Zambolis apartments

Zambolis apartments
For your holidays in Chania

Thursday 27 October 2016


Starbucks - its not just about the coffee.

This is my first time at Starbucks in Hania. Apart from Starbucks, the only other international branded food outlet we have is Dominos pizza. Perhaps this is the reason why I never tried Starbucks before: because I am a snob. I'm into my small and local and I shy away from the large and international. Besides, I've heard and read all the bad stories about Starbucks on the news and social media: they serve standard coffee, it is expensive, the company doesnt pay taxes, etc. I decided to try it out for myself today.

Starbucks Hania

I choose the cappuccino. Safe choice. That caramel brownie also looks tempting. And so does the last outdoor free table. I sit al fresco under a dull grey sky that looks like it's going to rain (the weather forecast was only joking - we haven't seen real rain since March), and a stagnant humid feeling - summer may be over, but the warm weather is still with us. 

Starbucks cappuccino and caramel brownie  

The Venetian port is crawling with young Americans. LA long vowels, NY nasals, Southern drawls. Baseball caps and capri shorts, crew cuts and shaved faces, very white faces and very black faces. Both males and females. And for the males, icky-looking socks pulled up to the mid-shin height, with trainers. It was kind of difficult to find any news on the web about what these Americans were doing here. The USS WASP LHD-1 ( is in town ( no less than nine days, taking a break from its 'six-month tour of the Middle East' (as Wikipedia claims), purely for the pleasure of the crew, and presumably on the President's orders. Hania is nice for breaks. That's probably why the rain is holding out - to make the 1000+ crew members' holiday as pleasurable as possible. 

"We promise the perfect drink. If your drink is not like you want it, we'll make it again."

I'm about to take a sip of my coffee when I overhear the American man sitting behind me all alone talking to what sounds like his family: 
"How are you all?... I can't wait to come home... I know, I know, I miss you too, honey... Love you..."
It sounded just like an American movie. But it wasn't a movie, it was being played out right behind me. My heart broke at that point. he hadn't seen his family since... June, if I'm correct. 

Still no rain: apparently, priests in the Orthodox Church of Greece have begun chanting incantations. 

If only the President - both present and future - could hear that man. I wish him a safe journey home to his loved ones, and hopefully soon.
©All Rights Reserved/Organically cooked. No part of this blog may be reproduced and/or copied by any means without prior consent from Maria Verivaki.

Friday 7 October 2016

Bargains galore

We recently decided that we need new sofas. Our old ones have been with us since we got married, and they have been through all the phases of of our children's childhood, which includes being peed on, vomited all over, and being used as a trampoline. I remember my son in particular, sprinting up to the sofa, crouching to do a little jump, turning his body in mid-air as he performed his somersault and landing -PFAFFFFFF!- onto the sofa. At the time I was worried he might hurt himself. Over time, I realised that he was hurting my bum, as it sank into the underside of the sofa. Now is a good time to change the sofas, we decided, since the kids are almost no longer kids, and these phases are over for the time being. We did think about adding some more padding to our old sofas, but we also felt that it was time for a new look in our house. 

We like to lie on our sofas and watch TV movies as a family, and the sofas in that state are really no good for that. Not only that, but we also discovered during the summer that it would be nice if we could invest in some sofa beds because we had a lot of friends and family staying over at our house. At one point, there were ten of us staying in the house, using three bathrooms. Everyone slept on beds, not the sofas. By investing in sofa-beds, we could even airbnb our house. OK, that's a joke. But, really, you never know: There was a huge surge in tourism this year, at least in Crete, as we felt it here. We keep breaking records in that sector, and the way the world is going, no one really can make predictions for what could be happening next year. 

So here we are, wondering where our next sofa is going to come from. We had some ideas about where we could go. The easiest solution was to go first to the furniture store near our house. It's Friday night, and we enter a very quiet store. As soon as we entered, the owners turned on the lights for us. We explained what we wanted. 

- Alas, the owner said. I sold the last sofa bed a month ago. It was a shop sample. But I've ordered a new sample. It'll be here some time in mid-November. 

Mid-November! We wondered how difficult it was going to be to find something we wanted without resorting to the internet. Sofas, among many other things, are try-before-you-buy items. 

- I used to have half a dozen of these sofa beds in my storage area, the owner continued. But now with the crisis, people don't buy things like they used to. We'll be lucky if we can sell something like that now once or twice a year. That's why we don't store them any longer. People are really hard up these days; mark my words, yo will see many shops closing down before the year is out. 

The owner's saga wasn't really helping us achieve our aim. Out of interest, we asked how much the sofa bed would cost. We probably looked like zombies when we heard the price: €1600. It was made in Italy. 
We left the store feeling quite dejected. 

We then went to another store, where we had bought our children's computer desks a few years ago when we renovated their rooms. Now this store was quite different from the other one. It was crowded with stock, people were coming and going, and it was hard to find an assistant, because they were all busy with prospective customers. When it was finally our turn to be served, the young woman showed about half a dozen sofa beds of various kinds and sizes, and at varying price levels, half of which were made in Greece. Among those sofa bed models, we saw some that were just what we were looking for, and they were all really well priced: the ones we liked cost up to €400 each! We asked how long it would take to have them made up and delivered to us. 

- We've got a dozen in stock in the basic colours. We can deliver them tomorrow if you like. 

What a change form the other store! We took measurements, checked colours and decided on a weekend delivery when we would all be home.

*** *** ***

The difference between the two stores could be stated on a simple level as 'cheap shop' and 'expensive shop'. But there is also the question of 'image': the former offers 'Italian design', while the latter offers 'well-priced quality'. I will admit that marketing strategies don't really help struggling Greek businesses in Greece in general, because people don't have much money to spare: they don't have much disposal income. But if the small Greek businesses want to survive, they need to find a way to diversify so to speak. They may have to drop the 'luxury' image that they may once have had, because people nowadays prefer to sacrifice image for comfort. They may also need to change location, because some places simply don't spin money. The same barely surviving business just might do well in another area by selling similar products that people can afford rather than high-end products. 

In Athens, Ermou St once again has become a shopping destination. Even in Hania, shopping locations have really changed over the crisis period. We now have an established 'high street'. It started off with 'big names like Zara, Bershka and Pull and Bear opening in the same area, presumably all franchises are operated by one business, under different names. Sounds multi-corporate? Yes, but it's had an incredible effect on the local business life. Z, B and P&B brought in other lesser known names like Jennyfer (French), Stradivarius (Spanish) and only just recently, Pink Woman (Greek). And it is helping small local-brand stores in the following way: the small shops (eg one-euro stores, traditional cheese suppliers etc, frozen food warehouses, major coffee supplies stores, etc) began extending their shopping hours, and opening on afternoons when shops in Greece were traditionally closed (eg Monday and Wednesday afternoons) because the big shops were bringing in the customers. So now, we have all-day shopping in Hania, despite the cries of shopkeepers about low trade, falling profits and poor consumers. What's more, even foreigners use our high street. It's really quite interesting watching tourists shop at our big brand outlets - they must have the same shops in their own countries, so we wonder what they like about them: perhaps our stores are cheaper, perhaps also our stores stock designs that theirs don't. 

In a recent survey, it was noted that Greeks spend on average €1419 per month (per household, I think), compared to about €1460 per month the previous year: that sounds quite healthy if you consider that we are supposed to be earning low salary/wages. We spend on food (20,7%) housing (13,3%) και transportation (12,8%), the lowest on education (3,3%), where we used to spend 11% in 2014. 11 out of 12 sectors show a decrease in spending, with the lowest being 1.1% in holidays and 'culture'. The only category that shows a rise is health (1,2%), probably due to people not trusting the state system. The holidays sector stats are very interesting: another survey shows that there has been a 75% increase in Greeks buying online holiday packages: we're becoming so European in our ways!!!

Apart from travel tickets, I rarely shop from the internet these days. Nearly everything I need is available at a local store in my small Mediterranean island town. I hunt down bargains, I always prefer credit card payments to cash, and I've even worked out where to get souvlaki by credit card. Both Greek consumers and business people have woken up so to speak. In the meantime, we are so looking forward to getting those sofas delivered. 

I'd like to show you some photos of the high street, so I'll update this post in the not too distant future. Meanwhile, here are some nice photos of what the Venetian harbour looked like yesterday, when I had an hour to kill between finishing work and picking up the kids from their afternoon activities. 

©All Rights Reserved/Organically cooked. No part of this blog may be reproduced and/or copied by any means without prior consent from Maria Verivaki.