|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