Monday, September 30, 2013

Revenge of the Promaja (Serbian killer draft)

I, unlike all Serbs, don't believe in Promaja, aka a dangerous draft that allegedly can cause headaches, distorted faces and mouths and ear infections, not to mention any other kind of bodily pain or harm.
I guess I used to believe in this villain, while I lived in Serbia, but once explain by Americans that the draft is quite harmless, even friendly during a 90F day, I came to become friends and even enjoy the company of this creature at home or in my car on a hot summer day.
Yet, the Serbian version, or Promaja, must have held a grudge. Cause, on my way back from Greece, I had my window open for about two hours before a humongous migraine hit me, hit me hard. It was one of those that go through your eye, in my case, the right eye, the one close to the open window. It also came with a slight nausea. I couldn't even keep my eyes open.
So, I complained to my mother in the back seat who immediately reacted: "That's promaja! It's very dangerous. That's because you wouldn't listen to me and you opened the window...your face could get distorted from it!"
Now if a distorted face while visiting your hometown won't scare you into submission to Promaja, I don't know what will.
So, this self-afflicted monster hasn't let go of my eye and head for the next two days, which confirmed my mother's fear of promaja, and rendered my nine-year long denial of promaja's frightful, threatening existence, utterly useless and a colossal waste of time.
I'm migraine free now, but a little bit scared of opening two windows in the house at the same time, or a car window, even just one, so close to my ear and eye. I mean, did it unleash on me just because I was in the Balkans where it can "my way or a highway" me, or could it catch up with me wherever I go?
Could promaja cross the ocean?

Friday, September 27, 2013

Travelogue: Orange Beach

My last day in Greece.
I'm a creature of (some) habit. Went back to Baradise. (I wonder why "Baradise?" There must be a "Paradise" nearby.)
The water temperature is not to my liking, i.e. it's less than 80F. But I might take a dip a little later in a small lagoon at the end of the café-beach in Sarti.
Alas, I'm here to tell you about the Orange beach, 6 km away from Sarti. It is one of the cutest beaches I have ever seen. It's tiny, and secluded, and framed by white rocks, but the sand is whiter and thinner, softer, finer. There are fish swimming in it, you can clearly see them. This small beach in laced in beach chairs and the way to obtain one is to order a drink. Drinks are about 3 Euros, a standard price everywhere in Sarti, beach or land. (I'm drinking a Nescafe Frape, a signature summer beach Greek drink, that also costs 3 Euros, about 4 U.S. Dollars. A price of a latte in DC.)
The water was chilly until 6pm. Then it suddenly became warmer. Maybe because of some warm tide. Maybe because I already swam in that chilly water and then it seemed warmer once I got out. Maybe...
It is a much prettier beach than the main, large one in Sarti. The music blasts from the café-truck on it, but it's good, café-lounge type. And I saw not only Serbian license plates, but Greek ones as well. That's never a bad sign.
I think I read that this Orange beach is one of the most beautiful in Greece. Maybe even one of the most beautiful beaches in the world? That might be a huge overstatement, could be. The turquoise water that awaits you behind pines as you go down the mountain, and colorful umbrellas are nothing short of a skillful painting.
Enjoy the photo.
As for me, I'm going to finish this blog, finish my Nescafe Frape, do a little more shopping, pack, and maybe dip. Maybe. Then it's take off time at 2pm. Back toward Thessaloniki, then Macedonia, then Serbia...
Bon voyage to moi meme :-)

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Travelogue: Greek food,cafes, people...

Two more days in Greece.
I'm sipping my Nescafe frappe, which is the best Greek invention since tzatziki. Hmmm,tzatziki. Had so much great food here--previously glorified sheep's milk yogurt, tzatziki, grapes, peaches, nectarines, even my Mom's crepes taste better with Greek flour, eggs and milk than Serbian; Olives are truly the best ones I have ever tasted and we buy them off a truck a man brings every evening, by the bus stop, by the beach. And the olive oil. If you have never left the United States, you don't know how real food tastes. Seriously. I don't even eat dairy in the States. It tastes processed. But here? You can tell that it's home-made, or at least, made in small batches like real food, not in huge factories where animals are tormented.
And Nescafe Frape. They mix Nescafe, sugar, milk in a tall glass with a special little buzzer thing, a mini-mixer, and it has tones of thick foam on top which is delicious! Yum!

Anyway, besides eating here (which is obviously all I have been doing) and reading Politikin Zabavnik which a brilliant Serbian weekly, and Olive Kitteridge (Elizabeth Strout's Pulitzer winning novel-in-stories), I have done Yoga on beach last night for about 15 minutes in front of all the smoking Serbs. They must have thought I was crazy. My mother encouraged me, she wanted to see what kind of Yoga I have been doing regularly for the last three years, and she loved the show! But, damn, it is hard to do Yoga on sand. Your hands are unstable, you fall into it, they move, your feet too. And, of course, this morning, I'm sore. Sore from 15 minutes of Yoga. There go my three years of getting into shape. I don't lift anything heavier than a fork eight days and I'm as weak as a sponge. Not cool. I see a boot camp in my future.
Dancing Bar/Pub George keeps on turning the music loudly at 10pm every evening. I need detox from all the smoke I have inhaled cause in this Serbian/Greek town EVERYBODY smokes. It's like air.
The water is still a bit chilly but swimmable, extremely salty to the point that my eyes sting, and very, very clean. The beach is covered in cigarette buds though.
Greeks in general are friendly and casual, similar to Serbs. For example, I had to browse cafes to find one where I can charge my old Dell laptop (I didn't want to take my AirMac here, it's my right hand.)  "Jasas," I said. "Do you have WiFi?" The owner of Baradise café on the beach:" The best WiFi in town." "Do you have a plug, outlet? Could I charge it?" "Yes, yes, the best coffee in town too." He hooked it up himself, converter and all, the owner, cigarette hanging from his lips. I called him a genius. I think Greeks like that.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Travelogue: Dancing Bar George

I'm staying in Sarti Inn, in a room right across from Dancing Bar George. You are probably wondering what a dancing bar is? Well, it's a place where Greeks and maybe tourists come to get drunk, yell, scream from 10pm to 4am. Yes. I'm sleep-deprived. Again. At least in London, it was worth it. I was in London. But now, I feel cheated.
This loud music, screaming, singing has been going on for three nights. Of course, this Inn doesn't have a concierge or a front desk. Doesn't have anyone working in it, except a few maids who come in the morning then mysteriously disappear an hour later, without cleaning anything.
Night No. 1. I couldn't fall asleep for a while. At least the music was good.
Night No. 2. I was so tired from Night no. 1 that I fell asleep instantly.
Night No. 3, aka last night. I drifted in and out of sleep, then at 3am, there was loud pulling, jerking of a flimsy iron gate across from the room, then someone, a man, yelled, yelled like someone was murdering him. Of course, I have no idea what he was saying. When I looked out of the window, there was a man, sprawled on the street, kissing the pavement, and another one on top of him. Neither one was moving.
There were several women in high heels just a few feet away. One wobbled on her 10 inch heels, looked at the two men on top of each other, and not in a sexual way, but in a I'm so drunk I can't move way, then she casually strolled back to join her smoking, laughing girlfriends right in front of the bar's entrance. I was sure, someone is going to call the police--the noise, the bizarre way two men were laying in the middle of a street. A street, where cars drive, not a sidewalk.
Nope. No police.
I concluded, there's no police in this town. Either that, or this is normal behavior for Greeks.
Criminals and lushes, rejoice!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Travelogue: Greece's middle finger

Greetings from Sarti, Sithonia, Greece! (If you don't know where it is, it's on the middle finger of Chalkidiki's. There. I'm not trying to give you a finger. God forbid.)

I arrived here three days ago, after a seven hour trip through Southern Serbia, through Macedonia.

I have a little story to tell you here about my trip through Macedonia.
I enter the country and stop at the first gas stop to exchange money for tolls. You need either Denari or a credit card to pay the tolls. I do that, then go to the bathroom. Next thing you know, I'm laughing out loud in the female bathroom stall. Why? Macedonian language is so funny to me, and there was a sign on the door saying: "It's forbidden to throw diapers into the toilet," which in Macedonian sounds like this:" Zabraneto frlanje peleni vo WC solja!" It's hard to explain why that made me so happy but I'll try.
1) Why do people need to be told this
2)To a Serb, "frlanje" sounds hilarious.

But I love Macedonians! The nicest people in the world, I swear!

Back to Greece...

Sarti is a cafe heaven. There are at least a dozen cafes along the beach, all of them extending right to the beach itself, where, for a drink costing about 3 Euros, you could spend the whole day on one of their lounge chairs under the shade. If that's what you like to do...
Has a pretty little Greek Orthodox church on the hill (photos below) with a service at 5pm.
I'm still shopping around for a boat trip around Mouth Athos, which, I, as a woman, can only see from a boat. (So sexist, so discriminatory that someone should sue Mount Athos...) That's another thing Sithonia, or the middle finger, offers you. Closeness to Mount Athos. It can be seen from the top of the hill above church or even from the beach.

The main, cafe-beach is wide, long and sandy, but it's that coarse yellow sand, not fine, white sand you can see in Florida or the Caribbean.
The water, for moi meme, is too cold. I dipped my feet and ran into the opposite direction.
It rained this morning but it's sunny now and about 75F. It's a beautiful day.
I'm sitting in Cafe Paris, of all places, since it has Wi-Fi and trying not to get heartburn from the strong Nes Cafe they made me, by eating cookies they also served with it. Now I know why.
For about 3 Euros, you get WiFi, casual Greek service that leaves you alone (just the way I like it) and three tea cookies. And a narrow view of the sea. (I'm a street away from the beach).
What else?
There are five supermarkets per street. So it's a town of cafes and supermarkets. Other than that, there's one bakery, one fish shop, and about a million souvenir and beach stuff shops.
Greeks speaks English or Serbian. And the language you hear the most here is Serbian.
The food is excellent! I used to vacation in Greece with my parents in the 90s, and even now, still managed to find home-made sheep yogurt in a mud dish. It's one of the best foods I have ever tasted.
p.s. Sorry about double photos. My laptop has gone insane...


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Covent Garden letters

I'm in Covent Garden part of London. Again. I was here yesterday. And last year in March.
It's like a little New York City to me--lots of shops and restaurants, curvy little alleys, great alive with people worming everywhere like ants.
Why am I here? I'm meeting my friend and host, A, for a latte in Monmouth Coffee Company in Monmouth street. Her British roommate says it is the best coffee in London. Famous, actually. Other cafes brag they have Monmouth coffee. (Mon-mith like Ply-mith)
I highly recommend it!Bloody highly!

I just love London, even when it's 17degrees C, even when it rains. My days are so full and I am so happy. Maybe it's the "mistress syndrome." Maybe if I lived here I would be annoyed by traffic and tourists. (I don't consider myself a tourist. I am a world traveler. I went to the National Gallery yesterday for five minutes just to see Van Gogh's Sunflowers.)

Now I finally understand that "ball and chain" thing. If I were single, I would probably ask my four friends in London to help me find a job, so I could move here.
I think I would be so happy here. Train to Paris? Please! Could life be any better?

p.s. Downton Abbey tomorrow morning. Pray for no rain. Pray for no rain.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Downton Abbey-8

 T-4. Four days to departure. Eight days to Downton Abbey.
Did I tell you the story of how I got a ticket to Highclere Castle?
As soon as I booked my trip to London in June, I went to the Castle's Web site to buy a ticket. Sold out. All. Sigh. It said I could go at 2pm and wait, maybe they would let me in. Maybe not. Sigh.
So I decided to pick a day, Sept. 10th, go to Newbury, an hour away from London by train, take a cab to the castle and wait. A lot of hassle for something that you might be able to see only from a far, right?
I thought it was worth a shot. Would still see the castle from outside of the gates, whatever happened.

But, for some reason, I decided to check the Web site last week. Eyes, Big! Sept. 12th was blue! Blue! That meant I could buy a ticket. Then happiness and panic all wrapped up in a bow. I quickly decided morning or afternoon and put my credit card number in. Then had to decide do I want to see everything or just the garden, just the castle. All, of course. I'm flying to London, then taking a train and a cab to get there? Hell, yeah, I'm seeing it all. Besides, the ticket was not that expensive for the castle, gardens and the Egyptian exhibit. (Now that I think of it, maybe the Egyptian exhibit wasn't such a great idea. I am going to the British museum too, for the second time, since the first time I forgot to see the Aegean Marbles. Go ahead, laugh. I couldn't find them, all right? It was crowded! Anyway...)

So, even now, in a cafe, as I'm fixing up my book before it heads off to readers, I get goose bumps every time I think of that Thursday I'm going to be walking those beautiful gardens and have the afternoon tea in the Castle! Heaven! Are you jealous? You should be, I would be ;-)
Will report back!