Tuesday, 20 February 2018

7 weeks of Fasting

Another one's down ..
another feasting day, over and done with for another year

Clean Monday, the beginning of Lent
A national holiday
After today there are
7 weeks of fasting before Easter Sunday lamb on the spit and offal soup
No meat, no fish, no eggs, cheese or milk except on certain religious holidays when fish can be eaten
Octopus, cuttlefish and kalamari are ok.  They have no red blood
Wednesdays and Fridays, no olive oil either

Who follows these rules of the Orthodox church?
Our  god-fearing neighbour
A surprising number of the younger generation and most of the elderly.  As you get older you get to fear the wrath of god
Every little bit helps

Us?  K stops eating meat for the duration.  Because we don't cook meat I don't eat much meat either but the wrath of god is not going to stop me enjoying a ham sandwich or a spicy meatball 

Lagana, unleavened bread, just out of the oven

Clean Monday, Kathara Deftera
The day was overcast and chilly but still we sat outside for a very rustic impromptu picnic
It is traditionally a day for picnics and flying kites

I set the big table inside, with the good tablecloth, but we didn't move indoors till 4pm when the rain started and the chill turned to a freeze

On the table all the traditional Lenten goodies, taramasalata (fish roe dip), salted vegetables, steamed mussels, lettuce and halvas

Only five of us today.  A good number to feed and amuse.  K lit the outdoor wood oven for the bread and lit the BBQ for the shellfish.  We sat around outside with a glass of wine keeping him company while he cooked and it turned into an outdoor picnic on the old cracked table surrounded by a stack of dry olive branches which were periodically pushed into the fire

A few shrimps, oysters and pieces of octopus on the BBQ

Lemon juice in everything

My english friend J always takes part in our celebrations
Nothing fazes her.  Peel the shrimp, throw the peelings in the old yellow bucket, take a sip of rough red, grab the bread and twist off a manageable corner, dip it in the taramasalata.  Greek heaven.

The octopus has been hanging up drying.  Soon on its way to the coals

  No time to lay a tablecloth out here

Cutting up the grilled octopus tentacles into thin slices

Dirty hands?  We hung an old pink (pyjamas?) rag on the table to 'delicately' wipe our greasy fingers 

Today the remaining mussels have been taken out of the shell and made into mussels and rice.

The weather has turned cold and rainy once again.  We lit the fire at midday.  We were lucky to have a dry day yesterday.  Winter continues.  

Sunday, 18 February 2018


Rio de Janeiro has the biggest carnival parade in the world.  In Greece the port city of Patras has the most colourful, vibrant parade.
Every news broadcast started with....'despite the crisis  greeks are celebrating all over the country'.
Here on Poros we have the Hunt for the Lost Treasure.

The Hunt starts on Friday with a meeting of the teams.  4-15 people of all ages, kids and adults, all just ready to have some fun.  

Friday - 
each team got the lyrics of a popular song and were told to make up their own words for the music.
They were also given pieces of a small hot air balloon which they had to assemble

Saturday -
here the fun starts
Each group dresses up to a theme.  It's carnival folks.
My girls and their children were all involved, the older kids in groups with their friends from school.

We had a group of mime artists .  Mimers?

Here they all are getting ready to begin the show

And here We are sitting out in the square in the freezing chill of a greek winter evening drinking iced coffee

Another one of the grandchildren 
All un-dressed on this chilly evening
the girls in the group were wearing flimsy summer dresses.  Goose bumps all over!

The show began with the judges dancing around the square. 
Yes, this is greece.  Everyone dresses up and dances

A table from the Raki Taverna group

Our young Mayor with his daughter

Papa John and his parishioners leading their dance around the square

Karaoke time.  Each group had to get up on stage and sing the lyrics they had re-written.  Some were hilarious, some got the crowd up and cheering.  

All the words were written and rehearsed in just 24 hours.  Great imagination and presentations

The evening in the square ended with the sending off of  the hot-air balloons  over the harbour and into the icy clear night air

Sunday - 
They all had nineteen riddles to answer.  One of the questions was 'how many battles did Don Quixote fight besides the one with the windmills'.

What do you call 'battles'?  The answer was '18' so they included every fight he had with everyone from sheep to innkeepers and a Biscayan.

Everyone is roped in to solve the riddles.  Teams sit in the cafeterias sending runners out to find clues and spies to see what the group next to them is doing.   Some of the riddles are extremely enigmatic.  

Everyone takes part not to win but to have a lot of fun.  The Treasure Hunt is a game and as such is meant to be enjoyed by all who take part .

Kales Apokries (good carnival)
and from tomorrow
Kali Sarakosti (good 40 days of Lent)

April 1 Catholic and Protestant Easter Sunday
April 8 Orthodox Easter Sunday

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

1) Not on the tourist map

I don't want to visit a greek island if I go on holiday.  I live on one.  There are so many fascinating/delightful/graphic/traditional corners of this country where few tourist buses blight the scenery and the only language spoken around you will be Greek.

On the Greek mainland you can choose mountain, lake, seaside village or dusty forgotten little hamlet.


Stemnitsa is a stunning mountain village, sturdy houses built of stone around a central village square.  It has been designated a  traditional settlement and as you drive through you can see why.  The tall stone houses are built on the side of a mountain at about 1050 feet, with narrow cobblestoned alleyways for access.

We visited a couple of times, leaving our car in a park at the edge of town and walking up for a coffee and then rakomelo, raki with honey.  Stemnitsa is cool all through the year, even during the heatwaves of summer so a raki is welcome at any season.  The tavernas around the square were preparing for lunch and the smells drifting through that clear cool air were unbelievable.  Unfortunately both times we had brought a picnic which we ate near a small spring further down the road, a picnic site with views down through the valleys and of the soaring mountains above covered in fir trees 

The village with a population of around 200 was once the shelter for the fighters of the Revolutionary War of 1821, against the Turks of course.  A perfect hideout.  It was also, and still is now, known for its gold and silverworks.  There are 18 churches, the 'cathedral', so to speak, was built in 1810 of chiseled stone and is dedicated to St George.

The roads up to the village are in good condition and it is only a couple of hours from us across on the mainland Peloponese.  One day I would love to spend a few days exploring and trying those tavernas.  I'm sure they'll be serving boiled goat, intestines and bean soups to warm your own innards.  There are guest houses a-plenty and you can stay in one of those stone mansions and enjoy a traditional breakfast with yoghurt, honey, fresh bread, homemade cakes and jams. 

 Nearby are a couple of monasteries literally hanging on the side of the mountain and the Lousios river is down below.  The river is popular for rafting but there are walks along its banks and in the winter Stemnitsa is in the middle of the ski resorts

Monastery of Prodomos (St John the Baptist)

Within a short distance are more of these mountain villages but the others that come to mind, Dimitsana and Vitina are full of tourist buses and crowded all year round.  Stemnitsa is a little jewel. 

Another mountain village which is not so well known is Elliniko, not far from Stemnitsa, slightly lower down.  It has picturesque cobbled streets, stone houses, stone fountains and churches and is simply charming.    Just the sort of place you want to stop and wander around and end up at some small cafe or taverna eating and drinking the day away.

Monday, 12 February 2018

Cheese Week

Third and final week of carnival culminating in the great (seafood, beans and unleavened bread) feast of Clean Monday and the first day of the great 7 week Lenten fast.

Cheese week, Tyrini, is also called white week.  Meat is forbidden and instead people eat a lot of cheese, milk and eggs.   Women are not supposed to wash their hair this week as it may turn white.  Can't say I know anyone who follows these old rules, except perhaps my very religious neighbour  (not Vaso).  

This (now devout) elderly neighbour became exceedingly pious when her second husband abandoned her for a younger woman.  Note that she had already abandoned her first husband for this second much younger one.  She must have felt she had brought down on herself the wrath of a angry God.  Her life now consists of church services, wherever they may be, all nighters (service till the wee hours) and very strict adherence to the  code of the Orthodox church.  No hanging out of washing, doing housework or darning her socks on Sundays or Saints days for her.  No meat, dairy or eggs on Wednesdays or Fridays.

She comes now and again on a quick visit with homemade biscuits, a bar of  chocolate or a plate of tomatoes and gives us all the island news.  The local church or a doctor's waiting room are the best places to learn all the latest 'gossip'.  Mind you , most of her news is of funerals, memorials and illnesses.  She is 'of a certain age'.

She and her sisters go on overseas coach trip to Monasteries in Romania, Italy, Spain and Bulgaria and she always brings back very large bars of the best chocolate she can find as presents for her many neices and nephews, and us.

Not much to say about Cheese week.  

Here is a recipe for very easy cheese buns given to me by my neighbour, Fani.  She and her sisters are excellent cooks.  They always bring trays of cakes and biscuits for memorial services, All Souls and church fiestas.

Feta Cheese 'Pies'  .. more like heavy buns.  

Put in a bowl  ......
450 self raising flour
1 carton of plain yoghurt - 200 grams, Full fat, 2%, sheep or goats, whatever

Using the same 200 gram container, measure out and add.......
1 carton of oil (olive or vegetable oil)
1 carton of crumbled feta cheese
1 carton of some other grated cheese

2 eggs

Mix well.  Form into small bun shapes, put on baking paper on a baking tray and cook about half an hour in a medium oven till golden brown.

Eat warm with a glass of wine

Kali Orexi
Bon Appetit
Good appetite
Buon Appetito

Tomorrow is Tuesday 13th
the equivalent of Friday 13th for the rest of the western world

Saturday, 10 February 2018

Meat Week

This is the second week of carnival, called Kreatini, meat week.  It is the last week of meat eating before Easter Sunday, if you're a strict member of the Orthodox church.  The highlight of the week is Tsiknopempti, translated loosely as Smokey Thursday.

It is a day to fill up on Bbqed meat.  The 'smokey' comes from that enticing smell as fat falls on to the coals and lets out a cloud of seductive aromatic smoke .

Everywhere on the island small bbqs were set up along the wharf, outside shops and on the roadside in the back streets as every household got ready to bbq at least a leg of chicken, a sausage or a lamb chop.

Lighting the coals opposite the butcher's shop.  Soon there'll be a crowd of friends and customers waiting for blackened, fatty morsels to be handed out with a glass of wine.  Where there is food and drink there will be music too and as the rythm gets into the blood (along with the alcohol) there will energetic lines of dancers and men leaping into the air .

Tall grandson dressed up as a bottle of Mythos beer

At the school the kids were treated to  free grilled meat-on-a-stick (souvlaki).  They all (including the teachers) dressed up in carnival costumes and danced in the playground.

Anyone going out to a taverna on this night wears some sort of costume or silly hat or mask and (greek) dances till dawn.  Been there, done that many times.  Every taverna in town would be crowded and literally bursting with revelling feasters.  From the taverna we would move on to the bars on the waterfront downtown, going from one to the other, drinking and dancing in the street.  

We grew up and then the economic crisis came along to knock back the remaining revellers.  Most families gather in someone's home but those that do go out no longer have the means to make merry as though there was no tomorrow.

Our little bbq outside on the terrace.  It was a beautiful sunny day and we all sat outside and ate lamb chops and chicken pieces.  

A small meze while waiting for the main course.  Lemon juice and mustard on the meat for the greeks, tomato sauce/kets-ap for me

Friends and neighbours called in and there seemed to be endless heated discussions with everyone giving their own indisputable viewpoint on olives, the Macedonian question, this year's tax bill and why greece is the greatest nation mankind has ever known.

At 4pm it was getting mighty chilly and I lit the fire inside but it was another hour before they could let themselves take a break and move indoors.

Today is Psyho-Savato, Saturday of the Souls.  My sister-in-law prepared a plate of boiled wheat with sugar, raisins, pomegranite seeds and cinnamon to take to church to be blessed.  She gives the wheat out at the end of the service.  There were probably another dozen plates made by the faithful on a table in front of the church.  The plates are accompanied by a piece of paper listing the names of all those family members you would like to be remembered with special prayers.

After church the priest goes down to the graveyard and will say a blessing over the graves if asked and then suitably rewarded.

Next week is the third and last week of carnival and is called 'Tyrini', cheese week.  

There will be more ......

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Out and About

We left Poros on the 7.10am car ferry for a day of  off-the-island chores.  The car was covered in a heavy dew and the low lying fields nearby blanketed in a thick mist.

Greek breakfast

First stop, right opposite the car ferry, La Frianderie make the best coffee and cheese pies between here and Athens.  The kids there have actually gone to 'coffee school' and know how to make a deep rich brew exactly to your taste.  We never drink or eat in the street.   The coffee is enjoyed  on the premises or at your desk or this time, in the car

Second stop the village of Ligourio and an optician's appointment.  They are preparing for a parade, dancing and music to celebrate the end of carnival and the beginning of Lent, February 19th

Third stop to get the warrant of fitness and pollution test  for the car
44 euros for both.  Down from 65 euros.  Another testing garage has opened not far away.  The other place is advertising 45 euros for both at the moment.  Yea for competition

The sun had come out by now and we sat outside and drank their free coffee while waiting for the paperwork.  Unfortunately the sour stink of an olive press was blowing in our direction but we could hardly complain, sitting there with our free coffee, the sun on our cheeks and the endless green and orange vista of the citrus groves all around us

In the grounds outside.
This is a very old fashioned water pump.  A donkey, or mule, was hitched to one side of this and went round and round in circles drawing water up from the well

A piece of car sculpture at an alarming angle

Further down the road the city of Argos is finally trying to fix its traffic confusion.  We passed the first digital traffic lights I have seen.  Very modern.  They had only green and red, no orange but had a digital clock to show you how many seconds you had to wait till the lights changed colour

This whole area has acres of orange, lemon, mandarin trees, all laden with fruit.  Orchard after orchard 

The rest of the day was spent going from electrical shops to supermarkets and taking a friend and his dog for a haircut.    It was twilight by the time we arrived in Epidavros for a quick coffee on the return journey, and the night of the supermoon.  8pm by the time we reached home.  A long day, usual for a day off the island

Djibril Cisse (a shih tsu) named after the French footballer who played for greek team Pananthiakos. 

7th February
Fiesta day of Saint Parthenios
Protector of Cancer patients
A miracle worker
We stopped on the way back to light a candle at this little church in the olive groves.

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Blustering blusterly

Very high winds yesterday and a little rain.  Barmy temperatures  up to 20o .  The winds are southerlys bringing warmer weather and dust clouds from the Sahara.

Pumping out after last night's squalls

Then down to the waterfront for a furtive money and merchandise exchange.  Drug of choice, 5 kilos (litres) of white wine from the vineyards around Korinth

Winds were whipping the sea, covering cars in spray and rocking small boats tied to the jetty

Not often we see the bay covered in white horses (sheep if you're greek)

Back at the fishing boat marina the sea had become extremely choppy so we had a second stop to look at ropes and anchors and discuss weather conditions

Meanwhile back up in the hills we were protected from the southerlys.  The leaves on the olive trees hardly moved and  resident fowl roamed contentedly amongst the green clover