Weird Fish

It seems the Mediterranean is now full of ‘alien’ fish, which decided to emigrate to better seas, and so swam there from the Indian Ocean via the Suez Canal.

They have thrived to the extent they are now threatening the eco-system, being both prolific breeders and aggressive towards native species; but they are already too numerous to eradicate.
So, what is the next best solution? Why, eating them of course, and thus killing two birds (fish?) with one stone: hopefully equilibrium will be established, while at the same time we can complement our calamari with rabbitfish, trumpetfish and lionfish.



At least this is the original idea of Greek conservationists, who have come up with a cookbook of recipes, so that tourists can be encouraged to try these new species. ‘Recipes for Edible Alien Species’ is published by two conservation organizations, the Cyclades Preservation Fund and iSea.

In the book, written in both Greek and English, Greek chefs have paired these species with classic Mediterranean ingredients like olive oil, garlic, tomatoes and parsley. While it doesn’t have the glamour of a Nigella cookbook, the recipes sound delicious: it would probably be a good idea to take some good photos of the finished dishes and post them on Instagram. You can find the cookbook here



Tempting locals and tourists to eat the invaders will help the environment, but also fishermen to make a living. A campaign called Pick the Alien, launched in a few islands such as Santorini, Amorgos, and Zakynthos, aims to encourage people to choose these fish on the menu of their favorite fish taverna.

Would I try them? Of course. I’m always in favour of new tastes, as long as it’s not fried insects or monkey brains, even if the former are also touted as a help for the environment.

New-style Q&A – the multi-talented travel agent

After a break of a few months – I was not feeling inspired – I am resuming the interviews, but in a more free-form manner. I might include people living abroad, and perhaps modify the questions a little.

What better way to start than with the irrepressible Andonis Radistis, a free spirit and lover of adventure, who describes his life with such enthusiasm. In his own words, then:


Tell us a “little” about yourself (Andonis put the quotes around ‘little’)

Born and raised on the Greek island of Skopelos was both a blessing and a ‘curse’ for me. A blessing because there is nothing more beautiful and pure than growing up in one of the prettiest islands that Greece and the world has to offer. Having a carefree childhood without the pitfalls a child and then a teenager could be faced with when growing up in a city. Adjusting to each season on an island; from summer, (full of visitors, sun and the sea), to autumn and the winter, (dead quiet), makes you a stronger person.

A curse because there is something about the salty air on a Greek island. The never ending horizons and the many tales of adventures on raging seas. All this made me want to seek new worlds, people and challenges from an early age. I made a promise to myself to begin my journey and start quenching my thirst for the world as soon as I finished school.

Andonis's birthplace, Skopelos
Andonis’s birthplace, Skopelos

My adventures began with a road trip to the UK and a person I hugely admired. Ended up staying there for 5 years, studying and working to make ends meet. The US was next and the beginning of yet another exciting chapter in my life. This was my year out for work experience, as part of my degree. What an eye opener that was. I remember feeling like I stepped on a different planet, when I walked out of Logan Airport in Boston. Upon completing that year, and heading back to the UK, I remember making yet another promise to myself. I needed to return back there and live the American dream for longer.

The universe conspires to assist you when you really want to achieve something. 2 years later, I was on another plane and heading back to the US. A two year contract and a working visa, sent me to the American south. On a tiny dot of an island in the middle the Gulf of Mexico this time. This was an equally mind-blowing experience, both in terms of work as well as personally. I met some amazing people down there and will have fond memories that will last throughout my lifetime.


It was brooding in my mind though. The idea of returning to Greece was getting overwhelming. During this time, I realised that no matter how good a time I was having I couldn’t be away from my beloved country. I even had a newborn nephew that I did not get to meet until he was 2 years old!

Once back in Greece, I enjoyed the rest of the summer before I headed straight into my Military Service, which got me into the Greek Navy for a year. A little older than most, I quite enjoyed the carefree year I had there. Try explaining US adventures to 18-19 yr olds: the great times I had in Key West and how it felt to be living in one of the most sought-after holiday resorts in the world. Clubbing, the night scenes of Miami and seeing the sun rise in a convertible while driving on the ‘7 Mile Bridge’. Needless to say, I was the ‘let’s have coffee and fascinate us with your experiences’ kind of guy. I really enjoyed that role for the year!

Straight after Navy duty, I headed to Athens to pursue my career in the Hotel Industry. Worked for a Multinational chain for about a year before I was asked to be one of the Executives in the Athens 2004 Olympic Games. Being part of the Torch Relay Team. I couldn’t say ‘no’ to this – it was my kind of challenge.

A few weeks later, I found myself organising exciting stuff for the Olympic Games. Locating and inspecting hotels all over Greece, in all the places the Olympic Flame had to stay the night. My team started the Games with the huge tour of the Torch Relay. We were on the road for almost 45 days. I will always remember the feeling of actually running with the flame myself and the goosebumps I got throughout the whole 500 meters I ran. The cheer from the crowds on the sides of the streets. The Opening Ceremony inside the Olympic Stadium, and how the flame was brought in and the ceremony started. Writing about it brings back those sacred moments I was privileged to have experienced.

The glory days passed much quicker than I thought. It was the 30th of September and the last day. Packing up the Athens 2004 Headquarters was an experience in itself. I felt a different person. All my colleagues felt the same. We had shared some amazing moments that would never be forgotten.

I didn’t let anyone discourage me those days with the stress of finding another job! I sent out a few CVs, attended a promising interview; 3 days later and by the end of the 1st week of October, I found working for a sweet boutique hotel in the north suburbs in Athens. I hadn’t even had time to fully rest.




Fast forward to about 1 year later and another new beginning! Yes I know, I hadn’t grown tired of changes and challenges yet, (and not for many years more). I wanted to create my own business on my beloved island of Skopelos and live my own dream. Once back, I made my plans as carefully as I could, and 2 years later, we were opening the family business. Skopelos Country Villas was a dream come true. Comprising two self-catering Country Villas with private pools, idyllic location and breathtaking views, it meant holidays in Skopelos would create beautiful memories for many harsh winters ahead. We first operated in the summer of 2007 and hopefully we will still operate for many more years to come.

During that time I also worked in another hotel locally, and almost 4 full years went by where I practically did not set foot outside the island. Subconsciously, I was already making plans for another adventure by that time. I felt that I had finished the hard part of building the family business and since that part was over, I was left without something adventurous to do.

But, as they say, be careful of what you wish for! Life has an interesting way of granting you your wishes sometimes. A few months later I was on a plane heading somewhere I had never really thought of going, let alone live there.

My plane landed in the Middle East, (Jeddah in Saudi Arabia to be exact). I was literally embarking on a luxurious motor yacht for an experience that changed my life, (in a ‘fall flat on your face’ kind of way). I had a posh title and was in charge of Hotel Operations & Provisions – everything looked promising. This place is ideal for those seeking to redefine their life values. Mine were re-evaluated in many ways and made me appreciate life even more. My experience there lasted for almost 2 years. Travelling with a multitude of personalities on board to cosmopolitan and high end places in the Med, was something to remember. Going back at the end of each travelling season to the harsh reality of the Middle East was certainly overwhelming to say the least.

Working aboard floating palaces, the endurance and self perseverance that one has to discover and unleash somehow, are vital. The fact that the work was at sea, where totally different elements of survival play a key role in everyday life, was another matter.

Then, after another stint in Athens and one more in the U.K., I ended up in Skopelos once again – back to safe grounds and familiar waters.

What were the major difficulties you’ve faced in the last five years?

As most people who live in this beautiful country, I’ve been hugely disappointed with its gigantic bureaucracy that has no end. The incredibly heavy taxation that was imposed overnight on small businesses and individuals which continues to increase without any viable strategy. The decimating of entrepreneurship and how unsupportive the government is of young people who want to start a business of any kind. Seeing my parents’ pensions cut down drastically without any logic whatsoever. Feeling massively frustrated every time I try to use any public service to do anything bureaucratic.



Did anyone in particular inspire you or help you?

I was extremely lucky to have met some pretty amazing people from quite an early stage in my life. These people I met either came into my life for a reason, a lifetime or both. They are the people I call my ‘stepping stones’.
Apart from my family (my parents and my three sisters), who needless to say supported and helped me every step of the way, these people came into my life and ‘pushed’ me forward in ways I hadn’t at the time thought of. They inspired me to think outside the box. They encourage me to take the next step forward. A few have passed on to the next realm, and are carrying on the inspiration, (like Sara and Terry), others I’m lucky to still have around, (like Eileen). They have shaped my past and will continue to shape my future, (like Madge and Toula).

All of these amazing people laid down ‘stepping stones’ along my path and helped me either in my career, my personal life and sometimes both. Has anyone else noticed they are all female? 🙂

What are your hopes/plans for the future?

I would really love to see my new venture, The Travelling Cookie, take off, so I can stand back some years from now and be proud that I helped travellers visit our beautiful country. I am also hoping that I can offer some great trips to Greeks, to visit other, favourite parts of the globe, (like the US).
In addition, I would like our family business, (Skopelos Country Villas), to continue being successful and have guests exploring this small paradise!
I would also like to stand back and say how I have now conquered the world and travelled to roads less travelled around the globe! I guess part of the reason for starting The Travelling Cookie was so that I could also help myself as well as others travel more.
Additionally, I have a new project in the works, SITEnDESIGN , to express my love for web design. An avid supporter and contributor of the WordPress Content Management System I started learning and experimenting with this ultimate web design and development tool in order to rebuilt the family business website. I never looked back since, and have built a number of websites, both for personal use, (my website), as well as for business use.


Why leave this?
Why leave this?

Have you considered leaving? If so, where would you like to go, and why?

Leaving? My God, do I need to leave again? No thank you! I think I did my fair bit of leaving during the past 20 years of my life 🙂 After all this, I can safely say that no matter where I’ve been or may one day go again, (perhaps), I could never be far from Greece, the sweetest of all countries, (for me anyway), for more than half a year.
Despite all the difficulties, frustrations, disappointments, uncertainties! Despite everything that is going on or may still happen to us in the future, no one can steal this beautiful, eternal light. The light that makes us shine from within and gives us strength to continue.

Are you actively doing anything to help with the situation? Is there something you would like to do?

I would like to think that I am promoting Greece through The Travelling Cookie, my newly opened, Online Travel Agency. In collaboration with 3 big Travel Companies in the UK, (The Travel Network Group, Independent Travel Experts and Travel Trust Association), I am actively promoting Greece as The Destination, especially for UK and USA travellers looking for summer holidays.
Although The Travelling Cookie is still in its infancy stage, I have hopes that it will grow and be able to eventually stand tall and promote Greece in a wider market segment. Focusing on Personalised Services, (having such a huge hotel background will definitely help on this), I strive to provide excellent customer service throughout the trip planning process.

How do you see Greece in 5, 10 years?

I don’t think that there are many people that have this kind of foresight for Greece. Being an optimist of course, I would like to think that a huge change will take place in the political stage. I would love to see capable leaders take over. Leaders that will primarily care for Greece and its people – not just for banks and the imposing of new austerity measures.
Leaders that will be able to stand tall and defend the country, not surrender it to money-lending sharks who ruthlessly keep asking for more and more!

How do you cope with obstacles and frustrations in your everyday life ?

To survive in Greece nowadays you have to be resourceful, (although resourcefulness is a great trait to have anyway). I tend not too get too discouraged by bureaucratic obstacles that much, and when I do let frustration take over, I just leave my ideas aside and try again in a couple of months/years.

I also try to find ways around whatever it is I’m after – see if a similar, plan B can work for me. Then, there is a great saying too: ’Things happen or not, for a reason’’…so if I’m faced with too many frustrations/obstacles, maybe my plan is not meant to be. At least not for the time being!




So, if you’re thinking of a Greek vacation, or if you want to explore Europe, the US or anywhere else, Andonis has the resources to make it happen for you!

Discovery: a great blog about Greece

Chrysoula Manika – Chrissy for short – writes a stunning blog,  travel passionate, about traveling in Greece. I’m reblogging one of her posts, just to give you a taste. But do go and take a look, it’s full of great places to visit, restaurants and hotels; day trips, fun things to do, where to get street food; she even gives tips on what to pack!
5 reasons to visit Greece in winter
by Chrissy on November 22, 2015 in Travel Ideas
Greece is considered one of the top summer destinations worldwide. What is not widely known, is that Greece is a great winter destination as well, with many sites worth visiting and many activities worth doing. Here are some reasons why Greece makes the perfect winter destination.


Why you should visit Greece in Winter:

It’s cheaper

If you are traveling to Greece during winter you will see that everything is cheaper and especially in popular summer destinations. There are a lot of Greek islands that you can still visit in winter and although some hotels and restaurants do close, there are always some that are still open with very low rates compared to summer. Also the restaurants that stay open are the ones that the locals visit, so you are bound to eat some good food. So if you don’t have the Greek beaches in mind there are a few islands that can be easily visited in winter, for example Santorini, Crete, Syros, Corfu, Rhodes and Hydra to name a few. During winter all the air fares are cheaper as well, both domestic and international. I have recently booked a return air ticket from Athens to Santorini with only 30€.

imageold town of Corfu from harbour

Less crowded
During the busy summer season everything is crowded. The lines for the Acropolis are big. The little alleyways of the islands are filled with people. On the contrary during winter you will have a more enjoyable experience having the site just for yourselves and a few more. You shouldn’t worry about the weather either. Although it gets cold from December till February winters are usually milder compared to most countries.


imageme at lake Plastira
Nice cities to explore
Athens, the capital of Greece is a great destination all year round. You will see less tourists in winter and you will get the chance to observe the local life. Apart from Athens and its countless sites that you can visit there are other beautiful cities in Greece worth exploring, Thessaloniki in the north is a very vibrant city with many archaeological sites, a great food and shopping scene and a lively nightlife. Kavala located in the north of Greece as well, is a very picturesque seaside town built ampitheatrically with many sites worth visiting.



Great winter destinations to discover
Apart from the big cities and the Greek islands that one can visit during the winter, Greece has many popular winter destinations as well, with great natural beauty. The beautiful villages of Zagorohoria and the town of Kastoria in Epirus, Pelion villages, Arachova and lake Plastira near Meteora in Thessalia. Kalavryta, Mani and Nafplio in Peloponnese to mention a few. All these areas and many more make the perfect winter destination with their picturesque scenery, archaeological sites, incredible nature and local cuisine.


imageVathia village Mani

A variety of sports activities
Did you know that you can ski in Greece? There are a few big ski and snowboards centers in Greece like the one in Arachova and Kalavryta. Other sports activities include hiking trails in the mountainous regions, rafting in one of the country’s rivers and horseback riding. One of the world’s leading athletic event takes place in Athens every November, the Athens Marathon, where athletes from all over the world come to run the original classic route.


imageoutside Trikala
imageMakrinitsa village in Pelion

Now you know and you can too, arrange your winter visit to Greece.

Have you ever visited Greece in winter?

Did you like it?

Click on the blog name to get there – I’m sure you’ll find plenty to interest and tempt you!

Greece through the eyes of a Welsh yachtie

Having left his previous life to follow his dream of living on a yacht, Darren has been boating in the Greek islands and occasionally blogging about it. He also had the chance to explore Athens and the mainland and observe Greek reality for himself. He kindly let me borrow a bit from his Musings from the Med to re-post here, since I always find it interesting to take a look at things through someone else’s eyes. See what he says below:

“It’s now a little over one year since I first discovered Greece. I came initially to view a boat and make a holiday out of the trip. A sailboat was bought and Greece has been home for 2015.
Athens, 2014, where my trip began was hot and bustling. I had opted for a hotel not too far from Omonia square. The guide book said it was an area renowned for Russians, prostitutes and general dodginess – not that I am trying to make a connection here, nor was that the reason I chose that area! It was simply cheap and geographically well suited to my needs of exploration.
I seem to recall the streets being full. The flow of people, made up mainly of tourists, was difficult to pass if caught going in the wrong direction; Monastiraki was crammed with people sipping their freddo coffees and pointing cameras through all cardinal points. The city was alive!
With a hire car I ventured further afield: Peloponnese, Lefkadha, Meteora and Sounion. No matter where I went, I found a natural beauty I had not found anywhere else in Europe. The tourists were still there, the numbers varying with the area/location.
2015: economic crisis, debt uncertainty and politics – something I don’t concern myself with – very much the focus in Greece. It wasn’t like this when I first arrived in early March of this year. I had made friends with some fellow yachties and talk was of pleasant sailing, discovery and fine dining on the abundance of fresh fish and seafood one can easily find here.
Apart from a few teething problems, the sailing began well. The warmer weather became more permanent and the winds and rain became less of a concern. I had been asked to go back to Africa in June to help out on a project I had been involved with in 2014. It was only for 5 weeks so off I went. It was during this period that I became aware of the crisis unfolding in Greece. Had I paid more attention to politics and, well, read newspapers or listened to the news, it may not have crept up on me so suddenly!
The scaremongering of the news people was good; I was fearful for a lot of things. My money and life were tied up in a boat in Greece. I had no idea what could happen but did fear the worst! It was time to head back to Greece and face the uncertainty. I came back armed with euros and a plan to take the boat elsewhere should the situation look impossible. I needn’t have worried half as much. Not all cash machines had money but those that did readily churned out notes for me. My boat was not going to be impounded and sold off to put money in the Greek coffers…
Actually, at first, all seemed as I had left it. I remained in Athens a few days before heading back north to Preveza. During my stay in Athens I began to notice the difference. The bustle was less; there was an uncertain calm; there seemed to be more homeless on the streets – or more than likely they were now visible due to the lack of visitors to the capital – perhaps they had always been there, hidden and ignored by the masses too eager to get snaps of the Acropolis.
Whatever the reason, Athens was not the same as when I had first visited 12 months prior. It seems to be the same story all over. I have pulled into anchorages and town quays in the Ionian expecting to fight for a spot only to be pleasantly surprised at the amount of space available. Boat numbers are definitely down on previous seasons, so I am led to believe. Great news for a novice sailor like me but not good news for the Greek economy.
The Greek people seem subdued and confused with what is happening to them and their country. I have made good friends with a local restaurant owner and a dentist. Panos, who owns a restaurant near a marina I frequent, and that does very well, is moving to Sweden at the end of the year having had enough of the uncertainty – a sentiment shared by many no doubt. Konstandina, my dentist, is also looking at openings in either the UK or the Netherlands. She chose to open her practice here in Greece because of her love for the place. However, with a young family to support, and recent events and an unclear future not helping much – she is being forced to look at other options.
As for me, well, I absolutely love the country and hope it all comes good. I have only good things to say about the people I have met: their happiness, kindness, honesty and their willingness to make me feel comfortable and accepted. My plans are such that hopefully one day, in the not-so-distant future, I will leave Greece to travel further west – though I am sure I can fit in another season or two before leaving. This happens to be the same plan shared by many a yachtie out here on the water, most of whom never left and have been sailing here for upwards of 10 years…so we’ll just have to see what happens!”


A boat to nowhere

Picture this:

imageThe Pedion tou Areos (Field of Mars), at 25 hectares the biggest park in the center of Athens, built to commemorate the heroes of the 1821 revolution. It was refurbished some years ago at a cost of more than nine million euros, but has since gone slightly to seed, like much else in Athens. Drug users lurk in shady corners. And now a new dimension has been added to this landscape: rows of small, colorful tents line the Avenue of Heroes, clotheslines are strung between trees. Afghan refugees started this camp a couple of weeks ago and their numbers are swelling by the day. Amongst them are small children and pregnant women.

imageThis scenario is repeated in squares and on pavements throughout the city. Shopkeepers around offer the refugees food, but they don’t want them there. It’s bad for business, and business is bad anyway. Charitable organizations do the best they can. There is little help from the state.


Hundreds of immigrants are arriving every day on the islands across from Turkey. More than 48.000 have come in the first semester of 2015, compared with 43.000 for the whole of 2014.

Exhausted, scared and lost, they are forced to wait for days in difficult conditions before being ‘processed’ by overworked officials in understaffed and underfunded local authority offices. Sometimes fights break out between nationalities: if the Afghans believe the Syrians are receiving better treatment, for example. When cleared, they make their way to Athens. But they don’t want to stay in Greece, where people are already struggling under an unbearable burden. Their dream is to end up in Germany, or get to England via France. Some have relatives there. There is chaos at the Larisa train station, chaos at Patras port, where they try to stow aboard lorries going to Italy.

And  we are talking about those that have actually made it across. In the old days, slavers had to make sure the merchandise at least arrived in a fit state to be sold. Modern traffickers – or ‘brokers’ as they like to call themselves – demand to be paid in advance. Then they just pile the human cargo into boats made for a tenth of their number, if that, and set them loose upon the seas – sometimes with not even enough fuel to make land. Boats are left to the care of teenage captains, the tanks empty, people locked in the hold.

Many drown. The rest are rescued by the coastguard. Unfortunately, more rescue missions have resulted in increased traffic, as was seen with the Mare Nostrum operation in Italy. The traffickers are on a constant search for new routes, new methods of transport.

imageHow can Europe deal with such a massive transfer of populations, on a scale never seen before in history?

In the twenty-first century, in a society where the accumulation of material goods is a given, these people have NOTHING. It’s a concept difficult to comprehend. No clothes, no food, no papers, no home. Nothing. It is impossible to put oneself in the place of humans so desperate they are willing to leave behind everything they know, to risk life and limb, and who then arrive in a country where they are destitute, do not speak the language, and are repelled by all available means.

In an article entitled ‘You’re Better Than This, Europe’,  Nils MUIZNIEKS writes:

Europe needs to take a long, hard look at itself — and at the reality of the refugee issue. The European Union could start by overhauling its laws governing asylum and migration. By increasing legal avenues for migrants to reach Europe, with measures like eased humanitarian visas and family reunification rules, it would reduce the number of migrants taking perilous routes. That would help cut the ground from beneath the feet of smugglers, who grow richer when migration restrictions are harsh. (International New York Times, JUNE 28, 2015)

imageEurope, however, seems far from up to the task. Horrifying scenes are taking place on each side of the Channel. Meanwhile, the Hungarians are building a fence with Serbia to keep them out. Police and army are used to ‘secure’ borders. And each country, if you read the press, is mostly concerned with its own problems, while trying to foist the blame and the responsibility onto everyone else.

There is no doubt that the situation needs to be brought under control, especially since rumors abound that the boats are used to bring over ISIS militants from Libya amongst the refugees. There are no obvious or easy solutions, but the only way forward is for all countries to work together. Europe has to realize there is a huge, potentially explosive problem staring it in the face; a problem which must be dealt with quickly, decisively and, above all, humanely. 

We must never forget we are dealing with people here, people who today are mostly perceived as a threat. But a lot of them have escaped conditions so horrific it would be inhuman to send them back. And immigration, if properly managed, can enrich societies in many ways.

Greece had to deal with a major wave of immigrants in the years 1990-2011, after the fall of communism. These were mostly from Rumania, Bugaria and Albania, but also eventually from all over the world. Although there have been problems – notably a rise in criminality as gangs infiltrated the country – a lot of these immigrant integrated successfully. They learnt Greek, made friends, blended in, set up businesses. And if some report instances of racism in their work or social environment, a recent study showed that this does not extend to their children attending Greek school. A new law is in the process of being passed, which will ease the acquiring of Greek nationality for these children. Ironically, quite a few of these immigrants have now gone back to their countries, where conditions have improved compared to the deteriorating ones in Greece.