It’s Catholic Easter today and Palm Sunday for the Orthodox church. It’s cold in Crete (14° C) for the time of the year, but I decide anyhow to go for a walk to the monastery of Agios Panteleimonas, a distance of a bit more than 3km from where I live in Fodele. The path goes up and after a while I start having stunning views, over the village, the orange groves, the mountains, the olive trees, I see the flowers of the Cistrus Creticus everywhere, so I really enjoy my walk up.
After half an hour I reach the Monastery and my good mood is swept away when I see this
There is an entrance fee to pay! I am so disapointed….., I don’t understand, this is a small monastery, with a great history , yes, that you can read inside, but there is no museum or anything else that you should pay for. This is a religieus place, a place for prayer. I visited the Notre Dame in Paris last winter and there was no entrance fee to pay.
I went inside, sat down for a while to listen to the psalms, I took some crosses specially made for Palm Sunday and I left.
Yesterday I went on a trip up on the Psiloritis mountain to have lunch with sheppard Andreas. He lives in the village Livadia in the Idi mountains and he has been a sheppard for his whole life. He loves being out there in the nature high up in the mountains
with his sheep and goats. Together with his brothers they have around 3000 animals to take care of. Today 200 of them are already up on the mountain where Andreas milks all 200 of them twice a day and they give him each time around 100 liter of good quality milk. The other animals are still on the land they have further down the mountain and they will be brought up until the end of April.
Andreas will be milking the animals twice a day until the end of May and then for about one more month he will milk them once a day. From the month of July on the animals will mate, so they won’t give any milk until they give birth about 5 months later.
During the months that the animals don’t give milk Andreas still goes up to give them extra food and water but also because he loves being up there.
His family also built a chapel there, a saint George chapel.
Close to the chapel there stands a very large Stone Oak tree where you can enjoy the real sheppard’s lunch called antichristo. Which is lamb that is cooked next to the fire instead of on the fire. No herbs are needed during the preparation of the meat as his animals eat lots of herbs during their time in the mountains. Andreas is a very good cook and also very good company, he likes to talk about his life and work up there on the Psiloritis.
The road up to his mitato is not an easy road as it lays on a hight of 1200 meter but it really is worth the trip.
If this looks like something you would like to do during your stay in Crete than don’t hesitate to contact me.
Today 30 January 2019 we celebrate and honor in the Greek Orthodox Church the Three Hierarchs.
The celebration of the Three Hierarchs started in the 11th century when Constantine III Monomachus reorganized the Law School of Constantinople. At that time there were three Saints who were seen as the Saints of education namely Gregoreios the Theologian, Ioanis Chrysostom and Vasileios the Great. During the reorganization the reorganizers could not decide which one of the Saints to place on top and this resulted in a division of the Christians so the ones were called the Gregorites, the others the Ionanites and others the Vasilites.
Until John Mavropos, who was then the Metropolitan of Euchaite, had a vision in which he saw the three Saints. They told him that they are equal to eachother and that they can’t be seperated, that between them there is neither the first nor the second, but if you see one, the two others are next to him. So John Mavropos gave orders to stop the quarrels and stop dividing them for they cannot be seperated and so these three Saints became the Three Hierarchs, the three Saints of education and on the day of their celebration all schools are closed.
From the 11th century on you can also see them together on icons and they are honored every year on the 30th of January.
I have published earlier the story of the lepers on the island of Spinalonga, but what exactly is leprosy?
Well, it is a disease that exists already for over 2000 years and its name is as a matter of fact greek, it comes from an ancient greek word that means ‘peeling of’ or ‘peel’. The bad guy here is a bactery called Mycobacterium Leprea. This guy can live in the air for a few moments when he is breath out by someone, during sneezing, coughing, speaking or via nasal droplets. When he lands on your skin and you are not imune for him (95% of the people ARE imune) then he will settle on your skin and after a few months or even years (up to 20 years) the disease will start bothering you. Another way of getting the disease is by birth when it is given to you through your mothers placenta (that is why some of the children born on Spinalonga had the disease by birth.)
What happens when the disease comes out? Small stains appear on the skin and the bacterium destroys the nerves in the skin at these places ; your earlobes become thicker and you feel numb in your hands and feet. If the disease is found and treated early, then there will be no permanent lesions. If not, there will be paralysis and possibly also blindness.
Because the lepers had no feeling in certain parts of their body, they could not feel it if they had hurt themselves there in such a way that larger injuries were caused by infections, that were not felt and therefore not treated. As a result, it was sometimes necessary to amputate these parts of the body.
The Irish scientis Vincent Barry from Cork, played a very important role in the battle against this diseas, it was him who synthisesed a compound called Clofazimine that we find in the combination of drug treatment against Leprosy. He was leading at that time ( the 1870’s) a team of 9 scientists who were searching for a treatment for Leprosy.
According to infromation that was given to me by an official greek guide, there should exist mutated genes in the human body that adopt this bacterium, so only the people who have 1 or more of these mutated genes can have the disease. (and these would be the other 5%) This should be a theory that was given by experts in 2012. I have not been able to confirm this theory on the internet or anywhere else so I do not know if this is realy so, but as soon as I find a confirmation of it I will let you know.
2018 is gone and we are the start of 2019. A lot of Cretans have celebrated the change of the year with a game of poker or with playing the dies, for money so that they will have a wealthy start of the New Year! (not for the loosers of course but who knows who is going to lose or win at the beginning of the game…)
Before they start playing the family gathers together around the table for a dinner of greek specialities and of course also the melomakarona and the kourabiedes, these two “cookies” are made especialy for these days and everybody loves them, in nearly every houses these cookies are baked and they give the house that special Christmas and end of the year smell, as all Cretans say, you can’t celebrate the end of the year without this smell.
After dinner Agios Vasilis or Santa Claus comes around with gifts for the children, as the first of the year is the name day of Agios Vasileos the great or Saint Vasilis (Basil)
You see that a lot goes on on New Years eve in Crete, it is a party in which the whole family participates, young and old!
It’s December, time to harvest the olives! It is since the 1960’s that Crete has lots and lots of olive trees, some say 30 milion, others say 35 milion, well it will be somewhere inbetween these 2 numbers. Olive trees don’t always carry a lot of olives, like all fruit trees, the one year the harvest of a tree is huge, the next year it’s medium and the next year usually even less and then it starts all over again.
Families in Crete can have over 5000 olive trees and imagine having to harvest them all, that is an amazing job so these families hire groups of people who have the full equipment to harvest olives, as you can see in the small video below
This is a quit hard job but as long as the weather is fine people enjoy it, they work together outside in nature, take a break to have a coffee or lunch under the trees and then start harvesting again. Everyone has his own task, some people put the nets under the trees, others work with the oliviera, others gather the olives, others seperate them from the twigs and leaves and others put them in the jute bags. It’s when it starts raining or snowing that the work starts to be really hard and difficult!
It can take weeks or months to gather all the olives. The olive harvest usualy ends at the end of February and then it is time to prune the trees. Also a job that takes some time to be done, so olive farmers are busy all winter long.
And ofcourse as soon as the first olives are harvested they are brought to the olive press where that very healthy and tasty olive oil is made. After the olives are pressed the oil has to rest for about one month to be ready to consume so every year in January the new olive oil is ready to be tasted and sold.
It is 3 weeks ago that I left my beautiful home in Fodele and I miss it already.
Fodele is a typical Cretan village and my house is built outside of the village with great view over it. The house is also surrounded by orange trees which give me every spring a great view and a lovely blossom smell every time I open my balcony door.
What is amazing here during summer time is that twice a day swallows come to the pool to drink water or to bath here. Even while you are swimming in the pool, they come along to have their bath.