Greece

A longing for Lesvos…

by Rob on


(Click on the image to zoom in)

Rain, cold wind, temperatures that start to call to turn on the heating, all signs autumn is really arrived. And that is how it is here now: Wet, cold and wind.

I was standing in front of a window looking outside, Marissa and Marion behind me sitting on the couch. I was only half aware of what they were talking about. Until a certain moment I understood one word very clearly: Lesvos! And right away my thoughts were 3000 kilometres away from here.

Yes, specially on days like these I am missing Lesvos. The beautiful landscapes, the mountains, the sea and the beaches. How I would love to eat a good stifado and drink a cold Mythos beer. Make long walk in the healing sun. Swim in the cooling sea. To browse among our olive trees.
And of course it would be lovely to get a big hug from our Greek friend Mel again, because there is nothing as a Greek hug… believe me!

It is hard to believe that it is already two months ago that Marion and I were on Lesvos. It feels like yesterday.
But lets be positive, in 10 months we, and then the whole group including Patricia, will be going there again. And before that we will meet Mel again some times, which will be awesome.

And meanwhile I keep dreaming of those lazy mornings at some beach on Lesvos…

Skala Sikamineas Rob
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Tokmakia

During our vacation this year we have been visiting the Eastern part of Lesvos. A beautiful area where wild horses roam and turtles can be found. Also the home of many bird species, there are more wild bird species on Lesvos than anywhere else in Europe.

At a certain moment we made a break aside a road that led along the East coast of Lesvos. I looked over the sea and saw there some islands. I turned to Mel, our Greek friend from Lesvos, and pointed towards the islands.
Before I even could say something she confirmed smiling that these were the Tokmakia islands (when you look at the photo above, the islands more to the horizon, not the small one closer to the coast).

Last year, when we travelled with our best friends as a group to Lesvos (and Mel certainly belongs to that group), we sailed around Lesvos with Richard as our “captain” as he his the skills and experience to handle a sailboat as the one we rented.
The Tokmakia islands was the place where we dropped the anchor.

It is said that the Tokmakia islands attract, like the ancient Sirens, everyone who is passing by. And that is true, when you are standing on your boat and you see those islands you will feel a strong desire to explore those islands.

The water around the Tokmakia islands is crystal clear, it almost looks as if there is no water. It creates the image that your boat is floating in the air.
The islands are home to many bird and plant species, a wonderful place for those who are interested in these.

As said, last year with visited these islands. The water was too shallow near the beaches, so Richard decided to drop the anchor on some distance. After we made sure that the anchor was properly secured, we swam as true explorers to the island holding food and other stuff above our heads so it would not become wet. After a few times to the sailboat and back we had anything we wanted on the beach of one of the islands (the one called “Ασπρονήσια” or Aspronisia).

On the beach we had the nicest pick nick and even a small BBQ (very good secured so nothing could go wrong).
We swam in the crystal clear water of the sea, we enjoyed the sun on the beach, we explored the island and were amazed by the beauty all around us.

Our time on Ασπρονήσια was truly amazing. Something never to forget. When we left (and made sure no garbage or anything else was left behind) we all were feeling great.
Back on the boat we prepared to sail away and when the anchor was raised I heard Richard say to Marissa that they would come back to these islands.
And oh yes, one day we will go back there…

I must have been standing there for a while, dreaming and watching the Tokmakia islands there out in the sea. Suddenly I felt an arm around my shoulders… Rob… He smiled. And do you know what he whispered in my ear? “We will go back there… “.

And now I know for sure that we will return to the Tokmakia islands one day!

(The photo’s below were made during our holiday of 2016, when we visited as group these wonderful islands).

Marion Tokmakia Tokmakia Tokmakia Tokmakia Tokmakia

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The stars above

by Rob on

Now the darkness has covered the island, the temperature has become very nice. Very welcome after the heat of the day.

Mel, Marion and I made a very nice walk in the neighborhood of Mel’s house. Just 5 minutes away from her house and the darkness is complete. Then, looking up to the sky, something unknown to The Netherlands anymore, shows… a sky full of bright and playful stars!

The heavy “light pollution” in The Netherlands hides the beautiful star filled skies from us. Even in the sparsely populated parts of our country, it is nothing like as hereupon the hills of Lesvos.

It is amazing to see how many stars there are in the firmament, all differences in brightness and size. Just imagine that the star closest to us, apart of the sun of course, is still 4.2 light years away from us. The furthest known star is 13.4 billion light years away (Hubble 2016). Just try to comprehend that!

I tried to make photo’s of this wonderful sky, but I failed in that! Next year I have to bring a tripod to capture this awesome phenomenon!

On my iPhone and iPad I have an app called “Starwalk 2”. This app has many nice features, but there is one I really love: if you hold the device in any direction it will show the current firmament including planets, stars, satellites, deep space objects and more.

The pictures below are things we have seen tonight. It was really awesome how we could match the information given by the app to the real sky!

Ah well, both Mel as Marion are dozing slowly away into sleep. Lets get some sleep I would say!

Petra Petra Petra Petra Rob

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The town of Petra.

by Marion on

Today Rob and I walked through the town of Petra. Petra is a town in the northern part of Lesvos and where we rented our studio for this vacation.
Petra
This is what the Wikipedia says about Petra:
Petra (Greek: Πέτρα meaning rock) is a former municipality on the island of Lesbos, North Aegean, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Lesbos, of which it is a municipal unit. It is located at the northwest of Lesbos and comprises the villages Petra, Skoutaros, Stypsi, Lafionas, Ypsilometopo and the settlements Petri and Anaxos.

Petra Church
Mel would still do an article on why the town is named “rock” and the connection to the lovely church of Petra (Mel, gentle reminder 😁).

The costal town lies at the foothills of mount Lepetymnos. This gives a magnificent view on the town.

Petra is a town with many nice small streets with lots of shops and taverns. A real pleasure to walk through. Many typical Greek buildings showing a diversity in building style, but all with the typical red roofs.

Petra Street
The main road of Petra leads directly along the sea, very nice for walks. Especially when the wind plays with the sea.
East of the town there is a very nice sandy beach. Great for swimming and tanning. And there are many nice restaurants near.

Such a nice town!

Marion

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So cold and wet…

by Marissa on

I really wonder what is wrong with the summer of this year, it is so cold and wet. Right now the sun trying to break through, but this morning it was raining. As it was yesterday.
And the temperature is also way too low for the time of the year.

Almost every week I go once or twice swimming. We have over a very nice indoor swimming pool, a real swimming paradise. There is tide bath, herb baths, sauna, solar stations, whirlpool and anything else you might want in a swimming pool.
It is not a real big distance to the swimming pool, so mostly I go there by bicycle.

Yesterday on my way home on my bicycle, it suddenly started to rain again and quite heavy. Before I reached my apartment all my clothes soaking wet. The wind was rather nasty. So I felt freezing cold.

At home I jumped right away under a warm shower. I always shower at home after swimming to was my hair properly, but this time I needed to get warm again. The shower help me to get on a normal temperature again.
But as said, this kind of rain and temperature is not normal for this time of year. So I hope we will have a nice after summer this year.

When I returned to my living room, I saw some photo’s I made during our vacation on Lesvos last year and I realized what I am missing so much… that nice warm sun shinning on my skin, bikini’s and shorts. Beaches and long drinks. Long walks along the hills. BBQ’s in the garden of Mel.
So yes, I don’t like cold weather. I don’t like rain and wind.
I am born for the sun!!!

So happy that we can go back to Lesvos next year. Maybe the area of Sigri or Skala Eressos will be nice according Mel. She will join us then there.


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In 2015 around this time of the year I placed a message on Facebook related to Marion’s and my vacation to the island of Lesvos. It was after a long time that we would be going there again.
On one of the photo’s of the area where we would be staying there was an island visible and for no clear reason that the island got me interested.
When I found the island on Google Maps my interest even became stronger as it showed two buildings, a road and a pier.
We were thinking of a small farm, but we let also our fantasy run wild. Maybe a millionaire was living there. Or maybe someone was murdered there and now it was haunted.
Through a map of Lesvos that I had bought I found that the island was called “Agios Georgies”, which translates to “The Island of the Saint George”.
And we learned that the island had a nickname: Rabbit Island.

Rabbit Island Rabbit Island

Sadly during our vacation of 2015 we didn’t get a change to visit the island. But we made for up for that in 2016, when we visited with our best friends Lesvos. We had a great day and night on Rabbits Island. Again, I like to thank you Mel for making that wonderful experience possible.

The first thing we learned last year was that the building on the island wasn’t a farm, neither the house of a millionaire or a place that is haunted. It is a small chapel, of course dedicated to Saint George.

The name Rabbit Island finds it’s origin in the fact that somewhere in the past people released rabbits. There are no natural enemies for the rabbits on the island, so the rabbit community grew… well, as rabbits ;-).
No natural enemies, except the humans of course. In the last century people from the surrounding cities hunted all the rabbits until there were none left any more.

But recently someone has placed rabbits on the island again and he is taking extra care of them by feeding them and bring them fresh water when needed.
So Rabbit Island has its rabbits again!

The island offers a small pier to dock your boat, a nice beach and a secure place for a BBQ. And that, is apart from the chapel, all there is.
We had there to most fresh fish I ever tasted, caught and cleaned that morning.

The ladies enjoyed the beach to tan. And of course we took the opportunity to snorkel there, a very nice experience.

I have really great memories of this time we spend on Rabbit Island. Most likely for never to forget. If possible we would like to visit the island together with Mel again!

Below you can find more photo’s that we made during our visit at Rabbit Island. When you click on all the real photo’s (so not on the two Facebook screenshot) a larger version of the photo will be displayed. Enjoy!

Rabbit Island

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Mountain Tea

by Mel on

What an interest suddenly for Mountain Tea. I would expect interest for well-known Greek products as Olives, Olive Oil, Oregano, Ouzo, Honey, Feta, Kavourmas, Loukaniko or even Manouri. But Mountain Tea?

But okay, Mountain Tea!

Mountain Tea

Mountain Tea (Σιδερίτης) is also known as Shepherd’s Tea, here we have right away a reference to the origin of Mountain Tea, or Ironwort as it also is called.

Mountain Tea is of course not a real tea. Real tea is prepared from the leaves of the tea-plant (“Camellia sinensis”), while Mountain Tea is prepared from the Sideritis-plant. In Greece there are 17 species of the Sideritis-plant (some bounded to a local area, others more common). Among these 17 species is there only one cultivated: Sideritis raeseri, the other species are growing in the wild.
Throughout the Mediterranean other variations are known (mainly in Italy and Turkey).

Shepherding is one of the oldest occupations in the world. In ancient times shepherds resided in remote isolated regions and developed a deep intimacy with their natural surroundings. It is through these conditions they discovered the qualities of many herbs. And Mountain Tea was one of these.

Mountain Tea is rich in iron and antioxidants. It is good for the digestion and it is anti-inflammatory.
There are over 60 chemical constituents in the essentials oils within Mountain Tea that have been shown to be beneficial for a wide array of health ailments, such as common cold, flues and coughs. It is also said that it can have a positive influence on Diabetes, osteoporoses and seasonal allergies, to people who interested in weight loss, dieting, increased performance in the athletic world all the way to those with severe depression, ADHD and Alzheimer’s disease (read careful: A positive influence, not a final cure or anything alike).

One advice on preparing Mountain Tea: It is important that Mountain Tea is boiled and/or steep in hot water for a period of time long enough to extract the essential oils within this plant (at least 5 minutes). It is tough to penetrate the woody Sideritis-plant, because of its evolution to growing out of hard limestone and at times under extreme weather conditions.

The Mountain Tea we drink here is coming from Macedonia, the Greek province of Macedonia and not the Republic of Macedonia (<- Small political rant here).

Mountain Tea tastes the best with a little bit of Honey. Greek Honey of course, as produced around my home town. *SMILE*

Rob, there is a nice portion of Mountain Tea for your colleague and you on its way to the Netherlands *SMILE* .

Mel

 

 

(Credit photo: Mel)


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The meaning of the Greek flag

by Mel on

Greek flag
For my Greece loving friends, here some explanations why the Greek flag is blue and white *SMILE* .

The Greek flag is the symbol of national pride and patriotic virtue. In this Greece is nothing special compared with many other countries. I think for many countries around the world their national flag is an important symbol.

Greek Flag

The Greek flag goes by two names: ”The Blue and White” or ”The Azure and White. The official width-to-length ratio of Greece flag is 2:3.

It is said that the cross in the upper quadrant of the flag represents the major religion of Greece, which is the Greek Orthodox Church.

Other source tell that the stripes represent the nine syllables in the battle cry of Greek independence during the Hellenic Revolution against the Ottoman Empire, “Ελευθερία ή Θάνατος” (“Freedom or Death”)

Muses

Another theory which seems to believe that each of the nine stripes corresponds to each of the nine muses from the Greek Mythology.
As for the white and blue colours is said to represent the contrast between the sky and sea of Greece.

Most people don’t realize that the current Greek flag was just adopted since 22 December 1978. Before that there were several designs with few similarities but despite the changes of designs throughout the years, Greece never remained without a flag.
The Greek Flag Day is on October 27.

Below a video about the many flags Greece has know in its history. Yes, there were many. But as said before, Greece never remained without a flag!

Mel

 

 


(Credit photo Greek flag: Public Domain, see Public Domain Pictures
Credit picture layout Greek flag: Wikipedia
Credit Muse-picture: greekmythology.com)


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BannerGreece is a country with many customs and manners. It can be quite confusing to a visitor of my country. Today I found by coincidence on a forum the below “cultural faux pas” that one can easily prevent in Greece. Read them with an open mind and a humorous spirit, but also realize there is very much truth in them.

Learn from these “Don’t do this is Greece” :-).

Enjoy.

  1. Greeting someone with a hug, but not with two kisses on the cheeks. When we hug, we kiss, otherwise it’s weird. If you don’t want to be kissed, present your hand for a handshake (or initiate any other form of greeting), it’s quite allright.
  2.  

  3. When dining with anyone but your closest friends, not offering to to pay the bill and not refusing the other’s offer of paying the bill at least once.
  4.  

  5. Being in a hurry to leave after you have asked for the bill at a restaurant. You are basically telling them you are not enjoying yourself (ditto for next item).
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  7. Refusing a treat, as a guest at either a private home or a restaurant. Regarded as mortal sin in Crete. We take hospitality very seriously.
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  9. Going out for coffee and being in a hurry or leaving when you have had your coffee. Going for coffee means going to hang out and people expect you to have your schedule clear, unless you have warned them in advance that you have limited time.
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  11. Not wanting to have a late supper or to stay out late (if you’re not obliged to wake up early in the morning). Life in Greece is at night. Eating out before 9 p.m. is early and up to 12 p.m. is not considered late. Night clubs get busy after 1 a.m.
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  13. Arranging a meeting with friends and expecting everyone to show up on time. I have given up on that a long time ago.
  14.  

  15. Being in Thessaloniki, Greece and referring to anything from Athens, Greece in a positive fashion. Huge city rivalry, but totally one-sided: the reverse is quite ok, unless you’re from Thessaloniki, in which case you may be considered a jack-ass, depending on how much you exaggerate.
  16.  

  17. Asking for “Turkish coffee”*. We call it “Greek coffee”.
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  19. Referring to Istanbul as “Istanbul”*. We always called it Constantinople. If you get drawn in an argument about this, do not bring up the homonymous song – it is considered lame. A Greek friend of yours may not personally feel the need to correct you, but will feel embarrassed if you do so in presence of others (ditto for the next two items).
  20.  

  21. Referring to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia as simply “Macedonia”**. To us, Macedonia with no other qualifiers is the homonymous Greek province. In context of ancient history, it refers to the Macedonian Empire, in which case do not hint that it was anything else but Greek.
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  23. Referring to the provinces of Macedonia and Crete as separate from Greece (and to their inhabitants as something other than Greeks). F.e. saying “I traveled to Greece and Crete”. Use qualifiers: “continental Greece” as opposed to Crete and “southern Greece” as opposed to Macedonia. The reason is that you may appear to not know or recognize that these are integral parts of Greece. It is ok to do so for Cyprus, but etiquette, specially in the presence of Greek-Cypriots, dictates to use “Grecians and Cypriots” instead of “Greeks and Cypriots”, since we consider us both to be Greeks.
  24.  

  25. Assuming we are not on par with the standards of a European country, either in terms of hygiene, facilities or culture, without having prior evidence***. E.g. asking if you have to bring your own tp, or if there is any place in Athens you can use wifi, or if it is ok for women to wear jeans in public.
  26.  

  27. Wearing socks and sandals. Wearing any kind of sandals away from the beach, if you’re male. They are the mark of the tourist. For women, having bad taste in shoes / wearing fake leather.
  28.  

  29. Appearing to be frugal. It is better to appear broke.
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  31. Preferring to cook with anything other than olive oil and not using olive oil at home (unless you’re cooking something oriental and the recipe calls for it). Using olive oil sparingly on a Greek salad. It’s good, it’s cheap, we’re used to it – so use it too.
  32.  

  33. Hating the sun. Avoiding the sun is smart and everybody does this in the summer, but if you can bear the sun but simply don’t like it, you’re just not compatible with this country. Also if your Greek friends have to choose between either you or the sun, they will probably choose the sun (ditto for the next item).
  34.  

  35. Not wanting to go to the beach because you can’t swim or you’re too self conscious or have better things to do.
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  37. Asking young Greeks why they are still living with their parents. The most probable reason is because they can’t afford not to – not because they have some sort of Oedipus complex.
  38.  

  39. Not being ready to go when a traffic light goes green. The other drivers will start honking immediately. Driving too slowly (with most drivers interpreting that as anything below the speed limit).
  40.  

————————————–
* Unless you are Turkish, in which case hospitality dictates us to be courteous and to acknowledge that this is how you were brought up and it is just as hard for you to swallow your national pride as it is for us.
** In case a citizen of that country is also present, we expect you to be diplomatic.
*** There are situations where we sadly are not on par with a European country, e.g. environmental protection, or civic responsibility, but this should be judged after witnessing them.

Mel

      
(Credit photo: Constantine Sarilekis)


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The Vampire of Lesvos

by Mel on

In these modern times we know that, apart from the innocent vampire bat, vampires don’t exist.

Vampire bat

Well, the vampire bats are innocent as species. Although they feed normally on the blood of big birds, it is known that they also feed on the blood of humans. Basically there is no harm in that. The amounts of blood they consume is very little. The threat of the vampire bat is that they can spread diseases as Rabies.

Dracula

Anyway as said, vampires as the human alike night creature that drinks human blood doesn’t exist. Books and movies like Dracula of Bram Stoker gave us the image of vampires. In the Dracula-movies Christopher Lee played magnificently the role of Dracula and that had its effects. He really set the way we look at vampires nowadays.

Looking at the real world, often people who were suspected to be vampires were suffering from diseases. Porphyria, also known as The Vampires Disease, is the example for this.

“Porphyria, which is its scientific term is a set of genetic disorders in which an important part of hemoglobin called heme is not made properly which means there is malfunction of the hemoglobin production. People suffering from it face symptoms manifested by mythological vampires. Their skin is sensitive to sunlight, their urine is reddish to purplish in colour, the gums are shrunk making the teeth look more prominent and canine-like and they have an adverse reaction to garlic. Other major symptoms include abdominal pain or cramping (only in some forms of the disease), problems with the nervous system and muscles (seizures, mental disturbances, nerve damage).

Some types of Porphyria can sometimes cause sensitivity to light.”
(Source: The American Porphyria Foundation)

But now back the island where I live, Lesvos. We had our own vampire!

Vampire Lesvos

In the 19th century archaeological work was done on a Turkish cemetery near the North harbour of Mytilini (see the map below this article). Researchers discovered a well-preserved skeleton nailed to his coffin with 8 inch iron nails. The middle-aged man was buried in a stone-lined crypt hollowed out of an ancient city wall. This is already strange, because Muslims normally wrapped their deceased in sheets and bury them this way in graves of about one meter deep.

Vampire Lesbos

The man was nailed through his neck, pelvis, and ankles. It is suspected vampires were nailed to their caskets to keep them from rising from the dead. That a Muslim would be buried this way is of special interest since such burials were a real Christian practice. But even among Christians this practice was very rare and there only a few other cases known (as one in Poland).

With permission of the government the skeleton was taken out of the grave for research. It turned out that this man was suffering from arthritis, but I think this could hardly be the reason why this man was deemed to be a vampire. I am afraid that we never will find out the real reason was.

Vampre Lesvos

But how about that? Not only gods, goddesses and demigods wandered on this island, but even vampires did *WINK*

Mel

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