Wednesday, 30 April 2008

ABC Wednesday: Orange groves and olive fields

It's ABC WEDNESDAY today, and O is for orange, and it's also for olive.

The orange trees in this field are our very own! We have 500 orange trees spread across half a dozen fields in Fournes, Hania, Crete. The olive trees in the distance (with the black nets below them covering the ground) aren't in our field (but we have been known to make good use of them every now and then). The artichoke plant is in front of the cement fence we recently built to section off our property from a country path running through it.

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Kalithea, Vamvakopoulo

This is a very revealing image of the village-like suburb of Hania where I live, just 4km out of the town centre (which is, of course, the Agora). The trees are typical of the area - citrus and olive. The field and garden irrigation taps are common all over the province - they are always found on the side of the road (they aren't the ones that supply us with household water). The houses are a mish mash of old and new. On the left hand side, there is a cheaply built box house with an unfinished apartment on top (maybe for a child to inherit at a later age, or as an investment). On the right hand side there's a newly built house with Italian style arches. Most houses have an iron water deposit on the terrace (the flat roof of the house). A few of the older houses have a tiled roof, superseded by newer building methods. There's even a flag flapping in the wind (Greeks are very patriotic) on the right hand side.

My house is a little further up the hill, where I have a great view of the town, right up to the sea. Come on over for a visit, and I'll treat you to a cup of coffee.

Monday, 28 April 2008

Nice view

For some people, choosing a place to live is all about what kind of view they have from their house. I was very lucky in that I had a 'high' view from most places I lived in. When I lived in Mt Victoria (Wellington, New Zealand), I could see all the hills of Kelburn and the Aro Valley suburbs, with the colourful cute little box houses. The dome of the Greek Orthodox Church was also visible from my bedroom, and even though I was half hour's walk from the Victoria University library, I knew which floors were still open for late night study.

Now where I live in Hania, despite the dirty grey terrace of an unfinished house just down the road, every day I can see when the ferry boat from Athens has come into Souda Bay, and I can play a game with the children by asking them if they can see it moving away from the port at night. Eventually, they'll be able to name the ship that is in port, as I can now - this one is the ANEK Lines ELEFTHERIOS VENIZELOS, a former cruise ship which has been superseded by newer ships. Even at night, it is visible, with a long row of lights, so you can track it for a good fifteen minutes as it starts moving away from the harbour and into the dark sea. Maybe this is why the suburb that I live in is called Kalithea (= nice view), Vamvakopoulo.

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Happy Greek Easter!

Best wishes to you and your family!
We're all set for a get-together with festive food.
If you want to know how I made these eggs, click here.

Saturday, 26 April 2008

Good Friday

According to the Greek Orthodox calendar, yesterday was Good Friday (we celebrate Easter Sunday tomorrow). Good Friday is celebrated with a solemn procession of Christ's tomb, a wooden structure decorated with flowers and an icon of Christ on the cross. Everyone following the mourning procession holds a yellow candle as they follow the shrouded funeral bier that is carried through the town's or village's streets to the local church. Every major city and tiny town in Greece has their own procession; I attended the service with my family in the village of Galatas, close to where I live.

Galatas has a long standing connection with Wellington, New Zealand, my hometown. It is also the village from where my mother left Greece to migrate permanently to New Zealand.

Friday, 25 April 2008

Dining out

I don't know if this tempts your taste buds, but it was a lovely night out for all my family, including the little laughing olive tree. The outdoor mezedopoleio-ouzerie (think 'bistro' in English) was located right next to the town beach in Koum Kapi, not too far away from Minoos St. Another lovely outing with the little laughing olive tree. As it is GOOD FRIDAY today according to the Greek Easter calendar, our food this week has been lenten, hence no meat, fish (shellfish are allowed) or dairy products.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Hania by night

Here's Hania's waterfront on a warm evening, which turned everyone out onto the Old Port (the former mosque is to the left). This is just what the little laughing olive tree wanted to do when she visited me - sit at a outdoor cafe bar, sipping martinis all night, and people-watching...

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

ABC Wednesday: The High St

It's ABC WEDNESDAY again, and N is for NATTY (meaning: stylish)

Here's a view of the main road in Hania (the famous Agora is on the right, right next to the trees). The natty old port is found behind the Agora. This photograph was taken yesterday at midday, while I was having a natty ice-cream with a natty little laughing olive tree on the top-floor of a natty cafe called CLOCK, on a day when the fecking weather report forecast cool temperatures between 20-24 degrees Celsius - the temperature went up to 37 degrees Celsius. We felt like potatoes roasting in the oven.

(More about what I got up to with the little laughing olive tree tomorrow...)

Tuesday, 22 April 2008


During a mini-heatwave that we recently experienced over the weekend, lasting till today, a fire broke out in a wooded area (olive trees) close to our home. It must have been difficult to contain because the Canadair fire-fighting plane could be heard all day Sunday (until the evening when these planes don't fly due to safety restrictions), and all morning on Monday. Today, I don't hear them flying, so the fire must be out. It was probably started by a farmer clearing wood from his field, and spread with the strong warm southerly African desert winds that had caused the heatwave. Quite a few olive trees must have burnt down during this fire, as olive is a quick-burning tree.

There were two Canadair planes used in the opeartion. They went for filling to the sea, sometimes in a beach area close to my home, other times a little further away at the port of Souda. Sometimes you can see them quite close up (unfortunately they are a regular sight in the hot weather) because they fly quite low. They seem to glide slowly through the air rather than jet across the sky.The misty look in the sky was caused by the heatwave - dust clouds and cloudy weather obscured the sunlight, even though sunrise had taken place an hour ago.

Monday, 21 April 2008

Minoos St

This is a typical street sign in Greece; always a little blue plaque, with the name of the street (ODOS) written in Greek and English. Below the English transliteration is an explanation in Greek of the origins of the name. In this case, the street of Minos, as the sign would be translated (the double 'oo' is not a mistake: it's the way the Greek language signifies theEnglish word 'of') is named after a 'mythical king of Crete'. He's the one we mean when we talk about the Minoan civilization.

These days, to most locals of Hania, Minoos St, found amidst the lower working class Splantzia and Koum Kapi suburbs, with its many maze-like narrow side-streets, signifies the area where the red lights district is located in Hania - approximately 15 houses deal in this sort of business according to my husband (how should he know, you ask me? - he's a taxi driver). And even if you don't speak or read Greek, the houses which deal in the 'red lights' business are still easy to find - just look for the red lights on top of the doors of the houses in the narrow alleys behind Minoos St.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Another former mosque

The former mosque in the inner-city suburb of Koumbes in Hania is another extraordinary building depicting the town's history. It stands at a major junction between the ferry port of Souda (to the right) and the town centre leading to the Agora (to the left), while the other road running through it leads to the inner-city middle class suburb of Aiyannis (St. John - the narrow road straight ahead) and the beaches out of town (behind the cars).

The blue sky complements the beautiful colours of the recently painted old mosque. One half of the building is now being used as a BBQ chicken diner - the best in town, they say - while the other half is a hairdresser's salon. I took this photo as I was waiting at the traffic lights to go to work.

Saturday, 19 April 2008

The kafeneio

If I were retired, and living in the middle of town, and it was a fine day, this is what I'd want to be doing, and this is where I'd go to do it - meet my friends at the local kafeneio (cafe), a predominantly male domain, where the local males meet up with each other, have something to drink, talk politics, read the newspaper, and keep out of women's way. This kafeneio is near Saturday's street market, a place to buy local produce.

Friday, 18 April 2008

Tree in spring blossom

On our way home after a little trip out to our orange and olive fields in Fournes village in Chania, we passed this tree dressed in purple blossom. It looked very beautiful amongst the seasonal spring green colours. The house behind it is the only one for about half a kilometre; on the left hand side of the road, there is a low (but fast running) river. All the snow that melts from Lefka Ori downwards flows here.

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Cretan poetry - mantinades

This souvenir shop owner near the Old Harbour really wants to be doing something else in his life: writing Cretan poems, what are known locally as "mantinades". These poems are created for a specific situation, for example: to show love for someone, at the baptism of a child, to comment on a current issue, etc. They are used to express joy, sorrow, anger, humour, just about any feeling. They are written in accordance with a set of rules concerning the number of syllables and the rhyming patterns used, but anyone and everyone makes them up as the occasion arises.

The white sign below the display window says:
"Here therein, are given, entirely free of charge, leaflets with our mantinades, and you don't have to buy absolutely anything."

The same is written at the top of the door, at the bottom of the window display, and on the left and right hand sides of the shop. Here are some mantinades, written on souvenir cups, shot glasses, paper towel holders, you name it, all made in white ceramic plate or glass, with a picture of Crete plastered on one side:

"Many times, your friend
Becomes your brother, too;
Because in times of hardship
He's always there for you."

Here's another one:

"That you're now a grandpapa,
Shouldn't worry you a bit;
But sleeping with a grandmama,
Now that's the shame of it..."

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

ABC Wednesday: St Nicholas in Splantzia

It's ABC Wednesday again and M is for minaret.

On first sight, this photo doesn't look very spectacular - the sign reads (translated from the Greek) "BEWARE - MUNICIPAL WORKS - (name of construction group)." In the background there is St Nicholas church in the Splantzia district, whose dome is being repaired, but what on earth is a mosque's minaret doing on top of the church?

This was once the site of a church built by the Venetians, dedicated to St Rokkos; along come the Turks, turning it into a mosque. When the Greeks finally took over the running of the island, they left the minaret as it was, standing above a church dedicated to St Nicholas. To the left of the church (but not visible in the photograph) stands a house which was once owned by a Jewish family. The main square on the left has always been a meeting point for the locals of the area, filled with tables and chairs for having a coffee or just relaxing. It's a pity these works have stopped the locals from enjoying each others' company in a central location away from their cramped apartments and tiny box houses in the narrow streets of this inner-city suburb right behind the eastern side of the old harbour.

It is no wonder, with such a rich multi-cultural heritage, that the district of Splantzia in Hania, considered a poor people's suburb, is still as multi-cultural as ever. It is one of the few places in Hania where you will hear more foreign languages spoken rather than Greek, the language of the Greek nation. The people who live there are mainly economic migrants from Eastern Europe and North Africa, and there are shops owned by foreigners, mainly for the benefit of foreigners, including a second-hand shop, something still considered quite a novelty in a traditional, trendy summer resort town like Hania, on the island of Crete, in Southern Greece.

The minaret was almost ready to fall down; in fact, it was leaning to one side, clearly screaming out to the council that it was a danger to public safety. At one point, people started calling it the leaning tower of Hania. Eventually, though, the message got through, and the council restored the minaret by strengthening its structure; it is deemed of too significant historical importance to be allowed to fall into ruins.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008


It feels strange to be walking down this alley uninvited, as if I'm prying into the private world of people who are forced to live their life with a lack of dignity. They're probably used to the tourists strolling down the 'romantic' alleys leading to the trendy cafes surrounding the old harbour in Hania. This is Splantzia, once a Jewish and then a Turkish settlement in years gone by. Now it's a low working class inner-city suburb that appeals to new migrants to Hania, with its cheap rents and multi-cultural atmosphere. The residents live in crammed quarters, squashed against each other, always on top of or under or to the left or the right of someone else. Privacy cannot exist in such a place.

It's not too hard to work out who lives in the house on the left: sports shoes, worker's clothes, spicy smells emanating from the one-roomed house, foreign sounds, dark faces. The building has been renovated by the look of the smooth stucco wall, but it hasn't been painted. There's a corrugated iron rainstopper above the door that looks as though it was stuck on with a bit of sellotape. This dwelling (is it a house?) represents cheap housing for Hania's economic migrants.

The old woman dressed in black at the end of the street is also a poignant case. She's an old resident of the area, and this is probably the only home she's ever known. The street serves as her clothesline, her porch, her verandah and her front garden, where she's lined up a few flower pots with geraniums. Summer means she doesn't have to stay cooped up in her crammed house, and she can watch the world go by in the fresh air - it's a car-less zone by its very nature.

Monday, 14 April 2008

Hania for sale

The ROOMS sign is, of course, intended for tourists, while the blue sign is what all street signs in our town (and indeed all over Greece) look like: ODOS = street, which always goes in front of the name of the street. So if you live in Brown Street, in Greece, you'd say Street Brown.

I'm sorry, but I wish these kinds of shops would just stop popping up like mushrooms all over my town. This one is found on a side street near the Old Harbour (with a few other teeny weeny pristine clean white offices in the same street plying the same trade), and it's just screaming out to everyone that everything in Hania is for sale, and at a high price, just when locals cannot afford to provide themselves with decent medical care or a two-week holiday abroad, even though Northern Europeans come to Hania on dirt-cheap mass-tourism package holidays.

In my opinion, these offices are a new form of prostitution - they're developing land which was once used to grow orange or olive trees, or selling old delapidated village houses in need of a lot of money to be renovated, to mainly Northern Europeans whose buying power is much greater than the locals', tricking them into selling their ancestral properties to foreigners who view them as a cheap retirement hobby, while regarding the locals as citizens of the their world.

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Bougatsa Iordanis

Bougatsa Iordanis is the iconic symbol of Hania when it comes to food. If you're a Hanioti (or Haniotissa, if you're a woman) living away from the island, when you arrive in Hania on the ferry in the early hours of the day (it docks in Souda Harbour at 6am), your first stop will probably be Iordanis bougatsadiko. The shop is full of travellers and locals every day from 6am up until 2pm when it closes. It has become a cult symbol - a visit to Hania is incomplete without a visit to Iordanis' bougatsa shops, which are centrally located and sell bougatsa (μπουγάτσα - mpougatsa) and nothing else (apart from coffee, soft drinks and water). Bougatsa is a kind of pie made with crusty filo (phyllo) pastry and filled with creamy white cheese filling, cut up into small pieces, with sugar (and optionally, cinnamon) sprinkled all over it. It's said that the recipe is a secret.

Anyone who has been into the central Iordanis bougatsa shop will surely always remember the old woman at the counter. She serves up every single order of bougatsa. She is a frightful sight. Despite her perfect coiffure, her taste in clothes has not changed since the 1960s. Her fingers, wrists, ears and neck rattle with thick'n'chunky gold jewellery full of gold coins, while her extra-long, painted fingernails curl up at the ends. She never smiles or says 'Thank you' when the customer pays for their order. As she metes out the bougatsa, she checks its weight on one of those old fashioned scales with hanging weights. If the piece is 10g overweight, she nips off a corner of pie with a pizza knife. If it's 10g underweight, she adds the 10g bit she cut off from a previous serving. On first impression, the customer will interpret this as an act of stinginess; however, you can rest assured that you will not be ripped off here. And if the lighting is too dim for you, just think how much energy (who said money?) the shop owners are saving for the environment... Just pretend you're at Wong Kei's in London, the rudest Chinese restaurant in the world, according to some reviews. It's never been out of business, either.

Lars has captured the mood of the "Queen" very well. He was obviously writing many years ago, as he mentions drachmas (phased out since 2002), but the essence of the atmosphere is all there.

If you want to make some bougatsa at home, here's a recipe you can try.

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Koum Kapi

There's something about this photo, taken in a suburb with Islamic origins, that captures the essence of Hania, a town with a rich history of invading settlers who came and went. A derelict house is standing right next to one with a satellite dish and solar energy panel. There is also an expensive SUV parked outside it. The house is located at the very bit of Hania that becomes a relaxed touristy cafe promenade (you can't see the bars due to the large billboards). Koum Kapi is one of the last inner-city suburbs before heading out eastwards.

The surrounding hills show the urban sprawl - when I first arrived in Hania, there were hardly any houses or apartment blocks on that very site - and you can even see the dome of the church of Evaggelistria in Halepa, once a posh suburb where embassies were located during the Ottoman Empire, now a built-up neighbourhood with a thriving student population in the school season due to the polytechnic which is located there, as well as being an immigrant area with low rents for the old houses which are now in need of costly repairs.

Friday, 11 April 2008

The pastry maker

This is my pastry man. He works in a little basement with a few stairs that lead up to the road, on an old street behind the Agora of Hania. How can the street be old? It's dusty, and the pre-war buildings look very tired from the weight of the metal and glass that has been added to them to modernise their appearance and make them attract tourists. There's also a site with ancient ruins further down the road, sectioned off with wire netting, to keep people and their rubbish out.

When I visited the pastry maker today, he was in the middle of stretching out a piece of dough. His hair and eyelashes were tinged with flour, and so was the staircase and the banister.

Good morning, can I take a photo of you while your working?
Sure, do you want any filo, or should I just go back to work?
Oh, I want a kilo of filo, too!
OK, I'll get it for you first.
He comes up the stairs.
Thick or thin?
Thick, please, for kalitsounia (of course I wanted it for hortopita, spanakopita, kalitsounakia, tiropitakia and strifti, but I kept this information to myself). How long have you been doing this job?
Oh, years and years, over 50.
You've been running around like that for over 50 years?!
Yes, and I don't think I'll ever stop until it's time to go away for good, if you get what I mean.
We laugh together.
Exercise is good for everyone. I can't sit around in an office, never ever. I notice that he is a very slim man for his age.
I point to a photo on the wall. Is that your father?
No, no, that's the owner's father, the young lady who you see here many times. I was a friend of her father's. A kilo of... oh, it's more than a kilo. Would you like me to remove some?
No, no, I'll keep it, I'm sure I'll need it.
Here you are. I pay him. Now you can take your photo.
He goes downstairs. The tourists are starting to come in now, and they take photos of me. Every year, they take hundreds of photos. I've seen myself in the same pose in photos taken by different people hundreds of times. Tourists love this sort of thing.
Is it difficult work?
What, stretching the dough? This is peanuts. The difficulty was when we didn't have mixers and I had to mix the dough myself. Those were hard days, I can tell you...

I watch him stretching the dough. When he's finished, the filo covers the whole table in a perfect square with rounded corners. It is then covered with hessian sacking material, which keeps the dough soft and allows it to breathe without drying out. It is then cut up into smaller squares to make it easier to package it and for customers to work with it.

When I finish the video, I thank him and say good-bye - until I need more pastry. Why bother making my own? This is the real thing.

My family's favorite recipes using the PASTRY MAN's filo
Prasopita (leek pie)
Kalitsounia in the oven (square pasties)
Hortopita (spanakopita)
Tiropitakia (cheese and honey pies)

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Village traffic

I was driving to the children's school to pick them up at 12.30 (junior classes in primary school end at this time, unless the children attend optional all-day school), when I met up with this flock of sheep, which was being directed by their shepherd (a middle-aged gent). He was taking them either to a dairy station for milking or another greener field for grazing. (I haven't worked that one out yet).

As the sheep left the fields and came closer to the residential zone of the village, the fields and the lawns and the private gardens all became one to them. Most continued along the road, heeding the shepherd's commands, but those on the side of the road kept diverting to the greener parts of the houses. As they greedily downed what they could, they would suddenly realise that the rest of the flock was moving on, so they would make a dash out of the gates of the houses, and trot off to join the rest of the flock. I imagined they were thinking something along the lines of "Four feet good, two feet bad."

Whoever said that traffic lights hold up the traffic? The last set of traffic lights southbound of the town is about six kilometres from this point.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Spring cleaning

Housewives all over Greece are now in the throes of spring cleaning their houses now that the dulldark winter days are over (with the arrival of daylight saving time), and so is the city council. Here, you can see some cheap immigrant labour sprucing the roadside borders with a chalky lime asbestos substance which in older times was also used to whitewash houses inside and out (now we've modernised to vinyl plastic plaint) and ridding them of the mouldy green fungus that developed in the damp winter months. The council has provided them with the lime, wheelbarrow and brooms. A housewife across the road came out of her house and was asking them if they wanted some water - it's about 25 degrees Celsius. Pavements are few and far between here in Varipetro, 8km from the city centre. This village is 5km from where I live (my children go to school there). The photo was taken yesterday at around noon.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

The bagel lady

This lady is a regular sight in our town. Every day except Sunday she is seen on the street selling 'koulouria', the local variety of what is universally known as bagels. She usually cycles among the other traffic on the road, delivering her wares on an improvised three-wheeled bicycle with a cart full of bagels attached at the rear end. Today, she is immobilised at Saturday's street market stalls, selling her bagels to the visitors to the open-air market. She isn't Greek by nationality; she is actually Albanian.

Immigrant Albanians in Hania have a reputation of being very hard-working, frugal shoppers and good savers. In my few conversations with them, most always mention going back 'home', even though their children were born here and have assimilated into the mainstream community, taking part in all activities that the average Greek child would participate in, eg sports clubs, language classes, after-hours preparatory lessons. They remind me so much of my Greek-New Zealand parents, who did exactly the same thing as these immigrants are doing here now: working hard, saving money, striving for a better future. That's why I think most of them will not go back 'home', but they will make this town their home.

I don't know her name, but I've seen this lady around the town for the last fifteen years. I see her every day that I am in the town, and would really like to ask her if she is happy with her adopted home. In a sense, I feel very much like her because I wasn't born here either; I stayed here because I liked it.

Monday, 7 April 2008

Villa Koundourou

Villa Koundourou was the house of a rich businessman (Mr Koundourou) who lived in Hania. He had the house built for himself and his family at a time when most people lived in roughly built stone houses in the surrounding villages. There would have been very very few houses in the centre at the time. He was lucky to have had the best pick of location - it is right next to the sea (right-hand side of the photo) behind the old port, which suggests that he might have used it as a summer house. There are a few other houses of this style on the same street (they are known as 'neo-classical' buildings, and are protected against demolition), but none are in the same condition as Villa Koundourou; they are used both as houses and offices. Their value exceeds the the lifetime income of many of the town's residents.

When he died, he left the house to the local council, who have refurbished it. It is now used for art, music and theatre classes, as well as housing occasional exhibitions.

The pick-up truck outside the villa is a symbol of Cretan agriculture. A parent is probably waiting to pick up their child after an art class. This photo was taken on a Saturday morning. The beautiful old port is right behind this villa, about a ten-minute walk.

Sunday, 6 April 2008

The peacock

I went to the village
and what did I see?
A great big blue peacock
was looking at me.

He spread out his feathers
to frighten me off,
but I wasn't scared;
I stayed put and laughed.

I was hunting for snails;
it had been raining then
and I didn't expect
birds to be penning me in.

Why was he there
in my own orange grove,
as if twas a field
of his very own?

©All Rights Reserved/Organically cooked. No part of this blog may be reproduced and/or copied by any means without prior consent from Maria Verivaki.

We keep chickens and turkeys for food, but when someone puts a peacock in the coop, it's just for his own pleasure. And if you want to know what I found in our orange grove in Fournes, Chania, Crete (close to the lake in Ayia) last Thursday, click here.

Saturday, 5 April 2008

The former mosque

The former Turkish mosque sits by the edge of the old port next to the cafes in Hania, as though it had always been there. It used to be a tourist information office, but it's now used for exhibitions and other events right throughout the year, especially during the tourist season; it's only just past all the outdoor restaurants, tavernas, takeaway bars and cafes in the old part of town.

What's a mosque doing in a central position on a Greek port? Thankfully, it has never been in too bad a state of repair, nor has it ever been under threat of demolition. It just sits there reminding the locals of the history of their town, which has changed hands from ancient times, once ruled by the Romans, who were defeated by the Arabs, who were then thrown out of Hania by the Byzantines, who lost power to the Venetians, who were afraid of the Turks invading them, forcing them to build a wall right round the city. The Turks still managed to sneak in, and it was during their time here that they built this magnificent building that decorates the port. They were finally cast out of the town only just over a hundred years ago, after which the island of Crete became part of the Greek state.

To see exactly where the old mosque is situated and what the weather is like in Hania, click here. I hope you like what you see.

Friday, 4 April 2008

The Lake of Ayia

Limni Ayias (Lake Ayia) is one of two lakes in the province of Chania, on the road to Fournes village where we have orange groves and olive fields. It was once considered a place where disease was rampant, but is now a protected area where wild fowl take up residence. Although this photo doesn't show them, we found a swan, a few ducks, some wild geese and lots of waterfowl when my family visited the lake area yesterday (it's only five minutes by car away from our house). In the late afternoon, the spring weather was rather nippy as the sun was an hour away from setting. The area has been landscaped in a Western style, so that Northern Europeans who often visit Hania in the spring can enjoy the view during their visit. This photo was taken from a new bridge which has been closed off to strollers, but it wasn't difficult to get on it, since I was able to trespass and shoot my photo.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Immigrant labour

At the main square of Hania (called Plateia 1866) (only a short stroll away from Hania's alluring old harbour where the former mosque is located), you will always find groups of immigrants, always men, just hanging around the square, chatting to each other, doing nothing in particular. They wait here not necessarily because they're loitering; in fact, nobody, neither the shop owners surrounding the square nor the police have ever asked them to move away. Plateia 1866 is a kind of meeting point where they can be picked up by the locals for odd jobs. They even come in droves on Sunday mornings when you'd think it's most unlikely to be picked up for work.

Most locals do village chores on that day, so an extra (cheap) hand comes in useful to clear away pruned olive wood, renovate country houses and do other field work. So it's not surprising that they make themselves visible in the town, since it is highly unlikely that anyone will ask them to move on or demand legal documents proving their right to be here. It's doubtful that most have permits allowing them to live and work legally in Greece; even though many new immigrants who came illegally into the country have since been granted residence rights after the government announced an amnesty a few years ago, people still manage to enter the country illegally. Those with documentation are more likely to be employed in more stable working conditions.

Wednesday, 2 April 2008


Yesterday's sunrise at 7.15am (daylight saving time).

Dawn descends on the town, as seen from my house.

To the right, you can see the harbour at Souda Bay, the main ferry port.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Pine trees

I work at the Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Chania (note the spelling: it's pronounced 'Hania', the result of archaic transliteration processes), a research centre midway between the town centre and the ferry port (not the famous old port with the cafes). I teach English to Master's students investigating subjects of agricultural or economic significance in the Mediterranean. Very few of them are Greek; they actually come from all over the Mediterranean and English is the main language used at the centre - Greek is used by the staff to each other. The campus is surrounded by beautiful pine trees. This is what it looked like on a cloudy day last week near the tennis courts, which are directly in front of the trees.