Monday, 27 April 2015

My Lemnian Spring Garden

My Lemnian Spring Garden

The Grape Arbour pruned and leafless
The cherry tree coming into bloom

When we arrived a week ago I was thrilled to see the irises in bloom, and the wisteria decorating the pergola. Sights I’ve not seen in either of my gardens for years as we always miss early spring in both places. This year we arrived early enough to see the cherry trees blooming in my Lemnian garden.

I went out to look for a few flowers to put in the house (a house without flowers or plants inside is asleep) and I could only find irises which are already going past their best, but there was some lilac and only a couple of budding roses.

It was still a bit cold at night to plant out tomatoes (down to 8C some nights) but Anestis and I decided to risk it as this garden is sheltered and the days are often sunny. I think we made a good decision as today the weather seems to have turned the corner up here in the Northern Aegean and it is heading for a top of 20C. There are spaces where I have to renew herbs, and perhaps plant more vegetables so I’d better soon visit my favourite plant nursery.

This year I've realised that plants and especially trees die here not just because of the snow and cold but also from the strong winter winds. We've lost a couple of trees this winter, one tall pencil pine and one bottlebrush. I've heard about these Lemnian winds but we haven't ever experienced them at their worst. Newly planted trees have to be well anchored with very large posts to stop them moving and breaking their root systems.

Wild cherry blossom
Chamomile dasies
However the garden has now developed enough that enough that one or two gaps don’t show. The pergola is bare but small green shoots show that by summer it will be giving us shade. Many trees are now nearing maturity, with signs that there will be fruit later in the year. Bulbs and self-seeding flowers colour the beds along the paths, and the hot garden is awash with flowering succulents, and it’s a joy to be in my Lemian Garden again.





Friday, 24 April 2015

An April Walk on Lemnos

An April Walk on Lemnos

Things look very different here from summertime. The mountains are very green and many trees are still leafless. The locals are wearing overcoats as, though it is sometimes sunny, the wind is still coming from Russia.

The streets are empty. This will surprise those who only visit in July and August when you can hardly pass through these streets because of the throng of cars and people. A few shops have not opened and some have closed down. This may be because of the economic situation which is not good for all of Greece, and has hit Lemnos too. Many are worried about what the government will do next for nothing is decided yet. I would guess that Greece will stay in the EU but there still is the possibility they will leave and the country will go back to the drachma so there is a lot of uncertainty.


But there is some movement. in and around the town A new supermarket is being built and should be ready by summer. And on my way back from my walk 30 young English workers walked past me on their way to begin preparing a holiday centre for the early summer visitors. This hotel complex offers a great number of sports and so it opens earlier and stays open longer than those just relying on the summer sun.

The local gardeners have tilled and pruned their grapes, and planted lines of promising young vegetables.

Deep in the grass are many small flowers, many reminding me of flowers I knew as a girl, walking through the English country side, one looks like ragged robin, and another like the malows I remember. Plus the statice is in bloom, the plant that the locals make into wreaths to decorate their doors for May Day.


Many roadside trees have been pruned until they look dead, but have just a few green sprouts. . Amazingly by summer these will be in full leaf and shading the road. The mulberry trees have no leaves but are covered with their flowering tassels and here and there are a self sown apple trees in full bloom.

A patchwork of colours and textures.


I walked to the next bay, where I could see further down the coast. The beachside smothered with purple flowers, and the sand dunes dotted with poppies.

Along the roadsides the grass is high, knee high for these donkeys. These three belong to the local priest and ‘mow’ the grass in empty paddocks.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Lemnos Anzac Commemoration: 17-20 April, 2015

Lemnos Anzac Commemoration: 17-20 April, 2015

The WW1 Cemetery in Moudros

I recently wrote a blog about an Anzac Commemoration that took place in the Australian village where we now live. We have just arrived in our Greek village of Myrina in time for a similar service and commemoration here.


We had spent Easter in Athens and planned to leave on Easter Monday, but we had to leave a little later than planned as Takis was sick and needed time to recuperate. That meant changing our flight, and we only just managed to get seats on the Aegean Friday evening flight as there were so many Australians planning to be in Lemnos for its Anzac  ‘celebration’ this past weekend.


It was a very exciting time for the island for usually at this time of the year there are few visitors. Especially as folk had come not only for the Anzac memorial service in Moudros but there was also a large contingent of youth who’d come for an international youth handball competition, with teams from Portugal and other European countries!

At this time of the year Lemnos can be cold and we found locals wearing overcoats for, though sometimes sunny, the wind was still coming from Russia. While I don't mind rugging up and going for a walk, Takis still had to be very careful, and we found ourselves in a big empty cold house so we had to put on the heaters as we moved from room to room.

There was to be a service in Moudros and a memorial set up for 2 Canadian nurses who died when looking after soldiers during the 1st WW (the only two nurses to die on the island.) But because Takis still needed to keep warm we did not go to any events but watched some activities from our top floor windows. Battleships and two cruise ships were in port and when I went for a walk I saw sailors and Australians sitting in tavernas and checking out the shops. There was even the Australian Ambasador here, he passed by in a cavalcade of flag waving cars.



Takis’ thoughts on this event

The spoils of war it could be gold,
But those of soldiers is red and warm.
Who could repay a fraction lost
The rest of Life a broken rock?

Even though this time may be an opportunity to talk about peace I think I should add yet another voice representing quite a few people in Australia who were not happy to see so much government money spent on various war memorials. They objected to the huge media coverage this event had in Australia, with the such a strong emphasis on nationalistic aspects. Here are two more poems by one who felt strongly about the death of so many, and the way this event was portrayed.

You can be sure that this film will be shown on Australian TV this weekend.

Australians at Lemnos, 1915

We came back across the water
After the most dreadful slaughter
Many to die here
Many now lie here.


Australians at Lemnos, 2015

Oi Aussie, Oi Aussie, we're no jerks
We could have easily thrashed the Turks
Now we bask in such great glory
As told to us - the Anzac story.


You may like to look at the Lemnos Friends of Anzac website that Tony and Despina Whitefield have set up:

And also their Facebook page that has lots of photos of the celebrations that have been going on in Limnos:

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Arriving in Athens: April 2015

Arriving in Athens: April 2015

Good Friday. We left Melbourne thirty two hours before after chasing the sun westward for nineteen hours, with an extra thirteen hours in airport lounges, we arrived.

As we flew in the sun was shining but the waves below us had white tops. And as we landed the airport was sun filled - as you would expect of Greece - but the distant mountains were snow topped, and the wind bent the airport grasses which rippled like waves. 

Syntagma Square


You come up from the railway station into the centre of Syntagma Square, into the bustling center of Athens.
Here we found people sunning themselves, great dogs lying in the sun, and a general spring busyness and happiness at the return of the sun, and the upcoming Easter weekend.
Takis saw a seller of koulourakia and could not pass it by without buying one to eat on our way to our hotel. We walked carefully through the throng.  I was hauling our small suitcase, and he (with back pack) was manipulating his walking cane, while nibbling his koulourakia.

The Old and the New, side by side












Ermou  Mall


Easter and this mall was full of Buskers

Baloon sellers

Harmonion players

And gloriously coloured food

Both of us were very tired, but we decided to try to stay awake until at least six that afternoon, so we took off down Ermou Street, a walking mall paved with marble bricks worn  smooth by many passing feet – OK for rubber-soled sneakers, but dangerously slippery for the tap of my leather soles.

The Greeks love shoe shops

That day the mall was bustling with window-shoppers and general wanderers, many dressed in parkas with fur collars, for while the sun shone the wind still came from Russia. And we found it was worth the struggle, tottering down to Metropolitan Square through the crowds, to one of our favourite cafes.


We sat looking out at the still-being-renovated Metropolitan Cathedral and at the happy holiday makers crossing the marble (gum smudged) courtyard paving. But the wind whistled around our necks although we sat in shelter and under a heater.
Easter 2015
However the sunlit scene in front of us entranced and the sound of the Cathedral bells tolling funereally completed our Easter vision. The poignant sound of Megala Peraskavi (Big Friday) was two slow strikes on each of the four bells. 
And nearly everyone had a phone to their ear


 We were not alert enough to attend any services but retired to our hotel room to watch the Epitaphios processions, as it took place all around Greece.

Easter Saturday is when every goes out shopping and the mall was crowded. We meet a couple of relatives for coffee late in the day.
Saturday night there is a service for the arriving of the flame from Jerusalem. This flame is first lit in the Temple of the Sepulchre, Jerusalem. Then it is brought from there (in a lantern) by air to Athens. It is then distributed to all churches in Greece for the Saturday midnight services, with the help of the Aegean Airlines . (I believe the airline may be rethinking this gift to the church next year!)

Everywhere I noticed Greek flags and came to the conclusion this both a religious and national celebration.

Easter Sunday marks the high point of the holiday, but that day everyone is with family - probably even back in village where they grew up - and the mall is empty. So different from the previous day, this day we found only a few passing tourists all forlorn as they passed empty cafes, and shop fronts boarded up for the day.

Easter Monday all is still quiet. Quiet for us too, as the previous night Takis came down with a severe chest infection and we had to delay our departure! (I found myself buying newspapers and we spent a few days discussing the articles about the Greek economic situation, and shook our heads about other articles about the aftermath of Easter, resulting in the usual post-Sunday service firework disasters. This year there were two deaths and five seriously injured, three of whom had limbs removed!)

 But soon we were ready to return to our schedule, and returned to the airport to fly back to Lemnos.