Sunday 30 September 2018

Medic-ame and went

So we experienced some bad weather.  None of our roof tiles got blown off.  The lemon trees got a long deep drink.  A drip started dropping in one room but it was contained in a bucket.  The only nuisance, the sound of that drip all night long.

Greece got battered.  Small boats got sunk. Rivers overflowed, waves blew yachts onto the beach, houses were flooded but not around here.   K's little boat got buffeted and many buckets of rain water had to be pumped out of the bilges but it survived to sail another day.  

We watched fascinated as the storm passed over the Ionian sea, across the Peloponese, through the Cyclades, up into the Sporades and finally over to Turkey.

Not so fascinating was the force of the wind thumping the olive trees outside our window.  The worst damage on the island was a fallen tree near the beach which fell on power lines and blacked us out for a few hours.  80 year old Vaso came down during the power outage to make sure it wasn't just her power that was out.  A fragile figure wearing her husband's old threadbare  dressing gown and a pair of plastic beach shoes.  Her hair was standing on end after the bout with the wind as she battled to our gate.  After a glass of raki and the present of a bottle of our homemade vinegar she struggled back through the gale, up the slope  to her house.  I watched with bated breath to make sure she wasn't blown away like Shirley Temple in the Wizard of Oz.  Not even a cyclone can stop Vaso.

A waterspout photo-ed out in the bay of Poros


Our front garden
Maybe the peppers will produce more fruit now after this plentiful watering.  They were the only plants left 
The weeds are sure to appear like magic in a few days

Our friend, David Kaikas, returned safely to Athens on the bus and then strode out in the eye of the storm.  He took another bus and wrestled through the wind and rain to see the site of the battle of Marathon.  Here the Athenians defeated the Persians and a runner brought the good news to the people of Athens.  That's how the idea of the modern marathon started.

Mad dogs and englishmen
Tramp out in the eye of a storm!

He got happily drenched and later spent a few hours in a hotel room drying his clothes with a hair dryer 
And lived to fly home the next day

Now I know what it's like when a mediterranean hurricane (medicane) blows through Poros.  I hope they don't become a regular occurence in these times of climate change

Friday 28 September 2018

Xenophondas and Zorbas

The 'new' to us, phenomena of the mediterranean cyclone

Suddenly we went from scorching heat and beaches full of tanning bods  

To this
A drop of 10o, gale force winds and rain
Rain we need.  It's great to see the lemon trees drinking up all this nourishment

Wind.  Well, we should ask the hundreds of yachties stranded here for the last 48 hours about the wind.  Their boats will be cold, damp and sleep can't be easy when you're continually bob-bob-bobbing about.
The streets, roads, paths and alleyways are full of the sailors, on foot, on quad bikes and scooters.  There is nothing else to do but explore, eat and drink.  Tavernas, cafeterias and bike hire shops are rubbing their hands with glee at all this unexpected, last of the summer, income.

They were all given fair warning.  A storm alert came out days ago.  We knew of it at the end of last week and were already prepearing to desert our summer resort.  Why weren't the yachts skuttling for their home port before all this began?  Many of the yachts come in flotillas, groups of yachts who follow the leader from one Saronic (the gulf of Athens) island to another.  A weeks cruising and then probably back to the airport and home.  If they can return to Athens, and if their flights leave in this weather, they'll be lucky.

There are two storms, one on the tail of the other.  The first called 'Xenophondas'*  is a tropical storm, the second, named Zorbas is a medicane.  First time I've heard of this phenomena.  The word medi-cane comes from a combo of hurricane and mediterranean.   We are now in the grips of the 2nd storm, the medicane, with more torrential rain and more gale force winds.

We somehow missed out on autumn this year and dived straight into winter.

* Xenophon
ancient greek philosopher, student of Socrates

Thank goodness we did return home a day early.  There were already gale force winds along our holiday coast.  The area north of Athens where we were holidaying ended up in the eye of the storm.  By the time we arrived back on Poros the winds had started here too.  Our car ferry came across quite smoothly but as it was unloading we got hit by a sudden squall.  Hands went up in a dramatic greek fashion and the 'drawbridge' went up again just as we prepared to disembark. Half the cars got off but not us.  We did a short trip around the harbour and came back for another go,   Second time lucky, we got the car off and ran for home.

A friend of ours had arrived from NZ and didn't consider the winds at all unfriendly.  He comes from Wellington, the windy city.  I remember my mother telling me that the winds there had her doubled over and clinging to a lampost.  Next morning all boats were cancelled and he departed on the bus.  Being so close to the mainland we have an alternative to sea travel here and in a pinch we can drive someone to the airport in 2 1/2 hours, though we've never had to yet.  The car ferry hardly ever stops churning the waters between Poros and the mainland.  It is a five minute trip and a good captain can sail in almost any weather.

Schools all over the Peloponese are closed today.  No-one wants a tree falling in a playground or a flooded classroom.  

This weekend is European Heritage weekend and all the museums and archeological sites have free entrance.  Tourists with nothing to do in this bad weather will be able to spend free hours in the museums though I wouldn't like to climb the Acropolis in this weather.  The marble is slippery enough without the rain.

Wednesday 26 September 2018

In Holiday Mode

Not holy-days for a change
Though there was a big one on the day we arrived and if one is so inclined there's an all-nighter  tomorrow. To celebrate something or other. I did not investigate

Now this we did investigate
Ouzo with a view

Our tame gull
The only fisher allowed in these waters
He floats leisurely along the bay unafraid of humans
Now and again he'll dip in his head and pull out a snack

Fishing is forbidden in this military area. As a result the waters are full of very tame shoals of fish. If you stay still too long they will give a nasty nip to the extremeties

Calm waters 
We had three days of gale force winds which whipped up the sand and blasted us unmercilessly
The sea however remained fairly unruffled and I managed my daily exercise swimming up and down the bay

All is now we'll with our world, though slightly boring

Sleep, swim, eat

Sunday 23 September 2018

Holidays Away from Home

Going on holiday?  Leaving this Greek island paradise?
Everyday is a holiday here, so they tell us.

Well, wikipedia says 'a holiday is a day when normal activities are suspended'.

Yeh.  No cooking.  No cleaning.
12 days of swimming, reading, eating, choosing food from a menu.

Yup, we're off to our favourite holiday park, subsidised and run by the greek navy.  Green grass, trees, sandy beach and this year there are wooden sunbeds, wow.  All the kids are back at school.   We'll be the youngest amongst all the oldies, retirees who gossip, play cards, walk in groups along the beach and don't play loud music or scream at each other.

Damn, I'm getting old.  Peace and quiet!

Cheers big ears!

Thursday 20 September 2018

Kiwis and more Kiwis

The kiwis rellies came back with more kiwis in tow

All of them ex-pats, visiting the 'old country' (Britain, home of the ancesters) for their two year OE, overseas experience
London is the base for most Australians and NZers who travel to the northern hemisphere to see 'the rest of the world'.  They stay a couple of years but ultimately go back to their land  downunder.  They find a flat, get a job in the city and travel as much as possible.  Oh, and drink lots of beer even if it is flat and warm in Blighty.

Blighty - an affectionate nickname for Britain

I did the same myself 45 years ago.  I spent three years in London, working and seeing 'the continent' as it was called back then.  It seems to be known as 'Europe' now.

Many kiwis have British passports through their parents.  I had a special stamp because three of my grandparents were born in England and I could stay as long as I wanted.    On a NZ or Australian passport they can now stay two years and work during that time.  Kiwis ( and aussies too ) are good workers and are often sponsered by the company they find work with and stay indefinitely.

Most of us have rellies in the old country.  I have first cousins and others many times removed.  One of my father's cousins was Admiral of the Fleet during WW11 and another Governor of Malta.

Back to my young rellies

My nephew and niece left Poros and joined an 8 berth yacht to do a weeks  cruise around the Saronic Gulf islands (those near us).  On Tuesday they sailed into old familiar Poros harbour and berthed near the 'green chairs' cafeteria for the night.

We met them and three of their cruise mates, NZers via London, at the green chairs for a drink and then K took them up to an off the tourist track taverna, Platanos, the Plane Tree.

We sat out under the plane tree and gave the newcomers a taste of Poros hospitality.  K had very recently saved their dishwasher from disaster so the owners Eleni and Kamel, migrants from Egypt, gave us their very best.

The boys
K, Samouel, and Carl 

The girls - Victoria and Laura

The Greek and his ouzo

The grecophile and her ouzo, octopus ready on the fork

Grecophile - one who admires Greece and the Greeks

The owner Kamel (on the right) came out of the kitchen  and with our waiter raised a glass with us, our way of saying 'thank you' for the drinks offered by the taverna.  There is Katy, Katerina our honarary Greek, popping up in the middle

We started off with an ouzo and then tried all the wines
Red, white and rose were all local
and excellent

This marmelade cat entertained us leaping up the tree trying to grap the end of a piece of rope

We were shouted  carafes of wine, a watermelon shot each and when the dirty dishes were cleared then out came plates of fresh watermelon

Children and grandchildren joined us at the table for the usual loud, chaotic meal
Time for the group photo
and once again good-bye
I'm sure they'll all be back

Monday 17 September 2018


This year our local beach has no bar, so nowhere to sit in the shade, no iced coffee to enjoy with a book beside the sea, no shower to wash off the salt after a swim.  And nowhere to go in the evening to watch the sun go down, sip an ouzo over ice and nibble on olives and salted sardines.  We still go for a quick swim there now and again.  The beach is dirty and the sun searing hot.  And I hate sitting around afterwards all covered in salt.

Neorion beach

With our niece from Australia we tried an old beach under new management
There are eucalyptus trees on the beach and a couple of pines right on the water's edge to give us shade
The beach was sandy.  I could wade into the sea without treading gingerly over small stones and falling unceremoniusly in front of an audience.  The water was warm 
It was calm enough to slow breaststroke out to the nearest buoy

A nargile for the adventurous
I didn't see anyone using them but it made for an exotic atmosphere
There were breezy curtains, a few fat pillows scattered on the sand and 'eastern' carpets
And the usual loud greek music

And the old familiar.  Chairs on the beach and cold beers from the canteen.  

Monastery Beach

on the other hand had got a facelift but judging by the prices the customers were being made to pay for it
My girls go down to this beach to see their friend Kelly who works there like a slave all through the crushing summer heat serving drinks to the sunbeds
She works from 10am till 7pm and then
Spends 4 hours, helped by her two children and husband, cleaning up sunbeds, righting umbrellas, collecting cigarette butts and raking the sands
I don't know how she made it to the end of summer

Monastery Beach
It was neat and tidy with wooden boardwalks, whitewashed stone work and comfortable wooden sunbeds.

Usual price for  sunbeds is 5 euros for two beds and an umbrella between them.  Here they are 10 euros. Makes for an expensive day when the beers and coffee are twice the price as well

If you want quiet then there is our old local
No canteen, no shade, no people
And most importantly, no canteen people to clean up the beach after a northerly breeze
No canteen people to scurry with a coffee as you rise from the waters of the Aegean

A beach bug came to visit  .. and wouldn't go away

Friday 14 September 2018

Un-guided Poros

My niece and nephew went on their own explorations, up to the clock tower for the best view of the yacht harbour and the crowded houses of the old town, finding a taverna off the beaten tourist track, eating gelato and asking for freddo capuccini 'skase' instead of 'sketo'.  Sometimes a little knowledge is too much.  They asked for a capuccino and told the waitress to shut up instead of asking for a plain capuccino with no milk or sugar.


              Through the back streets  on our way to the wine bar

Bottles of fine wine imbibed in a greek alleyway
The bottles were 15 euros each but well worth the money
Paid for by NZ relations and very very much appreciated
It is not often (never) that we drink anything other than Vaso's wine or some other local plonk at 2.50 euros for a 1 1/2 litre plastic bottle fill-up
We drank fruity white, fragrant rose, a full bodied red and a bottle of the latest blue which wasn't worth the trouble
The wine is accompanied by a plate of cold cuts, cheese and bread sticks, hardly enough to fill up the stomach
Small children  were sent to bring souvlaki 
and some (one) sang old NZ tv ads and shouldn't have been allowed to drive home
Moi?  Never....

Sunset over the 'Sleeping Lady' and the bay of Poros

Another very pleasant Poros experience is sunset on our old roof-terrace, now where my daughter and family live.    My sister-in-law lives underneath, her two sons right next door over the few metres of communal yard.  Over the wall is an aunt and just up the steps a few other relations.

The outline of the hills opposite seem to form a lady sleeping on her back with her knees up.  You can't quite see her in this photo

Their stay was only a week but we managed to immerse them in family and greek life .

It was goodbye but not for long

The rellies came back .....

Note of thanks to all close rellies in both Australia and NZ.
Your visits and your generosity enable us to go places and enjoy taste experiences that would normally be unavailable to us because of this darn crisis.
Love you bros

Wednesday 12 September 2018

Un-guided Tour

Visitors to Greece must naturally visit a few ancient ruins.  You can't go to Athens and not climb up the Acropolis to visit the Parthenon, even if it does cost you 20 euros entrance fee and you risk your life scrambling over the slippery marble cobbles.

Around here, on the island and the mainland nearby, there are more ancient ruins than you can shake a stick at.

How many old worn stones can your mind appreciate before it rebels.

Here are 2 sites worth seeing... all else is repetition.

Everyone, but everyone,  is taken to the 4000 year old theatre at Epidavros.  

Still used during the summer season where  greek dramas and comedies are performed, in ancient greek

We took our kiwi visitors there for the obligatory viewing.  
  Parking was found under the trees out of the midday sun, away from the tourist buses.   While they wandered up to pay their 12 euros and be amazed at sight/site and sound we sat under the trees in a welcoming cool breeze, drank iced coffee
and tut-tutted at the rubbish blowing around the tables and the un-caring canteen staff. 
Environment conscious kiwis picked up rubbish as they departed 

Next compulsory stop, my own favoured ancient site, a  4,000 year old Mycenean stone bridge, piece of an ancient road network
A few photos, and our site/sight seeing was finished

On to our favourite village taverna
Once again we found parking under the trees and sat in the shade with a cool breeze and a glass of cold wine

This family run taverna is on the old route  between Athens and Poros
The taverna was a favourite stopping point for our foreign visitors until the new road opened and we drove straight through, bypassing the village
There was never much on the menu
Just the most divine lamb chops and grilled chicken, fresh cut and fried potatoes, greek salad and tzatziki
The food is still divine
and so is the wine

Yiamas ... cheers

On to Epidavros harbour for a freddo capuccino

You don't have to go far to find more antiquities here
In a local garden are the remains of
Afrodite's temple 

The temple?  A few stones at the rear of the photo

A sightseeing tour most tourists don't get to experience but all my family does.  Greek hospitality is not just food and drink.

Monday 10 September 2018

More Rellies*

The next wave of visitors arrived at the end of August.  

They stepped off the hydrofoil and got straight down to business
In the shade
Fair dinkum kiwis
with their very traditonal greek Uncle.  'Alfa' is this summer's preferred beverage for everyone
Sweet as!

To the beach and more Alfa on the sands

These two were privileged to meet Vaso, our remarkable neighbour and star of this blog.  She communicated in pigeon english and much gesturing
Her english is minimal and so was their greek but she loved the company and chance to 'tell' a few stories
Sam and Katy are learning three greek words a day
ena, dyo, tria

Cooking genuine greek stuffed tomatoes and green peppers with a 
genuine Greek

Another family bbq

We all immensely enjoy these sociable family gatherings 
and to be a traditional feast
we must have
 grilled pork, chicken, beef, lamb, sausages, a pile of pita bread and a ton of tzatziki 
Yes, Kathryn, we did it all over again 

Grilled octopus

These genuine (dinkum) kiwis love offal... and seafood of any sort
Anchovies, salted sardines

 grilled sardines eaten head and all,
fish roe, marinated mackeral
 and ouzo

The long table on the back terrace was used instead of the balcony surrounded by grapevines under the stars
We needed cover because it actually rained, for five minutes

Seated greek style.  Stretched out over three chairs and a beer at hand. Usually the feet are resting on two other chairs

 They helped around the home, carting the ancient 100 kilo  (so it seemed) TV out for recycling.  Katy scrubbed the last of the winter carpets and hung it over the fence to dry.  The long handled cobweb cleaner is waiting for their next visit.  The cobwebs will probably still be there ....

Greeks dancing!

Greek saying
'A starving bear does not dance'

These 'cubs' were full of traditional greek goodies and kiwi pavlova

*NZ Talk

Rellies  -  relatives
Fair dinkum    -   genuine
Togs     -  swimsuit, bathers
Sweet as   - awesome
Hokey pokey - the best damn ice-cream in the whole wide world

Thursday 6 September 2018

Pavlova Paradise

               When 'rellies' (relatives in your lingo) come to stay there are always nice surprises, from their bulging suitcases full of goodies from the 'homeland' to their  great enthusiasm for Greece and their willingness to join in and help with cooking, preparing innards, eating fish heads and washing the dishes.

We've had some great dishes made by them over the years.  Pavolva is one of the desserts that stands out, made by both NZers and Australians, and a wonderful peach meringue pie.

Pavlova is a meringue base, topped with a thick layer of cream and decorated with fresh fruit.  Egg whites are used to make meringue and these visitors make aioli with the discarded yolks.  Both live on in our memories.

The latest pav with sliced kiwi fruit on top for a real NZ experience


What was left of a large jar of aioli after a family dinner.

I've tried making this before and also mayonaise but not with great success.  Eventually I realised it was the olive oil which overwhelmed all other flavours.  This time Katy made  the aioli with sunflower oil, egg yolks and lemon juice.    The jar got handed around the table along with cries of 'poli oraia' and demands for the recipe and the secret to its wonderful taste. 

Aioli is basically a garlic mayonaise, though it is not made the same in all areas of the med.  In some places it is more of a garlic and oil sauce.

Neither the sweet or the sauce lasted long and I'll have to make some more of the garlic sauce for the next family gathering.  It goes with everything, fish, bbqed meat, cheese, garlic bread, grilled pita bread, salad.  Whatever we had on the table was accompanied by a spoonful of garlic mayo.

Who's next to visit?  Start practising your cookery skills.

More of the visitors very soon