Tuesday, 30 January 2007

Cats in numbers

I've mentioned before that the nearby hotel has a large number of cats. I was pretty anxious in the autumn: what will become of them in the winter? Until Christmas there were still people working in the hotel. Two cats clearly liked it better around our house than at the hotel and stayed. I had no problems with two more cats. Sometimes other cats came to take a look, but they never stayed.

With Christmas 14 cats were left alone at the hotel... The invasion started because those cats soon found out where the food was. I became desperate. As soon as you opened your front door, a mass of yelling cats assaulted you. No well brought up cats, this pack of grey, white, ginger and all coloured cats.

A friend took two small cats with her. That did not stop the deluge. Another friend suggested that I fed them at the hotel, a reason for them to stay there. That trick worked! I was finally alone with my own tribe of 12 or so cats!

Until I had to go to Holland. A friend was so good as to come and feed our animals twice a day in Eftalou. But I could not ask her to do the same at the hotel. When I came back the number of cats at home had increased to more than 20.

During my stay in Holland a small hero left us: the big Homerus. This was a young cat that survived an accident and due to this had to drag a back leg. He used the upper side of his foot to run and to climb trees. He carried on as if everything was normal, but it wasn't. His foot became an open wound. They had to take him to the Wildlife Hospital in Agia Paraskevi, where the Dutch owners Ineke and Joris took him in. The hospital is meant for real wildlife, but the owners also do a lot of good for the domestic cats and dogs. It soon became clear that the leg would have to be cut off. But poor Homerus already had an infection and became that weak before the operation that Joris had to send him to heaven. Poor Homerus, the little cat who embraced life so bravely...

Coming back, there was also some good news. Each year Ineke and Joris organize a sterilization program for the homeless animals on the island. In winter they get some graduate students from a veterinary school in Holland who come to fill their days with operations. Friends of ours put our cats in the program so that this time cats and dogs from Eftalou had no way to escape the sterilization-dance.

At the beginning of January Marinda, Mirjam and Annella from Utrecht came at their own expense to Lesvos to do the sterilization marathon. In Molyvos and Eftalou they were assisted by Karin (Dutch tour rep) and Melinda (Captains Table) to catch the cats and drive them to the vet in Kalloni where the operations took place. The cats not only came from Eftalou, but also from Molyvos, Kalloni and Skala Eressou. The number of cats they did in about two weeks were 91 females and 56 males. Just multiply the number of female cats by 4 and you know that this coming summer there will be at least 300 less cats on the island.

Animal lovers do not have to worry. Enough fertile cats remain to produce plenty of sweet fluffy kittens. Also those at the hotel are not all done, so this summer they can again try to beat the number they reached last summer.

What do the Greeks say about sterilization? Greek men especially are against it. It's as if you wanted to cut their balls off. They say nature must take its course. They refuse to see that with cat feeding tourists (and the foreigners living here and keeping a large number of cats) the natural balance is gone. They say that the fittest will survive. But we West-Europeans do not like to see cats decline and die in front of us. And so we continue our struggle for life between the old and the new cultures.

Copyright © Smitaki 2007

Friday, 26 January 2007


Death always comes unexpected. Like that of my 87-year old mother. On Friday night my sister phoned to tell me that my mother's heart was alarmingly poor. Very early on Saturday morning we were at Mytilini airport and at 2 o'clock in the afternoon I was sitting with my mother in a hospital in Holland. We could say goodbye to each other and I could take her in my arms. She had lived a good life.

When you leave in such a hurry, there are always things you forget, like passwords for all the different communication items. And you will understand when I say that for a while I had no desire to write about the beautiful island of Lesvos. That is why you had to go some weeks without my writing.

During the time we spent in Holland it was gorgeous warm weather on Lesvos. It was the famous Small Summer, the period everybody hopes for in January. In Holland they also had very moderate temperatures, until last week. Anyhow, Holland had an exceptional year last year. A pretty hot summer, a warm autumn and everybody complained that the winter didn't arrive.

That winter can come pretty unexpectedly, was proven by the last days of our stay there. Ponds and ditches froze and in some parts of the country woolly snowflakes spread a white carpet over the landscape. In spite of the normal winter scenery the change of weater remained one of the important topics.

A large part of Holland is below sea level. The possibility that the ice at the poles is melting scares many a Dutchman. The predictions of higher temperatures and especially those of a rising sea level are pretty scary.

With the death of my mother we also had to clear out her house. Amongst all the books I found a book with the title: 'The weather machine, or the threat of the ice' by the English science writer Nigel Calder. The book was published in 1974 and is about the threat of a coming ice age. I was wondering. Because now, 32 years later, everybody seems to think that the earth is becoming warmer and warmer.

When yesterday morning we drove to Amsterdam airport and ended up in a traffic jam, the conversation with the taxi driver quickly turned to climate change. When I mentioned the English science writer who was predicting a new ice age, I was surprised that the taxi driver, who was very interested in the weather, agreed with this idea. He said that the weather-gurus in Holland insisted on this scary weather scenario so that the Dutch people would become more eco- conscious.

During conversations about this topic I could not help but calculate how high our house in Eftalou is situated. I thought some metres high, but not the 4 metres they predict the sea level will rise. But anyhow, we can always escape to the hills right behind our house, where we can be safe from rising water.

Such doom-saying about climate change would do no harm in Greece. The Greek media only rarely publish minor articles about environmental pollution and the worldwide consequences.

On Lesvos they do not worry about the rising of the sea level. They probably do not even know that this can happen. The doom-saying for Greece is that the south will get a dessert-like climate and the North will have to deal with pretty bad rain showers and, just like in Holland, with heavy storms.

Lesvos is half way between the North and the South. Like every year it had its Little Summer right on time in January and now the winter of February is due to come. In Greek terms this winter will be viewed as a mild winter. A little dry, but nothing exceptional. Unless the winter will have some surprises. It is good that you can never predict the weather, nor the changing of the climate. Because are we going to have that new ice age or not?

Copyright © Smitaki 2007

Tuesday, 2 January 2007

New Years News

In Holland the amount of traffic jams has increased by 7%. There is no way that you'll get a traffic jam on Lesvos like in Holland. On the island at worst you have to slow down when driving for example to Mytilini, where they are building a new road and where you need all your concentration to avoid damaging your car by falling into the big potholes or the bad surface of the 'road under construction'.

Also the traffic problems of Kaloni are nothing compared to the Dutch morning rush hour. Our neighbour said recently that she hated travelling through Kaloni and getting stuck in the traffic there. I must admit that whenever you go from Molyvos and you take a left turn in the centre of Kaloni to go to Mytilini, you usually find slow drivers, which is a real traffic jam in the eyes of the Greeks!

A while ago they made plans to solve this traffic mess. They designed a new road to go from Molyvos/Petra via Stipsi and Agia Paraskevi to the main road that goes to Mytilini.

So that is how the small mountain village under the tops of Lepetymnos, Stipsi, got its ring-road a few weeks ago. Well, the road doesn't run exactly in a circle, but goes below the village in the direction of Ypsolometopo. For most tourists it is a fun adventure to drive along the small main road of Stipsi. Just like in Filia, Kalochori or Neochori (and many other villages where the main road still goes through their centre) it really takes a lot of skill to avoid the kafenion tables and the old Greek men sitting there sipping their coffees, or the boxes of fresh vegetables placed in front of the local stores. It's amazing that you never get stuck there!

People who regularly have to pass through Stipsi are not that amused anymore to find so many obstacles in their way. For them the new ring-road at Stipsi is a gift from Heaven. But where is the next stage of the road in the direction of Agia Paraskevi? It is said that the shopkeepers and the Mayor of Kaloni are against this new road. They are afraid that when the road to Mytilini no longer passes through Kaloni, but through other villages, people will stop going there to shop. So they do everything to stop this road from being finished and it will probably be many more years before we can enjoy this road going through the meat producing villages of Stipsi and Agia Paraskevi, to Mytilini.

There is only one thing I can tell Kaloni: Open the long promised Lidl and you will see what traffic jams you get. Then nobody will take the new road because everybody always needs something from Lidl.

No traffic jams in Eftalou, but there is more judicial chaos. Many people will wonder what happened to restaurant Anatoli. Well, since the action to 'Save Anatoli' in one way a lot happened and in another nothing happened, because Angelo is still in his kitchen, making his delightful dishes. Although for them it has been a difficult time.

Nearly every week there was an order to close NOW and tear down the building at the road side. Each time I passed by I expected to see the sad ruin of a collapsed restaurant, but each time everything was still in place, like it was all those years.

It is typically Greek that nobody understands why. Not even Angelo. He just got a lot of lawyers to save his business and he succeeded. The last time they were told to close was just a few days before Christmas. But then a lawyer found a judicial mistake and that is why Anatoli is still open this new year.

And then there is the weather that provided us with so many wonderful sunny and clear days. The sun was that warm that it took some discipline not to sit out all day sunbathing. Until New Years Day many people took advantage of it and had lunches under a clear blue sky. But once the sun went down, it suddenly became incredibly cold. It was that cold that several nights already we've had a frost. On New Years Night we found our car thick with a layer of ice.

The New Year did not start very spectacularly in Molyvos. There were some booms from the fireworks. But after 12 o'clock the Bazaar was swinging and the visitors at the Music Café were nearly bursting out of the doors. At least half of Molyvos wished each other a happy New Year while swinging to disco music or listening to some great Greek Ballad. The new year did arrive! Once again: Chronia Polla!

Copyright © Smitaki 2007