Thursday, 28 June 2012

Don QuiLesvos fighting Windmills

(wind turbines in the West of Lesvos)

How many islands does Greece have? According to Wikipedia there are between 1200 and 6000, depending on what size of landmass you start counting. Between 166 and 227 islands are inhabited; only 78 of them with more than 100 inhabitants. So my question is: why should they plan an enormous windfarm on the islands of Lesvos, Chios and Lemnos, which are famous for their nature and still not spoilt by mass tourism? Why not place such a project on an uninhabited island. By my reckoning there is a large choice of islands where probably only goats and sheep graze.

I am an advocate of green energy and I do strongly believe that wind, sun and thermal energy can contribute to the Greek economy. And I have to confess that I don’t dislike too much the huge solar panels in the area of Skalochori which turn like UFOs with the sun’s direction; I even like the flap-flap-sound of the handful of wind turbines in the Andissa area. I think that we have to make serious efforts to get rid of our dependency on oil, and nuclear energy is no option at all.

But I wonder if anyone will be happy with the 153 huge wind turbines that the Spanish firm Iberdrola wants to install in the west of Lesvos. Is that not a little too much? And imagine: 400 wind turbines on the even smaller island of Lemnos!

Lesvos Birding is voicing its concerns about this project. To create such a park, roads need to be built (requiring earth taken from the mountains) and mountain tops need to flattened to place the turbines – all of this placing protected birds in danger. Well, I wonder if there is anywhere in Greece, where installing wind turbines will not affect the habitat of birds, but I must admit that Steve Dudley of Lesvos Birding is right on many points: see his blog Lesvos Birding Proposed windmills on Lesvos.

Not only will the wind turbines be flapping on mountaintops, there will also be a pipeline going straight across the western part of the island, collecting energy from Chios and Lemnos and transporting it to the mainland. I can’t imagine that this pipeline will be as polluting or create risk of ecological disasters as happens with the oil pipelines in Russia or Africa. But the island itself will not benefit from these round sweeping windmills; it will not get any of its own energy. Whilst producing all this green energy, Lesvos has to continue to pollute with its fuel-driven electricity plant in Sarakina, while in the west a huge green energy trader may ruin the landscape and earn lots of money.

In other European countries you can buy a wind turbine yourself and you have free energy. When planning it right with a group of people you may even have a surplus of energy to sell back to an energy company. Why shouldn’t all Lesvorian households receive free or discounted energy from this investor, who – let’s be honest – will change dramatically the landscape in the west? As long as they work the turbines will be the property of the company, but once they are discarded, the turbines cease to be the company’s responsibility and will remain in the landscape (it is said that they will function for about 25 years). So, in the future, tourists will not only have to visit the Petrified Forest, but also the Discarded Windmill Forest. Above Agios Giorgos in the South, one can already admire the first discarded wind turbines.

Should there not be a law stipulating that any developer that builds must provide money to the municipality to help clear up when the building is discarded (think of all those abandoned greenhouses.)

Iberdrola is one of Spain’s leading energy companies and it ranks in the worldwide top 5 of green energy companies. They bought the leading Greek company of wind energy Rokas in 2009. It is sure that this multinational is driven by business and not the desire to save a poor country. Their projects will not provide many local jobs; not many people are needed to maintain those wind turbines. At Andissa there are already some windmills from the firm Elltech Terpandros WP SA. Between the monastery Moni Ypsilou and Sigri the Greek company PPCR has 9 wind turbines and 3 around Skalachori. That makes, together with Iberdrola, 3 companies fighting for the wind of Lesvos. PPCR also will start in the autumn with a project for thermal energy. I have no idea who owns those solar panels that seem to have shot out of the earth like mushrooms around Skalachori; but I do know that our electricity bills, just like in the rest of Greece, gets higher and higher.

I do understand that huge investments have to be made if we want to reduce oil consumption. And I do understand that the constantly growing world population that uses more and more energy makes a victim of nature. But why offer islands with nature-tourism to a foreign company so that they can earn money? Greece has so many other islands that she could better exploit: leave the bigger islands for the tourists and rent the uninhabited islands to these developers. If they find people to work on oilrigs in the sea, then for sure they will find people to maintain the turbines on uninhabited islands.

More information:
Rokas and the Gigantic Wind Farm

Here a document from Rokas; they promise to solve the energy problems on the islands and help the inhabitants with a less high bill: will this be true? They can increase the CO2 emissions, but nowhere do they speak about the impact on the landscape and its people when building such a huge park of windmills: Aegean Interconnecting Project

Big Question Mark over Iberdrola Greek investment

You’d like to comment: see the addresses below the blog on Lesvos birding

(with thanks to Mary Staples)

@ Smitaki 2012

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Almost Greek

My culinary career might have started in Paris where I discovered that eating is not only filling your stomach, but also a social event. Not that I really learned to cook in those years. The worst dinner I ever served to friends was in Paris, when I decided to treat my friends to a real traditional Dutch green pea soup. I had no idea how to make the soup; so I emptied some tins of green peas into a pan, mixed them with some meat and I might even have added some celery and voilá, the soup was ready. In those times I had no idea that it should have been made with dried peas and when I tasted the soup with its sweet flavour of tinned peas, I decided to say nothing and presented the soup to my friends as a traditional Dutch dish. They all ate in silence, not daring to insult me and I have wondered ever since how they managed to come back to my house for dinner, knowing that I was such a lousy cook. My dog, who normally ate everything including chilli peppers, refused to eat the huge amount of leftovers, even though there were sausages in it.

Returning to Amsterdam, I had a friend who taught me that cooking was relaxing and so I got a better feeling for cooking. It was at this time that I started afresh cooking for my friends and this time I was more successful than in Paris.

I felt like Alice in Wonderland upon coming to Lesvos and discovering the vegetables and fruit coming straight from the land into the kitchen. Fruit and vegetables were not only fresh, they also came in an abundance that I did not know. Those first years I really had to struggle with buckets of tomatoes and apricots that our neighbour gave us and as a real Dutch woman, no fruit or tomato was to be wasted. There is this Dutch advertisement where you see some women peeling endless heaps of shrimps. Then one of them looks out of the window, to the sea and she gets a scare: approaching from the horizon is a large fleet of fishing boats, bringing more and more shrimps. Well, asking a Greek in the summer for one pepper, may provoke the same scenario: Greeks are so generous in their giving that you never get one but end up with kilo’s of them.

The abundance and the freshness of most of the products here on the island, set me up to do more cooking and to be more creative with the Greek products. I quickly got bored of eating every day the same dish, so I had to try other ways to get an aubergine transformed in something different than a moussaka, or a courgette prepared other than as fried slices.

And then there were all those products with which I was not familiar. Take a fig, which in Holland costs a lot of money and here in Greece you just can collect them from the trees. Or the capers to be collected from near the beaches. Or the chorta and wild asparagus, or the lovely goat cheeses available all over the island.

Greece is a Land of Plenty. Its people and its nature are so generous that it is hard not to turn into a cook. My cooking for friends has resulted in this book with recipes I use to make for dinners and lunches.

I know that there are cookbooks full of splendid photographs, but they always look so serious and their recipes too beautiful to try. To compliment the spirit for cooking, which must be light, I invited my Dutch friend Sylvia Weve to make the illustrations. I am honoured she found the time to read my recipes and the stories around the products and became inspired to make the lovely and entertaining drawings for the book. Although I am very nervous to see my recipes printed in a book, with the memory of my worst dinner-ever in Paris still in mind; I am proud to present you a book that I hope will inspire you all to do more cooking with the ingredients Greece provides so abundantly.

You can order the book through internet: Website:
In a week or so the books will arrive at Lesvos and will be for sale in different shops.

Title: Almost Greek
Subtitle: Cooking with Greek ingredients
Pages: 144
Publisher/Editor: Smitaki, Amsterdam (Netherlands) 2012
Translation: Julie Smit, Mary Staples, Jenifer Giannakou
ISBN/EAN: 978-90-816501-3-7

Saturday, 2 June 2012

The spiritual Lesvos

Lesvos, which in Ottoman times was called the green garden of the Aegean, has more than sea, sun and sea grass to make sure that you have a healthy holiday. Many people agree that the island radiates a spiritual energy because of its hot springs and magic nature. The island has been the native ground of many a poet, writer and painter; the poet Sappho ¬– the best known of them. Most work of Sappho, who lived around the sixth century BC, has not survived, but her fame has. However it’s a guess how she really lived. Some historians think she led a school for girls, where they were taught poetry, music and dancing. School or not, she must have had a circle of admirers around her, to whom she taught her art, as was common for all famous people in ancient Greece.

In those times there was no mass tourism, only small numbers of travellers, not enough to fill a small school (although centuries later Lesvos became a popular tourist resort for the Romans). Were Sappho to live in our times, she would probably start a school to teach her art and this school would grow into a famous institute for well being. Praising life and people, she might well become a famous Greek guru. Somewhat like German Robert Betz, who today is fast becoming a rich man – thanks to his self developed transformation-therapy based on scientific and spiritual knowledge.

Robert Betz has chosen Lesvos as the ultimate holiday destination for his clients/ followers who are brought by the planeload to this energetic island, which is great for the island whose economy is declining quickly due to the crisis. Nowadays when going out for dinner you risk being confronted with a terrace full of Robert Betz people. Each night they go out to eat in a group of about twenty people, their exuberant presence ensuring that you will not be able to have a normal table conversation.

Robert Betz is smart because besides his therapies and books, he also sells native island products: olive oil and salt from the “island of love”. And this is how Robert Betz is becoming the new benefactor of the north of the island.

One way or another this island radiates positive energy and this has been long known to other spiritual people, who have organized seminars and classes in a more modest ways, that better suit the island and does not bother other people.

As example – famous in international yoga-circles, Angela Farmer and Victor van Kooten who set up their school many years ago in Eftalou, where they teach their unique yoga classes when they are not travelling the world spreading their knowledge.

Also, Ursula Hasenburg and Irene Asbach who for years, in the beautiful Milelja Island garden , have been holding classes like dancing, mandala painting, aqua therapy, etc.

You do not have to follow any of these classes to feel happy. Just walking on the island will be a revelation and give you a refreshing look inwards. There are various walking guides that might be of a help, like On foot. Circular walks of Lesvos.

There are many more people who contribute to the wellbeing of tourists: guides who will take you on a walk through nature and its flowers and herbs and tell you plenty of stories; others can steer you on a jeep safari across exciting dirt tracks, through wonderful forests, to breath-taking views and sleepy villages or who walk with you through Molyvos and tell you about its amazing history.

There are so many possibilities that you often don’t know what to choose. Next week however you will be presented with many of these possibilities: Moving in Molyvos is a three days festival – taking place from June 7 until 9 – intended to help promote the tourism in Molyvos. The rich program offers a sampling of the different tourist activities offered by various small independent operators around Molyvos, ranging from nature walks, folk dancing, oriental belly dancing, nia and tai chi, to yoga and exhibitions of the works of local artists.

The program is centered on the well being of the tourists and offers a colourful view of what is on offer in this small tourist town in the North of Lesvos (apart from the programs offered by the main tourist operators). No way can you say that this holiday destination is boring!

(with thanks to Mary Staples)

@ Smitaki 2012