Thursday 28 September 2017

Family! First episode

When downunder comes up north every day is a fiesta, and it's nothing to do with the church.

Last year it was pig on the spit and offal.  Lots and lots of offal.
And fish heads.

Hi Katy!   Chief fish head eater. Katy crunches on the fish eyes as well.  Kapai wahine

This year we had nephew Mark.  He shaved those mutton bones.  Your can see my bone on the right.  There's enough meat there to feed a clowder of cats.   Give one of  Mark's bones to those cats and they'll be hissing at you in disgust.

We picked up our klowder of kiwis from Athens airport and immediately showed Greek 'competence' by getting lost in the carpark .  After fifteen or twenty minutes dragging heavy suitcases (full of marmite) from one end of the parking area to the other in the midday sun we finally made it out and on the way to our exotic Greek island

First stop the Corinth canal.  Completed in 1893, 6.4 kilometres long.  Now mostly used by pleasure boats.  Time for the first photos.  Bungy jumping optional.

Their introduction to greek hospitality, a large baking tray of moussaka.  We seemed to be eating it as an 'appetiser' for the rest of the week.

Our first 'date' was coffee the next morning at the 'green chairs' cafe right on the waterfront.  Time to meet all the family and try the freddo capuccino and a spinach and feta cheese pastry.

Cousins meeting for the first time.

And Pascale, always on duty, always with a smile

The NZers came bearing gifts (marmite, pineapple lumps, booze naturally) .  And the gifts kept on coming,  from the supermarket.  Something we had never tried. One of a dozen bottles of 'exotic' beer. 

This one is  Volkan beer from the island of Santorini, made with lava rock filtered mineral water.  Nothing special I think was the general agreement.  Maybe to be properly appreciated it has to be drunk on the edge of the Santorini volcano watching one of their famous sunsets

A classic family dinner.  The 'before' photo.  A clean table.  Meat on the bbq.  Time to enjoy the family from far-away

Now that's more like it.  A platter of meat, a beer in hand and a glass of local red

Happy faces and a plate of bones.  Time for talking

Some classic dishes on the table.  Giant beans and a plate of small fish fried whole, heads, tails and all.  Beans eaten with a fork in one hand and a piece of bread in the other to mop up the juices

Stuffed tomatoes and peppers

Another classic meeting/eating place, family rooftop terrace with views of Poros and the harbour below.  Brother and sis-in-law

Last year's family visit. Same table.  Another brother

These two seasoned travellers at our old house.  Brother and sis-in-law.  

Here they are again on a mid winter visit in the new house around the big old 'monastery' table.  Another long afternoon of eating, much drinking and finally singing of national anthems and Waltzing Matilda.  Family from Perth always bring toblerone and a big bottle of Baileys.  

Tuesday 26 September 2017

greek Russian Salad

Rossiki Salata

I wouldn't call this a salad in-so-much as it has no lettuce leaves or sliced tomato.  It is what they call here in Greece a meze.  A side dish, a starter.  Or even better, a dollop on a sandwich instead of butter.

It is very popular in Greece, often found on a taverna menu and sold in pots in the supermarket.  Some version of it seems to be found all over Europe and the Balkans.

Boil a few carrots and cut up finely.  Boil as many peas as you desire.  The green and orange give this salad it's eye-appeal

Finely chop a few gherkins (pickled cucumber)

Add a handful of capers.  Our daughter brought back a large jar of locally pickled capers from the island of Paros.  Plump and full of taste

In a good size bowl make up a generous amount of sauce.  I used two thirds greek strained yoghurt and one third mayonnaise with lots of apple cider vinegar to give it a zing.  Whiskey would be even zing-ier

Mix all of the above together and refrigerate.  

Add boiled green beans, chopped green pepper or anything else you think would make a tasty addition.

It's not the family's favourite meze because of the mayonnaise and the green peas and carrots.  They prefer an olive oil and vinegar dressing and a tin of sweet corn instead of peas and carrots.

Budapesti salad  - also known as Chicago salad

This is another salad/starter/meze not usually found on taverna menus, just in a plastic container in the supermarket.  I love this one too.  But I like my mayo.

This is very similar to russian salad but has strips of preserved red pepper, ham and ketchup is added to the sauce to make it a pinky colour.

Below is a list of bits and pieces which you will usually find in this commercially made salad.

- pickles
- roast red peppers  - we either roast ours in the oven, remove the skin and preserve in oil and vinegar or buy a jar ready made
- grated carrot
- strips of ham
- ketchup
- potatoes
- gherkins
- mayo

- salami 
- paprika

Kali Orexi 

Sunday 24 September 2017

Our friends the russians

(Russian church, wine and a russian billionaire)

On the other hand the Russians are making their presence felt in an entirely different way.

On our way back from medical appointments in big city Nafplio last week we stopped to light a candle at newly consecrated church of Agios Loukas.

Agios Loukas - known as St Luke the Surgeon or St Luke of Crimea where he served as Archbishop

A modern day saint, born in Russia as Valentin Felixovich Voino-Yasenetsky.  Died 1967.  Exiled, imprisoned, tortured, humiliated, as was the custom then, he continued curing patients and practising his religion (Russian Orthodox).

Fiesta 11 June

We had heard a lot about this church so we thought we'd go and see what all the fuss was about.  The church has only been used for services for the last five months.  The inside pillars are covered in paintings of Russian and Greek saints.

Money for the building of the church was donated by Greeks living in Russia.  A team of Russian artists did much of the painting and wood sculpture.

Built in the Russian style this church is a gleaming white edifice in the middle of nowhere.  It is amazing how many churches here are situated in such rural settings.  I presume some faithful follower donates 20 stremmata (greek unit of land measure) of their olive grove or vineyard so the church can be built.  

From what we've heard if you want a church built on your land and have it consecrated and recognised by the Greek Orthodox church you must also donate a certain amount of land around it to the diocese, 20 stremma.
As if they need more real estate

20 Stremma - about 5 acres

The belfry, off to one side of the church

Front of the church.  The icons and frescos are called a harmonious mix of Byztantine and Russian technique

Domed ceiling

The Bishop's chair

Olive groves and vineyards surrounding the church for as far as the eye can see

Thousand years of Russians on Mt Athos (Greece's Holy Mountain, men only)

Russian monastery dedicated to Agios Panteleimonos. Looks big enough to be a small village.
 Last year it celebrated 1,000 years.  Both Putin and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow attended the cermeonies.  Once there were more than 2,000 monks.  Now there are 70 Russian and Ukranian  monks.  

Putin being pious

Greek island of Skorpios

Skorpios, a private island in the Ionian sea once owned by Aristotle Onasis.  Now leased for 100 years to the daughter of a russian billionaire.  

The Kremlin's wine is made on the Holy mountain in Greece.

Putin first visited Mt Athos ten years ago and tasted the wine made in the vineyards of the Holy Mountain.  He was so impressed that the wine, called Kormilitsa Gold, now carries the title of 'The Official Wine of the Kremlin Moscow'.  Bottles bear the Kremlin coat-of-arms.    Putin and his high level foreign guests are offered this limited production on important occasions.

Bravo Greece, you've come a long way since retsina (white wine preserved with a lump of pine resin).  But I still prefer neighbour Vaso's wine in the old plastic coke bottle, especially when she gives it to us free.

Thursday 21 September 2017

Our friends the chinese

Greece has become very friendly with the Chinese, so much so that Angela Merkel recently made a remark suggesting that the two countries were getting just a little too friendly.  President Macron of France on his visit here with Brigitte urged the Europeans to invest in Greece to counterbalance the Chinese.

Recent headlines:

- China predicts tenfold rise of Chinese tourists to Greece 
-  Chinese Premier invites Greek PM to visit China
-  China to have Dynamic presence at Thessaloniki trade fair
-   Air China launches direct Beijing-Athens flights
-  Greek and Chinese Navy conduct joint training exercise 
- Chinese State Grid Corp buys 24% of Greek power grid operator

COSCO a shipping company owned by the People's Republic of China owns 51% of the company running the port of Piraeus, the biggest port in Greece.

'The Greek port of Piraeus is the first pillar of China's new maritime silk road to europe'.   Watch out Europe, the invasion has only just begun.

Soon after the deal with China Greece vetoed the EU condemnation of China's human rights record. One hand washes the other.

Chinese clothing shops are all very the country, most of them very large emporiums with these, usually faded, red lanterns hanging outside.  We buy a lot of our clothes here.  They are cheap and the clothes are ..... made in China, aren't they all?

Galatas, the 'goat village' across the waters has a large Chinese  emporium and down the road, through the lemon groves and in the middle of nowhere on the road to Athens there is another small chinese clothing shop.  It is in an area where there is a majority of migrant workers.  There is a school, a church and a firestation.  On one side of the fire station is an Indian food shop and on the other the cheap chinese clothing store.  Down a side road and out of sight is also a Hindu temple.

This is the sort of chinese shop I would welcome.  Athens and Piraeus have a few chinese restaurants but they might as well be on Mars.  I make my own but it's just not the same.  Instant noodles are the closest I get to a chow mein or a spring roll.

Monday 18 September 2017

The end is Nigh - once again, yawn

Beware 23 September 2015
Oops, no, we're still here 
Maybe it's 2017?

There is going to be an unusual alignment of the stars on the 23rd.  The Sun, Moon , Mercury, Mars and Venus will form a rare astronomical line-up  which may have some sort of connection to Revelation 12 and could be the start of the apocalypse, so they say.

The Rapture will occur when worthy christians will be lifted by Jesus into heaven.  Those sinners left behind will face the end of the world.  Sinners beware.  Repent while you can.

Revelation 12 refers to the prophecy in  Revelation 12:1-2 about 'a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet'.  You can google it too if you want to know the finer details.  

Or Planet X Nibiru arrives and converts Earth to an iceball

Or earth will  be blasted by a Solar megastorm

There is certainly going to be an unusual line-up of the planets.  I hope the US and Korea don't make the prophecy come true and blast us all into oblivion.

Sunday 17 September 2017


This little pomegranate tree is only two years old but it is full of big, ripening fruit

There was more than a partridge in this pear tree.  The pear tree is next to the pomegranite and it too has a massive crop this year.  I hope our neighbours give us a bag of these!

Vaso's family picked their grapes last weekend and next day pressed them and put the juice into barrels.  This year's vintage was not as good as other years.  They picked only 35 crates of red and white grapes but pressed 450 litres of juice.  Their normal year is 600 litres and often much more.

I went up to take photos of the pressing but the cursing and yelling that was coming out from the press made me back off.  I'll try again next year.  Tempers were boiling over, the wasps had gathered and while pouring the juice into  barrels they slopped quite a few litres 'overboard'.

Next year they want to buy a still and make raki from the grape residue.  The stalks and skins are put into a large barrel, covered in grape juice and sealed.  Then in November or even later they can make moonshine.

This year the residue is piled up for the chickens to scratch through and then used for compost.

Vaso didn't take part in any of this.  She looks after the vineyard all through the year but has left the younger ones to make the wine.  She will get her reward with year long free flowing wine and no doubt is looking forward to sampling next season's raki (tsipouro).

Remember the weather forecasting that goes on during August by observing the weather changes each day.  Each day for 12 days of August the changes in clouds, winds and temperatures are observed, each day representing one of the following months of the year.

  Well this weather forecast for the first week of September has already been proved wrong.   These 'folk' forecasters predicted cool temperatures and north winds.  Instead we had very high temperatures and little or no wind.  In fact the weather according to them is still cool, nothing like the high humidity, windless days and hot sun we are experiencing now.

35o today and tomorrow.  Little wind. Beware the mosquito.

Thursday 14 September 2017

Many Happy Returns Stavros and Stavroula

Yes, another name day

14th September
The Feast of the Holy Cross - Timios Stavros in greek

Name day for men named Stavros
and women named Stavroula

It is also a day of fasting.  The tradition on this day is to eat fried salt cod with garlic sauce.

This little church is on a hillock in the middle of nowhere.  This morning we passed by, hoping to stop and light a candle on our return.  There were dozens and dozens of cars parked outside for the early morning service.  When we did return in the middle of the day there was just the fire truck parked beside the church and two firemen seated at a small table under the trees

Inside the church the icon of the Cross had been decorated with basil.  It is a tradition today to take a bunch of basil to church, have it blessed and take it to home to bless the house with its aroma.

Basil was growing over the patch of ground where St Helen, according to legend, found the Holy Cross, in Jerusalen in 328AD.

If, like us, you didn't bring your own bunch there was a pile of blessed basil underneath the icon

We hung our bunch in the front of the car and had a safe journey home

The church of the Holy Cross at the end of Poros harbour.  Once upon a time the old slaughter house was right behind it and the sea full of sharks feeding off the blood and guts.

Nowadays it is a favourite site for fishing and the sea is clean enough to swim in, off the rocks.

Tuesday 12 September 2017

School's IN!

Schools all over Greece opened for business today.  Not for school but for a communal blessing.

The three island priests went from school to school this morning blessing pupils, teachers and parents.  It is a short ceremony followed by a brief sermon telling the boys and girls to do their best.  The Chief Big-wig then gave a, mercifully, short speech without a microphone so not sure what he was babbling on about.  The Headmistress followed suit and told them that the school now had three new computers.  That is probably the only thing any of the children remember.   All the rest would have been blah, blah, blah until that magic word computer.

The three priests line up for business

 She is far more than the 'tuck-shop lady'.  She is their 'care-taker', knows all the children and their parents, and what is going down in the school.  She is a motherhen, knows all the kids by name, stands at the gate when they leave making sure that each of the younger children has a parent or grandparent to go to and does not just wander off or be taken away by a stranger.  She knows all of us as well and always has a smile and a happy greeting.  Mari-Tess is a foreigner like me married to a greek.

All the Very important people lined up for show.  This was only their second school, 2 more to go and then the kindergartens.

Part of the ceremony involves a bunch of basil. On the table are a lighted candle and an incense burner, a book of holy words (missal?), an icon of the Madonna and a bowl of holy water

And the Most important little people all lined up

The newbies with their teacher in the flowing robes and all their mothers standing protectively next to them

Papa Haralambos dipped his bunch of basil in the holy water and went from parent to parent sprinkling them all with Holy basil water.  He held in his other hand a small icon of the Virgin Mary which everyone kissed after being blessed.  The children were blessed en masse.

Wise words on the steps leading to the second level of the school.  Interesting that they were in English

The good food pyramid drawn on one wall

After all that excitement it was time for mothers to have coffee at the 'green chairs' opposite the school.  Those with older children could, and did, sit it out here and await their return.