Monday, 17 December 2018

Sticky and sweet

The aroma wafting through our house today is not the smell of stale ashes and wood smoke but the tempting, delicious scent of rosewater, cinnamon, oranges and cloves.

The traditonal greek Christmas sweets around here are kourabiethes and melomakarona. 

 Kourabiethes - 
light and crumbly almond biscuits, sprayed with rosewater and covered in powdered sugar (icing sugar)

Melomakarona -
made with oil, brandy, (koniak), orange juice, cinnamon and cloves.  These are dipped in a honey syrup and covered in crushed walnuts

Many little hands make light work

The two younger grandaughters came to help mix and shape the biscuits/cookies
The boys are no longer interested in domestic stuff

Oranges from our trees in the garden

The first batch of almond biscuits are rolled in icing sugar

And sampled

These exotika are popping up everywhere.  This one is a tealight holder.  Scandanavian culture is popular this year.  First we had hygge and now we have their exotika 

Melomakarona before and after
The ones on the tray at the bottom have just come out of the oven.  The first batch was a slight disaster.  They were left in the honey syrup too long and fell too pieces.  Can't give those away.  We'll have to eat them ourselves!  Only a 'few thousand' calories and a 'kilo' of sugar in each one

And a pile of kourabiethes
There is no sneak-eating of these little delights.  The icing sugar gets everywhere and if it doesn't just linger on the lips and chin, you'll find fine white dust sticking to your clothes.  Not easy to say 'no Mum, I didn't eat one, wasn't me'.

Small boys find great delight in holding them up and blowing powdered sugar all over your face.  Avoid 'boys' of all ages when in the firing line of fine-sugar coated sweets

Friday, 14 December 2018

Waterfront sights

A waterfront hotel.   An island eyesore.
The hotel has been closed for many years as you can tell from its state.   It now has a demolition order on it.

The hotel is owned by various descendants of a rich ship owner,
most of whom are no longer rich enough to restore this dinosaur

From prime real estate to an eyesore.  From these now quakey balconies there is a sweeping view of harbour activity and the mountains beyond

This once elegant building was a danger to the public.  For years pieces of wall fell onto  the road.  Then , possibly through an EU grant, the walls were stabilised but that is as far as the repairs went.
I wonder what it is like inside.  The furnishings are probably antiques, the curtains in ribbons, but still aristocratic, a piece of local history

The EU gives a grant to reconstruct the old neo-classical stone buildings but the owner still has to put his hand into a pocket which has more holes than money.  There are strict rules to follow naturally.  All the older town around Poros harbour is supposed to follow certain guidelines.  Roofs should be tiled, shutters made from wood and not metal.  Not all houses follow the rules but generally it is a charming picture of island homes which appears before you as you arrive on Poros. 

Nearby the two run-down buildings is the beautifully restored building call the 'Syngrou', once a primary school and now used for exhibitions and talks.

Villa Galini
Once the meeting place of authors, artists and the elite of days gone by

A typical island house
Made of white washed stone, tiled roof, usually covered in bougainvillia with a balcony full of  fragrant basil plants in old oil cans

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

On a Winter's Night

Basketball and patsas

A cosy winter's night, a pot on the stove, a glass in hand and a game on the telly

The heavy old pot boiling on the stove, full of fatty calves foot and stomach.  Patsas, the name of the soup.  A favourite in the wee hours after a heavy night.  It soothes the stomach 'they say'.

A bottle of 'skorthostoubi' 
Many gloves of garlic in a bottle of vinegar, ready to be poured into the soup

What's left
A few 'knuckles' from the foot

Good companions and a good game.

Greece beat Germany

Monday, 10 December 2018


We're delighted when we find somewhere agreeable to eat after a doctors visit or  shopping for spare parts in one of the big towns near us, not Athens.

After a number of disappointing meals in Nafplio we finally found the ideal hangout, and it's airconditioned in the summer.  Just a tiny place, half a dozen tables and another half dozen outside

Named 'Rakoumel" which is combination of the word 'raki' and 'Drakoumel'  the bumbling wizard who chases the Smurfs.  You know him and his cat as Gargamel and Azrael.  We know them as Drakoumel and Psipsinel and the Smurfs themselves are Stroumfakia.  The smurfs speak greek, even Donald Duck quacks in greek!  

We see the same faces almost everytime we walk in even though it is only a few times a year.  Locals, mainly men, retired, doing the shopping for wives cooking at home and then popping in for a glass of raki or wine and some familiar company

This long haired male, a throwback from the seventies, is a friend of the owner and sits by the bar with a glass of iced coffee and a full ashtray waiting for his friend to take a break.  Meanwhile he eyes up the waitress and checks us out as well 

Paper tablecloths with recipes enscribed on them, wine from a plastic barrel and only a small selection of dishes every day

We ordered chicken saganaki, bacaliaros and gkoulbasi....
Chicken in a tomato sauce with chunks of cheese and salt cod fried in a batter with garlic sauce.  The gkoulbasi was chunks pork cooked in a clay bowl with green peppers, chunks of cheese, tomato and onion,  slow cooked for three or more hours..  It was darn tasty, the perfect meze for a litre, or so, of wine

If the table is too small for all your plates then pull up another chair and use it as a side table. Standard practice

As usual there was a small altercation over who payed the bill.  We had invited our friend to join us so we paid for the meal.

And we shouted the waitress to a bottle of beer.   She poured out a glass and we clunked glasses
'Stin ygeia sas" to your good health

Friday, 7 December 2018

Old Saint Nik

6th December

Fiesta of Saint Nikolas, patron saint of the Greek Navy, merchant and otherwise.  In fact patron saint of all those sailing on the seas, from fishermen in their traditional caiques to the coast guard who goes out in a storm to rescue a sinking raft overloaded with refugees.

Name day of Nik, Nikolas and Niki, Nikoletta and all niks therein.
Niks and Niki's  should have been offering around small sticky cakes and chocolate bonbons to clients, fellow workers, friends and acquaintances.

Family would have turned up on the doorstep for the traditional drinks and platters of meat, salads and specialities of the lady of the house.

Sailors ex and present filled the church on this morning at the Navy School, a church dedicated naturally enough to St. Nikolas.

After the service Navy personnel and church goers were treated to festive cakes, coffee, wine and snacks.

Those whose name day it was brought boxes of cakes, loaves of sweet bread and oil based goodies for those on the religious fast.

St. Nik does not bring presents to the good children, or the bad. Gifts are given out by St. Basil here in Greece.

If you're lucky and come from a cross cultural family you could try for a double visit. Didn't happen in our house.  St. Nik brought our girls presents, coming through the window of our Piraeus flat or the rickety shutters of our old house on Crete.  He always left a few crumbs of his Christmas melomakarouna but managed to drink all of his whiskey.

Another day, another feast.

What's your tradition?

Thursday, 6 December 2018

O Christmas Tree

Watching, organising and directing the decorating of the Christmans tree is thirsty work.  The men had their lethal raki, the kids a bottle of even more lethal sugary pop and the girls had their special 'own-brand' sangria, only lethal when you stand up.

One cup of vodka
a few cups of   drinkable wine, red or white
topped up with fruit juice, preferably not fresh.  There is nothing healthy about this recipe!

The first jug had a rather odd taste.  We decided it was the wine which is why I emphasise the use of a 'good' wine.  We added some more vodka, some of that sugary pop and the more we drank the better it got.  The second jug was fruity perfection, and the job got done to the satisfaction of even the fussiest of over-lookers

The 'star' goes on the top of the tree.  Our tradition is a big red poinsettia flower

Doesn't that look gorgeous reflected in the windows

Tall people tack up my crochet Christmas bunting

Up go the Christmas balls, hanging from the rafters

And the mistletoe is put in place

My knitted Christmas hat got its first wearing

And Santa (St Nick to you, St Basil to us)
popped in with a 'ho,ho,ho'

Sunday, 2 December 2018

Xmas Is Coming

St. Nikolas is galloping over these ancient paths and cobblestones, soaring over the deep blue seas.   St Nik will arrive on December 6th in Greece but he won't be lugging a sack of presents.  St Basil (Vassilis) takes care of the presents here on January 1st

Kala Hristouyenna from Greece

Greetings from Arty-farty, Stinky-winky, Piggly-wiggly and Wonky-tonky, the four exotika of Christmas