After 25 days of bus and ferry travel in Greece; solo and with new friends – I’ve gathered a few more observations to share with you.
Curiosity keeps me alert and asking questions. I’d like to talk candidly about them here. This conversation started on this other post. If you already have read it, welcome back!
1. No Smoking for You
Whenever I see a no smoking sign, I relax a little and gain a bit of familiarity as majority of my friends do not smoke and Canada has banned all indoor smoking.
However, it’s hit and miss in Greece. The most intriguing bit about the smoking ban is that there might be a sign inside the public bus and all the passengers are to respect the rule and regulations. Though more often than not, I’ve inhaled cigarette smoke inside the bus because the bus driver decided to smoke while driving. I’ve also walked into post offices and bus station where the staff was smoking behind their desk.
2. Abundance of Fresh Fruits
From big cities to small villages, fruit trees and vines line streets and pathways. They provide shade, fragrance when in bloom and fruits in the fall. Almonds. Pomegranates. Oranges. Grapes. Figs. Apricots. Quince. Olives – to name a few.
I wish I would be here when they are rip and ready for harvesting. Until then street fruit vendors and supermarkets will sell you fresh fruits.
3. Crossing the Street is like Playing Froggers
My name is Karen and I am a Jaywalker. Fortunately – unfortunately jaywalking is a habit of mine. Sometimes the designated crossway is a mere 100 m away and I could not be bothered to cross the street there. Red light. Green light. No light. I see a break in traffic – I cross. 2 lane street. Quiet streets. Busy roundabouts in Cairo, Egypt.
I was taught that the white stripes on roadways without signal lights means the drivers will stop for you when they notice you standing at one end, intending to cross the street. In Greece, I haven’t had that experience. Pedestrian is secondary. Vehicles take priority. They just don’t stop for pedestrians.
4. Unknown Hours of Operation
In Canada, most if not all businesses posts their hours of operations conveniently for their clients and adhere to them with the exception of special holidays.
In Greece, I’m lucky if they post the information and then follow the hours. The one thing I know for sure, most if not all businesses are closed on Sundays with the exception of stores and restaurants looking for tourists as clients. Some stores are closed between 1pm and 5 pm for afternoon siesta.
In the past few weeks, I’ve found Government operated monuments to be closed during clearly stated hours of operation. I was not amused.
5. Lack of Graffiti
Some people see graffiti as an indicator of safety and crime in a city. Personally I see them as self expression, a form of art – thought some times I wish the artist picked something else as their canvas.
In most part the walls in Greece are mostly left untouched. The subway trains in Athens are pale in comparison to those in New York City.
6. National Distraction – Komboloi
From Thessaloniki to Athens to Rhodes, I would notice a click clack sound. Soon enough I realized the sound were made by men flipping a string of beads back and forth. It stirred my curiosity.
Some mistaken them as worry beads. I mistook them as a form of prayer beads.
After inquiries with several people from Delphi and Santorini, here’s what I found out. Komboloi are made from different types of beads. The count needs to be of odd numbers. The ones sold by souvenir shops typically are of 15 beads. They look similar to the prayer beads used by Muslims due to Turkish influences.
Mostly men carry them on a daily basis though women have been known to use them too. Typical, generic purpose is to keep the person’s hand and/or mind occupied. Some people use it to help with their attempts to quit smoking – to keep hand full.
The women I spoke to said less women use Komboloi because they are always busy with something and don’t need Komboloi to keep their hands occupied. We had a good laugh after that comment. The owner of a Komboloi shop said her 3 year old son have his own as he wants to mimic his grandfather – it was so cute to see him in action.
Hope my observations help prepare you for your own visit to Greece.