Monday, 24 October 2011

Greece 2011, Swimming With Sharks and Greek Australians

After the shortest of refreshment breaks our next stop was the beach which was just a stone’s throw from the hotel so we collected our swimming essentials and found a spot we liked on the sand, stripped down to our bathing costumes and paddled out into the inviting silky water. This year I had packed my black swimming trunks because I always consider black speedos to be quite slimming!

There is currently a beauty salon fad in the United Kingdom and elsewhere which involves parting with substantial amounts of cash, taking shoes and socks off and dangling them into a tank of fish which will nibble away at the dead skin and provide a natural pedicure. The toothless fish are called garra rufa and are also commonly known as ‘doctor fish’, they come from the Eastern Mediterranean, mostly Turkey, and there were some in the sea today and when we stood still long enough they congregated at our ankles and shortly got to work. While we enjoyed our free foot treatment it became obvious that the discerning little creatures preferred my feet to Kim’s and I could easily steal her fishy medical companions by standing close to her. Kim became irritated by this so I explained to her as best I could that the only explanation I could think of was that I really couldn’t help being a ‘fish magnet’!

This alternative beauty treatment sounds weird but it might be considered positively normal compared with some others. For example, bull semen, a moisturising hair treatment that uses the sperm of Angus bulls. Ox bone-marrow shampoo from Brazil, Nightingale droppings used in Japan as a facial cleanser, snail slime used in South America as a hand cream and snake venom which is claimed by some to have the same face-freezing effects as Botox.

It was a pleasant beach with warm sea, golden sand and a gentle breeze which kept the temperature comfortable. In the shops earlier we had seen some souvenir boats made of drift wood and this gave me an idea. It would be impossible to take one home given the restrictions on hand luggage so I decided that I would collect the bits of wood and sticks off the beach, take them home and, in an Airfix sort of way, make my own so I set immediately about beachcombing and starting my collection.

After her early start Kim was tired now so while she went back to the room to sleep I stayed at the beach, enjoyed some more foot treatment, had another swim in the Aegean and continued my search for suitable boat building materials. After I had tired of all that I returned to the room and rejoined Kim and where we waited until nearly sunset time before going out again for the evening.

We had seen Paroikia in the daylight so our plan was to return in the evening for a different perspective. We walked through the same streets but now twinkling lights illuminated the shops and tavernas and the trendy bars that were closed during the day were beginning to open for business. We walked from one side to the other and left the old town just in time for Kim to capture the sunset pictures that she wanted.

We had considered returning to the same taverna as the previous night but there was a lot of choice at this end of the town and even though it was rather touristy we allowed ourselves to be talked into one by a persistent waiter who found us a nice table by the water’s edge. It was busy and one thing we couldn’t help noticing was that there were a lot of young Australians at adjacent tables and walking along the street.

We shouldn’t have been surprised of course because after World War Two and the unstable post war years in Greece many people from the mainland and the islands packed their bags and set off down under. In fact Greeks were one of the main groups targeted by Australian Government migration schemes in the 1950s and 1960s and by 1971 there were one hundred and sixty thousand Greek-born people in Australia. Today, just under half of these live in the State of Victoria and the city of Melbourne has the largest Greek community outside of Greece and after Athens, Thesaloniki, Piraeus and Patras (all in Greece) is the fifth largest Greek city community in the World so this must surely explain why so many Australians visit Greece every year in search of their family heritage.

A trio of young (Australian) girls were persuaded to take the table next to ours and after a while the waiter came to take their order. ‘Can I get you something to drink’ he purred and then looked perplexed when they asked for three glasses of tap water! He came back after a few minutes with the order and directed them to the food menu. One of them took a while to decide and then made her selection– ‘I’d like a lettuce and tomato salad please’, the waiter must have thought this was the starter and waited for a further choice to complete the meal but after a pause she added without batting an eyelid – ‘without the tomato!’ He was totally baffled now and just repeated ‘a lettuce and tomato salad without the tomato?’ ‘Yes please’ she confirmed, ‘I’ll have extra lettuce instead’. I wonder what they made of that in the kitchen?

Anyway, we had a rather nice meal while we listened to the sea and eaves dropped other people’s conversations and when we had finished, although it wasn’t late, we were tired so we wandered off back in the direction of the hotel. We had a rather early start in the morning so we needed a good night’s sleep.

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