Thursday, 18 July 2019

Big Dirty Smoke

We drove into the big city for a few days, doctors appointments and such.  I got quite excited.  A huge change from the very quiet island life, a chance to enjoy people watching on another scale.  And I love the night sounds of sirens and traffic, for a few days.

 We booked in at the Savoy Hotel in Piraeus.  Not only is it the only hotel we could find with parking facilities but it is also in our old neighbourhood so we knew the area well.

The Savoy Hotel right smack bang on the end of main street Piraeus, the huge dirty port of Athens

This is how it looked in the 70s when it first opened.  It was a luxury hotel with darkened windows and heavy curtains so you couldn't ogle the guests who, it seemed, were mostly rich Arabs.  Most of the hotel's clients now seem to be school groups of american teenagers  touring  Greece.  All they need is somewhere to plonk their packs and gather for the morning bus trip.

I didn't bother taking a photo this time.  It is a slightly downrun 3* star hotel on a noisy main road, surrounded by grimy pavements, empty shops, small coffee bars and the constant flow of city people on their way to and from somewhere to someplace.  

The parking is chained off and I had to run around to the front desk to get the key to the padlock while K tried to scrunch into the edge of a narrow street with an unbelievably narrow strip of roadway in the middle, cars parked on either side leaving just enough space for our car to pass through with side mirrors pushed in.  Heaven knows where we would have parked otherwise.  Every tiny space had a car in it, inches away from those before and behind.

Key obtained we manoeuvred gingerly from the edge of the road into the parking area which at least had plenty of free spaces.  

30 years ago we lived in a top floor apartment right behind the hotel.  It was built by a ship owner whose family lived on the two first floors.  In its day it was the latest in construction, anti-seismic we were told after surviving the 6.6 richter earthquake in 1981.  We lived on the top floor and the building swayed backwards and forwards.  Tins fell out of cupboards and our 6 month old baby girl was not hurt thank goodness by books which fell from a shelf above into her cot but not on top of her.

Now the building is desicrated with graffiti and trash blowing round the stoop .  The street is shaded by trees which have been planted on the footpath.  It is green and leafy with shade from the sun but still not a place you want to linger.

On the main road above the same unkempt elderly woman, it seems to me, sits on a step and feeds the pigeons, surrounded by bowls of food and water for the street dogs and cats. 

Gone are the drycleaners, the little grocery store, the toy shop and even the police station has moved elsewhere.

There is a national hospital at the end of the next road down, so plenty of chemist shops, quick coffee shops and buses which will take you wherever you need to go.  

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

To and Fro


On an island water transport is a big part of life

Water taxis which will take you the few hundred yards across to the mainland for 1 euro

'Socrates' - my son-in-laws taxi boat

And here is is on the right, Captain Kyriakos with the Captain of the taxi boat 'Konstantinos'

One of the car ferries which takes cars and passengers to and fro across the strait from the island to the mainland
It costs us 7 euros one way for our car, driver and one passenger

The 3-Island cruise boat which comes in every day all through the year calling at Poros for one hour and then going on to the nearby islands of Aegina and Hydra

Flotillas of yachts which carry tourists on a weeks island-hopping holiday.  They come in a bunch at a time, tie up together, drink, eat, partake in the nightlife and next morning groggily up-anchor and sail off to the next island

One of the little fishing boats which come in early in the morning to sell fish on the jetty

A luxury yacht, one of many, which come in for days of Greek island life
We've had Prime Ministers and Presidents, Saudis and Russian millionaires

A private yacht, often sailed by an elderly couple enjoying their retirement sailing the med, wintering on Malta or another safe port

The Flying Catamaran which comes in twice a day bringing tourists and locals from Athens and Piraeus to the closer islands in the Saronic Gulf

The big car ferry which brings cars and passengers from Athens and Piraeus to the Saronic Islands and mainland ports.  This is a 2 1/2 hour journey but half the price of the Catamaran and you can enjoy a brief sight of the other ports as it offloads car and people

All these boats weave in and out of the harbour traffic, the visiting yachts often causing the small car ferry to hoot in indignation. 
We used to love watching evening shipping manoeuvres from our roof terrace. 
  Living so near the harbour did have its disadvantages.  Now our daughter and her family hear the endless engine noise from the big car ferry once it has pulled in for the evening.  It doesn't completely shut down its engines all night and at 6am very noisely pulls up anchor.  The little car ferries used to make a very loud chug-chug-noise which grated on the night air but the newer ferries are much quieter and the ferries stop working around 11.

All part of island life

Saturday, 13 July 2019

Galatopita - Translation, Milk Pie

First time for this.  It looks like an easy recipe with no filo pastry and without the litre or so of sweet syrup which drips stickily off baclava, kataifi or galaktobouriko.

A galatopita is a milk and semolina sweet flavoured with lemon or orange zest, delcious straight out the oven, even in summer heat.  


Semolina, milk and sugar and a few eggs.  It is not a difficult recipe

Let it bake till it has a little colour on the top

Cut and eat
With a cup of tea or coffee

1 1/2  litres of milk
1 cup of fine semolina*
2 big spoons of butter or a small (demi-tasse) coffee cup of oil
5 eggs
1 cup of sugar
vanilla or cinnamon
 zest of an orange or a lemon

Warm the milk in a large pot and add the sugar, stirring well till it is all dissolved.  Add the butter, zest, cinnamon and semolina and keep stirring till it thickens.

Take off the heat and leave until cool.  Meanwhile beat the eggs really well.  When cool, stir in the eggs.  

Pour the mixture into a well oiled baking dish.

Bake about 30 minutes at 180oC till nicely browned on top.

*We have fine and coarse semolina.  I used fine for this recipe but you could use either I am sure

I've seen one recipe which uses goats milk.  I wouldn't, unless you had a herd of goats.  Goats milk isn't too bad in sweets like this, it makes it creamier.

For this amount of milk I have found recipes using  up to 7 eggs.  Far too many in my opinion.  I added 5 because this particular recipe called for 5 but next time shall only use 4.

Kali Orexi

Thursday, 11 July 2019

The Weather

The heat wave has broken, thank goodness. 3 days of very high temps, sweaty nights, what France and Italy had last week.

I had to go down into the town today.  I thought it would be fine on the quad bike with the cool air blowing in my face.  It was fine at 11am, didn't even break a sweat under my helmet.  Ye gods and little fishes, 2 hours later it was a completely different story.   
The road was like a fire breathing dragon sending waves of searing heat up my legs and burning my arms, hot air sizzling the eyebrows.   I kept on waiting for the tar to melt or the tyres to explode.

I made a quick dash inside to turn on the aircon, and then close doors and windows.  You'd think I would be used to scorching heat by now.  But, no.  It affects me phsically now and I really do turn into a zombie.  

By 5pm we'd had enough being stuck in one cool room, one room at a time so we save on the electricity.  Time to literally take the plunge.  Togs on (bathers, swimwear, whatever you call them in your lingo) and down to the sea.   Our first swim of the summer.

Cool, clear waters, a few familiar faces and only the happy sounds of cooling humans

Except for this git on his quad bike who decided it might be fun, for him, to do endless wheelies up and down the beach.  Finally someone in the water yelled at him and he came to a dust swirling standstill.

We always swim down at one end of the beach, away from the foreigners

The overhanging tree gives shade and there is a bench and a low wall to lay your towel.  As you enter the water there are sharp stones and spiny sea urchins.  NOT this year!  The north wind did a terrific job all winter blowing in tons of sand which has completely covered rocks and urchins.  Oh what a delight to wade straight into the water without having to do that dance to protect the tootsies.  The sand is soft, the water shallow and warm, so easy to go straight into the sea.  

I swim out to the other side of the bay through a cold stream which must come off the hills. Glorious.  Across the bay a colony of seagulls have settled in and a young goat bleats for his mother somewhere up the on a rocky crag.  I miss the coffee and the chairs of the canteen, closed by the archealogical authorities, but it is still a delightful place for a summer dip.

By the time we left the weather had started its change.  Black clouds over towards Athens, a drop in temperature and thunder rumbling round us.  It didn't rain here but somewhere close by had a doozy of a summer storm.  

We woke next morning to find that 7 people, tourists, had been killed after a mega-storm hit a holiday area in Northern Greece.
Today there is cool air blowing through the house and a ton of dust with it.  Climate change!

I can hear the seagulls squawking as they fly on the air currents.  Sounds as though they're having fun.

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Ladies Fingers

         Bamyes in Greek,
         Ladies Fingers

Those green slimy things that look like green beans, called bamyes in greek.  When fresh we trim the ends, spread them out in an oven tray, sprinkle them with vinegar and leave them in the hot sun sun for a few hours.

I can remember buying and preparing fresh okra when I first arrived here many years ago. Nowadays I always buy the frozen vegetable. I'm not sure if that is because I'm lazier or they are not as generally available. They are certainly not on the market stalls at the moment.

I don't like these very much but I eat them because certain traditional people in my household love them.  I either cook them simply with tomatoes and olive oil or with chicken pieces.

Okra with chicken pieces is the traditional people's favourite and it is not difficult to make so okra and chicken was on the menu last week.

Once the chicken is cooked in its tomato sauce I add the frozen okra (or fresh) and let them cook for about 15 minutes till they are soft but not disintergrating

Chicken and okra greek style

Fry onions, garlic and chicken pieces in olive oil till browned.  Add  fresh or chopped tomatoes, a glass of water, a glug of red wine, salt and cook about half an hour.  Add chopped parsley and the okra.  Gently give it all a stir and let them stew gently for about 20 minutes.  

Serve with feta cheese, bread and wine.  When we cook vegetables with meat we don't have a salad on the table.  In this case the okra is enough.

If you don't like the slime then try the recipe with fresh green beans instead

Kali Orexi


Sunday, 7 July 2019

Greek Elections

This is my third time in the polling booth in just over a month.
In the last Euro elections there were 40 parties to choose from. I took the wad of voting papers, stuffed quickly in my purse, back home to use as note paper.  These elections  had only 20 political  parties in our district.  Poros is dumped in as part of the 'B' Piraeus region.  Piraeus being the grotty port city outside Athens.  

I used to love Piraeus, lived there for 10 years and didn't want to leave.  Now I don't want to go back.  The port area is full of boarded up buildings, roads which have been under construction it seems since I left over 20 years ago, empty shops, noise and grime.

Tonight we are expecting a change of government after years of harsh austerity measures, not that a new government will alter much. Many people feel betrayed.  I just want their faces removed from my TV screen.

In 2015 the majority voted for Alexis Tsipras, a young, left wing PM, who promised to bring us out of the economic crisis when the country was on the brink of bankruptcy and I was stockpiling flour, rice and toilet paper to get us through certain years of poverty. Bankruptcy didn't come and we didn't leave the EU but our way of life changed drastically as he taxed the hell out of the middle class and left our  2 children with debt that will take many years to pay off.

He supported a minister (of the economy) who 'forgot' to mention an extra 2 million euros in his tax statement, another whose anarchist son was arrested and let free 14 times, a health minister who nastily abused anyone disagreeing with him, released 400 hard core criminals and confiscated homes and raided bank accounts for debts to the state.

How unpopular can you get?   

Polling stations closed at 7pm and the results of the first exit polls have been announced.  We have a new government and it looks as though it will have an outright majority.  

It's July, it's hot,  the beaches round the country today were full of Greek holiday makers and city dwellers getting away from the heat and bustle, but they voted first.* 

No one expects  the new PM to perform miracles, especially when he has the European Union nipping  at his heels and Turkey on the other side threatening to blow Greece out of the Aegean.  We shall continue  to enjoy our coffee, sip our ouzo, discuss and debate.  There will be blockades, protests, strikes and Molotov cocktails as usual.

Qué Sera Sera 

* Wrong there. The turn out was only 56 percent.  Even a greek can have too much of politics.

Friday, 5 July 2019

Market time Again

Friday and fruit and vegetable day again.  I went down with my big cloth bag and bought a small watermelon, a melon, some aubergines (eggplant), tomatoes and peaches.  That was about as much as I could carry.

The cousin I mentioned in my last market post had 3 kilos of tomatoes left, a pile of greens and a box of peaches.  I bought all the tomatoes, you can never have enough of them in the summer, and the peaches looked juicy so I bought 2 kilos of them.  

The peaches were a big mistake.  They are soapy and tasteless.  A waste of 3 euros.  What to do with them?  I don't want peach jam and the peach chutney I made a few years ago wasn't very nice either.  I googled 'mealy' peaches. Peach wine sounded like a good idea but I need some equipment and wine yeast which I have never heard of.  So there will be no peach wine.  

Cobbler was next on the list and it seems simple and the sort of thing we might eat, with some greek yoghurt maybe.  I am washing and chopping and stewing peaches before they all rot and end up in the compost.  Some will be made into cobbler tomorrow.

I have heard of cobbler but never made it, or so I thought.  The first recipe I found, and will use, makes an easy sponge with the stewed fruit on top.  I've made this many times with left over fruit, usually soft apples.

We shall see.

The cousin was very disappointed not to see my husband with me today.  He found another victim to go off and buy him his beer, at 9am, telling him to hide the beer well so the 'devil' didn't see it!

Handing over the contraband