1242 days ago
At 4 AM I picked up daughter Olaf at Athens airport and by 5.30 AM we were peering down from a bridge over the Corinth canal, at the isthmus. It was light enough to see that the drop was a mile and while Olaf peered, I, suffering from vertigo, gripped the back rail and pretended to peer.
1859 days ago
My rucksack containing 15 kg of olive oil weighs 24.5 kg. The limit to gt it on the plane without paying a surcharge is 23 kg. But luckily I have a whole night at Athens airport to write nasty articles about liars but also to get that weight down. Cunning plan 1..
2381 days ago
I arrived at Athens airport at 7 PM on the dot and sober as a judge with plenty of time for a 9 PM flight to Gatwick, given that I had already checked in and only have hand luggage. Er..oh. My flight is delayed by 3 hours and 20 minutes.
That means that I am likely to arrive at Gatwick at c2.30-3PM GMT and will then have 150 minutes to kill before the first bus to Bristol departs. A nightmare journey awaits.
I head to the special needs easyjet desk and say that I have a special need, I am thick. What does this all mean? An officious lady says shows me a pack of vouchers which I guess get me a sandwich and a drink and offers me the chance to get behind 140 other sweaty Brits and escaping Greeks to queue to get the voucher of which she has a stack of in her hand. Put another way "fuck off and line up with all the other peasants, I am not even going to use the word sorry since you are only a customer and I view you with complete contempt."
I say ta but no ta and head off to get a frozen yoghurt and to wander to the terribly expensive Sofitel opposite the airport. It has a great internet connection.
As it happens my Euro to ouzo conversion programme of the past eight days has not gone according to plan and I appear to have around 1200 Euro burning a hole in my pocket. I now have four and a half hours to kill. I have no choice. The PC is plugged in. I am writing and a large ouzo with ice has just arrived. This could be a long night and I fear that my only company will be my best friend ouzo. I have eight days of relative sobriety to make amends for.
2506 days ago
I used to use AutoUnion at Athens airport but for some reason switched to Europcar a couple of years ago. It is very cheap and they pick you up at the airport and take you to a compound in the middle of nowhere. And they let you drive away however hammered you may be so all in all it seems like a fair deal. The drawback? The compound is in the middle of nowhere so when you try to return the car you have to allow an hour for getting lost.
Natch when I picked the car up on my last trip to the Greek hovel it had a few scratches but I did not care. It was 4.15 AM and I wanted to get through Athens and off to the Mani before rush hour. Anyhow it was snowing and I was not going to hang around freezing my nuts off arguing about the odd scratch.
Wind forward 12 days and I returned the car and having duly spent an hour getting lost was getting a little flustered about checking in. The man looked at the car and detected some small new scratches in four places. Driving up to the Greek hovel you go through bushes and other fauna and so I imagined he’d get a spray can and fill in the small scratches.
That will be an extra 400 Euro said the man. I should charge you 480 Euro, 120 Euro to respray each panel but I can offer you a bulk discount. WTF!
2612 days ago
I arrived at Athens airport at midnight Greek time on Tuesday. 24 hours after the Real Man Christmas party I was still feeling a little fragile and so walked zombie like to the hotel airport and wet to my room to crash. The bed swallowed me up and I was asleep. So far so good.
I made it to Athens bus station the next day and caught my bus to Kalamata where I went to the best hotel overlooking the sea front. In summer all the hotels in town are booked out months in advance. But it is November, and the town is dead. 50 Euros including breakfast and I was ready to get back to work and immediately called John the bike man, a venerable source of information on local brothels and much else.
A deal was struck. I have a new bike of which more later but it has real power! The next morning as agreed I met up with John and I drive the bike to Kambos. He was to follow in a car to meet me at The Greek Hovel with my bags and coats. Easy, 1.30 at the hovel.
Driving up into the mountains my head was simply flooded with happiness.
2716 days ago
Sitting on my newly constructed eco-loo in The Greek Hovel, I reflect on how my way of life is about to change with the arrival of a female guest. I am, as it happens, tapping this out at a service station near Athens Airport as I wait to meet her.
Natch I have spent the past 24 hours on an intense hovel tidying.
I reflect on my way of life here, there are so many plus points and it will be hard to go back. I could work from here, it is cheap to live and doing wonders for my figure. Feel free to send emails congratulating me on this.
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2814 days ago
It turns out that I have an hour or two to kill at Athens airport and so naturally decide to go to the Sofitel hotel, to sit outside rent an hour’s internet use to write another article about Quindell and have a coffee. I know that it will be expensive (11 Euro) but I will enjoy writing, smoking and having a coffee in the warm late afternoon air.
I write first and then go online to ensure that my whole hour is used wisely. Naturally Sofitel cuts me off after 45 minutes. But the articles are written and I ask for my bill and hand the chap a ten euro note and a 5 euro note.
In the west a waiter would return promptly with 4 Euro change (if he is sensible as one 2 euro coin and two 1 euro coins) and would probably expect a tip of a euro at least. But this is Greece and after more than five minutes the waiter has not returned.
I wander inside and he is sitting behind the bar polishing glasses not serving anyone. “My change” I ask and he hands over a plate which was sitting next to him with for Euros on it. No fucking tip for you Stavros.
The game he plays is simple. Some folks will have to rush to catch a plane, others will be to embarrassed to ask and so five times out of ten he will get to trouser 4 tax free Euros by behaving as he has done. Only once in a lifetime will he get a chippy Brit who: demands his change, gives no tip and then posts an article on the Internet saying that the Sofitel hotel Athens charges ludicrous prices and should be having a few words with Stavros the waiter about the way he does business.
Natch nothing will change, this is the side of Greece than leaves a bitter aftertaste as does my encounter with a bent taxi driver just minutes before.
I love Greece and will be back soon, but not everyone is so forgiving.
2815 days ago
I watch West Ham beat Spurs, chat to a pleasant Anglo Greek bird who asks to borrow a lighter and turns out to be the daughter of a woman who has met my Dad in the scholarly study of Northern Epirus and it is off to the airport. I know that it is a fixed fare but the driver starts the meter running.
We arrive and the clock says just under 26 Euro. Manfully he adds in a multiple of the tolls we have paid and we are still only at 31 Euro. So he turns round and having logged the 31 Euro as a print off he says “fixed fare 35 Euro” and shows me the a laminated card laughing.
I know full well that had we had more traffic and the total been 40 Euro he’s have chanced his arm and asked me for 40 Euro because most tourists just pay. That is why he set the meter running for a fixed fare. As it happens the total despite his toll swindle is only 31 Euro so: I pay the 35 Euro. he declares 31 Euro for tax purposes (if that) and 4 Euro disappears into the black economy. I am afraid that this remains the Greek way. Too many folks here think that swindling a foreigner and cheating the tax man is all part of the game.
I accept that it is the Greek way. The taxi driver was just a laughing wanker. I know that. I do not bear a grudge against Greece or the Greek people. I love it here and will be back soon. But one day folks here will have to learn that taxes are not optional and that swindling foreigners so brazenly is not a way to win long term friends.