Stray dogs in Greece

May 31, 2010

I was quite surprised in Greece at the welfare of the what-appeared-to-be stray dogs.  I say it that way because I assume they are stray dogs because of the way they lounge around out in public, however, they didn’t seem like stray dogs because never once did I see a dog beg for food and they seemed to be well kept.  In fact, at one point in the trip someone in our group offered a dog a piece of food because it was at our feet wanting attention and when she gave the dog the food he sniffed it, was displeased, and went on his way.  He almost seemed offended and pissed that she offered him the food and scurried away with what appeared to be an attitude.  I can’t remember exactly what she offered the dog but I would’ve guessed that any dog here in the States would have gladly chomped it down.

Stray dogs have always been a part of the
landscape in Greece, and specifically in
Athens.  Tom Mazarakis explains on his
website..

I have been living in Greece for the last 33
years and am well acquainted with the
recently history of the dog situation in Athens
and the rest of Greece.

As in most civilized countries, in Greece too, every municipality had a “dog pound” and a “dog catcher”.  And, as in most cities throughout the world, many domesticated dogs in Greece would one way or another gain their “freedom” from their owners.  Either they would run away on their own, or they would be “let go” by irresponsible owners.  Whatever the case may have been, these stray dogs often would breed and have puppies and multiply accordingly.  The dog catchers in Greece used to step in and round up as many strays as they could.  The strays were held in the local municipal dog pounds for a period of  no more than 90 days, and if no one claimed the dogs, they were typically then put to sleep.

This system kept the stray dog population down to a manageable level up until about 10 years ago.  At about that time, a local animal rights activist group found out about a particular dog pound that kept their dogs in miserable and inhumane conditions.  They visited the pound and filmed the scene.  Then they took their evidence and presented it to the local District Attorney who in turn issued a warrant for the responsible mayor’s arrest.  That mayor was charged with the crime of “maltreatment of animals” which is a very serious offense in Greek law.  He was convicted and sentenced to several months in prison along with a stiff monetary fine.  As a result, almost every municipality in Greece dissolved their dog pounds and fired their dog catchers.

As you can understand, this paved the way for the stray dogs to multiply without restriction, and today they have become a serious problem.  Many people, and especially children, have been attacked and mauled by gangs of wild dogs.  But, no one takes responsibility.  The local Humane Society has been making every effort it can to feed and take care of as many stray dogs as they can handle, but their numbers keep growing.  They try to neuter as many of the dogs as they can, but they just can’t seem to put even a small dent into the problem.”

www.greecetravel.com/mazarakis

With the Olympics being held in Athens in August 2004, the government felt they needed to do something so that they could have a clean image.  The dogs are not a problem because they will chase or bite you (they don’t), but rather it is simply an image problem.  In August 2003, over 3,000 stray dogs were killed in the streets and there’s speculation that the government was behind this.  Poisoning of stray dogs has happened before, but never this many in such a small amount of time.  Because the media picked up on this happening, in October of 2003, Athens announced that they would collect, sterilize, and then release more than 10,000 dogs before the Games.

GREECE: October 6, 2003 ATHENS – Athens, host of the 2004 Olympics, launched a plan last week to sterilize more than 10,000 stray dogs ahead of the Games in measures condemned by animal rights groups as ill thought-out and insufficient. The city said the 1.8 million euro project, to be officially unveiled on the weekend, will halt the growth of a huge population of stray dogs roaming the streets of the capital before the start of the Olympics. “The sight of thousands of stray animals living without care in the city streets constitutes an insult to us as civilized people,” Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyanni, who plans to give 20 strays up for adoption on the weekend, said in a statement. The project, co-funded by the city and the government, aims to collect, sterilize and tag the dogs, before releasing them again. Two mobile vet units will monitor their health. But animal rights groups say the plan does not cover the needs of strays. “This cannot be just a one-day event with some promises and cute puppies as gifts,” Marianna Polichroniadou, head of a newly-founded animal rights group said this week. “It has to be followed up with actions that safeguard the dog’s survival long-term and this plan doesn’t cut it.”
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE

Another reason I wasn’t quite sure if the dogs were strays was because they all had collars on.  I figured someone must have been caring for the dogs, but there was a dog or two here and there and they were all well fed and had on collars so why would so many people allow their dogs to roam freely?  It turns out that as part of the measure to catch, fix, and release the dogs, the authorities put blue and red (blue for male, red for female) collars on the dogs so that they could distinguish between which ones had gone through the process and which ones hadn’t.

Aside from the dogs not being pests whatsoever, most of them seemed very clever as well.  I think that by being fixed, they were less hormone driven and most of them seemed friendly and playful.  From one website where I found some information the writer’s mom had this to say, and I can validate it by having witnessed this myself on several occasions:

The downtown dogs are pretty well behaved. Many are streetwise, literally. My mother was curious as to how they could cross some of the big Athens avenues so she watched them. She discovered that the dogs would go to the pedestrian crossings and stand there. No they did not know that the little green man meant it was OK for them to cross. They would wait until some humans came and then cross with them.

http://www.athensguide.com/straydogs/

Links:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/idealistdreamer/sets/72157600946320721/

http://www.athensguide.com/straydogs/

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/my-puppy-my-self/201005/political-animals-why-some-stray-dogs-have-joined-the-greek-riots

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2002024831_dogs03.html


Santorini, Greece. May 18 – 20, 2010

May 26, 2010

UPDATED!!!  This post is finished, feel free to read between the photos 😛

With this post what I’m going to do is post the pictures that I will be including.  It takes a lot of time to upload and insert each picture so I started by finding the pictures I want to use and then uploaded them all at once to just get it over with.  So.. I’m going to post the pictures instead of saving as a draft, and I will publish it and in the next few days I will update with what I have to say about Santorini.  For now… one of the most amazing places in Greece:  SANTORINI!!!!

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When most people first hear of Greece, what pops into mind is the white buildings on the cliffs.  That’s what comes to mind for me at least and is mainly what I see other people interpret Greece to be.  Santorini is where this architectural style and landscaping is, and it was by far one of the most beautiful places I’ve been in the world.

We first arrived in Santorini on May 18th via a ferry ride from Myokonos Island.  The rest of the day, after checking into the hotel, was free time and because of my prior night’s engagements, I didn’t get even one hour of sleep so instead of going out in Santorini, I stuck around the hotel and went to sleep early.

The next day, May 19th, was a very happening day.  We began by taking a short bus tour and walking tour through one of the neighborhoods that had a great view.

(As always, click on the pictures to make larger.  They are all posted in very high resolution.)

One of my favorite pictures I’ve taken on the trip.  Jimmy Lyons & cat!!!

Next, we needed to get down to the water to start the next part of the day which consisted of taking a boat to the volcano island that sits very close to Santorini island.  Instead of taking the bus down, which is very common, we took the cable car which was a neat experience.  I’ve been on gondolas and cable cars before, but this one was a little different in the fact that rather than having continuous cars running, they sent six cars straight up and down at at time.  I’m not sure if this was a balancing act or if it’s any more or less efficient as other ways that I have seen done, but it caught my eye for some reason.

The volcano tour was one of my favorite parts of the trip.  We took a short boat ride over to the volcano, and it was bustling with tourists.  I’m not quite sure even one other person in my group enjoyed the volcano because it was a lot of hiking and not much more, but it was BEYOND AMAZING.  The volcano is probably about one to two miles off the shore of Santorini and it provides for one of the best views I have ever seen in the world.

When one hears the term active volcano, the first thing that most likely pops into his or her head is bubbling molten lava (MMM, sounds almost like chocolate molten lava cake for dessert, YUM).  And certainly that’s what I thought of when I found out we were visiting an active volcano, but I knew there was no way we were going to get up close to something that hot and dangerous.  Being on this active volcano was much different that I had expected, and the only sign that it was active was a small area where there is smoke slowly seeping out from between a few rocks (wasn’t able to get any pictures of the smoke, but I’ve pointed out in the pictures below which ones show the active area).

(Obviously this picture was not taken by me.  That’s the volcano off to the left and the mainland is Santorini.)

Active volcano.  Quite different than one would typically imagine.

The active part of the volcano behind me.

After spending a few hours hiking around the volcano, we then got back on the boat and went to the second volcano island where there is a hot spring.  I’m pretty certain if one was to jump straight into the water at the hot spring that it probably wouldn’t really even feel that warm.  But because we were told to jump off the boat about 100 yards from the hot spring, where the water was oh… about 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit, once we got to the hot spring, it definitely felt warm.

I’m a fan of cold water.  Sure it sucks jumping into at first, but something about swimming in cold water really appeals to me.  A few days before this when I went scuba diving in Mykonos, the water was about 62 to 64 degrees Fahrenheit and it was absolutely amazing being 20-30 feet underwater being surrounded by really cold water.  But on the flip side, I definitely understand why most people don’t like it.  I think if one just got over themselves and jumped right in and had an optimistic outlook, then they could find it enjoyable as well 😛

Anyway.. So, the hot spring wasn’t super hot but it was in comparison to the cold water that we originally jumped into.  Once we got further into the hot spring, the ground became red mud and it felt really cool to rub it on my skin (yes, I’m crazy).  The hot spring is 33 degrees Celsius, which is equivalent to about 91 degrees Fahrenheit.

As if the initial tour, cable car ride down the cliff, hiking on an active volcano, and then swimming in a hot spring in the middle of the Aegean Sea in one of the most beautiful places on Earth weren’t enough, we finished things by riding a donkey back up the same cliff that we took the cable car down.  I’ll keep it short:  I wouldn’t ride a donkey up the cliff at Santorini again!!!

Links:

Santorini Volcano

Santorini Hot Spring

Santorini Wikipedia


First Greece post..

May 24, 2010

Well, there’s no shortage of things to write about with my trip to Greece and although I planned to write during the trip, I really didn’t make even one blog post.  What I did do, though, was take notes of most every activity I did and I’ve written a few things about some experiences so now I am going to start making some stories and talking about things here and there.  I have exactly 1,007 photos that I took so I figure I will probably post 200 to 300 of them in with the stories.

This trip was slightly different than the previous two trips I have taken with the Honors Institute at Hillsborough Community College, led by Dr. Lyons.  The two previous trips in the past three years were to Spain and Vietnam/Cambodia and although two separate parts of the world, both trips had many things in common that differentiated from this year’s trip to Greece.  To begin with, Greece uses the EURO and it’s no surprise that we heard a lot about the economy while traveling around.  Prices haven’t gone up because of the economy, but it’s a shame to watch what is happening because they rely so heavily on tourism (whole story and perspective to write on this later).  So, in one sense we got lucky that the conversion rate has dropped from around $1.70 dollars per one EURO to approximately 1.20 to 1.25, but things were still rather expensive.  And because things were expensive, I know that Dr. Lyons was pushing the budget to include as much as she did, and it wasn’t really possible to include any meals (other than breakfast provided by the hotels) and we had a lot of free time.

Having a lot of free time meant that we got to explore cities on our own, but it also meant that all activities we choose to do would come out of our pocket.  I had budgeted approximately 50 euros per day to spend and was hoping to spend around $700USD total which I think I accomplished without a penny to spare.  It was great to have as much free time as we did because there was so much to see and do, and it was nice to do it on our own time and at our own pace.  It was also nice to be able to rest and relax and not feel overly tired.

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Athens and The Acropolis

We arrived in Athens on May 13th at 10:00am and started the trip by hopping on a bus and driving into Athens to begin our tour.  We picked up the tour guide somewhere along the way and we drove around the city with her pointing out some of the sites to see.  After about ninety minutes, we stopped at the base of the Acropolis and the tour guide took us on the short hike up and explained everything in great detail.  While I’d love to go into great detail about the history and you know, all the fun stuff that I definitely learned while paying close attention to every word she said, I think it’s be better to just show a few pictures and keep it a high level summary; I’d hate to entertain everyone too much 😉

(As always, click on the pictures to make larger.  They are all posted in very high resolution.)

After spending some time at the Acropolis we checked into our hotel and then had the rest of the day to ourselves.  I’m not real sure what most of the group got themselves into, but my roommate Dustin and I went to the (new) Acropolis Museum and spent a few hours walking around.  The new Acropolis Museum was just recently opened in June 2009 to replace the old museum that was built on top of the Acropolis which was in operation from 1854 – 2007.  All throughout Athens, there are layers of old ruins and at the entrance of the new museum they excavated an area and made a walk way that allows one to look down into the excavated area.  After spending an hour or so walking around the museum, we had a small bite to eat on the patio that overlooks the Acropolis but we didn’t want to eat too much so that we could enjoy a good dinner later on as well.

Links:

Acropolis of Athens info

New Acropolis Museum info

Old Acropolis Museum info

New Acropolis Museum official site


Greece: FOOD

April 28, 2010

Food:

I found a really good website called Matt Barrett’s Travel Guides in which he has tons of information on different aspects of Greece. His piece on restaurant eating in Greece is very interesting and I am looking forward to their laid-back style of eating.

In Greece you can keep ordering. Its not like you have to sit down and order your appetisers, your main course and that’s it. If you liked something order another one. Try and get the waiter’s name so you can hail him as he passes your table (psssst Yanni, ena beefteki acoma parakalo – pssst John, another beefteki please). If you are drinking wine and just show them the empty carafe they will be right back with more. Greek waiters are very informal. They may even sit down at your table or squeeze your little girl’s cheeks (Greeks love children). They don’t care if you spend hours at your table. Unlike in the USA where they love turnover, in Greece you are expected to eat slowly and eat a long time and linger after a meal, eating fruit, smoking cigarettes and drinking more wine or a coffee. Never feel like you are under pressure to give up the table to someone else.

It is no secret between my friends and I that I do not eat much and I am a slow eater. I enjoy taking my time at a restaurant usually and I’d rather talk while I slowly eat then eat quickly and leave. A big drag to eating at the more commercialized restaurants is that it is very impersonal and they have a burn-and-turn mentality.

In Greece, the foods have most of the same spices as we do here in America and the olive oil they use heavily is very good for you. In one type of restaurant, it is highly encouraged that you go into the kitchen to see what fresh foods are being cooked. You then pick out what looks good and tell the cook or your waiter and it’ll be on your table within minutes. In restaurants that serve fish, it is expected of you to ask to see the fish to make sure that it is fresh. It is suggested that even if you don’t know how to tell if a fish is fresh, just by asking and acting like you know they will not show it to you if it is not fresh. If you’re not quite sold on it by looking it at, you can nod your head and ask the equivalent of “from today” and he will tell you yes or no.

Some things to expect from the restaurant:
–bread comes automatically to the table and will appear on the bill whether it’s eaten or not
–don’t not eat the bread and ask for it to be taken off the bill
–you get bread and it’s on the bill. period.
–carafe of water which is usually tap water but be careful, some restaurants will bring bottled spring water and charge for it

Usually the first guy who comes to your table will bring the silverware, bread and water and he may take your order for drinks. The waiter comes next and you should not be shy about taking him by the hand and showing him what it is you wanted if you can’t find anything that sounds like it on the menu. Some people have an ouzo and an appetiser before beginning and you are under no obligation to order your main course right away. In fact if you like you can sit there all night ordering ouzo and appetisers in most restaurants. When we go to eat I always look at the menu but most people just ask the waiter whats good. In fish restaurants they will tell you the barbounia because they are always good and always expensive, unlike the lobster which are sometimes good and always expensive. But in most restaurants they will push the most popular dishes. Many restaurants are known for something they do particularly well. For example Rolando’s in Kea is known for his technique of frying fish. Saita in the Plaka is known for his wine and his bacalliaro (fried cod). Taverna Psiri is known for their paidakia (grilled lamb-chops). Other restaurants are known for just having decent food, nothing special but everything pretty good for example Plaka, Byzantino, and To Hani in the Plaka.

http://www.greecefoods.com/restaurants/index.htm


GREECE: May 11th thru 22nd, 2010

April 27, 2010

I’m going to Greece.  There will be many posts and many stories to tell of Greece, but for now I am using this as my way to go through my itinerary and look things up.  I will be traveling with the Honors Institute of Hillsborough Community College led by Dr. Lydia Lyons.  I’ve traveled with Dr. Lyons twice before in the past three years to Spain, Vietnam, and Cambodia and each trip has been nothing short of amazing.  I figured the two previous trips would be my only trips because I no longer attend HCC, however, she welcomes alumni of the program to attend so I am very thrilled to have the chance to travel with her again.  Greece has been the number one country I have wanted to visit for many years, so these next exactly two weeks will be hell anticipating things.

The past two trips, I never put a whole lot of effort into researching where I was going and I had no clue where the next place we were going would be until it was talked about in the middle of the trip.  This year, however, I want to look some specific things up including the food, the culture, the history of each place, and etc…

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Itinerary:

(click on picture to make it larger)

The first day of our trip will be spent traveling and on the second day, we will wake up in Athens for a full day of tours.  One of the main highlights will be our visit to Acropolis.  Other places we will visit in Athens include the Archaeological Museum of Kerameikos and Ancient Agora of Athens.  We will also visit the Temple of the Olympian Zeus, and the Temple Theatre of Dionysos.

Day three will be traveling from Athens to Nafplion (2) with a stop in Mycenae (1) along the way.

Day four we will go from Nafplion to Olympia (3) and then tour the town in which the Olympic Games were held in classical times.  This is still the site where the Olympic flame is lit and then transported by a torch to where the games are held.

Day five we will travel from Olympia to Delphia (7), stopping in the cities of Rion (4), Antirion (5), and Nafpaktos (6).  Upon arriving in Delphia, we will have a guided tour and dinner.

Day six, after visiting a few more small cities along the way (8, 9), we will begin our journey back to Athens where we will conclude the mainland part of our trip.

(click on picture to make it larger)

The second part of the trip will be an island hopping tour.  On Day seven, we will take a ferry from Athens to Santorini.

Day eight, which I’m very much looking forward to, will be a fun day!!!  We will be taking a donkey ride up Skala (pictured below), then a cruise to a volcano for a tour, and then a stop at a hot spring to swim.

On day nine we will travel by ferry to Mykonos (5) with stops at the islands of Ios (2), Paros (3), and Naxos (4).

Day ten will be a free day of leisure, but I’m sure there’ll be no shortage of things to do.

Day eleven we will return to Athens where we will have one last night before we depart home on May 22nd.

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I was going to upload a bunch of pictures of places I’ll be visiting, but I decided to not post many photos and instead I’ll post my own pictures when I make posts about this trip.

NOTE:  So far, no pictures on my page are ones that I’ve taken myself.  I will certainly let it be known when I get my camera up and running.