohori and see the devastation that can be caused by carelessness, greed, ignorance, or hatred. And realize that what happened this summer in Greece maybe a taste of what is in store for many of us as the summers get hotter and dryer. And if you have any ideas on how to replant thousands of miles of forests and how to keep this from ever happening again, I would love to hear it. And if you are Greek and reading this why not take one last drag on that cigarette, stub it out and quit forever. If you love your country it is the least you can do.

The Fires 3: Wow. Some of the rumors coming out of Greece are pretty amazing. Roads into Athens closed. Santorini out of water. Athens in peril. The whole country in flames. And fueled by the rumors American tourists are still asking me should they cancel their holiday? The answer is: Yes. If you want to sit at home feeling like an idiot. (More on this later)

King George Hotel: My last two days in Greece and Fantasy Travel has put me in the King George Palace Hotel in Syntagma Square, right next door to the Grande Bretagne which was full. It's hot too. The third heatwave of the summer, though thankfully a short one, expected to last only a couple days. But its not so bad. I was out much of yesterday walking around and it was cool in the shade. Sitting in an outdoor cafe or restaurant was not that pleasant but going from the air-conditioned hotel to air-conditioned restaurant or the air-conditioned office of Fantasy Travel was not much different from living in North Carolina. In fact it did not seem as hot as NC seems in the summer.

Platia Dellapizza: Del works for the demos of Kea (town hall) as their odd-job guy though mostly he defines himself as a skoupitzis (trashcollector).But if you walk around the village you will find many places that Del has created. He has uncovered ancient fountains and springs around the village and made little parks and sitting areas and small gardens and keeps the village streets whitewashed and the plants watered. I talked to the mayor and told him we need to make a statue of Dellapizza and put it in the platia. The world's greatest skoupitzis "The best thing about Del is you just send him out and let him do whatever he wants." the mayor told me. Dellapizza is one of the reasons Kea is so special.

From Athens to Kea: It reminds me of a story about George from Fantasy who went to the same restaurant every day for 20 years right next to his office. He would go into the kitchen and see what looked good and order it. One day he was in the kitchen and saw the chef reach into a pot of something with his finger and taste it. "If you do this when I am in the kitchen I can only imagine what you do when nobody is looking" George told him, and walked out the door and never ate there again.

Chios- Mesta and Emborio: I am in the fortress town of Mesta, built by the Genovese to protect the mastic growers from Arabic pirates in the 15th century or somewhere around then. Its a labrynth of stone streets, alleys, houses and dead ends meant to confuse anyone who somehow was able to enter the walls of the city where the inhabitants would pour hot oil on them from the rooftops and bridges above. Its a somewhat friendlier place now with a small platia in the center next to the largest church on the island which replaced the giant tower that the villagers could escape to if the walls were breached. In the 19th century they tore it down to build the church, putting their faith in God rather than thick walls.

Worst ship in the world?: I am pretty much of a ferry lover. I especially like some of the old ones that have a character that the new faster boats lack. They remind me of my youth when we would pay a few drachma for a ticket to Mykonos or Crete, lay our sleeping bags out on the deck, and make friends with whoever was laying next to us. But slowly these old ferries are being phased out and replaced with new high-tech, high-speed boats that turn a 12 hour trip to Crete into 6 hours. Still if I have a choice between a nice cabin on an old ferry or a seat on a highspeed I will take the cabin on the old ship. But there are ferries in the Greek fleet that give a bad name to Greek shipping, some of which have no business being on the sea, much less carrying human beings.

Molyvos- Stephen's Turkey Trip:We went to Melinda's for dinner. I was starving. She was packed and we had to wait till 9:30 for a table. Its funny because the tourists eat so early that by the time the Greeks go out the restaurants are empty. Perfect. While we were hanging around I got a text message on my cell phone from Stephen Papadopoulos the famous Greek-American poet. He is working on a book of poems from the Black Sea where the Greeks of Asia Minor were exiled from and had gone there on his motorcycle to see what the area was like. He text-messaged me from the ferry to Mytilini from Avalik and was surprised that we were still on the island. He had driven over 14 hours and 800 kilometers that day but I was still able to convince him to ride another hour and a half (at night) to Molyvos and have dinner with us.

Village Life and Top 10 Lesvos restaurants: Pam has a big flat roof at her house so the women who make the trachana use it to dry them. What I did not realize is that they have to guard them for 3 days and nights. I asked the women who had set up a little sleeping area on the roof why they had to guard them. Who would steal trachana? The cats. Because it is made with milk they like to eat it and the women have to be very vigilant. They work in shifts of two so while one sleeps the other keeps a watchful eye for the cats who gather below plotting ways of getting the trachana.

Sheep, Cheese, Trachana and Greek Politicians: I now know more about herding sheep than I ever thought possible. Last night in Vatousa we walked down to the lower platia to have dinner at Tryphon's restaurant. Andrea invited Yiannis, who is Tryphon's brother and one of the shepherds of the village, to sit with us and have a drink. Andrea endlessly asked him questions about the sheep, how many he has (140), how many are male (he keeps one male every year for 5 years), what the life-span of a sheep is (about 10 years-a little longer than a guina pig), how much they eat (in the spring they only need to eat for half an hour because food is plentiful since all the wild grasses are growing from the rains but in the summer they have to scrounge around for hours to eat the same amount of food) and how long it takes to milk 135 sheep (I forget).

Mykonos Nose Piercing: Mykonos was a compromise. Amarandi wanted to go back to Syros because she had friends there. I wanted to go to Andros because I had gone there several years ago, written pages and pages about it, and then discovered that the 35 rolls of film I had taken were all out of focus because something was wrong with my camera. (The pre-digital age). Because of that I never put together a guide to Andros and always felt bad about it. But I knew that Amarandi would be bored there and the more bored she is the more disagreeable she is and the more unpleasant the trip is. So I decided to be a nice guy and go to Mykonos. After all, what kind of trouble could a 14 year old girl get into in Mykonos?

Tinos- Porto Raphael Hotel: Tinos is a low key island. The worst place is probably the town which is to the religious as Mykonos is to the hedonists. All the tourist shops sell icons and religious items and the streets are packed with people buying them. Most of the restaurants are fast food and the cafes are packed with people who have come to see the shrine. There are a couple OK tavernas on the east side of the port but between the ferry port and the main part of town they have the look of the kind of places that don't care if they get repeat customers. The endless stream of people visiting the church means there will always be business.

Syros Heat Wave: We left Kea on the ferry Panagia Hozovotissa, a small old ship that still has wooden decks and a restaurant that only serves the crew but smells delicous. There must have been 30 people on the boat and all but 8 of them got off in Kythnos. On a normal ferry the trip from Kea to Syros should take about 2 and a half hours. But the Panagia Hozovotissa is on one of those routes that visit a different group of cyclades islands each day and is subsidized by the government so why use both engines when one will get you there in twice the time and at half the cost? So we left Kea at 7pm and arrived after midnight on Syros, starving.

Inconvenient Truth and Aglaia Kremezi: On June 13th Al Gore flew into Athens and gave a speech at the Megaron that drew such a turnout that they had to open another auditorium and show him on a big screen. He introduced himself as the man who used to be "The Next President of the United States" and then gave his talk that he gives in his film An Inconvenient Truth peppered with references to Greece, calling our stand against global warming, our Thermopylae. Almost every politician was in the audience with the exception of the minister of the environment, surprisingly.(or maybe not).

Writing about Greece is Therapy: Face it. After being in Greece for the summer America pretty much sucks. You can talk about it being the greatest country in the world and about how every poor person from every undeveloped country dreams of coming here (so they can make a lot of money and go home rich), but the reality is that unless you have a hobby, sport, or can spend hours watching videos, televison, surfing the web, playing computer games or shopping, America can be a pretty un-fun place to be. In the daytime anyway. So I can hear you out there. Stop feeling sorry for yourself Matt. Make the most of your time in America. You have to be here. You have a house, a car and a daughter in middle school. Get a hobby.
I do have a hobby. Unfortunately it is GREECE!

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