Category Archives: Crete

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

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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

Catching up.

Impossible though it seems, we have now been back from our Easter trip to the UK for over two weeks. Good intentions of writing up our visits to Scotland and Cornwall have been lost somewhere along the line, so what follows is a very brief attempt at a catch up and to thank all those who were so kind to us while we were away.

The visit started with a degree of stress because the installation of the new kitchen went to the wire with Manolis, Adonis, Alkis and Michalis all working here during the evening before our departure to get it finished. It meant that we spent the morning of the day we left hurriedly unpacking various boxes of kitchen utensils and shoving the contents into any available space, which included the oven! The result was that when we arrived back here, there was a job to be done before we could get round to actually using any of the new appliances! However, two weeks in and we have just about found where everything is and it is all brilliant and we are very pleased. It is however, just a kitchen so no need to get too excited when there is so much else going on in the world!

We arrived in Edinburgh very early at the beginning of April and took a taxi to Dalgety Bay in Fife where we stayed a few days with Sheila’s brother, catching up with Sheila’s extended family and approving of the progress made by the four great-nephews.

It also gave us a chance to recover from all the kitchen excitement and to note progress on the new Forth Bridge.

Then we moved on to Edinburgh where we stayed with Fiona in Juniper Green and later, Sally and Robert in Currie. It was great to catch up with their news and enjoy their company.

Then we hired a car and went to Kirkcudbright where we used to live, having taken in a visit to some elderly friends of Sheila’s Mum, who live in Glasgow. It has to be said the Kirkcudbright was not looking at its best – the weather having taken a turn for the worse but we enjoyed re-visiting the town and staying with Alasdair and Yvonne, Christine and Mike and Bev and David. Again, it was good to catch up and relax with kind friends. Probably the highlight for Sheila was visiting the tennis club and seeing a number of her old colleagues who made her very welcome and she was particularly pleased at how well the Club is now doing – a fitting tribute to her past endeavours.

We visited our flat (which is now on the market) and did a little cleaning in the hope of stimulating a sale – so far to no avail! We even found time to frequent a few old haunts.

Then we flew to Cornwall where we stayed with Rose in our flat in Newquay and were blessed with some stunning Spring weather for the ten days we were there.

Sheila found time to do a little painting while I did a few odd jobs around the place. Rosie showed us the garden at the hotel where she now works full-time and treated us to a meal in the restaurant there.

It clearly is a good idea to be friends with the chef because we were given at least two extra courses and everyone was so kind and friendly because we were Rosie’s Mum and Dad, so clearly she is both popular and valued!

It was fun spending some time with her and we really enjoyed our stay.

She also took us to see Caerhays Castle grounds, which as stunning, both as regards the floral display but also the setting. Sheila even managed a paddle!

While we were in Cornwall we visited Graham Hilder, late of Mochlos in Crete and one of Sheila’s tennis pals here. He provided a packed programme for us, including a visit to St Ives and a stage to screen performance of ‘Copelia’ from the Sydney Opera House.

I also met up with my old school friend, Terry Larcombe who I had not seen for the best part of fifty years. It was great to see Joe (for such I have always known him), after all the years and to catch up on our lives and I look forward to seeing him again soon.

Then it was time to return to Crete where we found the house in good order and the flowers well-looked after by Maria, in our absence. Since returning, we have had Phil from Bracknell and Liz from the Lake District to stay and Jane from London has just arrived for a week’s walking with friends.

Judging by recent weather (it was 37.7 C the other day in the shade), they may be simply walking into the sea to cool off rather than walking in the hills but we shall see!

Since we have been back, we have also found time to see a tax accountant with a view to considering re-locating to Crete on a more permanent basis. There are some difficult decisions to be made in this respect – none more so than affordable health care but since our recent trip to the UK, we are increasingly of the view that this is something we need to consider seriously.

This is partly a result of the Brexit vote last year but also because each time we visit the UK, we find life in Britain is more and more depressing. Probably the film, ‘I, Daniel Blake’ sums up what I mean. While there are of course many and notable exceptions, the generality is that many people don’t seem to care for anyone beyond their immediate family. There seems to be a lack of generosity of spirit, little value put on teachers and health workers and a growing dislike of foreigners.

As I write this, the opinion polls are still pointing to a Tory win at the General Election, a result which I find personally disturbing because it is my generation which seems prepared to vote back a Party bank-rolled by hedge funds and banks, and which cares so little for all that I value in Britain.

The main reason however is more positive. We like living in Greece. We like the people and we approve of the way they value family and community. We feel happy here and whilst there are of course problems, we feel we can deal with them.

We are not sure we want to live in the kind of society on offer from Mrs May – hence the need to look at an alternative which suits us better, at least for as long as the Greeks will allow us to stay. More to follow on this, no doubt!

John

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!

Reflections from Hamburg, Peace and the Portals of Prina

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In her last post, Sheila touched on the destruction of Hamburg during WW2.

During the last week of July 1943, the city was largely destroyed as a result of night raids by the RAF and daytime raids by the USAAF. ‘Operation Gomorrah’ as it was codenamed, claimed the lives of over 42,000 people, many of them killed on the night of July 27 when more than 700 RAF bombers took to the skies and as a result of concentrated bombing inadvertently created a firestorm over the city.

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Wikipedia has a detailed description of exactly what happened if anyone wants the full story.

I mention it because for the two days we were in Hamburg on our recent visit to northern Germany, it was difficult to avoid being reminded of what happened to Germany’s second city. As someone who is interested in history, I wanted to find out more about why this happened and whether it did anything to shorten the war.

The stated reason given at the time by the British authorities was retaliation for the Blitz and the bombing of Coventry but it seems clear that the switch from bombing industrial targets in the Ruhr was actually a change of policy – literally an attempt to shorten the war by breaking the spirit of the civilian population. There is some evidence that had it continued, it might have been successful but for reasons which are not entirely clear, this did not happen to any significant degree, at least not until February 1945 when Dresden was reduced to ruins and an unknown number of people perished.

Sheila and I spent some time while in Hamburg visiting a memorial in the crypt of the ruined church of St Nicholas. It commemorates not just those who died but also those air crews who took part, many of whom suffered severe psychological problems when the full horror became apparent afterwards. It also deals with other cities which suffered aerial destruction, particularly Warsaw. Interestingly, it does not seek to apportion blame but deals with the issues of aerial warfare and civilian population in a reasoned and open manner. However, underlying everything is a feeling that somehow this was divine retribution for Germany having started the war and for the awful treatment of Jews, gays and other minorities.

I was left feeling uneasy about this and decided to re-read ‘Love in the Ruins’ by Harry Leslie Smith which I had first read a couple of years ago. He tells his own story of life as an RAF wireless operator stationed at Hamburg at the end of 1945 and his love affair with a young German woman who would ultimately become his wife. I thoroughly recommend the book to anyone interested in the subject. It deals with some of the issues raised but in the immediate aftermath of the war, which is probably the best time to consider them. However, it’s also fundamentally a love story and a good read too!

I think it’s easy to moralise at a later date and to reach ‘fireside’ conclusions which are all very well when survival is not at stake but all the same, it is surely worth considering how war is now increasingly waged against civilian populations and how we British, from the time of the Boer War onwards, have had a hand in the development of this unfortunate aspect of modern warfare.

But of perhaps more immediate relevance to our world today, is the fact that the institutions put in place in Europe post WW2 have in the main prevented the scourge of previous generations, ie major European wars and allowed my generation, a virtually unprecedented period of peace. We can only hope that Brexit and the rise of neo-nationalism both in Europe and worldwide, will not endanger this precious legacy.

On a lighter note, we have of course, now returned to Crete after our stay in Germany and the weather since we returned to Kavousi, has been generally warm and sunny, at least by day.

So, the week before last, freed from Greek lessons by the upcoming carnival and greeted by a beautiful spring day, we decided to have a day out and started our tour by visiting Prina, a village in the hills above Istron, which had been recommended by our fellow Cretan blogger, Yvonne Payne.

The village itself is not particularly attractive but has a fine church situated high above,

with a view to die for and an access road, on which you might just do that!

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What struck me most about the village was the wonderful variety of doorways and alleys and being a fan of alliteration, I came up with the last part of my title, which in fact probably sounds better in Greek than in English – οι πόρτες της Πρίνας.

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We had a short stop in Istron for a beer and a pie and then headed for the beach where Sheila had her first swim of 2017. Although it was warm enough to get into my dookers, I decided against a dip having picked up a cold in Athens on the way home from Germany. Nice weather though!

img_20170305_1109361And finally, my flower bed! For quite a while I have been intending to do something about the courtyard/alley in front of our house, here in Kavousi. We don’t own it – no one does apparently but it is a bit of an eyesore. Two of the ‘sheds’ are owned by folk who are no longer with us (according to Maria and Nikos) and although our elderly neighbour, Ευτυχία, occasionally pulls up a few weeds, it is clear to me that she feels that it is really my responsibility! Last year, I did manage to clear an area for my banana plants and this year, when we got back from Hamburg, I set to work on the Bermuda Buttercups, keeping a keen eye out for snakes! I am not a gardener but am pretty pleased with my small flower bed – το μικρό παρτέρι μου – which finally got some bedding plants last week and returning to my main theme, I decided to dedicate it to a peaceful and united Europe.

John