Monday, 31 July 2006

The fall of Anatoli

Once upon a time there were two sisters who came from Molyvos. When they got old they moved to Athens. Two or three months a year they went back to their birthplace, where they had a house in Eftalou. They rebuilt the old house into a brand new white villa where they could hide for the summer, never opening the shutters. When the house was finished they did their garden. All the trees and the beautiful reed beds were destroyed. The result was an empty garden and they kept it like that.

Maybe they now had a better view of the sea, but also a better view of their neighbours who suddenly seemed very close. One neighbour was a woman with some studios besides the main building. It seems that this lady illegally built a new kitchen, which became an eyesore in the eyes of the sisters, even though you barely saw the difference between the old and the new building. And think that maybe that widow (the neighbour) is making some money from tourism.

However, the other neighbours were worse. For 20 years they had one of the two restaurants in Eftalou, the terrace by the sea was roofed 15 years ago. This was no problem and this neighbour was always there to give the sisters a helping hand with any problems. They even phoned him in the middle of the night because two youngsters were trying to make love on their doorstep.

But still this neighbour was not good enough. His business probably did too well. He built a mini golf and beautified his terrace. The sisters did not like these things, so they started complaining, first about the smoke coming their way when the neighbour was cooking tasty dishes for his clients. Then suddenly there was a Greek night for children. The sisters had to endure 3 hours of Greek live-music until nine oclock at night. They also imagined that the mini golf course was operating 24 hours a day. Those sisters who come here for only two months a year have no idea how really quiet it can be in Eftalou. I can assure you that after the donkey safaris make their way home between 9 and 10 PM and the weekly Greek night turns off the live-music at 9 oclock, you only hear the crickets sing.

The sisters were thinking the neighbour had to go. They complained to the authorities and they could only say that indeed the building for the inside restaurant was illegal, and had been for 15 years. It is a beautiful spot where you enjoy the sea view during dinner all year round. But in Molyvos it is not allowed to build so close to the sea. And that is what the sisters thought: law is law.

These sisters who shut themselves in for two months in their house on the Eftalou Boulevard and only go out for a swim, managed to close down one of the two restaurants in Eftalou. Anatoli, also known by the name Angelos, who is the owner and cook of the restaurant, has to go, because these two ladies want peace in Eftalou.

They do not mind that Eftalou is quiet enough, except for the months they are staying there. They have no appreciation of the fact that in winter also one can eat at the seaside. They do not know how many people in the off season like to hike up to Molyvos and have lunch in Anatoli, one of the very few restaurants in the north open in the winter. The two sisters do not care for Eftalou, this beautiful green area next to Molyvos which is a peaceful place for everybody. These sisters, who made a desert of their garden and in doing so, made a hole in the line of greenery bordering the Eftalou Boulevard, maybe want to go back 50 years in time.

But the sisters have the law on their side. The Anatoli restaurant is an illegal building, where nearly everybody enjoyed a good meal and never complained. Now the sisters got irritated. Their boring house without any flowers or other welcoming ornament is how they are thinking: the neighbours restaurant has to go and the other neighbour will very much regret that she built an illegal kitchen.

They didnt leave the Molyvos authorities alone until they got what they wanted: Anatoli and its hard working chef had to close down and the other neighbour has to pay a lot of money. So the two sisters not only destroy a familys life, but also close down a restaurant where you could have a lovely time the whole year round, not only islanders, but tourists as well.

The municipality seems to do nothing. They do not see the importance of a livable and attractive Eftalou. They only keep themselves busy with the elections for a new mayor in October. No candidate sees any votes in it. The same fate is to befall Anatoli as the Hotel Arion, which after only one year was already doomed to become a Greek ruin. Everybody complains that there is nothing to do here in the winter. Well, no wonder... Sisters only staying here two months a year can pull the strings. And nobody is going to stick his neck out.

Is there no clause in this law that after 15 years, theres no way anymore to complain? It is sad to know that this famous restaurant has to close its doors at the end of August because these two sisters suddenly have complaints about a building where nobody has complained for 15 years. Everybody works for a good image so that lots of tourists will visit Molyvos and its surroundings. Nobody realizes that Anatoli is also one of the attractions in the region, not only for tourists but for all the people of Lesvos and for all year round. Please, give these sisters, who only stick their noses out of their garden for a swim and probably make no contribution at all to the welfare of Eftalou, what they deserve. It is typical Greek politics to complain about not enough tourists, but have no view at all how they can change that.

So if you agree with me and if you want Anatoli to stay open, please send me a mail so that I can forward this mail to the municipality, together with our petition. Those sisters should be ashamed. We are for a livable Eftalou!

Copyright © Smitaki 2006

Sunday, 23 July 2006

Wailing Wind

According to a Dutch newspaper today, the weather in Holland is stuck in a so-called 'Omega-blockade', which means that the hot weather in the west of Europe will remain. They even predict a big chance on a hot August, after the record breaking temperatures of July.

I am happy for everybody, for all that good and hot weather in July which in other years regularly spoilt a lot of summer fun. But I am not happy with it myself. I already written about the Communicating Weather Barrels: it is good weather in Greece, in the west of Europe they have bad weather and vice versa. In the middle of summer the weather cannot become that bad in Greece when summer is playing a hot game in Western Europe, but this July the weather is not quite normal here.

I never was that cold in July in Eftalou. For the whole month now a nasty north east wind plays around the Aegean Sea. When we drove to Lapsarna last week it was even too cold to stay on the beach, jumping into the high waves of the sea was impossible. In Gavathas it was that cold that we were forced to have lunch in the blazing sun.

It is not the wind is that cold all the time, but it can be that strong that you get crazy because of the strong draughts and the banging doors. Temperatures here are pretty high, so it feels nice to open doors and windows for a little air. With this wind you have the choice to be in the middle of a tornado or in a hot oven. A little draught does not harm your house, but this draught blowing everything to pieces makes me crazy! You have to bind all the tomato plants in order to save them from breaking, flowers bend that low that they break. No way to secure your table cloths, you have to secure everything. The seawater was lovely in June but now feels like an ice cold ouzo.

No warm Greek nights anymore. Eating with a screaming wind around your ears is no fun, so we eat inside. At night I sleep under my cover like in winter. This is July! So if I must believe the Dutch weather predictions and the Communicating Weather Barrels, this 'Omega- blockade' will take care that this north east wind will not cease...

Do not picture me in a thick coat shivering with the cold. The temperatures here are around 30°C, so especially in daytime it is warm. People staying in places out of the wind do not know what I am talking about. They love the little air that is blowing some coolness into their days. This wind however has other dangers.

Last week some 250 people and many planes were fighting a fire that raged south of Mytilini, close to Agias Ermogenis. Hundreds of hectares of woodland and cultivated land and at least 5 houses were destroyed by the flames. The strong winds helped the flames to become a roaring fire. It was a wonder that more houses, a hotel and some shops got spared. It was the worst fire in years on the island.

We should be happy here in Eftalou, because in Thessaloniki and in Athens some garbage dumps 'caught' fire. For the first time I read that they were concerned about the air pollution caused by these fires. Believe me, with such a fire in Holland, the whole of Thessaloniki should have been evacuated! The mayor of Thessaloniki accused the government of 15 years neglect of the problem with garbage dumps and garbage fires. Is there hope that something will change...

Two days ago smoke was also seen above the garbage dump up from Eftalou. A firefighter truck was seen speeding to the fire. I did not notice it, because of the wind coming from the north east. This same wind I will be thanking on my knees, if this garbage fire above us really breaks out. Then the smoke does not get blown into our house. That always happens 'by accident' in the autumn. When we have a southern wind...

Copyright © Smitaki 2006

Monday, 17 July 2006


Can you believe that there are tourists on Lesvos who get bored? There are people who phone their travel agent saying: "Madam, I am so bored, I want to go home. When is the next flight home?" It was a German family who were the worst. Man, wife and child arrived at the airport, got the transfer to their hotel in Skala Eressos and after 5 minutes in their room, they immediately wanted to go home! They left the island that same evening...

Well, Lesvos is an island that doesn't have something for all tastes. We don't have miles of golden yellow sandy beaches where you can sip colourful cocktails the whole day long and lounnge in fancy restaurants. Lesvos has many small family beaches, beaches where peace rules and where no fashionable music blasts out of mega-speakers.

Neither does Lesvos have famous antiquities, like the Acropole in Athens, the Palace of Knossos on Crete or the white village of Lindos with its temple on Rhodes. Lesvos has Molyvos and the petrified forest. And besides that it has natural beauty and many real Greek villages. It is no wonder that Lesvos was popular in Roman times, thanks to its forests and idyllic fields.

Lesvos is also not highly rated for mythology. Achilles is said to have buried his friend and old fighter Palamedos here on the island after he died on the field of Troy. They also say that Achilles once stood at the gates of Molyvos. Then the daughter of the king fell in love with him. She opened the gates and her reward was that she was killed because of treachery.

Another myth of the island is that of Orpheus. After he was killed by jealous nymphs, because he could not get over the death of his wife, the head of Orpheus washed ashore at Old Andissa, together with his famous lyre. His music is still to be heard on Lesvos.

Lesvos is close to Troy. Maybe when they were fighting that city you could, standing in Molyvos, wave to the beautiful Helen, wife of Menelaos who got taken by Paris to his home. That is why for many years Troy was besieged by many angry Greek warriors. If you used your imagination you would think that it was very busy here at sea at that time. If the wind was from the southeast you could smell the pigs they roasted on their fires. And believe me, many more than one warrior came to Lesvos to buy food and take women.

Around 750 B.C. Homer described part of the battle of Troy in the Iliad. Not in words accessible to everyone. Recently the Italian writer Alessandro Barrico rewrote the Iliad in his own words so that the Iliad has become a real page turner. Especially reading it on the beach. Nothing better than reading stories about this battle where mythical heroes, gods and half gods quarreled and fought, while looking at the same sea where once they sailed their ships and looking at the mountains on whose slopes they camped.

'The Songs for the Kings' by Barry Unsworth is about some Greek kings with their army that tried to reach the battle of Troy, but were prevented by the gods of the wind. This book is even more humorous. I suppose Barrico could not go that far, without hurting Homer's writing.

International editors worldwide devised a project where writers are invited to tell their version of a myth. The English writer Karen Armstrong started the series in her own way with 'A Short History of Myth'. She is called the runaway nun, because she once spent time in a nunnery but is now known for her books about religions such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam. She is specially known as a person trying to build bridges between those religions.

If you prefer a less serious book in this series, there is the 'Penelopiad' by Margaret Atwood. This well known Canadian writer wrote the story of the wife of Odysseus. Penelope waited at home for her husband, while being besieged by all kinds of men who wanted to marry her. Nobody believed Odysseus would ever return home after the years he fought in the battle of Troy after which the Gods prevented him from going home with all kinds of adventures.

And who remembers why it was that Atlas had to carry the world? This pretty story with her interpretations about Atlas was written by the English writer Jeanette Winterson called 'Weight'.

Getting bored on this island? Besides visiting Molyvos, Skala Sykaminia, Agiasos, Plomari, going to the petrified forest, riding on a donkey, driving a safari, enjoying the hot springs, meandering through the mountains, eating sardines or whatever, you can spend your days reading and muse on history. Israel started a war because some soldiers were kidnapped. Just like the abduction of Helen, which caused the ten years battle of Troy. So you see, nothing is new in the world. Yes, there is. People get bored on this island, which really is incredible...

Copyright © Smitaki 2006