Monthly Archives: June 2009

Real men don’t blog !

Real men dont blog…

WHAT????

With a big smile on my face I sit here and try to put some thoughts together on an issue of recent discussion, that is both amusing and fascinating to me.

What the hell is a “real man” anyway? Who or what is he now days…what was he in the 90s or the 80s or the 70s?

The Marlboro man is dead… so is John Wayne. The Armani model looks and walks like a zombie and Woody Allen (the sensitive, quirky, new age guy)…. well, we all know what happened to him.

So who or what is a real man? How does one qualify? What is the optimum profile for a REAL man? Is there a set of standards one has to meet? If there  are such  standards…..who set them? How has the profile of a real man changed over the past 30 years? Or 50 years for that matter?

Hmmm….how to confuse a platypus !

What is a real man supposed to do or be? There is no position description for a man….nor a woman for that matter. But everyone in the media (those often faceless ghosts that want us to believe they know what’s best for us) seems to have an opinion on what a “real man” looks and sounds like, how he behaves and what his values should be. The advertising industry makes a killing from shaping male behaviour (as they do with women – to be fair), the head mechanics have more than their fair share of males on their couches and the gurus publish an endless number of self-help books annually.

Assuming that every woman has an opinion on what a “real man” is…. does she ever tell him/them? Obviously ethnicity and cultural background play a big role on perception, but how does a man learn how to “be” a man? From whom? Is the father the primary role model, or is it a film star, or a rock star, a porn star or a cartoon ?

What does a real man sound like anyway?  Does he talk with a voice so deep it sounds like a fog horn…. or can you  sing falsetto  (without sucking on helium) and still qualify as a “man” ?

And what does a real man do to show that he is a real man? Does a real man open doors for women or does he walk in first? Does he use aftershave or is that too fem? What about deodorant? Can you be a real man and still drink cappuccino? Would a real man…. ever walk a poodle on a lead?  What about stand with his hands on his hips???

Is a real man supposed to go shopping with his wife/girlfriend or is he supposed to hate shopping with a woman? Can a real man enjoy cooking? Is a real man supposed to be interested in fashion (read: be concerned how he looks and/or  is dressed)?

While we’re at it…. when does one become a “real man”? Is it automatic when you turn 35 or do you need to ferment for a while longer in the oak barrel of “real life”? And just how do you know when you’ve become a real man…. does someone tap you on the shoulder and invite you to a secret initiation of sorts (secret men’s business) or do you just judge it for yourself based on the reaction from women ?

If we assume that “real men” don’t wear tiaras, does that mean that a real man has to have “death before dishonour” tattooed on his arm/chest/back?

Can a real man be a romantic? Or does he demonstrate his mixed-martial arts fighting skills every time he takes his woman for dinner or drinks?
While we’re on dinner and drinks…. is a real man supposed to prefer a card night with other “real men”, as opposed to a quiet, romantic dinner and drinks with his wife/girlfriend/female companion?

What does a “real man” do at a Sunday bbq? Does he mingle and chat with women or does he stand next to the guy  “in charge the grill”, along with all the other “real men”….. and drink beer/wine while telling stories about “the one that got away”?  Is the amount of beer/wine one drinks an indication of real manhood ???

Is a real man supposed to use shaving cream or just cold water and a Booey/Bowie knife? Does he walk around with his shirt open… looking like a caricature of Barry Gibb or will a plain white T-shirt suffice? Is a real man the caring type… or too tough to give a damn…about anything?

And let us not forget sex. What the hell is a “real man” supposed to do about that? Does he sprint or does he pace himself? Does he ever wait for her or does he just please himself. Does a “real man” even care?
Should he care?

Right now I’m starting to ask myself how the hell I got myself into this topic…but it’s too late to start another post. Me thinks this is a never ending story. Me thinks I’m heading up a “certain” creek without a paddle with this post. It’s a bottomless pit, a circular argument, an endless journey, an exercise in perpetual futility.

The real question is do you know of a “real man”…. and does the bastard blog???

Oia Santorini – beauty in simplicity

Psssst… want to go for a walk with me?

Won’t take long and I promise you it’s worth it.

Let me take you by the hand (so to speak ;-) ) and show you a small part of my village… the colour, the architecture, the attention to detail, the beauty in simplicity!
 

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a balcony… with view!

 

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and one with a flag…

 

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a roof top with some colour…oh, and a view,

 

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and a hidden garden that other tourists won’t get to see…

 

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simplicity in design and function…

 

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understated elegance…

 

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and clean simple lines…

 

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a simple root top garden…

 

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and attention to detail… even for signage

 

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of course it helps if your friend and neighbour is a world famous iconographer… you know who I mean!

 

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At the end of our walk I’ll take you to one of my fave spots for dinner and sunset watching… Kastro restaurant.

 

Just a little walk through my neighbourhood. Did you enjoy it?

;-)

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Tip of the hat

 

The lovely Ingrid from Vita Lenta nel Bel Paese has honoured this blog with an award which is very gratefully accepted. I am supposed to nominate 15 new winners which I will try hard to do tomorrow. Thank you so much Ingrid x

 

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I also wanted to say a big thank you to Lucy from   Enchanted by Josephine   (now here is a lady with several passions in life) for giving this small blog it’s first award several weeks back. Although I acknowledged it in the comments I never publicly thanked her…only because I was very new at this and really had no idea how it was all done. Thank you Lucy…sending you a big hug from Oia x


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oia Santorini… some enchanted evening

This week is all about Oia.

I will show you views, architecture, restaurants, shops, alleys & steps, doors, colour and people…. lots of people. Oia is alive once again and I think it’s time we had a closer look at her and her enchanting magic.

First up I wanted to show you what happened below the house as I sat out the front last night. It was an unusual night… the weather playing games with us and the rolling clouds creating some fantastic images. It was June 21st … the longest day of the year. The light was changing every ten minutes and down below me…well, all kinds of things were happening. Let’s take a look together:

 

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First…”Let it be” arrived. It’s a private yacht that visits often and docks at Armeni…a tiny port below us.

 

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Then the clouds started to roll in… but the caldera below was already a hive of activity.

 

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I looked to my left and saw Imerovigli almost covered in rolling cloud…
 

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the first of the sail boats had picked up it’s load of sunsetters and was heading out to the middle…
all on board with cameras in hand.

 

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Soon there were all kinds of boats trying to get the best position for sunset watching…

 

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and as the sun was setting Imerovigli was glowing under the cloud.

 

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I went in to get my small tripod for night shots and when I came back out I found Allison like this…
I think she was enjoying the view!

 

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After the sun sank gently into the Aegean, the sunset boats started heading back to port…

 

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and the larger ships paraded in front of us… heading towards other Greek island magic.

 

All this happened within an hour and a half. The clouds added a special touch to the whole experience… and the sun-setters were happy. They were sailing off and their cameras were blinking like Christmas lights from the boats below. Another enchanting evening in Oia…. another set of experiences for hundreds of people that will be talking about this sunset for years to come. Santorini weaving it’s magic yet again… 

 

 

Oia Santorini – Change

Of all the things in life…. change is the only constant!

Of all the fears in life…. fear of change is the most common!

These are not quotes (well…maybe the first is), they are just personal beliefs. I don’t think that either are profound or particularly insightful., but I have seen enough evidence in my life to know that both these beliefs are valid. 

We are all creatures of habit and the longer we do something the harder it is to break away from it. We are all aware we do things out of habit… some are good and some are bad, yet we keep doing all of them… often for years, sometimes for a lifetime. Change is uncomfortable and therefore we avoid it…. often at all costs.

So we keep doing things, stay in places (jobs/homes/cities/countries), talk to same people, think the same way….yet, we somehow expect that things will one day change. A reasonably intelligent gentleman (as in Bert…. as in Albert… as in e=mc squared) told us that “insanity is doing the same things over and over and expecting different results”… he did have a knack for simplifying things to the point where just listening to that makes one feel like a total fool. We have all done it !

So… are we all insane? 

Lucky for us those clever munchkins, the head-mechanics, have a very valid theory. Its’ called “escalated commitment”. The more you commit to something, physically, emotionally/mentally, the harder it is to change it or at least break away from it (oversimplifying the theory here…forgive me). When you really think about that it explains so much of our lives. Our commitment to so many things has been allowed to “escalate”… often to ridiculous, even insane levels. We find ourselves so “deep” into things that we can’t break away. Sometimes it’s pride, money or emotion invested, reputation, or length of time that’s stopping us. Whatever the investment… it has escalated to the point where we become prisoners to it.  

Yesterday I got four different emails from people who said that they would love to live somewhere like Oia (you can fill in the place with any city/country/island you wish). Yet each of them mentioned that they had “commitments” they couldn’t walk away from… so “for now” they will just “dream” about doing it “one day”. It all sounded familiar to me…very familiar. You see, I used to say the same thing…for years. Until, I realised that there is such a thing as “positive escalated commitment”. By that I mean “aligning your life to your dream”. 

I figured that it can be good to escalate a commitment…. as long it is in line with what you want to do or experience or feel. Good things take time and you have to keep working towards them. If you make a start and you keep investing time/effort/emotion/passion, then soon you can achieve it. At least you are heading in the right direction. You are taking steps, albeit small at times, towards the dream…. whatever that may be !

When I started this blog I dedicated it to the “undecided”. I guess what I am saying with this post is that if you do have a dream, then make sure your “escalated commitment” is towards that. Turn it into a passion and invest a lot of you in achieving it  .:.

 

On a lighter note… the cacti on the front steps have actually flowered!

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How is that for change…

Have a great weekend ;-)

The colours of Oia

A lot of people have the idea that Santorini…. and especially Oia is full of white, sugar-coated houses. But not so. Whilst the white-washed houses are many, the village of Oia is alive with colour…glorious colour !

 

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As it often happens with European and especially Mediterranean villages… somehow it all looks totally co-ordinated, even though its not.
From the sea… looking up, Oia looks like a master has painted it on the cliff face.

 

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These images offer only a tiny glimpse… but believe me when I tell you that colour is everywhere. The endless Aegean sea below maybe the backdrop, but the colours of Oia leave memories that last a lifetime.  

 

Oia Sunrise & life decisions

“You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don’t try.”  

–  Beverly Sills

 

These words can burn in your brain like a red-hot syringe. For years they ran through my mind.

This morning I woke up early and had a coffee outside. This is what I saw…

 

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Oia – Santorini.

Yep…. good decision!

 

 


Mount Olympus & the Pantheon of ancient Greek Gods

There were a lot of places I wanted to visit as a child… like Pella (birthplace of Alexander) and Stagira (birthplace of Aristotle), but none were more important to me than Mount Olympus. It probably started with my ancient Greek history lessons while still a student in Greece, but it always stayed with me. The entire myth of the pantheon of the gods, their battle with the Titans over the mountain and the reverence of the ancient Greek people for the site fascinated me. To this very day I can imagine the ancients looking up at the mountain seeking guidance and spiritual enrichment. While it seems illogical to us now… one always needs to keep “context” in mind when dealing with history, ancient or otherwise.

This mountain represented everything that was sacred, powerful and spiritual to ancient Greeks. Everything that occurred in their lives was a result of the actions and wishes of the occupants of this mountain top. 

 

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The village under the mountain is a regular and favourite stop for me on the way to Northern Greece when visiting family. It’s a picturesque village in summer and a gorgeous wonderland of snow in winter. Litohoro is the popular starting point for all climbers and hikers of the mountain and it has grown considerably in recent years. The views of the mountain above and the coast line below make it a unique “alpine” village. It offers the best of both worlds in a tiny, spectacular package.  

 

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On the day that Alessi and I drove up there were clear skies and bright sunshine…unlike other times during winter when the whole mountain was covered in snow. During our last visit, fog and low cloud completely covered the peaks, making photography next to impossible. On this day however, it seemed perfect for our adventure… almost inviting us to explore and be enchanted by its beauty.

 

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It wasn’t long before the summit peaks became visible and the dramatic slopes became clear. I felt strangely privileged somehow. I can’t imagine the ancients ever contemplating climbing this sacred mountain. Evoking the wrath of the Gods was not something they would’ve risked…. electing instead to conduct pilgrimages to the low foothill sacred village of Thion. Being up here felt very special…    

 

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Then suddenly there they were….Poppy and her sisters, dancing in the light breeze,

 

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and the lush mountain scenery was breathtaking. It’s almost the middle of summer but the air was crisp and visibility perfect. The mountain wanted us to see it in all its mythical majesty….

 

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The whole of Mount Olympus was declared a national park in 1938 and the summit was first climbed back in 1913. It is known the world over as the mountain of the Gods and it’s name has been quoted in ancient history infinite times. It may not be the highest peak in the world…. but it must surely be one of the most famous mountains on this planet.  

 

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The whole mountain is covered in many different types of trees and this gives it unique colour depending on the time of year and the weather on the day. The lush green changes from light to dark almost hour by hour…. almost inviting you to sit and watch it. Once again….(like all sacred historical sites the world over) its one of those places that makes you think, your mind drifts and you go silent…lost in your own thoughts. 

 

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Suddenly…. in between the mountain conifers, we saw the summit peaks…the home of the ancient Gods. The Pantheon. Still covered in snow, it looked every bit as majestic as I had always imagined.   

 

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The map provides some context as to our viewing location….at Prionia. That’s as far as you can drive… at least in a normal car. But its far enough…

 

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it is my personal belief that nobody should be allowed to climb the summits of Mount Olympus. This is not a high peak by any measure, so it surely presents no challenge to mountaineers. It is a mystical, spiritual place and in my humble opinion it should remain untouched by day-trippers. Some things deserve to remain in the imagination…to be seen and admired from a distance. Olympus is not just a mountain…. 

 

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When I saw these my first thoughts were that for all of us that live in cities the world over… a visit to a mountain is something that should be compulsory. 
If only to remind us that no man-made structure could ever hope to match the beauty of nature. 

 

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Speaking of nature…. this is not “just” running water. Once again…if you live in a big city…. chances are you have never tasted “pure water”. It is a sad fact that all of us are now used to thinking that water purified with chemicals is perfectly “normal”. But…alas, it is NOT. This natural spring is fed from the mountain top and let me assure you…. you can taste the difference.

 

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As we started to make our way down we took one last look at the majestic mountain peaks in the background. The light had already changed and so had the colour of the tree-covered slopes….

 

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This is by no means a detailed overview of what you will find if you visit this part of Greece. There are waterfalls and streams, ravines and ancient caves
( some were once inhabited by hermits who became saints), monasteries and churches, beautiful small lodges & wonderful restaurants and of course…. magnificent ancient ruins at Thion (Dion), the sacred city of the ancient Greek world.

There are many picturesque mountain villages and miles of coastline below…. and then of course there is the mountain.

Not just any mountain….but Mount Olympus, home of Zeus, Poseidon, Athena, Apollo, Aphrodite and and and …..

Hope you enjoyed our adventure ;-)

 

PS: for more information on Mt Olympus and surrounding area you can drop me a line on oiadweller at yahoo dot com

 

 

 

A mountain village & the wonder of discovery…

One of the greatest pleasures of travelling is the delightful discoveries you experience…often completely by chance. They can inspire you, transport you to another time and sometimes even change your life. But to do that you have to be willing to explore, to wonder, to go off the beaten path…

The small mountain village you are about to see is not on tourist brochures, holiday posters or TV ads inviting you to Greece. But then again most of the best places aren’t….in any country. You have to find them, you have to be willing to explore, take the narrow path, the small trail, the off-road that nobody goes on. To me…that’s the most delicious part of travel and exploration.

This small village is on the side hills of Mt Olympus and we discovered it last winter by chance. It was risky driving up with no chains at the time…. snow cover was almost half a metre, but the road was relatively clear and we took the chance. It was a decision that left everyone with the most memorable images of the Christmas holiday.

The village is high up…around 500m above sea level and the anticipation builds as one drives up the winding mountain road.

 

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The scenery slowly unfolds the higher up you drive and the lush green colours of the mountain side are a feast for the eyes. The car edges higher and higher and each turn brings a new surprise….

 

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Looking down the coastline begins to look like a painting and the endless aegean blue gives off the special light that has inspired so many poets and photographers over the years. Altitude gives you a different perspective of an area and Mt Olympus was beginning to weave its magic…   

 

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These pictures were taken this week…mid-June, a time of year where everything at sea level is already starting to turn a golden hue. But not up here…. here the mountain wears its’ lush green coat and the air is the stuff you wish you could bottle and take with you…

Then you take another turn…. and your jaw drops, the foot hits the breaks and you slowly get out to take in a sublime image like this:

 

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What you see in the distance is a medieval fort (more on that soon) which seems almost as if someone had painted it on the hills below. The colour and scent of the mountain…coupled with the scenery below are mesmerising….

 

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and then it suddenly appears. Nestled among the trees is a traditional mountain village…stone houses hugging the mountain side. It sits quietly, serenely, almost as if it’s waiting for you to discover it…

 

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The views are spectacular and the mountain air is so uplifting you feel like you want to run around like a child….exploring every nook and cranny of the whole village. Your  mind feels justified for making the decision to drive up…to discover…to explore…

 

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On entering the village you see details that make you realise a lot of thought has gone into maintaining its traditional charm and beauty. From the tree trunk pots, to the paving, to the stone houses… it seems every detail has been thoughtfully kept authentic, giving you a sense of stepping back in time.

 

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Mountain villages in Greece and throughout Europe have a different charm. The architecture is practical and honest…everything is done for a purpose and function is an essential part of the aesthetic. There is nothing fancy, nothing “showy”….yet it looks magical.

 

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As you wonder through the tiny village… each narrow, paved path leads you to another exquisite image. Its as if you’ve jumped into a storybook and you are living the experience…

 

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The houses are all made from local stone and the textures are perfectly blended… adding to the experience of being on a mountain. It is a credit to the residents, architects and local authorities that they have managed to maintain the tiny village in such an exquisite state and in such perfect harmony with its’ surroundings.

But there is more to this little village paradise than what you have seen so far….lots more. You see, the images above were taken this week…almost in the middle of summer in Greece. The village looks gorgeous, green and picturesque….

But when we first saw this tiny little treasure it was winter…. and if you think it looks nice in summer, then have a look at this:

 

 

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This…. my dear friends, is what we first saw when we discovered this little place in the middle of winter. The image has stayed in my mind ever since and hence the return visit with Alessi as we drove through this area again. It was simply stunning…a fairytale image that added to our delighted sense of discovery at the time.  

 

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The scenery of the snow covered village with the coast line below is breathtaking. The snow was fresh powder, the air crisp, clean & fragrant… and the feeling of having discovered this small treasure was fantastic.

Life is full of exquisite surprises if only you are willing to explore….to follow a small path or walk through a different door !

Cheers to a life of discovery ;-)