A great hike in the mountains, getting lost during Christmas shopping, finding another nice coffee place in Ioannina, (trying to) bake bread, having no hot water for 3 days and waking up with the sound of gunshots. That is the short version of my third week in Greece.
Let me first explain why I started writing in English (which is by the way definitely a challenge for me). I would like to try to reach not only my friends and family back home in Netherlands. I would love to reach also others. If I keep on writing in Dutch, well the audience is a bit more limited as you can understand. So: let's give it a try! Feel free to tell me if it is horrible, not funny or just weird to read. Please comment below or send me text will you? Could really use some feedback.
Back to my story... Last weekend I went into the mountains again. This time accompanied by Dimitris' sister Alina, her dog Mogly (who is the BIG LOVE of Kalí) and of course our friend Vassilis. He is always up for some hiking and mountain adventures. The four of us, plus dogs, went to Konitsa in the north of Zagoria. Here another river, the Aoos river, is perfect to follow upstream towards a monastery. Again cristal clear waters that made me want to jump in, although the views with snow on the tops made me reconsider immediately. Dogs were super happy and running up and down the trail while we had a quit relaxing hike up to the springs. We had enough food (read: TO MUCH) with us for a nice lunch before turning back. Total of 12 km which was perfect.
Some days later I went into town for Christmas shopping. Well, it is not exactly Christmas shopping here in Greece. The funny thing is: you exchange gifts at 12 o'clock at new years eve and not on Christmas day. This is because the first of January it is the name day of Saint Vassilis:
According to the Greek tradition, the equivalent of the Western Santa Claus in Greece is Agios Vassilis. (Agios Vasilis is St Basil in English) The story of St Basil is quite similar to the one of St Nicholas (the Western Santa Claus). St Basil (Agios Vasileios) was a kind-hearted and helpful man, who was aiding the poor and needy ones while he was bishop in Caesarea. He died on January 1st 379 AD. and the Greek Orthodox Church celebrates his memory on January 1st. This is why in Greece Agios Vasilis brings presents on New Year’s Eve and not on Christmas, as it happens elsewhere in the world. According to the Greek tradition, the Greek Santa Claus was associated with bringing practical aid to the poor, so he was considered as someone who brings “gifts”. For the Greeks, Agios Vassilis was something like the European Santa Claus. (Source: greek-names.info)
So: this year no gifts at Christmas for me!
I decided (bravely) to bike to Ioannina which is around 10km, so I could ride around the town quickly for shopping. Afterwards I would meet Vassilis to go to his local market for veggies. Yes: if you don't have a job you need to keep a close eye on your expenses so you go to the uber cheap local market for your weekly veggies. And of course: all shops close at 15:00 for siesta. So I needed to BEAT THAT CLOCK!
Because I am now writing in English, I can not tell you what I did exactly and what I bought. My family in law can read it now... Hm, maybe I should have started writing in English in my next blog. NOTE TO MYSELF: think twice before you start doing something. Uh... SECOND NOTE TO MYSELF: this is becoming your slogan. Maybe actually start doing it!
To make a long story short: I had no clue where I was or where the nice stores where, so I ended up calling Vassilis to help me out. SO glad I live in the times with mobile internet and Google maps. I could just send him my location and wait on the sidewalk. After some hours shopping and gathering veggies, I could hop on my bike back home. In total I biked 25 km that day including over 200m elevation (só nice biking with elevation AND all your groceries...). At least I didn't need to run anymore, enough calories burned.
Oh yeas, I started this blog with the sound of gunshots. That is a bit weird for me. I am after all a Dutchie and lived for the past 12 years in Amsterdam. So waking up and hearing gunshots can be a little bit freaky in the beginning. Luckely I know what it is: hunting season. Appartently there are a lot of wild boars (everzwijnen) in this area. I can tell you: the meat is super tasty! I eat it almost every week because my father in law is also a hunter.
Side note: that was I think one of the most 'weird' moments last October: walking into the kitchen and seeing your father in law cleaning his gun while the freshly hunted meat is soaking in the sink. Don't forget: I was raised vegetarian... Squeek!!!
Did you made it all the way down this blog? Wauw! Thank you :) I want to wish you a merry merry Christmas. Hope you have the best time and enjoy good company, food and some nice sleep if needed!