A Greek sojourn

Mar 19th, 2014, 08:54 AM
  #1  
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A Greek sojourn

I want to thank those who tried to help me with my search for a Greek island and let you know it wasn’t a waste of time.

My plans changed time wise and I left the island of St. Lucia 2 weeks ago and headed for Greece. In browsing this forum I see a lot of Trip Reports and it seems that a lot of people enjoy reading them. With that in mind I have decided to write a Trip Report on my experiences with finding a place to stay in Greece. I will start from when I arrived on the island of Rhodes and skip the getting there as not really worth writing about other than to say I flew to Athens and took a ferry to Rhodes on the same day, the 10th, arriving the following morning.

Arriving in Rhodes harbour is really something to see from the deck of a ship. Seeing the walled town, it is easy to imagine you have been transported back in time. My research had told me that Rhodes Old Town is a UNESCO world heritage site and the largest permanently inhabited Mediaevel city in Europe. Arriving by boat, that isn’t hard to believe. Once the ferry docked, I shouldered my bag and made my way ashore.

I’ve learned over the years to use a tried and true formula whenever I arrive somewhere unknown. On every island in popular sailing areas you can always find expats living aboard their boats. If you arrive by boat then they are likely to be found nearby. So having seen from the deck of the ferry where the private boats were docked I headed that way. A short 5 minute stroll around to the other side of the harbour.

Walking down the quay I looked for a typical liveaboard’s boat. If you do much sailing it isn’t hard to know when you see one. The first two I stopped at and called a ‘hallo on board’ got me no response but at the third, a head popped up from the cabin and I was in business.

It only took a minute or two of conversation to let the guy know I was a fellow sailor and just looking for some information. I asked if there was a coffee shop, restaurant or bar nearby where local expats hung out and where I could expect to meet some of them to help me find a place to stay for a few nights. There was and having nothing better to do Fred (I plan to use only first names in this narrative) offered to show me the way. I offered to buy the coffee.

The Old Town is a warren of narrow cobbled streets with arches across them supporting one building against another in some places and truly Mediaeval indeed. It was a good thing Fred had gone with me because giving directions would have been next to impossible. I guess Fred realized that. We wound in and out and around until we finally came to a small square with a ruined mosque on one side. On another side of the square there was a small taverna and that was our destination.

Fred introduced me to the Greek owner Georgos, a couple of locals and a couple of expats who were all having their morning coffee. He introduced me as having ‘just arrived and looking for a place to stay.’ One of the expats asked how long I planned to stay I said I was looking for a room in town for a few nights but didn’t know how long I would stay on the island.

That led to questions about where I was from, what I was doing on Rhodes, etc. I told them I was a Canadian, a sailboat skipper between boats and just taking the opportunity to take a break before looking for another boat. That was of course a bit of a white lie. But I have found that presenting myself as someone between jobs rather than just a tourist gives a different impression to people and gets me treated differently.

So that got me information on where the local yacht agency was and led to a discussion about how bad the tourist industry was, how bad the economy was, how bad finding work was and a general discussion of how the island was suffering.

Finally, someone said to Georgos, ‘why don’t you rent him a room’. It turned out that Georgos also owned a small hotel next door with just 6 rooms, but it was closed for the winter. So a bit more back and forth and Georgos offered to rent me a room for 5 nights for 100 Euros. We took a walk next door, he showed me the best room overlooking the square and said he would have his wife get it ready (bed sheets, towels, etc.) if I wanted it. I accepted his offer. I got the impression that in other years he wouldn’t have bothered but the economy was so bad that any extra money was welcome.

The room was basic but clean, Georgos said he would bring me an electric heater to plug in but asked I only use it at night and warned me that hot water was provided by solar panels on the roof so depending on the weather, hot water might or might not be available for a shower. I said I could live with that for a few days. He gave me a key to the front door and a key to the room and I was set.

So 3 hours or so after my arrival, I had a place to stay, a place to eat and drink had met a few people who could give me information and advice. A good start for day one.

My next step would be to find a car to rent by the month and a more permanent place to stay on the island.

To be continued…………..
Sojourntraveller is offline  
Mar 19th, 2014, 09:03 AM
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Interesting start... this winter-weary Canadian is looking forward to more!
ParisAmsterdam is offline  
Mar 19th, 2014, 10:03 AM
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Great start S-T!! And you know, I can picture exactly where you had that coffee... because I had coffee there too, & stayed not 50 yards away! Remember that sort of octagonal stone "gazebo" next to the ruined mosque? I learned it was a place of "ablution," for Islamic hand-washing ritual before entering the mosque. I so remember accessing that little square thru a sort of crumbled "doorway" in the square's wall. Down that cobbled lane, and a left turn for 50 steps, one came to "the Pink Elephant," run by a chic Milanese for years, 30€ in May (it's now reborn as Medieval Inn -- I highly recommend). I totally enjoyed my time in Rhodes, adventuring just like you ... and I hope your next chapter will find you walking atop the wall... unforgettable!

BTW, I also have found if you have an "exploring" mindset, you won't be tarred as a cliche "tourist" interested only in notching your belt with must-sees. I remember once, in the 500-year old Chora of Sifnos, discussing building-restoration with a Greek architect I encountered. I demurred in my opinion, saying, "but I guess I'm just a tourist." And he scratched his chin and said, "no no ... instead, you are a traveler." Hence my screen name.
travelerjan is offline  
Mar 19th, 2014, 10:21 AM
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Exciting beginning - love the promise of more.
LCBoniti is offline  
Mar 19th, 2014, 12:10 PM
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What a load of fictional cronk!
Peter_S_Aus is online now  
Mar 19th, 2014, 01:24 PM
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From what the OP wrote on his earlier deleted thread - I tend to agree w/ Peter . . .
janisj is offline  
Mar 19th, 2014, 02:38 PM
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From a Greek point of view i can only say that people working in the tourism industry are VERY happy about 2013, because it was the BEST year ever in the history of Greek tourism.
Greece received an all time record of 17,5 Mi. foreign visitors.
This year the number expected is 19. Mi
clausar is offline  
Mar 19th, 2014, 04:49 PM
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There is a great blog site called ramblingsfromrhodes . A lot of fun adventures written by an English man who moved to Rhodes.
yipper is offline  
Mar 20th, 2014, 06:59 AM
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Thank you for your comments ParisAmsterdam, travelerjan, LCBoniti, clausar and yipper.

It's around 20c today ParisAmsterdam. A bit cool for shorts but I'm not wearing socks.

A tourist and a traveller are indeed different animals jan.

According to following linked article clausar, 17mil visited in 2008 but only 12.3 mil in 2013 and 11 mil in 2012. But I'm no expert on how reliable statistics from one source vs. another are. I do know that I would never rely on any statistics not provided by an independent third party source. National tourism offices around the world are notorious for counting every passengers who arrives in the country as a tourist.
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/ar...vals-show.html

Thanks for that site yipper. I just had a quick look and it seems like it will have plenty of useful information for me. I've bookmarked it for further reading.

My story continues on my next response........
Sojourntraveller is offline  
Mar 20th, 2014, 07:45 AM
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Statistics regarding the international arrivals in Greece do not come from the Ministry of Tourism or the GNTO ( Greek National Tourism Organization ) but from the Bank of Greece.

As from January 2001, the Bank of Greece is an integral part of the Eurosystem, which consists of the European Central Bank (ECB) and the national central banks (NCBs) of the European Union (EU) Member States participating in the euro area. This implies that the Bank of Greece contributes through its activities to the achievement of the objectives and the performance of the tasks of the Eurosystem, which defines and implements monetary policy in the euro area.

I will repeat what i said in my previous post, in 2013 the number of international arrivals in Greece reached the all time recored of 17,5 Million tourists.

http://news.gtp.gr/2013/12/29/touris...ion-in-greece/

This number does NOT include immigrants.

You may believe whatever you want, you seem to know everything better anyway.
clausar is offline  
Mar 20th, 2014, 08:13 AM
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Continued.

On day 2 and 3 I did some exploring of the Old and New Towns. Some years ago while staying on the island of Providenciales in the Turks and Caicos, I came across a copy of Reflections of a Marine Venus by Lawrence Durell in a used book store. Basically about Rhodes at the end of WW2. I wanted to find the small mosque and Turkish cemetery and the little house where Durell lived while staying on the island. The Grande Albergo delle Rose nearby was where the state of Israel came into being. It’s now a Casino. A lot of the streets in this northern part of town almost seemed like a ghost town. All the tourist related stores and hotels etc. being closed for the season.

Another spot I wanted to visit and did, was the area of Monte Smith which as the name suggests is on a hill. It overlooks the sea to the north and west and there are some important ruins there. The remains of a temple or two, a well restored forum where plays and speakers held forth and an impressive stadium where athletes trained for the ancient Olympic Games.

But while I was enjoying my first explorations I was also working on my next moves. An expat I met at the taverna told me about a bar in the Old Town that was run by a British expat and opened evenings throughout the off-season. So I found my way their for the next few evenings and got into conversation with the owner and a couple of customers. I was looking for a car to rent longer term.

One guy told me he knew a couple of brothers who owned a car and bike rental in the New Town and offered to take me to meet them. Long story short, I ended up renting a beat up Suzuki jeep by the month. They wanted to sell it but hadn’t been able to find a buyer and so were willing to rent it long term instead of just letting it sit unused. It runs fine, the interior is ok, the top is a piece of canvas cut to fit from the windshield to a roll bar behind the back seat. There are no side or rear doors or windows. So if it rains, it won’t be great but if it’s sunny, I’ll be shaded. The exterior has its fair share of dents and scratches so if I put another scratch on it, no one will be the wiser. Good enough.

Next on my list was finding a place to stay longer term. From a previous posting here I had been given one possible location down the east coast and with the jeep I planned to look for more. I headed out on day 5 to see what I could find.

From my research and talking to people in the taverna and bar I figured the east coast would be best. I also knew from conversations that I wanted to avoid Faliraki, Lindos, Pefkos and Kolymbia. My tentative list of places to check out was Stegna, Archangelos, Haraki which was suggested here by dulciusexasperis, Kiotari and Gennadi.

Archangelos held no appeal but Stegna looked promising. I found a taverna open at the far end of the beach and went in for a coffee. The reception I got was what I think of as typical in many resort areas. We don’t like tourists but put up with them for the money. So I gave it a maybe and continued looking.

I had high hopes for Haraki and it certainly fit the picture of what I was looking for. At one end of the beach were what clearly had been small fishermen’s homes and might still be. The rest of the seafront was mainly vacation rental apartments all closed for the winter. I found a bar open and went into my usual routine of starting a casual conversation and fishing for information. My reception here was much better than it had been in Stegna and I found out quite a lot.

Apparently, in winter there are only about 30 actual residents in the village. I met an English couple who did live there year round and I got the impression they spent a lot of their time in the village of Masari a few kilometres inland. So off I went to have a look.

While not seafront it certainly seemed to be a more real, if I can use that word, village. I drove around the few streets and passed a schoolyard with kids playing, a main square with men sitting in front of a taverna playing backgammon and flipping worry beads in their hand. Picture perfect really. So I stopped for a drink.

I sat having a beer and just taking in the square, the businesses around and watching the people go by. It didn’t take long before the owner started asking me a few questions and a couple of locals also joined the conversation. I didn’t say I was looking for a place to stay, I wanted to still look farther down the coast so I was playing my cards close to the chest at that point. But I felt I might have found a good place to stay.

Moving on down the coast I checked out Kiotari and Gennadi. Kiotari was just a place right on the main road with some stores, hotel, taverna, etc. and what were obviously purpose built vacation homes on the hillside behind them. Not very appealing.

Genadi was more like Masari in that it seemed to be a real village but it seemed a bit far from everything else and especially a fairly long drive from Rhodes Town where I would probably want to go from time to time during my stay. So I headed back to Rhodes Town and my last night there.

I decided my choice was going to be between Haraki and Masari depending on what I could find to rent.

To be continued………………………….
Sojourntraveller is offline  
Mar 20th, 2014, 10:10 AM
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"That led to questions about where I was from, what I was doing on Rhodes, etc. I told them I was a Canadian, a sailboat skipper between boats and just taking the opportunity to take a break before looking for another boat. That was of course a bit of a white lie"

You need help.

Maybe someone in real life to talk to.
Dickie_Gr is offline  
Mar 20th, 2014, 01:20 PM
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This guy claims to have run a bar on Rhodes. Drove a red MGB rag top, rode a Vespa. Walter Mitty kind of guy ...
Peter_S_Aus is online now  
Mar 20th, 2014, 02:12 PM
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Being one of your "sailboat skippers", believe me we have enough going on in our lives not to have to lie.
Dickie_Gr is offline  
Mar 21st, 2014, 07:35 AM
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On the morning of day 6 I packed my bag, said goodbye to Georgos and his wife and headed back down the island.

I went back to Haraki and had another look around. I decided that while it was small and obviously not a major tourist area there would nevertheless be quite a few tourists there once the season started. Rather than stay there, it would suit me better to stay in Massari, 10 or so minutes away and access Haraki whenever I wanted to from there.

So back to Massari and the taverna on the main square where I had stopped the day before. The owner Jacob recognized me and I was soon sitting back to enjoy my second coffee of the day. I told Jacob that I was thinking of staying in Massari for a while, at least 3 months, perhaps longer. I asked if he knew of any apartments I might rent. He said he would make a few phone calls.

About 10 minutes later a car parked and a guy came over and said, "Hello, I'm George from New Jersey". So George had lived in New Jersey for 24 years and had returned to his home village of Massari a few years ago. He had owned a restaurant in New Jersey and now had a restaurant in Haraki. Like most it was closed for the winter.

It was funny talking to this obviously prominent businessman in village terms who spoke perfect English with a New Jersey accent as well as a Greek accent. The village population is under a 1000 and so everybody pretty much knows everybody else in the village. From his questions it was obvious that George was in fact interviewing me.

This leads me to a common fact in places wherever a lot of tourists and seasonal workers are found as well those who come to live for the longer term such as retirees. Some of those who come are not what you would call desirable for various reasons. So locals keep a distance until they determine what category someone seems to fit into.

After a while, George said he thought he might be able to help me find an apartment to rent and started making some phone calls while we sat there. So it seemed I had passed the initial test at least. Within a half hour or so he made several calls, received several calls and we continued to chat. Several other men had come to the taverna as well and having found out what was happening, had made suggestions which would then prompt another call by George. No doubt within an hour the whole village knew someone was looking for a place to rent.

Eventually George said there were a couple of apartments I could look at and off we went. In all we visited 4 places. The one I chose was only a couple of street over from the main square but still pretty much on the outskirts of the village and with a great view inland to the mountains.

It has a bedroom, bathroom with a shower and a combined living room and small kitchen area. It's the second floor of a house with an outside staircase for private access and best of all a large roof terrace facing south. It's not really a terrace, it's the flat roof of the downstairs. The apartment only covers have the space of the house downstairs leaving the other half empty.

It's fully furnished with mainly pine furniture and I was pleased to see that between the phone call by George and our arrival to have a look, they had obviously gave it a quick clean, made up the bed, etc. The little kitchen had all the necessary equipment and there is a table and chairs on the roof terrace.

After some toing and froing with the owner and George interpreting as needed since the owner speaks only a little English and my Greek is non-existant, we came to an agreement. I committed to staying 3 months and said I might stay longer. We agreed on a price of 750E per month including electicity and weekly laundry of sheets, towels and my clothes by the owner's wife. I agreed to visit an ATM and return later in the afternoon to pay the first month's rent and move in. Job done.

I invited George to have lunch with me back at the taverna as thanks for his help and he accepted.

So that was on the 16th of the month and so far everything is working out fine. I've begun driving around the island and exploring. I've also got to know a few people in the village and started a routine of coffee at the taverna in the morning before heading out for the day and I've found a couple of places for dinner and hanging out in the evening both in Massari and Haraki.

I've been hearing about Easter coming up next month and that a lot goes on. I'm looking forward to that and more places starting to open up shortly after.
Sojourntraveller is offline  
Mar 22nd, 2014, 03:28 PM
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Taht room's going to get a bit crowded when Improviser, Dulcie and Roaman show up.
Peter_S_Aus is online now  
Mar 22nd, 2014, 09:06 PM
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[email protected] Peter

exactly my thought !!
clausar is offline  
May 16th, 2014, 09:39 AM
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I wonder how it is going...
Peter_S_Aus is online now  
Oct 16th, 2014, 09:09 AM
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I thought I wrote an update here but it seems to have disappeared. I don't know if it was one of those Fodors forum things where you think you hit the submit button but somehow it gets lost in space forevermore.

Short form: I stayed 6 months and left in September for Elat, Israel. Mainly for the snorkeling/diving. I'm in Elat now, rented for a month. Plan to move on at the end of this month but haven't decided where yet.
Sojourntraveller is offline  
Oct 16th, 2014, 09:22 AM
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Maybe you should have read the guide book more thoroughly.

It is Eilat. Not Elat.

Unbelievable!
Dickie_Gr is offline  

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