Tag Archives: France bus queue

Greek Islands, Amorgos – Aegiali to Katapola

Shady Relief in Amorgos Greece

Armed with the pedometer Kim had got her really serious walking legs working now so the day after the demanding climb to Tholária we were at it again early and tackling the walk to another nearby village of Lagkada.

Lagkada was about the same distance (two miles or so) but had the benefit of a footpath cut directly through the terraces which did away with the need to slavishly follow the tarmac and we dragged ourselves up the crumbling and uneven steps towards the bottom of the village.

Amorgos donkey

On the way we passed an islander on a mule and it was obvious that he was going about his day and his work on his chosen form of transport.  I got to thinking about how infrequently you see this now, much less even than when I first started to visit the Greek islands over thirty years ago and I realised that soon this will be a thing of the past.

This makes me a little sad!  When this generation has gone it is probable that no one will continue to use donkeys for anything other than equine amusement.  I felt glad that I had been there in time to see this and felt disappointed for those who will come after me and won’t.  Soon, I suspect seeing a Greek man riding a mule will be consigned to the dustbin of nostalgia. They will be gone and Europe will be the poorer for it.

Once inside the whitewashed walls we quickly found a  bar where we could rest a while.  A nice feature in the bars and cafés in Amorgos is the hospitable habit of providing customers with a glass of cold water.  I was unsure of this at first because I was brought up with a paranoia of drinking water abroad, so bad that I used to wash my teeth in bottled water in case I inadvertently swallowed a millilitre or two.

In fact the first time that I went to Greece, to Kos in 1983, I had to have typhoid injections and a certificate to prove it!   Well, how things change and now, thanks to desalination, if you can tolerate the odd taste, it appears to be safe to drink the water across the whole of the Greek Islands without suffering ill effects or an upset stomach.

Lagkada Amorgos Greece

We returned to the rustic narrow streets with decorated paving and adjacent buildings all whitewashed and blue.  All whitewashed and blue because since 1974 in a law passed by the military government of the time all houses have had to be painted white and church domes blue. Recently a debate has been re-opened between the Ministry of Culture and other authorities about allowing the use of alternative colours but as yet the law remains in place.

Amorgos Village Shop

In the middle of the village we came across a curious shop with an interesting window display and when I peaked inside the gloomy interior an old man illuminated by a shaft of dusty sun light invited us in.  It was what I would describe as a sort of workshop and he explained to us that he was the village carpenter, the village hardware store, the village liquor supplier and the village barber!  He obligingly showed us around and explained the family pictures hanging on the walls and invited me to have a haircut but I respectfully declined when I saw the age and condition of the clippers!

Lagkada is a pretty little village but it doesn’t take too long to see all of it (twice) so satisfied that we hadn’t missed anything we made our way down the path to Aegiali for our final afternoon and evening because the next day we were moving to the other end of the island to Katapola.

Amorgos table chairs pot and cat

The bus fare to Katapola was good value at only €2.80 each and after we paid the driver started the engine and left exactly on time.  We sat close to the front of the bus and in the seat directly behind the driver there was an old woman in widow’s weeds who was determined to talk constantly in some sort of quest to distract him and thoroughly test his driving ability as he eased the vehicle out of the village and began the ascent to the top of the mountain that separates the two ends of the island.  Before 1991 when this road was built the only effective way to travel from one end of Amorgos to the other was by ferry.

As the bus climbed higher into the interior and the engine began to complain and the gearbox groan the sides of the mountain became surprisingly greener with rugged plants clinging stubbornly to the desperately thin soil and then we reached the top of the mountainous spine of the island and we could see all the way down across the Chora and into the port of Katapola and still the woman in the seat behind the driver kept talking.

I’d have backed that woman in a talk-off against my mum!

The bus stopped briefly at the Chora to pick up more passengers and then the driver set off down the hairpin bends of the mountain road and down to the port.  I think he liked this part of the journey most of all because he made especially extravagant manoeuvres with increasingly theatrical turns of the steering wheel and he was confident too, even at one stage of the precipitous descent taking time out to make a telephone call while still listening all the time to the woman behind him jabbering away.

Amorgos Wall Decoration

After only a few minutes we arrived at the final bus stop in the port of Katapola, got off and met the driver from the apartments, the Hotel Amorgion and were driven quite some distance away from the town until we reached our destination.

To be honest, this was rather further out than we really wanted to be along an unmade road without any lighting and it was immediately clear that we were going to need some form of transport and with a very infrequent bus service and taxi fares beyond my skin-flint budget it was agreed that we would hire a car for our two-day stay in Katapola.

We negotiated a price of €50 and thirty minutes later it was delivered, a brand new Chevrolet Spark already with several areas of damage on the paintwork.  The hiring procedure was a refreshingly casual affair, there was no insurance hard sell, the man didn’t even want my credit card details and he said that it didn’t even matter if I didn’t return it with any fuel.  Anemos Car Rentals must surely be the most laid back in all of Europe!

Amorgos Sunset

Travel Issues, The Standing in Line Dilemma – Wait Your Turn or Push In?

Malta Bus Chaos

This year we visited the tiny Mediterranean island of Malta.  Malta used to have an efficient local bus service which was subjected to privatisation and the whole thing turned belly-up.  The service bombed and suddenly the orderly process of getting a seat on a bus became a competitive mad scramble.

This has made me think about the whole issue of good manners in a queue or a line.

A couple of years ago or so I went to an all-inclusive holiday resort in Turkey where you really did need sharp elbows!  At meal times the crowd started to gather around the locked doors in something reminiscent of the waiting period before the start of a European Cup Final or the US Super Bowl.  As the tension mounted they began snorting and stamping like impatient bulls waiting to be released into the ring, agitating like ancient warriors preparing for a deadly battle and arranging themselves like combatants in a French bus queue.

Five minutes to go and the tattooed ones start to perform a HAKA and terrified men behind the doors  suddenly opened the locks and ran for their lives as a tsunami of greed was released.  The whole thing was rather like the first set scrum of a British Lions/New Zealand All Blacks Rugby Test Match, muscles bulging, eyes popping, sweat dripping, elbows flying and fingers gouging and this, let me tell you was only the women!

Catalonia Steeple of People

The majority of the hotel guests were from the UK but there were also quite a lot of people from Russia and Scandinavia and from most other countries in Europe and the nationalities all behave differently when lining up (or not, as the case may be).  Russians and Ukrainians especially don’t like standing in line but I was at an advantage here because I had been to Russia only a year before so  I knew not to hang back when these people are around and I sharpened my elbows and got straight in!

If pushing in was an Olympic sport then Eastern Europeans would be picking up a lot of medals especially if there was a category for barging in because this would require no finesse at all and would be based on simple brute strength as they muscle their way to the front of the line.  Italians would do well in the stealth category because they can slip in with the speed of a stiletto knife and I’d back the Greeks in the opportunistic category because they can slide into a space as thin as a cigarette paper almost as though they had been beamed down from outer space.

Sadly for all of them however they would be destined to be like a British tennis players and they would only ever be left fighting for second place because they would never be able to beat the undisputed champions of pushing-in – the French.  The French don’t believe in distraction or sneaky moves they just move right on in ahead of anyone as though you are holding a door open for them and then look you straight in the eye with a Gallic sneer that says, “I am French and it is my God given right to push in”.  

They really believe this and with the advantage of this being hard-wired into their national psyche they would win over and over again and would be especially good in the being completely rude category.  You would need a police road block to keep your place in a French queue.

Along with the UK, other countries that would not do so well in the games would be the Americans and the Germans who both display exemplary discipline in line but absolutely the worst at this would be the Swiss who I can guarantee would come last every time.

In a French queue, if I am challenged about pushing in my plan is simple, I give an arrogant Gallic shrug, say something like “Bonjour Monsieur, Allez Oop, Vive Jeanne d’Arc, Vive Charles de Gaulle, Merci Beaucoup”  and give a contemptuous sneer as I asserted a natural French divine right to barge in.

So, how do you do it and who gets your vote for best at pushing in?

An orderly queue/line