Category Archives: Crete

Spring is sprung

In February, I ordered some new prescription sunglasses, congratulating myself on being so organised in preparing for the spring. However, this winter has been exceptionally bright and they have been in use on a regular basis ever since I got them!

Next week, John and I are going to Heraklion for a shopping clothes spree for me so I hope I will be able to show off some pinky/purple clothes to go with my pinky/purple sunglasses! The down side of the blue skies is that there is a serious shortage of water around and this is a major topic of concern here.

When the many pictures of snow in the UK started to appear on the news, it reminded me of days in our house at Sunnyside in Aberdeenshire when we (well more, John) started the day and continued shovelling snow until dark. I loved all the pictures of the igloos and the snowmen in the UK this year on facebook but I do feel lucky that I am avoiding all of that. I always loved the sun and the heat and so it is a real treat to feel warm most of the time.

I have continued to walk, cycle and now swim in February and March.

A few days ago, I walked to Azorias and enjoyed particularly the lovely wild flowers with my favourite poppies.

I sat looking at this bee for a long time, without managing to get a very good picture but always just as I was about to take a shot, the bee flew to another attractive petal.

I admired again the hard work done by the archaeologists and students from The University of North Carolina in excavating the site.

And then, of course, there were goats around.

There is quite a lot of controversy here about unsupervised goats which wander about and destroy farmers produce and a public meeting was held in the village recently to voice these concerns.

John likes to cycle but he had a major problem recently in that the motor on his bike wasn’t working. There were a number of telephone calls to the UK and finally the problem was identified. The part arrived by post from Italy, costing 50 euros and he was so excited that he didn’t wait to take his coat off before getting stuck into the bubble wrap!

Now all is well and he is back on his bike too.

On Clean Monday, the day when Lent starts, we walked down to see the kites at Tholos but there was a problem with the lack of wind. So instead we walked round the shoreline looking for a seal and a cub which had being seen and photographed there by someone in the village,  a couple of days before.

We and others did not see anything which was probably a good thing as hopefully this meant that the seal and the cub were well protected from humans.

I think that spring really started for me on 3rd March when John and I ate outside at lunchtime in a taverna at Mochlos.

It is so nice to sit outside and enjoy a beer, Greek salad and tzatziki. I never tire of it!!!!

We went to Tertsa on the south coast one day and enjoyed an empty beach and an hour of warm sunshine.

Unfortunately there were no tavernas open but we drove back to Ierapetra to Σχεδιά and I ate my favourite lunch again. We have also enjoyed the usual round of eating out at Panorama, Bobo’s and in the Plateia with friends. On International Women’s Day, a group of us went to Panayiotis’ taverna and had a discussion and argument about Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky and abuse of power! There was no consensus but it certainly was an animated conversation!

The Greek Government brought in a law on January 1st, charging for plastic bags and this seems to be having some effect. An article on 18th February in the newspaper, Ekathimerini, indicated that the policy was showing to be effective with some supermarkets recording a drop of 50% of plastic bags being used. In our local supermarket, Katerina gave me a nice re-usable bag which I proudly use.

There are a number of updates to John’s problem solving issues, outlined in the last post. He took Scottish Power to the ombudsman and the latter supported John’s claims. He is still waiting for the compensation but it does appear that the issue may be resolved. But I suspect it will not deal with the numbers of other people who are suffering from the worst customer service system that I have ever encountered!  John does not have his new Greek driving licence yet but all the paperwork was submitted finally after yet more problems were identified. The good thing is that when I apply, I have a clearer picture of what to do and what not to do! The Canadian visa issue was also resolved and both of us now have our applications accepted, so we are on our way on July 5th. Exciting!

Insurance came to the rescue when I picked up a nail in the car tyre on the way back from Ierapetra. Fortunately I was not aware of it until I got home! Our insurance policy covered the cost of somebody coming out to change the tyre and this process took a remarkably short space of time

The glass on the frame of one of our pictures that we brought here was broken on the journey. We decided we wanted a a change of pictures in the spare room and this one I was keen to display. It is of Scolty near where we lived in Aberdeenshire and was painted by Robin Palmer. It was a gift from our friends in the local Labour Party and has many words of good wishes on the back, which we value. A picture framer was recommended in Agios Nikoloas and he did a great job of restoring it and it now hangs on a wall in the spare room, which guests can enjoy.

It is particularly nice to have pictures with happy memories around the house.

Cultural life has focused around the television but we did see Donizetti’s opera  ‘L’Elixir d’Amour at the cinema in Agios Nikolaus and the film ‘The Phantom Thread’ with Daniel Day Lewis. I wasn’t that taken with the latter but it was nice to share the same view on facebook with a friend, who on the same night, had seen it in Edinburgh. Good for the cinema here to be showing such recent films.

Everybody who is visiting this year can relax now because the spare room and the new bathroom have been tested by our friends, Shona and Rich. They stayed the night after a nice walk to the Roman granary at Tholos,

an excellent meal of steak and Kidney pie, prepared by John and an introduction to our new favourite game ‘Mexican Train’. They enjoyed all and the accommodation appeared to be fine!

John’s garden looks good, despite the lack of rain.

We have a new water filter system in place. it was decided to so this after some discoloration of grout in the bathroom. After putting the filters in place, it is clear they are catching some brown

stuff that it is probably best not to drink!

Some of my winter reading has been about Alexander the Great. It started because I had kept some books of my parents and found that one of them about Theseus was written by the author, Mary Renault . I read that book, enjoyed it and was then curious about the writer and found that she had written a historical trilogy about Alexander the Great. I enjoyed the novels a lot and was fascinated by this man and what he achieved.

So I have now bought a biography of Alexander the Great to find out really how much is really known about him.

And my final note. Scotland beat England at rugby. That was a good result!

Sheila

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Wombling through Winter

We spent Christmas with Graham and Rosie in Cornwall. After some initial minor (though not at the time!) problems with a delayed flight and a missing turkey, we settled down to a family celebration which brought back memories of times past when we were all much younger!

Suffice it to say that we had a great time. Rosie made us very welcome in Newquay and despite the poor weather, we enjoyed an extremely high quality of cuisine, loads of laughs and general good cheer.

We then moved on to London where we were based with Jane in Wandworth. She spoiled us with her usual wonderful hospitality, introduced us to her relatively new grand-daughter, Lila and laid on a party for New Year to which just about everyone we knew in south London came.

We caught up with James and Claire for a meal in Battersea and spent a couple of nights with Vince and Rosy in north London

and still had time for a meal with Mark and Sarah on our last evening. Thanks to everyone for making our short stay so memorable.

Much of January after we returned from the UK was dominated by poor health. I picked up a cold and cough in the UK which eventually turned into bronchitis. Sheila caught the local variety and for a while the pair of us just hunkered down trying to keep warm and get well. The weather in January did not help – damp, windy and cold. On occasions it was worse here than in the UK but thankfully, February has generally been better. We are now both back to normal health- wise. Sheila has been swimming (I haven’t yet) and the bikes have been back in use. Sheila has also been walking and made it to the beach at Αγριόμαντρα and back last week.

The better weather meant that we could have a jaunt or two. Last week we had a trip to the out of season flesh-pot of Malia and found a rather pleasant beach and harbour and away from the hotels and night clubs, an attractive ‘old village’ area. A late lunch/early supper at Bobo’s in Pachia Ammos finished off a fine day out!

One of the advantages of staying indoors, during January was that I had time to make a film! Our friend Rich from the south coast had lent me some software which digitalises ‘old’ analogue video tape. It also allows you to edit and then produce a film. I was surprised to find that I had a recording of the whole game of Rosie’s girls’ football team winning the Under 15’s Aberdeenshire League Cup in 2001. So, Speilberg I may not be but there is now in circulation (to a small but select audience admittedly), a film of the auspicious occasion! Video quality – usual standard – poor and editing similar but fun to do all the same!

I am also in the process of expanding my flower garden. I have already cleared a small area and planted a few new plants but have designs on a much larger area nearer the house.

Our neighbour’s son Γιάννης, has been busy for weeks making a new door to his αποθήκη (shed) next door to our house, as a result of which he has cleared the outside area as well, so once the now dangerously leaning cypress tree has been taken down, I can plant the area with more flowers.

The winter evenings, whilst not so long as in the UK, still require some activity. We have watched a number of recorded TV shows, ‘New Tricks’, ‘Sherlock Holmes’ and have just about got to the end of nine series of ‘Are you being served’, courtesy of YouTube, which neither of us had watched before – brilliant British humour and we laugh our socks off! Νot sure what we are going to do, once we finish! We have also watched a number of films since we returned from the UK. Most of these have been on TV but the cinema in Ierapetra showed ‘Darkest Hour’, which we both enjoyed. We had watched ‘Dunkirk’ the week previous, so it was an interesting comparison.

The local Expat Organisation now facilitates tickets at the cinema in Ag Nik for both Ballet and Opera, streamed from top locations around the world. We went a number of times before Christmas and recently saw a performance of ‘Tosca’ from the Met in New York, which was absolutely brilliant.

Those who know me, may be surprised to read this but it really was one of the best such events I have ever attended! Coming up are ‘L ‘elisir d’amore’ and ‘La Boheme’ in the next few weeks, so lots to look forward to!

In addition, I was given ‘The Mexican Train’ as a present at Christmas by Sheila. It is basically a game of Dominoes with a twist and played with a lot more tiles (of higher values and colours). We had played it here in Crete with quite a large number of people and were not sure about just two! But it works and is fun.

A few weeks back, we played ‘Scrabble’ in Greek at our Greek class and decided to buy a set.

So, we have had a couple of games on our own. It is basically the same rules and board as the English version but with Greek letters. However, the nature of the play is quite different because Greek nouns and adjectives decline and verbs conjugate more than in English so there is a much larger number of potential ways of using what is basically the same word. Sheila even got a seven letter word the first time we played at home (but still lost!).

And finally we, or mainly I, have had a few frustrations with bureaucracy in various countries over the past few months/weeks. As many of you will know, we still have a small flat in Kirkcudbright, in south-west Scotland, where we used to live before we moved to Crete. We have been trying to sell it for the best part of year and there have been no tenants there for nearly a year, Scottish Power have been particularly poor in transferring responsibility for both the gas and electricity supply from the tenant to me. Their customer service (the clue is not in the name) is frankly appalling and they seem incapable of accepting that there is no one living there (and so no electricity or gas is being used) and continuing to send ridiculous bills. Eventually, I lost patience and put the matter in the hands of the Ombudsman.

The Canadians are no better. Sheila and I are planning a trip to visit friends and family later in the year. In case you didn’t know, you now need a visa for Canada and the application form states categorically that you cannot use the visa application process if you have (or might have) a right to permanent residency. Back in the early 1970’s I was a ‘landed immigrant’ but have no idea whether or not I still have any rights to live there. I rather doubt it but following the instructions, i decided to renounce any rights that I might still have. After 48 years, I have no documentation relating to this period of my life and told them so BUT it now seems that unless I can come up with something, then there may be a problem!

This last two weeks, I have been trying to change my UK driving licence to a Greek one. According to the internet, the process should be seamless. Not true! However, after spending two more hours at various offices and the bank this morning, we may be approaching a successful outcome. Watch this space!

I mention all this because sometimes here in Crete we are astounded at the incredible nature of the State bureaucracy but on reflection I think it is probably much the same wherever. And here at least, we benefit from the generosity, both in spirit and in kind, of ordinary people who have to cope with these frustrations ever day and still go out of their way to help these two crazy ξένοι (foreigners) who gabble away at them in terrible Greek.

Τι να κάνουμε;’ (What can we do?).

John

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

November started well with a late birthday present for myself from Graham arriving by courier to the house. it was a good choice – a very, very tasty bottle of gin and I have sampled it on a number of occasions now!

But of course, the highlight of November is John’s birthday. This year we went for a few days to a small village called Lendas on the south coast, not so far from Matala and about 2 or 3 hours from here. On one side of it, there is ‘the lion of Lendas’ and on the other some nice beaches.

It was not so easy to find somewhere to stay at this time of year but our friends, Brigitte and Walter, suggested the Villa Nostalgia, and it proved to be ideal.  The road down to the village was twisty and there was an inconsistent surface to it. This meant that the driver needed constant vigilance to avoid the potholes.  We were delighted that we did not have to go back up the road until our holiday was finished because for three says the sun shone from morning till night.  Being sun lovers, we found the empty beaches, sunbathed and swam,

went for a walk

and admired the odd cat on the beach.

Very peaceful.  We celebrated John’s birthday drinking prosecco and eating cake on our lovely balcony overlooking the sea.

Lendas is primarily a tourist village but not at this time of year.

We  were possibly the only tourists in the village, thus not being able to sample any of the above!  It was a particularly interesting experience eating in the village. We found one taverna that was open

and after discovering that the menu advertised was not available, we ate what was suggested which was pork chops on the first night. From then on, each night we ordered something for the next night. The food was simple but it was freshly cooked, we had the taverna mainly to ourselves and we got to watch Greek TV news and a game show as we ate. And we chatted to our personal cook, Evangelia. There was no nightlife so we admired the sunset

and focused on trying to improve our backgammon!  I have been reading that there are moves to develop winter tourism in Crete but I am not sure that Lendas will be a priority and selfishly for us that is just fine!

The local ex-pat organisation, INCO, has been pretty active recently and we have enjoyed a couple of events related to the Minoans. One was a visit to the Kefali Minoan site, near Sisi, which is not open to the public. The site is right beside the sea and you can see from its location why it emerged as a trading and administrative centre .  The archaeologist, Gavin McGuire, is an excellent communicator and an enthusiast too, about this particular site, which has proved to be a lot bigger and more important than previously thought.

It has not yet been given official ‘palace’ status but he told us that is, what it is. He told us what they found in specific rooms (such as loom weights) and that the range of activities, supported the view that there was an artisan infrastructure underpinning a large and important settlement. He also explained that people lived and worked in the same building.

We visited the cemetery and learned something about the Minoan people. For example, he told us that women generally lived only till they were in their early 20’s and had babies much earlier than us. He gave us a vivid description of what it must been like for the people, who lived here after the volcano in Santorini erupted in 1450 BC.  What a scary and miserable experience!  After the tsunami resulting from the eruption, people experienced 20 or 30 years of darkness where nothing grew and there was evidence of cannibalism. He also argued that evidence is emerging that the Minoan civilization was not quite the peace loving, matriarchal society that has been previously presented. We heared a little about the techniques the archaeologists use now, to learn and speculate more about the Minoans. It seems that there are artifacts from the site being DNA tested in many centres in the world. As you can tell, all of this was fascinating to me.

The following week, we found out a bit what the Minoans ate. The event was held at Agios Nikolaos marina,

a perfect setting to drink wine and eat tasty food at lunchtime, chat to friends and hear a talk on Minoan food in warm, sunny weather. Again, Gavin McGuire was there, helping with the cooking as well as answering a range of questions.

Jerolyn Morrison, from ‘Minoan Tastes’,  told us that the ingredients of the food that we were about to eat such as pork, goat, lentils, apricots, figs etc had all been found in Minoan sites.   The actual recipes, which used these ingredients, were though the product of more modern thinking!

The food was very delicious.

John and I have attended a couple of operas at the cinema, live from The Metropolitan Opera in New York. The first was The Magic Flute and the second was a new opera called ‘The Exterminating Angel’ by Thomas Ades. The latter is based on the film of Luis Bunuel. I enjoyed both but the latter was the more interesting and thought provoking. The singing was unbelievable and the sounds are designed to emphasize the surreal and frightening situation in which the group of people find themselves.  We also went to see the new film, ‘Nikos Kazantzakis’ at the cinema in Ierapetra which has just been released.

There were no English subtitles and we do look forward to seeing it again when it does come out with them on DVD! There was too much talking and too little action for us to make too much sense of it but it did trigger some discussion between us and John is now reading Kazantzakis’s book written near the end of his life ‘Report to Greco’, on which the film is loosely based.

Over the last few months, our neighbour, Ευτυχία, (which means happiness) has been ill and her daughter from Athens has been staying with her. She has been in hospital and I have hardly seen her. I am used to climbing up on the roof, to put out my washing and seeing her sitting outside her house. We wave to each other and sometimes I go round and enjoy her lovely smile and our limited but friendly conversation. Anyway, the good news is that her daughter is back in Athens and she is back to sitting outside again and she looks very well. Her son and daughter in law, who live near by, are back in charge of the support network that families provide here.

My friend, Margarita, invited me to spend an afternoon at her house and a visit to the greenhouses in Stomio, where she and her husband, Nikos, grow tomatoes as a business. Whilst in the past, she had described to me some of the financial difficulties of running such a business, it was not till I saw the lines and lines of perfect plants,

that I appreciated the scale of the enterprise, the work involved and the decisions you have to make to produce and to sell such wonderful tomatoes. I was given a box of them to take home and John and I have been  savouring their taste and texture. Margarita also gave me a late birthday present, which was a complete surprise.

It is a picture of poppies and the colours are sensational. We used to go walk together and I told her that I just loved poppies because of their vibrant colour and delicate petals. She remembered this, painted the picture and it is now on our dining room wall. Because she is so busy with producing tomatoes she doesn’t have time for walking any more but does have a little time for painting!

it is very quiet in Kavousi and it is a time for sitting in front of the fire in the evening. The weather has been warm during the day but the evenings are cool. John has organised plenty of wood

so we are very snug.  It has been tempting to stay inside and settle down to a series or two on DVD and even old comedy favourites such as ‘the Good Life’ and even one that I never saw in the 1970’s, ‘Are you being served?’. But on Tuesday we did go to Bobo’s taverna and enjoyed a lovely evening of friendly chat and nice food and came away with a bottle of new olive oil. We also made our way to Makrigialos, where our friends Shona and Rich live. First, we sat out on the balcony of their house in the sunshine and drank fizzy wine, then we ate a wonderful meal of moussaka and tiramisu. Rich is a great games fan and picks up games from many sources and in this case, it was Marks and Spencers! One person had a card with the name of a person, place or object and read out a clue. If you guessed the name, you got 10 points, if you didn’t, you were given another clue and so it goes on. I didn’t so so well but Rich loves prizes and so we all got a prize. And then the finale was the switching on of outdoor Christmas lights round the balcony. It was all just perfect!!!

For those of you who have stayed in our guest accommodation, you will, I think, approve of our latest building works here. The bathroom was certainly in need of some improvements, particularly the lighting. Normally there would be no such building work done at this time of year because the main activity is picking olives. But this year, the olives locally were damaged earlier in the year by the weather or a bug and so Alkis was very happy to tile, paint and install the new bathroom. It started like this

And now it looks like this.

Whilst he was here, John asked him to paint the ceiling of our living room and dining room, in order to make them lighter.

And what a difference, this has made.

Because of the bathroom work, the very nice weather and my preference to be out walking looking at the lovely countryside locally,

we have no decorations or cards in view yet. Hopefully this will be done this weekend. On Thursday we fly to Newquay (Aegean airways and Flybe) for Christmas with Rosie and Graham and I am so looking forward to seeing them and enjoying a bit of fun. And then on to London to welcome in 2018 with our friends, Jane, Sarah and Mark. Might be a bit cold but definitely worth it.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everybody who reads this and we will be back in 2018.

Sheila

A dander in the Dodecanese

Firstly, many apologies for a lack of Posts since August. This has resulted from a combination of laziness, visitors and an unscheduled trip to Scotland. Anyway, here we are at last but in view of the time period to be covered, this Post will mainly consist of photographs, together with some explanatory commentary.

Bruce and Cathy arrived from Canada at the end of August and spent five days with us here in Kavousi before all four of us went to Rhodes for the best part of a week.

We started off our stay in Lindos where we split the time between sunbathing/swimming and sight-seeing.

And we ate well!

Then we moved on to Rhodes Town where we adopted the same combination. The Old Town is very impressive but it was all a bit of a shock after a summer in quiet little Kavousi!

When Bruce and Cathy left for home, Sheila and I started our ‘island hopping’ extravaganza!

Our first stop was Symi, where we stayed at the little village of Pedi.

Symi is an attractive island with imposing architecture reflecting the Italian occupation.

We didn’t do a lot – water taxis to nearby beaches and a fine walk to the top of the old town.

Next up was Nisyros which involved two ferries. The main attraction is the volcano which is hugely impressive and still steams!

And requires a degree of scrambling skills!

Again, we combined sunbathing/swimming with sight-seeing. The beaches are black and the sea quite dark but cooling all the same.

Mandraki, the main town is an interesting place with a fine castle and an attractive setting.

Then it was on to Lipsi – again by two ferries and and including a bus ride. Lipsi was my favourite island because it remains relatively unspoilt by tourism and we found many fewer people speaking English, which of course was good for our Greek.

We hired a car one day and bicycles another. The beaches were virtually deserted and the sea was beautifully clear.

Our final stay was in Leros, the scene of a relatively large battle in WW2, which as we discovered led to the death of the father of the future ‘Cream’ drummer Ginger Baker.

That apart, it is an interesting if not spectacular island. The beaches are OK but its main claim to fame, for me at least was its stunning castle, with perhaps the best situation anywhere.

The food was brilliant too!

It was a great trip. We saw so much but still had time to relax on the a variety of beaches. Now we have the bug, we want to see more and check out the islands that we missed in the Dodecanese this time round, of which there were quite a few!

After three weeks away, we returned home by air from Kos and brother Tim and wife, Liz arrived shortly thereafter. They had never been to Crete before, so we had plenty to show them, interesting walks and a number of food experiences to savour.

While they were here. it was Sheila’s 65th birthday and we had a lunch time party in the plateia to celebrate, having invited all our friends in Crete. There were a few absentees regrettably  but it was still an impressive turnout. Many thanks to Katerina for preparing the food.

Liz T (cousin) was our next visitor. Liz has been many times before so we re-visited old haunts like Bobo’s taverna but also took in new experiences like cocktails at Mochlos and lunch with our German friends on our terrace.

And I’ll leave you with Sheila and Maria (our neighbour) and her present for Sheila’s birthday -perhaps the most important of all!

John

Summer in Kavousi

By the time we got back from the UK it was the middle of July and time for the next influx of summer visitors.

First up was daughter Rosie who came for a week as she put it, simply ‘to chill’! And what better place than Kavousi to do just that. She cycled, swam, walked, talked and ate her way through seven days of fun, the only blip being when she dropped her new phone in a bowl of water! That apart, we had a great time.

She walked with Sheila in the hills

and to the ‘secret’ beach at Agriomandra and they were supposed to meet me at Tholos for lunch but got lost, so never arrived!

We went to the outdoor cinema in Ag Nik and she and Sheila topped off her stay with a final day shopping trip in Heraklion, before she got the flight back to Gatwick en route for Cornwall.

Next up were son Graham and the day after, son James and partner Claire. James and Claire had arrived a few days earlier and spent  some time on the south coast at a favourite haunt. Graham arrived direct from London and took up residence in Stan & Jann’s house round the corner (they being home in Cambridge).

It was really enjoyable having all these young folk around for a week. Graham cooked sea bass and kalamari, which were amazing with prep help from Claire who rather foolishly offered her assistance and was taken up on it!

No one wanted to do anything much

although they did all go off to the Water Park for a day

and Sheila and Graham managed three games of tennis.

We had Claire and Graham’s birthdays to celebrate and we had a memorable last night in Mochlos drinking cocktails at sunset (see cover photo).

The house seemed very empty after they all went back to the UK.

One sad event happened during the summer while we were in the UK in July and that was the death of one of our dear neighbours here – ‘old’ Γιάννη as we called him, who lived down the lane from us.

He has been very kind to us ever since we arrived. A quiet reserved man, he invited us to our first καζάνι, which is a party in November/December when raki is made and provided us with the most delicious new potatoes cooked with rosemary.

He died when we were in the UK so we could not go to his funeral but one of the customs relating to death here in Greece, is a church service or μνημόσυνο, which takes place after forty days, to celebrate the fact that the soul has left this world for the hereafter. Although the service meant little to us, it was not a particularly sad occasion and it felt good to pay our respects  to someone we counted as a friend, especially as the church formed such an important part of his life.

In contrast, one of our favourite Greek singers, Γιάννης Χαρούλης had a concert in Sitia just after everyone had left, which gave us the opportunity to  cheer ourselves up.

Χαρούλης was in good form and we bumped into our Greek teacher, Μανώλης there.

The only blot on the evening was that I was feeling unwell with the beginnings of a summer cold, which over the next ten days turned into something worse leading to three visits to the doctor, two separate X-rays and a diagnosis at one point of bronchitis! I am more or less over it now but for a while I was pretty unhappy!

Our garden has been one of the joys of the summer.

My flower garden and banana plantation have been the subject of earlier reporting but in addition nearly all of the plants have flourished in the hot summer weather.

In particular, the bougainvillea have been wonderful and at last the climbing one has reached the top of the κρεββατίνα (pergola), so hopefully next year we will have pink flowers among the grape leaves providing shelter from the sun above the terrace!

Unfortunately, the grapes, although abundant were attacked by blight which seems to have attacked most of the crop in our part of Crete. So while we have plenty and they taste all right, they do not look very attractive!

 

 

We have also been visited by some interesting looking beasties.

There have been a couple of noteworthy home improvements carried out over the summer. When we got back from the UK in early July, we got Alkis round to install a new solar water heating panel and tank. This turned out to be very straightforward or perhaps Alkis and his colleague are particularly skilled at it. Anyway, it didn’t take long and now we have plenty of hot water again!

Further, I managed to fix up the ‘Chinese’ lantern we brought back from Vietnam last year. It now throws out a rather lurid red light in the evenings when we sit round the table on the terrace – not perhaps Kavousi’s red light district but there again?

There were also a number of memorable events, which happened in and around Kavousi during the summer. Our friends Chris and Pauline organised a boat trip and party to celebrate twenty years since they left Holland eventually to end up in Kavousi.

There was a wonderful summer full moon which led to the telescope being given an outing.

A new documentary about the ancient olive tree received its ‘World Premier’ here in the village. Unfortunately we didn’t know which church it was happening at, so missed it! Finally, a few days ago there was a βραδιά προσφοράς (Bid evening) held in the grounds of the main church here in Kavousi (there are fifteen others). This was a fine evening with music, dancing and very good food and drink and we think donations were expected for a church restoration project.

However, no one asked us for money and there was no obvious place to leave it. No doubt everything will become clear in the fullness of time! Our young and apparently popular Papas, did a good turn on the dance floor as well!

What with visitors, illness, very hot weather and strong winds, I am afraid  that cycling down to the beach and through the olive groves has not happened to the same extent as usual, this summer. I had thought that this would be remedied now that I am feeling better from my summer cold and wasp stings but yesterday, I discovered that a critical part of my electric bike has sustained some damage. So until I get the part from the UK, there will be an enforced interlude until later in September when we get back from our holiday in the Dodecanese, which no doubt will form the subject of the next post!

However, our dear old Citroen did get a much needed clean, inside and out at the πλυντήριο των αυτοκινήτων (car wash) in ierapetra! What a transformation!

John

Holiday season in Kavousi

Our friends from the UK generally like to visit us in May and June (April too, but this year John and I were in the UK!) as the weather is warm but not too hot, the sea is warming up and there is some green in the landscape.

Our friends came but unfortunately the weather did not quite live up to expectations. I have heard taverna owners calling it this year, ‘παραξενο’ (strange) and that is what it has been. Each of the different sets of people who came, experienced 2 or 3 days of cloud and coolness, as well as occasional rain. Nobody seemed to worry about this but I felt I had raised expectations of what people might expect, particularly in June and felt a little responsible. More to the point, occasionally there appeared to be warmer, more settled weather in the UK which is completely unacceptable!!!!  Adaptations had to be made to holiday programmes, including sitting inside taverna’s in the evening because it was too chilly outside.

My good friend, Liz is the same age and has the same birthday as me and this and the fact that we like each other has always made her pretty special to me. We went to the same school and the same university, Aberdeen, and we shared a flat together in 1974.  My first trip abroad was with her and some other friends on a skiing holiday in the Alps in 1973 and she included me in a trip to Alaska some years later. We don’t don’t see so much of each other these days for obvious reasons (she lives near Kendal and I live in Kavousi) but I was delighted that she had booked a week here at the beginning of May. We spent much of her week chatting (John was left to his own devices) and we took the opportunity to explore Gournia,

Spinalonga,

the old olive tree

and Mochlos

and other great views

while catching up on news and gossip. After Liz retired, she embarked on a  project to extend her house and garden and is very happy with the result. I felt much more in touch with her life again and one day will enjoy a trip to the Lake District.

Liz left and I had an unexpected, unscheduled treat after an email from a friend in London who told me he was coming for a week’s all inclusive holiday to Elounda. One Sunday, I drove there, picked up Ro and brought him back to our house

and afterwards we ate at Bobo’s, where he experienced simple food, cheap wine, a lot of laughs and a beautiful view of the sea. I worked with Ron’s wife, Brenda, in my first job in London at the Bexley Council of Voluntary Service. She died a few years ago and I am very fortunate to keep in touch with her family. I was very sad to hear from Ron that there was nothing much left of the Council of Voluntary Service as funding had been withdrawn in the last couple of years. It seemed unbelievable that an organisation, which was about supporting volunteers to carry out important roles in the community, had virtually gone. Is this progress? I don’t think so!

A day or two later, Jane, from London arrived with her present of Yiannis Varoufakis’s new book ‘Adults in the room’.  John has since read it and will no doubt comment on it at some stage. Jane comes here regularly and this year brought with her two friends, Judith and John. We have only one spare bedroom so we had arranged with our friends, Pauline and Chris, that they could stay in two of their renovated buildings – one a studio, the other a two room apartment at a very reasonable price. They are situated on the west side of the village (our house being on the east). Pauline and Chris were in Holland and so John and I introduced them to their accommodation and afterwards they met the neighbours. All went well.

The first morning I walked with them to the ancient olive tree. It was a perfect start to the holiday because after admiring the tree, we went to the taverna beside it. There we had an early drink and met Vasili, the owner

and his wife, who showed Jane and Judith how to make stuffed dolmathes.   Jane hired a car and for a couple of days she took John and Judith to various places she had either been before or wanted to see, while John and I stayed at home!  Added to that,  Jane found a new excursion that we didn’t know about, which was a trip to Spinalonga on a boat from Agios Nikolaus, organised by Nostos Cruises.

It was a beautiful afternoon and we sailed past some of the expensive Elounda hotels and then we were shown where the sunken city of Olous was, (not that we could see it!). I had a swim at Kolokitha (Pumpkin) Bay

and after that we went onto Spinalonga. Included in the deal was a very interesting Spinalonga tour guide and we returned by the cave of the pirate, Barba-Rossa and Kri-kri island where apparently we might have seen some Minoan goats. This was all for 16 euros and very good value. On the last day we walked up the  gorge beside Kavousi

which was a very nice end to the trip.

Later in June, John and I went back to Spinalonga Island to watch a concert, by the Young Peoples Symphonic Orchestra of Crete, marking the 60th anniversary of the closure of the leprosy colony. It was held in the evening and attended mainly by Greeks of all ages, not the usual tourists that come to see Spinalonga. It was a very moving occasion, first with small groups of the orchestra playing in different parts of the island

and then they all came together

to play small, classical pieces from Bach, Elgar, Grieg etc.

Robert and Sally came next. Sally is from Linlithgow and we have many shared memories of our childhood, particularly in relation to guiding. Sally became the Chief Guide for Scotland and it was good to have time to talk about her experiences of that important position as well as discussing a whole range of other issues. I am not quite sure what the topic was here but it looks pretty light hearted!

She and Robert had the pleasure of being around here on the morning of the UK General Election results, when there was little chance of any sensible breakfast or plan for the day, as it emerged that Jeremy Corbyn was perhaps electable after all!!!

They coped admirably with the excitement and we did manage a trip to the east of the island later

on their holiday and and eat one of John’s excellent dishes of pork chops in the oven.

And finally Sarah and Mark arrived after a bad start, when they missed their plane, due to a series of unfortunate events. However they arrived only a few hours later and they were happy with a few days of relaxation,

including swimming at Tholos beach when I became a big kid on a lilo

a beer at the new taverna at Tholos

and a morning at Psarapoulis beach which is conveniently situated next to the venue of our Greek class in Koutsonari.

We attended Greek classes until the end of June by which time, we definitely felt we had improved during the year but were in need of a holiday!! John was assisted by Mark in putting some anti-pigeon netting in place, as his height is very useful for such jobs!

The grapes were beautiful then (although not now!)

John’s garden too looked beautiful in June

as did the geraniums

and the bougainvillea with the butterfly.

And in between our guests, John and I went on a short holiday of our own to the Εleonas Hotel in Zaros, south of Heraklion, with our friends Brigitte and Walter. it was the only weekend that we could go with them before they went back to Germany and it happened that Hanneke and Hans were also there. Unfortunately the weather was bad with some thunderstorms and torrential rain and for much of the time, it was chilly and grey. But we found a nice taverna in Zaros which had lovely mezethes

while we looked at the cloudy sky!

However, luck was on our side as Brigitte and I walked up the  Rouvas  Gorge, in 3 hours

and managed to avoid serious rain, although Brigitte and I were forced into rainwear at one stage!

John and Walter picked us up at the top and we then enjoyed a jeep ride in some spectacular countryside. We visited the Vrontisi monastery in the torrential rain but were rewarded with a raki by a monk as we hid in the shelter. The Eleonas is a lovely hotel with individual bungalows

in a wonderful setting but the weather was not on our side.

And to end with a couple of local events that were very nice to attend. Our Greek tutor invited us to a basketball final, in which he was playing. Neither John nor I know much about basketball but it is very popular here.

The wrong team won but we enjoyed it very much.

Finally, my friend Margarita was dancing in an event ‘Patchwork Dance’ organised by the Milan School of Dance in Ierapetra. There were many people there to watch adults and children participate in ballet and modern dance sequences. It was a treat to watch and in particular, Margarita and her small group were fantastic but unfortunately the pictures are on my camera which is currently being repaired!

Sheila

 

Can you imagine?

For a variety of reasons, we have found ourselves in recent weeks thinking more about the Minoans. Some might say these mysterious folk who created such a rich and influential civilisation here in Crete over four thousand years ago, are a regular feature in our Blogs. This is true simply because for all sorts of reasons, many of our visitors want to see the sites, famous and otherwise and then often go on to visit the archaeological museum in Heraklion and of course we take the obligatory photos and then dutifully write up the details of their stays, each time we compose the next Post.

However, on this occasion there are other reasons for considering the achievements of the Minoans. One night last week, we were walking back from the taverna after an evening with Chris and Pauline and fuelled no doubt by a small (?) quantity of excellent wine made personally by Yiorgos, we were looking at the stars. It was a cloudless night and as anyone who has been here will know, the sky was simply filled with twinkling stars of all sizes, together with bright planets, none of which we knew the names of.

We climbed onto the roof and marvelled at the cosmos and were reminded both of a failure to spend time using the telescope and of a fundamental lack of knowledge of what was laid out above us. The Minoans and indeed our own Bronze Age ancestors in the UK were not so ignorant as we now know.

On Monday evening we attended a public lecture entitled ‘The Minoans in Time and Space’ in the Conference Centre attached to the Bishop’s Palace in Ierapetra, which formed part of an international conference of astrophyicists who for reasons best known to themselves had chosen our corner of Crete to consider ‘Polarised Emission from Astrophysical Jet’. As light relief presumably, Dr Alex MacGillivray, an archaeologist from the British School in Athens, had been asked to enlighten the attendees on Minoan astral navigation.

Interestingly, we have recently both read a book by Alan Butler which in part deals with similar issues. Butler is an engineer and mathematician who has an interest in both astronomy and archaeology and brings an approach to these subjects which is based on his specialisms. As a result, it seems that he is not popular with mainstream archaeologists but his theories are nevertheless quite interesting to the layman and struck something of a chord with what we were told at the lecture.

Dr MacGillivray’s thesis was that the Minoans who of course were great traders and therefore needed to be good at getting from A to B, based their navigation on the stars which they saw above them in the generally clear Mediterranean skies. Indeed, he believes that they adopted Egyptian methodology in this respect and spent much of his lecture taking us through the thirty-six stars (the decans) on which their calendar system was based. Initially the decans were stars that could be observed to rise at 10-day intervals. The Egyptian calendar had 360 days marked by decan stars rising at 10-day intervals, plus five inter-calculated days. It was an easy step to use the decans for navigational purposes as they moved, one by one, across the heavens.

As you can imagine, much of this was way above our heads (so to speak) but we got the gist and what was really amazing about it was when towards the end he showed an overhead of a diagram of the relevant stars as they appear in the sky for a latitude of between 40 and 50 degrees N. This is it.

Not hugely interesting you might think. However, then up came a copy of the bull-leaping fresco from Knossos. Notice any similarities?

Illustration of Bull-leaping Fresco from the Great Palace at Knossos, Crete

it is hard not to agree with him that the Minoans used the star diagram as the basis for the mural – a rather neat conjunction of art and cosmology!

However, Alan Butler believes that the Minoans adopted a somewhat different approach to navigation based on a calendar of 366 days which was common across much of Bronze Age Europe. He bases his argument on his analysis of the so-called Phaistos Disc.

Whether in the round, it makes much difference whether the Minoans used a calendar of 360 or 366 days, we are of course not in a position to judge but what is clear is that navigation was done by the stars and  for whatever reason, the ancients used the same or similar stars to determine where they were. Further, amazing though it may seem, the ancients whether in Crete, Egypt or Bronze Age Britain not only knew that the Earth was round but had worked out its circumference and as a result were able to divide the distance into manageable units.

In Bronze Age Britain, these units were used to measure out the plans for building stone circles like Stonehenge and all such circles have the same basic measurements. Whilst the ‘megalithic yard’ is different to the Minoan foot, this is only because the Minoans chose a different way to divide the circumference of the Earth, according to Butler.

So, now it’s time to have a good look at some of these stars.

John