Saturday, 13 May 2017

Travelling in Greece in the summer of 1981 without a mobile, or a credit card

Travelling in Cephalonia
Now I never did Greece in the 70s.

That was when many of my friends travelled the islands.

Back then it was all pretty much an adventure, starting with the night flight to Athens and then in the early morning the taxi to the Piraeus followed by the ferry and a series of island hopping journeys.

But even in the 1980s when I first began going there was still an element of hit and miss.

The roads and the rail network were yet to benefit from EU money and of course many of the places we washed up in were remote and still fairly basic.

Added to this there was our own lack of knowledge and fore thought like the year we booked two islands on either side of the mainland, opted to do our own transfers and discovered both the delights and the nightmare of a ferry from one island to one Greek port followed by a taxi drive across Greece to another port, another ferry and the second island.

In the meantime we lost our companions who had all the paperwork for our new accommodation and managed to arrive ahead of them at the island with only a vague idea of where the resort was.

Today our friends would be a mobile call away but 25 years ago that little communication revolution had yet to arrive.

And so once again I am reflecting on the extent to which things have changed.  In Asos on Cephalonia there are two telephone kiosks for those who do not want to use a mobile.

They take telephone cards and are quick and efficient, although I have to say at present the one in the village square is broken.

Back in the 1980s everything was different for once you had found the kiosk you might have to wait in line joining a handful of other tourists and locals wanting to phone off the island.

Nor was this restricted to Greece.  Later in the 1990s in Spain you still had to book an international call, wait to be called by the official, and watch as the minutes shot by and hoping that for some vague and unspecified reason the line would not go dead in mid sentence.

The telephone card
And phones are not the only mark of how things have changed.

Back in Asos there is no bank, post office or cash dispenser, but little over 20 minutes away in the port of Fiscardo I counted several holes in the wall and of course in the capital there are plenty.

All of which means the days of travellers cheques are for all but the cautious traveller a thing of the past.

But how different back in the 1970s when an acquaintance  who had been back packing across Crete one summer ran out of money and opted for the simple expedient of staying over on the island and working on a local farm till the following year.

The farmer’s family treated him very much as their own, and thirty years later they still had his photograph on the kitchen wall.  It was faded and he looked a lot younger but it was him framed by an olive tree and a vine.

There is of course a danger at this point of sliding into romantic tosh.  As a parent with children who did their “travelling year” I would have been mortified at such a turn of events.  But then that is what adventures are about and such concerns have to be put into perspective.

The phone in Asos which didn't work
My own uncle was just 19 when he embarked on a journey which took him by wartime convoy from Liverpool to South Africa and through the Suez Canal to the Fall of Greece in 1940 and back via Egypt to Basra and eventually to the Far East.

And in a little less dramatic way when it was my turn to leave home to pursue a degree course in Manchester in the September of 1969, I left London with just a small suitcase travelling alone and arriving at Piccadilly with only a vague idea of where I was going to stay and how to get to the college the following day.

But enough of such hard worn stories, things move on and usually for the better.

Location; Asos

Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

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