Monday, April 29, 2013

Angelo's shirt

Angelo was wearing this creatively crafted shirt! 
Love it!

The garden

Although I was suffering from sleep deprivation yesterday morning ( due to a Greek coffee the night before), I had promised Andreas that I would help to clear a small garden area.

When I arrived he had just started. The grass and weeds were waist high. We worked away at the growth for about half an hour before additional recruits arrived...Coralie, Lonais & Aphrodite.

With their help the plot was cleared within an hour. Andreas still has hours of hard labour ahead but he has big plans. By noon he had made a trip to Katapola, returning with 40 tomato plants and some seeds.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

A road block enroute to Agia Anna

Church bells rang non-stop for 45 minutes this morning, the last Sunday before Easter. I tried to upload a video clip of the sound but the iPad resisted my attempts! It was a cacophony of sound, at times rhythmic with several churches ringing their bells at the same time.

After morning coffee we decided to head down to Agia Anna for a swim. Enroute we encountered a road block!

This goatherd had about 200 goats and a few sheep that he was herding down the centre of the road. After following slowly behind for about 15 minutes he turned the herd up the hill where the final resting place would be on the other side of Profitis Ilias.

Agia Anna is where scenes from the movie "The Big Blue" we're filmed. Today the water was like glass, smooth and clear. It was amazing! There were four of us on the beach and John watching from above. Yes, that is me floating in the salty Aegean. It was heavenly. An Italian woman finally joined me and we shared conversations about Italy's economy before we both, reluctantly, climbed out 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

A swimming and sharing day

Enjoyed a second swim of the year at Aegiali yesterday. It was about 25 degrees. There were two boys and myself in the water! It was heavenly but not as delicious as my swim at Agia Anna so today I will plunge into the "Big Blue" again.

Last night we were invited to a"sharing" of Coralie's artwork at the beautiful apartment that she has rented. After hearing about her process of printmaking with optional added touches of colour, it was a special treat to see the results. Abstracted versions of what she observes in the landscapes lined the walls, some with added colour, others simply black and white.


She had prepared some meze dishes and we brought wine & bread to share. Our small appreciative audience sat on the terrace...sipping, savouring and watching the sunset. John and Andreas also shared some philosophical insights!

Countdown to Easter

Scrape, scrape, scrape
Bounce, bounce, bounce
Men at work
Children at play
Someone whistles
Along the pathway
Music drifts with coffee
Climbing up the stairs
Blankets hang to dry
Smiling woman waves

The village has been so generously coated with whitewash that it is blinding! Only the locals are able to walk through the pathways without sunglasses! Whitewashed flowers and patterns decorate every step along the way. Bedding hangs from balconies, airing out for family and friends who will arrive this week. Rental cars and motorbikes are washed and serviced, waiting to explore the island. Small cafes and shops are slowly opening with freshly painted chairs and tables. Market shelves are loaded with Easter eggs. The disturbing aspect of Orthodox Easter, aside from religious nonsense, is the prevalence of fireworks. The youth of the island have access to all types of fireworks preceding the weekend celebrations and they are constantly exploding, scaring the pants off me.

It is about 25 degrees today and the weather forecast predicts at least another week of very warm temperatures. Our friend Kalliroi will arrive from Andros on Tuesday for the Easter celebrations.
Riikka, from Finland, will also join us soon for a joyous reunion.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

In the underground kitchen

Following Theo's instructions, we chopped and tossed and herbed and baked last night's dinner of Briam...mixed organic veggies. The final result fed 10 of us. Cleopatra also made a delicious salad with strawberries, cheeses, nuts, lettuce and a balsamic dressing. Yumhhh!

First swim

The sun is shining today and the wind is warm. Coralie and I made our first plunge into the sea. It was delicious...very cold at first but refreshing. We swam out far enough to see Hozoviotissa Monastery clinging to the rock face above us. John sat at the small church and watched as we swam back to shore.

Earlier in the day I visited Angeliki Kourti at LIME, her tiny shop in Chora. Angie makes so many beautiful things that it is impossible to describe all of her creations. She uses beads, wire, fabric, stitchery, pieces of leather, metal, cord...anything that she can use her imagination and her hands to create!


The first time we visited her shop, I walked away with an amazing necklace and a beautiful bracelet. Her creations are hard to resist!

Meanwhile one of Jazzmin's cats finally gave birth two days ago. We aren't sure if the kittens survived because she continues to spend a lot of time at the bar, seeking solace with whoever is available.

This morning she nestled into John's arms for a snooze. It will be about 6 weeks before she brings the babies out to share. By that time we will be back in Canada.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Panagia and lemons

Today we drove to Lanagada for a walk to the Panagia Church. This is one of our favorite walks and it was a sunny, warm day so we trekked up to the Church at a leisurely pace. The "backside" of Panagia has always looked like a smiling face. This time the smile was directed to a pile of donkey dung! No respect from those four legged creatures.

On the way back, we passed by Michael Ann at work, pressing lemons. The aroma was heavenly!

Michael Ann is a native of the Portland, Oregon area but has been living on Amorgos for the past 20-25 years. She was pressing lemons for  Iamata, a local company that cultivates, dries and sells herbs and essential oils. Many of their herbs grow wild on the hillsides of Amorgos.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Cleopatra and the acrobats

We shared another group meal last night with a pair of visiting acrobats. They will return to the island at the end of May along with their entire troupe to stage a performance.

The only hint that I have about their performances is that they magically climb walls and suspend themselves from doorways and arches. Sorry that we won't be here to see the spectacle.

Where else can you find the lovely smiling face of Cleopatra waiting for you? She adds a joyful touch to our evenings.

The group meals are always the creation of Theo. Coralie and I chop the ingredients and he masterfully manages to feed 10-18 of us from a single pot of food accompanied by a delicious organic salad. My turn in the kitchen will be later this week with either cabbage rolls or frittata. 

Kali Kardia

One of our favorite places on the island is Kali Kardia( Good Heart), a small cafenion in the village of Tholaria. We greet Kiria Plito with kisses before she serves us homemade wine and her savory spinach pies. She is an aged woman, tiny and stooped with a warm smile.

Looking around us, we see a varied selection of products that she sells, collects and stores....bottles of water, juice, cleaning products, toothpaste. As well, there is a donkey saddle sitting on the floor just inside the door, a well worn chair that is still serviceable, the essential TV for important football and basketball games, backgammon games and outdated weigh scales.

Usually there are several men sipping coffee and sharing local gossip while Kiria Plito busies herself in the kitchen cleaning wild greens, making meat balls and rolling dough for more spinach pies.

Monday, April 22, 2013

A few degrees warmer

It finally started to warm up a bit yesterday and we shed several layers of clothing during the afternoon. By nightfall we were back to four layers again!

During my wanders through Chora I discovered that the  sweet" shop was open. I couldn't trust myself to enter because I wouldn't be able to resist the displays of chocolates and pastries.

The shop is hidden behind the main pathway through Chora outside one of the traditional archways that tunnel through many of the narrow passages.

We delivered the painted sign to Armelle for her restaurant and decided to return in the evening for a sunset drink and dinner. The meals that she prepares are made from local produce and meats, mixing the flavours of France and Greece. We shared dishes of oven roasted lamb, penne in vodka sauce, grilled peppers and local cheese....absolutely delicious!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Sunday...and a bit warmer

Our corner at Jazzmin
where journals are written,
coffees and teas are savoured,
and greetings are exchanged.

The village was whitewashed today
in preparation for the Easter celebrations.

There are no vehicles in Chora, only on the perimeter. All of the pathways are made of stone and the edges are painted white...a godsend for those of us who choose to wander around at night!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

To Limani tis Katinas

Last night we drove to Aegiali in the north to share dinner at the seasonal opening of To Limani tis Katinas restaurant. The family owners have prepared traditional dishes for over 30 years. One of the brothers is married to a Thai woman and every Friday she brings food from her country to their kitchen.

Last night we shared grilled fish, octopus and large calamari along with carrot salad, lettuce salad and fresh wild greens. Of course there was the usual sampling of local wines as well.

Story telling and reminiscing become a part of every meal. This image might not be clear but the enjoyment is obvious! Can you tell which one is the Greek?

Saturday -Σάββατο

The loudspeaker mounted on top of the truck booms out a message, calling islanders to buy products from the back of his truck. Usually the cargo includes carpets, shoes, clothes, pots & pans. This time he has a load of live chickens and sales are brisk!

Just after morning coffee Lonais showed up at the bar with his guitar and proceeded to serenade us with a few French tunes.

He is a young Frenchman living on Amorgos and leading groups of visitors around the island on nature treks. Coralie sang along with him.

I am continuing to study while my teacher is away in Athens....learning how to use "this" and "that" as well as "his" and "hers". One of my favorite sentence compositions today was η καρδιά μου είναι δικό σου. The translation is "my heart is yours".

Friday, April 19, 2013

Windy Friday

Cleaning, painting and prettifying of Chora continues every day. Yesterday, Fotula was painting the outside walls of Bayoko while we sat in the wind with our lunch. It was too smokey inside!

Later in the day shadows created a beautiful display against the little church above us. The locals say that this north wind will subside on Monday and we will finally enjoy some warm days!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Organic gardens and fresh bread

We decided to visit Nondas' Organic Farm this morning. They have added a house so they can live on the property now. Organic produce is less common in Greece than in North America. With the economy suffering, there is less income available so sales are dependent on a few islanders and tourists. The gardens are beautiful, filled with produce and fruit trees.

When we first came to his gardens a few years ago, we would pluck our own produce from the ground, he would weigh it and we would walk away with a huge bag of fresh veggies. The process is a little more sophisticated now...though not much. He still has the old scales with weights.  Shelves hold homemade organic jams, marmalades and wines. We left with arugula, radishes and a bottle of red wine to share with our group over dinner.

Back in Chora we noticed that Roberto (or Christos as he is known now that he converted to the Orthodox religion) has been busy preparing his shop to open for Easter. He makes sculptural pieces from driftwood and other found items while his wife does needlework and prepares marmalades and sauces for sale. We have one of his pieces hanging in our living room...a naive style but effective.

To further brighten our day, the sun came out although the wind is still fierce. When we returned to our apartment last night there was a loaf of freshly baked bread waiting for us. I told Maria, our landlady, that we would happily move in with her and her father could live in our apartment. She also promised to share her rice pudding the next time she makes some! Life is good!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Greek lesson number two

Greek lesson number two with Malpo this morning. I managed to memorize the present tense conjugation of the verb "to be" and also the pronouns and possessive pronouns! Whew!! With my limited vocabulary I could even make short sentences using some of these words...and read them...and write them! It wasn't my intention to accomplish the reading & writing parts...just the spoken words but I find it interesting to be able to read a different alphabet...even if I don't understand everything that I am reading.

Today's lesson focused on "articles" - both definite and indefinite, singular & plural, male & female & neutral. In other words uninteresting parts of the vocabulary that require rote memorization , something that I am not interested in at all! Somehow I have to find a way to make this fun! So, I checked out the bookshelves at Jazzmin Cafe and found a Greek version of Peter Pan, a children's book that I have borrowed for a few days. It seems obvious to me that in order to use the appropriate article, you have to know the noun first, this requires an expanded vocabulary...YES??

The wind continues to howl but there are periods of sun so today seems better. We walked in Katapola this afternoon and spotted this sign posted on an aging door.


It is advertising a new Restaurant Anemolithi in the south part of the island. The door has much more character than the new restaurant. I was imagining the time involved in constructing the door and wondering how many years it has survived.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Smoking, lessons and the wind

I just read an article on smoking in Greece. In 2009 the Greek government tried for the third time to impose a ban on smoking in restaurants and bars. Greece has the highest number of smokers in Europe, 42 percent of the population. 20,000 deaths each year are attributed to smoking related diseases and yet the number of smokers is steadily increasing here.

It is a challenge for us in the evenings to spend much time with our friends in the bar. My observation is that more young women than men are addicted. Cigarettes are expensive so most young people still roll their own, inserting a filter into the end. It is an art! It is also an art to keep these creations lit!

On a more positive note, I started my Greek lessons yesterday with Malpo. She says that my pronunciation and knowledge of the alphabet is good. Now it's time to tackle the verbs and pronouns! I am reminded of the challenge when learning French in High School over 50 years ago. My mind was more supple and the synapses seemed to connect more easily.

This afternoon Yorgos gave me a little book of Greek idioms "Playing with words". It has some hilarious translations of English expressions. "I smell a rat" becomes " My ears are full of fleas" and "I blew my top" becomes " My little lanterns were lit". Another one actually makes sense -"Be careful" translates to "Have 14 eyes"! The advantage to this little book is that I can practice reading the Greek versions of these expressions while having a chuckle.

This is what we are living with for a few days. Sometimes the wind blows the clouds away for a few minutes and our hopes soar. Otherwise we are cold indoors and blown about outdoors. It was a good day for a ferry strike because the seas are very rough!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Easter dinner?

This little guy doesn't realize that he could be on the spit
for Easter dinner!

Winter winds on Amorgos

It is winter again. We are wearing all of our layers to fight against the winds from the north as they batter the island. This view is from the road, looking down on the port of Katapola and the Aegean.
It looks peaceful because it is impossible to see the whitecaps on the water!

There will be no ferry service tomorrow while the workers protest new legislation that impacts the power of their union. This is the second strike to affect ferry travel in the past two weeks. There will also be disruption to land transportation this week in Athens. Fortunately we don't have to go anywhere, just struggle to keep warm!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Agia Anna beach

Agia Anna

The wind started to blow again this morning and I wondered if I had missed my first opportunity for a swim at Agia Anna. Yesterday was a perfect day but we were busily visiting with friends and I let the afternoon hours slip away. This often happens on Amorgos!

Determined to give it a try, we drove down to the parking area and walked down the many steps toward the beach. The sea was becoming "white capped" and we were almost blown off the path. John perched at the top of the final descent and I picked my way down to the Stoney beach. I caught a glimpse of two naked brown bums as they disappeared around a rock. Their towels were spread on the beach. Usually the nude beach is on the other side but since it isn't tourist season yet, I guess they decided to take advantage of the empty space! Up to my ankles in the water, I realized that I wasn't brave enough. Not only was it very cold but also the wave action was sucking the stones away each time the wave receded. I wasn't sure that I would be able to get out without being damaged!

There will be many more days to tackle the sea. Even stronger winds are predicted for tomorrow so it's possible that the ferries will be halted.

The philosopher

Each morning, over a pot of mountain tea, Yiannis translates his version of the previous day's events, adding bits of philosophical insights. The top terrace of Jazzmin Cafe Bar was opened for the season yesterday so now we share our mornings upstairs, overlooking the hills, sea and islands beyond.

Last night Theo and Coralie  were busy in the kitchen preparing a risotto dinner for six of us. By the time the meal was ready, around 9:30pm, there were 14 of us gathered with plates of delicious rice, wild spinach , carrots and chunks of feta. A young Frenchman arrived with a bottle of French wine and a selection of tasty cheeses to share.

There is a lot of painting taking fronts, inside walls, tables and chairs. Weeding of the pathways and steps is an ongoing process. Before Easter wild herbs will be collected and scattered along the pathways in Chora. Walking on them will release the aromas of oregano, sage and mInt.

Friday, April 12, 2013

The evening chess challenge

Mountain tea and chess
The challenge between Andreas and Yorgos

The oldest church in Chora

Kiria Eleousa
Our Lady of Mercy
The oldest church in Chora

This church is perched on top of the castle remains in Chora. 

Strangers to this village would think that they had entered a ghost town if they visited between the hours of 2-5pm. During my two hour drawing session this afternoon, not one human passed by. Several cats wandered into my drawing space, wondering if I had food. A dog barked. Walking through the back alleys I could hear the odd murmur of conversation and smell the aroma of meals.

This island has about 1900 year-round inhabitants spread between several areas. Chora is home to about 400. It is also home to the oldest High School in Greece. Three large, expensive highway buses transport the students from the north, south and centre of the island to and from the High School. This year the students do not have an English teacher. 

One of the English tutors on the island has agreed to be my Greek teacher for the next 4 weeks. I will meet with Melpo twice a week for one hour sessions while she tries to revitalize my lazy aging brain cells. Pronunciation is not a problem but retention is a major obstacle! Maybe by Easter I will be able to converse in simple sentences!...I hope!!

Thursday, April 11, 2013


This afternoon I climbed up to the windmills and sat with the sun against my back. The only sound came from a flock of sheep, a chorus of bells and bleets, with interjections of baritone harmonies from the ram. Noisy little buggars!

Earlier we walked from Armelle's restaurant to a cemetery and beyond to a beach. The water was crystal clear and very inviting. If the sun continues to shine tomorrow I will try a refreshing plunge at Agia Anna. The access to that beach is too challenging for John so he'll have to sit at the top and watch me splash around!


I wonder who used to live at 331.
The paint has peeled for many years
but the flowers are fresh and alive.
A remembrance from a past love?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


Theo and Coralie

Each morning we wander up the pathway to Jazzmin Cafe Bar, owned by our friends Theo and Yorgos. There, we sip coffee and tea while listening to Theo's eclectic mix of world music. The cats wander in and out, visitors chat and the world slips away.

This afternoon we walked to a small church that is constructed with remnants from the past. There must be at least 300 churches on this island. Some of them, like this one, are owned and tended by

Of course when returned Kitsa was ready for her daily treat of an orange. She is madly in love with the flavour, drooling green slime while she chomps joyously on the fruit!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

An Amorgian morning

I did it! It has only taken me two weeks to figure out how to get a photo on the blog! Thanks to Picasa, it is now possible!

We finally have sun today in Chora and decided to hike up to the windmills for a look back at Chora, the village where we will live for the next few weeks. Enroute we met our landlady who promised to deliver some of her fresh eggs, fresh orange juice and psemeniraki. Yesterday we were given a jar of homemade marmalade as we walked along Chora's pathway.

Life is simple and good. The only sounds are chickens, donkeys and songbirds!

Monday, April 8, 2013


Our friend Kitsa has returned to the garden area above our apartment. She wakes us with her braying in the morning, demanding munchies. Her preference is oranges.

Life on Amorgos

I will have to start this post with our journey from Andros to Amorgos. It was a perfect day for sailing in the Aegean...but very long! We left Gavrio on Andros at 10am, arriving on Tinos two hours later. After leaving our bags at a travel agency, we wandered the narrow streets of the port and rested at a small cafenio with coffee and tea. At 3pm we sailed to Syros, a half hour trip, and were met by Konstantinos, a young friend. We would have a delay of 6 1/2 hours in this port.

Konstantinos escorted us to a travel agency where we left our bags again. From there we walked along the water to a restaurant for a delicious meal of grilled chicken and salad. Green peace was docked a short distance away and we watched as islanders visited the ship. The meal was followed by an ice cream, more walking, a coffee...and finally John's energy had evaporated. It was 8pm and we had been on the go since 8am!

The Blue Star Paros ferry finally arrived at 9:30pm! We were immediately revitalized by the sight of friendly faces as they disembarked and helped us to board the ship. Theo, Yorgos, Nikolas, Andonis and Andreas shared hugs and kisses and led us to the top deck where Theo spread out an amazing meal of fresh tomatoes, cheese, bread, eggs and wine. What a greeting! It was so special! 

Greek ferries have slowed their travel time in order to conserve fuel so we didn't arrive in port on Amorgos until 3:15am! Fortunately a rental car was waiting for us and, in an exhausted fog I managed the 1/2 hour drive to Chora.

Our friends carried our bags from the car, the key was in the door of our apartment and we tucked ourselves into bed at 4am!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Our last day on Andros

The frogs croak their delight as a heavy rain refills their playground. Salad greens in the garden glisten as the sun returns to soak up the moisture. It is a changeable day on Andros.

This morning we walked into Chora again and sat with a coffee, watching the islanders go about their business. There are not many smiling faces these days. A 24 hour transportation strike was called by the Union to protest the possibility of losing bargaining powers. No ferries, no rail and disruptions to air travel until tomorrow.

We hope that the ferry service returns to normal tomorrow as we plan to leave Andros on a marathon trip to Amorgos that will take us about 17-18 hours from the time we leave Kalliroi's house until we arrive at our little apartment in Chora on Amorgos.  The first leg of the journey takes us to the island of Tinos where we will park our bums at a cafe and wait 3 hours for the next ferry to take us to the island of Syros. Hopefully Konstandinos will meet us there and share dinner with us before we board the third ferry to Amorgos, arriving at 1:30am. With luck a small rental car will be waiting for us in the port for the 1/2 hour drive to Chora and Maria will leave a key in the door of the apartment.

We are well rested after an 8 day visit with Kalliroi so we should survive tomorrow's marathon.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Driggling on Andros

Last night we visited a local bar and entertained ourselves with a Greek version of a "write-around"! Entitled "driggling", we passed a piece of paper around and added sentences, sometimes folding the top of the paper over to hide the previous sentence, sometimes not. This is an example of our creativity, under the influence of vino!

 He painted his pants 
 With colors on his hands 
 And his hands in his rants 
 Then, he stopped and looked around 
 At the waitress with greedy eyes 
 Looking down on her thighs 
 And so, missed her pool deep eyes 
 Gone away, he found ice 
 Forming in the dark blue pools 
Of the wild countryside 
 Man, did he ever miss the love's light
 Kept walking 
 Into the depths of another dimension 
Out of space, out of logic 
Beyond all of our comprehension
In never ending circles 
Until the cat blinked 
And the mouse winked
 So I turned my back and raised my collar to the wind 
And all the songs have been singed.