Velos, Greece

nice view
nice view

If you were ever a tourist coming to California, and in your plans, you were most excited about a visit to Fresno, you should plan a stop in Velos, Greece. Like Fresno, it’s a perfectly fine place. It’s also a pretty regular place. That’s why I felt I should go shopping for ordinary things there.

In countries that are foreign to me, I adore shopping for those everyday items people buy in their weekly – or daily – trips to the local market. Try buying ketchup in Ukraine, or pretzels in Moldova, or hair conditioner in Romania. Those are the real adventures in traveling, and that was what I wanted from Velos.

ordinary walking
ordinary walking

The first thing we did, though, was walk. Along the broad pedestrian harbour path with restaurants filling up for lunch. Then over a small footbridge and out along the jetty that gave a perfect view of the city. We passed fishermen playing their lines in an effort to coax out some lunch. Every ten feet or so there was a nub sticking out from the top of the concrete wall, with fishing line wound around the nub. No one brought poles to this place. They would just walk out when they needed some fish, attach their bait, inch the line into the water and fiddle around until the fish bit. Everyone we saw, it seemed, had a plastic bag filled with something tied into a smaller plastic bag – olives, a thick relish, an oily round cheese – with a one-liter plastic bottle of a purplish liquid sticking out from the top of the bag. I wanted that liquid.

Maybe it was because I hadn’t been able to take away that luxurious coffee-ouzo liqueur from Santorini. Maybe it was simple curiosity. Everyone had something I didn’t and I wanted to find out what. I had not known that Greece was famous for wine, so I ventured a guess: it must be some grape-like juice, something local that everyone puts on the table at lunchtime.

We walked from the jetty into a residential area, past the big supermarket, past the touristy shops, past the restaurants. It took some time, but I finally found the smallest, oldest neighborhood market. Burlap bags filled with items you could use for a home-cooked meal – dry beans, dried tomatoes, peppers – filled the doorway. As we walked inside, the shopkeeper looked up, and though he said nothing, I noticed his anxious expression. What could he possibly offer two foreigners on a shopping spree three blocks from where they should be walking?

I poked around for awhile. The writing on the products intrigued me. I tried figuring out several items, and couldn’t. The poor fellow seemed to be getting more nervous and his expression neared panic. Was that goat cheese and cow’s milk? I suppose I could have asked. I’ve found hand motions can be effective. But that defeats my purpose. I like to figure it out myself, or at least just experience the store the way everybody else does. I scooted around pretending I knew what I was doing. The store clerk helped a Velosian while keeping his eyes on me and Stanley, who was also getting nervous. Finally, in the corner, I found a display of the one-liter bottles everyone was buying. Several labels confounded me. I tried to sound out the names, but Greek Cyrillic to American English with an interesting side trip into fraternity-sorority letters can be confounding. The only thing I truly understood was the drawing of grapes and grape leaves that coiled around the letters I could not decipher. With a confidence I had no right to, I selected one bottle and walked it two feet to the clerk. The clerk said something; Stanley, the money man, paid. We smiled our thanks and began to leave the store. The clerk seemed to be thinking over an important thought, then raised his hand and said “Have a good day” in Greek-sounding English, with a big grin on his face.

Delish
Delish

We placed our bags and wallets on the scanner as we re-entered the ship. There are rules against bringing food items, liquor and probably firearms onto ships, so everything is searched, including us as we stepped through the people scanner. No one said a thing about the plastic container with some kind of liquid. Who puts an alcoholic beverage into used-looking plastic? I placed it into our fridge in the room, and later that day, poured myself a glass. It was then I learned that everyone in Velos, Greece drinks a flavorful sweet wine with their lunch. Opa!

Moral of the story in three parts: never intend to smuggle; never smuggle anything in the smuggling capitals of the world; but do, on every trip, smuggle something.

Next up: Kusadasi, Turkey

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12 thoughts on “Velos, Greece

  1. Love wandering into local stores! I don’t know that I would go for wine in plastic though. Cognitive dissonance. We have had great adventures in Spain and Italy, shopping with the locals… buying cheese, meat and bread for lunches as the little towns are closing up for siesta… Once, when we had a time-share in an Italian coastal town, we had our grocery cart full with items for the week. We did not noticed that in the fruit and vegetable section, we were supposed to weigh all the items then print out a sticker to put on the packages. Can you imagine the evil-eye stares we would have received here in the States as the line of customers backed up? No, they all gathered up the items that needed to be weighed, took us to the scale, demonstrated how it worked, then put us right back in the front of the line. Guess tourists actually shopping was a novelty for them. Greece on our list one of these days too.
    Oscar

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  2. So, Susan, you’re saying that since I used to live in Fresno and actually liked it that I am good to go in Velos? Hmmm, I may have to try that!

    I’m with you on the shopping! I loved the idea of buying normal things in the markets. We stayed long enough in the Costa Brava town of Tamariu (Begur) that we got to be “regulars” going out and getting the strong Catalonian coffee each morning at the market along with a couple of rolls and some cheese for the day’s drive. It really was the best part of the vacation.

    Can’t wait to read your post on Kuşadası- Turkey is my favorite destination and we loved visiting Kuşadası. It’ll be fun reminiscing with you as our guide!

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    1. Jonelle – Is this a bit of fiction, or did you truly live in Fresno? And if you did, it means that you don’t need to go to Velos, you’ve just about been there already. Honestly, did you live in Fresno???
      Completely agree about the shopping. Leave the tourist shops to someone else, and give me a corner grocery store. And, like you on the Costa Brave, if you can go there often enough to understand the process, I think you’ve stepped close to understanding the people who live there.
      Really, Fresno??

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      1. Yep… My daughter was born thete at st. Agnes hospital. We also lived in Bakersfield and Modesto… How ’bout that? And I actually liked Bakersfield best!

        (And she says we were getting to be such good friends till she found out I had no taste!)

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      2. Okay that’s just weird. We moved to the bungalow from Fresno two years ago, had lived there for over 20 years, and for 6 years in Bakersfield before that. And to make this even weirder, I also liked Bakersfield best. That area must send us out into the world, ready for anything and appreciating what we find! Cheers, my friend, to more in common than we’d ever have imagined!

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      3. Oh, it gets curiouser and curiouser! That should put you in Bakersfield sometime in the late 80’s… exactly when we were living out past Cal-State on Tenneco land in the Southwest. That was the second time we lived there. The first time we were up in Northwest off of Panorama Drive, not far from the hospital. Would we have crossed paths anywhere? I worked for Shell (in the Triangle bldg there on California) and my then-husband was a VP for First Interstate there on, what, Truxtun? The problem with living in the valley cities is that they are all laid out the same- Blackstone Avenue in Fresno is McHenry Ave in Modesto and Chester in Bakersfield… after awhile it gets hard to tell them apart!

        I have to agree, living there gives you a good perspective on what survival is all about. You see all the farmers eeking out a living and it does make you appreciate what you have.

        So, welcome to the… Twilight Zone, girlfriend! Pretty interesting discoveries today!

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      4. Holy smoke. 1985 put us out in what I remember as ‘Rancho Estates’ just west of CSUBakerfield. Too funny – we probably passed each other in the grocery store. I was a probation officer for a bit, also taught a course at the college. It’s hard to think we lived there for 6 years – it seems like a quick moment or two now.
        Fun fun fun. There’s zero degrees separation between us! But, I have to say, living in the former soviet union is more of a link than living anywhere in the USA!

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  3. Sounds like you have about 2 degrees of separation, instead of 6! Great post, and I also liked going into the off the path shops while I was in China. Lots of interesting experiences!

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