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The Mermaid of Poros, Greece

Poros 2006, A week in June in Greece

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Day Four : Saturday June 3rd 2006 -
Visit to an Olive Farm


  • Quad to Neorio, Love Bay and Russian Bay.
  • Why Greece is full of half-built houses.
  • The extended family welfare state.
  • Shawn and Bob's Olive Farm.
  • A picnic from Alsos and Socratic debate.
  • Souvenirs, the Greek Navy and the Baltsera Taverna.

Methana and Kalavria from the Olive Farm
Methana and Kalavria from the Olive Farm

By Quad to Russian Bay, Love Bay and Neorio :

A better morning, breakfasting on muesli, fresh Greek yogurt and honey - the prescription of Zefi for the effects of my over-indulgence. Remarkably effective and tasty, as well as stabilising the tum. So out onto the quad again, with Jenny's confidence high - until I failed to start the quad. An elderly grey haired English lady emerged from the poolside bar and flicked the red cut-out before I'd quite flattened the battery. Ah, well...

We decided to go west along the coast road from Kanali to Neorio, Love Bay and Russian Bay (Rossikovos) as I still needed to take pictures of these three attractions. It was a fairly rapid trip, but we were able to see how the other half lived. There were half a dozen large motor yachts, like overgrown cabin-cruisers, moored offshore from Daskalio towards Love Bay, with several million pounds' worth of boat. Russian Bay itself was a big crescent of stony sand, but the old Russian naval base, with its ruined barracks and impressive front arcade, was worth the stop. Jenny was a bit apprehensive, but I got the quad off the road and down onto the beach, parking up beside some trees. She was a little more confident once I had driven the quad up a steep track and back onto the road, but I needed her to remind me about Love Bay and nearly overshot that charming little spot. Neorio we decided to keep till later, heading onwards to the Hotel.

Leaving Jenny to freshen up, I went to the Petrol Station and got the quad filled by a patient Greek gentleman who I paid without incident, then took the quad back to Potis. Dimitri was pleased (relieved) to see me again with the quad in good order and I promised to mention his business in the blog. It was only when I got back to the Saga Hotel that I noticed the details of a rival business behind the Hotel desk and realised Dimitri must be a competitor for the trade...Oops!

Jenny at Russian Bay with a lot of money behind her
Jenny at Russian Bay with a lot of money behind her
Daskalio (Love Island) from Russian Bay
Daskalio (Love Island) from Russian Bay
Jenny by the ruins of the Russian Naval Base
Jenny by the ruins of the Russian Naval Base

The afternoon had its surprises, one being the presence of Takis and his father, the 'Papa' who has been a businessman, father and priest. I asked his permission to take his picture, getting a double with him and Takis to add to this blog. Having seen the father, it is easy to see where Takis gets his charm and good-nature from, as well as the lively energy of young Georgi.

Saga Hotel Poolside Bar
Saga Hotel Poolside Bar
Cacti near the Saga Hotel
Cacti near the Saga Hotel
Takis and Papa Alexopoulos
Takis and Papa Alexopoulos

Zefi had planned to take myself and Jenny across to her farm up in the hills above Galatas, but she was far too busy to do so, so Frances and Dennis had come up with their own solution. They have expatriate English friends living on an olive-farm near Galatas and decided to take us to see them. We all walked to the vehicle ferry to Galatas (it leaves near the mermaid) and took this modern version of a landing craft across the channel to Galatas. Our first time in this small town, the service town to the Poros tourist resort and a place with a charm of its own - less Venetian, more modern Greek. We took a taxi up into the hills, seeing an amazing number of incomplete buildings. Frances and Dennis explained the reason for this.

Why Greece is full of half-built houses

Greeks seriously mistrust mortgages and (unlike the British) have taken advantage of their climate to come up with a solution. Where a British house has to be built fast - sometimes within months - Greek houses can remain incomplete for years, because the weather is generally benign and rot and rust are less of a problem. Many Greeks around Poros are crew on merchant ships, so save their salaries until they have enough to build the next part of their house, then go back to work to earn some more money. They also hang onto land and houses as family assets, so a son may well move into a house owned by his parents. This attitude to property sounds like a dream to myself and Jenny, because we are unable to buy a house since the mortgages fed by the investment boom priced us out of the market. Another aspect is that Greek men tend to wait to marry once into their forties, generally to a woman much younger than themselves, so teenage marriages are uncommon. Greek families have to look after each other during unemployment, chronic illness and old age, so the extended family is a social requirement as much as a matter of emotional and child support. Jenny and myself were surprised to learn that Britain's system of social security does not exist in Greece and that families frequently employ their relatives.

Poros-Galatas vehicle ferry
Poros-Galatas vehicle ferry
Ferry 'Nefeli' loading at Poros
Ferry 'Nefeli' loading at Poros
TS Poros from the Galatas ferry
TS Poros from the Galatas ferry

Minesweeper and Poros seafront from vehicle ferry
Minesweeper and Poros seafront from vehicle ferry
Channel between Poros and Galatas
Channel between Poros and Galatas
Galatas taxi-rank
Galatas taxi-rank

Bob and Shawn's Olive Farm :

Bob and Shawn took over a run-down farm amongst its olive groves and have gradually worked both up. The house is a bit less minimalist than most Greek houses and Bob has done a lot of the work for himself. Shawn told me that Bob had built her kitchen table and my reaction was to crouch down and examine the well-made carpentry of the legs and underframe, to her amusement. The table was indeed well made, a credit to Bob. The man himself is recovering from a stroke, relearning to walk and to speak with an admirable determination. They are concerned about their olive crop, mainly because the rather dry spring has not given enough rain to swell the olives to the size that will make them marketable. At the same time, Shawn does not want any strong winds, for those could bring down the olives and deny her the chance to pick them at their ripest, to make the famous Extra Virgin Olive Oil that Greece is famous for.

Bob and Jenny at the Olive Farm
Bob and Jenny at the Olive Farm
Olives on the trees at the Farm
Olives on the trees at the Farm
Shawn in full debate
Shawn in full debate

A picnic from Alsos and Socratic debate :

Frances and Dennis had agreed to provide the meal for the six of us, bringing a selection from the Alsos Taverna across with them. It was a delicious meal, but I regret that I did not keep a record of the menu. I shall have to use the Alsos takeaway service for myself and Jenny, on our next visit to Greece.

We had to leave at about 4 p.m. to spare Bob; I had been drawn into a rather deep argument by Shawn, who loves to dispute a point and force an opponent to analyse their position. As I was used to this kind of Socratic debate, I had not minded, but my stomach was starting to rebel and I was feeling anxious. As it was, the journey down to Galatas was delightful and the taxi driver halted twice to let me take a couple of pictures of Galatas and the view. However, I was glad to get the water-bus across to Poros, for I left Dennis and Frances to walk Jenny back from the Kanali, hurrying to the Hotel and the bathroom just in time. But I had only my own greed for Greek food to blame. But later I was able to go down to the pool-side bar to join some of the visitors who come to the Saga Hotel every year; Neil and Pat were two of them, but there were others as well. Zefi regards her established guests as members of her extended family - or additional cousins. The songbirds at the pool bar are a feature and much-loved pets; there's also a ruthless green parrot, but of him more later.

Neil and Pat, two regular visitors
Neil and Pat, two regular visitors
Other regular visitors to the Saga Hotel
Other regular visitors to the Saga Hotel
Songbirds at the Saga Hotel
Songbirds at the Saga Hotel

An Easier Evening with the Greek Navy and the Baltsera :

Jenny decided to try out the roof sun-deck, leaving me a mobile text message to tell me where she was. Instead, I checked the poolside bar and got another juice, which was just what I needed, but I was still not that great. Jenny convinced me that a visit to the pharmacy would be wise - we'd seen three of them in Poros town - so we went out to see what we could find. The first pharmacy was shut, the second was open and the lady behind the counter spoke English. She had a doctor to hand, which was useful, as I had to make certain that the medicine I was buying would not react with other medicines I take routinely. I bought some Ercefuryl capsules at a very reasonable price and took a couple with some water later. The results justified the purchase.

The Greek (Hellenic) Navy was in port, that night, with minesweeper M246 similar to the 'Ton' class. It proved impossible to take a picture of, but looked very shipshape so I felt pleased to have seen this modern representative of the Greek fleet. They are, after all, our allies in NATO and the European Union. Later I actually spoke to the crew, explaining about Prince Charles once commanding a minesweeper of the 'Ton' class, but they gently explained that it was an American design...ah, well...

In December 2007 I was able to identify the Hellenic Navy's M246 minesweeper as the just-decommissioned 'Egli'. Similar ex-Royal Navy 'Hunt' class do serve with the Greek Navy - the M62 'Europe' and the M63 'Kallisto'. Go to http://www.hellas.org/military/navy/ for more official information.

Feeling thirsty, we went to the Baltsera Taverna and found it did a rather good hot chocolate. Also huge croissants. Jenny had a butter croissant, but I succumbed to a magnificent flaky pastry chocolate croissant. We both needed the sugar and serotonin boost and enjoyed the snack. A little wandering about the shops then followed, Jenny taking me to a rather nice little bric-a-brac souvenir shop with lots of blue pottery. We had a good look round then headed back to the Saga Hotel, to have a much better night than the last two.

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© 2006 Richard Edkins, Dalbeattie Internet.