Friday, 23 March 2018

To Freedom

25th March  .....  

We celebrate the successful Greek War of Independence waged against  the Ottoman Empire (the Turks) between 1821 and 1832.  Byron became a national hero here fighting this good fight.  Unfortunately he died from fever contracted in the swamps of Messalonghi in 1824, but he became a greek hero nevertheless.  He has a suburb named after him in Athens.

25th March is also, naturally enough, a church festival.  On 25th March, 9 months before Christmas, Archangel Gabriel told Mary that she would become the, virgin, mother of Jesus Christ, Son of God.

The brave greek fighters are blessed by Bishop Germanos

My grandchildren are taking part in a small theatrical production at school heralding the bravery of the Greeks, the sacrifice of the women and the brutality of the Turks.  One of my grandsons will be a turk again for the second time, to the disgust of his Papou.  But Turks stand in the background, don't have to say much and can't be seen when they fidget, wiggle and squirm.

Young turks

On Sunday there will be a church service, laying of wreaths and a parade of school children along the waterfront.   We will be hoisting our large Greek flag at the front gate where it will fly with pride for the next week.

After the parade we will all troop onto the car ferry and decamp to Galatas to celebrate the name day of our inlaw Vangelis with salt cod, garlic sauce and lashings of wine and beer.

In 2017 Google saluted Greece and its National day with a waving greek flag.  A google doodle is the logo on its home page.  I had never really noticed it before this.  Now I see the logo changes every day.  Today (March 21) it seems to be something to do with star alignments.  No, I googled the doodle.  It is celebrating the 105th birthday of Guillermo Haro.  Now I'll have to google Mr Haro.

Wednesday, 21 March 2018


I love my mountains, fresh and cool and green all year round..

Zagorohoria - 46 traditional villages in the Pindus Mountains

Way up north, close to the Albanian border there are 46 mountain villages, their houses built in local stone,  smoke drifting up from their chimneys.  Houses are perched on the sides of mountains in villages where the streets are paved with cobble stones and spreading plane trees shade the tiny central square where the old men gather to drink tsikoudia and watch their women clattering past with bags of greens gathered fresh for their dinner.   

One of our cousins has built a luxury hotel in the tiny village of Aristi.    Aristi sits above the Vikos Gorge, the deepest gorge in the world, carved  out by the Voidomatis river.  

Here I am sitting on one of the 60 stone arched bridges 

The zig-zagging mountain road to the two traditional villages of Papigo and Little Papigo

Mountain village of Aristi. Population around 200

Cow in the road.  An unusual sight for us who encounter sheep and goats everyday but rarely cows

Down below the village on the banks of the Voidomato river.  Freezing cold water, 9oC, but our cousin used to swim here daily in the summer.  It is from this delightful shaded beach that rafts are launched for a one hour trip down the river through dense natural forest, ending up under one of those magnificent stone bridges

Or you can visit one of the other villages and try a piece of the pies, cheese, chicken or greens, that are famous here. With a beer or raki

This was the hotel in 2009 when we first visited

Now a luxury boutique hotel.  Aberratio Hotel Aristi
Thick stone walls, open fireplace in every room, a huge fireplace in the reception area and a sunny terrace with an incredible view over the mountains and Vikos Gorge

Coffee time in the silence and beauty of the Zagorohoria

Our second visit was for a family wedding.  It was a three day wedding celebration, a gathering of the Tzanos clan, endless laughter, tall tales, remembrances, music and food.  

The following year younger members of the family went up for a visit and to try out some of the sports.  Besides rafting you can hike the Vikos gorge, a 7 hour hike through wild thyme, oregano and birdsong,  go horse riding, canoeing, mountain climbing or just plain walking through nature.

Monday, 19 March 2018

Old and Ancient

How did you bring your automobile across the 250 metre channel from the mainland in days gone by?

You got it rowed across to the island by two muscular greeks.  This is a wonderful photo, taken sometime in the 30s or 40s I would say.  Two water taxis hitched together carrying, is it a volkswagon? 

I'm sure it is one of those invincible volkswagens.  It would need to have been invincible to travel over the roads from the capitol, Athens, to the tiny coastal outpost of Galatas.  The road in those days wound along the coast from Athens, up into the dusty hills and into the rural hinterland of the Peloponese, through scattered agricultural settlements (think sheep and goats), over the mountains and finally down to the coast opposite Poros.  We are now two hours from Athens by road.  It must have taken most of a day back then

This Mycenean bridge was built over 3,000 years ago.  No cement used, just an impressive knowledge of engineering. There are even curbs to prevent fast moving chariots falling off.  It is part of a network of roads and bridges only an hour from us, presumably leading to the ancient theatre and healing centre at Epidavros, the citadel of Tiryns (said to be the birth place of Hercules), the ancient palace and military stronghold of Mycenae and other  castles and temples in this area.  There are four of these bridges still in excellent condition, all part of the same 'highway' and still used by locals.

The olive tree of Vouves in Crete.  It has been estimated to be between 3-4,000 years old and still produces olives.    There are equally ancient olive trees in al Badawi, Bethlehem ( 4-5,000 years old), Lebanon, Montengro, Croatia, Spain and Italy.

Near the tree in Bethlehem archeologists have found pottery with traces of olive oil dating back 8,000 years.   
8,000 years ago the climate was starting to get warmer after the end of the Ice Age and people began to domesticate animals, grow crops, and harvest olives. 

A plane tree on the island of Kos is thought to be the descendant of the tree under which Hippocrates, the father of medicine taught his pupils 2,400 years ago.  The present tree is  about 500 years old.

You can't sit under it anymore.  It is surrounded by a wall and railings.  The tree has become hollowed out over the years and is in danger from wood eating fungus.  A Japanese business man has offered to pay for research to save the tree. 

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Spring 'Garden'

I really can't call this post, gardening.    It is not the conventional garden, as in flowers, vegetables and assorted orderly plantings.

This is what our 'garden' looks like at the end of winter.  Now we have three weeks to clean it up and prepare for our easter gathering of the clans.

Front entrance.  A fridge, a washing machine and a vaccum cleaner.  The fridge is going to be an extra as our fridge is over 35 years old, and still working I might add.  It is waiting for a young, strong lad to move it inside.  The washing machine is awaiting its owner and the vaccum cleaner?    I hope it disappears very soon

The generation of Greeks after WW11 never threw out anything.  They  collected old bits of timber, doors, windows, pieces of corrugated iron because, well, you just never know when it might come in handy.  My sis-in-law stores paper bags, plastic bags, bits of ribbon and string, boxes, odd bits of paper, tins, cupboards of jars and plastic bottles.  

My traditional person does the same.  Our back yard is full, at least around the edges, off -cuts of timber, lengths of piping, old washing machines in case we need a spare part,  tables of various size and condition, a clutter of digging tools and more, much more.  My part of the house is the front and when the electrical appliances disappear and the pile of wood is removed to the rear it will be an inviting and appealing entryway.  No rubbish or 'treasures' allowed

This is my winter garden.  Green everywhere.  The lemon trees are bursting with growth this year and beautiful in green and yellow.  Same goes for the clover/oxalis, whatever it is.  It has formed a forest of green under the trees and now is in full flower.  The nasturtiums are slowly taking hold and I hope one day may rival the clover.  On the right a grape vine trails along the railings.  This has been severely pruned but green shoots and leaves have already appeared.  My lettuces and rocket are  free of weeds but the rocket has taken off and is in full flower too, its white petals reaching up the wall.

In two months the clover will have dried up and I'll pile it around the lemon trees for mulch.  The grape vine will have formed a curtain of green, the lettuces will be replaced by tomatoes and the nasturtiums will be just surviving the aridity of summer

The back 'garden'.  Over grown with weeds 2 metres high (almost)

Our friend and neighbour the weed-whacker man arrived and those tall weeds have been hacked back.  By the beginning of May they'll need whacking again. At least the yard will be respectable for easter and we can whitewash the walls

Still a lot of work to be done

One bundle of grape vine prunings drying out so they can be used on the BBQ. 

Red anemones.  The fields are full of these now and soon they will die out and be replaced by the poppy

The 'flanders' poppy

Thursday, 15 March 2018

On the Sea

These photos were taken by my son-in-law Kyriakos, Captain of the water taxi Socrates.

This is typical of some of the luxury yachts that anchor offshore for a few hours or a few days. Rumours gallop around the island that the Sheik of Araby-k, Charles and Camilla, even dear friend of affluent politicians, George Bush the Elder , or nowadays a Russian tycoon and his entourage have come ashore and are chowing down on lobster and caviar at one of the seaside tavernas

Sunrise over the 'Modi' on an early morning fishing trip

The blue, blue Aegean

A small church on the headland.  Opened up on its fiesta when crowds arrive by small boat to light a candle or maybe for a baptism or private wedding

The lighthouse at the entrance to Poros harbour.  This is accessed by a hike overland following a narrow goat track 

from the sea by small boat
The lighthouse is no longer operational but still serves as a beacon for those arriving on the island.  We pass the lighthouse, cruise round the headland and there is the picturesque white island harbour town on the horizon

Approaching Poros.
Rounding the headland

Chief Observing Officer

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Pictorial Poros (2

A  visual stroll through the back streets from  long time island resident Therese Byrne

A narrow lane leading off 'High Street' Poros

Picturesque back street

The old kindergarten on the left.  Two of my grandchildren spent a couple of years here.  Fortunately their teacher, Maria, was inspired and her enthusiasm and flair made up for the dark cramped school-room.  Poros has three kindergartens (pre-school) and this one has moved around to a bright new building where the children can see the sun and have room to play

Typical street scene.  White cube-like houses, blue shutters, narrow passages between them.  In the summer the balconies have pots of basil and geraniums and the women sit out on the street

These steps take you from the harbour up to St George's Square and the big church.  Steps, steps everywhere

Looking out from the Post Office.  Blue shutters and doors of the Harbour Police Headquarters

Artistic clay pot  in front of the Post Office

Sunday, 11 March 2018

The Road Less Travelled

On an overcast Sunday afternoon we slowly wound our way along a deserted back road around the coast amongst the pine forests.  I was hoping to take some photos of the village of Methana under the volcano .  The  peninsular across the straits has 32 volcanoes but only one of them is obvious by its shape.

The day was dull and the horizon was an unclear blur.  What I thought was an evening mist was actually a dust cloud blown all the way from the Sahara.   Not good for far-off photos.

The old fire road goes round the back of the island through the pine forest.  Last winter the young pines which had sprouted along the sides of the road were reaching out into the middle  and on the tight narrow corners visibility was dangerously limited.  The forest service would not give permission to trim the pines but the council seems to have got around the ban and with the removal of the young trees the road seems twice as wide.

That's the sewage plant above and those rings are a fish farm in the sea below.  At least the swirling waters show the sewage plant is working. I wouldn't be too happy eating any of those fish though. The thought of its location is more than a little off-putting. Beware, all those fish are exported

A small bay away from the tourist beaches.  Access is either by goat track or by boat from the sea.  Wonderful place for a summer picnic and all day swim

There is a small island offshore to make it even more private

Teachers Island. Another small island, this one with a church.  Popular for baptisms and weddings. Thought to be unlucky for some reason to be married here.  Can't think why.  Bride, groom and guests sail into the small jetty by water taxi, Zorbi the Greek (throbbing greek tourist music) blasting from the speakers

Russian ruins.
The remaining walls of an old Russian Naval station.  Deserted in winter. A beach to let dogs run and to fly kites. In the summer there are concerts on the beach and during the day the sands are covered in sunbeds and umbrellas

Love Bay
Every inch of sand here is covered by a sunbed in August.  A small rounded bay with crystal clear waters, a small stone church on one side and natural shade from the pine trees right down on the beach.  A beautiful little bay and extremely popular. Off shore there are usually anchored a few luxury yachts. The canteen provides cold beers and coffees and Greek salads