Saturday, 28 March 2015

The Seas Around Lemnos

 The Seas Around Lemnos
Love of the Sea

Takis and the Mediterranean Sea

Takis with grand children in sea at Lemnos
One of the things that drew Takis back to Greece was his memory of the Mediterranean when living by this sea in Alexandria, Egypt. Melbourne is by the sea and though Takis loves to go to the seashore here when he is homesick it never felt quite right, it was not the Mediterranean.
Mount Athos seen from Lemno

The Immigrant and the Sea
by Takis Stanton

My tangled thoughts long for a broken past.

Since the wilds of my youth
the Sea was part of me
never out of reach
the escort of my reverie.

Time to leave, drained of hope,
that dear port never to see again.
Ocean waves glide me south
to distant lands where I now belong.

The Sea’s beauty spreads her net
to catch my everlasting love.
A beauty that harbors fury and peril
for all who master not her pulse.

Where else to rest but by the Sea?
This huge expanse no eye can grasp
but a soul can cross, and find
same blue same tang of salt.

Melbourne has a large seaport, but situated in a large bay there are no huge tides and being so close to the Antarctic the sea here is usually cold. There is a group of swimmers that go swimming all year round but mostly you only find the populace in the sea on really hot days.

Julia and the Atlantic Sea

I was born on an island where one is never far from the sea. (a farm 70 miles from the sea is the furthest point.)Many of my favorite poems are about the sea but these poems describe a very different sea from the Mediterranean.  The seas around the British Isles are often wild and have strong tides.

Sea Fever 
by John Masefield

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea's face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way and the whale's way, where the wind's like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.

My grandfather is long dead. I don’t remember asking him about John Masefield’s poem but nowadays it reminds me of him. He was at sea all his life. When a youth he sailed on the clipper ships that raced to Australia to collect wool and grain for the English markets. When he was older he was a pilot guiding ships up the River Thames, from Gravesend to the port of London. And when he retired he went to live on the Isle of Wight where he was the commodore of the local sailing club.

Lemnos in the Aegean


Sea views from Lemnos

The Mediterranean has a famously deep blue color. It is truly a deep turquoise blue; a color Homer referred to as  ‘wine-dark’. In summer the sea is usually still, and there is no tidal difference to speak of. In winter there are storms, but nothing like the storms of the Atlantic.

Sea views of Lemnos

When you are on a boat and look back to the island of Lemnos you see how rocky most of its shores are – rocks of different color. In some places you see goats on these cliffs, and in other bays there are boats in small harbors.


Time has Passed, Life Anew
by Takis Stanton

No mountain peak or human wiles
draw me as like the Sea.
Her locks unfold surfing to eternal thrills;
coral wonders and sunsets captured;
and dazing days of sailing winds.

Oh the Sea, mother be!
It is a lover of all life.
If not by rain or under-ground,
what living earth or ground fertile
can boast life without the sea?

Now my crew has gone, no toil I measure.
Creaking joints and aching muscles.
My ageing body only seeks comfort.
So, my final tack is to compass north
and the luring thought of sunken treasure.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Cut Off? On a Greek Island?

Cut Off?  On a Greek Island?

When we leave Australia we also leave 'an island' , though also a continent!

We leave a small village behind to go to another small village, but in neither place do we find the world forgotten

True, on an Aegean island you live in comparative isolation. True, you rarely get Australian news except online. But we certainly do not find ourselves ‘cut off’ from the world, in fact living on a Greek island has taught us a lot about parts of the world we we would never have visited if we did not go there every year (on our stop overs), and we have heard stories from other visitors of places they go to inbetween living on Lemnos. 

As you fly into Lemnos you can see many bays and low hills

The sea, and the boats that were used by travellers are iconic pictures. The boats used to get from island to island in the past are still images used in illustrations throughout the Mediterranean

No, living behind the red door of our old Greek house the world can not be entirely locked out as modern travellers arrive. 

Although Lemnos is still mostly a place for Greeks to excape the summer heat of Athens nowadays foreighners, like us come there each year. And yes, many are Australian or American-Greeks, but we have met English and Americans with no Greek forebares who have bought homes on the island, each with their own fabulous travel stories to tell.

And one thing for sure, we find we have not left the world of politics behind for the internet will fill us in the the latest gastly happenings.

Yearly we’ve been visited by guests arriving, from England, the USA and Australia – university lecturers, photographers, students, government officials, accountants, teachers, factory employees. And all, on their travels to us, and after they leave us visit other countries - Laos, Cambodia, France, Scotland, Turkey, Germany, Switzerland, Rwanda, Bulgaria and Austria, to mention just a few of the other places they have just been to.

True, we can rarely get hold of foreign newspapers (in summer you can buy papers from England and the International Herald Tribune), and the local TV and radio concentrate on Greek news (with overseas news often exaggerated to make a point about the benefits of living in Greece!). However Takis and I have found that more often than not the world comes to our door, journalist-free. These visitors will show us pictures of their great European adventures and we talk. We talk about the living conditions they have found in those countries, and they ask us about conditions on the island or in Greece. Often our talk disabuses preconceived ideas and often joint concerns are emphasised.

From the days when Odysseus sailed to Lemnos travellers have kept coming to this island and they are still coming. And as in those far off days tales are still being told about journeys.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Two Villages: Differences and Comparisons

 Two Villages: Differences and Comparisons
At sea looking back at Myrina
One of the roads entering Emerald

My last blog was about things that I like about villages – things I’ve found in both Myrina in Greece and in Emerald in Australia.

However there are of course many things that are very different. Differences tend to be the things you first notice when you arrive and one tends to think of them as ‘exotic and romantic’. The other things (peace and quiet, clean air, larger plots, friendly neighbours, the slow pace, places to walk, tourist sites and cafes) are things that you come to appreciate once you’ve realized you choose this place for a reason.

But it does no harm to also be aware that it is a different place, and that some folk are impressed and come to that place for what they see as ‘exotic’ and ‘romantic’ differences.  


This is perhaps one of the most obvious differences between these two villages. This means that July is winter in Emerald and summer in Myrina and that as Christmas comes in December, it is in mid winter in Europe and mid-summer in Australia.

We are right now heading for Easter. All the images from Europe are about new life in spring, with Christian connections to the ‘Risen Saviour’, whereas in Australia it is now autumn. Of course religious images can be drawn from this season too, as Easter is as much about the death of Jesus as his resurrection and ascension.


Myrina is on the island of Lemnos in the Northern Aegean. It is the largest ‘village’ on the island with a population of 8006. (I do question that number though, as the size of the town’s population varies greatly from month to month.) Mid-summer the number swells when locals as well as tourists are in residence and the number decreases in autumn as first the tourists leave, and many locals return to their other home, houses or units in Athens or Salonika.
Locals tend to regard Myrina as a town not a village this is because it has by far the largest grouping of houses and shops on the island. Plus, it is not easy to visit other similar sized villages and so Myrina is become a very important centre.

Emerald is in the Dandenong forest with a number of smaller and larger villages nearby. Emerald’s population is about 6800 and stable. Nearby are some larger villages and some smaller ones, all within easy access. Also many travel from here to the city of Melbourne for work.

Culture and History

Lemnos has a very ancient cultural heritage, dating back to an iron-age settlement. There are ancient historical sites all over the island, and perhaps because folk have grown so familiar with these sites many sites are not well cared for or shown off to visitors. Maybe that is beginning to change.

Most visitors want is the sun, beaches and sea-side tavernas

Emerald has only a short history compared to Lemnos though, established in 1858, it is one of the first European settlements established in the mountains. Before this date aboriginals came to the area in the summer months to hunt and retreat from the hot plains of Melbourne. Maybe because the recent history is so slight it is valued, books are available about the settlement of Emerald in the newsagents, there is a museum and a recently established heritage walk.

Emerald is an area cyclists and walkers love to come to.


In Lemnos there is a unity of rites and rituals all tied to the Greek Orthodox Church’s yearly calendar. This has significance for all Lemnians, structuring many of their everyday activities.

In Emerald there are several churches that have some importance but their impact is not felt by most citizens.


Myrina can have temperatures up to 39C in the summer and down to -5C in the winter, with some falls of snow. However the temperature does not fluctuate greatly from day to day. There is a gradual warming until July when it stays steadily hot for two or three months, then there is a gradual cooling until the winter months which is when most of the rain falls.
Snow falls and strong winds can keep people indoors in mid-winter
On occasions Emerald can have hotter weather than Myrina, perhaps sometimes hitting 40C, but it does not get cooler than -2C at its worst in winter. And those variations come suddenly and pass quickly, with a generally a cool and mild climate that mostly varies from 10 – 25C.
On hot gusty days we need to be prepared to leave the forest.


Myrina has summer tourists who come for the warm seas and beach life in July and August. They generally in local hotels and guest rooms stay for at least a week.
Other occasions during the year tend to draw crowds from other parts of the island. 

Emerald has more day tourists, with motorbike riders and cyclists passing through the forest at weekends. Also, at weekends families arrive to take a ride on Puffing Billy.

Locals attending an historic Gallipoli Memorial Day


On the whole Lemnos is a dry island with barren hills covered with thyme bushes. There are also some wide valleys where wheat is planted and vines grow.

Emerald is in a forest of huge eucalyptus trees and man- tall ferns. In some cleared areas potatoes are grown, or rows of bulbs, (daffodils and tulips) are grown for sale.



Myrina has the usual taverna food, souvlaki and Greek salad, plus some pizza shops and cafes that sell bougatsa and coffee frappes.

Emerald has a popular and basic Australian bakery that sells bread and buns. This is much frequented by the weekend tourists, but also by locals. And recently, as in most towns and villages in Australia, Indian and Asian restaurants have opened.


Lemnos is not an academic center; most in habitants are farmers and workers. It has a history that involves being a place where at one time communist supporters were interned, and the political leaning is still towards socialist parties.

Likewise Emerald is a place where workers have settled. Puffing Billy once took farm produce to a nearby larger town. Now it is filled with retirees, and

new city contract workers – plumbers and builders. However, though the folk read the ‘workers paper’ called the Herald Sun there is very strong support for the conservative party.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Living in Villages: Greece and Australia

Living in Villages: Greece and Australia

A Greek Village
An English Village

Life may be structured differently in different villages. In our Australian village the forest and Puffing Billy is a big feature, in our Greek village the harbour and the castle on the hill are the main features. 

Puffing Billing entering Emerald Village
Down by the Harbour in Myrina Village
Often country towns and villages grow up near a site of interest to others. This does mean that at times the village fills up with tourists but generally there are times when locals can enjoy those special amenities without the crowds.  

Someone wrote that happiness is about how you inhabit space with other people.

A Gated Village in Florida
The folk living in an American gated village may have some of the benefits listed below, and they may have found ways to make their village living good. They may have found ways to live well within the limits of that village’s geological space, and have been able to establish a creative lifestyle within its confines. 

But this post is about my experience of living in two villages, one in the Dandenongs in Australia and the other on an island in Greece. I have been asking myself why these places appeal to me. These are the things that I've come up with, and that, within limits, have given me happiness.

What do I Expect from Village Life?

 Peace and Quiet

 Once when living in country Australia my mother, a city lady, came to stay. She complained the country noises filled her with unease. There were the cockerels in the morning and when the calves were taken from their mothers the paddocks were filled the piercing moos of the mothers.

And I’ve found in Lemnos the motorbikes keep you awake in the early morning hours, and the street vendors loudspeakers at to the general noise level midmorning, then in July and August in the evenings tavernas turn up the volume, and blare out pep music along the beaches. Even in those picture post card villages in England, when surrounded by idyllic country sights, planes making their way to Heathrow airport regularly disturb ones peace.
Even in perfect villages you can be annoyed by planes, cars, and motorbikes!

But country noise, as I pointed out, it is not the continuous hum of city noise. So I wouldn’t say that country villages offer peace and quiet, though it is a different kind of noise to that found in cities – less continuous. There are periods of quiet.

Clean air

The lack of pollutions has to be one of the main draw-cards for village living for me. In the villages in the Dandenong Ranges in Australia the air is clear, and when we descend into Melbourne, though not a badly polluted city, there is often a haze hanging over the city. One place in Australia known for its clean air is Tasmania, breathing there is like breathing in sparkling clean diamonds.

A Larger house and garden

Most people living in large cities have to make do with a small balcony. Even in the suburbs gardens are limited, but it is not difficult to have an acre or more if you live in a country village. This means the children have room to make cubbies, and to own pets. It gives you the opportunity to grow the plants you love.  And country houses tend to sprawl, offering room for extra activities in doors too.
Our House in Myrina

Our Greek Garden

Less Crowded Shopping

You usually don’t have to wait long to be attended to (except in those mid summer ‘tourist months’). Your doctor, teacher, shopkeeper will have time to joke, to ask how your husband it doing. In Lemnos in particular we’ve found that we pick up the local news when we visit the green grocer, butcher or supermarket.
Shopping in Myrina

Greater interaction with neigbours

Though there are ‘village’ groupings in cities in the country more is likely to be required from you by your village friends, this is because they are more than just a ‘church’ or ‘fitness’ acquaintance, they are your neighbours and you’ll meet at many different functions. In the city fitness friends tend to be met only the fitness studio.

Meeting Neighbours at an Event in Emerald

Out for a Meal with Neighbours in Myrina

More Opportunity to Walk

Transport can be one of the drawbacks of living in a village. There may be public transport but you may need your car to get to the bus stop or railway station. Or you will find the streets too narrow for a car. Plus, if you need to work in the city and wish to live in the country commuting can be expensive . But as far as I'm concerned I love the opportunity to walk to the shops.

A Slower Pace of Life

You do not rush into a store with your money ready expecting to rush quickly out again with your purchase. Folk expect you to offer more than a quick greeting in a village store they often want some news too. And probably because the store is not within close walking distance it may take ten minutes to get there by car. A city dweller might not like it but I love the walk that shopping in villages entails.

Coffee shop in Emerald
Coffee shop in Myrina

There will be small cafes and restaurants and townies sometimes like to experience the small country eateries, but there may not be as many and the coffee may not be as expertly brewed. But you will probably be in charmingly different surroundings and it may also be cheaper, though nowadays not necessarily!
Takis and I at a taverna in the center of Myrina

‘There you'll find the place I love most in the world. The place where I grew thin from dreaming. My village, rising from the plain. Shaded with trees and leaves like a piggy bank filled with memories. You'll see why a person would want to live there forever. Dawn, morning, mid-day, night: all the same, except for the changes in the air. The air changes the color of things there. And life whirs by as quiet as a murmur...the pure murmuring of life.’ 

Juan Rulfo,   Pedro Paramo