anafiotika and graussies

Like I said… you can’t keep me away from the old centre of Athens.

Well… I almost had to stay away cause I went there yesterday and came home with a sore throat and a headache. I drank the most hideous concoction of boiled oregano, sage and honey. Eeeewww-yuckety-yuck-yuck. But I think it worked as I woke up this morning feeling better.

So I did what had to be done and went in again today…

Today I met up with the ladies from the Graussies group on Facebook (that’s greek australians living in Athens to you). The above is the view from the cafe we met at.

Ok, no photos of the group, I didn’t take out my camera at the time, but you get the picture. I was the freshest among them, having only just moved here. Others have been here as long as 30+ years.

But as I said, I was there yesterday too. Below are photos of Syntagma Square cause I got off the bus too late to switch to the metro and had to walk down. But hey, walking is good for me and its not that far.

So, what is Anafiotika?

Anafiotika is a tiny neighborhood of Athens, part of the Plaka – the historical neighborhood next to Monastiraki, right beneath the northeastern side of the Acropolis. The Anafiotika are special in that they are a neighbourhood built by workers from the island of Anafi and other Cyclades islands, who came to Athens in the era of Otto of Greece to build his palace. The homes these workers built for themselves look like the houses of their islands, small square homes with narrow cobble stoned streets and steps… its like being on a greek island in the heart of Athens.

Basically, its gorgeous.

And again, more photos of decaying and crumbling old buildings. Cause I just love them. Its so sad to see these beautiful old places falling apart…

Such beauty in the destruction…

z

visible mending where you don’t need to mend

I was bored the other day and I was looking for stuff to do. You know how it is. Restless hand syndrome. I can watch TV or listen to music and sing along but my hands are bored. I could have eaten something but I wanted a the non-fattening activity.

So I decided to try some visible mending on a new jumper which didn’t need mending. Cause, you know… why not?

I’d been inspired by a pin I saved ages ago on Pinterest (yeah, THAT site) and I really wanted to try to do something similar. Only I went tonal instead of contrasting colours. More subtle for my first try.

I’m happy with it. I know no one else has the same sweater… Maybe I’ll be more adventurous next time…

z

settling in

I just love the old parts of Athens… Monastiraki, Psiri, Plaka… Its easy to get to for everyone and is the ideal place to meet up with friends so I end up going there often. Despite the old girls dire warnings of thefts and all kinds of evils, its just too nice to miss out on. I can honestly say its the best thing about being in Athens.

Its a mix of old, falling down buildings, graffiti and dingey-ness, and pretty cafes, restaurants and tons of shops and stalls. What’s not to like? Its always alive too.

On Sunday I went down and met up with a wonderful woman I met on Facebook. She owns a tattoo parlour on Corfu where she’s been living for 30 years and spends winters in Athens. She’s an amazing person, a rockabilly fan, an artist… we have so much in common. I am so glad to have met her. It feels like I’ve made a new friend for life.

Sunday was pretty quiet considering, I’ve never seen the streets of Monastiraki so empty. Maybe the cold put some people off. Who knows.

While the sun was out it was beautiful, but once the sun began to set I decided it was time to go home. Plus I’d already had to buy gloves and a beanie – it was pretty cold.

Other than that, what have I been doing all this time? Its only been 2.5 weeks but it already feels like months.

I’ve caught up with plenty of relatives on mom’s side and spent time with cousins on my dad’s side. I don’t think I’ll catch up with all of them… after all I have 23 first cousins alone, 19 of which live in Greece and have children who would apparently all like to see me.

hm. It’d be a full time job seeing them all.

Its funny how greek people talk. I’m always hearing “They’re good people. They love us very much.” Like loving us is a prerequisite to being a good person…

I’ve bought acrylic paints, some coloured chalk pencils, some brushes. I’m a magpie… I know I have things coming but when I see something I know I’ll use I’ll buy or collect it.

I now have the start of a plastic toy collection. I have fabric scraps and stuffing for my critters.

I still want to go buy pastels cause really… they are my preferred medium. Plus I plan to do more mixed media work.

I’ve bought a heater for Paros cause I’ll need it there. FOR SURE. And bought mom an electric blanket for her bed on Paros so that I can borrow it till mine arrives.

I’ve visited 2nd hand shops and bought myself some warm jumpers, cause… what on earth was I thinking? I packed all my warmest stuff in the boxes I sent over which won’t arrive till the end of February… See above comments about gloves and beanies. D’uh.

Not to mention waterproof sneakers.

My aunt Xeni gave me a gorgeous umbrella she’s had in her cupboard for 35 years. Very retro and never been used. I’ll get a photo of it one day I promise.

I’ve done creative stuff which I’ll share in another post or two. Just small things to keep me entertained.

I’ve designed a simple business card and have to go down the street to get them printed. Let me tell you, designing in Word is a challenge I never though I’d have to face. But I did it…

I’m planning to meet a cousin in Monastiraki today again. Hopefully the roads won’t be too slippery… Or she’s not snowed in… I might opt to walk up the hill to the bus stop instead of walking downhill to the closest one. The road looks deadly.

I’ve organised to meet some graussies tomorrow… That’s aussies who live in Athens. That will be fun!!!

I have to pack my bags for Paros. My aunt said 10th or later depending on the weather (the seas that is) so I figure we’ll go Thursday or else I’ll head off on my own.

The bureau predicts rough seas on Thursday but smooth sailing on Friday… hm…

I’ve been going to the gym. I’m really sore but don’t feel like they work me nearly as hard there as the gyms I went to in Australia. Mind you I did take a 2 week break… that’s why I’m sore.

So I’ve been pretty busy. And I like it that way. Being still means getting bored and I never sit still if I can help it.

z

finding myself through art

One of the things I really want to do with this big move is to find the artist in me again. I’m an artist but I’ve never really worked at it. I feel its time I spent more time creating art at this stage of my life than all the other things I put my energies into.

Don’t get me wrong. I will continue to make stuff cause I love doing it. I’ll still repaint dolls and sew and revamp old furniture and make things out of found objects…

But I really want to paint more.

I realised a while ago that when I paint (in any medium) I feel good about myself. Sure, I often start something, hate it, stop, then go back later, rework it and finish it and love it. And then I get the most incredible feeling inside – achievement, pride, amazement that something I admire came out of my own hands.

So here I am, in Athens for almost 2 weeks now… without my art supplies. So I went out to find pastels (always my first choice of mediums to work with) and I couldn’t find what I wanted. I bought acrylic paints instead and gave them a try.

This is my first attempt with straight acrylics in years.

Its Phaedra, a toy poodle that used to belong to our neighour. I never met her but naturally I’d start with a poodle! I tried to loosed up and make it more painterly than is my normal style. Its something I love when I look at other works of art and always wish I could paint like that. But I’m not totally happy with it, its not really me. I’m not a loaded brush type of person. I tend to work best with washes and less paint than with more…

This is my second attempt.

This is a friend’s cat. For her I used a mix of dry brush and watered down acrylics. She’s not finished yet but I like it much better. I think I found the way I like to work best.

More than that, I realised that what I really want is to mix my media. I want to go and buy myself the soft pastels I didn’t find last time I looked for them (I found a shop which sells them!) and to get some pastel pencils as well. Then I can finish this little cat with charcoal and pastels. That way I can get both the texture and the detail and depth I’m used to getting in my work.

I’m pleased.

A painting a day keeps the depression at bay!

Now I want to go find mom’s old Singer and see if it still works! Cause I feel the urge to make some of my little critters…

Other than that, I’m slowly learning to live in Greece though it not easy. I have friends and family and that helps. I’m still very eager to get to Paros and start sorting out my life there. Till then, I’ll do what I need to do here.

z

colourful athens pt 2

A tour of the city centre wasn’t complete without a visit to the market – the meat and fish market that is. I’ve spared you the horrors of the meat market. I couldn’t stand that place. But outside on the street these little shops full of herbs and spices, nuts and other stuff, looked so pretty and inviting.

The fish market was stinky but not nearly as nightmarish as the meat market, so here are some fish… that’s one thing we missed in Tasmania. A proper fish market… at least there were none that I ever found!

It says the lobsters are alive but I didn’t see any indication of life. Poor things.

I know I’ve mentioned the ancient ruins in the metro before, but here is a view of the ruins under Monastiraki. Roman aqueducts which still work today apparently…

“But what have the Romans ever done for us?” you may ask. Besides the aquaducts…

So there you go.

A quick tour of the markets (thank goodness smellorama doesn’t yet exist) and the metro ruins.

z

another pretty cafe

You may think this is a bit of deja vu and you’d be right. This is a cafe I visited last time I was in Greece. Little Kook is an amazing place.

This time, just like last time, we didn’t go in for a coffee. The queues were incredible as you can imagine. Its Christmas holidays and everyone wants to take the family to this special place. But the entire street is magical. Just imagine how much fun they have decorating this place!

There’s one thing you gotta give greeks. They really know how to celebrate and make beautiful places. Its like fairyland in so many places around Athens.

And winter Christmas just seems so much more RIGHT than the heat in Australia at this time of the year. It feels more Christmassy. It just works.

Plus another bonus: No thongs to be seen!!

z

colourful athens pt 1

Its no secret that I love old things, old buildings and falling down broken stuff. I also love the contrast of the old crumbling homes in the center of Athens with the colourful graffiti that now covers everything.

Not to mention the juxtaposition of the old and the new – defaced by graffiti again… always…

Apparently Athens wasn’t always an ugly city. It was once full of neo-classical buildings like these old ones, and it had rivers flowing through it. But greed in the 60s saw them fill in all the rivers in order to build ‘new modern’ concrete block apartment buildings. Ugh. How stupid people are.

Of course, there are many, many closed shops in Athens, in the centre as well as the suburbs thanks to the current economy. But the center of Athens is coming alive with beautiful bars and cafes and hopefully things will pick up as more places open and more places get renovated. If we don’t all get mugged and killed first apparently. Crime is rife with so many out of work, refugees and homeless people.

Stick with me. You’ll see the pretty in the ugly parts of Greece. 🙂

z

old school friends and some real music

You know what the real problem is with Greece?

Greek music.

Ok. And Greek TV…

Sure, not everyone is as addicted to the badly over-acted greek TV serials as the old girls are, and not everyone has to have some stupid program on ALL THE TIME with the whining greek music of the mainland.

UGH.

I didn’t realise just how much I hated it till I went out with my friend from high school and she played some country music in the car on the way back. It was like coming home. It made me realise that I have no patience to sit and listen to the music the old girls like any more.

UGH.

Fine. I know. Country music is whining crap to a lot of people, but its my music. That and rockabilly, rock’n’roll and rhythm and blues. And a whole lot of other genres along those lines which isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But its my cup of tea and, after less than a week in Greece, I think I’ve reached my limit of greek folk music.

I’m over it.

If I never hear it again I’ll be happy.

Time to plug in the earphones and listen to some of my own music. Please. For my sanity.

There is one type of greek music I do like. It speaks to my heart like Paros does… its the music of the Cyclades islands. Its the music I grew up hearing at parties and watching mom and her brothers and sisters dance to. I love it. And I feel like dancing to it when I hear it. Balo is a wonderful flirty partner dance, very similar to rock’n’roll… wonder why I like them both…

Anyway, enough about music and bad TV.

One thing Greece does well, is cafe restaurants. Beautifully decorated, great food or sweets (not that I’m indulging in either, I have a figure to create), great atmosphere and good company. Everyone is set on taking me to as many of the popular spots in town as they can.

Last night I met a friend from high school. I hadn’t seen Christine since she brought some long haired pot heads to my party and dad hit the roof.
Its great to see friends you share history with, even if its been years since you last saw them. It was like no time had passed. For some reason the people that went to Campion (an english school in Athens) are like that. We’ve stayed in touch despite scattering around the world.

And she’s taking me to a bar on New Years Eve where they play country music! How great is that!

I really need to find a gym and work out. Its been 8 days since my last workout. I walk but thats not enough. I need the sweat and endorphins. I’m outa here. Taking the long way down to see a friend.

z

never too old for fairytales

Isn’t that the problem though? We believe in the fairytale of the prince on the big white horse who’ll save us from everything, and the happily ever after and the everything working out, the good guys get all the riches and happiness they deserve while the bad guys get punished.

Perhaps the Grimm brothers had it right after all… if you’re gonna believe in a fairytale, believe in the ugliness of their stories. Cause life isn’t like a fairytale at all. You don’t find a prince (99.999% of the time you meet the frog and he turns out to be a toad), there is no such thing as happily ever after, best you can do is happily most of the time if you work on it. As for just deserts… well, maybe karma does exist if you’re patient enough. The tree on the gate at our old place in Tasmania might be proof of that.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my life, its that nothing just happens. You have to make it happen. Its all up to you and no one else.

I’m not really down on the world… ok, maybe just a little bit right now. Its the whole “I made a huge decision and acted on it immediately not giving myself time to really let things settle and I moved to the other side of the world and now its all sinking in and I feel a bit lost and miss my dogs like crazy” thing.

Everyone says I’m so brave. I don’t know. I didn’t think it was brave. I wanted to do it, so I did it. If anything it was a kind of selfish decision – I decided that I wanted to move back to Greece and live on Paros so I made it happen. Sure, I’m closer to mom here so I can spend time with her and be part of her life. Sure, I missed being surrounded by family (a decision I might come to regret, remind me I moved here to be closer when that time comes, ok?). But at the end of the day, it was that Paros called to me deep down, in my heart.

Greeks are like homing pigeons… we seem to fly back home even after being away for years.

So here I am. Happy to be with friends and family. Thrilled to be going to Paros in a couple of weeks. Actually waiting impatiently to be on Paros in a couple of weeks. I can’t wait for this new life I dreamed of to start…

My own space, my own stuff (ok, borrowed stuff to start with), my creative space. The winter skies and the winter seas…

Till then I fill my days with catching up with friends, spending time with mom and the old girls, escaping the old girls to see friends and the constant search for wifi.

More next time I can connect without using up the pitiful data allowance my phone plan allows me… I’ve already had to invest more money to top up.

z

athens…

I know I’ve said it a thousand times, but I’m going to say it again. I really don’t like Athens. Its a dirty city. Too many cars. Too many people…

I’d been looking forward to the Athens of my teens where we did our Christmas shopping in the city centre in the cold weather. Yesterday I went into the city centre to buy myself a Christmas present (ok, to buy art supplies) and it was too darn hot in my winter coat. The sun was shining and it was a glorious day.

But I shouldn’t complain about good weather…

I can complain that I didn’t find what I wanted. Seems the biggest/best art supply shop in Athens doesn’t carry a good selection of soft pastels. Well, not compared the stores in Hobart. I’m used to having a choice of REAL soft pastels: Sennelier, Rembrandt, Windsor Newton, Art Spectrum – in both sets and loose where you can choose the colours you want, colours not included in the boxes. Here they only had Faber Castel – the square hard soft pastels.

Not happy.

I’ll have to do my pastel shopping online unless another store carries the sort I want.

I can also whine and complain about other things… Like the deal I got when I charged up my prepaid SIM card… the one I used when I was here in June/July. On that trip the card worked fine. I had included calls, texts (though not a lot) and mobile data which actually worked. I was able to pair my phone to my tablet and use the tablet to surf or blog. This time around the connection sucked big time.

I went to the same company to put money on the card to reconnect the phone. I put on 17 euros instead of the 10 I paid in June thinking 1GB data wouldn’t be enough. So I opted for the 4GB. I got home and I send one text and promptly ran out of texts. The internet was pathetically slow. For some reason the internet wasn’t working on the tablet though they were paired to ‘share the connection’. I went back to the shop to sort it out and they said well, you paid for the bigger data, you paid for 300 free minutes of talk time… you didn’t pay for texts. We suggest you use Messenger, WhatsApp or Viber for messaging. Great. I’d do that if the internet actually worked! Oh, yes… the internet is slow, thats cause its only 2G… Why? I don’t know. My greek is good but I’m lost when it comes to understanding all this crap.

Not happy.

TV in Greece sucks. Or should I say greek TV sucks. Same thing. I spend my days catching up with people and I enjoy that. Evenings are boring. No internet at home. No TV (that I’d actually enjoy watching). Yeah, I love my mom, but she has her own routines…

So today I went out and got myself another plan – a contract actually. A new phone with a plan with another company and its MUCH better. Only 1GB data (how sucky is that?) and included calls, but I will have wifi where I live so that should be ok. Best of all, its 4G so the internet actually works on the phone.

Have you I mentioned how much I dislike Athens? Its such a culture shock. I’ve been here many times before. I’ve lived here and worked here, yet its so hard to get used to. Again.

I’ve been feeling really down in the evenings and early morning. I miss my dogs. I miss my own home. Its like I’m finally slowing down after 5 months of whirlwind activity and its finally sinking in … the reality of the hugeness of my decision to move back to Greece.

I know this is the hardest part, the beginning, the starting over, the fitting in… things will fall into place. When I can get to Paros and begin to create my own space and my own life.

I hope.

z