Sunday, 24 September 2017

Our friends the russians

(Russian church, wine and a russian billionaire)

On the other hand the Russians are making their presence felt in an entirely different way.

On our way back from medical appointments in big city Nafplio last week we stopped to light a candle at newly consecrated church of Agios Loukas.

Agios Loukas - known as St Luke the Surgeon or St Luke of Crimea where he served as Archbishop

A modern day saint, born in Russia as Valentin Felixovich Voino-Yasenetsky.  Died 1967.  Exiled, imprisoned, tortured, humiliated, as was the custom then, he continued curing patients and practising his religion (Russian Orthodox).

Fiesta 11 June

We had heard a lot about this church so we thought we'd go and see what all the fuss was about.  The church has only been used for services for the last five months.  The inside pillars are covered in paintings of Russian and Greek saints.

Money for the building of the church was donated by Greeks living in Russia.  A team of Russian artists did much of the painting and wood sculpture.

Built in the Russian style this church is a gleaming white edifice in the middle of nowhere.  It is amazing how many churches here are situated in such rural settings.  I presume some faithful follower donates 20 stremmata (greek unit of land measure) of their olive grove or vineyard so the church can be built.  

From what we've heard if you want a church built on your land and have it consecrated and recognised by the Greek Orthodox church you must also donate a certain amount of land around it to the diocese, 20 stremma.
As if they need more real estate

20 Stremma - about 5 acres

The belfry, off to one side of the church

Front of the church.  The icons and frescos are called a harmonious mix of Byztantine and Russian technique

Domed ceiling

The Bishop's chair

Olive groves and vineyards surrounding the church for as far as the eye can see

Thousand years of Russians on Mt Athos (Greece's Holy Mountain, men only)

Russian monastery dedicated to Agios Panteleimonos. Looks big enough to be a small village.
 Last year it celebrated 1,000 years.  Both Putin and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow attended the cermeonies.  Once there were more than 2,000 monks.  Now there are 70 Russian and Ukranian  monks.  

Putin being pious

Greek island of Skorpios

Skorpios, a private island in the Ionian sea once owned by Aristotle Onasis.  Now leased for 100 years to the daughter of a russian billionaire.  

The Kremlin's wine is made on the Holy mountain in Greece.

Putin first visited Mt Athos ten years ago and tasted the wine made in the vineyards of the Holy Mountain.  He was so impressed that the wine, called Kormilitsa Gold, now carries the title of 'The Official Wine of the Kremlin Moscow'.  Bottles bear the Kremlin coat-of-arms.    Putin and his high level foreign guests are offered this limited production on important occasions.

Bravo Greece, you've come a long way since retsina (white wine preserved with a lump of pine resin).  But I still prefer neighbour Vaso's wine in the old plastic coke bottle, especially when she gives it to us free.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Our friends the chinese

Greece has become very friendly with the Chinese, so much so that Angela Merkel recently made a remark suggesting that the two countries were getting just a little too friendly.  President Macron of France on his visit here with Brigitte urged the Europeans to invest in Greece to counterbalance the Chinese.

Recent headlines:

- China predicts tenfold rise of Chinese tourists to Greece 
-  Chinese Premier invites Greek PM to visit China
-  China to have Dynamic presence at Thessaloniki trade fair
-   Air China launches direct Beijing-Athens flights
-  Greek and Chinese Navy conduct joint training exercise 
- Chinese State Grid Corp buys 24% of Greek power grid operator

COSCO a shipping company owned by the People's Republic of China owns 51% of the company running the port of Piraeus, the biggest port in Greece.

'The Greek port of Piraeus is the first pillar of China's new maritime silk road to europe'.   Watch out Europe, the invasion has only just begun.

Soon after the deal with China Greece vetoed the EU condemnation of China's human rights record. One hand washes the other.

Chinese clothing shops are all very the country, most of them very large emporiums with these, usually faded, red lanterns hanging outside.  We buy a lot of our clothes here.  They are cheap and the clothes are ..... made in China, aren't they all?

Galatas, the 'goat village' across the waters has a large Chinese  emporium and down the road, through the lemon groves and in the middle of nowhere on the road to Athens there is another small chinese clothing shop.  It is in an area where there is a majority of migrant workers.  There is a school, a church and a firestation.  On one side of the fire station is an Indian food shop and on the other the cheap chinese clothing store.  Down a side road and out of sight is also a Hindu temple.

This is the sort of chinese shop I would welcome.  Athens and Piraeus have a few chinese restaurants but they might as well be on Mars.  I make my own but it's just not the same.  Instant noodles are the closest I get to a chow mein or a spring roll.

Monday, 18 September 2017

The end is Nigh - once again, yawn

Beware 23 September 2015
Oops, no, we're still here 
Maybe it's 2017?

There is going to be an unusual alignment of the stars on the 23rd.  The Sun, Moon , Mercury, Mars and Venus will form a rare astronomical line-up  which may have some sort of connection to Revelation 12 and could be the start of the apocalypse, so they say.

The Rapture will occur when worthy christians will be lifted by Jesus into heaven.  Those sinners left behind will face the end of the world.  Sinners beware.  Repent while you can.

Revelation 12 refers to the prophecy in  Revelation 12:1-2 about 'a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet'.  You can google it too if you want to know the finer details.  

Or Planet X Nibiru arrives and converts Earth to an iceball

Or earth will  be blasted by a Solar megastorm

There is certainly going to be an unusual line-up of the planets.  I hope the US and Korea don't make the prophecy come true and blast us all into oblivion.

Sunday, 17 September 2017


This little pomegranate tree is only two years old but it is full of big, ripening fruit

There was more than a partridge in this pear tree.  The pear tree is next to the pomegranite and it too has a massive crop this year.  I hope our neighbours give us a bag of these!

Vaso's family picked their grapes last weekend and next day pressed them and put the juice into barrels.  This year's vintage was not as good as other years.  They picked only 35 crates of red and white grapes but pressed 450 litres of juice.  Their normal year is 600 litres and often much more.

I went up to take photos of the pressing but the cursing and yelling that was coming out from the press made me back off.  I'll try again next year.  Tempers were boiling over, the wasps had gathered and while pouring the juice into  barrels they slopped quite a few litres 'overboard'.

Next year they want to buy a still and make raki from the grape residue.  The stalks and skins are put into a large barrel, covered in grape juice and sealed.  Then in November or even later they can make moonshine.

This year the residue is piled up for the chickens to scratch through and then used for compost.

Vaso didn't take part in any of this.  She looks after the vineyard all through the year but has left the younger ones to make the wine.  She will get her reward with year long free flowing wine and no doubt is looking forward to sampling next season's raki (tsipouro).

Remember the weather forecasting that goes on during August by observing the weather changes each day.  Each day for 12 days of August the changes in clouds, winds and temperatures are observed, each day representing one of the following months of the year.

  Well this weather forecast for the first week of September has already been proved wrong.   These 'folk' forecasters predicted cool temperatures and north winds.  Instead we had very high temperatures and little or no wind.  In fact the weather according to them is still cool, nothing like the high humidity, windless days and hot sun we are experiencing now.

35o today and tomorrow.  Little wind. Beware the mosquito.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Many Happy Returns Stavros and Stavroula

Yes, another name day

14th September
The Feast of the Holy Cross - Timios Stavros in greek

Name day for men named Stavros
and women named Stavroula

It is also a day of fasting.  The tradition on this day is to eat fried salt cod with garlic sauce.

This little church is on a hillock in the middle of nowhere.  This morning we passed by, hoping to stop and light a candle on our return.  There were dozens and dozens of cars parked outside for the early morning service.  When we did return in the middle of the day there was just the fire truck parked beside the church and two firemen seated at a small table under the trees

Inside the church the icon of the Cross had been decorated with basil.  It is a tradition today to take a bunch of basil to church, have it blessed and take it to home to bless the house with its aroma.

Basil was growing over the patch of ground where St Helen, according to legend, found the Holy Cross, in Jerusalen in 328AD.

If, like us, you didn't bring your own bunch there was a pile of blessed basil underneath the icon

We hung our bunch in the front of the car and had a safe journey home

The church of the Holy Cross at the end of Poros harbour.  Once upon a time the old slaughter house was right behind it and the sea full of sharks feeding off the blood and guts.

Nowadays it is a favourite site for fishing and the sea is clean enough to swim in, off the rocks.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

School's IN!

Schools all over Greece opened for business today.  Not for school but for a communal blessing.

The three island priests went from school to school this morning blessing pupils, teachers and parents.  It is a short ceremony followed by a brief sermon telling the boys and girls to do their best.  The Chief Big-wig then gave a, mercifully, short speech without a microphone so not sure what he was babbling on about.  The Headmistress followed suit and told them that the school now had three new computers.  That is probably the only thing any of the children remember.   All the rest would have been blah, blah, blah until that magic word computer.

The three priests line up for business

 She is far more than the 'tuck-shop lady'.  She is their 'care-taker', knows all the children and their parents, and what is going down in the school.  She is a motherhen, knows all the kids by name, stands at the gate when they leave making sure that each of the younger children has a parent or grandparent to go to and does not just wander off or be taken away by a stranger.  She knows all of us as well and always has a smile and a happy greeting.  Mari-Tess is a foreigner like me married to a greek.

All the Very important people lined up for show.  This was only their second school, 2 more to go and then the kindergartens.

Part of the ceremony involves a bunch of basil. On the table are a lighted candle and an incense burner, a book of holy words (missal?), an icon of the Madonna and a bowl of holy water

And the Most important little people all lined up

The newbies with their teacher in the flowing robes and all their mothers standing protectively next to them

Papa Haralambos dipped his bunch of basil in the holy water and went from parent to parent sprinkling them all with Holy basil water.  He held in his other hand a small icon of the Virgin Mary which everyone kissed after being blessed.  The children were blessed en masse.

Wise words on the steps leading to the second level of the school.  Interesting that they were in English

The good food pyramid drawn on one wall

After all that excitement it was time for mothers to have coffee at the 'green chairs' opposite the school.  Those with older children could, and did, sit it out here and await their return.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Paradise Taverna

Our local taverna.

Paradisos as it is known around here is a taverna in the hills, run by the third generation of a local family, surrounded by pine forest, with views of Athens across the sea.

On the property is a chapel dedicated to Saint Nektarios, fiesta November 9.  Worth attending the morning or evening service.  There is always a good crowd and who are served coffee and goodies afterwards by the family who look after the church and run the taverna.  A(nother) time for celebration

In the summer we sit out under the canopy of greenery.  Situated up in hills there is usually a breeze and a welcome respite from the heat

In the winter there is an open fire inside and a large dining area.  On a Sunday afternoon in the middle of winter a meal here can go on for hours.  All the diners know each other and there is laughter and shouting across the tables.  Often there is a bouzouki player twanging his instrument and singing.  Soon the whole taverna will be singing along, everyone emotional with lots of wine and camaraderie.

The taverna was originally run by the grandparents, Theodora and Vangelis but slowly the children and now the grandchildren have taken over.  Grandaughter Dora helps in the kitchen and does a lot of the BBQing

Dora's wedding reception was held here and we were lucky enough to be invited.  It was a great summer evening with music and dancing till daylight next morning.  The whole neighbourhood was invited as was the norm before the crisis.  

We did the same at our daughters' weddings.  Before the crisis. 

On a clear night you can see the lights of Athens and Piraeus and all the coast going down to Cape Sounion and it's mighty temple on the cliffs


Truly a family taverna.  The mother, Kiki does all the cooking.  Her specialities are rabbit with onions, rooster and fat macaroni, pork with wine and often she makes a big tray of galaktobouriko (a syrupy semolina pie) which is served free at the end of the meal.  They have their own wine and were the last here to stop using retsina as a preservative.  They have their own rabbits, roosters and until recently they ran a butcher's shop down in the market in town.

If you need a siesta this is the perfect place.  

First comes the cutlery, a bottle of cold water and a basket of home made bread

A cheese pie which we didn't order.  Kiki brought it out before the fruit in case we wanted a wee snack with the rest of our wine.

The father recently spent some months working in a Greek taverna in England.  After dinner we were offered a plate of watermelon 'as they do in England' with added ice cubes to keep it cool and sprigs of mint.  The ice melted quickly and was a waste of time and the mint added nothing to the dish of cool, refreshing fruit

The matriarch Theodora still going strong but no longer getting down on her knees to knead twenty huge loaves of sourdough bread which she then baked in her woodfired oven.

The  eldest son took over the taverna and like him, his children grew up in the kitchen, learning to cook, barbeque, serve and clean tables.  Now the grandson, Vangelis, named after the patriarch, is slowly taking over control although his mother Kiki still reigns supreme in the kitchen.  Many of their customers are well known local bigwigs but also stars of greek films and TV and other celebrities.  Kiki and the family will come out to greet them and share a joke just as they do with all their customers.  The atmosphere is always friendly and very  cheerful.