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ANTIQUITY IN OUR BACK YARD

Ancient ruins are literally everywhere in Greece. Every where you walk you are treading on the ruins of an  older civilization, probably rom...

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Easter Saturday

Saturday and everyone is back at work again.  The men are cleaning the spit and preparing the sacrificial lamb, or goat ready for tomorrow's BBQ and hauling bags of charcoal.     


All the offal for the soup, called mayeritsa, with which we break the 40 day fast after the midnight mass.  This is the women's job.  We cut all this offal into small pieces and it is stewed along with lettuce, spring onions and rice then thickened with eggs and lemon juice.  It may look and sound gross but the soup is delicious and the offal becomes small pieces of unrecognisable meat.  Because of the economic crisis the soup this year is more lettuce and less meat, but just as good.  A good grinding of pepper over the top and some of my homemade sourdough bread.  It sits heavily on the stomach and you're still trying to digest it while basting the goat next morning.

The goat ready to be dressed for the spit.  Poor little goat.  We used to buy a 16 kilo lamb.  This year it is an 8 kilo goat.  Goat is actually a little more expensive, 1 euro a kilo more than the lamb, but it has far less fat and is much healthier.

Elli does a bit of whitewashing.

Good Friday


Today is a day of mourning.  No work is done today.  I cannot even sew on a button.  Shops and businesses open after midday when the church service has finished. However, it is alright for the men to sit at the cafes and drink ouzo till they are sloshed.  Drowning their sorrow no doubt. 

 At the morning service Christ is taken down from the Cross and placed on the flower bedecked bier.  The priest will then go on to the cemetary where for a few euros he will say a prayer over your dear departed.

K and I delivered our eggs and cookies to friends and neighbours.  I went across the water to Galatas on the car ferry to see our sinpethera (daughter's mother-in-law).  Coming back two car ferries were plying the straits because of the huge numbers of cars bringing in visitors for the long weekend.  Big BMW's, Range Rovers and Mercedes with darkened windows.  The rich are still rich and ever more will be so.  Every year I wonder at the sheer numbers of the city slickers' cars.  It is a wonder the island does not sink under the weight.

Church bells ring the death knoll slowly all day long and flags are at half mast.  In the evening we went up to the monastery for the candlelight parade.  The faithful carry plain brown beeswax candles tonight.  

Notice outside the monastery.


The peaceful monastery courtyard outside the church
The bier decked out in flowers being prepared for the procession

The girls, Danae and her sister-in-law wearing the aprons provided to cover up their trousers.

We carry lighted candles and follow the bier as it goes down to the beach and back up to the monastery.  In town the congregations of the three big churches and that of the Naval Base bring their biers down into the central square, the faithful following with their candles and the sombre tones of the municipal band.  There is a short service in the town and then they all return to their church.  The flowers from the bier are given to the crowd to take home and decorate their icons.

During the day it is a tradition to visit all the churches and the children pass under each of the biers three times to bring them good luck and health.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Holy Thursday






Thursday
Today we dye the red eggs and make the koulourakia (easter cookies).  I  boiled 45 eggs yesterday.  5 were discarded because they were cracked.  The remaining 40 I soaked in special red egg dye and then polished in olive oil.  I will give 10 to my daughter's mother-in-law who gave us 25 of the eggs I dyed, fresh from her chooks.  I will give away at least another 20 to other friends and neighbours along with a plate of cookies to each person. Some of them will also give us a small plate of their eggs and cookies in return so we'll probably end up with about 20 eggs.  Plenty for playing 'conkers' after Saturday night mass and on Easter Sunday.  We don't worry about cholesterol at this time of the year!

This year the grandchildren make the koulourakia.  The smell wafting through our house was heavenly, hot orange butter cookies, which only the children can taste today because there are eggs and milk in the recipe and they are not Lenten fare.  We made 4 big oven trays of cookies. 

We always exchange eggs and cookies with those near and dear to us but also we make a little extra for those in mourning.  It is not 'done' to dye eggs or make any sort of sweet biscuits and cakes until the first year of mourning is over and sometimes even longer.



red eggs ready to be shined

cookie monsters

The church service tonight is rather longer than usual.  It is the Holy Passion service and the reading of the Twelve Apostles.  

After the service the local women stay behind and decorate with fresh flowers the bier of Christ, ready for Good Friday.

Thursday is the women's time to organize, give orders, gossip and quibble over the flowers.  They stay till the early morning hours and when their church flowers are finished often they will go in a group to see what the women have done in the other two big churches, admire and pooh-pooh the others' efforts.



Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Holy Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday


Greek Orthodox Easter.

This week every day is a Holy Day.  Every evening there are services in all the big churches and many prefer to worship at a monastery where devotions seem more spiritual.

These first few days are for spring cleaning, preparing the home and the body for the miracle of the resurrection.  The fasting becomes even stricter.  On Monday, Wednesday and Friday oil is also forbidden.  Meals are plain and simple.  Boiled vegetables or lentils, tahini (sesame paste) and olives.

In the olden days ie ten years ago, all the neighbourhood was out white washing the walls and sidewalks around the houses.  Council workers whitewashed the many steep steps, weeds were cut on the streets and the narrow lanes and harbor were generally given a spruce up. 

White washing seems to be a thing of the past, as is street sweeping by the housewife outside her domain.  The harbor is given a fresh slick of paint, the big rubbish bins a rinse out and the flower beds renewed at the end of May so the town that is visible to visitors is presentable for the annual boat show.

These first few days are also the time to buy presents for the god children and take them their  lambatha (decorated candle) for the Saturday midnight mass.



Grandaughters' lambathas

The weather is cool but perfect for coffee in the sun.  We took an hour off from shopping for easter Sunday supplies and sat at the 'green chairs', a 'K-approved' café and watched the world go by.


Down by the water's edge.  The 'green chairs'.  Notice all the greeks are wearing heavy jackets but the tourist thinks it is summer in his short sleeve t-shirt.




Hot coffee (filter coffee, also known as 'french' or 'american' coffee) or frappe (iced coffee) and the traditional greek morning snack, the sesame 'bagel'.  And always a glass of water.



Sent by Turbo-X device

Monday, 25 April 2016

Olymplc flame - from Ancient Olympia to Rio

The flame which will burn all through the 2016 summer games in Rio was lit from the rays of the sun in the ruins of the arena at ancient Olympia.  In a solemn ceremony the torch was lit by a greek actress dressed as a high priestess and handed to a greek male athlete.   The flame will travel through Greece for a week, going up north to Alexandropouli and then back to Athens where a Syrian migrant will carry it for a short distance through a refugee camp.

From Athens the flame goes briefly to the Olympic capital of Lausanne and then onto Brazil where it will be carried on a 95 day journey all through the country.  The games start in the Maracana stadium on 5th August.

Poros is proud to have an Olympic silver medal winner, Dimitris Mougios.  He won his silver medal for rowing in the 2008 games in Pekino (known to you as Beijing).  Dimitris was one of the runners who carried the flame from Olympia this week. Nice young lad, went to school with my girls.  Was given the license for a lotto shop after his win and has a coast road on Poros named after him.

Brazil has a lot of problems to contend with, the Zika virus, terrorism, mosquitoes, aligators,  corruption.  Well, many thought Athens would not be ready or have the necessary security but we held some awesome games so lets wait and see what marvels Brazil has in store for us.

And then, 'Apres moi le deluge'.  Bankruptcy, International Monetary Fund and Capital Controls.

Future Olympic Champions


My granddaughter Nels in the single skiff


Grandson George, in the rear, in the double skiff

They recently took place in the races for all teams in the wider Athens area of Attiki  and after only 6 months training came in third and fourth.  In July they will be rowing in the National competition up north on the lake of Kastoria.

ANZAC day 25th April (Australian and New Zealand Army Corp) and the Battle of Greece.

17,000 Australians and 16,700 New Zealand soldiers fought in the Battle of Greece and then in the Battle for Crete resisting the invasion of an overwhelming number of german troops.   1,686 of those brave men are buried on the island of Lemnos, in the Commonwealth cemetery at Kalamaki just outside Athens and in the war cemetery on Crete at Souda Bay.  Dawn services are held at these locations every year.

The Allied forces were hugely outnumbered when the german forces invaded in April 1941 and soon retreated to the island of Crete.  There they fought a ten day offensive against german paratroopers.  15,000 were evacuated to Egypt but many were left behind.  Some became prisoners of war and some were sheltered by the Cretan people at great risk to their lives.

The Chairman of the Commemoration Committee recently said "The Greeks are displaying the same 'filoxenia' (hospitality) they showed towards the ANZACs by looking after the Syrian refugees'.

2016 is the 75th anniversary of the battle of Crete. There will be special commemorations with many visitors not only from down-under but also from Germany.  Ceremonies will take place from 15th May to 22nd May with wreath laying at both the Commonwealth and the German military cemeteries.

Both my father, Harry Creasy and my Uncle, George Perry took part in the greek campaign. 
Harry was a Captain in the British Navy.  He commanded  a motor launch, ML1252,  helping Greek patrols as they ousted the last of the retreating Germans.  In his memoirs he writes with great affection about the welcome and the antics of the locals.

George Ernest Perry trained with the New Zealand brigade in Egypt and then fought in Greece where he was captured at the end of the campaign and spent four years as prisoner of war in
Austria.

And a special mention to my Uncle, Frank Edward Creasy who was killed in Italy in the attack by the NZ forces on Cassino Railway Station.   Many of the family have travelled to Italy and visited his grave.  The Cassino war cemetery is huge, with the graves of over 4,000 commonwealth soldiers.  












































































































































































































































































Friday, 22 April 2016

Pope Francis, oxalis and greek superfood.

Pope Francis came, conquered us with his humility and reason and departed with three Syrian families.The Orthdox Bishop and Patriarch together with the Pope greeted a mass of refugees, listening to their stories and pleas for help.    The three religious leaders then shared a humble meal of mushroom soup, halvas and olives with a group of migrants at one of the reception centres.  At the end of the short visit the Pope left the island of Lesvos with 12 Syrians,  3 families with health problems who will be looked after in the Vatican City.



I discovered the yellow sorrel which I love so much in the winter  is also known as oxalis and is a pest.  It spreads all over the garden here and the greenery it presents is so soothing to my eye after months of a brown and mostly arid land.  It pulls out so easily when I have to weed, just before it completely smothers the lettuces .  In the spring it dries up and disappears all by itself.

What is healthy just now.  Greek superfood.  This is how the greeks on the islands and in the remote villages live such long lives.  Their fresh diet of whatever is in season,  looking after the land,  tending their flocks and lots of human interaction.  A little gossip, concern for their neighbours, wine, song, energetic dancing with their friends and community and laughter.

Our little local hilltop community has grown by one for the summer.  Our English neighbor arrived last week and is going to spend the whole summer here instead of her usual one week.  Fani, who owns the house closest to her is our watch dog.  She will come and tell us when a tile falls off a roof, or a tap is left running or as last week when a herd of goats somehow made it up and on to the terrace of the English house.  She spends half the week with her sister in Poros town and will come back with all the news.  Births, deaths, broken legs and everyone's personal goings-on. We also have Lefteris who plays greek music loud enough to rouse us and his  chickens  and Vasso who is the oldest and canniest  of all our little locale.  She will bring a dozen fresh eggs, a barrowful of lemons or a few tomato plants but beware - in the next few days she will come to ask for her 'return'.  K will be given something of hers to fix or we will have to bring her up some medicine or tool from the town.  No hassle.   Then there is Yiannis, who records all the local history and comes for a brief summer holiday from the bustle of Athens before going off down to the deep Mani to his wife's village and Mitsos and Voula who bring us huge bags of quinces and pomegranites, figs and greens straight from their fields.

Todays superfood.

Broccoli from a local garden ready to be lightly boiled on the outside gas stove and served with lemon juice and our olive oil.



Freshly caught fish straight on to the BBQ.  Also served with lemon juice and olive oil.

And bread and wine.

Monday, 18 April 2016

ANTIQUITY IN OUR BACK YARD

Ancient ruins are literally everywhere in Greece. Every where you walk you are treading on the ruins of an  older civilization, probably roman or greek.

We live within sight of the ruins of the 520BC  temple to Poseidon, greek god of the sea, on the hill high above the sheltered harbor of Vagonia.  This whole area was a large port town straggling up the hill from the sea to the temple and it's sanctuaries.  All this is now hidden beneath the earth and the  ministry of archeology has forbidden building of any kind. 


Looking down from the temple on Poros to the harbor below
all this hillside would have been covered in dwellings -
now under the earth


an ancient picnic nook

what remains of the Temple to Poseidon




It's the same story all over the country.  Those with land in this area can keep chickens and put a caravan on the ground, pick their olives but are not supposed to even dig a hole in the earth. 

  Stories of burying ancient remains while digging  foundations, of finding gold coins and relics while plowing are so common and they are so true.  If you want to farm your fields or build your house you keep quiet about any finds and hide the evidence quickly, preferably under tons of cement.

On Poros and in the immediate surrounding area  there are:

- the remains of Poseidon's temple, where we have had many a great picnic.  Small grandsons enjoyed playing with their trucks in the ancient earth.  There is a piano concert held here every August full moon.  A Swedish archeology group comes every summer and spends a few weeks digging here.  We have some of the soil that has been removed in our garden.  Our neighbor has all sorts of marble columns and stones in her fields .

- the remnants of an ancient temple in the sea on the opposite coast.  
 
- at  the town of Troizina, mostly farm land now,  you can visit the ruins of a healing centre and temples, all that is left of a large city.  All the local schools have trips here and my daughters have visited some of the sites which are hidden in farmers' orchards.

- the stone and 'house' of Theseus who supposedly killed the minotaur in Crete.  Legend says Theseus lifted the huge stone at age 18 and retrieved the sandals and sword left by his father. 

- 2 beehive Mycenean tombs - in a farmers olive grove.

- acropolis and volcano of Methana.

- another temple on the crossroads to Methana, still being slowly excavated.

and they are all less than half an hour away.  A little further down the road there  are 4000 year old bridges and roads, Tyrins,  the birthplace of Hercules and a palace thought to have been built by giants.  The incredible and still used 2500 year old Epidavros theatre, castles, more theatres, stadiums, acropolises and the palace of Mycenae, home of Agamemnon who led the expedition to Troy to bring back Helen (of Troy).


the magnificent theatre of Epidavros
340 BC and still used for summer performances of
classical greek plays.  Holds up to 13,000 spectators.
The stone seats at night are still hot from a day in the blazing
sun.  They are also very hard.  Bring your own cushion.

Mycenean Bridge





In 2015 there were four major archeological finds -

- 2 skeletons dating from 3,800 BC were found entwined in a cave in southern Greece. 

- 3 acres of an underwater settlement were found with building foundations and paved roads.

- Linear B tablets were discovered in a newly found Mycenean palace near historical Sparta.  The palace had around ten rooms and there were large numbers of clay objects, swords, fragments of murals and figurines.

- a warriors tomb dating back 3,200 years with over 1400 objects, jewellery, weapons and gold vessels.

In all there were more than 150 excavations in 2015.

Greece, the home of Democracy -
it all began very UNdemocratically.  Less than 20% of the population were eligible to vote.  Excluded were women, foreigners and slaves.  Modern Greek women did not get the vote until 1952.  The dowry was not abolished until 1983 and it was the same year that The New Family Law finally gave women an equal say in family matters.

New Zealand women got the vote in 1893 and in 1919 could be elected to Parliament.







]

Friday, 15 April 2016

The Old Ways

In remembrance.  The first poppies are out in time for ANZAC day, 25th April. 
ANZAC - Australian and New Zealand Army Corp



These poppies are growing in a clump of chamomile.  The smell is wonderful.  The chamomile can be picked and dried, spread out on a sheet or tablecloth in the sun for a few days and then stored in an old pillow case.  It makes a soothing tea.

As I was driving down to Poros town this morning I encountered a funeral procession.  After the funeral service in one of the three big churches the hearse very slowly  proceeds to the graveyard followed by all the mourners on foot.

In the old days as the procession passed the cafes everyone would stand up and keep silence till it passed.  Cars on the other side of the road would stop, anyone in the car would step out and wait before going on and no car would overtake the hearse.  If you got stuck behind a funeral it was 'just too bad'.

When passing the Naval School, any sailors outside would stop what they were doing and face the road .

This morning I stopped my quad bike as usual, took off my helmet (yes, I am one of the few who always wears one) and stepped on to the footpath, showing respect for the dead and their relatives.  I was mightily surprised to see that although some other people in cars did the same there were a few who not only continued on but some that over took the whole cavalcade.

Times they are a changing.

The deceased was an old woman of over 90 and had only 5 mourners behind the hearse.  The smallest funeral I have ever seen here.


Wednesday, 13 April 2016

latest news and Poros views


In a few days time Pope Francis will visit the refugees on the Greek island of Lesvos.  He will be accompanied by the Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew, Archbishop Ieronymos and of course the PM.  The Pope has already visited refugee centres on the Italian island of Lampedusa in 2013.


They will all visit one of the Hot Spots (reception centres) and then the Pope will meet with the Catholic community on Lesvos.

All this in an effort to raise the public awareness of the plight of the thousands of Syrian asylum seekers.  The refugee crisis has disappeared from newspapers and broadcasts in most countries outside Europe.

Young Afghan and Kurdish refugees camped out on the Macedonian border and across the railway tracks between Greece and Macedonia attacked the fence dividing the two countries and attempted to invade the neighbouring country.

The Macedonian border guards repelled them with rubber bullets and tear gas.  There was an immediate uproar, accusing Macedonia of entering Greek territory.  Greece should have cleared up the mess on the border a long time ago.  The borders through the Balkans are closed and will not reopen to refugees.  Macedonia was simply defending its boundaries.

Austria is building an anti-migrant wall on the Italian border across the Brenner Pass.  They are awaiting an influx of migrants coming through Italy now the Balkan route is closed. Austria already has a fence at its border with Slovenia.


Economics -

Grexit is making a comeback.  There are continuous talks with the EU, the IMF and Greek ministers.  Athens needs 3.5 billion in July for debt repayment.  That must come once again from pension and wage cuts and more taxes.  Where exactly the cuts will be made  and who exactly they'll crush with the new taxes is what they'll all arguing about.

Turkish jets once again invaded Greek air space yesterday.





Poros harbor




Coffee culture in the main square Poros

another view of the harbor from the sea

what it's all about, beer and homemade cheese pies
at Vassili's Taverna next to the sea Neorion Beach

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Saturday, 9 April 2016

spring and more refugees


Migrant, émigré, displaced person, asylum seeker, political refugee or economic refugee, you name it, they're still coming.  All borders are closed, there is no way into Europe and Europe doesn't want them.

There are detention camps in Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia and Macedonia with hundreds of migrants trapped in limbo.  In Greece there are over 50,000 migrants.  Thousands are on the Macedonian border in an unhygenic and rundown city of canvas, thousands are camped along Pireaus harbor and many thousands are in'reception centres' and transit camps run by the army all over the country.

On the Macedonian border those rash enough to make it through or over the wire are given rough treatment by the Macedonian border guards and sent back to Greece.  Meanwhile locals are apprehensive about what will happen in this volatile situation and have bought out the (hunting) gun stores.

Fighting amongst refugees on the islands and in camps is a daily occurrence.  Afghans are no longer considered political refugees, will not be accepted by any European country and  could be sent back to Turkey.  The afghans attack the Syrians who are now the only valid asylum seekers.

Clashes between refugees and locals is also common.  Islanders want their livelihood back as summer approaches and tourist bookings drop.

Under a new EU agreement Turkey will be given  billions of  euros to help it provide for the refugees already in Turkey.  Under this agreement economic refugees in Greece will be returned to Turkey.

45 young men from Pakistan, Egypt and Iraq were deported this morning.  Not even a drop in the ocean.  Boats are still arriving from Turkey every day with more asylum seekers.  5 people were drowned today off the coast of Samos.

What Greeks are doing.  Welcoming spring and paying more taxes.






Blossom on the grapefruit tree.   Hundreds of bees are buzzing round the blossom and the perfume is exquisite.

Geraniums red (and delphinians blue), before the garden clean-up



And, afterwards.  Room for the mint to flourish and take over

Some of my garden friends
The snail in the middle is from our short excursion into Bulgaria a few years ago.


Ready for planting.  Basil, tomatoes, zucchinis, peppers and aubergines...and a few more of my garden gnomes.


A medlar to be planted in the garden.  The medlar fruit is orange, about the size of a walnut and has two big stones in the middle.  You peel off the tough skin and eat the flesh.  Very nice, sometimes a little tart but delicious none the less.  The stones can be put straight into a pot (like this one) and grow very easily.

Sunday, 3 April 2016

SURPLUS OF SPINACH

After the very heavy rainstorm we had on national day, in the middle of the local parade, all the greens have surged upwards and onwards.  We have weeds two feet high once again, the lettuces have bolted for heaven and the spinach is lush.


the last of the lettuces




SPINACH - we have none in our garden this year, though we have had quite good crops in previous years.  One year about this time, at the end of the season, our neighbor Vasso brought us a barrowload of spinach she had dug up to prepare for the summer planting.  It was old and tough just like her but I picked out the better leaves and blanched and freezed them for all the family.

Now I bought a kilo of  big and largely dirt-free spinach leaves.  It still needed a good clean.  The rule here is to wash all greens three times in a big bowl of water till there is no trace of dirt and sand left at the bottom.  I took the spinach outside and filled up two bowls with the hose pipe.  Still quite a job.  Of course you could buy a packet of frozen spinach, use silver beet or swiss chard.

A favourite meal here, especially during Lent is spinach and rice (spanakorizo).  Quick and easy, served with feta cheese and bread.  It is my granddaughter Nelli's favourite dish along with lentils.  That girl is born to be healthy.  On her birthday she asked her mother to make her green beans and potatoes, another popular dish especially in the summer, with lots of fresh tomatoes.  I don't think her siblings were overjoyed by the birthday meal though.

This time I made spanakopita (spinach pie) with 'country' filo pastry.  Once the spinach is washed it really is an easy recipe, especially if, like I did this time, I use bought pastry.


spanakotiropita (cheese and spinach pie)

There are quite a few variations and it can be made with or without cheese.

These are my ingredients.

-a kilo of fresh spinach, washed and cut into large pieces.
-a bunch of dill
-half a dozen fresh spring onions, or a big onion
-three or four leeks
-a little olive oil
-other fragrant greens.  Whatever is popular in your area.  They just give the pie a little more flavor
-half a kilo of feta cheese
-one egg
-pepper

-Enough filo pastry or short pastry to line a big baking dish, top and bottom

Clean and chop the spinach and other greens and put them in a hot pan till it wilts down a little.  Then put it into a colander to drain.  It will have lots of liquid.  Water your plants with the liquid, it's full of vitamins - or drink it yourself.

Chop the leeks and onions and lightly fry in a little olive oil. Add the spinach, greens and chopped dill.  Crumble the cheese and add that as well.  Then stir in a beaten egg.  It should be a great savoury mix, without having liquid on the bottom.  Too much liquid will make the pastry go soggy.

You shouldn't need salt because the cheese is usually salty enough.  But put in a good sprinkle of pepper.

Oil your baking dish, line the bottom with pastry and oil the pastry if it is filo.  Add the spinach mix, top with more pastry and tuck it in nicely.  Score the pastry and brush with a little water.

Cook about half an hour in a medium oven until nicely browned.

Eat while hot.  Serve with a good squeeze of lemon juice.
.........................

Last year our Australian visitors introduced us to another spinach recipe, this one made by their Croatian friend.  Simple and very tasty.  A delish accompaniment to any meal.  It is called BLITVA.  Croatia is just over our border.  I am surprised it is not a favourite greek dish too.

Cube and boil potatoes for 10 minutes.
Chop the spinach and wilt for a few minutes.
Brown some chopped garlic in olive oil.  Add the potatoes and the spinach, put in a little salt and toss and turn for a few minutes to mix up all those flavours.  You may need to add a little water too.

Serve hot with meat or just as a side dish.  Wonderful and very healthy.
...................

Kali orexi (bon appetit)


Kyriakos pruning the bougainvillea

nana's little helpers cleaning up the winter garden