Unlike the Eskimos, the Greeks don't have many words for snow. In fact, they have one - χιoνι (heeonee).
Translated literally, it means: "Where the hell did all this white stuff come from?"
So, my partner Penny and I left England in the snow and arrived in Greece in the χιoνι. That was nearly four years ago, when we nursed our heavily laden and rather elderly Volkswagen camper van all the way to Mani, where we rented a house while we looked for a smallholding to buy.
The last part of the journey was alarming in the extreme as driving a camper van on icy mountain roads was a bit like being trapped inside a curling stone without having someone in front of you with a brush (curling, incidentally, is a sport which I once heard described as 'housework on ice'). Nobody in the Stoupa area, where we were staying, could remember the last time they'd even had so much as a frost, and ice was something you put in your ouzo.
Penny has always had a reputation for being a bit of a jinx on the weather. In fact, before we left, several people wondered whether they would eventually pick up a newspaper and read: "Greek Tourism Industry Collapses - English woman responsible for worst weather since records began". Fortunately, the weather improved and we sent our first gloating emails to friends and family back in the UK.
As it's too hot to do much outdoors, I thought I'd come in and write to you about our early impressions of living in Greece ...
Some good things we've noticed about Greece so far:
- People seem to want to give you things for free. (Supermarkets often have signs saying: "Get one free, and while you're at it you may as well have a couple more for nothing to save you the trouble of coming back again". At least, we think that's what the signs translate to.)
- You can get petrol for about 50 pence a litre and rather good wine for about 70 pence a litre.
- Wherever you are reading this, the weather is much better in Greece than where you are.
- Garage labour charges seem to be less than 10 pounds an hour.
- You can buy a 16-bedroom house with 9 bathrooms, an Olympic-size swimming pool and 200 acres of land for 12.50 pounds. (Actually, that bit is not really true but some of them do come with free gifts.)
- Bazookas are incredibly cheap (see 3 below).
Some bad things we've noticed about Greece so far:
- A tin of Heinz Baked Beans costs about as much as a tin of Beluga caviar.
- You can't get mature cheddar cheese anywhere.
- They have snakes, scorpions and all sorts of other wildlife that seem intent on stinging, biting and/or strangling you at the slightest opportunity.
- If you order a coffee, it comes in something the size of an eggcup with 27 heaped teaspoons of Extra Strength Gold Blend and hardly any water, so you have to chew it rather than drink it. (In some places, you can order your coffee 'pre-chewed', but we haven't tried this as we suspect that the proprietors might be exploiting immigrant workers.)
- The alphabet is very odd.
Some things we've noticed about Greece but aren't yet sure if they're good or bad:
- Elderly people flag you down and demand to be given lifts - sometimes to different countries.
- Kitchen work-surfaces here are several inches lower than in the UK. This means that anyone over 5'3" gets a backache doing the washing up. Apparently, this is because Greek men never cook or wash up. (Penny says this should go in the "Bad Things About Greece" section.)
(c) Xerika, Februry 2008