Thursday 28 February 2019

Another Greek Tradition...

Eating meat on  Smoky Thursday.   

No photos of food will be included in this post...
you'll be pleased to know

This is one of the  most pleasurable  days before the strict fasting of Lent.   Lent means no meat, cheese, eggs, fish, dairy for 7 weeks - for those that follow strictly the commandments of the Orthodox church.

Called Tsiknopempti, Smoky or Smelly Thursday.  Smoky and smelly because of the delectable aroma of meat on the barbecue which wafts from every home on the island along the harbour, through the back streets,  tempting the twitching nostrils.  11 days before Clean Monday, Ash Monday to the rest of you.  This is meat week, next week is cheese week then follows the 7 weeks of fasting.

Traditonally we all eat meat on this day.  Grilled meat.  It's another of those get-together days.  Families gather together, eat meat with lashings of tzatziki.  The kids dress up in their carnival costumes and usually it all winds up with dancing and much merriment.

Mind you, it's nothing like the years pre-crisis when the petrol station spit roasted a whole lamb, the taxi boat owners set up a grill on the wharf and every butcher's shop had a BBQ outside their shop.

Local schools set up grills in the playgrounds and provide souvlaki (meat on a skewer), a piece of bread and a drink for the children.  Souvlaki on a stick always comes with a small slice of bread and a squeeze of lemon juice.  Greek children are just as happy to drink water though juice is offered as well.

Our big barbeque is fired up for this occasion

The men grill, test and quench their thirst around the fire

Our family  has gathered


Tuesday 26 February 2019

Making Hay While the Sun Shines

Sun? It aint shining around here anymore.

  The photos below of 'fun' in the sun were taken ten days ago.  

Now we're coming out the back end of another blast from Siberia.  This storm has been named 'Okeania'.

I'm not sure where this name came from.
  Oceania (with a 'c') ... are/is all those islands, Polynesia, Mikronesia, Melanesia, New Zealand-esia down in the South Pacific.
  'Nesia' means 'islands' in greek.

Okean-us... on the other hand is a greek sea deity.
 Okean-ia... is the female version but Wiki-wots-it doesn't mention a female sea deity of that name.

In our world right now it's  wind and snow and ice. Nightly temperatures  got down to a few degrees above freezing.  Northern suburbs of Athens were covered in a layer of snow, harbours were closed for a few days, mainly in the windy Cycladic islands (Myconos, Naxos, Paros etc) and our wood pile is getting seriously low.  

Everyone else in the northern hemisphere seems to be talking about the first signs of spring.  I haven't seen too many signs myself.

The hydrangea has budded. 

I sighted one lone anemone
This photo is lifted from the internet.  It's far too cold to traipse out looking for lonely anemones.  With this weather its probably turned up petals and died away back into a frigid mother earth

Yet ........
a week, or so, ago we ressurected a few summer chairs and set up the table on the balcony for a midday bbq

Sitting in the sunshine with a glass of wine

Cleaning the grill with half a lemon
The lemon cleans, sanitises and sterilises
... so they say

Meat, what else

This time next month it will be octopus and shellfish on the bbq.   I hope, in the Lenten sun

Monday 25 February 2019

Naughty Boy Day

Tou Asoto   The Day of the Prodigal Son    
2019 Sunday 24 February.  2 weeks before Lent

The prodigal son was the naughty son in the bible who took his early share of the family fortune and wasted  it all on wine, women and song.  Forced to return home when he was destitute he was warmly welcomed by his father who slaughtered the fatted calf for him.  And I'm sure his mother cooked his favourite baclava (sticky sweet), replaced his rags with a coat of many colours and sent him off to the bath house and the barber so she could show him off to the neighbours.  Or she would have if she was Greek.

The return of the prodigal son

When he was younger my greek husband and his friends took great delight in celebrating this day, organising get-togethers where litres of wine were consumed, fatty pig and old boiled goat was eaten and enjoyed (?).    Any excuse for another naughty-boys-bash.  

The younger generation is not so enamoured of this prodigal-son-day and this year he had only one of the old crowd for company.  He is now the grandfather of prodigal sons.

However, this 'festival'  falls during carnival so groups of party goers will always gather this weekend and every weekend till Lent just to celebrate, life and living.

They dress up, they dance, they eat and drink with passion..  Life is good when you're 'at home', ie on Poros, surrounded by friends and family. 

Prodigals in days gone by

Friday 22 February 2019

Carnival Begins

The three weeks of carnival started, for the Greek Orthodox Church, last weekend.  Three weeks of dressing up, eating, dancing, singing and taking part in strange local customs. 

Lent begins in 3 weeks time,  on March 11 starting with Clean Monday and 7 weeks later we end the fast with offal soup on midnight of Easter Saturday and  spit roast lamb on Easter Sunday, 28th April here.

Our carnival season started off with a dinner and dance organised by the rowing club.  The party was to award medals to some of the rowers and raise funds so the kids can continue their training and travel to the competitions all over Greece.  All our grandchildren are rowers.

Live bouzouki music
The bouzouki is the instrument held by the guy on the stage


Lots of dancing.  This is the 'harsapiko' the butcher's dance


Most popular are the circle dancers.  Anyone can join in, and does 


At the other end of the room the rowing coach, and dance master, grabbed all the children and got them up to dance


Then they snake danced around the tables.  A good time is always had by all

Ashtrays on the table, even though you're not supposed to smoke indoors and it was an athletic club gathering
Didn't see anyone smoking though.  Anyone desperate for a fag grabbed their coat and went outside for a quick puff, glass in hand and a few friends in tow for a gossip as well

A litre of wine was provided in the price of the meal, after that you bought your own.  The beer was local 'Saronic Lager Beer'.
Poros Island is situated in the Saronic Gulf
The bottle described it this way
'Saronic, nowhere else can you travel so smoothly and comfortable from the reality into the dream'

A glass of wine with a meal is the norm for all of us, including the athletes who are still at school.  Kids grow up with alcohol.  They  drink a glass of wine or beer as they grow older, at a family meal.

No-one stays in their seat.  Kids run around having fun, leaving parents to enjoy themselves too.  Most will get up to dance, socialise ... or go out for a cigarette

The table gets a bit messy but dancing and talking means you want to have another nibble and refill your glass so everything is left as-is till the end

Funds were raised by selling raffle tickets.  Everyone won something.  For 5 euros you got a card with a number and went up to claim your prize.  There were 329  gift donations to win.

Here's a photo of our loot
2 litres of oil from a local oil press
2 jars of mandarine marmelade
a big box of really juicy lemons

A jar  of jam or kilo of lemons makes us happy but a night of loud music, organised chaos, makes some even happier

Tuesday 19 February 2019

Sunny Days, Clear Nights

18.15pm ... dusk and the huge orange full moon is already above the horizon.
Calls from kids down in town. Everyone is watching this brilliant spectacle. It's going to be even more amazing when it's really dark and the moon is hanging over the water.

 We watch it clear the olive groves, rising above the hills

Meanwhile on the other side of the island the sun was going down, rays shining over the water.  Out in the bay my grandson was rowing with the rest of the team in this glorious calm sea.

A strange phenomenon...
Sunset and moonrise concurrently.

For the first time in weeks the temperature was a warm 15oC, the sun was shining and there was no wind

Photos of a calm harbour
Little fishing boats and piles of nets on the wharf

Guess what,
I just heard the long term weather forecast. Weekend temperatures are going down to 5oC with more rain.

This winter is not over yet...

Monday 18 February 2019

Just Cooking

Sometimes my cooking is succesful, looks good and tastes good.
Sometimes I have failures though rarely disasters

Uusually I blame the fiascos on someone who has given me the evil eye.  

This time I'll have to take the rap.  I had a day of fiascos one after the other

A lemon cake using a whole lemon, softened and turned into pulp, peel and all.  It sank in the middle, heaven knows why.  It was delicious though and the next one came out perfectly

My sourdough loaf came out rather black on top.  I cooked it in a covered dish and after the first half hour I took off the lid and turned down the heat. Only I didn't turn down the heat, it cooked away at 220o.  Far too hot.  Tasty bread though.  I sprinkled the top with water and covered it with a cloth and instead of being hard and brittle the crust was soft and chewy and full of flavour

Traditional lentil soup
The lentils were a little too hard and I put a hot pepper in the pot which made it too spicy for our liking.  But we ate the soup and it was lovely and 'warming' on the cold winter's day

Lentils and dried beans have to be relatively fresh.  The longer they stay in the packet or in the cupbaord, the harder they will be and they'll need more cooking.  These must have been old stock.  Next time I'll buy them by the kilo in a brown bag from our organic shop.  

Friday 15 February 2019


Typical greek provincial cafenion.  Not an island or big city cafeteria.

  The village cafenion is the gathering place for greek men with no place to go and a matriarch at home. The men are Patriarchs with a capitol P, outside the home.  However the 
wife rules the roosting box 
and men are encouraged to  join  male friends in the mornings for coffee and 'whatever'.

Smoking is still an accepted practice in places like this.  There are plumes of smoke above the head of this gent.  He sat there with his coffee and his cigarettes puffing away unaware of causing any pollution

Most of the chairs are slanted towards the big television tuned either to news or sport.  


Gathered around the big round table in the corner are the card players.  The most popular card  game is called 'prefa', not unlike 'Bridge'.  It seems to be the preferred  card game in many of these northern European country.   K plays with his friends, not for money but those who lose must pay for the next ouzo

Greek coffee is what is served most in these cafenions.  At 1 euro a cup the men can sit for hours and pass the time with friends very cheaply.  Nowadays they probably serve capuccino but it was unknown in a small cafenion 10 years ago.  I would order nescafe, hot or cold, made with instant coffee.  The hot nescafe was often 'beaten' and I sometimes do this for K.  I put  a couple of teaspoons of instant coffee and a spoon of sugar in a cup along with a bare tsp of water and beat the mix till it comes to a pale beige colour.  Boiling water is added and the coffee comes out with a thick froth on top.

This little gathering place always smells of roast or boiling meat. We've never eaten here but seen others eating a plate of food. It looks as though they have a different dish every day, just one, served with a plate of feta cheese and a jug of wine.

An enterprising idea. A simple, cheap and tasty meal in comfortable surroundings for widowers, workers and a couple like us looking for a bit of nourishment before returning home after a day of doctor's visits.

No fatty pig here. The meat usually seems/smells to be mutton.  Just as popular as pork.

Wednesday 13 February 2019

Therapy ....

Public hospital visits are free but sometimes they can take time and sometimes you have to go private

K had a problem with an aching hand and arm from shoulder to palm.  First step was a visit to a neurosurgeon at Tripoli hospital.  Now that's one hospital we haven't been to .  I'm familiar with most of them around here and now Tripoli is on the list.  

Neurosurgeons don't turn up at every corner so we were lucky to find this one at a hospital only 2 hours drive away.  Never been into Tripoli before.  It's a city up near the mountains and there's a big army base here too.  The GPS actually worked for us this time and we found the hospital quite easily.  

We only had an hour wait.  The surgeon was friendly, answered questions and told us what the next step would be.  

Next step, an appointment at a private neurologist for an electromyography.  40 euros.  Reasonable.  He has some nerve blockage  called daktylo-something or rather.  Daktylo means finger in greek.  All caused by swinging a tennis racket or a hammer or in his case overuse of a screwdriver .  This now entailed a trip to the Orthopedic surgeon.

A few phone calls and a few weeks later we trooped off to the hospital at Argos, one of the closer hospitals but very, very busy.

We did have an appointment but the usual wait here is 1-2 hours. On this day we had hardly arrived when his name was called.  A 5 minute consultation and he was on the list for some minor surgery 3 days later.  

An impressive record for a greek hospital.  So far these rural hospitals have been fast and efficient.

What to do next on a cold wet winter's day when you're away from home 
Eat roast pig of course
We found a new eating place.  It serves pork by the kilo, fried potatoes, a feta cheese sauce and kilos of wine.  There are a few tables to sit and eat but most people seemed to be buying a kilo or two and taking it away with them.  We found a table for 2 alongside two other tables of  chatty old men passing their time with pork and wine

Of course we ordered too much - so we took away a wee parcel of leftover pork 

Great carcases of meat were in a warming case and the waiter got out his hatchet and swung it at the roast with every order.  There was a constant loud banging from inside the shop

Three days later we were back at the hospital after a very eventful journey.  It was raining table legs and we could hardly see through the deluge which poured over the windscreen.  7am we were on the car ferry.  Visibility nil. K wound down the window to back on and the electric window-winder would not wind the window back up again. 
Oh boy was that a disaster.  You cannot drive for an hour with torrential rain pouring in through an open window.  4 lettered words  were uttered.  Maybe not uttered, but spat out with vehemence.

We had to reach the hospital.  A piece of plastic was discovered in the boot, jammed over the door and window and we sailed along with flapping plastic.  Flapping plastic at high speed makes a tremendous racket but I did not say a word.  I hardly took a breath till we arrived on the outskirts of the city and found a car fixer place.  Thank goodness.   They couldn't repair the window-winder but  did manage to get the window up.  I took some deep breaths.

We got to the hospital in time and half an hour later, a tendon had been cut, a few stitches made, a bandage stuck on and it was all over.  Almost.

Then began my 2 week Golgothas.  Golgothas is the place where Christ was crucified and the Greeks use the word to describe hardships.  You too (me too) must suffer your (my) Golgotha.

I cut his meat for him, broke his bread and filled his wine glass, ran errands and kept my mouth shut. The boy was 'suffering'.

I had to drive him everywhere.  No trouble except for the comments
'You're driving too far to the right
Don't drive in the middle of the road 
Don't give way to 'him', he's a wanker
You can get through, go, go before someone else does

  The stitches were taken out at the health centre last Friday.
It's over now.  More deep breaths

Sunday 10 February 2019


There was a trench across the road for the installation of a new water pipe and the road up the mountain was closed.  The police car was there to stop anyone crazy enough to charge the water brigade.  One of our neighbours waved us down and told us to take the long way home.  Thank goodness we live in a small community.  It would have meant a 3 kilometre ride up the mountain to discover a hole in the road, 3 ks back again and then 6 ks around the back road.

So it was just 6 ks along the beach, up towards the monastery and then the climb through the pine forest to the top the hill, past the remains of Poesidon's Temple and evenutally home.  On a quad bike its a long slow trek with plenty of time to think and plot.  

The road through the pine trees with a fresh heady scent of resin after a recent rainfall.   I climbed up here at about 5kms an hour, chug chug chug, as slow/fast as a driveable lawnmower

Quite a few little shrines on these roads, most of the victims were young and male

Emerging on the other side
This is our home turf.
The beach way down below, mainland Greece in the background and Athens on the far horizon  

City slickers stop here to admire the view and take a few photos.  The municipality lately have installed benches at all these pitcuresque points.  Very good for business

Driving along outside the few remaining walls of the temple, the anemones are in bloom

Friday 8 February 2019

Wintery Wonderland

No, we're not Egypt or the Middle East.  I remember an advertisement for Egypt's Red Sea Riviera 
'360 days of Sunshine every year'
I always wondered what the other 5 days were like.  

Nope, that's not Greece.  Even I was surprised at the extremes of temperatures after my first winter here, way back in the 70's, before global warming.  I was not prepared for the cold and had to buy some warm clothes and a jacket

My m-in-law would crow now and again of Greece's wonderful climate, the best in the world, not that she knew much about the world outside her small yard.  I did not agree but didn't tell her so.  Summers are often scorching with temperatures in the 40's (celsius) and winters with freezing temperatures, -10 or more up north.  Around 5oC is normally the coldest we get here.

Greece has 23 ski resorts. The season is from December to March.

A greek winter is perfect  for hiking, exploring, roaming around ruins and eating at the few tavernas which remain open.  They'll be full of local greeks with more time to talk and you'll taste real greek food.  You could even pay for the privilege of picking olives, getting filthy dirty, freezing your extremities and having picnics amongst the goats and wild dogs.  Sucker.

If you're not adventurous then there'll be plenty of cafes open where you can still people watch, enjoy a hot chocolate, drink fiery local spirits and eat hearty goat soup.

In this area there are acres and acres of orange, mandarine and lemon trees.  Dark green leafy trees full of yellow and orange fruit.  The fields are full of wild greens just waiting for a housewife with a sharp knife and a plastic bag to fill.  Our garden has massive lettuces, spindly spinach and another similar green leafy vegetable called seskoula (lambs lettuce?).....and a flourishing crop of clover with bright yellow flowers. 
 I cooked spinach and cuttle fish yesterday.

The sun does shine.  Just not so much this winter

  So this is a country of blue and white summer resorts, greek salads, octopus and ouzo in the summer and skiing down the slopes of Mount Olympus, home of the greek gods in the winter.

Heavy rain does not stop the car ferry
Now and again high winds will stop the ferry crossing the narrow strait but not for more than a few hours

The Flying Cat (Catamaran) travels in quite heavy seas but often they too will be forbidden to sail, sometimes for a day or two

Road works at one end of the harbour means all heavy traffic has to go through the centre of town,  This harbour road is quite narrow, certainly not wide enough for two of these trucks to pass.  I wonder what happens when two meet midway.  I presume there is a mad rush to remove parked motorbikes and one truck drives up on the footpath, though even that is not possible at some of the narrowest points.

New sewage pipes are being laid and the quay is finally getting repaired where it fell into the harbour about five years ago

You can't really tell from this photo but the fire truck has lost the window on the drivers side and it covered in a piece of plastic.

One little fishing boat had ventured out in this bad weather and was selling its catch on the quay

Wednesday 6 February 2019

Hail Storm

Mid Winter Coffee

Looking through the plastic-surround of the coffee shop to storm clouds coming down very low over the hills opposite

Thunder and lightening, heavy rain and then suddenly large pieces of ice fell out of the sky

Outside and inside
I grabbed coffee cups, the cushions on our chairs and made a hasty retreat.  The rain and hail was so fierce it came in through every opening it could find in the awning above and the plastic surrounds

Action stations

The awning quickly became weighted down with water and ice
The long ladders were used to push the awnings up so the ice slid down to the street but still there were splits and holes

That's the Green Chair cafe down the other end of town
Everything covered in a thick layer of hail

Main Street Poros

School is out
Happy kids playing in the 'snow'

We were all excited by this rare, for us, phenomenon
Viber, WhatsAp and Instagram were inundated  as photos were sent from one end of the earth to the other

Oh such fun.  It wasn't only the school kids who were excited.  We had to retire indoors for a red wine and some strong spirits