Living in Greece

A practical guide to moving, living, working & traveling in Greece, plus musing and misadventures from an American in Athens

A white day in Athens

athina.jpg

H ασπρη μερα στην Αθηνα

This post was going to start with “Καμια” and end with a question mark, but as a light snow started to fall in Athens as we went to sleep last night, it morphed to “H.”

People who have never been to Greece often ask the question, “Snow…in Greece?” The answer is, “Nαι!” It’s prominent in the north of Greece and mountainous areas, such as Tymfristos and Parnassos where a lot of people sit around posing in perfect outfits some of us actually ski and snowboard.

Ironically, when I tell people here that I was on the ski team in California, they ask me, “Snow…in California?” The answer is, “absolutely.” See, stereotypes work in reverse too. It’s snowing in San Diego right now.

Just a few hours drive from wine country are my favorite places — Bear Valley, where I learned to ski from my Trigonometry teacher; Squaw, the location of the 1960 Olympics; and Heavenly, a world class ski resort where I nearly committed suicide by getting on the wrong ski lift to an expert slope complete with 90° drop, moguls and almost zero visibility. Those were the good ol’ days.

All I have now is maybe 2 3 4 10 centimeters where I live in Athens, a cakewalk compared to Sweden, Minnesota or New York where temps can fall to -12°C and snowfall up to a meter overnight. So if you’re going to whine to me about, “how cold it is,” join my fiancé in the corner. You’ll get no sympathy from me until it’s so cold that it’s painful to breathe through a neck gaiter over your mouth and there’s so much snow on the ground that it takes 5 hours to dig yourself out of the house.

It’s barely a dusting of sugar on a donut, in fact I think there’s less snow outside than sugar on a kourambiethe.

Put on some turtle fur and suck it up! :x

Snow tips for inexperienced Athenians

1. Wear waterproof shoes with traction
Timberlands, Caterpillar, Ecco, for example. Not sneakers and trainers that will leave you cold, wet and slipping in no time.

If you currently don’t own proper shoes, at least choose a pair made of synthetic material (not leather), which will somewhat protect you from the elements.

2. Wear fleece, flannel, cashmere or wool underneath and a water-resistant layer on top
Doing this will insulate you and keep you dry; regular cotton and polyester will do nothing, even in layers. Silk underwear is a good thin (non-bulky) base layer for any cold weather (or cold house) and doubles as pajamas. Wearing a hat will also help since the majority of heat escapes through your head. It’s not a fashion show, and I bet you’ll look cute.

3. Use snow to your advantage
Snow is actually an insulator, so don’t feel obligated to clean off the whole car, just windshields and mirrors.
(Judging from the pileups and collisions on Attiki Odos, we’ll strike it from the list since people are having trouble with basics)

4. If your home has no insulation, put aside some bottles of water
Pipes will freeze overnight if not protected by a layer of insulation or other precautions aren’t taken. Put some bottles on reserve for drinking, preparing food, flushing the toilet or washing hands, hair and vegetables. If you don’t, prepare to be unshowered, unshaven, hungry and thirsty until the weather allows pipes to thaw.

5. The roads are slippery, don’t drive like you normally do
Don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about! If you’re not used to driving in these conditions where black ice and other drivers add more risk, it’s best to go very slow, use public transportation, walk or stay home.

You may laugh at these tips because you think they’re stupid or you’re “too cool” to care. That’s OK. At least I tried.

Take it easy and everyone be safe out there. :D


Post photo is mine, taken the morning of February 17, 2008.

The accompanying ex-header can be found here; photos are: a) Ikaros airfield from aopa.gr; b) Akropoli from bbc.co.uk; c) Downtown by Christos Siaterlis from homestead.com; d) Olympian Zeus from elia.org.gr.
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15 Comments »

  yiannos wrote @ February 17th, 2008 at 11:25

i’m jealous of cities with snow :-(

  D wrote @ February 17th, 2008 at 15:52

Thanks for the snow management tips. I made the mistake of wearing sneakers yesterday and my feet literally froze :P . The problem here (in Athens that is) is that it snows so rarely that investing in the right “equipment” is barely cost-effective ;)

  λ:ηρ wrote @ February 17th, 2008 at 17:02

Kat, this is useful advise. But I want to raise an objection regarding your 3rd suggestion (about cleaning just the windshields and the mirrors of the car).

I believe that it’s better to dust off as much snow from the car as possible. This way you will not spray the drivers behind you with snow as you drive and you will not pellet them with snow cakes as you drive down the road.

I often find myself in nearly white-out conditions when the car in front of me is covered in snow.

Th car is insulated as is. It’s thermally vulnerable parts are the windows; that’s where most heat escapes through. Once the snow is removed from the windows, out goes any insulating benefit of the snow.

Snow left on the hood will eventually melt away due to the heat engine. Before that it will white-out the car’s driver as it will be sprayed upwards when the car takes off! Snow on the roof and trunk will white-out the drivers following the car.

(Leo in PTL land – aka Holland Michigan)

  FMS wrote @ February 17th, 2008 at 18:27

I have experienced more snow living in Athens than I ever did in the UK. Although this is a relatively new phenomenon, you’d think by now that people would have picked up a few basic points — like, don’t drive your car fast; wear warm multi-layered clothing; put reasonably thick curtains on your windows…

  rositta wrote @ February 17th, 2008 at 18:29

He He He…looks pretty though. I’m glad you revised number 3 though, I had a really bad experience once with a whole bunch of frozen snow on top of my car which I couldn’t reach to clean off. Driving through the mall parking lot at low speed I had to make a sudden stop and the whole mess slid forward onto my windshield completely obscuring my vision. The roof gets warm from the heating and shifted the whole pile. I have seen near misses on highways by big trucks when the whole pile shifts and falls on the highway. Better safe than sorry…ciao and enjoy the snow.

  Devious Diva wrote @ February 18th, 2008 at 15:12

I don’t do cold at all. I’m such a baby. And we have only one electric radiator in our house at the moment so we are REALLY cold. But I love that that absolute quiet that has fallen on the city because of the snow. It’s very pretty but it’s the silence that gets to me. Being an inner city girl, I have rarely experienced it.

There’s always a good side right ?

  macpublish wrote @ February 18th, 2008 at 19:32

Kat, thanks for dropping by my blog to say hello. I am a regular reader of your blog and really enjoy both the style and content. Please keep up the good work.

—A Greek-American fan

  dubaibilly wrote @ February 19th, 2008 at 20:15

Hi Kat, I read about the snow on BBC news – I know it snows in Skopelos because I’ve seen pics; didn’t find any for this time but one of my widgets gives me the constantly updated temp on my little island – apparently it was -5 and snowing! Of course, here in Dubai it never snows, in fact I now think that winter is over for us and summer is already on the way!

  melusina wrote @ February 19th, 2008 at 21:24

I can’t believe Athens got snow and we didn’t! I sort of half-wanted it to snow here, it is so pretty when it is falling, but then by the third day if it hasn’t melted at all I get stressed. Plus, we’ve had our share of snowfall already. I think the Thessaloniki area was perhaps the only region of Greece that didn’t get hit – and by the graph map they showed with the movement of the snowfall, I think we missed it up here by a very short distance.

It was much, much colder up here than in town, I think we got to about -10 celsius (and with the wind blowing like it was, who knows – I made the mistake of going outside without something over my mouth – I thought my lungs had frozen!). I can complain about the cold because it is hell on my joints! This is why I lived in the south most of my life. ;)

I guess most of it has melted by now – it was a relatively warm day today, and this weekend is due to be nice and warm, springlike weather. I can’t wait!

I hope you enjoyed the snow and didn’t have much inconvenience because of it.

  r3b31 wrote @ February 19th, 2008 at 23:47

my timberlands did the job
no falls no problems
except that a friend of mine had her flight to Germany canceled (twice!!)

  DIO wrote @ February 20th, 2008 at 11:48

After hearing the story about snow in SD I might have to prepare myself for a visit from a polar bear at Chalkidiki this summer…
what’s next, a snow storm in South beach???

  Kat wrote @ February 20th, 2008 at 12:08

Y – That’s easy for you to say since you live somewhere mostly sunny. If you lived somewhere like Sweden or Canada, you’d suffer from winter depression and snow fatigue. Then you’d change your tune, for sure. ;)

D – Oh dear! Poor feet. You could economize by using certain things for other purposes. i.e. A fairly inexpensive water resistant or water repellent jacket for $25-$70 could be both a winter outer layer, rain jacket and light spring jacket that is classic and goes with everything. Fleece socks cost $10-$15, dry extremely fast and layer over your regular ones. Timberlands, if you choose a versatile pair, can double as hiking boots or casual boots in spring, summer and fall for around a hundred clams — I know people who spend more than that on a night of clubbing. I use wool sweaters all winter, which could even be worn in fall and make a jacket unnecessary. These items are not “snow” wear; they’re smart, cost efficient year round purchases that require very little investment. :) P.S. Shouldn’t you have good stuff from your “homeland?”

I think with the shift in worldwide weather patterns, it’s possible that snow will be more frequent. I personally believe it’s a good thing because we could use the water.

L – That’s a good point, however aren’t people supposed to be driving slow enough to not spray snow? I got the tip from someone in Canada. We’ll strike it from the list, being as high winds are picking up and I’ve already heard about a pileup on Attiki Odos and several collisions not caused by snow spraying, just reckless driving and over confident drivers who have no clue about driving in these conditions. Thanks for your input! It’s appreciated.

M – True. It has snowed nearly every year since 2000. But if people think they know better and enjoy complaining about the same ol’ things, instead learning the right way and fixing what’s wrong, there’s nothing that I or anyone else can do. Enjoy the snow!

R – Scary story, and you’ve got plenty of experience dealing with snow where you are. And yes, it is pretty to look at. I’ve always found that a coat of snow makes everything look peaceful and clean, even if for a little while.

DD – Hey ya! Cold isn’t for everyone; I didn’t like it much when I lived in NYC, but there was something nice about experiencing seasons. There is always a good side.

We had a similar situation to yours in our last house — no insulation, camping in the living room with two radiators that only went on 3 hrs a day, supplemented with a space heater that ran up our electric bill. We had to move to solve it, and I feel for you. Hang in there. :)

Mac – Why thank you! :) I appreciate your readership and stopping to say ‘howdy.’

DB – A warm hello! You speak the truth — many Greek islands have snow and freezing temps as well. However, I heard that Luc near Irakleio escaped that fate, while most of Crete did not (see, “Snow? Where?“). Good that you, the Mrs. and Mr. Baggins are somewhere warm now. I rather enjoy the seasons, but I’ve got “whining fatigue” from everyone pining for summer already. LOL.

Mel – True, where you are is much colder and you’ve had your share of the white stuff. I’ve been in Washington DC before and there was no snow, just biting winds and temps (believe me, it’s enough); we used to make jokes that it’s the “wind chill factor.” Being in CA was ideal because we had the option of snow just hours away, as it rarely fell where we lived. I’m under the impression most people stayed home, so only the few ignorants on the road causing pileups and such were inconvenienced. Dirty snow is gone, and we’re back to normal.

R – Excellent! See everyone, a smart person! :D Sorry that your friend was inconvenienced though, as there’s really no reason for it and she should be offered something more than a food coupon for her trouble. See, “Snowbound Athens airport in spotlight.” Experienced pilots take off and land all the time from airports in NYC, Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, et al under much worse conditions. My fiance and I landed in JFK during a hurricane. Sure, it was a little bumpy with the turbulence, but there was a very confident feeling, and we were all safe, sound and on time; we didn’t even bounce down the runway, as often happens here in clear, sunny conditions.

D – I bet polar bears look cute in Bermuda shorts. Those wrinkled folks in SB could use a little shade to help them cut down on premature aging and the plastic surgery to fix it. Ba dum dum. ;)

  teemu wrote @ February 20th, 2008 at 15:05

You forgot one crucial tip: go skiing!

:-)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E2OTDduPcJU

  EllasDevil wrote @ February 20th, 2008 at 20:58

Is it safe to come out of hibernation yet…?

:-)

  FMS wrote @ February 21st, 2008 at 07:33

Only in daylight, EllasDevil. The nights are still Arctic

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