Looking for Land


We often used to vaguely mention how great it would be if one day we could leave Athens and live in the countryside but this was far away in our future plans, as we were both young for retirement.

However, you never know what is in store for you and my husand “retired” or was rather forced to retire from the army when he was only 50 years old.   At that time I had already opened a bookstore, so he would help me there for some years.  Business was not going well but I had to keep it running for a few more years until I could apply for early retirement.

If I wanted full pension I would have to keep the business until I became at least 60 years old in order to retire.  Fortunately, for me there was a law at the time that if a woman at the age of 50 had at least been working for twenty years and had three children, the youngest being under 18 she could qualify for reduced pension.   Selling the bookstore was out of the question, although we tried but who would buy a business having no substantial profit and getting a job was also impossible at my age, as  the unemployment rate  in Greece is very high and even young people can’t get a job.  So I closed the shop just before Evangelia (Elia) turned 18 and I applied for early retirement.   Although it took almost 2 1/2 years to be approved but  I was lucky enough to benefit from this law as shortly after, this law was annulled.     That’s the time when I started blogging as a hobby.

Now that we were both “early pensioners” and free from obligations, I started telling my husband how great it would be if we could move to the countryside after Elia would turn 18. The idea matured in our heads and two years ago we started looking for a plot where we could build a small house where we could retire.

The seashore suburbs of Attica were out of the question for a few reasons. One was that the land was too expensive but also becauce the suburbs are now so crowded that it’s just like living in Athens and living in an apartment near the seaside was out of the question.  I wanted a house with a garden which would not be far away from the seaside but also not very far away from Athens.

We didn’t want to move too far away because our children would still be living in our house in Athens, so we decided to search within an area of two hours’ drive.

Our first choice would be the region around Nafplion.   When Elia was still in elementary school, her school organised an excursion there and it was love at first sight.  We started dreaming how great it would be if he manged to get transferred there but although we had applied many times, it was not in the cards, at least not in the near future.

During the past two years we have been traveling to Nafplion, every now and then meeting with real estate agents and we were so close to signing twice, when something went wrong just at the last minute.

The first house we really liked was one of a complex of three small houses.  Each one was 65 sq. metres and had two bedrooms, one bathroom and the rest of the house was an open spaced kitchen  with the living room.

However, it had a huge porch but most of all, each house had  1.500 sq metres land of its own, with an open view of  the Argolic citrus orchards in front of us.

This would be perfect to be used just as a summer house, as it was rather remote to live there year round.  We liked it for several reasons, the first being that it was within the limited budget we had set, it was only ten – fifteen minutes’ drive to Karathonas beach, it had a huge area to have a garden with lawn, it was partly furnished, all rooms had air-conditioning, it had a fireplace and it even had an inflatable, family sized swimming pool and part of the garden was cemented and arranged for the pool.

Before signing, we asked our lawyer to look into the legal formalities but to our disappointment, he advised us that although the property was big we were not allowed by law to build anything else or expand the present building, as it was outside the town limits.  Furthermore, the contractors were not in compliance with certain formalities of the law, so we had to reject it.

We continued searching and kept arranging appointments with real estate agents every now and then.    They showed us maisonettes which were small like pigeon holes, plots that were very far away from Nafplion, or in degraded areas where there were a lot of gypsies and thefts were a usual phaenomenon, others with existing small old houses which needed a lot of money to be renovated and other plots which we liked but were much above our budget.   The ones near the seaside or even with a distant view of the sea were very expensive.   Each time we left without finding anything, we were very disappointed.

In one of our visits, after over a year of searching, we finally found a second one we immediately liked.   It was a plot of land which was rather far away from Nafplion about 20 km but it had a fantastic view of the Argolic Gulf.    Nothing was built, except for a couple of houses in the far distance and the closest village was a couple of kilometres away.  The closest beach was Myloi, a seashore village about 15 km away but the beach was not so good as Karathonas but the view was fantastic and a little more effort getting to a decent beach was worth it.  The price, however, was high and after visiting a second time and bargaining we finally reached an agreement and we shook hands, which was almost like signing.  However, this was also too good to be true.  Just before signing we found out that the law changed and those plots were no longer in the town plans and were excluded from the building area.

Most of the weekends, we continued making trips around Athens, towards Evia,  Sounion, Corinth, Orea Eleni, Epidavros etc., but we did not like what we saw.

On one of our visits to Nafplion, after an exhausting day seeing many real estate agents, we were very disappointed for one more time and were thinking to give up.  Fortunately, the last one, who was the owner of the land and a contractor had an orange orchard in Assini which he decided to cut into building plots, I think they were about sixteen and he showed us the last two which were for sale.  Each plot wasn’t very big, it was only 350 square metres big, but at least we could build a 100 sq. metres house plus a semi-basement.

We liked it as it was only 2 km away from the beach and without any hesitation, we shook hands.

We returned back a couple of days later and signed the contracts early July 2010.

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Moving Away from Athens


Limassol

I grew up in Limassol, Cyprus, at a time when there was only one multi-storey building, called “eftapaton”, meaning having seven storeys.  I think it didn’t even have seven stories.  All the houses were one or two storey houses, surrounded with a garden and having trees and flowers in the garden.   All the houses I grew up in, until I got married, were detached houses with a garden, except for the period of three years, when we lived in England.

After the invasion and occupation of Cyprus by the Turks and all the refugees from the occupied territories moving to the free part of Cyprus, more and more  buildings started appearing and by 1981, when we left Cyprus there were quite a lot of buildings.

Soon after we got married we moved to Greece and that’s where we started living in apartments.  A few apartments had large verandahs and balconies and others not so big.

We moved a lot because of my husband’s job, being in the army.   We lived in Northern Greece for three years and then in Samos island for another three years.   We were then transferred to Athens in 1987, where we rented a house which was near my in-laws house, who used to live in Athens at the time, before moving to Sparta.  We got transferred every 2 or 3 years the most, so we wanted to be close to our family.

The house, which belonged to one of my sister-in-laws, was very old, it may have been built sometime after WW2 or maybe in the early 50s, I am not sure but it was a two storey building with no central heating but at least it had a small garden infront which belonged to an old couple living on the ground floor and a small cement yard for the children to play in.   In the meantime my husband had a severe operation due to which he did not get transferred again from Athens, so we lived there until 1992.   We were not planning to move from that house as in the meantime I got a job and it was convenient for me having my mother-in-law close because we could always leave the children and go out when we wanted and I had some help when I was pregnant again and had to stay in bed until I gave birth to the child.

However, one day, just a few seconds after our two little boys got out of their bedroom, part of the ceiling collapsed and fell.     Some of the furniture were ruined but we were shocked with the idea of what might have happened, if the children were still in their bedroom!!

After that incident, we decided to sell our house in Cyprus and buy an apartment of our own.

The amount we got from the house in Cyprus was just enough for a down payment but with almost the amount we paid for rent we could pay our mortgage.  The apartment was about fifteen years old but it was quite big. The new apartments we saw were expensive and the rooms were really very small. The other advantage our new apartment had was that it was only 100 metres away from all the schools, starting from kindergarden, elementary and high schools and all the schools were adjacent to the park.   I used to send the boys to private school as there wasn’t any school near our old house and public schools operate from 8 a.m. till 12 noon, so it wasn’t convenient to send them to a public school.    The school bus  of the private school would pick them up before I left for work and bring them back by the time my husband was back from his work.  Now, I could save money on private schools as my oldest son was already 10 years old and he could take care of his younger brother and go to school on foot and come back together, while we were still at work.
The new house was a two bedroom apartment but after our little girl was born, we renovated the house by knocking down the walls of the kitchen – hall – living room, making it into one space and what used to be the dining room, which was very large became the third bedroom for the boys.
We were a bit crowded over the past twenty years as the living room was not very big and the boys continued sharing a bedroom but it was tolerable.
What I missed the most over these past twenty years was a garden. The small verandah in front was big enough for a table and a few pots with flowers and herbs. The balcony at the back was even smaller and I used it only to hang my laundry.

Ever since, I have been dreaming that one day when our children would grow up, we could leave Athens and move somewhere to the countryside.

We had paid off the 15 year loan, the boys had finished their studies at the University, the youngest one got a scolarship for his post graduate studies and my oldest son, had to work a few years to save some money and then decided to get a post graduate degree. Our daughter is now in University, so we are finally free to persue our own dreams…