Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Morning coffee with new friends at the Kastellorizo house.

This morning at 10.30am I will entertain, Nick P, (lawyer, author and historian) Nick (author and historian) and Vasilis B. I have prepared Turkish pears poached in red wine with cloves, cinnamon and hazel nuts to be served with ricotta and yoghurt with nuts soaked in honey. In addition I have cooked my old favourite galetemboureko. The conversation twists and turns, island matters, international events, personal stories and anecdotes. We have a very delightful visit, just the four of us. A lot of laughter and joy.

We decamp to take a look at Nick and Helene Ps' recent house renovations. We make our way up the stone steps towards the church. A double doorway on a slope signals our arrival. The house is original and very beautiful, deep wooden window frames and panelled ceilings. Nick takes time to show me all the original features, pointing to clues as to each room's function-a store cupboard of large proportions to display a collection of fine plates. "Ah, must be a reception room", and so we make our way up the winding stairs. Both Nicks share a deep interest and knowledge of island architecture and island life. They show me how islanders used their spaces, bantering about this and that detail. Their enthusiasm makes looking at this house so much more meaningful.

We decide to extend our walk to include a tour of other island homes, some in shocking states of disrepair, others restored and loved. We find remnants of French and Italian occupation in architectural details, named buildings-faded, facades hinting of French style and grandness, a scrap of render, split to reveal past paint layers. A square, once thick with the noise of commerce and kafeneon, now a shady byway. It is as if the stones whisper to us of past lives. The Nicks' commentary renders the past concrete. All evocative and immediate. I am in another world. A wonderful couple of hours are passed in this way.

We are very much enjoying ourselves. 2.00pm has taken us by surprise. Nick P suggests he kerasi us for a light lunch at The Olive Garden. We order colokithakia diganites, aubergine from the forno, garlic dip, salad and sparkling water. It is very good. We peel off to go our separate ways.

Tonight Costa and Anna Pavlos are hosting a night with singer Evangelia Xenopoulou.

We plan a small dinner, Costa, Anna and I at Coumenos under the vines at 8.00pm before guests arrive at the house on the limani at 10.00. We make our way back to Costa's and sixty or so guests and passers-by clump in doorways, in the kitchen, sala, anywhere - we are packed in.

The singer makes a speech wishing Anna a speedy return to the beloved island and then begins her Kastellorizian songs of loss and joy. She is a delightful square of beauty, blond with a wide pink mouth. There is dancing and eating and greeting of old friends. I meet Nick and Pauline M from Sydney, relatives of Nick and Irene M, neighbours when I had a business in Surry Hills, Sydney. "Please pass on my good wishes to Nick and Irene. Many years have passed since I have had contact, yet my memories of them are strong and good". Close to midnight we say our goodbyes. It has been a blessed day.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Learning Life's lessons on Kastellorizo

Monday 26th September, 2011.
This morning at 9.30am Berdt will come to install a curtain rail on the first floor. We discussed it last night and in true German style has it worked out to the last millimeter. My job last night was to paint the rod and fittings.

I take a peek outside my front door. Bernt is sitting on the chair outside. "I am early he observes." Precision is Bernt, in a polite and considerate form. Ah...come in, only by a few minutes, I note. We set about getting the rods spaced and drilled. We enjoy chatting about Munich, the lakes, sailing and house renovation on the island. We have a bit of adjustment to do, so Bernt returns to his house for extra tools while I prepare our lunch and set the table.

We have a delightful lunch of baked onion, eggplant and peppers, poached zucchini and tinned tuna, poli-sporo bread and olives accompanied by iced water, fresh apple and halva follow. We are always in conversation about something, this meal it is the EU. I'm reading 'Why Europe will run the 21st century' by Mark Leonard and I have a bundle of questions for Berdt who has a financial and legal background and is well qualified to help me understand. I find him very interesting on the subject. We part for siesta time.

Around 4.00 I head off for my swim at the point. On the way back I pass the fisherman who lives next to Helene's new house, Michealis Nittes. He is attending to his fishing lines. He squats on his step between two large plastic bowls, each filled neatly with spiralled line. Ti kanis? I venture. "Valo kenurio. Ti tha Kano, ine to thoulia mou." I'm putting new hooks, what can I do it's my lot. This is the same fisherman who was surrounded by twenty cats the last time I passed. I smiled in wonderment at the brood. He responded "Obos ine Psaria, gates ine conda, brepoun na fagoun ke aftes". Where there are fish, there are cats. They need to eat as well....Yes, I thought. So it is.. Afto ine. So it is... A favourite island saying.

Underpinning these stock phrases are the remnants of the very ancient concept of Fate, stretching all the way back to Homer. Fate in the sense of 'meant to be'. In our frailty we can invoke the wrath of more powerful beings, nature and nature's wild forces - a life order and acceptance of it are an inevitable aspect of being. Nuances of language colour the effectiveness of these exchanges between us. It is the way we, Michealis and I recognize and accept the 'state of being' as lived on this rocky island. We will have more of these conversations. They will serve as a kind of neighbourly accommodation.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Kastellorizo Museum then Lunch at the Olive Grove.

Sunday 25th September, 2011.  A new day. Roosters crow the morning awake. I make my way to the rock for my morning swim with my book of short stories by Charmian Clift, 'Mermaid Singing'. Hannah rightly decided it would be good island reading material. Charmian is writing of Kalimnos in the 50s. Vestiges of her characters inhabit Kastellorizo.

I have decided to visit the museum today. I have heard the embroideries and artifacts are worthy. As I approach the museum attendant welcomes me. Ella kouritsi mou. Ella mesa. With that he hands me a tissue, I tilt my head- ya ta Yialya sou. "To clean your glasses." Thelis nero? Oki epharisto. As I move to cross the courtyard he picks a sprig of basil and fragrant geranium, pressing it into my hand. The fragrance lasts all the way through my visit. The collection are fragments, mere scraps from the layers of occupation. The courtyard walls, remnants of the Italian crusader occupation.

I hear the church bell chime 1.00pm. I make for The Olive Garden restaurant, opposite my house run by Damian and Monica. Under the vines, cats at my feet, I order a lunch of broccoli poached with carrots and onions, mushrooms with feta and pepper and a horiatiki salad with a bottle of Retsina, dry white wine cured with pine resin. It is truly delicious.

At the tables near me I hear the French, deep in conversation, to my right a German table, out of earshot an English couple. Nick and Helene P arrive. We are all drinking. Siesta will follow. Couples lean toward each other in conversation, eating and drinking, tinkles of phrases, languages out of reach....and the lap, lap of the limani always a glance away.

I have made arrangements to have my hair washed and dried at 6.00pm. We meet at the furno as Thionisia doesn't know my house. I provide the shampoo and conditioner, she provides the dryer and some hair products. 8.00E. 6985931561. We get started. I place chair next to the shower and we begin with the hose. I make the usual polite enquiry. How many children? "No children, I've only been married a year. I'm waiting for my husband to grow up." I like her style.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Exploring Paliocastro Kastellorizo

Wednesday 21st September, 2011. Today Frank and I will walk to the island high point and ancient fort of Palaiokastro. I have my reference book by Norman Ashton, Ancient Megisti. I will be looking for a 2nd century inscription carved in the rock face below the Kastro:

"This is a monument to Timon. Let no-one do it harm or erase it. But if this is not so, let him be sinful in the eyes of Daimon and to the Gods of the Underworld."

Greek playwrights invented tragedy. I have no wish to tempt the Gods of the Underworld. We will just look and remember Timon.

The Roman chronicler, Titus Livius of Patavium (Padua) compiled a massive history of Rome in 142 books, Ad Urbe Condita. In the few books that survive there are three references to Megisti, all in the context of the events of 190 BC~during the Syrian War.

We have wonderfully evocative fragments from it such as:

".....the Rhodians sent Chariclitis with twenty beaked ships to Patara and Megiste harbor."


"....Polyxenidas, on hearing of the battle had left Ephesus, and after having sailed with his fleet all the way to Patara in Lycia, being in fear of the posting of Rhodian ships which were at Megiste, After disembarking onto dry land with a few men he made the journey to Syria on foot."

From such scraps we know that the Romans and ancient Greeks utilised the strategic positioning of Megiste and it's safe harbour from the 4th to the 1st century BC. A Lycian Tomb, high on the rock face tells its story of occupation. In such fragments are this ancient rock's importance recorded.

On the way back Frank and I call in to visit Bernte for a glass of cold water. He has had a house on the island since the the 80s and visits as many as three times a year. His house is delightful, a small garden overlooking the tall pines. A large top floor room is set out with beloved pieces of inherited furniture, a grand gilt mirror and an exceptional bureau of inlaid wood, reading chairs and family photos. A bolt hole.

We three agree to lunch at my house. I offer them the remainder of the tomatoes yemistes. Yes! They bring Retsina and we have a delightful time eating and drinking- again! I sleep deeply and awake at 8.00pm, dress for drinks on the limani with Voula and friends. It is a warm night. A puff of air fans the bay. There is a murmur of diners sampling the restaurant's fare as I walk towards the Kastellorizo Hotel. Voula is there with Wendy, Charles and Richard, Kastellorizo regulars from the UK. The Ouzo is deliciously refreshing at this time of the day. We chat and I take my leave to meet with Triandafilia Kalafatas, my Athenian neighbour. Together we stroll the limani till we reach Vassilis cafe for coffee and iced water.

A clap of thunder, lightening, then rain. We beat a retreat inside. The rain is dramatic and cleansing. It will clear tomorrow.

Thursday 22rd September, 2011. I awake to sunny skies. Frank and I will go to Aios Giorgos for swim, a small swimming island with what passes as a beach. The water here is clear and blue. For three Euros we hire beach lounges and for a few hours chat and swim. Frank is good company, a retired journalist and translator, he has a vast knowledge of music and literature spanning English and German. He lived in England for four years, writing for papers there. We never run out of things to discuss. He is interested in the performances I have seen recently in Vienna and New York.

Tonight a group have been invited to Costa's birthday sweets at 10.00pm. Anna and Emanuel, Chrissie and John, Amy, son ...Conahan and partner, Matthew, a Greek singer, Fandouri, Nick and Helene P and Basilis and Nick B.

Anna P has cooked baclava, orange cake and a flan. It is served with hot black tea.
We leave around 1.00pm.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

The Blue Grotto, Kastellorizo.

Sunday 18th September, 2011. I have organised a group to come for drinks tonight at 8.00pm. This will be the first time I will entertain. I'm glad to have the four extra chairs and the crockery set, now all unpacked and settled into their places. It took me a bit of searching in Athens to find the set I wanted. Now I notice it has the mark Chateau Valmont. I'll look it up and see if I can find out more about the company.

I've cooked spanakopita, prepared a plate of two large slabs of Turkish cheeses with grapes, local bakery poli- sporo bread, bean, garlic and lemon dip, and my favourite cocktail of the moment, Cointreau with champagne. The guests are:
the Germans: Bernt (near Munich), Sabrina, (Neuremberg), Frank and Heikou, (Hamburg).
Costa and Anne, Linda, a friend of Costa. Sculptor, New York, Marion, Bill and Linda, Basilis and Nick B. It is a great night. Everyone happy and laughing.

Tuesday 20th September,2011.
Frank, Heiko and I have organized a 9.00 am boat ride to the Blue Grotto with Giorgos of Little Paris Restaurant. A fine day with a hint of cloud cover. We breach the point then head off around the island coast passing vast slabs of red,white cliffs, sharp and jagged. A two masted sailing vessel passes us headed for the harbor. We wave. I look across at the island archipelago, rocks jutting out from this wondrous Mediterranean sea.

Giorgos cuts the motor and I see the cave opening. Oh! It is but a slit above the waterline. Surely we can't have room to enter. "Lie down, lie down". We do as instructed and glide into the hole in the rock, just.... As our eyes become accustomed to the light, we see a vast cathedral cave souring above us, the rock face worn with water, a semi circle, vast in height, lit by an iridescent blue body of water, bright and glowing. All is silence. We sit for a minute with just the lap, lap of the boat. It is truly magical.

We have our swim in the brightness, the cave slit brilliant with white light, the water blue- green and sparkling. We take our pictures as remembrance and head off back to the harbor.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Drinks on Kastellorizo Bay

I awoke early for the 8.00am boat to Kash with captain George. Still feeling very seedy. I have a yearned for hair wash and then drag my nana shopping trolly up the hill to the Friday food market. It is as splendid as I remember. Huge mounds of bright peppers, greens, fruits, spices. It is all here in abundance. I found the cheese stall and selected a beautiful goat feta and a milder sheep's cheese. I had a choice of around six types, made variously from cow, goat and sheep's milk. The same vendor also has an excellent selection of olives. I love the taste of the wizened black ones and order half a kilo. Watermelon, grapes, oranges, peaches, plums and grapes are in season. I see numbers of green leaf vegetables, beautiful marrow and peppers and always mounds of deep red tomatoes.

On the way down the hill, I call in to see Ermit, the antique dealer and find a very good Horiatiki cupboard suitable for the kitchen entrance. He has given me a price of 500 Turkish lira (around $300.00A). I think I should get it, but I'd like to pay less. I'm hopeless at bargaining. My heart isn't in it. I make the mistake of identifying with the seller. I plan to offer 350TL and see what happens.

I've been invited to drinks at Marion M's house on the limani. I arrive around 9.00pm. The guests are largely island home owners who have made Kastellorizo a large part of their lives. Harvey, Sydney, Chrissie and John A, Sydney, Gus and Beryl, Sydney, Anne and Emanuel, Perth, Vasilis and Nick B, Canberra, Serena and partner Dario, Perth, German, John and Diane K, Sydney. Betty T, Sydney.

Marion serves Moet, beers and ouzo. As we catch up on each others news, sounds of a distant restaurant's music floats across the bay, harbor craft bob, catching the moonlight and there is Venus-companion to the moon, high above, splendid and bright. The bulky grey silhouette of Turkey is bleak and flattened tonight. This bay never fails to move me. There has been talk tonight of Turkish planes flying overhead on exercises. We don't like this talk. Someone changes the subject pretty snappy. The Paleo Castro is lit making it's stone golden and beautiful.

Harvey has been to Venice for the biennale- almost exactly the same dates as me! Vasilis and Nick have come from Berlin on route to Kazzie, full of excitement for the architecture and galleries they saw, particularly in east Berlin.

We are called to a table laden with sweets of all descriptions. I have contributed a galetemboureko. I love cooking in my new kitchen. It is minute and very convenient. I'm very pleased with the result. I get a few compliments.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

No Street numbers or street names on Kastellorizo.

Had my morning swim without incident. I could hear Dimitri working, but managed to walk by unnoticed.

Real estate agent,Costa P called by this morning for a coffee. We discuss a number of court cases. Eight to fifteen years in Greek courts is not unusual. A very litigious society. Mafia style vendettas! What can be gained from this madness. People pinching land, squatting in another's property, and so it goes on. It reminds me of the Dickens novel Bleak House, a story of Chancery Lane courts where families are driven to madness or ruined by their lawyers and sedentary judges.

I head off to the post office to collect mail. When I get there the post mistress makes copious notes of the details of my house. Yellow, wood shutters, opposite Athena Park with a Pitharia planted with oleander and lavender. As there are no addresses on Kastellorizo, the post mistress must rely on her local knowledge to deliver the mail. She writes this information in a book.

I have arranged to meet Triandafilia Kalafatas (Athenian) to measure her house. She is all at sea with the design, so I hope a floor plan will help. It takes around three hours. Her three story house is all but a ruin, with very good harbour views from the top floor. I think it will be spectacular, however her neighbour has built on the thoroughfare adjacent to her and the other one has built against her wall and blocked off one of her windows! This is syrup to the Rhodes lawyers-they can string this stuff out for years.

I'm suffering with a bad flu. I retreat home, make a lentil soup and head to bed.

Thursday 15th September, 2011.
Yiannis tiled the kitchen window nook and the sink and surrounds for 100 Euro. I'm still flu bound and miserable.