Some insight perhaps to their demise

Trip Start Jul 01, 2010
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16
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Trip End Jun 30, 2011


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Where I stayed
Constantino's Studio

Flag of Greece  , Crete,
Friday, September 17, 2010

I said goodbye to wonderful Crete last week. We had such a great time on the island and it was a bit tough to leave. Like so many places I've travelled to on this fair planet, my thoughts are that I'd love to come back one day but who knows, life is short and unpredictable. 
 
After finally extricating ourselves from the chilled-out scene in Matala, we headed to Hania/Chania where we hung out for a week. Hania itself is a really nice town on the north coast. It was an ancient Minoan settlement, then an important city-state in Classical Greece, and then there was the Byzantium era which lasted until 1204. The Venetians eventually took over and ruled from the 13th century to the 17th century and much of the city's interesting look comes from buildings erected in that time.There's also an Ottoman influence because they kicked the Venetians' asses in 1645 and were in charge until the 19th century when the Greeks finally reclaimed the island as their own. The end result is the city now has a blend of Byzantine, Venetian and Classical Greek cultural elements as well as some evidence of the ancient Minoan culture. It makes for beautiful walks around the old port area which are studded with restaurants and shops and narrow paved alleys surrounded with tastefully renewed houses from the various eras.
 
We'd often be asked by shopkeepers or restaurateurs where we were from and when I said Canada their faces would light up and say, “ah, Canada! I love Canada. From where? Montreal?” Always Montreal they asked and when I said yes they'd invariably talk to me in French. I was really surprised how many people spoke at least a bit of French there. The owner of the hotel we stayed at, Constantino, was even an old Montreal boy from Park Ex. We had fun shooting the shit about the good old days in Montreal but there was no need to ponder too deeply the reasons he came back home to to Crete. Beautiful landscape,beaches, great food and culture, tres relaxed lifestyle and of course the weather...warm and beautiful pretty much most of the year. 
 
Bank of Greece part I: An unexpected little side adventure presented itself while in Hania. We had to exchange some Euro travellers cheques and were told the best rate to be had would be at the Bank of Greece. Man, what an experience...a throw back to another era. Aside from the ubiquitous double locking, sliding round glass doors at the bank's entrance,which is found at pretty much every bank in Greece and Italy and many other European countries, this bank was really special. The first time we went, we walked up to one teller, explained what we wanted and were directed to another teller. We waited in line for that teller but when it was our turn and asked to exchange our traveller's cheques, she told us we first had to go to see another person who actually verifies the cheques are good. He makes call, gets me to to sign them, calculates the charges and then writes out the amount on a receipt which I have to take back to the teller who would give me the amount on the receipt. So the dude does the whole verification process, does the calculation of the charges on paper, doesn't use an adding machine and hands me the receipt. Being the ever-distrustful and vigilant one, I check the receipt and lo and behold he had charged the wrong amount per cheque cashed and then added up the charges incorrectly. I pointed out the error so he takes the receipt back, crosses out a bunch of entries and scribbles the correct numbers everywhere as well as the new, correct total. It looks terrible so he writes the total again on another part of the receipt...honestly, by now the paper's pretty much illegible but he grunts something and shoves the official bank receipt back into my hand. I take it and head back to the appropriate teller while exchanging, “what the fuck?!” looks with Chisa. I slide the paper over and she looks at it, looks at me, looks at the paper again and says, “what is dees?” I go over the numbers with her and she checks the amounts, nods, counts out the money and slides it over. Incredible.
 
Bank of Greece part II: We only took a small amount because we were going on a long hike in the Samaria Gorge (more on that on another post) and didn't want to be hiking with whacks of money on us. So a couple of days later we had to go back to the bank to exchange the rest of our traveller's cheques. No problem with the math this time but a pretty incredible thing happened nonetheless. We're waiting at the counter while the girl (thankfully buddy`s not working that day) is completing part one of the process (calling for verification,checking signature, etc,) and in walks a guard with a suitcase full of money. Before continuing let me give a quick description of this bank. It is rectangular in shape and after passing through the cone of security, you immediately enter into the smallish, main room where there are two long counters on either side behind where many employees are sitting, engaged in various bank-like tasks, trying to look busy. The counters are chest height and there's no glass or separation of any sort aside from the counter itself. The back part has some metal bars with openings where the tellers saunter up to when the mood strikes them. Hopefully this coincides with when you`re there trying to get money. In the middle of the room sits a large wooden table which is perhaps one of the few items we've seen in Crete that is not made of olive wood. There are only two chairs around this table that could easily fit 8 and these are the only chairs for customers to sit on in the whole bank. Chisa is seated (not sleeping by the way) on one of these precious chairs as I watch the girl do her thing behind the counter. So back to the guard and the money...he comes in and on the table about two feet from where Chisa is sitting, dumps at least 8 or 9 big-ass bundles of money, each one no less than 10 to 12inches/25-30 cms high. My eyes are popping of their sockets, alternating between the huge amounts of money just a few feet from me and looking at Chisa, once again exchanging “what the fuck, can you believe this shit?!” look. The money stays on the table while another young female employee from the bank counts the bundles, signs the guard`s form and chats with him a while. About 5 minutes later she finally picks up the bundles, walks to the back where the tellers are, opens a gate and brings it to the back where she and and two other employees stuff the bundles into an old leather suitcase. By then my receipt was ready so I go get my money, turn around and walk out of the bank just shaking my head in disbelief. 
Fyi, here's some important information regarding the Bank of Greece and it's taken straight from their website, "The Bank of Greece is the central bank of the country. It was established in 1927 by an Annex to the Geneva Protocol and started operations in May 1928..." "It has a nationwide network of 18 branches, 38 agencies and 8 outlets." "The Bank of Greece is responsible for implementing the Euro system’s monetary policy in Greece and safeguarding the stability of the Greek financial system" hmmmm, veddddy interesting....
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Comments

Anna Sudhakar on

Lovely story ! But don't tell your friends this is "Europe" ... - this is pure "Greece"
and we know what happened to their economy recently...

irv on

a wall street movie about GREEK banking would be fun

alex on

great experiance-normally hard to believe that this is europe...haha-have fun..

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