Thursday, 29 May 2014

Before the Hoards

Before the Hoards

Spring flowers

An almost empty Agora

Because we come to live in Lemnos for six months sometimes I feel rather smug that I’m not one of the hoards of tourists that arrive in July and August. Being retirees, having a house on the island gives us the luxury of enjoying the island, at a time others are not able to be here. I realise that many have to come in their European summer holidays, and perhaps only have a fortnight so want to be sure of warm weather. However, if you don’t mind the fact that the weather is not completely guaranteed to be hot, hot, hot, the months of June and September offer swimming for sure and even in May and October the weather will most probably be warm enough for a swim some days. And in those months so many other wonderful things are on offer that you’d miss in mid summer.

 Lemnos in May


The Limani in Myrina (the port)

Mending the nets

A quiet taverna in Moudros

On the island I love the lifestyle that is lived before and after the tourists. Not only is it easier to park a car the beaches are empty, the tavernas are quieter and the local shopkeepers and other Lemnians have more time to chat to you. Also in May, June, and September there are still many days when the sea is warm enough for a swim.

Takis with our friend at Keros Beach

Come the summer the shopkeepers and beaches, the Agora and the port change to cope. Many find this busy, buzzing, atmosphere exciting, and it is just what they have come to experience. Goods spill out of the shops onto the Agora, young people on the beaches play beach tennis, or relax with a coffee at their elbows on the beach lounges, and clubs turn up the music so that the beach-front throbs for a couple of months.

Our empty and quiet beach at Rhia Nera

(A Plea to Tourists, any time of the year)

Use your eyes and store up some mental experiences.
In the Guardian Bernard Toutounji, a freelance writer, expresses his amazement in an article, ‘Too many smartphone photos, too few memories’

He writes, ‘In our obsession with digital images, we forget to seize the moment and live a full life.’ Continuing with these statistics, ‘In 2014 it is estimated that 1.5 billion smartphone cameras will take nearly 1 trillion photos - that's hundreds of thousands of photos every minute (3000 in the time it took to read this sentence).

Three hundred million photos are uploaded to Facebook every day, capturing every poignant, funny, strange, exotic and dull moment, from our latest meal, to the TV show we are watching, to the Ikea furniture we just assembled. Every two minutes mankind collectively takes as many photos as the whole of humanity took in the 1800s.’

The accompanying picture was of thousands of people holding up their smartphones in St Peter's Square as they waited the arrival of Pope Francis.

May Guests

With my friend at Kotsinas
We have just had some May visitors and what a great time we had. We lit the furno and made bread (too hot to do this mid summer). We sat on empty beaches watching the sunset behind Mount Athos (in mid summer we would have been surrounded by young people playing beach tennis and loud taverna music. We visited sights and we could take pictures without having to wait for others to move out of the shot!

Not too hot to use the furno

Sunset at a taverna in Romeikos Gia Los
Sunset behind Mount Athos (on the mainland of Greece)


Remember Greek islands have a lot to offer beside the iconic seaside beaches filled with sunbathers.

Sunset behind Mount Athos

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

The Garden and Kitchen in May

The Garden and Kitchen in May

Vine Leaves – Dolmathakia

Me picking vine leaves

Pick young (but large enough to roll) vine-leaves and cut off the stems. Dip into boiling hot water. Place on a board shiny side down.


Combine filling in a bowl – spring onions finely chopped, plus some finely chopped parsley, fennel, mint (dried mint is even better), lettuce (old lettuce is fine with thick white stems). Add uncooked white rice, salt and pepper and some olive oil.


The dolmathakia process
 Take a leaf and place a heaped teaspoon of stuffing towards the stem end. Tuck in bottom ends, roll once, fold in sides and roll up neatly but not too tightly.
Rosemary rolling up dolmathas

 Line saucepan bottom with old vine leaves. Pack in the rolls, with perhaps a second and third layer. Sprinkle with salt and pepper; add lemon juice, water and oil. Place an inverted plate on the top, cover saucepan and simmer gently for 45-60 mins. Add more warm water if necessary.

 Allow to cool with serve with yoghurt.



Lettuce and marigolds in the garden

Lots of lovely lettuce salads. Nothing much added but some infused olive oil that Rosemary made. This was made by gently warming olive oil with some lemon rind and bay leaves. This oil with some balsamic vinegar added to the lettuces is all that is needed to make a delicious salad but Rosemary then sprinkled some marigold petals on the top.

Lettuce and marigold salad

Nasturtium Seeds – Poor-man’s Capers


nasturtiums in the garden

Nasturtium seeds in vinegar


Collect the seeds as the flowers begin to fade. Put them on salted water for a while then into boiling water for a minute. Then pack into bottles with vinegar. These are great added to salads or put on top of pizzas.

Beets – Preserved and Raw

Dig up beets and cut off the leaves (Young beet leaves can be added to a variety of greens to make horta). Wash and cover with water and boil for about a half to an hour – depending on the size of the beets.

Beets in vinegar


I bottled some sliced beets in vinegar.


You can grate raw beets for a salad, but we have just grated some of the cooked beets, mixed with lemon and oil, for a salad. Another day we added some of this beet mix to some chopped young green beans.


Bean and beet salad

Green Beans – Frozen and Fresh

Beans and more beans!
The beans are just perfect just now but coming on so fast. We picked a basket full. Most of them I blanched and packed into freezer bags. But of course we are also eating them right away – see the salad above. When I do open up the bags later in the year I’ll cook them with home made tomato sauce and lots of garlic.


Zucchinis – Pasta and Flowers

Zucchini in the garden

Zucchini ready to be stuffed and sliced
Zucchinis are something else that arrives by the bucketful in this season. There are many different things to do with them. Yesterday I made zucchini pasta. The long, larger ones are good for this. I use a potato peeler and slice down the sides, skin and all. Then when I have a bowl full I heat butter and a little olive oil in a fry pan and dump in the zucchini. I’ll put on a lit but turn them now and then and sprinkle with salt and pepper.


But then there are the flowers. You shake out the flowers, cut off the stems, and fish out the stamens. Then I fill them with a mix of ricotta with a little fetta mashed in, and some added herbs. (I like sage, but Takis does not!). The flowers petals are twisted over this mix. Then just before the meal I dip them into a batter and fry them, turning so that each side is browned. Serve immediately.


Tomato plants. Not ready yet but soon!

Monday, 26 May 2014

An Earthquake in Lemnos

An Earthquake in Lemnos

In For many years the Minoans controlled the seas trading with other islands from their palaces in Crete. When a large earthquake destroyed the nearby island of Thera (Santorini) in 1450 BC the Minoan city of Knossos, which was just 70 miles away, was also affected. The effects of the earthquake were catastrophic for the Minoans, their palaces and large fleets of ships were destroyed. This contributed to the destruction of the whole Minoan civilization.

Modern earthquake in Crete

The Aegean islands often have small earthquakes and sometimes more severe ones. Poliochni was inhabited for nearly four thousand year’s until an earthquake destroyed it in 2100BC. Today you can visit the ruins of Poliochni and see a model of how the town once looked. There was an earthquake in 330 B.C. that destroyed much of eastern Limnos. A recent earthquake in Lemnos, in 1968, destroyed village of Paleo Pedino
Recent earthquake in Lemnos

In case you haven’t seen the news we have had an earthquake in Lemnos. It was the biggest I've ever been in, 6.8 with the epicentre lying between Lemnos and Samothrace. It was felt in Turkey and Greece.

An Earthquake Two Days Ago?

No! It looked like an earthquake but this is what our furno looked like when Anestis and Marcos started working on it!
But we have just had one! Takis and I were sitting with the first guests of the year on the terrace and we looked at each other with consternation, thinking at first that a very large truck was passing. But then the terrace heaved and the whole house shook back and forth. I yelled earthquake and we all ran out into the garden and after a couple of minutes it died down.


Our kitchen before the cooks arrived
Yesterday was a very eventful day, even before the earthquake!  We had decided to light the furno and bake bread. We lit it the day before to heat it up and then reheated it at ten on the next day.

We lit the fire to warm the oven the day before


The next day we relit the furrno
Rosemary, our guest, made four beautiful whole wheat loaves and Takis made a fish and veggie dish. (As we were preparing it we had an electrical outage, so we all laughed saying how good it was that we had the furno going. 
Takis making his fish and vegetable dish (with lemon and wine)


Rosemary kneading the dough.

The bread rising


Watched bread takes a while to rise!


Quietly waiting for the bread to cook when!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The quake arrived just after twelve while we were waiting for the loaves to brown. What a shock. Afterwards our neighbours came around to see if we were OK, and we all compared notes. Our guests went onto their iPods etc. to find out what the internet was saying about the quake. A few very old houses came down in Lemnos and nearby very old wall fell and damaged a car. Plus I think there was a slight after-shock later that night. But all is well.

After the quake, a nearby garden wall!

And the furno meal was wonderful. The loaves were perfect, and so was the fish and veg dish. We were a bit worried about going into the house for a siesta after lunch but by then Takis really needed one. I'm glad our adventure was no worse, and I've not heard of any serious losses anywhere else.

The bread comes out of the furno, perfect. And we all sat down to our meal!



Thursday, 22 May 2014

Dawn on Lemnos

Dawn On Lemnos
The Goddess of Dawn!


               NOT the new dawn political party!


        The sun comes up over the mountains and life begins to stir in Myrina



Delphic Dawn (from Ion)

Euripides (480-406 B.C.)

Translated by Ronald Frederick Willetts


Look, now the sun’s burning chariot comes

Casting his light on the earth.

Banned by his flame, the stars flee

To the awful darkness of space.

The untrodden peaks of Parnassus,

Kindling to falem, receive for mankind

The disk of the day.


We are back on the island and already we are feeling at home here. Perhaps is it the sounds of Lemnos that most make me feel I’m somewhere else, not in Melbourne Australia. There are the sounds that are completely lost in a big city: such as the cockerels calling to each other even before the sun rises. Soon the birds begin to chatter. Of course there are sparrows but also a bird the locals call Katerina. It has a repetitive chirping that is quite aggressively and soon gets me out of bed.

I like to go for a walk before breakfast and I find that I am not alone for I join others who are taking their early morning constitutional. The local ladies like this time of day to go for a short walk with their friends – before the business of the day really starts. At eight they will accompany their young children to school and the chatter around our house now is not of birds but of young children walking to school.
Soon we will hear the motorbikes and cars, and be deafened as the street-sellers passing the house, blaring out descriptions of their wares as they drive past: bamboo kareclas (bamboo chairs), or freska psaria (fresh fish), a noise that always seems to set the local dogs barking.
                 Morning, and pet sheep get their breakfast - left overs from a nearby taverna


Saturday, 17 May 2014

Tourism in Greece

 Tourism in Greece

Friends arriving at Lemnos airport
Grandchildren coming toLemnos at Melbourne airpor

Australians are one of the world’s largest spenders on international travel on a per capita basis. In 2012, one in three of headed overseas, and while most went to New Zealand and Bali many went to Europe. It is expected that next year, 2015, many more Australians than usual will travel to Greece and Turkey, for the Gallipoli memorial.
Because so many Greeks have settled in Australia (about 350.000 in Melbourne alone) many of this year’s tourists will be travelling back to Greece.

At the Lemnos Gallipoli cemetry

Tourist Behaviour

1. Take a package tour!
2. Photograph everything in sight!
3. Fall for the local PR pitch!
4. Be on the look out for ‘cute’!






We too have been tourists

Takis and me, in Santorini 2003
One of the most popular islands for tourists is Santorini. This year in Athens airport there were hoards of foreigners waiting for the Santorini plane. We guessed that many were young couples either on their honeymoon or going there to get married. Our Lemnos plane was filled with locals on their way home.

But nowadays we do look for something different.  Cathedrals are one of the sights we go out of our way to visit. Here we will put up with the other tourists and join the hoards slowly making their way around these old monuments. Inside Chartres for instance you enter a forest of stone columns. In Notre Dame the columns hold up huge vaults. You need to sit down to gaze up at these ceilings. However unlike many we choose to use our own eyes, rather than use the eye of a camera. I do wonder how many of those snappers actually look at their pictures?

And have they looked long enough, with their bodies, to hold onto a sensation as well as a picture? It must be hard for Cathedral staff to maintain a balance that still looks after spiritual needs while dealing with this popular need for a picture. When in Canterbury a priest called for silence while she prayed and in most there are designated places where one can find a slightly quieter spot. But the best is to visit one of the lesser known, but still beautiful, churches, where you will find only a few praying, and lots of deep stone-surrounded silence.

Old style tourism? (Sea, Sunshine, Sites), Or? Something new?

Enterprising people in Greece are defying the financial crisis and using the riches of their local area to develop new types of holidays, a world away from old-style package tourism
Each of Greece's 400 + islands has something different to offer
Diving, climbing and walking - mountains hold their own delights, including an abundance of herbs such as thyme, oregano and rosemary, as well as honey that cannot be rivaled.
Multi-island cruises. Greece has over 400 islands, not just the main five that everyone knows about.
Organic farming retreats where owners demonstrate the old crafts, such as bakery and basketry, or perhaps offer cooking classes.

Cycling in Corfu
Volcanology and geo-tourism on Milos
Skopelos has vastly expanded its network of kalderimi paths to open its forest interior to walkers.
Mainland areas such as northern Mani has long been a favourite of more bohemian travellers (the writer Patrick Leigh Fermor built a house there in the 1960s).
Gastronomic tours in Athens. There has recently been a surge in wine bars, with cellars that are exclusively Greek, also restaurants serving regional delicacies.
Harvesting olives in Lesbos, has attracted visitors who are delighted to see how the olives are harvested off the tree, and then pressed and bottled without preservatives.

Lemnos and Tourist Problems

The main one may be that of access
However, from Athens, each day there is one flight to the island, with two in the summer. To fly to Lemnos takes about one hour and there are also connections to Saloniki and Mytilene.
Ferry boats arrive about twice a week from the ports of Pireus, Thessaloniki, Kavala. The trip from Pireus takes about 12 hours.

Ferries are great fun, however you need patience as they are not always available when you want them

If you have your own car, you can bring it on the ferry. The roads on Limnos are mostly good and the drivers are not too crazy or dangerous. If you want to go to special beaches with a car you need to be prepared to drive a few kilometers on dirt roads.

Other Lemian Ideas

This year I’m planning to check out if there are some new enterprises in Lemnos. To find out what has been happening in relation to tourism on this island.

Special activities I’ve enjoyed on Lemnos and encourage others to experience.

1. There many chapels dotted all over the island, each the location of a ritual celebrated on some day or other during the year. Once I went with Ourania and her friends to attend a saint’s day service, forty days after Easter, in a small chapel up in the hills above Myrina. The chapel is called (in translation) Our Lady of the Sore Throat. There were many people attending. It amazed me to see the number of people who’d made the effort to go to this special service in such an out of the way spot. This is an aspect of life in Lemnos that I’m sure most tourists were unaware of. While they might recognize that churches have a very prominent position in the landscape, they probably wouldn’t know how important they are in the everyday life of the people. Our local church celebrates Saint Pandeleimonos, the saint of good health, on the 26th of July. It is one of the best attended of all the island’s local gatherings. We usually sit on our balcony and watch the evening procession pass by. First there will be a number of priests carrying crosses, and then a couple of small local bands leading the throng of participants around the bounds of the village.

A cousin and Takis brother playing Trik Trak on the terrace

The children helping us crack almonds

2. I’ve also enjoyed learning some of the old crafts, many of which have not died out on Lemnos. In fact it has been our hope that when we had guests we’d be able to inspire them to try some aspects of the old-fashioned, countrified lifestyle we’d discovered – such as preserving, drying and bottling vegetables and fruit gathered from the garden. Thinking this would enrich holidays we’d delicately insert some practical activities into each person’s itinerary, though of course we knew that some just wanted to relax on the beach. Subtly we might start by suggesting to a cousin that he climb a ladder and pick a boxful of figs rather than just walk down to the tree to get one for himself. I suggested to our grand daughters that while they were with us they might crack almonds previously gathered from our old almond trees. This is tedious job but one that can be fun if shared with others. In the case of two others the extra ‘Lemnian’ experience involved lighting up the old furno and making a pizza.

And helping to weed



A friend learing to make pita