Category Archives: Greek language

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

 

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

 

January blues and Spring hopes

023-02

We’re just back in Crete after a long trip to the UK. We spent Christmas in London with Graham and Emily and her family.

img_20161225_184233Bruce and Cathy were great hosts and organised a splendid celebration. Unfortunately the wine flowed so copiously that photographic evidence is in short supply. Believe me though – we all had a great day.

Many thanks to them for all their hard work and good company and we look forward to seeing them here in September.

Thanks also to Graham and Emily for hosting Christmas Eve celebrations – especially the mulled wine and to James for the loan of his flat.

While in the London area, we visited any number of friends, who spoilt us rotten with both kindness and hospitality. Many thanks to everyone and especially to those who put us up – you are too numerous to mention but it was great seeing you all!

New Year was spent with cousin Liz in Wiltshire who looked after us in fine style despite being under the weather

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and then we moved on to Cornwall to see Rose and the new flat. We were very pleasantly surprised by how relatively spacious it is (although still quite small in truth!), warm and how much Rose had done already to make it comfortable (see cover photo). We helped out a little by doing a few jobs and supplying one or two extras and had a really good stay.

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Now we’re looking forward to going back in the Spring when hopefully the weather will be better and we can get out on the Coastal Trail and see the flowers.

It was an action packed trip and the following photos may give a feeling for some of things we got up to.

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The baby (Lila) is the first grand-daughter of our good friend Jane. She was born a week before Christmas and Chloe and Felipe could hardly have produced a better present for Grandma!

Conversation flowed with friends and family, although two topics tended to dominate – Brexit and Trump! Perhaps fortunately, we can’t do anything about either but we found few folk in the south-east who seemed enthused or excited about either. From a purely personal perspective, it is an anxious time for those of us who spend considerable amounts of time in Europe, where we expected to be able to come and go as we pleased without fear of visa restrictions or red-tape. Having just listened to the PM talking about ‘controlled rights’ for both EU citizens in the UK and vice versa, I feel no less anxious. We can however only sit back and enjoy the next two years and see how the dice fall. No point worrying! 2016 was the year when I was ‘Mr Positive’ after all. You can ask Sheila what I am for 2017!

On a lighter note, we discovered Uber taxis while we were in London. I know that they are not universally popular but as someone who rarely uses taxis whether in London or elsewhere (mainly because of cost), we were delighted to find out how cheap they were. For example, our journey back to James’ flat on Christmas evening cost only £20 for the three or four mile trip (which by the way we had walked in the morning due to the absence of public transport). Apparently Uber makes a loss and the drivers do not get paid a lot BUT in my view the black cabs drivers shouldn’t complain about loss of business because they only have themselves to blame for being so expensive. And Uber is so easy. Free ad over!

img_20170117_165224We returned to Crete to very cold weather. The previous weekend there had been snow in the village which is unusual and there was decidedly more than a nip in the air when we walked to the car at Heraklion Airport. The car started first time however but the house seemed like the inside of a fridge. It took a couple of days with the wood stove running at full tilt and the aircon working in reverse before we warmed up. Oddly, we were never so cold in the UK! However, out came the ‘long johns’ and the fleecy trousers and all was well.

Previous to the snow, they had had driving rain and storms in Crete but the house was dry when we returned so no problems there and the water will be a relief to the farmers, who were getting worried that it might be another winter without rain.

img_20170113_143727That said, now the weather here is better with blue skies and a feel of Spring in the air. My first bike ride revealed the first Spring flowers and a good crop of red peppers

img_20170117_143959and a walk later in the week gave an even better display (see below).

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So, whilst it would be premature to think that Spring is just around the corner (the woodpile is still going down alarmingly quickly – see photo below), there is

some hope that any January blues will soon be dispelled and normal service here can be resumed.

No specific New Year’s resolutions this time around but we both feel the need to get more involved in what is going on here. There are supposed to be a number of refugees being re-settled in Crete so we thought we might try to find out if there are any organisations involved in this work, where we could lend a hand. Feelers are being put out accordingly.

Sheila started back at her regular weekly tennis session over at Mochlos. The new (and very expensive racket) was in action for the first time. She is too modest to admit that there was any huge improvement but seemed quietly pleased with her performance!

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Greek lessons have re-started, although poor Manolis, our teacher, has just checked in sick so no lesson tomorrow. We intend to make a big effort in the next six months to get off the plateau where we both feel anchored at present. We don’t however have any firm plans about how to achieve this, except hard work and trying to use our Greek at every opportunity. It is coming along but so slowly – σιγά, σιγά.

Last night we went to the cinema in ierapetra. The ‘Premier’ has recently been re-opened after renovation and they were showing ‘La La Land’ in English with Greek sub-titles. It was a really good film and the sub-titles were well done too. We know that because we could read them! Now we just need to persuade the operator to have Tuesday lunchtime movies with soup and a roll at half price! I could become a regular.

We came back intent on taking forward plans for a new kitchen but on reflection, financial concerns relating to the fall in the value of the £ against the € have made us have second thoughts. So in a small way Brexit has hit home here already and our British friends are beginning to show some concern. Falling incomes brought about by the falling pound (down by over 20% since last June) with perhaps more to come must be causing anxiety in British ex-pat circles all over the EU. All those Brexiteers might wish to reflect on this before they book their next foreign holiday. It’s going to cost you all a whole lot lot more and you may also have to look after a lot of elderly folk who can’t continue to live abroad!

Finally, it was my name day while we were away, so Maria, our favourite neighbour made me a cake to celebrate and it tasted as fine as it looks!

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John

Seventy plus One

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It would take quite a lot to better the celebrations which accompanied my ‘coming of age’ in November 2015, so it was with a sense of the underwhelming that I approached my birthday last month! However, I was in for a surprise because Sheila surpassed herself with presents and good wishes and parcels flooded in by every means of communication now known to the human race.

The plan was to spend a few days in Heraklion at a smart new hotel but first we had a Greek lesson to negotiate.

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We bought cakes as is customary here in Crete and headed for Koutsounari only to find that Manolis, our teacher had thoughtfully come prepared (oh the wonders of Facebook!) and so a feast was had by all. I even managed to get off lightly during the lesson so it was not quite the trial that lessons tend to be these days, as Manolis puts we ageing heroes though our paces.

img_20161121_162923So come lunchtime, we were free to set off for Heraklion well stuffed with cream cakes and biscuits and clutching a bottle of bubbly, thoughtfully provided by Shona and Rich. The hotel was certainly new and smart but as we were to find out, not without its idiosyncrasies. However, to start with we sat on the balcony in hazy sunshine overlooking a small tree-lined park which in turn was surrounded on three sides by tavernas and restaurants. The champagne was by now well-chilled and life felt good, even at seventy-one. Golly Moses, am I really that age?

One of the great delights for of a ‘city break’ living as we do in a small and very rural village, is the thought that we might be able to go to the cinema! It was therefore a huge surprise to find that ‘I, Daniel Blake’ was showing in Heraklion and moreover that the cinema was literally only the proverbial stone’s throw away from the hotel.

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So, oiled by the bubbly, we put off the slap-up meal to the following night and headed off for a quick burger and chips and thence to the screen on the scene!

img_20161121_174703Now, I will admit that the choice of film was not ideal for a birthday treat but needs must and although an excellent film, it was hardly a bundle of laughs. Ιn fact, we both emerged from the cinema angry with those who have changed the benefit system allowing it to be manipulated in this way and saddened for those who have to depend upon it.

I urge anyone who has not seen it, to make it a priority.

We had two main items on our sight-seeing agenda and the following morning saw us taking in one of them – the Minoan Palace at Knossos – the home of the fabled Minotaur, which is situated just a few kilometres south of Heraklion. We had been before but it was a cold and wet wintry day and our memories are dominated by the weather. November 22nd 2016 was however warm and sunny and full of enthusiasm, we took the advice of friends and lashed out on the services of a guide.

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Now it has to be said that the jury remains out on whether this was entirely, a sound decision! Άρης, for such he was called certainly took us to parts of the palace that we might not otherwise have appreciated the importance thereof and we are now well acquainted with the finer aspects of Minoan air-conditioning, heating and drainage systems.

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However, we did not really get much more information on the basic facts relating to the Minoans that we might otherwise have gleaned from a guidebook and indeed, certain ‘facts’ were of dubious provenance.

img_20161122_125258I should explain that we are well-aware of the tendency of the modern ‘tourist industry; here in Crete to embellish and exaggerate somewhat, our knowledge of the Minoans to the extent that they are credited with being single-handedly responsible for much of subsequent human development. Now it is without doubt true that their’s was a sophisticated civilisation and that they contributed much to the arts and development of science.

However, when the redoubtable Άρης claimed that descendants of the Minoans in Crete were responsible for the Renaissance in Italy, I found it hard to believe him! A later check with our art historian neighbour proved that my doubts were more than justified.

img_20161122_125938Even so, we had an enjoyable time at Knossos and I would recommend a trip to anyone visiting Crete, although that said, the palace at Phaistos remains my favourite.

Of course a beer was called for after all this activity, so we repaired to the adjoining taverna and and slaked our thirst!.

We then returned to the hotel – me for a rest and Sheila to go out shopping. In the evening, we had our delayed slap-up meal at a favourite haunt and it lived up to expectations. Greek taverna food can be somewhat limited – someone once said that there are only ten or so basic recipes – so it is always good to go to a restaurant where the menu is slightly more adventurous, even if the place was a little pretentious.

The following day we went to the archaeological museum. Again, we had been before but having now visited most of the major sites in Eastern Crete, the exhibits were of added interest as we knew where they had come from. Some of the jewellery is absolutely breathtaking in its design and construction and although museums are not my strong point given the amount of standing around, it was an amazing morning and we both really enjoyed it.

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Then we went for a walk along part of the old Venetian city walls – still amazingly intact which was an unexpected treat.

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On one of the bastions (fortified strong points for those of you not well-versed in military matters) are to be found the graves of Nikos Kazantzakis and his wife. Kazantzakis is one of Crete’s most famous authors, perhaps best known in the West for ‘Zorba the Greek’.

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Our late morning walk was followed by an even later lunch of beer and a Greek salad in the city market.

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Then it was more shopping and supper in a fish restaurant near the harbour, where we literally bit off more than we could chew!.

The following day, we bought a new laptop to replace our old one which had just ‘died’ and then, on our way home, we visited the site of a Minoan port just outside the city. This was an Άρης recommendation but we probably needed him there to it justice. However, it was a pleasant setting even though it was hard to imagine that it was ever a thriving port! Oh dear, Minoan hunting can sometimes be disappointing!

And finally, as they say, we got out our bikes for a spot of exercise and found ourselves at the beach on the most beautiful of November afternoons.

The sea was so quiet and the colour of the water, just amazing.

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One of life’s little unexpected pleasures here in Paradise!

John