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Apokries carnival time, go mad in Greece!

Carnival
Carnival

I first arrived in Greece, at the beginning of February 1977, the winter season, no tourists and not much happening.
I spent about ten days here before making a quick trip back to England and returned by car.

We disembarked, Sunday lunchtime, at the port of Patras, into the midst of absolute chaos; it was the climax of the famous Patras carnival, the largest in Greece and one of the biggest in Europe.


Patras Carnival
Patras Carnival


Thousands of people, or so it seemed, gone completely mad, all in fancy dress, dancing in the streets, Bony M’s “Daddy cool”, blaring from loud speakers, and the finale, the ritual of burning “The King Of The Carnival”


King Of Patras Carnival
King Of Patras Carnival


What had happened to Greece whilst I had been away?

It was Apokries, meaning “goodbye to meat”

Apokries, the Greek carnival is not just a one day event, it starts about three weeks before lent, Smokey Thursday (so called, because of the smoke billowing out from  meat being grilled) is one highlight, friends and family gather together and eat all the meat they can, they have forty meatless days ahead!

Smokey Thursday
Smokey Thursday

The following week, the last one before lent, is “Cheese Sunday” (Tyrine), as now meat is prohibited, but dairy produce is allowed.

The last weekend is the climax, all day street parties, and all night madness, the celebrations end with “Clean Monday”, a public holiday.

This is a day of picnics, non-fasting foods and unleavened bread, “Lagana” and then some kite flying, “The Koulouma” an ancient ritual, traditionally carried out on Philopappou hill in Athens.

Lagana-Unleavened bread
Lagana-Unleavened bread

Many a clean Monday has been spent with MGG (My Greek God) running up and down a Greek beach trying to launch a kite on a calm day!

Koulma, Flying kites on Clean Monday. Painting by Notis Xanthi
Koulouma, Flying kites on Clean Monday.
Painting by Notis Xanthi

I never really enjoyed this carnival period, probably because my children thought that I was super woman, and could produce numerous fancy dress costumes, from nothing, and in no time!

Everyday seemed to be a dressing up day, school parties, friend’s parties or street parades, and they never wanted to wear the same costume twice!!


Loutraki Carnival
Loutraki Carnival

How I wanted my daughter to dress up in the beautiful princess outfits that were displayed in the local shops, she was having none of it, ever the tom boy; all she wanted was Batman or Spiderman!

When their teenage years arrived, I had a respite from my “creativity”, the carnival was not “cool”, it was for kids, I breathed a sigh of relief; this was the end of the dreaded carnival frenzy.

Then, just when I was not expecting it, it sneaked back!
At the age of about 24, my daughter and her boyfriend revived the frenzy!


Carnival frenzy!
Carnival frenzy!

Weeks before the event, they were discussing costumes; luckily, they had noticed my disinterest and didn’t involve me in this, ha, I had escaped.

But no, wait, Mother had to make, or assemble the costumes; it was starting all over again.

I do have to admit though, they had some very good ideas, and the end results were brilliant.

My favourite, was the one where they dressed as plants, I can’t tell you how long it took me to cover them in metres and metres of green leaves!


I'm just a plant!
I'm just a plant!

As you can see, it was well worth it!

Can you spot Nais?


Spot Nais!
Spot Nais!


Then we had the “Rose Histories”
When talking about something smutty, or unmentionable, oh, all right, I’ll say it: porno, we say blue in England, here in Greece they say rose (Pink)


Rose stories
Rose stories

Here they are as Geishas; I did the make- up!


Geishas
Geishas

French mime artist, Marcel Marceau, again, I was roped into doing their makeup.


Marcel Marceau, mime
Marcel Marceau, mime

This year, nothing was mentioned about the carnival, I kept my mouth shut, didn't want to jog any memories!

It is the last weekend of Apokries, no strange items of clothing or tubes of white face makeup have been brought into the house.

Am I speaking too soon?

Don't speak too soon!
Don't speak too soon!

Are Nais and Dimitris, this very minute, out buying stuff, that super mum is expected to magically turn into a “work of art” costume?

I can’t finish this post, without showing some of the exquisite costumes, seen every year, at the Venice Carnival.

Venice Carnival
Venice Carnival

Surely, Venice is the carnival to end all carnivals.

Venice Carnival
Venice Carnival

Venice Carnival masks
Venice Carnival masks

Nemean Greek Wine and a Sudden Snow Storm in kalavrita Greece

Greek wine
Greek wine

Our good friend Robert, from England, visits us every year, usually in February.


As February is not exactly the time to be lounging about on a beach, we use the excuse of cold weather, to check out the inviting bars, tavernas and restaurants that the area has to offer.

We eat, dink and become merry!

After visiting us for over thirty years, Robert has his favourite places, but this year we introduced him to a new one, The Cayo Nero, a friendly, lively little bar, that opened at the end of last summer in Loutraki.


Cayo Nero Loutraki
Cayo Nero Loutraki

MGG (My Greek God) and I love this place, be it for the superb coffee it serves in the mornings, or for drinks in the evening.


Cayo Nero Loutraki
Cayo Nero Loutraki

It didn't take long for Robert to fall in love with it too, especially after he discovered an amazing local, red wine, on being told that it was” Red on Black” from the Mitravelas winery in Nemea, I was not at all surprised.


Red On Black Mitravelas Nemea
Red On Black Mitravelas Nemea

I’m no wine buff, but, in the summer I had been given a six bottle- case of Lefkes white wine, made at the same winery, it was delicious, so delicious that it didn't last long at all!


Lefkes Mitravelas Nemea
Lefkes Mitravelas Nemea


Nemea, in the Peloponnese, produces some of the best wines in southern Greece.
The white,” Lefkes” is a Moschofilero and the “Red on Black”, an Agiorgitiko, made from a grape named Saint George.

Nemea
Nemea

I hadn't noticed quite how much Robert loved this wine, or how much of it he had drunk, until the next day.

While walking past a souvlaki shop, I commented, that it was where we had eaten on the way home, the night before.


Gyro
Gyro

Robert had no recall of this midnight feast at all.

He was mortified, not because he had drunk too much, but, because he didn't remember eating a gyro, one of the things he comes to Greece for.

We bought him another, as he felt he had not yet tried one on this trip!

We were all feeling a tad fragile after yesterday’s over indulgence and succumbed to the “siesta”, after which, more splendid wine was quaffed along with English goodies; pork pies and pork scratchings, both made by Robert’s local butcher back home in Guiseley, Leeds.


Wine & nibbles
Wine & nibbles

We made plans for the next day, Sunday, MGG suggested Kalavryta, we got out travel books, maps were checked, and websites were scrutinized, so as to be sure of not missing a thing.

The plan was for MGG to drive us to Diakofto, where Robert and I would take the little train, which winds its way through woods, mountains and gorges, to the ski resort of Kalavryta.

MGG was to drive down and meet us off the train.


Cog train Kalavryta
Cog train Kalavryta

Cog train Kalavryta
Cog train Kalavryta


We would go up to see the ski resort visit the mysterious cave of lakes and on to marvel at an amazing tiny church, actually situated inside a tree!


Cave of lakes
Cave of lakes

The finale was back to Kalavryta for something to eat, accompanied by wine, of course.

Sunday dawned a beautiful day, very cold but sunny, at ten o clock we were on our way.

Robert and I caught the 11 o clock train, wound our way through some astounding scenery and were met at twelve o clock by MGG.


Robert on the train to Kalavryta
Robert on the train to Kalavryta


Arrived in Kalavryta
Arrived in Kalavryta

So far, so good.

Snaking up the very winding, steep road to the ski resort, we didn't see much snow, the snow we did see, was declared not to be “proper” snow by Robert, who was very skeptical that there was actually snow in Greece.


Ski resort, Kalavryta
Ski resort, Kalavryta

Robert & MGG
Robert & MGG

Robert was very surprised, when we reached the top, to see that it really was a proper ski resort. The weather was still good, just a few snow flakes in the air.

We had not been very long in the ski chalet type coffee shop before the weather took a very sudden turn for the worse, within minutes it was a blizzard, the cars in the car park became nearly invisible, and it was a veritable white out.


Blizzard in Kalavryta
Blizzard in Kalavryta


People began to leave, we followed suite, MGG reached the car first, by the time Robert and I got to the car park, we couldn't see a thing.
If MMG hadn’t got out of the car to clear the windscreen, I really believe we wouldn't have found him, and have had to return to the chalet.

We crawled down the mountain, along with numerous coaches full of tourists, stopping frequently for cars that were putting on snow chains. Needless to say, we didn't have any.


Coach in trouble
Coach in trouble

Once we slipped off the road, and were kindly pushed back on by the people from the car in front.

It was treacherous, the car was slipping and sliding all over the place, on one side, was a sheer drop down the mountain and the road was very narrow!


Slipping & sliding
Slipping & sliding

Thanks to MGG’s excellent driving skills, we reached the bottom; I honestly did have visions of us all being stranded on the mountain, being found in a snow drift the next morning!

All hope of seeing the cave of lakes and the church in a tree were abandoned, as were the plans of eating in Kalavryta, we just wanted to get home!

We did see, what must be one of the most heartbreaking cemeteries in Greece.
During the German occupation in WWII, nearly seven hundred locals, all the men and boys over the age of fourteen, had been massacred by the German soldiers, who later burned down the surrounding villages.
This was The Massacre of Kalavryta.


The Massacre of Kalavryta memorial
The Massacre of Kalavryta memorial

They are buried in the field ,where they were rounded up and shot, this is the memorial to this tragic event.

Once home, it was straight off to the Cayo Nero and more wine, followed by souvlaki, as we had not eaten all day!

Cayo Nero ...again!
Cayo Nero ...again!

The next day, to recover from this terrible snow ordeal, after buying a stash of wine for the following evening at home, we spent a wonderful four hours in the Efeteo bar and restaurant in Korinth….eating and becoming very merry!


Efeteo Korinthos
Efeteo Korinthos

He will be back in September, sailing the Aegean, he tells me that there is a spare berth…….very tempting!

Until September Robert:

Eat, Drink and be Merry!

“When men drink, then they are rich and successful and win lawsuits and are happy and help their friends. Quickly, bring me a beaker of wine, so that I may wet my mind and say something clever. “
Aristophanes, Greek playwright, (c. 448-380 BC) in The Knights

See more Greek snow here

Heat and dust: Sand & Dust from North Africa Settles Over Greece

Painting by John Miller
Painting by John Miller

What I saw, when I drew back the curtains at eight o clock this morning(Sunday), caused me to utter the Greek expression “Och”.

It is more of a sound, rather than an actual word, used to express surprise or amazement.

What had I seen?

Out there was a thick, soup-like, yellow fog.


Dust from the Sahara Desert, obscuring the sea. View from my bedroom.Loutraki
Dust from the Sahara Desert, obscuring the sea.
View from my bedroom.bedroom. Loutraki

Only it wasn't fog at all, a Southern wind had filled the atmosphere with sand and dust, blown over from North Africa, bringing not only the dust, but a glorious warmth.
 Dare I say spring is here?

Sahara Desert
Sahara Desert


The sea was invisible, the Gerania Mountain had disappeared and cars had their headlights on.


The Gerania Mountain seems to have disappeared!
The Gerania Mountain seems to have disappeared!

This happens quite regularly here in Greece, usually just after I have worn myself out, washing balconies, shutters and windows!

Not the moon;the sun!
Not the moon;the sun!

This time I was let off lightly, yesterday, I was going to do just that but was interrupted by my daughter arriving when I had only got as far as doing the dinning room windows and shutters.

Thank goodness I hadn't done it all; it would have been a complete waste of time and energy.
Rain is forecast for tomorrow, all the sand and dust in the air will be come down as mud, coating everything.

The car wash people will be happy; they will be doing a roaring trade!


Ready for the car wash.
Ready for the car wash.

Look how nice and white my shutters look after cleaning them yesterday, tomorrow they will be a reddish brown with the dust, I will have to do them all over again!


Clean, white shutters
Clean, white shutters

A word about the cat, sorry to all you cat-lovers, but, I don’t like cats.

It is one of four strays that appeared in our garden last year, my son, who does not live here I might add, so didn’t have the trouble of them, started feeding them, you know the rest of the story; they were here to stay.

On the up side, they were all male, no fear of more little kittens, on the down side, they drove me mad!

They got into the house, I was finding them everywhere, and they messed up my nice garden cushions with muddy paw prints and hair.

To top it all, my son gave them all ridiculous names:

Loony, Bobbo, Peppis and Pippis.

One by one, they disappeared, Loony was the first to go, followed by Peppis and then Bobbo.

We are left with Pippis, I call him cat, I just can’t bring myself to call him Pippis!


Pippis aka cat
Pippis aka cat

He’s a vicious little chap, always fighting; I don’t know if you can make it out from the picture, but he only has one ear, he also has various bald patches, all his war wounds!

He was like this from day one, maybe that’s why the other three went walkabout!
Don’t they say that it’s the strongest that survive?

Anyway, I tolerate him, that’s about all I can say!

It seems that the weather was strange all over Greece, my son had gone to a windsurfing championship, the rain had washed out the road, they had to take their shoes off, roll up their trousers and walk the last bit of the way to their destination.


Tsimari
Tsimari

At least here we didn't have rain and it was so warm!

After a lovely family lunch, I had made giuvetsi, a family favourite and a doddle to make, see how to make it HERE, we sat in the garden, the temperature was twenty degrees; heaven!

 My granddaughter had a jolly time on her bicycle, despite everything being covered in dust; it seems ages since we have sat outside as a family, I do have my coffee outside every morning, whatever the weather!
 I must say, I do prefer it to sitting indoors.

Later on, the evening news, was full of stories about the bad weather throughout Greece.
Northern Greece had been especially bad, sadly, because of torrential rain, a beautiful historic bridge, said to be the most beautiful in the Balkans, had collapsed.


Plaka Bridge, Epirus
Plaka Bridge, Epirus


The walkway along the Plaka Bridge
The walkway along the Plaka Bridge

The Plaka bridge of Epirus, built in 1866, was sixty one metres long and twenty metres high, what a terrible loss.


Plaka Bridge washed away by the river
Plaka Bridge washed away by the river

Let’s see what tomorrow brings, heavy thunder storms expected.
At least it will wash away all this dust.


Lycavitos, Athens, under dust
Lycavitos, Athens, under dust

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