Thursday, June 28, 2012

On our way home

We are at the Dubai Airport, on our last leg. We are tired...exhausted to be more correct! It's 47 degrees Celsius outside and absolutely freezing inside the shiny new Airport. Our flight to Jozi is at 4h40 am. The airport comes with recliner chairs! Everybody is sleeping.

I went to the Ocean Basket here at Dubai airport, to buy water, and I spoke to my African brothers. The whole crew came from SA to open this branch 4 months ago! They so miss home, shame, they don't really enjoy the experience! It's so hot here they say, this place cook your brains! They not allowed to drink alcohol and they miss pap big time!

I am looking forward to my life in South Africa. The Greek Tragedy is really depressing. We were sitting outside our hotel in Plaka, at a little shop called Hallelujah., talking to lovely Fotini, and she was adamant that we are such a happy, positive and functional family. I am relieved that she received such good vibes from us! I thought that we were only flying out of Athens at 11am, mom asked, when are we leaving? I checked the ticket and saw that we were leaving at 16h40. There and then we ordered a taxi to the airport!

The taxi driver took a scenic route to the airport, went through a tollgate and pressed a little remote and the gate swung open. We were surprised, dad asked: do you have an e-tag? No, he said, a good friend. Hier bedonner almal vir almal!

You cannot believe the luggage! We weighed in at 94 kgs! That is excluding the marble busts I bought coz dad and I are carrying those as hand luggage. We bought two extra suitcases! The auntie truly improved the Greek economy big time, and I am not far behind.

Well, my parents survived a 6 weeks Odeyssey with me. They are truly amazing to be able to do what they did
at their age. And I met another daughter with her 90 yr old father and mother. We still can travel for a long long time.

Mom has made it clear that she is not leaving her peppermint palace for a long time.

Ma sê: sy het niks hard gewerk om tot hier te kom nie, jy en jou pa was die pakesels! Ek weet nie hoe arme Collin ons môre kom haal nie, hy het 'n trok nodig!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Our contribution to the Greek economy

Today we schlepped early morning, with mom in tow, to the market where I found the marble busts. Madame Africa they said, we kept your statues. I arrived with an empty suitcase and armed with bubble wrap, I packed my 14 kg purchase into the case.

While I wait for the transaction to be finalized, the Egyptian Greek, Amir says, go upstairs. I go up the 3 stories of antiques and magnificent artifacts, gilded tables, exquisite glass and I see a chandelier that is made from Antique Victorian glass. I haul the auntie up the stair case and it is love at first sight.

Amir says: you can have it but I don't ship it. Whilst we are there an American Antique dealer buy so much porcelain, it is unbelievable. Like we said before, everything in Greece is for sale, and lots of beautiful things end up at Amir's bazaar.

Dad waits for us at the restaurant next door. A little girl, about 4 years old, arrives, as big as Nienke. She sells packets of tissues. Dad ask how much, she doesn't speak, dad gives her some change, other people give her a few Euros and the restaurant owner gives her something to eat. This is the real Greek tragedy. We see so many homeless people, it's unbelievable. Dad is so upset about the situation, he actually cannot handle it. Now he just wants to go home.

We take a taxi home, the marble busts are too heavy to wheel. The taxi driver says he used to have a career, now he has a hobby. No tourists, no money. The change in Greece in the last 6 weeks is tangible. 3000 businesses close down every week. Thessaloniki is half the size of what it used to be. People are depressed, even 'Glimlag' has lost his spark. The all hate Angela, the German councillor, the cartoons in the newspapers show her as a Nazi. The Greeks claim all she wants is the islands. The Greek Minister of Finance had a heart attack two days after he was appointed, he has now resigned! They have now appointed an Economics University Professor to resolve all their issues. And the Greek public, they do not have much hope.

Mom decides she is going to buy the chandelier. But first we need to find someone to ship it! So now we schlepp to DHL. At the price of our airfare they will ship it!
This is not going to happen.

We crisscross Athens to finalize our shopping, mom sees a beautiful music stand for her music room. I sit down, this is going to be another looooong conversation! Another thing to schlepp on the plane. We left with 3 suitcases and weighed in at 25 kgs, we are going back with much more. Now we have 4 suitcases and one backpack. Luckily we are allowed 90 kgs.

Pa sê en ma sê: in Bulgaria maak en en my pa of ons mal is en 'book' vir alles (massages etc.). In Athena maak ek en ma of ons mal is en koop alles!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The worst train journey of our lives!

This was by far our most disastrous journey so far. Dad decided to take the overnight train from Thessaloniki to Athens. When I reserved the tickets the lady said: no sleeper compartment! I should have got the message then, but decided the train won't be full! Oh my...

We met Helen or rather Eleni at the station and she shared delicious Turkish delight with us.

The train was so full and we were packed in like sardines, dad and mom invented a new Kama sutra position. People were stacked in the passages and everyone was fighting for a seat.

At 5 am we arrived in Athens, not a moment to soon! We took a taxi to the Hermes hotel, sister of the Plaka hotel, and uttered a sigh of relief to get a lovely room at 6 am in the morning.

We all got straight into bed. Mom and I slept till 12 noon, dad took to the streets and bought bubble wrap for my two statues. When he came back he slept till 4 pm.

Tonight we went to find a shop were mom bought a lovely plate painted with pomegranates. We had supper at "Glimlag", our favourite Greek that speaks so many languages. He remembered us from 6 weeks ago and spoke perfect Afrikaans to us.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Back in Greece

We left the spa at 6 am this morning to catch 2 busses, our final destination Thessaloniki. This is where we are right now, waiting for the overnight train to Athens.

It's hot in Greece but not as hot as it was in Montenegro. I already went to fetch the auntie's suitcase, so we sitting biding our time. The auntie is reading a novel that another travel angel, Kerry Plath (not family of Sylvia Plath) from Minnesota, USA gave me on the bus trip through Macedonia. Kerry was working for the Peace Corps for the last 2 years teaching first graders English. She was on her way to meet her parents in the Ukraine for a little holiday. She renewed her contract for another 6 months because she loved it so! I just think that people doing volunteering work is lank cool!!

I want to redo the Albania and Macedonia bit by car, although I will need a lot of angels to protect me as the drivers from there obey no traffic rules, they drive like crazy!

I do love Bulgaria and Romania! These two countries stole my heart! And the auntie says start saving money because next year September we will be back...

The luggage depot at Thessaloniki is now completely closed down, nobody to fight with today. Even the chapel has a sign to say, sorry we are closed, so no more blessings for the weary traveller.

We are sitting in a restaurant with aircon, these days a prerequisite.

I cannot believe that we left SA nearly six weeks ago! It feels like yesterday! The sunflowers are starting to blossom, and the wheat has been harvested! A lot happens in 6 weeks.

Verkenner Hennop has done the Houdini again, mom is worried because he did not say where he was going! A station is not very big though! He comes back with a bag of dried figs!

We have one day free and I am thinking of dumping the luggage at the hotel in Athens and then off to Corinth, on the train!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Excursion to rural Bulgaria

I organized a trip with a local guide to visit a sheep farm and to buy a traditional woven apron that the ladies wear. This is after we spent the morning in the Spa first.

Toshko (Theodor) Landzhov came to fetch us in his minivan for our trip into the country. An open and friendly individual, he said in all the years as a guide, noone has ever requested a trip like ours. He is a geography teacher at a high school.

Before we leave town we say: please can we go to the market. Sundays are markets days. I see chickens in a pen, and we stop to see what is going on. Rabbits, quails and even Guinea fowl are on sale. We walk between stalls, that sell fruit and vegetables, honey, curtains, and decorative gear for horses. We find a shop that sells seeds and we buy packets of Balkan flowers and even vegetables. We also buy honeycomb to eat later, my absolute favourite! Plenty of gypsies are about!

We then go into the country, he parks the car next to a railway track and start walking into the veld. In front of us we see a rural scene so typical of Bulgaria, the picture out of our train window now manifesting right in front of us.

The farmer and his two sons come to greet us. The wife is in the veld with the sheep. The nephew is there too. We see how they quickly put the hay into a barn before the rains come, then we sit underneath a Sour plum tree and over the hill the wife comes with the sheep in tow.

The wife arrives and dishes out real Bulgarian yogurt, it's potent and tart, and really needs some Bulgarian honey.

The sheep drink some water and then it's time for milking them. Open, out in the veld, in the sun, they milk the sheep 3 times a day and supply the local coop with the milk that becomes the wonderful Bulgarian yogurt.

The farmer dishes out seriously powerful grape brandy, we all take a swig and kill off all the germs and bacteria of the rural yogurt.

She is bone thin, the poor woman, I give her some money and mom takes off a dress ring from her finger and puts it on her little finger. He hands are huge and fill of corns. Mom starts to cry and says that we have a lot to be grateful for.

Toshko then takes us to the local Muslim community. They keep all the Bulgarian traditions and still wear the traditional clothes. They are hard at work, collecting hay, and in the fields. Woman work very hard here. We go to a female bath house, and naked flesh for mom and my eyes only, are on friendly display, come join us, come join us, they chant in Bulgarian. I touch the water out of the spring, nearly burning my hand, 100 degrees Celcius.

We visit a local weaver and I finally buy my apron that I have been looking for all along. The traditions are kept, even though they converted to Islam during the Ottoman rule, they still keep the icons of their ancestors.

I try to buy the most beautiful fabric with embroidered roses from a shop but the shop keeper is nowhere to be seen.

We head back to town, as we have ordered lunch at a restaurant. We eat potatoes and marinated sheep, quite delicious.

We buy flowers for the ladies at the Spa as a thank you, and now we are all squeaky clean after our final spa bath and lying on our beds, ready for our final trek home.

The healing waters of Velingrad

On the train at the beginning of our trip, we met an economist from Velingrad, she told us that Velingrad is where the locals come to Spa.

We schlepped here by taxi from Sofia to recover from our 5 1/2 weeks of hectic travel and wow, this was the best decision ever!!!

We've had pedicures, remedial massage, reflexology, dad tried the Chinese Guasha massage and an ancient Greek massage with salt! A proper scrub down! Mom has had a hydro lifting facial and all for a song, this is a 5 star Spa with a 1 star price!

Mom says: just look at the towels, thick and heavy cotton! We are in heaven! Dad said for the quality of service you can't compare it with anything in South Africa.

It's so inexpensive, the most expensive therapy is R250. The masseuses are experts. 60 different kinds of therapies just in the massage department! Then there is a whole floor just for saunas and steam rooms and mineral baths and Turkish baths, and another for beauty treatments.

Today we're going for a little excursion to a small little village high in the mountain. Tomorrow we catch the bus to Thessaloniki, and from there by train to Athens.

My back is totally healed after two remedial massages. I can go again for another 6 weeks...