Monday, 28 November 2005

The Flood

I already said it last week: the southern wind was coming and that often brings rain. And warmth. Last Monday we had a night of -2°C, this Monday the quicksilver went up to 20°C. Summer! And this warmth we really needed, because this time the rain was a little too much.

Holland, Germany, Belgium and England got a bad surprise with the cold, storm and snow. Greece, and especially Lesvos, was tortured with rain. It rained and it rained, one full day, two full days and the third day the rain did not yet seem to stop. And now I am not talking about some drizzle or light rain, but without end it rained cats and dogs.

Masses of water fell down. The first days it meant that we stayed inside. It was not cold, the animals all had a roof where they could shelter and anyhow rain was good for the plants. The third day however we felt annoyed not to be able to go out without getting thoroughly wet. And then the messages from the outside world started coming in: The road to Petra was flooded, Mytilini full of water, Kaloni flooded...

When we went for lunch in the afternoon to Anatoli, we could see it with our own eyes on the national television where Lesvos, among some other places in Greece was hot news. The quays of Mytilini looked like one wide river estuary, brown water everywhere flowing into the sea. Kaloni was worse. A brown mass of mud entered houses and shops, in some places 1 metre high! Children panicked when the water invaded their school. They had to take refugee on the first floor. A lot of people got surprised by the rising water.

In the afternoon when on the island the state of emergency became a fact, the rain slowed down and we could drive to Petra. Merry waterfalls dropped down from the mountains and several mud streams still used the road to go down. The Bay of Molyvos as well as that of Petra was coloured brown from the mud and had branches, trees and other stuff all floating around. The harbour of Petra looked like a Tsunami had passed, so many things floated on the water. As well as in Mandamados, in Petra several houses got flooded.

You probably know the sight in Lesvos of all those dry rivers in the summer. Sometimes it is hard to imagine that there will be water streaming through. In the winter there always crawls some water. The masses who sought a way through those rivers this last Friday were probably never seen. The wide river after Kaloni in the direction of Mytilini swole that much that it occupied the main road most of the day and no traffic was possible from or to the capital.

I always wondered why Kaloni had this wide high street in the direction of Skala Kaloni. Now I know why it is such a royal road: they built it above a river. This river could not handle all the water and came up. Not only houses and shops but also many pieces of land got flooded.

Molyvos and Eftalou were lucky. Only some land got flooded and the road next to the bus stop at the school was for some hours under water. The lovely small river next to the road to Vafios became a wild roaring river which overflowed the road as well sometimes.

Now the sun is out again, the temperatures have risen like in summer, mushrooms shoot out of the earth and the people are resettling themselves. In Kaloni and Petra complete furniture, clothing and carpets are sunbathing outside. People clean and scrub, they are not in a good mood.

The day after the flood we took a walk to Molywood, the green part of Molyvos under the Donkey Station where it is full of olive groves. There we could see how the water had behaved. From the mud banks we had to wade through, you could see that only a small river came out of its bed at least 1.5 metres higher. Many roads are damaged or destroyed, many crops on land drowned. No, this winter rain we waited so long for did not make anybody happy.

Copyright © Smitaki 2005

Monday, 21 November 2005

The Living Room of the Mayor

Just like in the rest of Europe winter has arrived in Greece. In the north of the country a thick layer of snow fell and the thermometer descended pretty much under 0°C. On Lesvos the Lepetimnos is sprinkled white with snow. You guessed it: very unusual for the time of year.

Before the thermometer reached -2°C this Monday morning we had some days with rain, which was needed badly on the island. Everything was too dry. Although not everybody was happy with the rain. The olive harvest this year started quite early and it had just started a few days when the heavens opened and the rain came down. That meant that most people could stay home, olives are not harvested when it is raining.

So it was a good opportunity to go to the bars. Which are only a few to go to, in the winter in Molyvos. One of the best at the moment is the Bar from the Mayor: Paradosiako, also named the Kafenion or the Living Room of the Mayor.

Molyvos has a mayor who needs only a little bit of sleep. That's why he prefers to hang out in the bars until very late. You can say what you want about this, but early in the morning he gets up fresh to do his work. So we cannot say anything about him being a barfly.

Two years ago he used to spend his nights at the Brasserie, which was a nightmare for the owners because when the mayor arrived at one o'clock it meant for them that they could not close before three o'clock even though the mayor was their only customer. Since last year the mayor found a solution for this: he opened his own bar.

With that he handled two problems. In all other villages you fall over all the kafenions - you know, those locals brightly lit by fluorescent lamps. However, in Molyvos there were none although each village should have one. It is the hang out place for the elderly people who pay half price for a drink there.

So the mayor opened a kafenion and got a brand new living room. Paradosiako does not really look like a traditional Greek coffee house, even though it's name means traditional. Instead of white walls and bright lights there is cozy light and the walls are painted light orange and pale yellow. The whole place is furnished in a way that looks like a nice family room.

So each night you can find the mayor in Paradosiako, together with a lot of villagers who look like one big family. Thanks to the cultural artifacts on the wall, the brown wood and the large balcony you can imagine yourself in a Swiss chalet. Except that for the rest everything is really Greek.

I do not know how the Greeks design the interior of their bars, but it seems that they are not that smart in doing it. Like in the brand new restaurant of Babis, the sound installation is posed on a huge refrigerator. So when you want to put on the music you have to take a chair, put it against the refrigerator and climb on the chair in order to put on the music.

When you have demanding clients who every 5 minutes want other music, that means that every 5 minutes you have to take a chair, put it against the refrigerator, climb on the chair, change a CD, climb down and put back the chair. Seeing this happening at least ten times in a row it is like you are watching a slapstick movie.

The restaurant Sykamnia of Vangelis in Skala Sykaminia is not that new but it has it's ice and coffee machine placed somewhere at the other side of the street. This means that Vangelis or his brother are always seen running up and down the street with cups of coffee or bowls with ice.

Also the new Living Room of the mayor is not very smartly designed. The refrigerator with the cool drinks is placed against the wall opposite the bar. Before that refrigerator is a table. Because the Living Room of the mayor is not that big there are always people sitting at that table. In the winter it is even the game table for the card-players. Playing cards is the favourite winter occupation for the people here. So the guests at this table are not able to have a quiet game because every now and then they are summoned to get something out of the fridge. This means that when an exciting game is going on you are even afraid to ask for a new bottle of retsina!

But I must say, it is a way not to drink too much and besides that there is often good live music to distract you. And then the mayor dances, or his wife. So you see, the mayor of Molyvos day and night really takes care of his villagers...

Copyright © Smitaki 2005

Monday, 14 November 2005

Getting lost on Lesvos

Yes, we finally did it! We managed to do a walk described by Brian and Eileen Anderson without getting lost. This English couple has published about 28 walks in the book 'Lesvos, car tours and walks' published by Sunflower Books. The walks are breathtaking, but the directions are pretty badly described, or very badly translated.

When I have to choose a walk from the book I always look at the time they give for a walk. I start to know the Andersons. It is as if they have wings because they fly over the walking paths as a fly smelling food. However we walk, we always need double time.

It is true that in the walking world, people do mend their pace. We do have friends who are alike. They walk like they have to finish a skating marathon. If you do not stop them, they will not look at anything and they pass at high speed all beautiful purple cyclamens, terrific views, nice shaped trees and beautiful landscapes.

You can say it in reverse as well. We cannot walk without stopping at superb views, we have to take a picture of a flower or a tree, we cannot pass a wild apple without looking for more or we have to stop to define a mushroom in order to pick it or not. For us walking is not making kilometres, but to get surprised by the always changing landscapes.

I have to admit that I often also have to stop the gang because I have to recover from a steep climb. For a Dutch woman coming from the Flat Countries the mountainous island sometimes gets me in trouble. Although my condition each year becomes better and better. I am getting used to climb over the mountains. In my first years I got tired just seeing a mountain where the path would pass over. Now I walk as if nothing matters.

Last week we did the winning walk, I mean the walk where we did not get lost, the part we took a wrong direction in LoutrĂ³poli Thermi I will not count. So I can criticize those walks, but I have to admit that each walk surprises us with a new part of the island. Walk number 3 is a walk about Thermi by Panagia. It starts at the beach and then it continues through a residential area, pretty chic. The sandy paths go past big houses and gardens to match. I was most surprised by the Tower Houses, some renovated, some in ruin. These are old country houses where in the past century the rich of Mytilini passed their days in the country. The area is full of olive trees, as well as orange, lemon and mandarine trees. A shadowy land with impressive views of the always blue sea.

Especially these months the coloured leaves of the huge planes which are bent over very old churches form enchanting autumnal pictures. The endless gardens are silent witnesses of a past wealth. It was a nice change to do a walk through surroundings made by humans.

You did not get that impression from walk number 12 that we did today: Agias Anargyri, Asomatos and back again. There you walked over centuries old footpaths, where time seems to have stopped and where thousands of old olive trees are backed up by walls as old as the trees. The whole looked that natural that you forgot that those walls who make half a circle around the tree are built by human hands, as well as the old footpaths which have to be made by somebody.

Now they are fantastic walking paths, the narrow monopathis who give space for only one donkey and the kalderimis which are much broader, say for three donkeys abreast. Once these were the high roads of the island. They say that when you break up an asphalt road for sure you will find an old kalderimi, they are the perfect foundation for the modern roads.

Walk number 12 started at the picnic area of the little church of Agias Anargyri, where it rained leaves from the huge planes, where the autumnal colours and the gurgling of little water streams meant that you immediately fell in love with the spot. But we were there to take a walk and the start already was a problem. In what direction we had to start? The walking guide of the Andersons (in Dutch) is a real puzzle book. And do not make any mistakes because that means trouble.

We did the walk totally wrong (as usual), but this time we were rewarded by the Gods. Everything went smoothly until Asomatos. An incredibly beautiful path wound up to the mountain village close to Agiasos. In the village square we only had to read the instructions ten times before finding the right kalderimi going down. And even at the turning point opposite a B-2 building, we thought we were on the right way.

But we did not encounter a junction where we should keep left, nor did we find a pretty steep climb. The better for us because that climb towards Asomatos was enough for that day. We walked a sheep path going through enchanting olive groves. We walked and we walked and we passed a little church on a magic spot in the middle of nowhere, we saw little streams of water but nothing anymore matched with the description of the walk of the Andersons. The sun disappeared behind the mountains, the clock was ticking time away: what would happen if we really were that lost and we could not come out of those donkey paths before it became dark...

This time we really walked as fast as real walkers do. We chose to follow our feeling of the good direction and not the directions of the Andersons. And suddenly there was the path where we started. Results? Instead of the double time we normally need to do a walk of the Andersons, we only had 1 hour more on this walk of 1.45 minutes. We set a new record! When some time later we closely examined the map we discovered that we did skip a large part of the second part of the walk. Very well with us, otherwise we probably would still be looking around for the right way to Agia Anargyri. And then I could not complain to you about those very bad directions given in the (Dutch) description of those breathtaking walks of the Andersons...

Copyright © Smitaki 2005

Monday, 7 November 2005

Everywhere cats

Yes, the tourists are all gone. Yes, all the hotels are closed. For the visitors in the winter only Hotel Adonis and Hotel Delphinia will stay open. The streets of Molyvos look deserted. Many inhabitants are back to their houses abroad or in Athens, some took off for a holiday. What stays behind is a sad pack of hungry animals. Especially everywhere cats.

This summer it was a lot of fun in Hotel Panselinos. Not only for our dogs Rockie and Vrini who went there to play with the hotel dog, brown cocker spaniel Bella and all the guests. Also for Albino, a beige snautzer-like dog, who was an entertaining guest of the hotel the whole summer long. And besides those dogs there were everywhere cats.

Now the gates are nearly closed. Only a last labourer is doing some last jobs and then Eftalou will be almost empty. And Albino, what will happen to him? He followed his friends Rockie and Vrini. So he is often with us. And at our place there are everywhere cats...

A few days ago a merry Whisky followed Rockie to our place. This nice young black & white doggie we already knew from last summer when he was running up and down the Eftalou Boulevard, looking for some attention and an owner. Now he totally unexpectedly found us. So he came amidst everywhere cats.

I had no reason to complain because only 4 cats stayed in Hotel Panselinos at the end of the summer and now came to our house. Molly, a tiny white cat with a black mask, Tiger, a small grey baby tabby tiger and Puk and Muk, two complaining grey and white cats. Integration is not that good because our eleven cats think: everywhere cats.

Amidst all those cats Whisky is trying to find his place as well as Albino who tries to become a member of the family. So we have everywhere cats with thick tails who snap at each other and who snarl at each other because so many newcomers is quiet a change. And all those dogs, 5 in number together with the illegal black dog who got thrown away by his Greek owner, cause quite some commotion. So spitting cats everywhere.

Last year we started the winter with 23 cats, this winter we kept the amount at a lower number: 11. Miss Panselinos and 4 new cats are making it a reasonable 16. But what in heaven are we going to do with 5 dogs! Because the cats are everywhere!

It is also a big difference between feeding 23 cats and 16 cats and 5 dogs. In the morning when you open the door there is a pack of animals who cry that loud that you can hear it in Molyvos. As if they never get food! When you serve them their food there are dogs who do slurp slurppp slurppp and gone is the food. And what do you see? Everywhere cats.

They got disappointed because such a small Molly or a fat Leonardo, both eat at least ten times slower than a hungry dog. How do you feed cats and dogs together? It is after I wake up that I get nightmares. How will I manage to share out the food in a fair way between all those dogs and everywhere cats?

So, I will call upon two Dutch ladies who left Hotel Panselinos in a taxi on the 31st of October. They fell in love with Albino whom they called Flipse. He might like to be exported. I would like that. Because I'd rather have my two dogs and everywhere cats.

Rougette is upset because there are too many dogs, Reu does not sleep anymore in front of the house, GrisGris and Eftalou do not want to know any dog, Tinto does not dare to eat with all those dogs around, Jip lost her place on the couch, Little Tiger cannot get used to the always running dogs and stays in a tree, Yanna simply does not come here anymore and Dikkertje Dap thinks about a smart way to reach the house without being seen by the dogs. Only the smallest one, Molly, is not disturbed by the turmoil of the dogs during dinner and she likes to crawl next to a warm dog, no matter if it is Rockie, Vrini or Whisky. You see, our cats are not happy with dogs everywhere.

And I, I probably soon will not come out of my bed. I can choose between dropping the new dogs so that they have to face famine or I have to face each morning this chaotic animal family. Help! Please give advice what to do. Because when I open my door: everywhere cats. Do I make a step forwards: everywhere dogs. Do I sit in the sun: everywhere cats. Do I stand up: everywhere dogs. Do I serve tea outside: everywhere dogs and everywhere cats. Do I hang the wash outside: everywhere cats. Do we take a walk: everywhere dogs and everywhere cats.

November is quite a bit colder than last year. The winter approaches. This month is the cruelest month of the year: just put on your blinkers in order not to see all those lonely animals. Because there are already so many dogs and everywhere cats...

Copyright © Smitaki 2005