Monday 28 September 2020

Photo Reporter

 I finally had a professional haircut.  Now you can see why I got sunburnt ears.

Our friendly hairdresser, and cousin, came to my sister-in-laws yard and we both got a 'trim'.  I was scolded because once again I had let an amateur attack my hair and so she had to keep cutting till all the irregularities were hidden.  My grandaughters had cut my hair a few weeks earlier with the hair clippers.  I thought they had done a darn good job.  Apparently not. 

We have what looks like a real pumpkin, not a squash, and its still growing.  Its loving this weather I think.  One day rain, one day sunshine.  It gobbled up the egg that I whisked and added to the soil along with coffee grounds and some compost that wasn't quite composted.

Katy - it looks like as though its from one of those NZ pumpkin seeds which you brought us.  None of them produced a pumpkin last year and I must have just put the leftover seeds in with the squash seeds.  

Elli and I are jumping up and down with delight. REAL pumpkin for xmas!

I have a new phone and a new camera.  I tried out the night setting.
Not a bad photo.  I should have repostioned that glass of wine.

Friday 25 September 2020

One Mornings 'Shopping'...

In more 'advanced' countries one shops online.  Here we 'shop'  at the cafeteria with a cup of coffee, pleasant company, hopefully in the warm sun and everything is brought to our table

The first black olives for salting.
A handful for K to salt.  Given to us by the cafe owner who had picked a few from his early producing olive tree

Ouzo meze
After the coffee comes more serious business

Lottery seller

Fig and tomato preserve
These were brought to us to try and inevitably to take home.
The figs preserved in syrup will go into fruit cakes.  The tomato preserves for all their sugar still tasted like tomatoes.  They will go into a fruit cake too, cut into tiny pieces.  I'm sure anyone who notices will think it's a cherry in their cake. Sticky sweet preserves are not my favourite.

Small fish for frying whole
They are eaten whole too.
Open your mouth and down it goes
We ordered these from the fish market.  Today's catch.
At home they will go straight into the flour and the frying pan 

Fresh from the fishing boat which came in an hour ago

Homemade raki
Dropped off by a neighbour who sat down a few tables away and remembered he owed us some of his own distillation

A bag of pistachio nuts and a few lemons
Another friend had just arrived for a coffee after watering his lemon trees on a small plot on the mainland

This morning's loaf.  Sourdough still warm from the baker's oven.
Wrapped in paper so it doesn't sweat

Tuesday 22 September 2020

Water Sports

This summer two of my grandaughters learned to scuba dive, that is to dive with air bottles and breathing apparatus.

The two eldest went wind surfing while on the island of Paros. 
Paros is one of the islands of the cyclades.  These are known as the windy islands.  Perfect for wind surfing which they had already mastered on Poros .  Their father is a another wind surf enthusiast and so  is their Uncle downunder who will be board surfing as long as he breathes.  

12 year old Luli
She and her best friend learnt to scuba dive and loved every minute of it

Two little water sprites

Her older cousin Poppi
Once again loving every minute of it.

The girls couldn't go diving on the, just off shore, old wreck  because of rough weather.  Instead they dived around Love Bay, swimming with the fish.  

Rowing is still the family's number one water sport.  However as the children get older their school lessons get more important and there is less time for rowing practice.  Three of the five still row and are doing very well.  Regattas and meetings have all been postponed this summer because of the virus but hopefully next summer will bring more opportunities for medals and cups.

Sunday 20 September 2020

Grape Harvest.

The grapes have been gathered and pressed.  The juice is in the barrels.  Kala krasia - good wine

This is our elderly neighbour's vineyard, one amongst many in this tiny fertile valley near us in the hills above Poros.  Loads of locals have a small plot of grapes here which will give them  juice to make wine for the family table through the year.

Vaso no longer takes part in the grape harvest but she does help to drink the wine.

The red grapes were harvested at the end of August.  Her son and daughter-in-law picked, trod and barelled the juice, 80 litres this year.
The red grapes were picked earlier than usual.

The white grapes were picked a few days ago, just before the cyclone hit.  The grapes this year didn't produce as much juice as other years but they have 140 kilos bubbling away and sold the rest to a thirsty neighbour who will make his own wine.

Here are the next generation treading the grapes.
This year's white was pressed entirely by foot.  Not once, but three times to get every last drop.  The red was trodden and then went through a press, once again two or three times.  


The red wine juice has already been tested.  All that is added to the barrel is a sprinkle of powder to kill the harmful bacteria. 

The percentage of alcohol should be around 12%

In other years I have taken a few litres of the juice which I boil down to make a thick syrup called petimezi.  This is used to make moustoukouloura, must-biscuits (cookies), 'must' being the juice before it turns into wine.
It is also made into a jelly like sweet called moustoulevria which I don't make because I don't like it.  It is slightly sour. 

The barrel of grape juice ferments for 2 or 3 weeks and your wine specialist will tell you when the fermentation is over and the barrel can be closed, if you don't have the experience, like Vaso, to know when it's ready.  Before closing though all the wine has to poured out into another, clean container, and all the gunk (residue) at the bottom has to be removed and the barrel cleaned again so the wine is not tainted.  The wine is then sealed inside the now clean barrel and left to mature.  We should be drinking this years harvest by Christmas though many will start drinking it long before then

Friday 18 September 2020

On Holiday

Holidays in the covid era.  A week at a Navy resort, all sanitised and subsidised.

Having been to this Navy hideaway a few times over the years  we knew it would be safe and hopefully, weather permitting, an enjoyable few days break.  Uusally we stay for 12 days but this year it  was for 6 days.  One week the odd number rooms are occupied and the next the even numbered rooms.  Inbetween they are all cleaned and sanitised and everything is ship-shape and Bristol fashion.

We started out with a Civil Defence warning of gale force winds and very high fire risk.  Poros was clouded in smoke as we departed but the fire was way north on the mainland.  

The whole area is green and extremely well maintained
I discovered the secret to all that green lawn at 2.30am the first night when I woke to the sound of water sprinklers.  They came on at 2.30am every night.  I presume they were watering different parts each night and they must have a very good water source.

The trees are eucalyptus, pine and olive

A shaded walk down to the beach

Sunbeds, umbrellas
A clean sea full of fish.  No fishing allowed so the shoals of fish were quite tame and loved nipping at soft human flesh

This year there were these great big comfy beach pillows too
I didn't try one.  If I had sunk into that I would never have been able to get out again

Subsidised meals.
Greek salad and fish being our favourite.  With wine

I heard the night bird for the first time this summer and even saw a few planes flying overhead.

The first day gale force winds blew up a sandstorm which blasted us on the beach.  

The next few days the winds died down and we really relaxed.  Nothing much else to do.  Swimming, eating and sleeping.  We got in loads of exercise because walking is the only way of getting around, or bicycling, and we both spent hours in the sea, swimming up and down and listening in on Navy gossip.  Little groups bobbed about and noise carries a long way over the water. 

Sounds wonderful doesn't it.  What could go wrong.

-Wild fires all around us.  All extinguished  before they got too close to us.
-Pizza that was uneatable.  That was a big downer for me.  Is pizza ever inedible.  It is when it's soggy and undercooked and there are great slabs of pink hammy stuff which doesn't taste nice.
K enthused over the ouzeri so I let the pizza go.  There were 5 different brands of ouzo with octopus, shrimp and many small fish-of- the-season.  He was a happy camper.
-I got sunburnt ears.
-An earthquake. Just a small one.
-But it was me that buggered up the holiday.   I was walking down a wheelchair ramp and one of my feet just slipped out from under me.  I sat rather hard on my behind and twisted my ankle.  That was the end of my walking and swimming.  Fortunately I didn't fall forward and flat on my face.  And fortunately it happened at the end of the holiday so we didn't miss too much.

    We are home now and have been preparing for a mediterranean cyclone which will reach us tonight.  It is already battering the Ionion Islands, Corfu, Zakynthos and Kefalonia.

I can hobble around now so I've been helping K bring in summer furniture and secure anthing that might be carried away by something more than gale force winds .

Tuesday 15 September 2020

Tourist Spiel

Tourist spiel ...written for a retirement blog

Not sure when I wrote it. Over 5 years ago.

Another hot day on a greek island.  Another day of people watching down in a waterfront café.  Freddo cappuccino and a sesame koulouri (bread ring) for breakfast.  An ouzo and octopus as a midday aperitif before your lunch of stuffed tomatoes and peppers.  Siesta, then a warm swim in the calm, clear blue waters of  the Aegean and time for another ouzo.  The beginning of a long  warm evening on a terrace with a view of sailboats,  white bougainvillea covered walls and the intoixicating scent of the night-flower which wafts along the alleyways.  After the long summers day the cool night air brings you back to life.  A gathering of friends, the righting of the wrongs of your world, the latest gossip, a cold beer with souvlaki and garlicky tzatziki, this is what retirement is supposed to be all about.

Sounds idyllic?  It can be.  Hot summer days go on and on during June, July and August.  By September you're gasping for a little rain.  But the climate is not like this all through the year.  Greece can have a very cold winter.  Last January we had snow on our island, the first time in ten years but it does happen.  Winters do tend to be short though and we often sit out in the wintery sun to drink a glass of wine and watch the bustle of the harbor.

The Greek island where I live is just one hour out of Athens and its port Piraeus, a small island, permanent population around 4,000.  It has quite a large expat community, largely Brits and those from other EU countries, Holland, France, Germany and Scandanavia.

The island has very little crime.  You can still sleep with your windows open and my grandchildren safely wander the streets playing with their friends.  Many of the greek islands are like this, especially those more isolated. 

Poros is very close to the mainland and driving around by car is the easiest way to get here from Athens or its airport. We have water taxis which take us to and fro during the day to the little town of Galatas across the waters.  The ticket is only one euro.  The car ferry goes every half hour from early morning till night for around 5 euros for a car and driver. 

On the island itself the main mode of transport is a scooter, quad bike or a bicycle which can be bought or hired.  The main roads are easy to drive but the back streets were made for donkeys and mules and a small scooter or motorbike will take you to most places where a car cannot go.

With the car ferry we are not completely isolated.  A  hospital is one and a half hours away by road.  In an emergency there is a 24 hour health centre just a short water taxi ride away. Specialists come in twice a week to the big new private medical facility.

The two cities of Argos and Nafplio are in easy reach for shopping, sightseeing, and endless ancient ruins.  Forty five minutes away is the 4,000 year old theatre of Epidavros where in the summer you can attend classical greek tragedies and comedies, sitting on marble tiered seats still hot from the midday sun just as they did a few thousand years ago.

Athens is close by if you want more culture.  Poros does have a summer festival which includes piano recitals under the august full moon, an open air cinema on a roof top in town where you can maybe catch a glimpse of the local priest hanging out the washing on his own terrace next door.  Films are the latest ones in English with greek subtitles.  There are evenings of greek dancing down in the main square and concerts in front of the floodlit Russian ruins.

The sheltered harbor is a popular place for flotillas of small yachts to spend a night and big luxury boats tie up near the middle of town where the guests are within walking distance of tavernas, cafes and bars.

There are a few organised beaches and small coves like Love Bay which has sun chairs arranged around its tiny pine shaded beach and a small canteen.  On the hills above are the remains of the Temple to the sea god Poseidon. Nearby is a rustic family taverna where you can eat under the vines.

There is an animal welfare society which organizes curry evenings with quizzes and raffles and now and again a bazaar where you can buy cheap English paper backs and the usual knick knacks.  Christmas bazaars in Athens are only a few hours away.  Last year I stocked up on cheap detective stories which I am still reading  now.

The island has a small, twice weekly, fruit and vegetable market.  There is a large (for us) supermarket where you can buy all the essentials and sometimes luxuries like peanut butter.  Every neighbourhood has its own little grocery shop for emergency needs. Food and drink are cheap.  Wine can be bought from the plastic barrel of a local winemaker, around 3 euros for a one and a half litre plastic bottle of a very drinkable white or rose.

The eating places are called tavernas and range from typically greek to something more upscale which they call a bistro or a ristorante.  There is something for every taste.  Our favourite is a taverna right beside the sea.  We can feed the fish from our table.  Most of the dishes are still made by the family matriarch.  The table cloths are paper, the wine is brought in a jug, the staff are friendly and all speak English.

The waterfront is lined with cafeterias and one of them is sure to become your daily hangout.  From here you can watch the world pass by, the arrival of hydrofoils and water taxis and all for the price of an iced coffee or a cold beer.

Fresh fish can be bought daily (depending on the weather) from the fishing boats on the quay or at the fish and meat market near the main square. 

The islanders live mainly from tourism so life is a lot slower in the winter.  Picking olives or citrus fruit takes place over these cold months.  You can buy fresh olive oil straight from the press.
If you're thinking of staying permanently then you must come and stay over the winter and see the other side of island life.

From here you can reach all the tourist areas in the mainland area called the Peloponese, ancient Olympia where the original Olympic games started, or visit the tiny villages built of stone clinging to the sides of mountains, Mesalonghi where Lord Byron fought with Greeks against the Ottoman Turks, or the 6 1/2 kilometer Corinth Canal.  In mid winter the ski fields are only a couple of hours away.

The island of Hydra is half an hour away by hydrofoil.  Painters and writers find inspiration here.  Leonard Cohen had a house on the island.  No motorbikes or cars are allowed.  Bags and groceries are carried up the steep hill above the harbor by mule.

 Nearer Athens is the cosmopolitan island of Aegina.  Many Athenians have houses here and escape from the big city at weekends. You’ll find more in the way of exhibitions, theatre and culture and the impressive remains of the Temple of Aphaia. 

Cons? That laid back 'avrio/maniana' when you need an emergency plumber or electrician.   ID needed even for a simple bank transaction.  Long lines at the bank and post office at the end of the month when everyone is getting their pensions and paying taxes. Trying to get your internet connected when you have no real house address.

To really experience  any of the 200 inhabited  greek islands you must come and visit, stay a while, talk to the local expats and hear their tales and personal pros and cons.  But that is the same all over the world.

Written for 'Retirement and Good Living' site

Sounds like the place to live your retirement dream. I wonder if ex-pats living here would agree. It's different for me, married to a Greek. I'm in the system and have family who will help in any situation and sort out the paper work.

Monday 14 September 2020

14th September

 An important day in Greece.  

In the Orthodox, and other churches, it is the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.  This is a day of fasting but we are allowed to eat salt cod and garlic sauce.  Bacaliaros skorthalia.  It is also a feast day for those named Stavros or Stavroula.  I've been to a many a name day celebration where the main dish is an over flowing platter of fried cod. It's always served with a big dish of garlic sauce. Soaked bread mixed with loads of crushed garlic, olive oil and vinegar.

Church goers today bring a bouquet of basil to the church.  The basil is blessed and taken home to make the year's sourdough sponge.  The basil is placed in water for 3 days and then the herb is discarded and the water  mixed with flour.  Of course for the starter to bubble and rise the housewife should have been to confession and if its the wrong time of the month for her then she'll have to wait for next year and borrow some of her neighbour's sourdough starter.

14th September is also the commemoration of the Genocide of the Greeks of  Asia Minor.  In a drive by Turkey to create a Turkey for the Turks they slaughtered hundreds of thousands of  Greeks, Armenians and Assyrians.

14 September 2020 is also the day schools across Greece finally open up for lessons in the classroom.  My grandchildren went to school in masks to be blessed by the local Priests and find out what's happening in the classrooms and playgrounds this school year.

Monday 7 September 2020

Culture Shock

BLOG first  written 2007  

Culture shock – besides remembering to drive on the other side of the road and get used to the flash and the windscreen wiper being on the opposite side of the steering wheel and the hand-brake of course, that’s on the right, not the left, there are other little shocks to the system which keep you on your toes in this foreign country. 

Most important is the subject of toilet paper.  DON’T even think about putting your ‘used’ paper down the toilet.  It does block the drains.  Ask me, I’ve got ‘hands on’ experience!  Put all your paper in the bin provided – or on the floor if it is overflowing.

Toilets generally are getting more civilised, cleaner and sometimes even pleasant.

- wine.  The first glass is the worst, baby.  You just gotta know that it gets better.  The more you drink, the more it resembles champagne – the home made stuff you buy from a barrel in a ‘cave’ next to the goat’s cheese. It slips down easier after the second and third glass and by the end of the evening you could almost be enjoying its ruby roughness – or you could always drink Amstel or Heineken.....or Mythos.
Wine has improved immensely. Some of the local white almost tastes like a fruity sauv blanc. Retsina, the white wine flavoured with pine resin is hard to find. Once it was all you could get.

- television.  It’s all greek, except for ‘Days of our Lives’, ‘The Young and the Restless’ , oh and ‘Friends’ and the ‘Gilmore Girls’ – english with subtitles!  You don’t get any NZ news here unless its some maniac wiping out his whanau or a giant sea lion attacking parked cars in Napier.  The human interest stuff.  But that’s ok because you don’t get any greek news in NZ unless the whole of the Peloponese is turned to ash by wild fires.  Television news is politics, weather and the celebration of some minor triumph by the national football team or the discovery of a vaccine by some ‘greek’ who was born in Australia to parents whose distant relatives came from Kalamata or Paleokastritsa.  Endlessly they go over the same subject, a panel of highly biased politicians and journalists  examining every twist and turn, discussing, arguing, accusing, yelling, until you’re actually forced to turn the darn thing off.

Nowadays it's endless covid statistics and Erdogan's  (Turkey)  rhetoric rages

- back to cars again.  Don’t bother with seat belts, helmets or stopping at red lights unless you live in Athens. If you double or triple park, at least leave the keys in your car so the poor devils you’ve ‘closed in’ can get out. Give way to all taxis, buses and datsun pick-ups.  Forget the right hand rule – there isn’t one. Beware of donkeys and little old women dressed in black.

At least have your helmet hanging over the handlebars. We do have sporadic road blocks. Triple parking and coming to a screaming halt in the middle of the road to speak to a friend is still the norm

- if you’re polite and wait in a queue you’ll still be there when the shop closes. When greeks see a queue they automatically go straight to the front.  When your bus arrives, the older you are the harder you push.  Don’t be timid, this is survival of the fittest. 
Nothing changed there 

When you travel on long haul flights across the world and the pilot tells you to stay in your seat with safety belt done up until the plane comes to a complete halt he is usually obeyed – unless your plane is full of greeks coming into Athens airport.  As soon as those wheels touch the ground they are all up, out of their seats, overhead lockers open and by the time the plane does come to a complete stop there are three hundred economy passengers, their hand luggage in huge bags and boxes bursting at the seams,  pawing the ground, pressing in the aisles ready to rip those business class curtains aside and GO.

- basil.  This grows in the summer in small pots on your balcony or in your yard,  You give it a shake as you walk past and its pungent summery smell envelopes you and the flies and mosquitoes.  You do not use it in cooking and never put it on the tomatoes in your greek salad.  The taste of greece is olive oil, lemons and oregano.

Basil is now in recipes used by  gourmet cooks. I put small amounts in any summer dish which features tomatoes, not enough to alert traditional people to its presence though.

Actually basil is being used now by bold chefs in chic Athenian restaurants.....and presumably being actually consumed in nouvelle recipes by athenians who think this is the way to that elusive europeanisation.  The hoi polloi is very happy just being greek, efharisto.

Why DOESN’T all the world speak greek?  This is where democracy (except for women and slaves), civilisation, nay LIFE started!  Foreigners flock to greece – for its wonderful climate (45 in summer, 5 in winter), friendliness (you give me your money and I’ll give you a smile)..........sun (when WILL it rain?), sea (looks blue but this IS the med, just one big enclosed toilet) and sex (AIDS, herpes) and yes, I do love this country.  Sometimes I just get a bit cynical. 

- If you want something done then ask a cousin or grease a palm, or ask a cousin to grease a palm.  Otherwise, be patient, it won’t be ‘maniana’ (avrio) it will be next year, or maybe never.  By the way, the louder you shout, the more likely you are to get service.

As above

And so on

Sunday 6 September 2020


 A couple of beaches

Looking towards Askeli, the main tourist area.  The slopes are covered with pine trees and  a few olives 

This beach is called St Stefanos after the little church opposite.
It's where all the 'slightly more traditional' women come and bob about with their friends in the early morning or late afternoon.

It used to be filled with rubble in and out of the sea. This year the beach has been cleared, rocks removed from the sea and there is a ramp for wheelchairs, umbrellas, toilets and a changing shed.

On the left of the photo over that concrete wall is the beach attached to the Navy base and a small taverna where we can also eat, k being ex-navy.

I wish they would beautify our beach like this, at least give us a couple of those benches and umbrellas.

Friday 4 September 2020

An Evening Out

 We finally ventured out to eat .

The taverna Romantza has the finest view of them all

Sundown looking across to Poros and the mountains  of the mainland Pelaponese

Askeli beach where all the tourists, Greek and foreign gather. There are hotels, tavernas and cafe-bars, which close at midnight right now.

A glass of barrel white wine. The small bottle of vinegar, in the basket, and the olive oil were sealed. The salt and pepper were in little packets like a fast food place. Not a good idea.
It was a darn nuisance trying to open them and the salt couldn't be shaken evenly over the salad.

Boiled pitsouni in olive oil and lemon juice with a sprinkling of oregano. Pitsouni is an oversized zucchini. 

The tiny chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It's right on the beach beside the tavera. Inside it is just big enough to hold the priest, chanter and 2 worshippers.

This is where we held my youngest grandsons baptism. The baptismal font was outside in the yard under the eucalyptus tree.

Tuesday 1 September 2020

Photos Around Poros

 Some scenes from around the island

Up the back stairs

The view from above the main town looking across the straits to the small coastal town of Galatas and the mainland. 

A picturesque cottage up above the main harbour.

This area is up in the hills near us.
It is the fertile valley called Fousa.  Here are the islands vineyards, olive groves, small herds of sheep and goats, chooks and vegetable gardens. Not many live up here. The farmers come up 5ks from the main town every day to tend their flocks and plots.

Hand painted by my friend J. Blue eyes and fish to ward off the evil eye. 

Our front yard.  The chairs and table were rescued from the tip. K sanded and oiled them. We bought comfy cushions and now they smarten up our entrance-way