Monday, 30 June 2008

Odd shots Monday: the motorway

The view from my house entails the motorway (highway, freeway - in Greece, we call it the National Road). This is what it looked like when I took a close-up of it in the evening from the balcony of our house. (The view of the ship isn't visible in this shot.)

Sunday, 29 June 2008

Saturday, 28 June 2008


It's a load of old waffle
that awful is OFFAL.
It may not look good
to treat it as food.

But once you have cut it
and floured it and fried it,
believe me, there's nothing
that tastes quite just like it.

Maybe it's hiding
in that little SAUSAGE
you ate as of late
in your wholemeal bread sandwich.

So next time you're buying
a small spring-born lamb,
you might think of eating
what you thought was spam.

It's liver and kidney
and sweetbreads and heart,
the kind of things chucked
in a steak-kidney tart.

Let it all cook until it is crunchy;
just think of it then as a squidgy BIFTEKI.
And when it's all done, it needs very little:
some lemon juice, salt and horta to fill you!

©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.

Friday, 27 June 2008

SkyWatch Friday: Castle in the sky

The minaret used to be called the leaning tower of Hania, because it was in such a bad state of disrepair that it needed to be repaired or demolished. It was literally leaning to one side in a rather built-up area where the houses have been built so closely together; if it had fallen, it wold've been difficult to get the rubble out, let alone repair it. This kind of building can't be demolished; it is under protection orders, but it's allowed to fall down of its own accord. Its daily presence in Hania involves a significant part of the history of the town, which was once ruled by the Ottoman Turks who presided in the area for four centuries.

Right now, the minaret in Splantzia looks like it could be mistaken for a castle spire - maybe Rapunzel's going to throw her golden hair over the balcony...

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Wash day

My mother owned a barrel-shaped wringer-washer machine which took up a whole room and was only used on Friday night. She'd fill it up with water only once, and then start washing the bed sheets (they were always white), and move on to the mainly-white not-so-dirty laundry, then on to the coloureds, and finally the dark blue and black clothes. All the laundry was passed through the wringers to squeeze the water out of all the washing. Everything was washed in the same water, and rinsed separately in a tub next to the washing machine. Then it was hung on a rotary umbrella clothesline and left to dry as the climate permitted. She never owned a dryer, despite living in a city where the weather was unpredictably WWW: wet and windy Wellington. The rules for hanging clothes on an umbrella clothesline are pretty much similar to Abe's, except that unmentionables were hung in the centre rungs of the rotary clothesline, hidden by the sheets on the outer lines.

This isn't my laundry line, but it's pretty representative of what happens in my own house. Everything gets chucked together in a 50 degrees Celsius wash on 50-minute cycle, and it doesn't matter if it's Friday or any other day in the week.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

ABC Wednesday: Weather

blue sky
It's ABC Wednesday again, and W is for weather.

We all want to live in a place where the weather is pleasant, the kind of weather that is appealing to the eye, and allows us to get on with our daily lives without hindering our activities too much. Sometimes it's too much to ask for good weather all the time; yet, in Hania, this is pretty much the norm. Good weather all year round isn't actually as pleasant as it sounds. When it's too cold, your body feels it; when it's too hot, your brain feels it.

Some skywatchers that I've met through Mr Wigley's blog take the most spectacular photos. Have you seen Abe's cornfield sundance? Or Bobbie's yellow-orange sunset? And Lillie's grey blanket with a fiery sun under it? We don't get these kinds of skies in Hania. The colour of our sky has a very uplifting peace-keeping feeling, a shade of clear blue that could easily pass for the sea. Our blue skies beckon the tourists to come in droves in the summer, while the locals try to steal as many moments away from work as possible, praising its relaxation effects. Angry looking clouds rarely make their appearance in this town.

I'm still waiting to see a colourful sky like the ones I've seen in other skywatchers' blogs, but I hope I'm safe and sound in my house, and don't need to be running errands or doing chores (so I can snap photos at my leisure).

Tuesday, 24 June 2008


There's so much to see in this photo, I don't know where to start from.

First things first: would you buy men's boxer shorts from the three-wheeled cart on the pedestrian crossing? How about a linen embroidered tablecloth from the gypsy lady crossing the street (with a huge white sack over her shoulder), next to the grandmother (wearing black from head to toe) pushing the baby in the pram? The blue recycle bin, the (paradoxically) green litter bin, the bus stop, and the men sitting under the trees passing their morning at their favorite meeting point.

The bric-a-brac stall is permanently stationed where you see it now, come rain or shine. I wouldn't be surprised if it belongs to the person who runs another bric-a-brac roadside stall right across the road on the right - which coincidentally is in front of the central market in Hania, the Agora.

And yesterday's baobab tree was in fact a celery root.

Monday, 23 June 2008

Odd shots Monday: the baobab tree

Antoine St-Exupery's The Little Prince was afraid of baobab trees growing out of control on his planet. He knew they had to be trimmed regularly, otherwise they would choke the atmosphere, and there wouldn't be enough oxygen for his own survival. I found one in my garden the other day. It looked grotesque, with its straggly roots and thick torso, like a witch in disguise, infested with black rot. The leaves that were coming out of the trunk were gasping for air (so I cut them off and used them in a bean soup).

Does anyone want to hazard a guess as to what this actually is?

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Camera critters: Grasshopper

Grasshopper on Queen Anne's lace, Fournes village, Hania.

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Ode to the mushroom

Today we're having fried mushrooms
Those that grow like big white brooms
Hanging off the tall tree trunks
In florets full of creamy tufts

I don't know them very well
I can't guess they're edible
So ours are grown in holes in sacks
Filled with mulch from big haystacks

On Pleurotus ostreatus type
Is what the Greeks prefer to dine
I like to buy them at the market
Where they're stored in big brown baskets

After dusting them just slightly
Chop them up haphazardly
Chop the stalks off if you please
They're too tough for granny's teeth

They come out looking like triangles
That makes them easier to handle
Others say that these small parts
Have the shape of small love hearts

Dredge them in a little flour
Heat the pan with oil full power
Shake the excess flour off them
Then just toss them in the saucepan

Let them fry up very well
When they're ready, they will smell
Of forest green and timber dark
That's when you should pull them up

Place them on absorbent paper
To get rid of excess larder
Have the salt and pepper ready
A little shake is all that's needy

Fetch the horta and the feta
Ready waiting at the table
Now enjoy your little feast
A glass of wine is all you need!

©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.

Friday, 20 June 2008

SkyWatch Friday: The sky in grid form

The sky, as seen through the electrical wires, looks like a grid, a graph with points, lines and curves. Despite the stark grey-black wires and posts, the sky remains unperturbed, covering the town with its soft blue hue.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Malaka by the kilo

Sometimes, you've got to see it to believe it: triple-A quality malaka (μαλάκα) from the Hondrakis (Χονδράκης) dairy station: I guess you could call it 'hondromalaka' (χοντρομαλάκα). (But if you prefer 'the archimalaka', you need to go to Archakis' dairy station).

To get the full meaning of malaka, click here.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

ABC Wednesday: Vauxhall Victor vintage vehicle

vauxhall triumph
It's ABC Wednesday again, and V is for Vauxhall Victor.

This one in particular doesn't seem to have moved in a long long time. Although the car's not roadworthy, it obviously means something special to the owner, as he (I doubt it's a woman) is keeping it parked in his driveway, and doesn't seem to want to part with it. It is clearly an FB model which means it dates back to at least 1964 - that car is over 40 years old.

I think my father's first car - from what I can remember - was a Vauxhall.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008


If you don't cut your artichokes at this stage...

... this is what happens to them:

artichoke in flower

In the former, they are delicious; in the latter, they are beautiful.

Monday, 16 June 2008

The ship

the ferry boat in port at souda bay
Remember that night view of the ship in port, where you had to guess just where the ferry boat might be in all that darkness? Here's a photo taken from the same position of the same ship in all its glory in daylight. This view has been snapped in close-up from the balcony overlooking our garden.

Sunday, 15 June 2008



Nothing lasts forever - the solar powered water heater on our roof recently broke down - 1,100 euro later, we now have hot running water once again. My praises to the workmen who had to work under the hot sun all morning.

Once there was work to be done of the roof of the house, we got rid of those ugly rusty iron rods. Whenever it rained, the rust left marks on the paintwork.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

First swim for the summer

Yesterday was the last school day of school for the year - schools open again in September. We took our first swim at Kalamaki Beach, just 3 kilometres away from our house. Some people spend a fortune on plane tickets, hotels and restaurants to come and sit with their children on this family beach. We have it within very close range. The next 12 weeks will be spent here most days.

Friday, 13 June 2008

SkyWatch Friday: Sunrise over the old harbour

Sometimes you can't take the photo you want to take as beautiful as you want it to be. This shot comes from the webcam overlooking the beautiful harbour (courtesy of Leandros). The former mosque is right below the sun, which has just risen in this early morning shot.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Forgotten garden

It's the kind of place no one would think of looking. Walking past it on the street, slightly sunken from the level of the road, it is barely worth turning one's eyes to, a mess of tangled pointless greenery, sandwiched between the two walls of the neighbouring houses. It must have been useful to someone in days gone by; the wooden ladder wouldn't have been built if the garden was never going to be used. Someone must have had high hopes for this patch of earth in past times. There's a grapevine plant growing unchecked at the top, while the whole patch is practically overtaken by a wild olive tree. The weeds are thriving, maintaining a no man's land of the site.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

ABC Wednesday: Umbrellas


It's ABC Wednesday again and U is for umbrella. Here's another summer shot of a Cretan beach.

Umbrellas are more called for in the summer than in the winter here in Hania, a town which gets 300 days of sunshine. This is true more so in Paleohora than any other place in Western Crete.

Despite the fact that the whole of Crete is one long never-ending beach, the best place for a holiday in my family's opinion is Paleohora on the south coast of the province of Hania. The pancake hill above the beach is actually the site of a former fortress now in ruins, appropriately called Fortezza, which was once a lookout for pirates and invaders. Paleohora is tucked neatly away from the main centre by a beautiful but windy route; in the winter when it snows in Hania, the road becomes inaccessible.

Paleohora is also a town that never sleeps: in the winter, the greenhouses work overtime, supplying the whole country with hothouse tomatoes and other vegetables, while in the summer, it becomes the hottest place to be, literally and metaphorically: its location and landscape can raise temperatures up to 45 degrees Celsius, which is what happened last year during the heatwaves.

The best export from
this slow-paced town are the people (as I said before, the tomatoes are full of chemical fertilisers). I should know, because I used to work there in my youth; I spent three years teaching English to its youngsters. And now, one of those little girls has grown up and become my son's computer teacher!!!

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Greek summertime

My kind of beach - private, cool, refreshing.

If you've ever been to Greece on a summer holiday, this photo will revive your memories of sandy beaches and seaside tavernas.

Monday, 9 June 2008

The barber

The barber is not really such an old-fashioned institution in Hania, but this barber's days are numbered, judging from the shabby shelves crammed with cups and medals showing past glories, the out-dated cosmetics and the rickety chairs which looked as though they hadn't been cleaned in a while. My son needed a haircut, and since the barber's shop was empty when we passed by (across the road from the former Italian embassy), we didn't have to wait long. We had just been to the municipal gardens where there's a children's play area, three doors away from where the barber keeps his shop.

My daughter was with me, and asked me, in light of the rules of equality, if she was going to have her hair cut too. "No, dear, only men get their hair cut here."

"I can do her too," quipped the barber, and I was relieved that I wouldn't have to take her to a salon where they'd charge us more for a coiffure.

Admittedly they weren't the best haircuts; my son's neck was nipped at the back, while my daughter's came out all crooked round the front. Maybe that's why the barber's not updating his equipment. Still, I was impressed by his perseverance: his scissors flew into the air like a pro and his white coat made him look like a scientist.

"Call that a haircut?" my husband exclaimed when I returned home at lunchtime. "He's only good for sheep shearing!"

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Pig on the run

One morning, I opened the balcony door to air the children's room, and was confronted with this sight: the pig had escaped from his owner's field - maybe it got tired of living in a pig sty - and roamed the streets of the village suburb where I live. But not for long; the owner found it and got it tethered up again.

My neighbour had (once again) left her rubbish outside her front gate; her dog sat behind his side of the fence, watching the pig greedily devouring what would have been his dinner. So the pig had a meal out, and from what I nosily observed from my house, it really enjoyed itself.

I don't think the pig has survived to tell its sorry tale, so I'm doing it the honours.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

School's out!

The school year is finishing, and the municipal authorities organised an end-of-year function for the children of primary schools in the district, held at a local sports ground yesterday.

If any of you remember doing your duty as parents and cheering your children on the field, this is what I felt like today.

And if any of you had no idea what we Greeks in the largest island in the country look like collectively, I guess you've gathered now that we are a fat race of people. Click here to see the kinds of food we eat on a regular basis...

Friday, 6 June 2008

SkyWatch Friday: The sky through a child's eyes

the sky as a child saw it
While I was queuing for gasoline during the petrol tankers' strike, I let my daughter use the camera, and she snapped a million obscure shots while she was sitting in the car with me. This photo was one of the few I felt was worthy of being shared: the sky from the car window, as a child saw it, from a slightly dirty windscreen. Looks a little like what you'd see if you ate a magic mushroom, or something like that (I suppose, never having eaten one myself).

And the answer to yesterday's photo's question is: the small line of yellow lights right underneath a red aerial spotlight in the very centre of the photograph is the ship!

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Night view

night sky
This is the view I get from the balcony of my children's bedroom. Can you see the ship at Souda Bay??? Send me a note and tell me where it is. Use the colours and sizes of the lights to pinpoint the position exactly.

Answer provided on tomorrow's post!

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

ABC Wednesday: Taxis

It's ABC Wednesday again, and T is for taxi.

In Hania, we have two different colours of taxi cab. Taxis whose base is outside the town of Hania (ie, they are registered in a village) are grey, while taxis registered in Hania are blue.

The new rules governing cabs now state that a newly bought town taxi must be painted blue all over. The one in the photo has a white roof, because it was bought before the new rule came out.

And here's my husband sporting his (new) taxi, parked outside our house.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

The ferry boat

This is one in the monopoly fleet of ferry boats that take us to Pireas Harbour in Athens, when and if we choose to go there, which is unavoidable at many points in the life of a Cretan, sometimes for medical reasons, other times just to escape small-town living. The Ariadne is the latest addition to the ANEK Lines fleet. The boat (one of a few used on this route) leaves from Souda Bay, about 5km eastwards out of town, in the evening at 9pm, and arrives in the early hours of the next day (about 6pm). When it's not being used as the main link between Athens and Hania, it acts as a cruise boat, or it's used in some of the more 'luxurious' routes for Greek tourism, linking Greece to Italy.

Monday, 2 June 2008

Something old, something new...

houses splantzia
Here's a colourful example of the old houses behind the old port area of Hania. Some are luckier than others, but that's just a natural part of the wear and tear process. The red one has been completely renovated and is now an architect's office.

These houses are very similar to the ones that were built by former Greek residents of Alexandria in Egypt, at a time when there was a Greek colony there. One of my wonderful students at MAICh told me that he was amazed at their similarity. The travelling Greeks always took their culture with them.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Nana's rooms

nana rooms
Another example of the multi-faceted uses of neoclassical houses in Hania. You can barely see the sign on the top balcony - it shows the name of this 'pension'-style hotel; the English bed and breakfast. But that's only the two top floors of the building. The bottom floor is a residential property - I've been inside it quite a few times. It's got high painted ceilings and it's decorated in an old-world style by a very proud owner. The owner also tends a large garden very lovingly. No one would think this town villa is located on a busy road leading into the main centre only a few metres away from the municipal gardens.