Author Archives: sheilahwood

Weather, culture, a new kitchen and more

March has come and gone and while there have been no exciting trips away, there has been much of interest to do both in the house and out.  March is never a month to be sure of what to wear but the weather this year has been extraordinarily mixed. Sometimes heavy rain, sometimes warm sunshine and sometime just in between.

So from day to day, plans and clothes could change.

One day, I set off on foot up the Kavousi Gorge, with no clear plan except that I wanted to be in the warmth of the sun and enjoy a walk.  In fact even though I was out for four or five hours, I did not walk very far.  I met no-one else but there are always interesting plants, goats or in this case, many small churches to look at.  Before I had reached the village of Μέλλισσες, I found a beautiful small church, the Church of the Holy Spirit hidden from the road.

I sat there alone and contemplated this and that and then walked on to the village,

which is is made up of a number of houses, sheds and much cultivated land. Nobody was around but it is not a village where people live all year round. They come up from Kavousi or farther afield and look after the land. What was surprising was that there are four churches nearby,

and I enjoyed another rest at one of them.

The flowers in March are beautiful and on a rather rainy day, John and I had a walk near the archaeological site Gournia, and the highlight had to be the fantastic range of colours of the flowers.

Because there has been lovely weather at times, it has encouraged us both to lie on the beach, a swim or two for me and a bit of cycling and walking. On one day, John and I cycled again in the direction of Theriospilios Cave and we still didn’t find it but we enjoyed the beautiful olive trees and the fantastic coastline.

On a more cultural note, at one of our Greek lessons, Manolis told us about a film he had seen at the cinema in Ierapetra. It is a Greek film, recently released, telling a story from the Greek War of Independence. Whilst not understanding all, the story and the symbolic meaning it has for Greek people was interesting. It stimulated some reading on the subject. I did note however, there were only 4 of us at the showing and the next adventure film, did appear to be more popular with the young people of Ierapetra!

As readers of the blog know, John and I have attended a pantomime for the last couple of years before Christmas. This is organised by INCO or the Cultural Association of the Foreigners of the Agios Nikolaos Region. We get information from them and decided to go to their Annual General Meeting and find out more. The meeting was held in the Palazzo Cafe beside the sea.

I haven’t been to an AGM for a long time and realised soon that I was happy to hand over 10 euros to the organisation but I don’t want to do anymore than that. But the speaker, Olympia Theodoli, from a local organisation called Crete for Life, was very interesting both in terms of what her organisation does and her description of what she had learned from spending time at the refugee camp at Skaramagas, near Athens. She is making links between some of the people living there and her own project which organises local camps for kids from Belarus. She was somebody who clearly understood the huge challenges and difficulties of providing educational and other support to refugees, bur then tries to make things happen for some individuals at a local level. She was very inspiring.

When we were in Agios Nikolaus, we had lunch, sitting outside with our favourite beer and a Greek salad

and then I looked over to a sign saying Karaoke.  I brought my karaoke machine from the UK

and it has stayed in the shed for all the years we have been here. I got it out recently and it works with our TV. So John and I have been having a sing with it every so often. I think singing in the privacy of my own home is good for me and good for other people too but there are clearly opportunities around here for a more public performance!

John had a health scare in the middle of the month. Fortunately it was not another mini-stroke but to begin with there was some anxiety about what it was. After a phone call to the heart specialist, who felt that the symptoms (dizzyness) sounded more like an ear issue, John phoned  the ENT specialist, whom he knew from an appointment last year. Constantinos could see him in half an hour and as it turned out, is an expert on ‘Positional Vertigo’, which is apparently what John had! After three appointments John was fine. What a relief!

There has been work around the house. John was very upset one morning to find that his flower garden was looking very sad and on closer inspection, he discovered a veritable army of snails. He went off to the supermarket, came back with pellets and it has been a full scale massacre down there. The plants looks a lot better though!

Our neighbour, Nikos, came over to advise on the vine

and also brought me some flowers which were lovely.

I bought some hanging baskets and they seem to be surviving too.

John painted our tatty looking chairs, in preparation for the holiday season

And finally, work on our new kitchen started last Monday, a week late, causing us some anxiety as we travel to the UK this coming Tuesday!  However, the kitchen was demolished on Monday by Manolis and Adonis and then Maria and Nikos took away some of the cupboards which was great. In return Maria has fed us regularly during the week because we have no cooker. On Wednesday, we went to our friends Jann and Stan who entertained us with wonderful gin, food and chat and I have just used their washing machine. Great to have good friends, particularly at times like this!

Alkis laid the floor tiles and painted the room between Tuesday and Thursday, Mikalis worked on the electrics and today Manolis and Adonis came back with the cupboards.There was a scare that heavy rain might mean they couldn’t come as the kitchen units were to be transported in an open truck but the Gods were on our side and the rain stopped in the early morning. Not all the appliances are here but they are promised either tomorrow or Monday. John and I have been pushed into the dining room but we are hoping by the end of the weekend that we will be allowed out.

 

Sheila

Postscript

I wrote the above a few days ago but did not want to post it until the new kitchen was finished. This happened last night, 24 hours before John and I leave  for a visit to the UK!

We are really pleased with it. Manolis and Adonis worked hard

with Alkis and Mikalis, to transform all these boxes

Into a beautiful new kitchen

We have been very fortunate in having such a wonderful group of workmen, who have been so kind in going out of their way to make it happen before we left for the UK.

The kitchen is much lighter now because of the paler colours and the lighting. There are brand new stainless steel (called Inox here) appliances and a washing machine which is hidden by a door. The floor is a particular success in my opinion. This was suggested by Eleni who helped us choose the tiles in the bathroom and so we went back to her for advice on the kitchen floor and the colour of the paint.

So I’m looking forward to showing this off to our guests who come in May and June and now, I must pack my bag!

Kitchen decisions, signs of spring and a trip to Germany

In the last post, there was some indecision reported as to whether John and I would  have anew kitchen with BREXIT and the value of the pound being cited as reasons to be cautious. But in a spirit of enthusiasm, not worrying about the future and being fed up with the present kitchen, we decided to go ahead with this new project.

In a positive frame of mind, we met again with Manolis, Chrissa and their son Michalis from the kitchen company  and helped by a glass of raki, a lot of laughter and their professional help, we have now chosen and ordered new cupboards from them.  We have also chosen stainless steel (inox in Greek) appliances,  a sink and taps, tiles for the floor and paint for the walls and we hope that it will look good! We have paid the deposit and now we wait for everything to arrive, hopefully about the 20th March. Manolis will come with the kitchen cupboards, Kostis with the appliances and Alkis and Michalis from Kavousi are responsible for everything else that these others don’t do. The timescale is tight as we leave to go to the UK on 4th April and we are keeping our fingers crossed.

There has been a lot of illness this winter, which in general John and I have escaped. I put this down to drinking large quantities of vitamin C which we get from fresh orange or mandarin juice in the morning and  fresh lemonade later in the day. The fruit has come from our trees so I like to think I am benefiting from my tender care of the trees.  Unfortunately, the bananas did not ripen

but John has now taken steps to try again with some serious pruning!

There was a bit of excitement at the beginning of February when Hans and Hanneke brought round Lisa for the day as they went to Heraklion. She made herself at home and she behaved beautifully.

We also went out and about on our bikes, dressed to keep warm as you can see,

and admired Kavousi yet again.

We had a very nice Sunday afternoon with Shona and Rich, exploring a nearly uninhabited village, Aori, near Stavrohori, where we had a good walk with stunning views,

and then were rewarded with mezethes and wine in the local, busy tavernas.

It is always hard to leave Kavousi but we had a week’s ‘holiday’ in northern Germany, with the main purpose being to celebrate our friend, Brigitte’s  birthday on the 16th February. We arrived at Hamburg Airport and because we were travelling light, we walked quickly out of the airport and onto the train to get into the centre of the city. Later in our hotel, we turned on the TV to discover that Hamburg Airport had been evacuated due to some air conditioning problem, just after we left it.  We felt luck was on our side and no, it was nothing that we did.

We spent two days in a hotel across from the central railway station in Hamburg,

and from there explored Hamburg docks by boat, seeing some serious boats,

and some not so serious.

We visited the amazing new concert hall, Elbphilharmonie, built on the edge of the water.

We admired the Town Hall,

and I looked at the Hamburg landscape from near the top of St Michaels Church. I walked up 452 steps up from the ground in order to see John,

sitting in one of these seats in the park!

It was very nice to walk around a city with so many canals and fine looking buildings.

In the evening we ventured onto the Reeperbahn to find where the Beatles had played in 1960. We did come across a plaque and the Beatle Plaza with some models of them. Next day we learned about the history of the city in the Hamburg museum and we followed that with an exhibition relating to the bombing of Hamburg in 1943.

Then, we travelled by ICE train to Kiel and were met by Walter and Brigitte. We originally met them in Ferma, four years ago because they rented the house near ours. They come to Crete every year for a period of time and we have met over the years a number of their friends from Kiel who visit them in Ferma.  They live in Heikendorf, a small town close to Kiel,

On our first day there, we walked from their house to the beach,

which would looked  quite tempting but it wasn’t quite warm enough,

ate lunch with our hosts outside a lovely fish restaurant,

where there was some interesting food!

We then visited a German naval memorial and admired the interesting coastline.

Early on in the visit, we were invited for dinner by Annie and Jens, whom we had met on Crete and they kindly provided dinner and an invitation to watch Arsenal play Bayern Munich. The dinner was very good whilst the football was not such a treat!!!

On Brigitta’s birthday we went out for breakfast to a nice restaurant in Kiel,

went to a cheese counter at a local supermarket, which was enormous (by then we were eating cheese for breakfast!)

and in the evening, Brigitta had a party at her house.  I was a little concerned as John and I speak no German. We needn’t have worried though as almost every German person, we met at this party and another later in the week, spoke excellent English. it was hugely impressive and enormous credit goes to the German education system.

We had a day out to Lubeck, a very attractive city, keeping a medieval appearance to remind us of its importance as a Hanseatic trading city.

Willi Brandt, Thomas Mann and Gunther Grasse lived there for periods of time. We went on a bus tour with the guide speaking German but she gave us a written guide in English. I didn’t find that easy though as things were missed, if you were reading your script!  But it a beautiful town to walk about in

and I particularly liked the very small, quaint alleys which reminded me of something similar in Kirkcudbright. We visited the very impressive cathedral and the Niederegger shop which produces marzipan, for which Lubeck is famous.

We also visited the famous Kiel Canal and watched as enormous boats queued up to get through.

One of the biggest highlights of the trip was to visit an exhibition of Walter’s sculpture in Kiel. John and I think of Walter, outside his house in Ferma, tap, tapping on marble in the sunshine and producing some wonderful sculptures. In Kiel, we saw a much bigger collection of his with some in wood.

Brigitte, who is an artist and photographer, had some of her photographs on the wall in the exhibit room.  Walter has one of his sculptures in his garden – a woman looking out to sea – the sea is at the bottom of the road!

Thank you to Brigitte and Walter for their fantastic hospitality, organising our tours, sharing their house with us and for speaking English for 4 solid days!!!

It was also nice though to come back to Kavousi, to our Greek lessons, to the comparative warmth, a cup of coffee in Ierapetra as we waited for the car to be serviced,

and to more exploration here.   Spring seems to be in the air! Yesterday, we went to the village of Prinas, not far from Agios Nikolaos, and admired the views, the church,

the pretty village

and the colourful flowers.

Today I walked up in the hills behind us, in an effort to improve my fitness and to try out my new walking boots (a very nice Christmas present from John).

 

The boots were great, as well as matching my turqouise fleece! As usual, I stopped to look at the goats, the flowers,

the views and appreciated the peace and quiet.

As you can see, I have now taken off the woolly hat which John gave me for Christmas, which has seen me through the colder days in Kavousi and in Northern Germany. It seems like I was wearing the same hat for every picture that was taken in the last few weeks!  But yesterday and today, the hat was left  at home.

Sheila

 

Oops! October’s Over

Welcome to the new Blog!

It is the last day of October and the rain is falling. We now have a proper stream here, not just a dry bed.

Apart from one day in September, this is the first rain since May and it is to be welcomed by all who live here. My summer clothes have been transferred to the spare room wardrobe and fleeces and socks have been resurrected to a more prominent position. Our house is small and despite a lot of ‘de-cluttering’ over the last few years, there is still too much ‘stuff’ around.  But the clothes are easily managed as there are really only two seasons here – summer and winter. I did wear a pair of jeans to go out to the taverna the other night and they have not been worn for a long time. For me, this 2 season wardrobe is simple and that suits me fine!

While John was away in the UK at the end of September, a friend of ours, Susan, came for a day. She used to live in Siteia but went back to Scotland where we met her in Kirkcudbright and she was our Greek tutor. She popped in to see us last year and this time there was time for a walk to Azoria and to the old olive tree.

It was nice to be with her and I am hoping when she comes back again, she will come and stay for longer and we could do more walking.

I also walked up the Mesona Gorge with Brigitte and all the way round to Kastro.

Such a beautiful walk.

I had a pleasant social time when John was away and I felt very safe because my neighbours kept an eye on me. Food was delivered and in the morning and evening, someone would come and check I was OK. Fortunately I didn’t need help but I knew it was there, which was wonderfully re-assuring.

After John came back, it was my birthday time. which is always worthy of celebration!  John gave me a mountain bike, which had previously belonged to Jann, our neighbour but she didn’t want it and so I  became the proud owner. It has 27 gears and is a lot lighter and of much higher quality than the one I had before.

Now I am very positive about cycling down to Tholos beach and back and have even cycled to the ancient Olive Tree.

John still gets back before me but I feel very good on this bike. He gave me a computer for it too so I am able to know my highest and average speed and distance. I even learned these words in Greek so that I could tell the Greek class that my highest speed one day was 44 kmph!

My actual birthday was spent at the Siteia Beach Hotel and was a great treat.

Siteia is only 42km away from Kavousi but takes 53 minutes (so says tripadvisor) to get there along a very twisty road. So it was good to spend a bit of time there without thinking of the journey home!

Because it is low season, our room was upgraded to something near the size of our own house and the balcony went round a corner, so we could choose to admire the sea or the mountains.

One of the days was beautifully hot so I couldn’t resist the temptation of going to one of my favourite beaches at Itanos to lie in the sun and read a book by William Boyd. We also went to the excellent archaeological museum in Siteia, which resulted in us then visiting Petras, a small Minoan palace

and to Tripitos which is a Hellenic town right by the sea.

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Both are close to Siteia and very interesting.  The town has a choice of tavernas and those that we chose were very nice, including one for lunch on a roundabout!

 

On the way home, we did explore a little bit more of the beautiful Crete coastline.

So ‘When I’m 64’ has now happened and it has been a very positive start to what always seemed a rather unlikely event!

October has been a good month weather wise (except for the last day!) and this has been good as we have had family visits.  I do like to get the credit if the sun shines but I don’t like to be responsible for bad weather!  My niece Claire, her husband James and their two children, Matthew and Rory stayed for a week in a villa in Istron while John’s cousin’s son David, his wife Alyona and their daughter Emily stayed in a hotel in Elounda.  Then, last week, our son Graham, stayed with us here in Kavousi.  They all came on different weeks (with a slight overlap between David and Graham) and we enjoyed seeing them all. The common theme was making sure that everybody  had a meal at Bobo’s in Pachia Ammos and that a day was spent at our house.

so that we could show off our new bathroom, Kavousi, the old olive tree

and Tholos beach.

What a joy to see children in the sea and making castles on the beach!

The water was still pretty warm.  The added bonus from my  point of view was spending some time in Istron and Elounda. We also went to ‘new to us’ tavernas

and found out a little about tourist accommodation locally.  Claire and James’s villa was part of a complex with a swimming pool so I could relax on a sunbed and watch Matthew and Rory enjoy the delights of a lilo.

In Elounda, David and Alonya had a view to die for of Spinalonga

and they had their own swimming pool. Very nice!

Graham was looking for rest and peace and the week went by too quickly but it was a treat too. He came cycling with us to Tholos and I was a bit shocked to discover how fast he went uphill on the way back. I knew I had speeded up on my new bike but within seconds of starting the upward journey, he was far ahead of me and I reflected that whilst I am quite fit for my age (walking, cycling, tennis, swimming), I have to accept that the age difference could be a factor here! John found a number of jobs for Graham to do

and we enjoyed having an evening with our friends Walter and Brigitte and their friends Jens and Annie. Graham, John and I watched a number of films including most of the Indiana Jones ones which I hadn’t seen before!! Graham said that the holiday was just what he wanted

and that’s what matters!

One Sunday, in the middle of the month, Kavousi was the centre for athletes from all over Crete to compete in the 23K mountain run. It starts from the plateia in Kavousi,

and then they run past our friend Maria’s house

and then up the local gorge and beyond. No temptation to participate in this but John and I were there at the start. There was also a 6K run and something shorter for small children.

Yesterday, with a few others, John and I went to archaeological site of Azoria which we see above our house. We have been many times before but this time we were privileged to be shown round by the local archaeologist, Melissa. The site is still being excavated and each year, more is unearthed.

It was a sizeable town in the Archaic period (about 600 BC) and Melissa brought it to life as she described what some of the buildings were used for and the contents of the various rooms (all of which have of course now been removed); the excitement of locating a road in the town this year; and showing us a game played by soldiers that was scratched onto a rock.

She also pointed out a Tholos tomb which she had personally opened this year and showed us a room which they could positively identify as being where they made olive oil because of the contents which they unearthed there.

She remarked that the town had been destroyed by fire which was good from an archaeological point of view because they have retrieved so much stuff that helps to build a picture of life in this city in post-Minoan Crete. However, it appears that the inhabitants must have known that there town was to be destroyed because they seem to have had time to collect their personal belongings and leave before arrival of the enemy, whoever they were (possibly from ierapetra – nothing changes then!).

The only sadness of the month has been that I’ve broken my camera again and will have to buy a new one. I have a new smart phone so I am using it but it is not quite the same. So I think a new one is required, even if  I am supposed to be tightening my belt due to the state of the pound!

Sheila