Wednesday 30 May 2018

Our Local that Was

Summer of '17

As it was
Our local beach and bay at Vagionia Bay

Coffee, wine, ouzo or just a cool swim

Poseidon on beach duty
There was always someone to clean the beach.... and the sea 
after a northerly gale

Family get-togethers

Or just a book ...

And a glass of wine

Observing the wild life ...

close up and personal

The gang

Greek island paradise?

Summer of '18

Rules and regulations
Lack of local 'authority'
Laws laid down by the Ministry of Archeology
have turned the beach into this

A dusty expanse.  No shade.
No cool drinks

Plastic bags and old shoes on the beach

The sea full of debris

This little beach is located right below the ancient temple dedicated to the god of the sea, mighty Poseidon.  It must have been a safe harbour 4,000 years ago and there was probably a thriving settlement all the way up to the temple.  Nothing to show now and all that remains of the temple, the ancient market place and healing centre are a few lumps of marble and pieces of broken columns.  

You cannot build in some areas or even dig a hole although there are older houses at various places going up the hill.  The canteen was moved from the left side of the access road to the right last year , a space of about 10 metres, to comply with regulations.  Ridiculous? Of course.

The archeological ministry is not excavating in this area, nor is it likely to, but forbids any digging in the ground by anyone.  Those that own land in this forbidden zone can do nothing with their land except pick their olives.  

This why, to comply, the canteen was portable and moveable.

The owner of a small holiday home complained about the noise from the canteen which was now in front of his shack, which he used for a couple of weeks every summer.  He took them to court for blocking his view of the sea.

The council announced that at a ridiculously high rent a licence would be issued to put and rent sunbeds along the beach.  No-one bothered to bid on the option. Without the canteen there is no profit.

The ineffectual council, the house owner and the archeological dept. have managed to close down one of the island's most profitable and popular tourist beaches.  This on an island that lives off tourism.

Monday 28 May 2018

Green My Garden Now

Hi Dave, here's my May garden.  I'll post new photos in a month so you can see the difference.  Watering every other day keeps the garden green just now but soon it will be twice a day

'According to a British study a mere 5 minutes of exercise in a green space can boost well being and mental health'.  

My part of the garden, the rubbish free part.  Some tomato and pepper plants, loads of nasturiums, and a pansy or two.  Planted under the grapevine and the lemon tree so they will have shade in July and August.

Nasturiums and over in the corner a few aloe vera plants which keep on having babies.  At least one plant is fertile

Front entrance, red geraniums and a purple hydrangea (yeh)
Oh and a little table made out of an old wooden stool and a slab of broken marble

Grape vine around the back verandah.  Green now but in a few months I'll be sweeping up brown leaves every day and muttering under my breath

Sunday 27 May 2018

All Souls

Today, in the Orthodox church,  is All Souls Saturday, tomorrow is Sunday of Pentecost (WhitSun), Monday is the Day of the Holy Spirit or Monday of Pentecost (Whit Monday) and a public holyday in Greece.  
Monday of the Holy Spirit falls 50 days after Easter Sunday and celebrates the descending of the Holy Spirit on the apostles.  The greek word 'pentecost' (πεντεκοστος) means 50 days  

Another long weekend, the weather is warm and the island is buzzing.

Today is All Souls and we were woken just before 8am by an 'almighty' crash and clatter.

Baba Lazaros, the previous (and dead) owner of our house was sending us another message which we received loud and clear.  These two heavy brass objects, a bell and a mortar and pestle, fell from our bookcase. ... all by themselves 

Saturday is All Souls and my sis-in-law rang to say she was making koliva (funeral wheat) to take to the church as a blessing for the dead.  The bowl of koliva, one of many taken to the church today, is placed at the front of the church and three candles are pushed into the bowl and lit.  At the end of the service the wheat (with sugar, pomegranite seeds, parsley and other ingredients) is served out to everyone and as you eat it you ask the higher power to forgive those who have gone before and are being remembered.

She also includes a long list of those in the family that have died, going back a generation or so, that she wishes to be remembered.
One year on All Souls Saturday we had gone to a memorial service at the church in the graveyard.  All the names of all those souls whose names have been read out ALL through the year were read out again.  I wondered why the service was going on and on and on.  The priest hardly took a breath for an hour!

K had recently had a dream about his parents so he was pleased she had remembered them.   When K sees his mother or father in a dream it either means the weather is going to change or they are asking for something, like having a candle lit for them or a short blessing, he says.

Anyway, back to Baba Lazaros.  He makes his presence heard now and again but thankfully doesn't appear in person.   His first attempts at communication were to turn on the tap over the marble sink outside.  He got tired of that, or couldn't turn it on anymore once the washer was changed.   He turns on the outside shower instead which is a damn nuisance. We blamed the cats at first but they'd have to be acrobats to move that handle.

 Now and again he turns on the flash on my quad bike, usually in the middle of the night.  I hear a 'click, click, click' and have to crawl out of bed in the cold and spooky darkness, creep out in my bare feet (can never find slippers ), risk being butted in the butt by a billy goat or attacked by a jackal, and turn the damn thing off before it flattens the battery.  That happens about once a month.

His latest game is to turn on the outside stereo so he can listen to his favourite old greek crooners, always in the middle of the night.  I am of course the one suddenly jolted out of a deep sleep to go and turn the damn radio off but at least there is a bright light I can turn on before venturing outside. 

And now he's roaming around inside clearing the shelves.  K thinks we should have a priest up to bless the house and is forever sprinkling holy water in the corners.  Today we lit a big candle for Baba Lazaros and let it burn all day long.  I hope it keeps him quiet for a time.

Friday 25 May 2018

Festive Days again

The sun is shining every day now, days are long.  It's time to start celebrating once again.  Name days, birthdays and just any old days.

Saint Lydia  (and Linda)  20 May
*Saints Constantine and Helen -  Konstantinos and Eleni  21 May

*Emperor Constantine the Great and his mother Helen, Empress of the Holy Roman Empire.  Helen made a tour of the holy lands around the year 300 and allegedly found the true cross.

We had six members of our immediate family celebrating on these two days and another half dozen in the extended family.   They  are named after a Papou Kostas and Great-Papou Kontstantinos and on the female side we have a Yiayia Eleni and a Great Yiayia Eleni.

We have a Konstantin-os and a Konstantin-a
An Elli and a Nelli
Besides others

The first round of feasting was for the close family.  As usual the charcoal was lit 

Tucking in

Inbetween formal feasting, friends and neighbours are also 'treated' as they pass by throughout this festive time

The official fiesta on the feast day of Agios Konstantinos and Agia Eleni.  On the menu roast pork and boiled goat

Before photo.  Vaso dressed up in her 'going to visit' clothes.  She was at her finest and stayed till well after midnight.

  The celebrant at the end of the table on his phone, as he was all day long, taking phone calls and messages from a hundred or so friends, old Navy buddies, facebook 'friends' , third cousins three times removed and distant well wishers.

On the eve of the fiesta our local church, dedicated to Saints Konstantine and Helen, paraded their icon through the backstreets of Poros followed by a procession of priests, chanters and faithful.  The next morning there was a long service in the church, decorated with flags and flowers and best lace doilies,  with 5 priests plus the Bishop from the island of Hydra.  My sis-in-law Dina (Konstantina) took along holy bread to be blessed and a list of the family past and present whose names were read out also for a blessing.  Afterwards there was coffee served in the hall across the road and cakes and sweet bread brought and handed out by those whose name day it was.

Kronia Polla

Wednesday 23 May 2018

Sweeping the Harbour

A  group of divers called 'Aegean Rebreath' , the municipality of Poros  and local volunteers got together and cleaned all the rubbish from the bottom of Poros harbour. 

What they recovered was amazing.  A dozen or so car/boat batteries for a start.  I presume those were thrown overboard by fishermen whose little-boat batteries had died.  Chuck it into the sea and get another.  That was the way of thinking of many of the older generation.  Outa sight, outa mind.  Throw your old oven down the cliff , followed by a dead donkey.

Ready to start.  The little boat is empty but not for long

Someone has a sense of humour.

Artful arrangement

A couple of supermarket trolleys and a few bicycles

About 20  old tyres

Loading up for the landfill.  From one rubbish tip to another

Apparently our young Mayor dived with them.  They  also removed all the nets stuck on the bottom.  I hope  the  next clean-up shows that the people of (and visitors to) Poros  have become a little more environmentally aware and less trash has been carelessly tossed into the Aegean.

Saturday 19 May 2018


I love the hydrangea.  The flowers are large and full of colour, whatever colour they turn out to be.  The are called 'ortansia' here which is a beautiful name for them.

I once had a blue hydrangea in the garden which was flourishing till one of our neighbours walked past and put the evil eye on it.  She admired the flower without 'ftoo-tooing' it and told me I was very lucky to have it survive because they only did well growing in pots.  A  fatal pronouncement.  It withered away and by the next summer was dead.

Every hydrangea I have has turned out to be pink even though one of them started out blue.  I now plant them in pots of course.  No risk taking with the new ones.  

I spent time in the winter looking at videos on Youtube finding out how to keep or turn hydrangeas blue.  It is all to do with the Ph of the soil.  Coffee grounds and eggshells seemed to be the clue to establishing the right Ph for blue hydrangeas though it did say it would take time for the colour to change.  

We drink filter coffee so all the grounds went around the plants.

This is the largest one in a huge pot which is actually half a wooden wine barrel.  At the moment it is still pink but still getting doses of coffee grounds and eggshells

The plant in the smaller clay pot though has turned out to have  lilac/purple flowers.  I'm quite chuffed with this result!

I also studied tomato growing.  My plants are usually big and healthy but with few tomatoes.  This year I hope for more fruit than foliage.  I learnt how to prune the tomatoes and they also have had lashings of coffee grounds, eggshell milkshakes and goat droppings.   The cherry tomato has produced 4 tomatoes and is only 6 inches high.  The other plants have flowers and I see 2 tomatoes forming.  Ftoo-ftoo.  I should plant some garlic around them to keep off the evil eye too.  Hopefully this year we'll be making greek salads with our own tomatoes.   

Wednesday 16 May 2018

Seaside eating

We finally managed to get off the island again

This beautiful blue and white church is in one of the tiny villages on our way to the seaside and a table by the sea

The young priest here did his military service at the Naval Base on Poros.  K was one of the officers in charge back then.  When we heard he had gone into the Orhtodox priesthood and was officiating at a church nearby we stopped to see him.  There were hugs and cheek kissing and promises of return visits.   The church has its fiesta soon so we'll make sure  to join in the festivities  ... lighting of candles, blessed bread and maybe a glass of wine and a plate of fatty pork.

The Orthodox flag with its double headed eagle on a yellow background.  The eagle is holding a cross and orb and has a crown above its two heads.  Its two heads represent  Byzantine, one head looking towards the west and Rome, the other looking east to Constantinople

A delightful little taverna right beside the water.  Luckily it was covered.  The weather suddenly changed and we got almost two minutes of rain

At the table next to us our neighbour was getting a line ready to throw into the sea and do some fishing.  This family is from Poros and were on the same car ferry, ending up at the same taverna.  It's a popular place for a Sunday outing, only an hour away.  In summer the kids can swim while the men drink ouzo and the women supervise the proceedings in their shrill voices 

All the fish is fresh from the family fishing boat.  We had to wait till this one returned with the day's catch

A greek salad, some small fish, a jug of wine and a big bottle of water

The seagulls were not the greedy sort but they were very vocal.  This one must have been yelling at his/her mate

A few minutes another gull landed on the water and they both floated happily together

Monday 14 May 2018

Greek mussels and rice

Mythopilafo   - Mussels and Rice Pilaf

This is a favourite at any time of the year.  The pilaf (pilafi in greek) is a perfect dish to enjoy with a glass of ouzo.  We eat this meat-egg-dairy-free plate  as a complete meal with a glass of wine, a plate of olives, a lettuce salad, some heavy bread and a piece of  fruit or halvas to finish the meal.

I normally use a packet of ready steamed mussels along with a handful of fresh mussels still in their shell...if we have any fresh

There are several ways of preparing this dish.  I boil the rice separately and make a tomato sauce to which I add the mussels and the rice

Tomato Sauce for Mydopilafo

Brown a chopped onion and a few cloves of garlic in olive oil.  When these are soft add a wine glass of ouzo to the pot.  You could just use wine.

Mix in a tin of chopped tomatoes or three big grated tomatoes and all their juice.  Add chopped parsley, salt and lots of fresh pepper.  A spoon of tomato paste adds colour if you're using fresh tomatoes.

Mix the sauce into the hot boiled rice and add the mussels.

Kali Orexi

Crete coming up soon!  

Saturday 12 May 2018


A Kretan specialty, wedding pilaf
Made with
fatty  mutton, or goat, stakovoutiro (cream), rice , lemon juice, salt and pepper

We lived on Crete for three years back in the 80s in a primitive old house in a tiny village where the girls started school.  Each teacher taught 2 classes/years together.  It was a lot of fun.  The kids learnt to run wild, a big change from the confined city life they had known for their first few years.  

The first year we lived in a house built on 2 storeys with steep, narrow wooden stairs leading to the top level.  The walls were a couple of feet thick, built with stone.  A rather primitive bathroom had been constructed on the upper terrace which leaked like a seive when it rained.  Water cuts were frequent and often I ran the washing machine by filling it up with buckets of water hauled from a communal tap across the road or left buckets of clothes outside in the sun to soak and washed by hand.

We lived there for a year before moving into Navy housing.  

We had parties in the back garden of the village house, where the pig pen had been, met all the villagers and took part in social functions, name days and fiestas, and weddings.

This pilaf is a speciality served at the beginning of the wedding feast.  It fills up the stomach ready-ing it for long hours of drinking, more eating and dancing.

Boil the fatty mutton till tender.  I simmered it in a pressure cooker for just over an hour.  If I was using this mutton for another recipe, maybe with a tomato and garlic sauce and fat macaroni I would have thrown out (changed) the first water after simmering for half an hour.  This is to make sure there is no 'odour' of the animal.  In this recipe you need all the fat and aroma to flavour the rice.

When the meat is tender remove it from the pot and strain the broth in the pot.  Straining is necessary, or at least fishing out any small pieces of bone with a slotted spoon.  

Keep the meat separate and squeeze lemon juice over it and a bit of olive oil.

Now eyeball or measure the stock left in the pot.  For every 3 cups of stock add one cup of rice.  We use a rice called 'carolina' which is neither long grain nor short grain and can be used for just about everything from risotto to rice pudding.

Cook the rice for 20 minutes till soft and then add about 1/4 cup of lemon juice or the juice of a couple of lemons.  Add more according to taste.

If it is available and you want an authentic dish then you must add a couple of tablespoons of 'stakovoutiro'.  This is the cream from the top of the goat's milk.  

When we lived in Crete a friend of mine would thicken this up with a little flour.  Oh boy is it delicious, and full of fat.

Serve the rice with some of the boiled meat.  

It leaves a fatty film around the mouth but, once again, oh boy is it delicious.  Rice boiled in the juices of the meat and that tender boiled meat with lots of lemon juice and salt and pepper.  Perfect for drinking a lot of cretan wine, or any sort of wine, especially the old greek classic, retsina, which helps to cut through the fat.

Actually you can make a much less fattier version using a tough old rooster, chicken or turkey.  Less fat but still full of delicious flavour.

Writing this has brought to mind, vividly a lot of other Cretan specialities.  I think I have another post to write!

Wednesday 9 May 2018

LIDL Hellas

 LIDL.  They have taken over Europe.  Wikpedia  describes it as a German global discount supermarket chain with over 10,000 stores in Europe and the USA.

I'm not singing its praises but Lidl does provide us/me with  goodies which are not available elsewhere, except perhaps in the speciality shops in the capital, Athens.  It's cheap too which of course is the main reason we make for it on a day out.

Let the buyer beware however.  I have bought 'fresh' bread there which was still doughy in the middle. We often (well not me but other outspoken half) have 'words' with the cashier because the money rung up wasn't the same as that on the price tag over the shelf or bin.  If an appliance is faulty or broken you'll need to be very pushy to get a replacement.  In other big stores they have power points where you can try electrical goods out before leaving the premises.

Some of the foreign goods I look for

I used to buy these german sausages a lot.  They were the closest I could get to an english sausage.    Bratwurst

The are large and very white.  I haven't bought them in a while.  In the end they were disappointing, just not the 'dinkum' sausage I remember.

During the summer all the Lidls in our area have big camper vans parked outside with German plates and a lot of happy shoppers inside.  I wonder though whether they shop at Lidls back home in Germany.

Some of the greek goods available.  Big bottles of cheap retsina.  The classic greek wine with a pine resin taste.  Resin was once used as a preservative.  When I first came to Greece in the 70s it was the only wine available except for a very ordinary white wine called Domestica.  Now retsina is found mostly bottled in the supermarket.  It is no longer the house wine as local tavernas.

ΡΕΤΣΙΝΑ  the greek for Retsina

And bottles of soumada, made out of almonds.  Offered at traditional Cretan weddings, though I don't remember it at those I attended.

Almonds and water are blended and the liquid is strained.  The almond water is added to a water and sugar syrup and served hot or cold.

Such a pity they don't bring in hot cross buns at easter as they seem to do elsewhere in Europe.  We do find sweet and sour sauces and noodles.  I like their powdered capuccino powder, a fraction of the price of the nescafe brand found in our local market.  Their toilet paper is thick and durable, Irish butter is cheap.  Chocolates are extremely cheap.  I try and quick march past them.

Some years ago we had a spanish supermarket chain in Greece called Dia if I remember rightly.  Their prices were even cheaper.  We used to have shopping expeditions across the waters to stock up.  They seem to have disappeared.  

Greek supermarkets have cottened on to 'specials' and 'own brands' and most of the prices are within our budget.  We always used to shop at the local grocery shops but while service is better and they are open all  hours the supermarket is where we buy most of our goods now.  The manager at our local is a friend and next in charge is a nephew so we get all the inside info and the service we seek.