The simple life in Greece

by | Apr 27, 2016 | Communities, Europe, Greece, Reflections, Stories

After one week on the road and a lot of driving, we are in Greece: the perfect place to have a little holiday and relax after the hectic preparations months and settle in the travel mode. Our first stop is Ioannina: a lively town in the north east, situated at a big lake. On our last trip, this was the place that we really liked: it felt so different, but at the same time it was like coming home. We met a really great group of people and became friends. And now it is time to meet them again! We call Christos and 20 minutes later he arrives at our truck: “You didn’t change at all since 5 years!  And neither did my mother”, he says while opening a bag with a delicious lunch that we enjoy in our truck.

After lunch we walk together into town. Nothing much has changed in Ioannina: it is raining and the bars and terraces are full of people. Despite the crisis, people are still making the best of life. People of different ages come together in those places and music plays an important role in those gatherings. Most people are sitting together in big groups and many people seem to know eachother. The laidback atmosphere instantly makes us realise again: we love Greece!

While enjoying a freddo cappuchino, we talk about the current situation in Greece. The economical crisis is quite harsh, the trust in politics is completely gone after the referendum in 2015 and on top of that there are a lot of refugees trapped in Greece. “We decided not to talk about politics anymore, what can we do?”, tells Christos. We noticed that the expenses for living in Greece are high: groceries are the same price or even more as in The Netherlands! Keeping in mind that a Greek salary is one third of a Dutch one, we were wondering how people can manage to survive… In Greece it is much more common to rely on the gardens of your family and eat the oranges from the village of your grandparents, to go to the mountains to pick your own oregano and herbal tea and make your own Tsipuro (kind of brandy) from the grapes of an old neighbour.

It is really hard to find a job, and a lot of young people try different options to find work. They leave Greece, to find a job in another EU-country: 300.000 young potentials already left Greece. Others try to find their luck in the capital Athens. But the situation is difficult: there are not enough jobs there and even 30.000 people are living on the streets at the moment. The third option that people choose is to leave the town and go back to village life. They choose a simpler life, and try to be more or less self sufficient. That last options sounds interesting to us off course! But when you are running out of money, how do you start a life in a village? The good thing is: not so long ago most people in Greece where living in small villages. Almost everybody still has a family house in the village. “But not everybody likes the idea of going back to village life”, Christos says. “It is hard work and what do you do when the harvest fails?” It is maybe not the nicest reason to make a desicion to live a simpler life, but we are really curious how people that opted for this solution, experience their new life.

Through our friends in Ioannina we found a group of people that are starting up a new life together. We meet them on a Monday evening. Akis (27 years, cook), Alena (28 years, finishing Master in mathematics) and Vasilis (37 years, PhD and teacher at a university) met just a few months ago and became friends. They are three very different people, but have a common love: the love for the mountains and for nature in general. They decided to look for a place to live together in the mountains and to find a way to support in their daily needs. The more we talk the more we realise: this group didn’t make their decision because of the crisis. They emphasize that their drive is a positive one: to live a simpler life, closer to nature. But how do you make such a dream come true? Especially when you don’t have a lot of money?

The first thing they need is a place: land where they can make it happen. And also in Greece that costs money. At first they found a big abondoned but well maintained former mountain hotel. It looked like a great option, but it would really mean they had to make a business out of it to only pay the monthly expenses of 1.500 euro. That would turn there passion into an enterprise and they realised this wasn’t their dream at all. But then they found their paradise: a place where an ancient tribe shows the way they were living as nomads up until 60 years ago. The match seems too good to be true: Vasilis is related to the tribe and they found out that there was a mutual interest: the tribe wanted to bring back life to the place and they would be happy to host the dream of the three. At the moment they are applying to legalise the new plans: to get permission for a vegetarian restaurant in the old tavern, to live in the wooden house and make the rustic huts available for guests.

 

One of the most important conditions to make a dream like this happen, is to share a common ideal or passion: and that is exactly what binds the three. And apart from that, they are really different. “It is not about money or power, it is about finding a way to live together with nature, and share our ideals with others and inspire them. That is why we think we can make it happen!”, Alena says.

 

Because of the smiles on their faces, we know this is the right place for them to realise their dream. And realising a dream starts with taking the first step. We would recommend Akis, Alena and Visalis: pitch your tent on this beautiful place and just start! We hope to come back in two years to this beautiful place to see that they made their own paradise, while the cultural heritage is brought back to live.

Tips and tricks we learned while being in Gyftokampos for starting your dream community:

  • Finding a place. Land is expensive. But maybe there is a place where there is a mutual interest with the owners? Akis, Alena and Vasilis found a cultural heritage site where the ancient nomadic tribe was looking for a way to bring back life to this place. A win-win situation!
  • Have the right group of people. A shared dream or ideal is a really important drive for your group. And on top of that: a good mix of people makes it really work.
  • Take the first step. You can start with a lot of planning, but for sure many things will change on the way. So, just start with the first step! For example: go to the place and stay there for a while and start with small pratical things.

 

Ps. the videos in the gallery below aren’t working directly at the moment, for them to play you can click on the black bar at the top of the video. I hope I can get this working normally in the future.