As many countries have been struck with the pandemic virus COVID-19, we have all seen our daily lives changed. A young Dutch lady named Cindy, who has lived on our Island for the last four years, describes her new found home through her blog.
Cindy has allowed Zakynthos Informer to translate her blog into English.
Personally, I think whilst reading her words we get the feeling that Zakynthos, although it has been struck, the people once again have come together as they have done for centuries in troubled times. Their efforts to pull together and fight are succeeding as at this time, we have no new cases and our record officially still stands at 5 who are now have been given a clear bill of health. Zakynthians so far have managed to stop the spread by complying to strict measures, ΜΕΝΟΥΜΕ ΣΠΙΤΙ, as we see in our feature photo.
Through the words of Cindy, they do this only through the love of their fellow being. Their fear of causing heartbreak to those around them have made them stay home. Albeit, the Zakynthian spirit has not faded and her people are willing to welcome you once again, as soon as the waters of trouble have receded
Here is her story…..
What is the situation concerning coronavirus in Zakynthos?
Zakynthos, the island that is full of about 2 million olive trees and which has around 45,000 inhabitants. After months of olive picking, the first week of March, we unfortunately also had to deal with the coronavirus.
What seemed so far away from us suddenly became a reality here. The source of the infection was a 66-year-old man who recently returned from his vacation from Israel. The people who travelled by bus with this man were also infected with the virus. From Zakynthos 4 became infected. I must say, looking back after that crucial first week of the contamination here on the island, I am extremely proud of the strict and quick approach of the Greeks here. Not, “we will deal with it later,” or “we will examine the situation over the next few days,” but WHAM! The day after it was known, immediate action! Urgent measures were taken quickly. The four affected persons were immediately quarantined under supervision. The schools, museums, sports clubs, fitness centres, theatres, the cinema, all closed for the next two weeks. Organized excursions were also strictly prohibited.
We can now report that, after the two weeks of home quarantine, the four who were infected from Zakynthos are doing well! They had mild symptoms and are feeling well even now. No other infections have been reported here since, and we hope to keep it that way with all of us working together.
Now at the end of March, other measures have since been added. Everything is closed, except supermarkets with adjusted operating hours, pharmacies, bakers, banks also have issued measures, petrol stations, and the postal service. The ferries are still going, but with an adjusted itinerary. Groups of people together, are strictly forbidden. There are huge fines as punishment!
This is how the situation is here at the moment. The Greeks themselves now realize that the virus is serious, and if we want to prevent further infections we have to work for it. Everywhere there are bottles of antiseptic, people wearing gloves and mouth masks. Greeks had a hard time, the kissing and cuddling as a greeting is deeply embedded in the culture. But now people are increasingly talking to each other and distancing themselves, no matter how difficult.
I notice that many Greeks are afraid here. So out of fear they stay at home too. There has been a week when we saw panic buyers. Enough toilet rolls still on the island, but the milk and the dettol hand soap bottles were sold out. The elderly stay at home, they do not go outside. Family brings them food and drinks. Everyone wishes each other health, and warn each other, to be careful.
Staying healthy is now priority number 1 !!
How is my life on Zakynthos now?
Zakynthos is a beautiful green island surrounded by deep blue clear water, and rightly attracts many tourists every year. It is also called THE FLOWER OF THE EAST.
I have been living here for almost 4 years now. I left The Netherlands completely behind me. Living here all year round has something special, but is also hard work. I worked as a guide, working the following tourist seasons walking, cycling, and kayaking. The job had me guiding both on Zakynthos and on the neighbouring islands of Kefalonia and Ithaka. In winter I help with the olive harvest.
Since the beginning of autumn, the decision was made to start something for myself. I am now a young starting entrepreneur, and my company was officially registered in early December here on Zakynthos. Made all the investments with what I saved, did a lot of work, and made all other preparations. Ready for the big season and hopefully the other months with some work with the locals here!! … At least that was the plan and my thought. You can now understand that the picture looks completely different to me, now. Not just for me, but for all the Greeks here. Zakynthos lives on tourism. If there isn’t ….goodness knows what our future will hold!
Working on Zakynthos often consists of working every day for 7 months, and winter months a small benefit. The average salary here in the summer is about 800 euros per month. We are worried. It remains to be seen whether we will receive compensation and how much it will be. All hotels are closed until the end of April. That’s for sure.
We are trying to get the best out of it right now. Here and there humour is used about the nasty situation. It is also necessary! I try to stay positive even though I am very concerned. I also see beautiful things happen. Many friends who have a family with children spend a lot of time together and do fun things together. Play games indoors, or go in the garden and take care of the chickens and rabbits. Friends who are sporty and are members of a sports club now do classes virtually on the computer or on the phone. The purpose is to keep going and keep in touch with each other. My coffee addicted young Greek friends, who no longer get cappuccinos or espresso’s in plastic cups, they now make old fashioned coffee by hand, in a BRIKI. Cheaper and more environmentally conscious.
Zakynthos is very concerned with the environment and nature. Volunteer groups went out together to clean the beaches and organized outings with the Greek children at the schools to clear up nature from trash. That is currently not possible. However, many individual actions are being taken to make Zakynthos even more beautiful and cleaner. For example, there are people who artistically paint a garbage can or electrical cabinet in empty streets.
People appreciate what the island has to offer in terms of nature. They go for walks on the beach or in the mountains. Fortunately here on the island there are enough beautiful places without people. And that makes Zakynthos special in a situation like this. Another trifle, COSMOTE, Greece’s largest mobile network operator, gives all Greeks 15 GB of internet for a month. This to give a helping hand during the campaign, (menoume spiti), stay home !!
Today .. a new day.
We cannot do much more than wait and see at the moment. Every day is a new day. The weather is now blissful here. The sun is shining, it is pleasantly warm. Spring has really arrived.
This morning, after a night of worry … I sit on my veranda with a coffee, I see the sun rise and think, how special it is that despite what happens to people, nature does not care … I hear the birds chirping, watch the wild flowers rise and smell the herbs, you will experience Zakynthos with all your senses.
I give my dog its wanted kibble and give my baby goat a morning hug. Moments later, the two are happily hopping around among the olive trees. Zakynthos and its nature remain special …
A message I would like to share from all of us here is: Dear people, please do not forget Greece, do not cancel your holiday but convert the holiday to a later date if possible. Hopefully this will be over for all of us soon. Strength to everyone.
My tips for what to do on Zakynthos:-
If we can share this island with you again, I have some tips! Had to choose, because there is so much to admire here! These are tips in addition to the great well-known pearls.
- Mountain village Orthonies. Small-scale authentic village, with an old village church as a landmark and a visit to the small local café, museum BOTEGA cannot be missed. Tour of Greek family and Cup of coffee there with grandmother’s pastries.
- Admire sunset during Greek supper at tavern Michales in KAMPI. Greek music and overwhelming views from the 100 meter high cliffs.
- Walking route from the high and quiet village of LOUCHA as a starting point, descending through beautiful sand and stone paths through nature. End the village AGIA MARINA, and relax next to the village church with well-deserved delicacy at cafe FAGIA. Owners bring you back to the starting point for a fee!
- KERI. LIMNI KERI AND MOUNTAIN VILLAGE KERI are not to be missed. LIMNI KERI is located on the sea and has a pleasant boulevard with delicious fish restaurants. Traditional fishing port. From here you can also rent a boat yourself, without a license, and you can spot turtles, visit turtle island, and the blue caves. MOUNTAIN VILLAGE KERI: a cheerful and colourful village, and 2 km further KERI LIGHTHOUSE. You will never forget that view there!
- MAKRIS GIALOS. This beach radiates what Zakynthos is! White pebbles, with azure blue transparent water. Not just a painting, but cold water for cooling in summer. Do you want something more hidden? .. Then drive a little further and visit CLIMATI beach ..
- SKOPOS. The road there is not easy .. but it is all worth it! The view … the place, the monastery … this place is special , on the mountain of Vassilikos.
- TO PIROUNAKI, the local hidden tavern. Can be found in my village! Lagadakia. Not to be missed in terms of cuisine, what’s fresh that day, that’s the menu.
- BICYCLES. You may not think of it right away, but Zakynthos has a large flat area which is great for cycling! There are quite a few small roads that run through nature and the Greek villages. Information about routes and bicycle rental at BICYCLE POWER. Speak Dutch and English for convenience!
- KORAKONISSI. Great for swimming and snorkeling. View of a small island with a cave. Since last year built a tent on the rocks to sit and enjoy a snack.
- DAFNI. Sandy beach overlooking the forbidden island of PELOUZO. Most turtles lay eggs on this beach. Quiet place surrounded by trees and mountains.
- AGALAS. In Agalas you can find the Damianos cave, a two room cave with a special story. Built on top, seating areas to have a coffee or to eat out. This place is so special, stone benches, tree trunks as chairs, white cloths … discover it for yourself! Nearby, the 12 wells.
- LAGANAS. You will be surprised, because this tourist town is known for a vibrant nightlife. Of course nice if you like that! But during the day you can enjoy good tourist shopping at great prices! From swimwear, towels, and all kinds of souvenirs. In August the turtles also come here on the beach. Do you want an entertaining activity? Grab a seat at BOULEVARD restaurant beach bar, sit back with a delicious drink and see all kinds of people walking by … just great people watching.
If you would like to read her blog in Dutch please clink on the link below.