Inctober 6

Last week the Greek government managed to pass a law officially validating gender change, surgery not being a prerequisite. The church somehow still had a say in all this and the opposition debated on the highest level, with people making statements such as ‘it is Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve’- which doubles as a fine example of the sense of humour you can expect from the center-right all around the world.

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Inktober 3

The odd one out. My bike was stolen on Friday and everyone pointed out how much that sucked. It didn’t really suck that much because as much as I loved the bike in the end it is a perfectly replaceable object- and it cost me like 60 pounds. I told my friend I wasn’t really bothered.

That same night I had a dream: I was riding that bicycle on the balcony of my grandparents’ old house. My family and I lived there for about five years as our house was being built. In that house I experienced as a child the first loss in our family. My aunt died because of an aneurysm when she was in her early forties. No one saw it coming.

My aunt and her family occupied the upper floor apartment in the same building.  Some time later there was a fire in their house and a lot of things were lost in the flames.

The last time I saw our family dog was on that balcony; he was ill and suffering and died some time later.

My grandparents are both dead and the house is currently empty. I could visit it if I wanted to but it’s just another building now.

The punchline is, my other cousin and I had two Beretta bikes when we were kids. They were stolen from the garden of that house.

Thank you subconscious for this beautiful image of loss. It is the corniest thing I could ever imagine but as it turns out life sometimes imitates corny fiction.

Oh yeah that cat in the drawing? dead. It got hit by a car.

bikey

Inktober 2

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I have always believed that folk music can offer a glimpse into the soul of a people. Country, bluegrass, blues recite the history of a people, set the tone they live by. Then music takes a political turn:Americana often reveals their troubles, their anger, their hopes and fears.

Then when the music stops and there is silence the illusion is gone and that soul is nowhere to be found. What is left in its place is a culture that seems too foreign to understand. How can they still freely arm the hands of mass murderers? how is it possible to burden the survivors of a massacre with hospital bills? The less important part of the free world judges from a higher place, criticising through ever-creative sarcasm. Why can’t these people see the obvious? Guns are bad for you.

The US, like all nations is built upon the narratives it has woven. Narratives that maintain and validate its global position. The ‘free world’, where freedom of the market guarantees freedom of the people; where everyone has the opportunity to succeed if they are hard-working and clever. Where people of all races and creeds co-exist in harmony; A nation that keeps the world safe and maintains peace by taking out ‘the bad guys’.

And the average ‘American?’ Good, honest people- a bit naive, going by Hollywood tropes. They value their family and their country, ‘the greatest country in the world’. They value their family-they are caretakers and protectors. The need to protect is emphasised in popular culture- because if they don’t who will? They are hard-working, they are generous; they build a life for themselves with their own two hands.

The emphasis is always on the individual. The state is not part of this story. Society is nowhere to be seen. If anything, the state is not to be trusted. It won’t protect anyone, won’t take care of anyone. A person must fend for themselves in a dangerous world where institutions are irrelevant. A gun gives a person the opportunity to defend themselves, it gives them the illusion of security, the illusion of power. Most importantly, it distributes that power equally, making it accessible.

The Republicans try to divert the discussion away from gun control whenever a massacre happens. They talk about the underlying issues, the gun they say, is only a tool. It seems to me that actually addressing the underlying issues is a discussion they would prefer to avoid even more.

I tried to imagine myself in this situation: if I ever lived in the US, would I buy a gun to defend myself? In my hypothetical scenario I am threatened by another person with a gun. I also have a gun. We have now two guns in between us and twice as many bullets. What happens next? If life was a movie I would quick draw and shoot first, just like a cowboy. If life was a movie maybe the attacker would allow me time to reach for my gun, pull it slowly out and aim at them; then they would realise we are at an impasse and back off slowly. All this seems as likely as me roundhouse-kicking the gun out of the attacker’s hand and delivering  a witty one-liner.

In real life, you can’t shoot your problems away. You can’t sing them away either, but if you do sing, you might realise they are shared.

The best island Pt.1

Not everybody has a favourite island, unless of course they are from Greece, or an island nation or just an island-lover I guess. Anyone who has a favourite island will be more than eager to promote it within their social circle as an absolutely essential holiday destination. They will be willing to show you pictures, name all the beaches, all the beach bars and tell a thousand stories in their effort to convince you that their island is worth visiting.

It works the same with things like tv shows. When a friend asks you if have seen their favourite tv show you are better off just lying to say you have or you might spend the rest of your day, week, month, year listening to all the reasons why you should absolutely watch that show. This is why social media is such a gift to advertisers, people are passionate about sharing anything they are passionate about.

Therefore, since I am also people I feel compelled to convince you, Fede, and the other two random people from Romania and the US who occasionally stumble upon my blog that the best island in the whole world is Lefkada.

Lefkada or Lefkas is situated is one of the ‘Seven Islands’ of the Ionian sea (the others being Zante, Corfu, Ithaca, Paxos, Kythira and Cephalonia). Lefkada is the only island of the seven that can be reached by car; it is connected to the mainland with a floating bridge. Ferry fees are quite expensive in Greece and avoiding them can offer some relief to travelers on a budget.

Upon crossing the bridge you will find yourself in the town of Lefkada, the island’s capital, surrounded by an area of still water called ‘Mouteli’- which apparently means ‘mud’ in the local dialect. The town of Lefkada is not the typical greek island town you will find in postcards. Don’t be expecting whitewashed houses with blue window frames. The architecture of the Ionian islands is colorful, with Italian and British elements. The houses are also built to withstand earthquakes- a lot of them are reinforced  with metal sheets on the upper floors.

If it’s good food and a vibrant nightlife you are after, there are a lot of options in the town of Lefkada. The boost in tourism in the past decade was accompanied by an entrepreneurial frenzy with new bars, nightclubs and restaurants sprouting like mushrooms. Fortunately, the character of the town has remained mostly intact.

Nydri, half an hour away by car is by far the most touristically adapted place in the island. I am pretty sure I saw an actual pub over there- a-not-so-characteristic establishment on a Greek island. On the way to Nydri there are several seaside places with hotels and holiday houses and they are usually not as pricey as inside the city.

Nydri and the surrounding areas offer some lovely scenery to wake up to: There are five small islands opposite Nydri and Peryali- one of them is owned by Nanos Valaoritis, a famous poet and writer. There is a single mansion on the tiny island that looks somewhat abandoned these days. The massive island in the distance is called Meganisi, literally ‘big island’ and the long island in front of it is Scorpios, which I don’t think needs a translation. It used to be owned by the Onassi family and was sold to  Rybolovlev who I believe is a very rich Russian man, capable of buying islands.

All the beaches of the island bar two were closed to the public when it was owned by the Onassis. Now none of the beaches are accessible. Technically, people can still approach the island by boat, drop an anchor and swim wherever they want but no one is allowed to swim out to the shore. Back in the day we tried stepping onto the beach a couple of times with my family and were scolded by the marine police. I am not sure how that works- if you buy the island do you get a few freebies as well in the form of sea cops? I am not sure if this is still the case but in retrospective it was odd, I don’t think they just happened to be patrolling the area every time we were there.

If you head a bit more inland while you are at Nydri you can reach the Nydri waterfalls, where you will have the opportunity to swim in refreshingly cold water-unless they are dried up during the time of your visit. Expect the waterfalls to be pretty dry throughout the summer months.

Lefkada has a mountainous terrain which comes with a few picturesque mountain villages. The most well-known ones are Karya and Eglouvi-where a famous variety of lentils is produced. If you have had enough of eating fresh fish you can head to the villages for locally produced meat.

Of course the main attractions are on sea level and they are -unsurprisingly- the beaches. The most well-known beaches are on the west side of the island and they are Porto Katsiki, Kathisma and Egremni (the road to the last one is apparently blocked following an earthquake that caused a landslide but it can be reached from the sea). Other nice beaches are Pefkoulia, Yalos, Megali Petra, Ammoglossa and Yira in the north. If you are into Windsurfing go for the west end of Yira. If you are into water sports Nydri is the place for you. As for the beaches on the west side, make sure the wind is not against you when you plan to travel there. Also watch out for the waves; even though the Ionian sea is generally pretty safe, the waves crush onto the shore with great force and might suck you into their loop. Another thing to watch out for is landslides and falling rocks in general; don’t be tempted by the shade near the cliffs, it’s safer to sit closer to the water.

We spent three days in Lefkada and then took the ferry to Meganisi, which I will be writing about next. I haven’t finished making my case yet, because to me, Meganisi and Lefkada should be visited together so bear with me ok?