Wednesday 28 February 2018

Pictorial Poros (1

Poros  island

Jewel of the Saronic gulf

One hour south of the port of Pireaus (Athens) by hydrofoil, 2 1/2 hours by road from Athens International airport. Separated by a 200 metre channel from mainland Peloponese.

Population around 4,000

Consists of two islands.  Spharia is the site of the picturesque harbour with layers of blue and white houses tumbling down its volcanic slopes towards the main town.  Kalavria is the bigger island, covered in pines with tourist beaches around its coast and the ancient Temple to the sea god Poseidon on its heights.

Looking back towards the town

The deep blue channel between the mainland (on the left) and the island and its fishing boats on the right

Piles of fishing nets along the quay

The flotilla is in

A typical kaïki waiting for early morn and a trip to the fishing grounds

Our 'supermarket'.  The hotel above has been condemned.  We shop at our own risk

A deserted waterfront on an overcast winter's day

The old National Bank of Greece, now privately owned and restored.  Next door is the big church of the Evangelist, both just metres from the harbour waters

Monastery beach in mid winter,  In mid summer the beach is covered in browning bodies and cars are packed in under the trees

All these photos were taken by my long time friend, Irish lass Therese.  Therese lived on the island for donkeys years, another local alien.  She now lives on Crete but comes back regularly to catch up with friends.  She walks the roads and alleys of Poros and Galatas (across the water) with Catherine and dog Bella photographing the island she still loves.

Monday 26 February 2018

Local Greek super foods

What the hell are superfoods?  Basically something invented by advertisers

They are foods that are loaded with nutrients and if eaten regularly MAY prevent disease, help you to live longer in good health, make you feel happier, give you strength and boost your brain cells.  
But take blueberries for instance, one of the top so-called superfoods. Blueberries contain a lot of vitamin c and other stuff.  We can't get blueberries here but the kiwi fruit, citrus fruit and other berries available have similar properties.  Just about every fruit, bean, nut or vegetable is a superfood.  Well, maybe not an iceberg lettuce.  The iceberg is valuable though, as a base for all those other goodies  in your salad.  Broccoli and all dark leafy greens are full of vitamins and minerals.  Here we have an abundance of pomegranites, elsewhere you find acai berries (?).

How much of them do you have to eat to make any difference?
Apparently you have to eat 28 cloves of garlic a day to make any difference in your cholesterol level.   You'd have to live in isolation and eat a greek diet of tzatziki and skorthalia (garlic sauce) and you still wouldn't get your 28 a day.

There is no such thing as a miracle food, a superfood.  Eat what you've got fresh and local.  The Eskimos or Inuits eat seal blubber, the greeks eat olive oil, the French drink red wine and eat loads of butter (or they will when the shortage ends). 

These are our local superfoods.  It would take a couple of posts to mention all the different plants, herbs and fruits from the rest of Greece.

Lemons fresh
Good source of vitamin C.  Drink a glass of water with the juice of a lemon squeezed into it.  Makes plain water interesting, or so I tell myself.  Helps fight infection.  My husband assures me the best medicine for a cold or flu is to mix up a glass of whisky, lemon juice and honey, drink up and go off to bed.  Repeat till feeling somewhat 'better'.

We have two lemon trees in the garden.  Some years we get a wheelbarrows of lemons and some years our crop is pathetic and we scrounge from the neighbours but we always have a few kilos of fresh lemons in the house.  Lemon juice goes on everything from fish to garden greens.

Olives, oil and the olive leaf

Everyone knows about olives and oil and the mediterranean diet.   Olive oil is good for the heart, lowers blood sugar, keeps your arteries open and so on.  Drink an infusion of olive leaf for even more benefits and eat the olive in your martini. 


Vitamins A C and E.  Helps strengthen bones.  Drink pomegranate juice. 

Oranges and mandarins

More vitamin C.  Help lower blood pressure.  We are in a citrus area and have more oranges and mandarins than we can handle.  Greeks don't eat pudding or sweets after a meal but a plate of peeled and neatly cut up oranges, mandarins and apples are often offered instead.

Grapes and raisins

Packed full of antioxidents.  Help keep the blood vessels clean. Full of vitamins.  Eat them, drink the juice and the wine. 

Pistachio nuts

Full of protein, fiber and unsaturated fat.  Eat them in the shell, without being roasted in oil and salt and you have a terrific snack.  Getting them out of the shell takes time and effort and so you probably won't eat too many of them.  You'll have sore fingers if you have to prise them apart.


Aids digestion.  Known for treating constipation.  Don't eat too many!  Eat them fresh or dried.   You can eat the leaves too.

These are all my photos and have been taken within a hundred metres of our home.  We certainly have fresh just-about-everything within our reach, including a herd of goats to cull if we were hunters as well as gatherers. 

I bet you have your own superfoods growing around you and if you're neither hunters, growers or gatherers you will have access to a market somewhere nearby.

If you want to live long and healthily then eat sensibly and be happy.  I know someone who smokes a packet a day and is in her eighties (dear old Vaso).  I also know/knew someone who ate only what he grew or what his neighbours could supply fresh, washed his hair and himself with only homemade soap, never smoked and rarely drank even a glass of wine and died in his late seventies of alzheimers.

Enjoy what you've got today!!

Saturday 24 February 2018

The Carnival is Never Over ....

As we drove out one winter's morning     ...........

A herd of shaggy greek sheep.  Their shephard was behind them on a motor bike.  They scattered amongst the olive trees

First of the blood red poppies.   Poppies usually appear in early April .  These are very early

The green chairs cafe has stacked its chairs temporarily in this damp weather.  The sky is blue but the flagstones are wet

This is the green scene from my balcony.  Birdsong and a fleeting breeze in the olives to soothe the soul

If only ..... there is the sea far away in  the background.  We can hear the chug chug of the little fishing boats as they follow the coastline searching for a shoal of little fish.  We can only glimpse the sea because of a curtain of trees and powerpoles.

Carnival really is over for this year but here are the last of my carnival photos

The grandchildren built a second push cart.  No brakes, no steering but they do at least wear our crash helmets and now start lower down the hill so the momentum doesn't take them into the olive trees and the stinging nettles.    Good fun

Wearing grandad's naval uniform.  These are the actual uniforms he wore when he first entered the Naval school on Poros at age 13, 47 years ago

.... and the men partied on

Thursday 22 February 2018

2) Off the tourist map

Tolo  is a seaside village, on the mainland Peloponnese, just over an hour away from us.   The hotels and other accomodation are either right next to the water or on the hill above with a view of the sandy bay.  The sea is shallow and warm, the sand is golden, the bay enclosed, protected by three small islands and safe for boats and sports.

Look at the photo above.  This is the attraction of the resort for me.  Those hotels are literally on the beach.  You can walk out of your accomodation, cross a metre of sand and dive straight into the sea.  There are tavernas as well with tables on the sand, or just above the beach

May or September are the best times to stayover.  September more so than May.  In September the seas have been warmed by months of scorching summer sun and are still warm, and clear.  The beaches are empty of small children but tavernas, cafes and bars are open for business and the workers have time to take a breath and give you a smile and sit for a chat.

July and August.  A little crowded

All along the coast there are small villages with rooms to let and tavernas on the sea.  This coast is perfect for a Greek holiday beside the sea without having to wait for a ferry or carry bags.  Just get in your (rental) car and go.  Tolo, Vivari, Iria are only two hours from Athens and half an hour or less from the city of Nafplion which has more history than you can shake a stick at.

-  The kingdom of Asini from the time of the Trojan war
     -  Tyrins.  Built by giants, so they say.  They also say it was   the birthplace of Hercules

 - Nafplio.  With a fortress, castle and an island citadel
     - Epidavros.  Ancient theatre, still in use today                 
        - Argos.  Prehistoric city, theatre, castle, tombs and more  
...... And more  

And tavernas

Tolo on the beach     

Tuesday 20 February 2018

7 weeks of Fasting

Another one's down ..
another feasting day, over and done with for another year

Clean Monday, the beginning of Lent
A national holiday
After today there are
7 weeks of fasting before Easter Sunday lamb on the spit and offal soup
No meat, no fish, no eggs, cheese or milk except on certain religious holidays when fish can be eaten
Octopus, cuttlefish and kalamari are ok.  They have no red blood
Wednesdays and Fridays, no olive oil either

Who follows these rules of the Orthodox church?
Our  god-fearing neighbour
A surprising number of the younger generation and most of the elderly.  As you get older you get to fear the wrath of god
Every little bit helps

Us?  K stops eating meat for the duration.  Because we don't cook meat I don't eat much meat either but the wrath of god is not going to stop me enjoying a ham sandwich or a spicy meatball 

Lagana, unleavened bread, just out of the oven

Clean Monday, Kathara Deftera
The day was overcast and chilly but still we sat outside for a very rustic impromptu picnic
It is traditionally a day for picnics and flying kites

I set the big table inside, with the good tablecloth, but we didn't move indoors till 4pm when the rain started and the chill turned to a freeze

On the table all the traditional Lenten goodies, taramasalata (fish roe dip), salted vegetables, steamed mussels, lettuce and halvas

Only five of us today.  A good number to feed and amuse.  K lit the outdoor wood oven for the bread and lit the BBQ for the shellfish.  We sat around outside with a glass of wine keeping him company while he cooked and it turned into an outdoor picnic on the old cracked table surrounded by a stack of dry olive branches which were periodically pushed into the fire

A few shrimps, oysters and pieces of octopus on the BBQ

Lemon juice in everything

My english friend J always takes part in our celebrations
Nothing fazes her.  Peel the shrimp, throw the peelings in the old yellow bucket, take a sip of rough red, grab the bread and twist off a manageable corner, dip it in the taramasalata.  Greek heaven.

The octopus has been hanging up drying.  Soon on its way to the coals

  No time to lay a tablecloth out here

Cutting up the grilled octopus tentacles into thin slices

Dirty hands?  We hung an old pink (pyjamas?) rag on the table to 'delicately' wipe our greasy fingers 

Today the remaining mussels have been taken out of the shell and made into mussels and rice.

The weather has turned cold and rainy once again.  We lit the fire at midday.  We were lucky to have a dry day yesterday.  Winter continues.  

Sunday 18 February 2018


Rio de Janeiro has the biggest carnival parade in the world.  In Greece the port city of Patras has the most colourful, vibrant parade.
Every news broadcast started with....'despite the crisis  greeks are celebrating all over the country'.
Here on Poros we have the Hunt for the Lost Treasure.

The Hunt starts on Friday with a meeting of the teams.  4-15 people of all ages, kids and adults, all just ready to have some fun.  

Friday - 
each team got the lyrics of a popular song and were told to make up their own words for the music.
They were also given pieces of a small hot air balloon which they had to assemble

Saturday -
here the fun starts
Each group dresses up to a theme.  It's carnival folks.
My girls and their children were all involved, the older kids in groups with their friends from school.

We had a group of mime artists .  Mimers?

Here they all are getting ready to begin the show

And here We are sitting out in the square in the freezing chill of a greek winter evening drinking iced coffee

Another one of the grandchildren 
All un-dressed on this chilly evening
the girls in the group were wearing flimsy summer dresses.  Goose bumps all over!

The show began with the judges dancing around the square. 
Yes, this is greece.  Everyone dresses up and dances

A table from the Raki Taverna group

Our young Mayor with his daughter

Papa John and his parishioners leading their dance around the square

Karaoke time.  Each group had to get up on stage and sing the lyrics they had re-written.  Some were hilarious, some got the crowd up and cheering.  

All the words were written and rehearsed in just 24 hours.  Great imagination and presentations

The evening in the square ended with the sending off of  the hot-air balloons  over the harbour and into the icy clear night air

Sunday - 
They all had nineteen riddles to answer.  One of the questions was 'how many battles did Don Quixote fight besides the one with the windmills'.

What do you call 'battles'?  The answer was '18' so they included every fight he had with everyone from sheep to innkeepers and a Biscayan.

Everyone is roped in to solve the riddles.  Teams sit in the cafeterias sending runners out to find clues and spies to see what the group next to them is doing.   Some of the riddles are extremely enigmatic.  

Everyone takes part not to win but to have a lot of fun.  The Treasure Hunt is a game and as such is meant to be enjoyed by all who take part .

Kales Apokries (good carnival)
and from tomorrow
Kali Sarakosti (good 40 days of Lent)

April 1 Catholic and Protestant Easter Sunday
April 8 Orthodox Easter Sunday

Wednesday 14 February 2018

1) Not on the tourist map

I don't want to visit a greek island if I go on holiday.  I live on one.  There are so many fascinating/delightful/graphic/traditional corners of this country where few tourist buses blight the scenery and the only language spoken around you will be Greek.

On the Greek mainland you can choose mountain, lake, seaside village or dusty forgotten little hamlet.


Stemnitsa is a stunning mountain village, sturdy houses built of stone around a central village square.  It has been designated a  traditional settlement and as you drive through you can see why.  The tall stone houses are built on the side of a mountain at about 1050 feet, with narrow cobblestoned alleyways for access.

We visited a couple of times, leaving our car in a park at the edge of town and walking up for a coffee and then rakomelo, raki with honey.  Stemnitsa is cool all through the year, even during the heatwaves of summer so a raki is welcome at any season.  The tavernas around the square were preparing for lunch and the smells drifting through that clear cool air were unbelievable.  Unfortunately both times we had brought a picnic which we ate near a small spring further down the road, a picnic site with views down through the valleys and of the soaring mountains above covered in fir trees 

The village with a population of around 200 was once the shelter for the fighters of the Revolutionary War of 1821, against the Turks of course.  A perfect hideout.  It was also, and still is now, known for its gold and silverworks.  There are 18 churches, the 'cathedral', so to speak, was built in 1810 of chiseled stone and is dedicated to St George.

The roads up to the village are in good condition and it is only a couple of hours from us across on the mainland Peloponese.  One day I would love to spend a few days exploring and trying those tavernas.  I'm sure they'll be serving boiled goat, intestines and bean soups to warm your own innards.  There are guest houses a-plenty and you can stay in one of those stone mansions and enjoy a traditional breakfast with yoghurt, honey, fresh bread, homemade cakes and jams. 

 Nearby are a couple of monasteries literally hanging on the side of the mountain and the Lousios river is down below.  The river is popular for rafting but there are walks along its banks and in the winter Stemnitsa is in the middle of the ski resorts

Monastery of Prodomos (St John the Baptist)

Within a short distance are more of these mountain villages but the others that come to mind, Dimitsana and Vitina are full of tourist buses and crowded all year round.  Stemnitsa is a little jewel. 

Another mountain village which is not so well known is Elliniko, not far from Stemnitsa, slightly lower down.  It has picturesque cobbled streets, stone houses, stone fountains and churches and is simply charming.    Just the sort of place you want to stop and wander around and end up at some small cafe or taverna eating and drinking the day away.