I travelled Up North en route to Greece on Friday. If that sounds counter-intuitive, travelling north to go south, it was simply that I was flying from Manchester with the great bonus of seeing friends and family up there before I left.
One of my customary rambles here. Contrary to expectations the usual congestion tail-back on the M5 coming up to the M6 junction didn’t materialise. But from Keele services north the congestion was very bad. Fortunately I was leaving the motorway at the exit for Sandbach to visit my uncle and from there cut across to the A34 using the new ‘Alderly Edge Bypass’. Further digression: Alderly Edge has long needed a bypass because of the inordinate number of Football WAGS clogging the place up with massive 4x4s and 6-figure cars particularly at drop-off/pick up time for sprogs. Now the route east to and then north on the A34 via Holmes Chapel and Chelford is a pleasure, though the pleasure may derive from the smug satisfaction at the thought of the cars parked on the M6 between Junctions 17 and 20.
The second part of the Greek Odyssey 2012 began on Friday evening in the fairly new Greek restaurant in Didsbury. Unlike some restaurants and tavernas in Greece it seemed that all the people who worked there were Greek, no Albanians or Bulgarians. The food was very good and as authentically Greek as Didsbury would allow. You may have encountered Didsbury in the 5 great classic TV series of ‘Cold Feet’. Anyway, if you are up that way, I can recommend it – Dimitri’s – opposite the Didsbury Hotel, (which, very sad to say, doesn’t seem to be at the top of its game anymore). It cost a good bit more than a restaurant in Greece but then, this is the UK …. and Didsbury! Maybe the Albanians and Bulgarians help keep the cost down in Greece. And put the unemployment rate up. Very complicated.
Bit of last minute shopping on Saturday morning and then to Manchester Airport for the 15.00 Thomas Cook flight to Kos. Except it had been rescheduled for 15.40. They had my e-mail address and are one of very few with my mobile number but I had received no message advising me of the change of time. Unless it was subsumed somewhere in one of the many e-mails they sent trying to sell me add-ons like Choose Your Seat, Get Extra Leg Room, or Book an In-Flight Meal Designed Just for You by our Chef. It really is getting beyond a joke, especially when they flag up on every page when you book on-line: “see … the price is still the same”. They even add on a charge for booking by credit or debit card except for the little–used ‘Electron Card’. Some boxes you tick, some you un-tick (‘check’ or ‘uncheck’ if you are from the USA). Soon they’ll be threatening to charge for using the loo just so they can slip in some other, less outrageous add-on. One add on I wouldn’t mind is a charge for taking the hold luggage to the plane. I would welcome the opportunity to carry my own so that bags don’t get chewed by the machinery and skis don’t go missing.
I feel guilty griping when I’m going away for 6 weeks in the Greek sunshine but there is a point to be made. We shouldn’t just lie down and let big corporations walk over us just so they can boost profit. I try to behave reasonably and ethically towards others and I expect others to do the same. All my life I’ve been the trouble-maker who speaks up and I’m not going to stop now.
But that’s enough grumbling. When the aircraft door opened at Kos hot air wafted in carrying the smells I associate with landing at a Greek island airport in summer. A short taxi-ride to Kardamena from where the ferry for Nisyros leaves and then the few metres from the hotel to the seafront for an ouzo. Extremely pleasant end to the day.
One thing struck me as the evening wore on, which was reinforced when I boarded the small ferry the next morning, the number of visitors was dramatically reduced from previous years. ‘Pub Street’ parallel with the seafront in Kardamena is usually still thronged with people when I go to bed about 02.00 local time. This Saturday night it was very quiet with little activity …. and presumably less cleaning up to do. The town is normally placid first thing in the morning as youngsters sleep-off the night’s excesses but the ferry is normally packed with Kos-based hung-over holiday makers going to Nisyros for the Volcano-Experience. Not this Sunday morning. All four ferries had significantly less than full loads.
Arrival on Nisyros was strange. It was as if I hadn’t been away, as if I had just blinked. A few businesses had changed. The supermarket closest to the hotel is now a butcher’s. There are more half-completed redevelopments of old houses. The municipal bus service is nolonger free. Two things which hadn’t changed were the friendliness and genuiness of the welcome and the cloudless blue sky of a Greek island summer.
I was full of energy after weeks of relative physical activity so I caught the bus to the crater rim and went for a moderately long and taxing walk down to the caldera and then over a col in the mountains reeking of ancient civilisations and back to the town. You can have no idea how exhilarating it was after weeks of ‘Summer’ in Grey Britain.
But more about that another time. This is just to say I’m back in Greece. Less than 24 hours from the Grey Wet of Manchester to the floor of one of the most active volcanoes in Europe and under blue skies. With a month to explore it before moving on.