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The bug travelling around in Greece (and maybe even further sometimes?)
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12 July 2005

Report from Karpenisi HelMUG Excursion

Leave the city behind... and the Macs

A weekend spent with some 20 people from the Greek Mac User Group HelMUG, in a mountain city in central Greece. I had expected a lot of computer talk and a beautifull mountain landscape. I got the beautyfull landscape alright, but we concentrated more on good food and company than on the computer stuff. Read on for my report and some pictures...

cafe in Karpenisi

The program was defined loosely, with lots of options, of which we would choose according to time and spirit. What really happened... me and Mary were contacted by libero (Panagiotis Liberopoulos) and offered a ride in his car. We arranged to meet Saturday morning at 7:30. Traffic was low, the ride was fine, and while we listened to music from the radio and my iPod we were the first to arrive in Karpenisi around 11. We phoned Giorgos "technovision" Tasios, our host and HelMUG's "man on the mountain". We met him at the central square, where one after the other the HelMUG people arrived. Everybody had their coffee.

view from hotel in Karpenisi

Then technovision drove us to our hotel, where we checked in and relaxed. The view from the hotel is nice. I left again with technovision and with the rest of the HelMUG Gang we went to a place outside of town ("sto pato tis polys") to eat unter big shady trees. As is the habit with those kind of events in Greece, the meal took a long time.

lunch1 lunch2 lunch3

I was properly filled up by food and drink, so I enjoyed the rest we all got. Now everybody was being diverted to their respective hotels and we had a good rest. In the evening we drove to a cafeteria out of town which has a western style of setup: Pony riding, a mini train, a climbing tower, ... As it was evening, the attractions were closed though. Mary and me went to investigate them nonetheless in the dark. The others had coffee again and enjoyed the view of the fireflies. Stefbystef gave a presentation to show the new design for the HelMUG site. One of the few occasions where we talked business. In the evening we went to eat again all together.

technovision in the

The next morning we slept a bit longer. In Athens it is currently a bit warm, at night the temperature rarely goes below 28 degrees Celsius. So sleeping in the cool and fresh mountain night was something for a change. Libero and "yorix" Giorgos Manganaris even camped out, a bit farther up in the mountains. For us, breakfast was provided at the hotel. I had a short talk with "melis" Stelios Melissakis about the HelMUG server which will be moved to Athens soonish. After breakfast the gang moved to visit a monastery with a good mountain view. We saw some handwritings from as far back as the 9th and 11th century. Also they have the weapons of Greek revolution hero Karaiskakis on display.

After the visit to the monastery, we went to a place in the mountains were a gorge was turned into a fortified hiding place during the time the turks were ruling Greece. We had to climb up a beautyfull mountain path. I am a bit afraid of heights, but after just a few minutes I adapted and enjoyed every minute of it. The place is very beautyfull. Reminded me a lot of Switzerland, so sometimes I asked myself why I came here at all. For me, this was the best part of the weekend.

path to the hiding place

While we were up the mountain path, libero had to go back to Athens, since he was invited to a marriage (not his own). We arranged for further transport with "liquidus" Manos Halikis. The crowd of the HelMUG people then moved on to a place called "palaio mikro horio" - old small village. This village was almost completely destroyed in a stone avalange in 1968. Also, like many places up there, it had a lot of historical events in World War II and the Greek civil war after that.

cataract near the hiding place yorix taking pix near the hiding place

We had our last, merry lunch for the HelMUG weekend here. Everybody ate and drank again, technovision told lots of stories about the place and the area. I had a short chat with stefbystef about some things he needs for the HelMUG site team. That was about all I had talked about user group business all weekend. Even the computer chatter was pretty low all weekend. We all enjoyed the company though the weekend. After the lunch everybody said goodbye and went on the road.

farewell lunch in mikro horio

We arrived with liquidus in Kifisia in northern Athens quite late. Sunday evening all of Athens citizens are returning to the city at once. All roads are filled up much over the maximum. Liquidus knew many small roads that speeded us up andkept us out of the big traffic blocks. But still, while the road up to the mountains had taken us 3.5 hours, we went back in about 5 hours. From Kifisia we took the subway to the city. Back in the heat of Athens, tired but happy and filled up with new experiences.

Special thanks go to libero and liquidus for driving us along, to technovision for hosting us all, and to MacYannis Yannis Angelidis, for organizing the event. Sadly Yannis had a family emergency and could not come along... we missed you!

Posted by betabug at 11:12 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)
08 October 2005

Flying on the Dolphin to Hydra

Shake it!

Right now I'm sitting in the flying dolphin from Pireus to Hydra. Hydra is a small island on the southern side of the eastern tip of Peloponissos. My first trip in a boat like this, and the sucker is shaking like crazy. A plane in heavy turbulences is nothing compared to this. Seems to be absolutely normal to the other passengers. Haven't seen anyone running to the toilets either.

It's a bit of a pity that one can't go outside to smell and see the sea, feel the sun and wind. But it sure gets us there fast. The tripp is an idea on short notice, a moment out of the big city. Tomorrow we'll be back.

Posted by betabug at 17:15 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)
09 October 2005

Quiet Evening on Carfree Hydra

Give me no car any day

For the last lap after stopping in Poros, I was able to snatch a window seat. I had a first class view on the spray of the sea and on approaching Hydra. We arrived well shaken but in one piece. Hydra is a car free island, which is very impressive. Such quiet, such fresh air, what a change from Athens.

We went up the small paths into the back of town, where we by chance asked a lady for a hotel. She knew one and it turned out to be quite pleasant, with a view. We left our bags behind and were free for nore strolling around. Hydra has no modern buildings, all houses are traditional. There is a lot of tourism (compared to Limnos), but it's acceptable (and less than e.g. Corfu, but prices are higher on Hydra).

We chance upon a play of greek shadow theatre (Καραγκιόζης), something I had been looking out for a long time. Sadly the show was not quite up to it, they lost their audience of island children fast. We left to eat fish, drink Ouzo. After that we did some more walking around, in that wonderfull atmosphere without cars. And then we went to sleep, deepest sleeps since months.

Posted by betabug at 10:15 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

First Moment Back From Hydra

Traffic Shock

So I'm back from Hydra, half a Saturday and half a Sunday without cars in a beautyfull town. We've eaten well for lunch, we bought almond sweets, we saw a lot of nice things. I took some pictures and will write a bigger roundup of impressions. What already came up for me is the shock of coming back to Pireus and Athens. After the quiet and fresh air being back here is hard. I'm complaining all the time whenever I hear someone honking his horn, whenever cars block my way. What a lamer I've become :-)

Posted by betabug at 21:48 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
15 October 2005

Thoughts on Hydra

When normal becomes special

The trip to Hydra left a deep impression on me. I visited an island devoid of cars and motorcycles. I filled up on oxygen and clean air. I let my ears rest in the quiet and the few excellent sounds. Like when walking through the streets discovering a restaurant by hearing the chatter and clinging of glasses and plates. Like hearing the footsteps of other pedestrians on the next street. Read on for more thoughts and experiences...

People talk softer on Hydra. We did not see overweight people and the islanders take big steps like you get from walking a lot. Because there is less noise, there is no urge to overpower other sounds with loud music. There are lots of cats in town, stray cats and house cats. Even the cats are more friendly than their cousins in Athens. Could be because they likely have not seen a car in their life.

Flying Dolphin, arriving in Hydra

Different ways to get things going

When you want to transport something, you have to use your muscles and a handcarriage, or you might use the power of a donkey. One encounters the smell of donkey poo quite frequently in the streets. This might sound absurd to you, for in your life you enjoy the convenience of your car or you might need it because of having to cover big distances. But I have learned in those few hours, that it is possible. We are humans, we conquered this planet not because we were the laziest species, but because we are the most adaptable.

We went to Hydra with a big gaz guzzling "Flying Dolphin" (1.5 hours from Pireus, about 19 Euro one way, the picture shows one arriving). Another option would have been a "regular" ship, which takes 3.5 hours and the ticket costs about half the price.

View on Hydra from the hotel Dina

The hotel Dina

We chose not to stay in a hotel near the port, but to try our luck in the small backstreets. We walked a bit and with the help of a friendly lady found the hotel "Dina" on a hill. Very pleasant and recommended. It did not have that "hotelly" athmosphere. Our room went right out to the terrasse (where we had breakfast from the bakery next morning, the picture shows the view). We noticed more of these small hotels throughout town, plenty of places to stay. We did not see any trace of luxury htoels or big concrete tourist traps. Maybe they are in other parts of the island. At least the more luxurious hotels must be somewhere around, for Hydra was a fashionable resort for Athenians from the 1960 on.

The weather was a bit colder than usual for early October, but κυρία Ντίνα (Mrs. Dina) had provided plenty of warm blankets. I slept deep and untroubled and with many interesting dreams. There are many small churches around. On sunday morning they all sounded their bells in turn, but I slept through all but the last one.

Karagiosis, Greek shadow theatre

Going to the theatre

But before that, the same evening we found the hotel, we had been going out. First we went to the Greek shadow theatre "Καραγκιόζης" (Karagiosis), that we had discovered on a small handmade poster. The themes and figures and stories are known to all Greek children. The figure of "Καραγκιόζης" is a symbol throughout Greece. So I was looking forwart to seeing Karagiosis played in a real theatre. The stage was set up on a sideroad of the "περιβολάκια" (perivolakia) square. The small backlighted stage, a bit of cardboard and some bottle cages to sit on the cobblestones, plus the tables of a restaurant next door for more audience. The setup looked suitable enough (Picture).

Sadly, the performance wasn't up to it. The show host turned it into a school session. The story would have involved a donkey, but after a long time of quasi-school and introducing characters, we still had not seen the donkey. It was not only us, but the children got bored too, leaving one by one and in small groups. They were openly talking about what games they could go and play. At some moment we had enough and left.

Dining out

By that time we had grown hungry, so we went looking for a restaurant. It was not hard to find them, the town is quite small and you can hear them from afar. We were looking for one where we could sit inside, because we were also getting cold. After looking at a few we made our choice. There we had fresh seafood. We loaded our table with salad, potatoes, octopus, pies, and one "portion" of kalamari, which turned out to be one huge kalamari. Kalamari are quite often deep frozen in Greece, but the deep frozen ones are all the same size. Our oversized one was proof of being fresh in itself. We went home warmed up by food and Ouzo to the deep sleep I have already described.

Posted by betabug at 20:01 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
06 November 2005

HelMUG Server Upgrade

In Thessaloniki on the road

Yesterday morning I went to Thessaloniki by train, along with libero and meLiS from HelMUG. Over here we are rebuilding HelMUGs server. Which is down since yesterday afternoon. Right now we are hard at work in the internet cafe "Blue Screens".

Posted by betabug at 10:00 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
07 November 2005

A Short Trip to Thessaloniki

Rumours and facts about Greece's northern metropolis

As stated in the previous post, I spent this weekend on a short trip to Thessaloniki, hopping on a train Saturday morning and coming back Sunday at noon. Actually not long enough (by a huge margin) to really get an idea about this city. Greeks have a few cliches about Thessaloniki and its people: The city is described as being much nicer and friendlier than Athens. Let's examine those rumours to their fact value, using strictly scientific criteria...

First of all, Thessaliniki is said to be easier to navigate: Most big roads going in parallel to the sea line and if you are lost you can always go downhill until you reach the shore. On the other side the only thing sure in Athens is that there will be streets and houses around you in every direction for as far as you can imagine, no matter where you are.

Thessaloniki Street

The people in Thessaloniki are said to say "Συγνώμη" (Signomi, "sorry") when they for example accidentally bump into you in the street. They will happily drive their cars over you when you cross the street without watching (they are Greek, after all), but supposedly they will apologize and explain to you that you were wrong. Athenians say that Thessalonikiotes are better dressed and especially the Greek boys insist that the girls are very beautyfull (I won't comment on the second point, but I felt a bit shabby in my "wozzitmatter" travel clothes).

People from Thessaloniki boast about the places to go out and their night life. These are said to be heavily improved due to things being so close together, while in Athens you need a car to go to the next bar. Even the food is said to be better in northern Greece. Wow.

From my short stay there, I can only say that I now assume all these rumours to be true. I liked the place a lot, even though I have seen only so little of it. There are actually places where the taxis stop in a line to pick up passengers. And from a completely representative sample of Taxidrivers, 2 out of 2 were not only friendly, but in fact funny, cracking jokes, telling stories and spreading good vibes. These thing are unbeknownst to Athenians.

My impression might be distorted to the positive by the friendly reception and hospitality of the HelMUG members up there. Thanks a lot you guys! (Special thanks to Dimitri for offering us lowly Athenians a couch for the night. Interesting place you have there and I enjoyed looking at all the books.)

Posted by betabug at 09:27 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
04 March 2006

On The Way To Patras Carnival

Come and see the betabug sing and dance

Right now I'm sitting in an overland bus to Patras, where this weekend the carnival is at full speed. I'll stay with my ex-flatmate there and yes, I'll take part in a group. We will dress up as cream cakes and take part in the parade. Not that I'm a fan of this kind of activity, but I'll try it out and have fun at the party.

The bus terminal to Patras is crowded these days, with busses departing every 5 minutes or so. Every bus has a few unbooked seats, so there is a run on them. But the situation is well organized. Let's see if I can attach a picture.

Posted by betabug at 12:15 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

Carnival Parade

Sweety, sweaty

So this is how we are dressed up, sweet cakes! The picture is taken right before the parade. I jumped and danced all through the parade.

Looks like I als appeared on TV, a team asked me a few questions about our costumes. Now our group went to a cafeteria where the party continues. But right now I need a break, I'm... cake.

Posted by betabug at 20:15 | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)
05 March 2006

Party after the party

Parade again, then for coffee at the lighthouse

Today we had another parade, even longer than yesterdays. Again our costumes were a great success. I got asked to pose with others many times. No TV interviews for me today though. OTOH my gf saw me on TV.

After this second parade I was even more tired than yesterday. We then went to see the rest of the parade from a balkony. After that we went to this beautyfull cafe in a lighthouse.

The pic shows one ex-flatmate posing with one still-flatmate in our cool costumes.

Posted by betabug at 18:15 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
01 April 2006

On the Way to Hydra Again

Hello island here we come

Last year's trip to Υδρα (Hydra) was so wonderful, we wanted to go back. So now I'm sitting in a Catamaran, watching the waves and the coast line outside. There are much more tourists now than last fall. But even if the island is more crowded, I can't wait to walk the carfree streets.

Being able to go to places like this is just one of the things that make me want to live here. A couple of hours and I am on an island. Tomorrow we will also meet with Pat from Switzerland who came over for a visit and I told him to come see Hydra too.

I'm still dog tired from the last days. Thankfully Mary organized all, and even woke me up when I overslept this morning.

Posted by betabug at 11:15 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
02 April 2006

Back From Hydra, Sun Hit Me

First impressions

Came back from Hydra in the afternoon. Needed some sleep and a lot of water to drink. Looks like I managed to get too much sun already. I'm still sorting through my first impressions. Being on Hydra for almost two days again was wonderful. I took a lot of pictures, here are one of my "assembled" montages of the harbour and one picture of me and a certain blonde...

Entrance to the harbour on Hydra

We were impressed with the clear blue water just outside the harbour. A little bit to the left of this picture is one place where people go to swim. Hydra is a rocky island, so no sand beach, just rocks and a couple of ladders to get into the blue. As usual, click on the image for a bigger view.

We took mostly walks, and that is how I got too much sun. We looked around town, but also went up to the monastery of "Profiti Ilias", one of the highest places on the island. I'll promise to post some more pictures from that hike soon.

Me and a white horse

One picture I can post right now is of me with this nice blonde. We met outside the monastery and got to be friends. I've always great respect for horses, I'm not used to them and once I tried to pet that one horse out of 10 who had the habit to bite people (don't worry, I was lucky and got away unharmed). So I'm careful, but this one insisted on being friendly. The walk up there was very tiresome, so I wish we could have asked our new friend for a ride back down.

Posted by betabug at 23:06 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
04 April 2006

More Pictures From Hydra

And some thoughts too

Some more impressions and pictures of last weekends tripp to the island of Hydra. I have some more photos from our hike up to Προφήτη Ηλίας (Profiti Ilias) monastery and from the town. They come together with the usual lame comments...

Streets to the measure of man and donkey

The most noteable and obvious fact about the island of Hydra is that there ar no cars or bikes. Some of the townspeople complained to us about that, but we enjoyed the side effects of it very much. Appart from everything being quieter, everything is also more relaxed. You get a different rhythm when you don't hop in and out of a car all the time (or try to avoid being run over by cars). As seen in the picture, the streets of Hydra are made to the measure of man and donkey. Cars couldn't go over those steps.

The street with the blue flowerpots

This street had wonderful blue flowerpots and assorted other decorative objects. You just don't get streets like these when there are cars parked everywhere. Not far from this place (nothing is really far from this place, it's a small town) is the restaurant κρυφό λημάνι (kryfo limani, hidden harbour) where we came back to eat, since we liked it so much in our first visit. I can especially recommend the "black eyed bean salad".

Donkey sized access road

Lot's of the "roads" are just small access ways to houses more up the hill. They are obviously sized to exactly allow a packed donkey to pass.

Bigger street in Hydra

And another street, this one is one of the bigger "main streets". It's pretty empty at the time of day. We trotted down this one a lot, since it leads to the Hotel Dina, where we lodged.

Look at the town and harbour from above the path

On saturday we took a looong hike up to the monastery of Profiti Ilias. Some web sites mention this as a 45 minutes walk. But it's more like 1.5 hours and if you are not used to rough stairs and the heat, it's more like 2+ hours. Bring enough water too! This is a view from about half up over the town and the harbour.

This picture on the right is already from the way down, it shows something of the atmosphere and the vegetation.

The door to the monastery View from the hike down

When we finally reached the monastery, we found it to be closed. But the monks had left a door to an anteroom open and offered water and loukoumia to the thirsty and hungry travelers. The view from up there is great too.

On the way back we enjoyed the great view again.

And then, back in the harbour of Hydra, we discovered these cats. There was a shop that was being redecorated, a lot of material was "parked" overnight in the street. These cats found the metal racks to be a decent sleeping place.

Cats in the box


Posted by betabug at 23:23 | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)
08 April 2006

Got My Ticket

Greek Easter on Limnos

It took a while to get my ticket for the ferryboat to Limnos. Problem number one was that SAOS lines did not have the timetable online untill a few days ago. Finally they arrived in the Openseas online booking system. Then we had to find a travel agency and buy our tickets. Not so easy, because few travel agencies issue ferry tickets and of those few only a select handful work with SAOS lines. There is a listing of such travel agents in the greater Athens area on the SAOS website. We got our tickets at ARMA travel (Karageorgi Servias 10, near Syntagma square). A friendly place, I can recommend them.

So in less than two weeks I will be travelling again. I'm already excited, looks like I have the travel bug real bad.

Posted by betabug at 22:31 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
20 April 2006

Passing Ai Strati

A morning at sea

Again on my way to Limnos, I woke up after the best sleep I ever had on a ferryboat. Seems I get used to sleeping above deck and maybe I had some nice things to think about while dozing off.

Soon after waking up and a nice sunrise, we arrived at Agios Efstratios. I watched the landing procedure next to the bridge.

Now it takes another hour or so and we will arrive at Myrina on Limnos. I've slept in my clothes, unwashed, but for a change I will arrive with some more sleep behind me. At noon I will be in the village and start to settle in the little house again. For a few days.

Posted by betabug at 07:15 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
24 June 2006

Get Out of Town... to Kea

More island hopping

This very moment I'm on board the ship to the island of Kea. Athens is hot and unpleasant right now, so we took the bus to Lavrio (about 1.5h) and hopped aboard the next ship to Kea.

I'm not really well prepared. All I know about Kea is that it's a beautyful island, a bit rocky, and close to the Attika peninsula. But I'm sure to get to know her well.

Looking forward to a fast trip (only one hour on this ship), going swimming, enjoying a weekend out.

Posted by betabug at 14:15 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
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