Tuesday 30 May 2017

Democracy, Women and some ramblings

'Democracy' began in the city state of ancient Athens.  Adult males who had completed their military training got the vote, about 20% of the total population. 

Both  Plato and Aristotle saw democracy as an unjust system.  They complained that equal rights meant that the far more numerous poor were able to tyranise the rich.  Somehow modern man has been able to turn the tables so now the minority rich manipulate and tyranise the poor.

Women could not vote because they were not citizens of Athens.  They could not vote, inherit or own land.  Except in the State of Sparta they could not drink wine.  

  Good old 'philosopher' Aristotle believed that women were not intelligent enough to make important decisions.
Modern Greek men felt the same.  The general consensus was that a woman voter would be dangerous.   

...women were hysterical, illogical and unpredictable when they had their period and since the menstrual cycle of all Greek women did not coincide, 'when would the election vote be?

At the time, for many women of higher social class it was considered unladylike to vote.  Prominent actress Marika Kotopoulo did not want to vote because 'voting was only for ugly women and those that did not want to bear children'.
Thank you 'greekreporter.com'

I didn't really want to get into all that but reading up on women's rights in Greece found  these 'fascinating' notions and thought I might share them .

28th May 1952 
is the anniversary of the day all Greek women got the right to vote and be elected to Parliament .

In 1930 they were given the right to vote but only if they were over 30 and had finished grade school (primary school I assume).  Very few girls finished school back then. My mother in law went for three years but never completed her schooling. Her two sisters did one year at school and then went out to reap and sow, pick olives, make cheese and tend the livestock. Neighbour Vaso left school  after two years. Mother in law was sent out to shepherd the family goats.  Vaso was a child labourer in the fields and at age 10 was bringing in cash to help her family survive.  She often survived she said by eating mandarins during the day and eating a bowl of beans or artichokes at home in the evening, whatever her mother had managed to put together for their family of 11.

In 1953 the first female deputy was elected to the Greek Parliament

68 women were elected in 2015

In this parliament there are 54 women. Not many out of 300.

No woman has ever been elected PM but we did have an interim female Prime Minister in 2015. She was head of a caretaker government for one month.

Greek women have come a long way.  My two daughters could have grown-up to become a captain in the merchant navy, university professor, bus driver or  electrician.  Men and women get the same education, have the same opportunities and are mostly treated as equals.

As I have mentioned before, Vaso made sure all her children were well educated and had steady jobs. One of her daughters became a chief of police and the other a school teacher. Her granddaughters are university educated and one is now doing her doctorate at Oxford university in england. A huge change for women in two generations.

My mother in law was not so enlightened and would not let her daughter (my sister in law) continue on for high school education although the teachers tried their best to persuade  her that her daughter was bright and capable of  getting a good job and salary.  My sister in law was sent to a seamstress so she could learn to sew and mend for the family.

No longer, as my mother-in-law believed, is a woman born only to marry, bear male children and look after the men in the family. She has her own dreams and ambitions.  She is free.

Saturday 27 May 2017

Nemea - wine and ancient ruins

Nemea is a large grape growing and wine making area a couple of hours from Poros.  It is, naturally, associated with myth and legend and has ancient ruins that are worth visiting.  It was here that Hercules overcame the Nemean lion, one of the 'twelve labours of Hercules'.  The ancient stadium held the Pan-Hellenic games every two years from 573 to 271BC.  In recent years the stadium has been excavated and these games have been revived, taking place every four years.  The last games were held in June 2016.   The games consist of races in the ancient stadium and anyone can compete, the very old, the young and the fit. Walk or run, just the reach the finish line which is not all that far away.  It looks like fun.   Maybe in four years time.

  I have been to Nemea many times in the olden/golden days after the grape harvest in September to pick up great barrels of grape juice for K's wine.  I have also visited the remains of the temple to Zeus with visitors and it is one of my favourite ruins.  There are impressive temple columns still standing and  a museum better than most. 

                       The columns of the temple of Zeus    

The beautiful green museum grounds

Nemea today is better known for its great wineries.  We always bought our grape juice from the smaller suppliers but one year we visited some of the bigger outfits to see if we could do some wine tasting.  No such luck  ten years ago but wine tasting and grape festivals are now becoming the fashion and you can visit a few of the wineries.  The 'Great Days of  Nemea' wine festival is held in late August before the September grape harvest.  This includes a 10k run through the vineyards, wine tasting and theatre.

We used to load up the boot and back seat of the car with 100 litre plastic barrels and bring home juice which had started to ferment for red and white wine.  This was then decanted into K's wooden barrels throughly cleaned and sterilised.

Plastic wine barrels

On the way home we would always stop at a small taverna down by the river and try some of the local goat and a litre of their own red wine.  In days gone by.  K did not make any wine this year and in the last couple of years he has only put up 100 litres of local white  from the grapes of our neighbour Vaso.

Nemean taverna.  Local wine and local goat.

Thursday 25 May 2017

Battle of Crete .... 21 may

Third and final post for 21 May

 Battle of Crete  May 1941. 

40,000  New Zealand, Australian and British troops fought beside the Cretans to repel an airbourne invasion of their island by the  German army.  Thousands of elite German paratroopers were parachuted in and more came in by glider.   

In beginning the Germans suffered huge losses as the all the islanders, men and women, put up a fierce resistance.  Many parachuters died before touching the ground.  But slowly the invaders took a foothold as more German troops landed at the the ports of Heraklion and Rethymnon.

A german officer noted later "apart from the stones, all else rose up against us in Crete.  All living things fought to the last moment".

Crete surrendered on 31 May and a series of brutal reprises began against the Cretan civilians. Many villages were razed and their courageous inhabitants massacred.

16,000 Commonwealth troops were evacuated to Egypt, 5,000 surrendered but many more just took to the hills, hiding out and fighting with the Cretan resistance forces.

4,000 Allied and Greek soldiers died during the assault
1,900 wounded

6,000 German soldiers were killed or wounded

Travel writer and friend of the Greeks, Patrick Leigh Fermor, then Special Operations Executive (SOE) for the British, worked with the Cretan resistance and his great moment was the capture of the German General Kreipe and his removal to Egypt.  The retaliation however was the complete destruction of the mountain village of Anogia.

Leigh-Fermor and Kreipe met again in the 70's on a Greek television programme and relived the episode.  Fermor apologised for what had happened.

It is surprising how many German soldiers came back to visit Crete after the war and how many Germans now live there.  The Cretan people remember the invasion and brutality but the anger is not personal ...... well, except for the present German finance minister Wolfgang Schauble and maybe Angela Merkel.  The feeling is that now Germany is trying to conqueur Crete again, this time by economic means.

We lived on Crete for three years very close to one of the big Allied cemetaries at Souda Bay.  My father visited one year but refused to visit the memorial.  He said he had enough of wars. He was Captain of a Torpedo boat and worked alongside Greek troops as they expelled German invaders from the islands.  His memories of Greece during the war are of the friendly and sometimes chaotic people, their hospitality, their zest for life and their love of Greece.

2017 is the 76th anniversary
There were a number of ceremonies in Crete from May 19th to May 22nd attended by many of the descendants of those who fought or died in the battle

Wednesday 24 May 2017

Saints Constandine and Helen .......21 may

Agios Konstantinos and Agia Eleni, mother and son.  They have a joint fiesta on 21st May and half of Greece celebrates with them.


and a few other variations

We have quite a few of them in our large Greek family.  Once we used to celebrate all together, with my mother-in-law (Eleni) and sister-in-law (Dina), daughter, grandaughter, and other various inlaws.

Now the young ones have grown up and some of the older ones have departed.  Add an economic crisis and the all day fiesta has shrunk to a small party for close friends and neighbours.

My sister-in-law arranged the Holy loaf to be taken to the church and made the list of relatives whose names are read out in church (mine included) to be blessed, hopefully, with good health.

Our local church is dedicated to these two saints and their icon is paraded through the back streets, followed by Priests, chanters, local officials and many of those whose name day is being celebrated.

After the service the  celebrants share homemade koulourakia (cookies), sweet bread and cakes to commemorate their name day and go home to cook and prepare for a celebration supper.

K cooked lamb and potatoes in a clay pot, sealed with dough and simmered for 5 hours.


There was nothing of the wild, rowdy celebrating of old when our house became a stopping off place for half the island.  Friends and friends of friends used to turn up for an hour or many hours to drink and eat and then wobble off to their next friend or relative. 

This time a cousin dropped in as did our immediate family after their athletic triumphs and finally a friend and neighbour.

We sat on the balcony, outside but under cover and the day turned from sunshine to a very welcome rain. We all ate a little drank a little and talked a lot.

Tuesday 23 May 2017

Porosea.... 21 May

Porosea 2017

Three days of athletics for all ages on the welcoming, green  island of Poros.  If you like swimming, running or cycling then this was the place to be over the weekend of 21st May.

Three of our grandchildren took part, running and cycling and the other two were volunteeers, handing out bottles of water and directing athletes.

9am, an empty waterfront except for a few athletes warming up

         Three enthusiastic young 10k runners raring to go.  Our own Nels on the right.

Anna, friend, one of their mothers, an athletic local-alien, with a big smile, timer and music strapped on to her arm.  Anna ran the 10k race as well and came in first in her age group.  Way to go!

Waiting for the starter's 'gun', grandaughter Nelie with a bottle of water in one hand and her phone in the other so she can listen to music.  We obviously have to buy her one of those arm thingies and a belt to hang her water bottle.

Holding on to a bottle of water and a phone didn't slow her down though.  There she is holding up the cup, first of the women to cross the line in the 10k race.  

And our very own Pascal, another local-alien and our friendly waitress from the 'green chairs' cafe.  Pascal ran a half marathon, 22ks, and she was the first woman over the line.  Go Pascal go!!!  The 22ks took her way up into the hills where we live, across the back of the island to the Monastery and back down into the harbour, all in 2 hours and 7 minutes

Two more champions, grandaughter on the right, did the 400 metre dash smiling all the way

It was all very well organised.  Each athlete had an identification badge with their number, the event and their name which they attached to the back of their shirts.  

Grandson Jamie, in a typical tough boy pose.  He and his friend rode in the 10k cycle race.

Maria and Matina, accountants, not athletes, just having fun.  They did very well coming in 13 and 14th and are already training for next years event!

This ten year old, Antonis, is a young athlete who just went on and on like those duracell batteries.  He swam 2ks in the sea,   cycled 22ks and ran 10ks.   This little guy doesn't give up.


Now this young nine year old is not just a champion, she's a phenomenon!  Don't know what her name is, just what she achieved.  She ran 5ks and came in second, nine years old!

Father and son

Unfortunately I only got to see the running.  I came down too late to watch the cyclists.  All roads were closed on our side of the island, cars, tankers and motorbikes, all backed up and not able to move till it was all over.  I turned around and went back up the mountain, just making it home before they closed our mountain road as well.  This is one time I wouldn't have argued.  It was a terrific event for the island, for the locals who took part and all the visitors who came to participate in these games.  Besides the athletic events there was a treasure hunt, 'survivor' type games, a free macaroni night and lots of other good healthy fun for everyone

ks - kilometres

Monday 22 May 2017

Greek family compound

Where I used to live.

There are actually two blue metal doors here, both leading into the family compound in the photo below and the four family homes.  I used to hear them clang behind me when I entered and it felt like sound of a prison cell closing behind me.

The small courtyard which separates the two two-storey dwellings. There are steps on the right, out of the photo, which lead up to our house, now belonging to my daughter who loves the intimate family atmosphere.  In this courtyard we all gathered, and still do on many occasions to celebrate returns, departures, griefs and triumphs.

The orginal marble sink where we cleaned, cut and prepared meals and washed piles of fatty dishes with cold water and non sudsing homemade olive oil soap.  My sister in law has a dish washer now.

The blue and lilac wood over the white wall covers the living area.  When we moved in it was simply an open balcony with the toilet in one corner.  Covering it over gave us somewhere to gather, sit, eat and watch TV, not to mention bring the bathroom inside the house.

On street parking

We are half way up the hill.  These steps go on and on up to the top of the island where the old mill is located.  This is a winter photo where the steps are a little green and mossy.  Before Easter the steps are whitewashed and look bright and clean.

This beautiful house opposite us used to be a one floor, one room house with thick stone walls and a stable on the ground floor.  There was a donkey housed there for many years and bats in the eaves.

The road leading down to the Naval School

This narrow road and this particular sharp, blind corner is two-way causing horrible traffic jams in peak summer months and at Easter.  Locals know where to pull over and where two cars can pass.  City slickers or convoys of cars can cause great confusion and blind backing.  I'm glad I don't live there anymore.

Friday 19 May 2017

Our house and Surrounds

We live up in the hills with the remains of the temple to Poseidon on the hills opposite and the sea down below if only we could see it.

Looking down to Vagionia Bay.  All this area in ancient times was covered in buildings straggling down to the sheltered harbour from the Temple complex on the top of the hill dedicated to the God of the Sea, Poseidon.  On the road leading down to Vagionia Bay the archealogical society will allow you to build on the left hand side of the road but on the right hand side you cannot (supposedly) even dig a hole.  One of those 'weird or what' situations you often find here.  Greece is covered in ruins.  Every step you take is over some hidden ancient rock.  Land here has been farmed by many generations of  modern Greeks.  Now when young people need this family land to build a small house they cannot because of some incomprehensible law.

This is our house, with three different roof levels, all built at different times.  It looks quite isolated here but there are four houses relatively close by, though only one is permanently occupied.

What looks like a piece of an ancient Greek column in our green winter garden.  It is in fact a piece of plaster garden decoration which I retrieved from the rubbish.  Wish there had been more.

A typical farmer's house further down the road.  This is used by the family when picking olives and working on the land, or having a big family get together.  The bougainvillia has run wild and is full of colour in the summertime.

The view from Vaso's front yard.  She is slighlty higher than us and gets a panoramic view of Vagionia Bay, the lights of Piraeus and the coast of Athens at night.

Two houses on the hill above us.  These were half built over 20 years ago and have never been lived in.   They were built by a then councillor and bigwig who went ahead without planning permission.  Someone 'ratted' on him and he's been in court ever since and is not allowed to even step foot in the houses.

He must have a wonderful view up there of the mainland opposite and the village of Methana under the volcano plus at night the lights of Athens, the port of Piraeus and the island of Aegina would be incredible, if he ever got to live up there.

This gives you a better idea of where exactly those houses are, just visible on the hill to the rear of the photo.

A hedge of rosemary just down the road from us.

Where we used to live down in the old town above the harbour.  Our old house (family compound where our daughter now lives) is one of the white houses with blue shutters half way up the hill.  Houses built right next to each other and often attached with the houses on the higher level watching what's going on down on the lower levels.  No privacy here.

Wednesday 17 May 2017

Classic Greek cheese pie (tiropita)

Cheese Pie - Tiropita

Sold at bakeries and coffee shops, eaten piping hot out of a small paper bag. Not suitable for eating in cars as the pastry flakes go everywhere. 

This is a recipe for the simple Greek cheese pie made with 'crazy pastry'.    The pastry is super easy, flexible and easy to roll. It is perfect for any sort of pie, crunchy and delicious.

200 grams of yoghurt (sheep, goat, cow)
150 grams softened butter . I actually melt mine
300 grams of self-raising flour.  Add the flour slowly.  It may need a little more or a little less.

Put them all together in a bowl, mix well and then knead till it is a nice soft but not sticky dough.  Leave to rest for about half an hour.  It is easier to roll out if left to rest.

Keeps for  a week in the fridge.  I didn't add any salt because the feta cheese is quite salty.  If you're using it for some other filling (sweet or sour) you may want to add half a teaspoon of salt.

While the pastry is resting make the filling.

- 2 eggs
- 200 grams feta cheese.  I grated mine because it was hard but just crumbling it into the bowl will be fine
- 200 grams of grated gouda
- 100 grams (or so) of any other cheese you have, grated
- 1/2 cup of milk
In fact just use a combination of any cheese you have in the fridge
- a handful of chopped mint or a little dried mint
- a little pepper

Mix well with a spoon

Take 2/3 of the pastry and pull it out with your hands as much as you can.  Then roll out to the size of your baking dish so it covers the bottom and the sides.

Oil your baking dish.  The baking dish should be quite large so the cheese mixture is not too thick.  Lay on the pastry and fill with the cheese mixture.  Fold over the extra on the sides.

Roll out the other 1/3 of the pastry and place it over the top as a lid.  Brush with a little milk and sprinkle some sesame seeds if you want. 

Cook about 25 minutes at 180o till golden brown. Put it near the bottom of the oven so it gets well cooked underneath as well.

Cheese pie is usually eaten as a snack in the morning.  In Crete they serve it with honey.  It definitely needs to be eaten hot and leftovers heated up.

Facts about Greece

- About 80% of Greece is mountainous (or steep steps without handrails)

- There are more than 2,000 Greek islands but only a couple of hundred are occupied

- The island of Ikaria is one of the Blue Zones where a high percentage of villagers live to be 100

- We have at least 250 days of sunshine a year

- The word 'barbarian' comes from Greek 'barbaroi" which means people who don't speak greek and sound like they are saying  'bar-bar-bar-bar'.


Sunday 14 May 2017

Sunday coffee

From my usual seat at the Happy Chairs Cafe

Egg delivery.  The guy on the bike to the left is balancing a tray of eggs in his left hand

And  here they come into the cafe all safe and sound.  Omelette with feta and bacon, one of our favourite mezes with a glass of wine

The family bike.  Baba takes his daughter home, both without crash helmets, Dad driving with one hand on the 'wheel' and one arm round his daughter.  A very common sight.

Not many wear crash helmets anyway.  Wonder what sort of protection they think a jockey cap will give.

Heavy Sunday traffic on the waterfront

Coffees and beer . The owner paid for two rounds of beers.  A passing son in law paid for another round and a friend who thought he 'owed' us paid for another.

A cheap Sunday morning at our favourite watefront cafe.