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ANTIQUITY IN OUR BACK YARD

Ancient ruins are literally everywhere in Greece. Every where you walk you are treading on the ruins of an  older civilization, probably rom...

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Macarounes and gkogkes


The pungent whiff of garlic has 'perfumed' our house from kitchen to bedroom and beyond,  as from  a vegan Pepe le pew. 



We had macaroni for lunch today.  What you would call spaghetti.   I ate it with a simple tomato sauce made from freshly grated tomato (from the freezer) with a little oregano, cinnamon and little round spice balls, all-spice I think in english, and some finely grated mild yellow cheese.  

K wanted garlic macaroni (skorthomacaronatha) which is his favourite.  Usually after the spaghetti has been drained I would pour over burnt oil.  Literally burnt.  The oil is heated until smoking in a small pot called a briki and should sizzle as it is poured over the pasta.  Today I crushed three cloves of garlic and heated it gently in olive oil adding a little tomato puree and paprika.  This I then poured over the spaghetti which I topped with a finely grated hard sheep's cheese. And from this garliky sauce came the pungent aroma which permeates our house.



Another favourite way to eat spaghetti is with the sheep's  cheese fried in oil and mixed with the pasta. The sheep's cheese obviously does not melt or it would be a sticky mess. 

Or just with plain yoghurt, tangy sheep's yoghurt or the strained greek yoghurt which has become popular everywhere.  And if there's nothing else (but there will always be garlic and olive oil) then spaghetti is eaten with ketch-up, or kets-ap as it is called here.



I well remember the first time I grated cheese for my mother-in-law, preparing for yet another family meal, everyone squashed inelegantly around her rickety old dining table.  I used the coarse side of the grater, it was so much easier.  She took one look at it said 'mmmf, is that the way you do it.  We use the finest grater'.  Oh boy, totally useless foreign daughter-in-law!

Greeks eat a lot of pasta, much of it mixed and shaped expertly by old hands and eaten with seared butter or oil and covered in mizithra, a hard sheep's cheese.  The handmade pasta can be made simply with flour and water or at the end of summer, when chickens are laying and goat udders are full, village women make macarounes, gkogkes and hilopites (amongst others) rich with eggs and milk.


My mother-in-law would make pillow cases full of hilopites in the summer sun, kneading the dough full of eggs and milk from their small holding on the Peloponese, rolling it out with a long broom-handle-like rolling pin, cutting each piece to the size of a fingernail and then spreading them out to dry on sheets covering all the beds and tables inside the house.  She would store the pillow cases full of pasta under her bed and dole them out all through the winter.


Neighbour Vaso still makes her own hilopites and always gives us a bag of them which we eat when fresh, although I really don't like them.  They taste of the goat that supplied the milk.









Sunday, 19 March 2017

March Sun

After many cold, wet winter days the warm March sunshine drew us out for a coffee on the waterfront.




Capuccino and a greek coffee




Can you read our future?  
 I see many more coffees on the waterfront only very soon they'll be iced coffee, not hot. I can see the waiter with his tray.....don't ask where!


  Your fortune can be told when the cup is turned upside down and those coffee grounds are left to drip down the sides only I didn't dare do that in public.  It's a common practise, at home, and just for a laugh (as far as I'm concerned).  One of my daughters has a great imagination, interprets the dark and light shadows and spins a fascinating yarn.



Not the clearest of photos.  The tables on the left are all out in the sun and no-one is sitting there, not even us.  The coffee drinkers are all inside the protective nylon wearing their heavy jackets.  No-one dares sit in that dangerous sunshine and woe betide if they are in a deadly draught.  Could be the last time they drink coffee in this cafeteria in this lifetime!




Our first meal out on the balcony, in the March sun for me, in the shade under the umbrella for K.   Fish of the day, lettuce from the garden, beetroot and garlic sauce and Vaso's wine


Vaso and the family were busy burning the olive prunings today but her son-in-law sat down for a drink and some beetroot.  He is fasting for the full 49 days and is not eating meat or fish (or cheese, eggs or dairy), but a glass of wine is good for the health and the soul.


And a Sunday ouzo in the sun.  Clocks go onto summertime next weekend.  We will have three months of beautiful warm weather before the scorching heat of summer.









Friday, 17 March 2017

On the Sea



A small fishing boat (trata) returns with its early morning catch




Pumping out the bilges after two days of very heavy rain


A couple of yachties return to their boat by sail


I caught this couple as they set sail to return to their beautiful wooden sailing boat parked out in the bay.  





K's fishing boat has been taken out of the water again this spring to have it's bottom scraped and painted.




The big car ferry leaves for Piraeus.  An old photo.  The big passenger ferry used to leave twice a day carrying passengers from the port of Piraeus to Aegina, Methana, Poros, Hydra and Spetses.  Nowadays there is a passenger ferry two or three times a week in mid summer only and it stops at Poros and returns to Piraeus.  Now if you want to reach Athens you can either go by the expensive but faster hydrofoil, across on the car ferry and overland by car or by bus from Galatas.





The roll-on roll-off car ferry from Poros to Galatas on the mainland.  The car ferry leaves every half hour and takes trucks, cars, bikes, pedestrians and donkeys if necessary.  A one way trip for us costs 7euro for the car, the driver and a passenger.  Smaller cars are slightly less.   

The service runs from 7am to 10pm.  Don't have an emergency after-hours




One of the many water taxis which ply the passage between Poros and the mainland.  They take only passengers (and dogs), the cost is 1euro per person and the trip is less than 5 minutes.  Cheap enough unless you live on one side and work on the other.

The water taxis go all day and night though after midnight on a cold winter's night there might be one boat on standby and you may have to yell over the waters to get it to come across or call the Harbour Police for help.

The car ferry and the water taxis work all year round and the weather has to be more than gale force before they stop.  A good blow from the north will send waves crashing into the wharf , flooding the harbour road and force yachts to untie and dash for the cover of open sea

Quite exciting to be 'cut off' but it is usually only for a matter of hours.  The hydrofoils stop in a storm and you have to keep an eye on the weather forecast if you want to travel to Athens in the winter.

We're an island but only just but this gives us the best of all worlds.  We have the island culture, the picturesque island scenery, the security of an island and yet the easy access to the rest of the country and all its amenities and rich history . 

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

March - the Martis bracelet

For as long as my grandchildren have been attending school or nursery school they have always come home on March 1st with a red and white bracelet made of cotton thread tied round their wrists.  This year was the same, even though the oldest is now a teenager.


This tradition of course goes back hundreds of years and is followed throughout the Balkans.  The bracelet, the children are told, is to protect them from the burning rays of the March sun.  This is why the bracelet is called 'martis', 'march'.



The red and white bracelet made of twisted cotton thread is worn throughout the month of March.  The red and the white 'perhaps' represent the rosy red cheeks of the children and the white their pale complexions, though a lot of greek children have a dark mediterranean-olive toned skin





My five grandchildren are out in the sun all year round.  Four of them are rowers and their skins are dark and tanned nearly all  the year.

At the end of March the bracelets are removed and hung on a tree where the swallows can find them and use to make their nests.

This year the grandchildren are going to hang them on our lemon trees.  I haven't seen any swallows yet but  soon they'll be swooping and darting round the trees at dusk, diving and skimming along any ponds or resevoirs.

The March sun is considered unhealthy and sitting out in it will bring you colds and aches.   Most greeks you will see at this time of the year sitting in the shade out of direct sunlight.  It is only tourists and the younger generation 'who know no better' who dare to enjoy the warming rays of the March sun.


15th March  - 
The Ides of March

'Beware the Ides of March',  the soothsayer warned Caesar

15th March
44BC Julius Caesar was stabbed to death by Marcus Junius Brutus,  Gaius Casius Longinus and Decimus Junius Brutus.  In fact he was stabbed 23 times in the back.  Indeed, beware the Ides of March! 

'et tu Brute?' ('and you Brutus?', Brutus once being his best friend)
as all school children once learnt, were the last words uttered by Caesar

from Shakespeare's 'Julius Caesar' 

This is also where the phrase/word  'backstabbing' came from










Sent by Turbo-X device

Monday, 13 March 2017

Greek garbage

Rubbish in the main town is collected everyday of the year, even Christmas Day.




Down on the waterfront there are big green bins where you throw your rubbish all tied up in a plastic supermarket bag.  The back streets are too narrow to place bins along the way so each household puts its bags outside the door straight onto the road.  The safest way though is to hang them from your door away from cats and stray dogs who rip the plastic bags to pieces.

After a party and with big bags of clanging empy bottles and tin cans I would share the bags out around the neighbour hood or take them down into town.  We didn't want to get a bad name from the rubbish men.   Our reputation was not the best anyway.



Our recycling bins.  Paper, glass and tins are recycled.  You open up the lid and empty your special bag into the bin.  We were given a recycling bag by our grandchildren who were horrified we weren't already collecting the plastic, glass and tin cans.   Our grandchildren had school lessons on recycling and outings to the rubbish bins as part of 'green' education.






Rubbish remover

We place bags of rubbish in a bin out in the yard and then take them up to the big bin on the main road which is emptied about three times a week.  It is the hang-out for stray cats and also the place to drop anything from bundles of prunings to old matresses.  Anything which might be of interest to someone else is placed beside the bin and often disappears before the hour is out.





Until recently rubbish in the old town was collected by cousin Stavros and his donkeys, which were actually mules.  Mules could climb up all the odd irregular steps and squeeze down tight alley-ways.  I would hear Stavros early in the morning calling out to all the housewives as he passed.  He knew us all and would often stop to pass on the gossip he had learnt that morning.



When I first arrived the rubbish was thrown over a bank behind the old town and most of it tumbled down into the sea.  Now and again it was burnt and if the wind was blowing in the wrong direction we were all covered in foul smelling clouds of  smoke.

Then the municipality bought a couple of big  modern rubbish trucks and all the trash was hauled over the far side of the island, miles away from the town,  and burnt.   EU regulations stopped all that.  Now it is compressed and taken  almost daily to somewhere outside of Athens.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Out and about


The herd of rogue goats are still roving freely around the hills.  First of all you sniff a certain 'ripeness' on the wind and then they amble into view.  Their coats are getting shaggier and their horns  decidedly  longer


They had a time-out in the middle of the road just below our house.  What surprised me was the guard dog just over that wall made not a sound.  He usually goes wild with his barking when they're in his territory.  Maybe this time there were just too many and too close for comfort.



Wild asparagus.  If you know where to look there are good pickings just now.
We cut off the tender shoots and make them into an omelette




The lads from the electricity company came and replaced a few yards of cable and left this sitting on the edge of the road.  One of the coils must have fallen and broken as it is piled in pieces.  I'm surprised someone hasn't grabbed the wood already.

These big wooden coils are left there till they rot.  We picked up one a few years ago, twice the size of this small cable reel/drum.  I had a brilliant idea to put it in the back garden and use as a table.  

It weighed a ton and took four hefty men to lift it on the back of a pick-up truck.  When we got it home it was too big and too heavy to get over the wall into the garden.  K took it to pieces and the two big circular pieces ended up tied outside to our railings for a couple of years.  We couldn't get anyone to take them away and our neighbour, downhill, was worried that they would come loose and roll down into his house. 

 Eventually we did find a sucker to take them away, after being lifted once again by four strong pre-hernia males into a farm truck.  What we needed was a rugby team, or at least those usually very hefty backs.  They would have manhandled it all easily over the fence, up the steps, across the balcony and away under the walnut tree to make a little oasis for me.  

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Zito Women-kind

International Women's Day. 

 March 8th 1911 Clara Zetkin launches International Women's Day in Copenhagen.

2017 Melbourne Australia changes ten of its traffic lights to male and female figures.  So now ten pedestrian figures with skirts will tell you when you can or cannot safely cross the road.






25 years ago Poros bars and tavernas used to be flooded on this day by females old and young.  The young in their jeans and the elderly in their furs and gold jewellery.  Groups of Women would take over, talking, yelling, laughing and dancing.




Doing the Greek belly dance called 'tsiftiteli'.



This photo is taken at a wedding but you get the idea.  Dancing on the tables is de rigueur.


Last year my daughters and their friends stayed at home to celebrate.  One of the husbands, an excellent chef, cooked for them, served and cleaned up.  I doubt Poros town was flooded by anything last year or for many a long year on this night, certainly not gangs of women on the prowl.

Today I made moussaka for a woman friend of mine and a tangy lemon cake with greek yoghurt.

Not fair says my husband.  When do man-kind celebrate?   Every day!



Just some of my favourite women.