Our English pages (7).
25.09.09: Lefkas Marina.
12 o'clock. Wind, E then S, 13 then 25 kn Kaat is coming back from the fitness session, organized by the wife of the marina manager twice a week. She does also some shopping. The daily routine starts again, now that we are back in the marina. Not a unpleasant change - really not, we think - after our five months trip. Eric has already updated a part of the website, but he has still a lot of text to write for the French and the English pages ... And we have to complete the photo album. A good shower will refresh his inspiration.
23.10.09: Lefkas Marina.
Now back to the beginning of the month of October...
The elections of October 4, gave the Nea Demokratia (N.D.), the party of resigning Prime Minister Karamanlis, a resounding defeat. Big winner is George Papandreou; with his PASOK party: he obtains an absolute majority in parliament. Kostas Karamanlis did with early elections a desperate attempt to find an exit out of the political impasse and of the non-govern by his government, weakened by numerous corruption scandals, while Greece was descending further into a deep financial, economic and social crisis (GDP deficit in 2009 12.5 %). Surrounded by a group of younger politicians and with a promising program Papandreou could win the voters for him, partly at the expense of other leftist parties including the more left Syriza-coalition, while Karamanlis also lost on his right side to the LAOS party. Despite a certain plebiscite and the high score of PASOK - 160 seats with 43.92% of the votes to 33.48% and only 91 seats for the N.D. - these elections had a high degree of resignation, which brought some commentators to consider the victory of Papandreou more as the result of the rejection of Karamanlis and his Nea Demokratia than a genuine belief in the PASOK program. This program is so ambitious that it is right to doubt whether this is not too ambitious, or - and we are aware about our question - if Greece really can handle such profound changes and ... really want them! However this new social-democratic government gets generally much credit. Also in the economic world the attitude is positive. In all modesty, we like to join it!
During spring we have been there already for a checkup. We were pleasantly surprised about this modern dental practice that a, in the United Kingdom trained and in dental implant specialised, couple of dentists has opened here in Lefkas At the end of the return trip from Hortó Eric had some problems with a sensitive tooth. A root canal treatment is necessary to preserve - absolutely - the tooth but in this case the intervention will be particularly complicated and our dentist sends us to a colleague specialised in endodontics. For this we need to go Patras , at more than ... 200km. But we decide to make the best of a bad hand: it will be an opportunity for a new experience in dentistry in Greece, again we will drive through new places and now we will pass the new bridge of Rio-Antirrio driving over it instead of sailing under it. We'll have to go twice to Patras. Because going by bus will not make things easy, we rent a car for some time being thus much more mobile.
7 &13.10.09. Visiting a dentist in Patras... ( Eric tells the story )
My first appointment. The trip goes via Vonitsa, then along the great inland sea - the Amvrakikos kolpos - to Amfilochia. There we have to turn south-east. A very recently opened stretch of the future Ionian highway connecting Patras and Athens to Ioannina more in the north allows us to avoid the very busy and unpleasant road via Agrinio. In Ioannina the motorway will be connected - when finished - to the west-east highway Igoumenitsa - Alexandropouli, near the Turkish border, which opened a few months ago. In Ellenika we reach the old two stroke-road to Athens. Driving here quite close along the north of the Patraikos Kolpos and approaching the large and impressive bridge we get a beautiful view of the gulf. The passage fees are 11.70 euros. Really not as elegant as the viaduct at Millau in France, we are thinking again. Patras, 174.000 inhabitants. Patras, the city that never sleeps and where traffic never stops, we read in our Guide du Routard. We are quite fast in the hellish traffic although while we are on the Fast road leading us directly to the heart of the modern city, the harbour, we can breathe easier. We succeed - only after driving some circles - to find a parking to get rid of our car during a few hours, for 6 euros. We are a little too early and it's nice weather: on a terrace at one of the busy squares the city counts, at Olgas Square - Platia Olgas - we can relax. This part of the city is a patchwork of rather narrow and very similar streets, perpendicular to each other. The buildings are fairly uniform, apartment buildings of four or five stories. The ground floor is always occupied by shops, bars and restaurants. We notice a large number of nice cloth shops and chic boutiques; a number of new fast food restaurants. There are a lot of people on terraces and in the cafés.
Korinthou, one of the main streets of Patras, a few minutes walk from Platia Olgas. At 10.57 a.m. we arrive at the five-store , apartment block, looking dull and little dingy, where we should be. A gypsy woman with several young children is sitting on the entrance steps. Many times we have noticed that the Greeks are tolerant towards beggars. An indifferent tolerance that doesn't prevent them to have a positive response when solicited, but nothing more. Tolerant also towards the Roma, quite numerous in Greece; they often travel around selling their goods, from village to village.
I am still a little impressed by this first treatment when am telling "No, I've felt no real pain, sometimes a pressure [...], yes, of course, that long time with gaping mouth is little difficult and annoying the second injection at the inside of the gum [...]. Yes, here too, the treating tooth has been completely isolated [...] first, the dentist has put a kind of a clip, then a thin soft rubber screen over my whole mouth [...] A friendly, very nice man, rather young [ ...]. Very much routine, everything very coordinated ... they were three, yeah, two assistants. [...] A very good impression, very driven in his work. [...] A completely new equipment, at many times he was working with a microscope. Really very high precision. [...] Yes, he speaks very fluent English. But most of all, his drive makes impression, and his penetrating gaze, but always with a smile ... "
Crossing again the Promontories bridge we return in the direction of Alfas via Mussolini. The section of highway under construction is only open in N-S direction so that the coastal road from Mussolini to Stakes and Palpations is a pleasant alternative to the tedious return along Marino and Mafiosi. Stakes was a possible stop on our return trip from Horton. But then we opted for a crossing to Va thy on Yitzhak. Now we would like to have a look at Stakes. We go by the salt pans of Mussolini, by Netlike, Anechoic en Pedal. This is the plain of the River Bachelors. An amazing project wanted to move the headwaters of this important watercourse to deliver more water to the heavily subsidized cotton fields in the north.
The second appointment.
09.45 a.m. On the motorway even less traffic than last week: we haven't seen a single car! Patras also shows a different look. No people on the terraces but in the cafés and bars it's very busy. We wonder how this can be on a Tuesday morning ... and while the current prices are very high relative to the wages!
The intervention of the endodontist happens as smoothly as at the first visit. One hour later , it's up to my dentist in Lefkada to finish the job. After paying the fees the assistant gives me a letter for the colleague and detailed information and statements for the Belgian social security and the health insurance.
This time again we have seen the other face of this country. The Greece of rather young enthusiastic people who - the ones with a very high degree of training and specialization, the others with kindness, good communication and good technical background - can compete with their equals in all countries of the European Union where they belong too. This Greece is not the country that the tourist brochures as a low cost destination like to promote with all negative consequences. Those people are aware of the problems their country is facing. Sailing here a defined trip on a small sailing boat, gets curiosity but sometimes also people are worrying about your opinion. So, I had a short conversation after the treatment about things going on. I didn't hear the so many times used answer "what can you do? This is Greece!"
So when then such people are asking time and patience for changing , we understand this is perhaps more important than subsidies ... because by them things could be on a better way ...
The Gulf of Patras too offers today a very different look. This morning the water was dark, grey-blue, under heavily overcast sky. Heavy rain could no flatten the sea built up by the wind. There was no sail in sight. Now, around noon, the sky - at least temporarily here - cleared, and the sun is shining. But there is still a strong W-NW winds of around 30 knots blowing and the seas are shining in hell white and steel blue colours. Now we want to see the yacht harbour by this weather. In the three docks the boats are pulling on their ropes and wave foam is coming over the low wall. In the most southern part the waves are rolling in. The entrance is open to the NW and the waves are creating a heavy swell. At the visitors pontoon all the boats - alongside or bow or stern to - are very heavily rolling and pitching. It looks like the pontoon will break up, so violently the different elements are moving. The crew of two Italian sailboats has apparently given up. Trying to keep his balance a man is stepping wide-legged on the pontoon, going from the farthest boat to the quay. A little further, apparently exhausted, his wife is sitting on the quay. No, this is really quite not a safe marina. Looking to the spectacle of the dancing boats, we wonder how it will be here with force 9 or more ...
Far of, on the other side of gulf, close to the coast, we distinguish in the sunlight, the white sails of boats sailing before the wind to the east ...
From our second trip to Patras we also take the opportunity to visit the harbour in Mesolongi The works in the new marina are well going on - there is now electricity on all pontoons and all berths along the quays have power supplies. We observe again the relative large number of boats that will winter here. Several boat owners we met during our summer trip, have chosen for Mesolongi, as our French friends Guy and Martine. This new marina-in-works has certainly now a number of assets, particularly including the rates ... if the wintering people have transport. We think that having no car can be difficult.
Kaat has thoroughly perused the road map. She wants to make also a stop at Mytikas. In the evening light, the view on Mytikas from the coastal road to Pálairos just before Akra Kamilafka, is very beautiful, a true postcard, but when we are entering the village the disappointment is all the greater. It looks like the many chaotic and unfinished buildings, but also the new small flats, are put down before thinking about the streets. The old town part looks also dingy. Only the pedestrian street near the harbour has some character. The harbour consists of two parts but small local boats and a small tourist boat are taking all the space. A wooden pontoon in the middle of the east dock is largely limiting berthing; a sailing boat moored alongside is also taking all the space - but we think that there is no other solution.
We take the same road to Pálairos but then we go in the direction of Vónitsa until we can turn left to Agios Nikolaos. Hence it's still 10km to Lefkada. The floating bridge - the Santa Maura ferry - between the island Lefkas and the mainland, is opening on the hour, it is therefore important if we don't want to wait, to avoid arriving then. The more we succeed.
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Now we have for some time a car again, we make, this time with UK-friends from the marina, a few trips through the beautiful island that Lefkas indisputably is ...
when most tourists are gone! Crossing the high "inland" to Agios Donatos, it's always a nice experience. The autumn colours, though less rich in nuances than in our countries, are making the trips always completely different. During the few real nice days of October , the car takes us also several times to Agios Nikitas, where we reach after a steep climb and the same descent the beach of Mylos. Except some rare late sun lovers, we have this very beautiful beach with its thick white sand just for us. In contrast to our visit in the spring - and to almost the end of April - the water is very nice. We enjoy very intense those beautiful but rare late summer days.
Several times, we also visit the pleasant and good restaurant - The Katoghi - Peter and Alison have opened in the spring in Vafkeri. A major challenge, but now after a very good first season, they can look to the the future with greater confidence.
01.11.09: Lefkas Marina. Nice but cool weather - 14°C at midday today. In fact we get better weather since a few days - finally! -, since October 28th, the second national holiday in Greece (1940: the Italian invasion led to the resistance against Mussolini's ultimatum and defeat of the Italians, the Germans in 1941 attacked Greece): that day it was sunny with temperature about 20°C at noon.
03.11.09: Lefkas Marina. At 7.25 a.m. (05h25 UTC) an earthquake of 5.7-5.9 (Richter scale) created some anxieties at Zakinthos en Kefallinia (www.iris.edu/seismon & http://www.emsc-csem.org/#2), the epicentre is at about 10 km below seabed south west of Zakinthos ( 37°37'200N 20°16'800E ) but no damage nor injuries is reported. The quake was felt at Lefkas. After four days dry but relatively cool weather the very wet and windy program is back. A deep depression brings heavy rain and strong wind, south and west winds to 30 kn The whole country but especially the Pelopponesos is affected by water damage. The strong wind field keeps temporarily ferries ashore in Lavrio and Rafina, and in the Ionian and in the Aegean Sea.
When we arrived this evening to our restaurant Paramythi a unpleasant surprise awaits us. It's closed: a part of the ceiling collapsed and three large beams and plaster came down. The owner of the building is performing major renovation works rebuilding completely the upper floors above the restaurant. We were sitting there last night ... Paramythii will remain closed for a long time just now a new attraction by playing music and songs was planned from the coming Sunday ...
Many boats - whole charter fleets - are going now out of the water. However, we consider the risk of earthquakes as an important - if not as the decisive factor - for wintering afloat. Not only Lefkas and Greece but also a large part of the Mediterranean Sea are situated on major fracture lines and friction points of plates - (www.iris.edu/seismon/html/plates.html ). We could move the boat and berth now closer to the beginning of the pontoon; double mooring lines at the bow - one in tension with rubbers, the second a little slacked - and two lazy lines at the stern must increase safety of the boat. We used the few dry and sunny days to clean the sails thoroughly and to store them dry. So is Nehalinnia slowly going into her second Greek winter...
09.11.09: Lefkas Marina. Relatives and friends in the North, many from Nieuwpoort, still say they envy us as the winter is approaching there ... they think we are lucky being at the warm Lefkas, endless enjoying nice sunny days, looking after our sun-tanned skin on white beaches in between two refreshing swims and in the evening, at a nice terrace, enjoying delicious food and tasting divine drinks while a very light breeze is caressing the palm trees ...
Ah, if the weather charts could speak, and, could answer the e-mails and the calls, instead of us ...
What kind of weather we have here now - and we had the previous weeks? A quite simple answer, the weather of a real poor Belgian summer!
August 25, 2005. On the way back, via Guernsey and Jersey, coming from northern Brittany - Lézardrieux, Saint-Quay-Portrieux. A few days ago we have anchored at Sark. Our friends Jacky and Françoise on their Moody 34 are anchoring a little deeper into the small bay. Jacky - old skipper of a fishing boats and "patron" of the SNSM-lifeboat from S. .. had advised us not to stay longer here and to start our return trip to Belgium. Now we stay since three days in Le Havre. For the fourth consecutive day Météo-France broadcasts a "BMS-côte": "Pour Pas de Calais et Manche-Est, avis de grand-frais à coup de vent de secteur ouest. Vent de SW 7 tournant et fraîchissant W 7 à 8, mer très agitée à forte, localement très forte".[trans. Galewarning. For Pas de Calais (Dover) and Manche-Est (Wight), near gale to gale from the West. (Wind) SW 7 turning (veering) and increasing W 7 to 8, seastate: moderate to rough, localy very rough]. In the north corner of the "digue nord", at many times waves are coming over the harbour wall, and white foam is splashing and flying around. Two fingers further a beautiful sailing yacht is moored: the Wizard of Paget. Several months ago, Boat Owner, published a four-part article about the restoration of the ship. The skipper-qwner invites us to have a drink. His wife comes back from shopping. Yes, France, they love this country, and its Atlantic and Channel coasts. Oh, no, the Mediterranean Sea ... when we speak about of our project. They do not understand our stress. "La vie est belle en France et le vin est délicieux" thats what I read in their eyes ... until they hear that Kaat has to be at school on August 30, for deliberations. "Then you could have a problem", they understand. By train, our son coming by car, but then ... what about the boat? When, the next day, I see the weather charts, the stress suddenly disappears. A well situated ridge of high pressure will bring calmer weather from August 27: two days with a SW-W 2-4, later, the third day, NE 2-3. Three days, that's exactly what we need to reach Nieuwpoort in two stops. But ... within two years, there will be no longer deadlines, and, above all, we'll get milder weather, so we think naively ...
August 2006. The end of a really poor summer. We are on the return trip from the Channel Islands to Nieuwpoort. The meeting on the Iles Chausey with our French friends, Jack and Françoise could not happen: they have been waiting a long time in Saint-Malo for the strong wind easing and better weather while we were defying the to prominent rain on Guernsey ... and re-discovering the island for the third consecutive year, by bus! But this year we are more prudent and we return earlier. Yet the weather is holding us longer than we expected: in Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue - which is nót a punishment with a "plateau de fruits de mer" from l'Océane fish-shop -, and in Dieppe, 5 days ... But in Greece - and next year it will be the start of our project -, there it will be different ... A very, very long fore- and after season, that's what we hope ... The climate statistics of Weather-on-line have increased our optimistic expectations.
11.11.09: Alfas Marina. At 11H51(09H51 UTC) a new earthquake 5.1-5.4 on the Richter scale reminds us that the earth crust here is always submitted to very important tension as this zone is one of Europe's most seismically active. The quake has his epicentre at 10 km depth in the Ionian Sea in pos. 37°33' 000N 20°16' 200E; there are no reports of injuries or damage.
But our sailboat after the long summer trip requires, after the the sails care, another particular attention before the "winter break": to avoid, as much as possible,
a new, too brutal cleaning of the underwater hull by high pressure in the spring - the waterline still has the marks of it! -, an intervention by a brush is imperative. And the list becomes still longer: maintenance of the engine, waxing the hull, cleaning the water tank, treatment of the reservoir of waste water, removal of the sensor of log (a boring job in our boat!), rinsing the outboard and draining its carburetor, cleaning and treatment of the dinghy, check of the seals of the teak deck, cleaning of the stainless steel, and ... the list seems endless!
01.12.09: Lefkas Marina. Slowly the high pressure is weakening, allowing the perturbations associated with zones of low pressure on the West and the Northwest of Europe to approach Greece. The weather forecasts are relatively pessimistic: rain, thunderstorms and strong winds of the South will be in the menu, this week!
The national as the international press are more and more mentioning the big financial difficulties of Greece, and the requirements of the international authorities and, especially of the European, towards the Papandreou government put more and more pressure. Financial markets are not in rest: Greece pays its loans more and more expensively. The government prepares ambitious recovery plans for the end of the winter, while the last statistics - the Greek data were until now often subject to pledge! - confirm that Greece - a little later that the other European countries - has entered in recession, for the first time in sixteen years. The figures of the OECD, published in Le Monde [www.lemonde.fr] of November 26th under the title Le dérapage des comptes publics grecs inquiète les investisseurs internationaux: le premier ministre Georges Papandreou, agite la menace d'une "banqueroute", [...] Inquiétante détérioration, [trans.The skid of the Greek public financial situation scares the international investors: Prime Minister Georges Papandreou, shakes the threat of a "bankruptcy" [...] Disturbing deterioration. ] are eloquent: "évolution du PIB (variante annuelle en %) 2008 +2%, 2009 -1.1, prév.2010 -0.7, taux de chômage (en % de la population active) 2008 7.7, 2009 9.3, prév. 2010 10.4, solde des administrations publiques (en % du PIB) 2008 -7.8, 2009 -12.7, prév. 2010 -9.9." [ trans. " evolution of the GDP (GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT) (annual variant in %) on 2008 2 %, on 2009-1.1, prev.2010 0.7, unemployment rate (in % of the working population) 2008 7.7, 2009 9.3, prev. 2010 10.4, settles public administrations (in % of the GDP(GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT)) 2008 7.8, 2009 12.7, prev. 2010 9.9. "]. From his part Minister of Finance, Georges Papaconstantinou, recognizes that "[la Grèce doit] faire face à une énorme suspicion" [trans. "[Greece owes] to face an enormous suspicion". And Le Monde continues: Le vote du budget le 23 décembre vise à rétablir la crédibilité.[ trans. the vote of the budget on December 23rd aims at restoring the credibility]. The Dutch-speaking Belgian economic newspaper De Tijd [www.tijd.be] - site we visit daily - is not in rest. Greece which gets a very important part of the resources from the foreign tourism knew this year a decrease of these incomes which would be situated around 15 %; the domestic demand lost 4 %, the building knows a 25 % drop - we read in Athens News of November 27 that Alpha bank reported earlier "that residential investment is set to fall further in 2009 and 2010"...
Among masterpieces of the cinema some big classics of Hitchcock were put on at the cultural centre Artiria, last week. Thanks to these five evenings we could discover - and rediscover - some major works of the Master directing these great actors, stars of the years ' 40 and ' 50:
Previous week the short films were in the poster: Iraqi, French, Czech and Lebanese short movies. Artiria also organized meetings with writers and philosophers but, alas, our knowledge of the Greek language being limited to some basic words and expressions, we shouldn't have understood a word!
Year of very serious economic and social consequences, with on the background an international financial crisis provoked by incredible guilty irresponsibility, 2009 also saw appearing fears of pandemic among which a too wide part of the humanity was imaging to be safe from. Lefkas was, until now, in fact, spared by the virus H1N1. In Greece the vaccination campaign begins - a little bit late - on December 12th, firstly for the risk groups ... while 80 % of the population says itself opposite to the vaccination!
Back home, in Belgium.