Zambolis apartments

Zambolis apartments
For your holidays in Chania

Wednesday 30 December 2015

I had a dream (Ονειρεύτηκα)

I don't normally remember my dreams. They are forgotten almost as quickly as I wake up and open my eyes. This one contained elements of both my past and present life, and it married them so beautifully, which is perhaps why I can still remember quite a few details of that dream. I just related it to a colleague, and she thought it was quite symbolic of the times we live in, so I decided to write it down, just for the record.

I'm in the Greek Orthodox Church of Wellington. What am I doing here, I ask myself. I try not to make myself look too conspicuous. It's the moment when the δίσκο (THIS-ko - collection tray) is being passed around. 'I don't want to hear any clink-clink', the (now-deceased) Archbishop says (as I recall him saying once when I was still living in Wellington - he preferred to hear a gentle rustle, like leaves falling from the trees to the ground). 

The collection tray passes by me, but I don't add any money to it. I remember thinking that the church doesn't pay property taxes. But the old man passing it round stays rooted to the ground in front of me. So much for not wanting to make myself look conspicuous; I just shrug back at him. He points to the tray with his finger and nods towards me, making it obvious that he won't leave if I don't contribute. 

I take out my purse and open it. Then I turn it upside down over the collection tray. The clink-clink sound can be heard as a few coppers fall onto it. Nothing silver comes out with it. The old man is now both annoyed and embarrassed. "I've just come from Greece," I say, "and we're still under capital controls!"

A lady turns and looks at me very sympathetically. She disappears for a moment behind the μπαγκάρι (ba-GA-ri - candle counter). When she returns, she is holding an EFT-POS machine. 

I don't know what happened next, because at this point I woke up. According to a Kiwi friend, there is indeed an EFT-POS machine now in Wellington's Greek Orthodox church.

Καλή Χρονιά!
Happy New Year!

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Saturday 26 December 2015

2015: the loss of fear

What a year. What a Greek year. A year of Greece making a daily appearance in the headlines on the front (home) page of international newspapers (websites). It made Greeks wonder: "What did we do now?" A year of the fear of not knowing if we were 'in' or 'out': 'Where do we belong?" A year of social upheaval: "What's going to happen next?" As we wondered what the answers were to these questions, we began to fear our multiple losses: the loss of commonly-held beliefs and comforts.

The international press is now blaring out the main news reviews, the stories of the year that made headlines, like they do at the end of every year: Greece still plays a prominent role in them. Stories about the global economy are rife with references to Greece; the world learnt about OXI thanks to Greece; the refugee crisis played out its beginnings in Greece. As it all unfolded in Greece, the world watched on, fearing their own potential losses.

Πώς μας τη φτιάξαν τη ζωή - How they have shaped our lives
μίση πολέμοι και καπνοί - Hatred, wars and smoke
βρωμίζει ο φασισμός τη γη -  The world stinks of fascism 
σαν κότες σφάζονται οι λαοί - Nations are being slaughtered like chickens
κι εμείς στον ύπνο το βαθύ - While we remain deep in our sleep
Ξυπνήστε (Wake up) by Πάνος Τζαβέλας (Panos Tzavelas), 1975

In a country faced with so much upheaval, anything and everything could have gone wrong. Thankfully, it didn't. It didn't go wrong when the hashtagged OXI morphed in such a way that it looked like it meant YES: that made little difference to the way OXI shaped world thought.

OXI: Paris, Berlin, London. 

It hasn't even gone wrong when a left government changed direction and turned right to find the centre: it still refused to be 'tied' up. Not even when a million people whose names you don't know land in your country and beg for your help: not only do you let them in, but they still keep coming.

Syriza's actions a source of derision: this image sums up my reason for voting OXI in the Greek referendum of July 2015. 

The period leading up to the referendum was confusing to say the least - six months later, we can say that we have refound our centre ground. When you realise that your fear of everything going wrong proved to be nothing less than a fear of fear, you stop fearing. Our greatest fear is the fear of unknown difficulties. But life was never easy for most of us, and it continues this way to the present day.

Ενα το χελιδόνι κι η άνοιξη ακριβή - Only one swallow makes spring expensive
για να γυρίσει ο ήλιος θέλει δουλειά πολλή - A lot of work is needed for the sun to turn
Θέλει νεκροί χιλιάδες να 'ναι στους τροχούς - Thousands of dead are needed to turn the wheels
Θέλει κι οι ζωντανοί να δίνουν το αίμα τους. - While the living have to give up their blood.
Ενα το χελιδόνι  (One swallow) by Οδυσσέας Ελύτης (Odiseas Elitis - lyrics) and Μίκης Θεοδωράκης (Mikis theodorakis - music), 1964

For most people, it's hard to see a bright future after six years of economic recession and political stalemate. It's easier to believe that there is no end in sight, that the depression will go on forever. But depressions, recessions and wars do not go on forever. Eventually they stop, and it is necessary to be prepared for their end, otherwise we will be standing among the ruins, not knowing which way to turn. Our main concern during such difficulties is the thought of loss: we count our losses by worrying about the level of impoverishment that we suffer. For Greece, these losses have led to a highly necessary personal and political reappraisal in order to be able to face the hardships to come, which will end the economic and political stagnancy. To see the future more clearly, we need to analyse our losses. 

Most people in Greece will equate the idea of losses with reductions in income. Why did we lose such a great portion of our income? Greed plays a big role in Money's decision to leave Greece. Money stopped coming here, and what little was left of it was taken out of the country. If we want Money to come back, we need to find ways to keep it here, as well as to keep it coming.

Apart from money, we also lost a lot of people. Many people couldn't cope with their losses. Some left for another world, others left for another country. You will often hear people saying: Τί έκανε η χώρα μου για μένα; (What did my country do for me?) Many people think that their country has not done enough to keep them here, that their country has not respected them in some way. Maybe they are asking the wrong question: perhaps they should be asking Τί έκανα εγώ για την χώρα μου; (What did I do for my country?) What do the people themselves do so that their country can keep them here? All wars suffer human losses - the first such losses signal the need for the reappraisal of our values and identity.

 Πάλης ξεκίνημα νέοι αγώνες οδηγοί της ελπίδας οι πρώτοι νεκροί. - The start of a struggle, new battles: the first dead are the leaders of hope 
Όχι άλλα δάκρυα κλείσαν οι τάφοι λευτεριάς λίπασμα οι πρώτοι νεκροί. - No more tears, the tombstones are laid: the first dead become the fertlisers of freedom
Λουλούδι φωτιάς βγαίνει στους τάφους μήνυμα στέλνουν οι πρώτοι νεκροί. - A flower of fire springs forth from their graves: the first dead are sending a message
Απάντηση θα πάρουν ενότητα κι αγώνα για νά `βρουν ανάπαυση οι πρώτοι νεκροί. - For the first dead to rest in peace, they will receive an answer of unity and struggle.
Οι πρώτοι νεκροί (The first dead) by Αλέκος Παναγούλης (Alekos Panagoulis - lyrics) and Μίκης Θεοδωράκης (Mikis theodorakis - music), 1974

This reappraisal of values and identity leads perhaps to the greatest loss that we fear: the loss of dignity. If we can put aside the loss of our personal dignity (for example, buying supermarket own brands instead of branded products), we can look at the higher level of the dignity of our country. The refugee crisis showed Greece to be the most humane country in Europe: having lost everything, the people still found something left to give. 

This is the moment to remember the words of the famous Cretan writer Nikos Kazantzakis, often remembered for the quote: "I hope for nothing. I fear nothing. I am free." The full quote in context is as follows:

Ξερω τωρα,δεν ελπιζω τιποτα,δε φοβουμαι τιποτα,λυτρωθηκα απο το νου κι απο την καρδια,ανεβηκα πιο πανω,ειμαι λευτερος.Αυτο θελω.Δε θελω τιποτα αλλο.Ζητουσα ελευθερια.
Now I know, I hope for nothing, I fear nothing, I was liberated from the mind and the heart, I climbed higher up, I am free. That's what I want. I don't want anything else. I just wanted freedom.
- excerpt from Ascetic, an essay by Nikos Kazantzakis, 1883-1957

What a year it was for Greece. The year Greece stopped fearing. The loss of fear is the highest order of loss. But we have to remember the gains: the Greek Parliament voted in cohabitation agreements for same-sex couples: for a country supposedly ruled by a religious organisation, this kind of move reveals quite the opposite to be true. It can only get better.

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Sunday 20 December 2015

Melomakarona (Μελομακάρονα)

What kind of Greek food blog is one that does not include a recipe for the traditional Greek Christmas shortbread known as melomakarona? An incomplete one for sure. As my sister is the melomakarona maker in this family, here is her recipe, which I made this year.

This recipe makes a lot of melomakarona - I halved it, and got this plate, as well as another half plate. It is a simple recipe, and an easy one to make in one afternoon. For modern eaters, this recipe is vegan (and can be made gluten-free by adding gluten free all purpose flour).

The olive oil, orange juice, honey and walnuts are all local products, all produced just 10-30 kilometres away from my home. Without being biased, these melomakarona are truly delicious: they taste like a whiff of Crete in every bite.

1 litre olive oil
1 ¾ kilos all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup orange juice, freshly squeezed (not from a packet/carton - the final product won't taste right)
some ground cinnamon  and cloves
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons semolina
Mix everything together, leaving the flour till last.

Bake at 180C till golden brown, about 30-40 minutes. When cool, dip lightly in syrup (recipe below):
1 cup honey
2 cups sugar
3 cups water
Boil everything together, till the syrup sets slightly (about 20 minutes on a rolling boil).

Either the biscuits must be hot and the syrup cold, or the biscuits must be cold and the syrup hot (I do the latter - it's easier to warm up the syrup after making the biscuits).

Dip the biscuits in the syrup and allow them to soak in the syrup for up to a minute, turning them over once. As you pull them out of the syrup, coat them in ground walnuts.

©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.

Saturday 5 December 2015

Kiwi rack of lamb (Αρνάκι Νέα Ζηλανδίας)

A kiwi rack of lamb, bought on 50% discount at the Marinopoulos supermarket, originally priced at 22 euro. A long long time had passed since I had last bought a kiwi rack of lamb. At this price, it seemed the right time to do so now.

Cretan lamb is much much smaller, somewhat scrawnier than kiwi lamb. A Cretan lamb chop always feels like I'm eating a lollipop meatball. We don't often eat lamb because we prefer beef and pork. So when I saw it on special, I thought it would be a meal I would enjoy cooking and eating, to remember (much) older times.

I'm now very used to Cretan lamb, which is smaller than Greek lamb raised in the mainland. Although we also buy French and Dutch meat (where our main meat imports - beef, pork and chicken - come from), we buy only Greek lamb. So this kiwi meat smelt very different in my kitchen. I remembered the first time I smelt Greek lamb cooking in the oven of a small Greek home kitchen. At the time, for me, it stunk. Nowadays, it smells quite neutral to me. I am more likely to detect the scent of the wine it's soaked in, and the herbs and spices used to cook it, than the meat itself.

I tried to recall the smells in our NZ house when we cooked kiwi lamb, but I couldn't remember them. I couldn't even remember the smell of kiwi meat as my mother cooked it before we went to church, so that our Sunday roast could be ready when we returned home. I remembered nothing. Nothing! Like I had never even been there.

The smell of the rack of lamb in my kitchen smelt wrong. The smell was pretty strong. No doubt, someone would notice soon. So I soaked the lamb in wine, doused it in spices and cooked it for ages, hoping that the smell would somehow go away (or at least, stay hidden). But that smell didn't go away. Even though it was somehow veiled by the seasonings, it had now permeated the kitchen on this rather cold Saturday.

"What's that smell, Mum?" my son asked me, making me feel rather nervous.

"That looks so good!" my daughter said, comforting me somewhat as she saw me taking out the roast from the oven.

"Is it cooked through?" my husband asked, which is usually his main concern with meat. I could see it falling off the bone. My husband then noted that his father had once bought kiwi lamb when he was young and his mother cooked it, but the smell put them off, and it was left uneaten.

Oh, shit, I thought. But times have changed: "Whoever isn't hungry isn't obliged to eat," I reminded everyone. We all sat down for dinner.

The rack of lamb looked huge as it sat in the roasting pan. I'd had to cut it in half to make it fit. I wondered if we would get through it, especially if mutiny was declared (over the smell, which was faint, but still quite discernible). Things turned out well. The lamb was really quite OK. Some comments were made about the differences noted when compared to the lamb we usually cook at home. The smell was apparent to all (I knew it!), so I was ready with my wine-and-spices story. I remembered the price of that rack of lamb (information that I kept to myself), and I praised myself for landing such a bargain. Should I have bought two pieces at that price, I wondered. The supermarket freezer had quite a few of them in stock (all bearing the 50% discount sticker).

I took a bite, concealing my own hesitation. Any second thoughts I had about this rack of lamb had to remain in my head. Poor thing, I thought, it's like it had landed in a house full of loud opinionated (ie obnoxious) people, an invited guest who was regarded as a freak. Make yourself at home, they all said to it as they poked it prodded it, exposing its foreigness in all the ways possible. I felt embarrassed, almost ready to apologise to the visitor for any offence we may have caused.

Perhaps these awkward feelings might not have arisen, had the company been different. But it's much easier for me to change the meat than it is the company. Greek lamb or kiwi lamb, it will make little difference to me. The sooner I don't have to cook, the more quickly I will enjoy my food, Όπου γη και πατρίς - the origin of the lamb will make no difference.

(Note to myself: Next lamb dish - Greek-style fricassee, with lettuce from our garden. Do not use kiwi meat. Wrong smell.)

©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 November 2015

Relating the past with the present: History lesson Γ' Γυμνασιου

(The blue bits are translations from my son's third-year junior-high history textbook.)

Last week, my son asked me to help him with his upcoming history test. He wanted to 'say' the lesson to me, as it was presented in his history book (which you can find here:,2182/).
"I just want you to ask me random questions, to make sure I know it all," he said to me. 
"OK", I said, "which units?"
"5 (Hellenism in the mid 18thC until the beginning of the 19thC), 7 (The Friendly Society and the announcement of the Greek revolution in the Danubian principalities) and 8 (The development of the Greek Revolution of 1821-1827)." 
"Why not 6 (The revolutionary movements of the 18920-1821 period in Europe?)" I asked, which was about ). It starts off like this: "The European people questioned the decisions of the Vienna Congress (1815) by delivering policies and national claims. They projected politically the demands of the concessions of the constitution, establishing parliamentary institutions and the recognition of civil liberties and political rights. On this basis, they formulated three main political currents, which questioned the decisions of the rulers of Europe, each from his own perspective and in his own way: 
- Moderate liberals sought the establishment of constitutional monarchies in which the right to vote was given only to the wealthy, as was the case in England.
- Radical democrats aspired to establish republics that were not dominated by monarchs, which would recognize political rights for every single adult men and protect the weaker social groups.
- The Socialists, who appeared after 1850, considered that the most appropriate form of political organization would be a system of economic and social equality.
National claims arose as a result of the gradual awareness of nations..."
"The teacher didn't set that one for the test."
"But you've studied it in class, haven't you?"
I was a little taken aback. "You know that this chapter might have been useful in understanding our present problems?" I asked him. 
"Yes, I've read it." If he had said he hadn't read it, I would have made him do it. 
"OK. Question 1," I said, scanning Unit 5. "Why was knowledge of the Greek language widespread in the mid 18thC to mid-19thC?" 
"Not the blue boxes, Mum." 
"Well, if you know the answer---"
"It's not in the test! I don't have enough time to tell you!"
"OK, ... What was the role of the Orthodox church in Hellenism?" 
"The Orthodox Church, recognized by the Ottoman administration as the leader of all the enslaved Christians, was opposed to the spread of ideas about enlightenment because they believed that a revolution will endanger themselves and Hellenism. This, however, did not prevent some clerics adopting enlightened perceptions and to take some action against the Ottoman domination." 
"And you know that they hold a similar position in the present, don't you? Can you give me some examples?"
"Ah, they want religious studies at school to continue..."
"... which violates the principle of the separation of state and church..."
"... and they aren't being taxed for the property they own...
"... which is bound to change in the long run. Good. Next question: What role did Russia play in the Greek Revolution?"
"Hang on, you didn't ask me the kinds of people that the Greek communities were made of at the time: Phanariots, merchants, ship owners, klephts."
"As their name implies!" (Because I get bored of the obvious. There is never enough time. PS: 'klepht' cf κλέβω = I steal.) 
"So, what role did Russia play in the Greek Revolution?"
"Around the beginning of the 18th century, the Greeks turned to Russia for help, since the Russians had interests in common with the Greeks as well as the same religion. Thus, in 1770, with Russian origins, the Greek revolution centered on the Peloponnese. But the mobilisation of the Greeks was not the desired one, while the small number of Russian warships participating, headed by brothers Orloff, proved insufficient. The revolution, known as the Orlofika, was thus suppressed. A similar fate befell the heroic efforts of the Greek envoy to Russia Lambros Katsonis in arousing the inhabitants of the Aegean islands..."
"And what is our relationship with Russia these days?"
"Um... we still have the same religion..."
"Are we friends with them?"
"Um ... the EU doesn't like Russia."
"But do WE like them?" 
"Um... Yes, I think so." 
"Because... they don't let others tell them what to do."
"OK. Next question. What do we mean by the Greek Enlightenment?"
"Starting with the Greek communities---"
"Where were they located?" 
"Asia Minor, the coastal parts of present-day Turkey and Russia. Starting with the Greek--- " 
"And which other country? 
"Check the map." He goes to the kitchen to check it out. 
"And what do we mean by the Pontus?"

Διονύσης Σαββόπουλος & Δόμνα Σαμίου - "Black Sea"
"Μαύρη θάλασσα κλειστή και ψυχή μου χαρισμένη, 
σ' όποιον πολύ σε θέλει"
"Black Sea, a closed space, I give my soul to anyone who wants her"

"That's not in the book, Mum."
"Oh... OK." Another time perhaps.  
"What was the question?"
"What do we mean by the Greek Enlightenment?"
"Starting with the Greek communities, the Greeks came into contact with the ideas of the Enlightenment. Η εκπαίδευση συνδέθηκε με τον αγώνα για ελευθερία. Traders in general and the Greeks who traveled in Europe disseminated those ideas in the Hellenic world. So the notion that was cultivated was that logic can not only explain the world but it can also change it. Education became linked to the struggle for freedom."
"But that doesn't tell me what the meaning of 'Greek Enlightenment' means..."
"But it's not int he book, Mum."
"Maybe the book is not enough. let's look it up." We did a quick Wikipedia search:
"The Greek Enlightenment is an ideological, literary, linguistic and philosophical current that, in a sense, tried to convey the ideas and values ​​of the European Enlightenment, of which it is an offshoot, in the area of ​​the enslaved Greek-language Orthodox peoples in the Ottoman Empire. Constantine Dimaras introduced the term. He meant it to be an indigenous and endogenous phenomenon of Hellenism which concurs with European enlightenment. This influenced him but the original dynamic did not cease to be domestic. In another aspect, Greek Enlightenment has its roots in the 15th century under the influence of European culture systematized to the early 19th century the idea of ​​national identity for people in the erstwhile ancient Greek territories. According to Apostolos Diamantis, the Greek Enlightenment was an intellectual movement seeking the education of the Greeks."
"So the most important element of the Greek enlightenment was?"
"Education. But that's in the next chapter about the Filiki Eteria (the Friendly Society)."
"OK the, tell me about...  the educational aspect of Filiki Eteria."
"Well... it was formed by some Greeks living in Russia, who wanted to revive the idea of a Greek state, and it was mainly aimed at wealthy Greeks so that Filiki Eteria could raise funds for their cause, but the wealthy Greeks didn't want to support them---"
"Which could explain why Greeks find it difficult nowadays to pay taxes, don't you think?"
"Oh, OK. So Filiki Eteria relaxed its policies and turned to the not so rich, but their ideas were still difficult to disseminate, so Filiki Eteria asked Ioannis Kapodistrias to lead them, because he was the Minister of Foreign Affairs in Russia---"
"But why Kapodistrias?"
"Because he was Greek. But Kapodistrias refused the position because he said that the Greek people weren't educated enough to rise up against the Ottomans."
"And that's where education becomes important, because this is still a problem even in our days, isn't it, because..."
"... because...?" He wasn't sure what I was getting at.
"... not enough of us are..." I started.
"Oh. Not enough of us are appropriately educated to stop foreign powers from meddling in our affairs. It's similar to the problems we have now in Greece. And why we are being ruled the way we are being ruled." 
We still had one more lesson (Unit 8to study. It contained the names of various protagonists related to the Greek revolution. 
"Which European underground train system includes a station named after a Greek war hero?" "That's not mentioned in the lesson!" On a visit to Paris five years ago, I remembered seeing Markou Botsaris' name on the metro map. It pays to be observant; that's a very special skill to develop over time. I asked him a few more questions (for which the answers were in the book!) and finished off by wishing him good luck for the exam.

The next day, when I came home, he told me that the exam was really easy. He passed with a grade of 19/20. 

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Monday 9 November 2015

Insanely awesome Balos

I had been to the Balos lagoon a few years ago on a short-cruise ship, which also took us to a fortress built on an islet close to Gramvousa peninsula where Balos is located. But for a long time now, I had also wanted to do the road trip to Balos, which involves taking a very rough drive on a rather stony tract of mountainous rocky road, leading right down to the lagoon area.

Last weekend's weather was perfect for walking, sunny and windy, but not too cold. The tourist season is over now in Crete, and the area, which was buzzing with cars and people throughout the whole summer, has now returned to its natural peaceful state. We set off via the motorway, which gets you to Kissamos harbour. The cruisers were all tied up at the port, including the ferry boat that goes to the island of Kithira and the Peloponnese.

The harbour is located between the two 'fingers' of Crete, Rodopou and Gramvousa. Continuing west, we entered the first finger, Gramvousa peninsula. Here, we passed field after field of stamnagathi (Cichorium spinosum, spiny chicory). Gramvousa is mainly where this salad green is grown on the island. It used to be very expensive to buy stamnagathi, as it grew only in the wild, selling at anything up to 13 euro a kilo, but since the species began to be cultivated, the price has dropped to 4 euro. Organic stamnagathi  continues to sell at a high price. Apart from stamnagathi, the Gramvousa coastal area is mainly covered in beautifully maintained olive groves and vineyards. The land is flat here, making agricultural work much easier. There were people working in the fields as we passed, picking stamnagathi and harvesting olives, something our summer tourists do not  get a chance to see because all the European flights in and out of the island stopped in the first week of November this year. 

To get to the Balos lagoon, you pass through the very picturesque village of Kaliviani. A few tourist hotels are located here but they are only open during the summer season. Kaliviani village has a very traditional look to it, but it has also been modernised in many ways; tourism symbols are seen all over the place. The aromas emanating from the kitchen of the one restaurant that remained open were very enticing. We decided to stop here after our trip to the lagoon.

At the Grambousa restaurant in Kaliviani, you look for the sign pointing to the road for Balos and follow the rocky road from hereon. After Kaliviani, the road gets kind of lonesome in the winter but you will not be completely alone: there are quite a few goats on the road. The area is actually part of the NATURA protected region and although there are no buildings of any sort (save a church and information centre), signs of human intervention exist with the roughly built shelters for the animals, delapidated cafes, and some unusually positioned old boats that are no longer in use*. The animals are all a part of locals' self-sufficiency: they grow olives for oil, grapes for wine, all manner of vegetables (but not much fruit), and their meat and dairy needs are met by goats (but not sheep due to the rocky terrain). The rugged road is not tarmacked, which is why we preferred to use our pick-up truck, but cars are also able to handle the road conditions. You are basically driving on top of a rocky peninsula, with very beautiful views of the coast. The black outline on the Gramvousa coastline is due to the strong earthquake that took place in 365AD. The earth was literally elevated. Gramvousa is most often the epicentre of earthquakes that take place in Hania, which is a very seismic region.

Balos Lagoon Cape Gramvoussa
The road offers no shade, so I would say it's not very comfortable in the summer. You drive along the narrow rocky road, where you will find a toll gate. During the summer, a small fee of one euro is asked from every driver passing this point. The proceeds of the tolls are used to strengthen the road. The road has in fact been improved over time: I recall people telling me that they suffered flat tyres while trying to traverse the area. In the winter, the gate is left open, as we found it when we visited. When the road stops and you find you can't drive any more, you park your car on a large square. A rough looking (and not very enticing) cafe was open at this point - we were among twenty or so tourists who were visiting Balos at the same time.

From the square, you walk about a quarter of an hour to get to the lagoon which is not immediately visible due to the hilly nature of the terrain. So when you first see it, you are totally overwhelmed by its beauty. At this point, we sat on the low wall of the path, and took in the view. A couple of tourists were approaching the area. We were just two metres away from them when I overheard an American say: "Wow, man, this is insanely awesome." It certainly was. From the viewpoint, on the left you could also see Pontikonisi ('mouse island', due to its shape) behind the 'frying pan' land mass (τηγάνι - ti-GA-ni, as it's often called in Greek). On the right, the fortress on the island of Imeri Gramvousa (it looks like a ship) was also clearly visible - it is only accessible by boat during the summer months. So there really are many good reasons why you need to visit Balos twice, both by road and by ferry.

#crete #oils #salad #potato #kaltsounia #kaluviani #mushrooms #chania #food #peppers #κρητη #καλυβιανη #καλτσουνια #μανιταρια #κρητικη_κουζινα #χωριατικη #γραμβουσα #παραδοσιακο #traditional #greece

We could have walked down to the lagoon itself - there were a couple of people walking along the sand while we were there - but the hike back up the hill deterred us. We were running out of time, and we had those restaurant aromas on our mind. So we went back to Kaliviani and had a really delicious lunch at the Grambousa restaurant, which served a number of locally grown delicacies - mainly meat dishes - including the signature crop of the area, stamnagathi. They also had a really kinky hobbit-house doorway leading to the interior: take a peek here... The Grambousa serves mainly traditional Greek cuisine with a novel twist. For example, my favorite dish of all that we tried was the lamb cooked in honey and wrapped in filo pastry. Heavenly! And for desert, we got fried pastry and a beautifully ripe persimmon.

When we came home, I was about to upload my photos onto the computer, when I pressed 'delete' instead of 'copy'. The photos in the post all came from the internet. Oh well, too bad, I thought, I will just have to go again some time. But I don't think I want to do the road trip in the summer. With so many tourists, Crete is awesomely insane in the summer. It's the winter I look forward to, when it becomes insanely awesome. Come and see it for yourself. A ferry boat leaves Pireas harbour every night for Hania, while there are 3-4 daily flights from Athens.

*Apparently, they have all been demolished: 
But the debris remains:
And now, the Cretan macho seeks revenge:

UPDATE 27/1/2016A record 350,000 people, up by 30%, visited Balos this year. They came from as far as Iraklio to visit it and they were from Central/Eastern Europe. Interestingly, only 9% were from Scandinavia, even though 50% of Hania's tourism is from Scandinavia. (Scandis prefer the notorious AIs - they had everything they need there, I guess). More info here:

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Friday 6 November 2015


I've always dreamt of a sewing room in my house. A workshop seems too far-fetched an idea for a home our size. My sewing machine sits in the living room, and goes as far as the kitchen table where I usually work. A recent visitor to our house saw my sewing machine sitting in its corner in the living room and asked me how much it cost. Even though I thought it was an odd question, I still gave her answer: I had paid €280 euro for my SINGER TALENT 2 years ago from a local store. She told me she had bought a sewing machine from a discount supermarket for €99 about a year ago.

"And what do you use it for?" I asked her.

"I haven't used it," she said, not showing any signs of regret. "Do you use yours?"

Another odd question, especially since the sewing machine was surrounded by fabrics and other sewing paraphernalia. Apart from five large quilts, my sewing machine has made countless other items, including many gifts and charity items. I use it at least once a week, if not more. My friend asked me to show her what I make on it. She was surprised by the quilts I had made (quilting and patchwork in the modern sense is not a Greek hobby), but she was particularly intrigued by a small pile of sewn fabric sitting in front of the machine.

"What are these for?" She was genuinely perplexed by my 'mug rugs' (or pot holders and oven mitts, if you prefer, or even wall hangings if you have a special affection for the animal pictured) with a donkey cutout sewn on the top. I explained that I had made these for the Agia Marina Donkey Rescue in Iraklion, as a way of supporting the work the charity does. a charity I support. Charity starts from the home, and for the last few years, especially since the Greek crisis, I have always supported charities based close to my locality. My last lot of rug mugs sold out very quickly; I hope the new batch does too.

I make these donkey mug rugs by hand and finish them off by machine, because when I go into the kitchen to use my sewing machine in the evenings, my family sometimes notices and asks me to come and sit with them in the living room. I take up the offer so they don't think I don't want their company.

My friend stared at me blankly. "You make them for the donkeys?" Oh-mee-gee, I thought, the difficult part has just begun. I have a lot of explaining to do. It's not easy (and not much fun) having to explain everything to people who know very little. Even when you do explain it to them, they cannot understand what you are talking about because they lack the direct 'tangible' experience needed in order to understand certain concepts. I am especially wary of how I explain the part where I mention that I spend time making things without payment for others to raise money from. They really don't get that bit. If they did, they themselves would also probably be donating something to charity (if not time, then money).

If I were asked the same question in Western society, I would be able to look shrewdly at the person and ask: "Where is your altruism?" But you can't do that with people like my friend: you have to explain the meaning of altruism to her if you want an answer. In the Greek language, that is not as easy as it sounds. In Greek, altruism is translated as αλτρουϊσμός (al-troo-is-MOS). But that is simply a transliteration of the English word - in other words, the Greek word entered the language not just as a borrowed word but as a borrowed concept. Another translation of altruism is given in Greek dictionaries: φιλλαληλία (fi-la-li-LI-a): 'true love for other people'. But that is closer in meaning to φιλανθρωπία (fi-lan-thro-PI-a), which is where English gets the word 'philanthropy' from. Wikipedia mentions that altruism can also be called selflessness which is translated into Greek as ανιδιοτέλεια (an-i-di-o-TE-li-a): 'a characteristic of someone whose final actions (τέλη) are not (αν) dictated by self (ιδιο)-interest or personal gain.' But this word does not necessarily encompass the moral sense of altruism as the word is used in English.

Respectful citizen Mr Panteli, by Panos Tzavelas, who was a devoted communist all his life. 
Respectful citizen Mr Panteli (click here for the meaning of this Greek name), you have a shop somewhere here, you sell stuff, you make lots of money, you go to church on Sunday, you have a wife, son and daughter, modern furniture, colour TV, and you eat spiritual food. Respectful citizen Mr Panteli, so what if thousands of  black, white and yellow people die of hunger on this earth, just as long as your son's OK so you can leave him your name and money... Did you know Mr Panteli that others give up their youth and life to make true the dream of a slice of bread, so you can eat too, and what did you give Mr Panteli? Full of fear, irresolute, Mr Bean, you fouled up dreams and souls, an empty skin without breath. Respectful citizens, the young generation, bury those respectful people among the grains, and those who made Mr Panteli, they're useless worms on this Earth!

Hence, to a certain extent, altruism as it is understood in English is still in its nascence in Greek. The many different varieties of crises that the country has been through in such a short period of time have not helped people in thier quest for self-actualisation - but then again, you could easily get through your life without any need to feel altruistic. Take my friend as an example: she can buy a sewing machine even though she doesn't need one, so I suppose she has met her safety, physiological and social needs. But buying a sewing machine when you don't need one shows that she hasn't fulfilled her esteem needs. She still needs to build up her confidence before she moves on to self-actualisation.

Not that altruism is not understood in Greece. Let's take a very close Greek friend of mine who related this to me recently: "We have a severely disabled child, and we love him very much. It wasn't our choice to have this child. But that's the way God made him, and we accept him as he is. But I'm not an altruist like my French friends. They have a son with the same disability as my child. They couldn't have children, so they decided to adopt a child who they could provide a better quality of life to. They chose a severely disabled child, something I would not have done myself. They are the true altruists.".

I did actually wonder why my other friend hadn't used her own sewing machine. She told me she'd always wanted to own a sewing machine and when she saw it at the supermarket, she thought it was the perfect opportunity to buy one, although she admitted that she wasn't sure what she'd do with it. "I thought I might use it to mend or alter something, but it's really quite cheap to buy what we need these days." In many ways, my friend is right. Few designers can compete with the €1 shops in terms of price. Even in a poor country like Greece which has been overrun by deflation, life is still quite cheap these days.

Bonus photo: Thanks to Demetra, Gabe and Joanie for their fabric donations, some of which I used in the donkey mug rugs. I also made this quilt from them.

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Tuesday 3 November 2015

Δημοκρατία (Democracy)

(This is a true story, in case you think I'm making it up.)

I recently met up with an old family friend whose husband recently passed away. My father was the godfather of her youngest son; my parents were very close to their godchildren's parents. It was actually this woman's name that bought them even closer together. Even the priest must have changed shades as he dunked her into the baptismal font when he heard the name:
... the Priest turns the Sponsor to the East with lowered hands, and asks the following three times:
- Do you join Christ?
The question is answered three times:
- I do join Him.
Again the Priest asks three times:
- Have you joined Christ?
- I have joined Him.
Again the Priest asks:
- And do you believe in Him?
- I believe in Him as King and as God.
After the completion of the Creed, the Priest asks thrice:
- Have you joined Christ?
- I have joined Him.
Then the Priest says:
- Then bow before Him and worship Him.
The Sponsor) bows down, saying:
- I bow down before the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit; Trinity One in Essence and Undivided.
Following the blessing, the Priest asks the Sponsor what the name of the child will be, and the Sponsor says the name loudly and clearly:
- Dimokratia!

The name came as a surprise not just to the priest but also to Dimokratia's parents. But they knew Stavros was a devout communist, and a vow was a vow: they had asked him to become godfather to their child, and they could not go back on their promise. Back in those days, and in those regions, it was the godparent who chose the child's name, and the parents and godparents rarely met up, The parents in fact did not always attend the service, and would only find out the name of their child once the service was over.

My parents met Dimokratia and her husband while both couples were living and working in New Zealand. My mother remembered that when she was a child, not quite a teenager, one of her second cousins, Stavros (son of Efsevios, first cousin of my maternal grandfather), had left the village where both my mother and Stavros lived to become a godparent to a child in another village far away from the mountains where they lived. When he returned a few days later, he proudly announced that he had chosen a beautiful name for the baby - he had called her Dimokratia. Was this Stavros' goddaughter after all? Indeed it was. Here was Dimokratia herself, standing in front of my mother, while they had both transplanted themselves to another country, very far away from their own homeland.

The EAM anthem: 
Only three letters enlighten the Greek people
and show us the bright way to bring freedom
It is our struggle's light and the people follow faithfully,
young, old, all together they shout, hip hip hooray for EAM
EAM saved us from hunger, it will save us again from slavery
and it has congregationalism in its manifesto, hip hip hooray for EAM
It has united all our people, it includes EPON and ELAS,
and it has congregationalism in its manifesto, hip hip hooray for EAM
My mother and Stavros lived through very confusing political times in Greece. During WW2 when democracy was failing Greek citizens and Greece was under Nazi occupation, EAM, the National Liberation Front, was formed, quite obviously encompassing communism and left-wing nationalism, given the musical score that its anthem was set in (the Russian Katyusha theme). No doubt Stavros was one of EAM's strongest supporters, and he would have addressed Alexis Tsipras as 'comrade' if he were still alive now (although he would probably be turning in his grave now). But even for SYRIZA and Mr Tsipras, democracy has taken many turns. It pays to remember what SYRIZA meant to the world way back in December 2014, which isn't too long ago. Democracy has a variety of meanings for everyone, but it rarely encompasses all people: the fragile meaning of democracy has been debated since ancient times.

And what about Stavros, the godfather? Eventually he married, and after seven years, he and his wife gave up trying to have a child as none had come by that time. They decided to adopt instead. But Stavros himself chose the name he would give to his son: 'Eleftherios', from the Greek ελευθερία, 'e-lef-the-RI-a', meaning 'freedom, liberty'. My aunt related to me the day Lefteri (as his name is abbreviated in Greek) came to the village, when he was also baptised. Lefteris' father was so happy to finally have a child of his own, that he invited all the villagers to the baptism, and he composed a mantinada (μαντινάδα) especially for the occasion:
Ευχαριστώ στους χωριανούς - I thank the local villagers
και όλο αυτό τ' ασκέρι - and this great large assembly
που ήρθε κι' αποδέχτηκε - that came and greeted warmly
το Κάτη, το Λευτέρη. - the new Kati*, Lefteri.
(*Kati is the abbreviated surname of 'Katakis')

And that's not the whole story: Two years after Lefteris joined the family, Stavros and his wife brought Kostantinos into the world by natural birth. The moral of the story: everything happens in its own time, patience is a virtue, and hope dies last.

(The video clip is part of a playlist of politically motivated modern Greek music, composed, written and sung by some of the most famous names in Greek music, many of whom are considered heroes of the various Greek Leftist movements.)

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Thursday 29 October 2015

Old age (Γηρατειά)

Can anything stop us from losing our mind?
"Eating a Mediterranean diet rich in fish and vegetables may help prevent your brain shrinking for as long as five years, new research suggests."
We are seriously wondering about this in our house, as we watched the terrifying consequences of the developments of our 91-year-old yiayia's senile dementia. Up until two months ago, she was cooking her own meals and cleaning her house. She watched TV and read the Saturday local paper. She also pottered around the garden, and kept the front yard immaculately clean.

It was around this time when she also started telling us about the living dead: so-and-so died, she'd say, proceeding to tell us the gory details of their death. As far as we knew, these people were still alive. Sometimes old people confuse things, we'd tell the children. But we got worried, and hired help, a neighbor who was looking for this kind of work, and had experiencing in looking after old people. But imagine what this feels like for someone who had always tried to live independently. The relationship didn't quite work out.

There was also that time when she kept waking up at night and phoning us, to ask why we hadn't woken up yet, because it was time to go to work (it was often in the middle of the night). Checking her kitchen clock, we wondered if perhaps she had simply confused the time: the clock was indeed showing the wrong time. So we set it correctly, and changed the battery just in case. But the clock still kept changing time. So we removed the button that did this, to make sure that the time-changing gremlins didn't strike again. Yiayia then removed the alarm button and popped it onto the pin that had been left on the time-setting button. So we were back to square one. When we removed that button too, yiayia chucked the clock in the bin. "It's broken," she told us. "No, look yiayia," we said, holding it to her ear, "it's still ticking." But she wasn't convinced: "Only barely," she replied. It's just old age, we'd tell the children. But we were worried, so we called in a doctor.

"She's probably suffered a myriad of tiny strokes that were barely noticeable," he told us, and recommended donepezil and some sleeping tablets. It seemed to work, at least when she took it, that is. Yiayia had spent her life not just independently but also without taking any kind of medication whatsoever. All she ever took occasionally was paracetamol for a headache or other minor ailment. It was a shock to her that the doctor was suggesting that she take pills to live. "But there is noting wrong with me!" she kept saying. And she was right. Her blood tests showed no signs of illness. Normal reds, normal whites, normal cholesterol, normal heartbeat: in fact, normal everything. "She's really healthy," we told the kids, but we knew that there was something that was not really right.

She began moving the furniture around the house. She threw things out. We had to go through her rubbish every day: a cup, a plate, a bowl, even the remote control for the TV. And of course, food. "They've all been poisoned," she told us, howling with horror when we showed her what she was throwing out. "Get it out of this house immediately!" she'd cry, hitting her walking frame up and down on the floor. She was having psychoses. "It's a normal part of senile dementia," the doctor explained. "But she needs psychiatric help." At 91, I doubted that she would ever be able to receive help for her condition, not because the Greek health care system is broken, but because she would be unwilling to receive it. By this time, she had stopped taking all the medication she had been prescribed (we were giving it to her). She did not want our own help; how would she accept a change in environment and caregivers?

None of this terrified me personally as much as what was about to ensue, during her last week at home. Believing that we were poisoning all the food brought into the house, she stopped eating. She literally ate nothing all day. I checked her cupboards: apart from a few rusks, some olive oil, sugar, flour, rice and lentils, there was no other food. She had thrown everything else out, and refused to take anything we gave her. When she stopped eating our home-made meals, we brought in all sorts of other store-bought delicacies: she threw those out too, believing that the wrapping they came in was poisonous.

After three days, I insisted that we should take her to the hospital. Knowing that she wouldn't allow anyone to take her out of the house, I asked some big burly black-shirt-wearing relatives to help us coax her out. "You need to disarm her," I told them. "Take away the walking frame."  She had been using it like a deadly weapon, hitting anyone she had stopped trusting when they tried to approach her.

The doctors were very sympathetic. "There doesn't seem to be anything wrong with her", they said to us. "She's just senile." The A&E doctors called the resident psychiatrist who tried to give her some sedatives. But she refused to drink the water that had been laced with drops, nor did she accept to have anything injected in her. "We can't make her do anything," the doctors and nurses said, and we understood them to the tee: we couldn't make her do anything either. Yiayia went home, and continued her diet. For the last week of her life at home, she didn't take one bite of food.

How long can a person live without food before they faint, fall and create bigger problems than what they already have? It was either that, or residential care. State old-age care does exist, but it requires a lot of paperwork. For a start, the person entering state care needs to have thorough medical checkups before being admitted. Yiayia's issues did not allow us to go through this procedure. Private care differs not just in cost but also in terms of what kinds of cases they take on. We eventually chose a unit that is run by someone who has 40 years experience in geriatric care, 35 of which was spent caring for old people in state care.

Apparently, she's eating and has now started taking medication. But she's still not the yiayia we knew. I'm not sure if she will ever be again. The Mediterranean diet no doubt aided in her longevity. But it didn't stop her from the eventual decline that we all go through when we get old.

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Friday 16 October 2015

Psychotic dementia (Ψυχωτική άνοια)

While walking around in Berlin three years ago with my family, we came across what looked like an open-air art exhibition containing many grey concrete slabs of various heights.

What do you do when you don't understand something? You look for a logical explanation, which in this case, I thought could be provided by a sign. There was nothing - yes, really, nothing! - around like a sign that could explain it. The slabs - known in the art world as 'stele', from the Greek word 'στύλος' meaning column - stretched for quite a distance across the road.There has to be a sign, we assured ourselves. Where could we find the sign, we wondered? We noticed some people in uniform that seemed to be guarding the area, so we tried to ask them to explain it to us.

We approached one woman who simply pointed to the other side of the block where the slabs ended. I heard her say something like 'information centre'. The walk to the other side of the block did not seem so far away, but something stopped us from entering the area containing the slabs. There were so many of them, they were not all the same height, the ground below them seemed to undulate as did the slabs, and they were not numbered or labelled. It just seemed so easy to get lost in their midst, despite the fact that I could discern the end of the path running through the slabs. After trying to keep up with my two young children who were running riot through them, I decided it was time to call it quits, and we came out of the block of slabs and back onto the pavement, which immediately comforted me from the feelings of confusion that I sensed while I was inside the block. At this point, we still had no idea what this block of slabs was all about.

We eventually learnt from another more polite guard that this was a memorial for the murdered Jews of Europe, and if we walked to the other side of the memorial (the one we'd walked away from due to the less informative guard's disinterest), we would find an underground information centre and find out more about the sculpture. I preferred to wait till I got back to an internet connection to read up about it, as we had already come across other sites in Berlin describing German atrocities, and we had felt rather overwhelmed by the sheer amount of surviving records contained in these places about this act of horror in global history. (Not to mention the fact that we have a number of similar memorial sites in Crete and have passed by many others as we travel around the country.) So we thanked the guard for the information and left the site at that point.

At the time, we couldn't really understand how this memorial could signify anything about the murdered Jews of Europe. When I came home, I looked it up:
"... the stelae are designed to produce an uneasy, confusing atmosphere, and the whole sculpture aims to represent a supposedly ordered system that has lost touch with human reason" (Wikipedia),
Yes, I did find it rather too confusing for my liking. This is what hindered us from understanding the memorial. We don;t live in a state of confusion, and when we feel confused, we always look for a solution that will put an end to the confusion. Even during the Greek crises that have presented themselves over the last six years, we have actually been living in a confused state of order, not an orderly state of confusion. Perhaps there was that one moment of true confusion, during the referendum, when we really did not kow what we would wake up to. But that was short-lived, and in the end, it all came out in the wash. Hence, Berlin's Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe was out of my depth. I couldn't really understand the architect's intentions. It remained a mystery to me for a long time, until only very recently.

For the last two months, I've been watching my 91-year-old mother-in-law's slide into the state of senile dementia (it's definitely not Alzheimer's), and it feels pretty much like living in 'an uneasy, confusing atmosphere', amidst 'a supposedly ordered system that has lost touch with human reason'. What she once ate she now labels as poison. What she once regarded as her possessions are now seen as useless items that need throwing away. People she once knew and loved are now whores and bastards.

It's not always like this. Some moments are better than others. But other moments are more terrifying. Our view of normality has been crushed. We don't know what to expect from one moment to the other. All we are left with is to hope that we will live more better moments than terrifying ones. Wishing for a better day is like wishing for a miracle. It's never a full day, just a few moments. We are living in a state of uneasy confusion. That memorial in Berlin describes exactly what we feel like. I now live with the contented feeling that finally, I understand the  confusing memorial I visited three years ago with my family.

(All photos taken at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (German: Denkmal für die ermordeten Juden Europas), also known as the Holocaust Memorial (German: Holocaust-Mahnmal), April 2012.)

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Sunday 11 October 2015

Greece inside out

American Scott Walters started it with his guide to England after his visit to 'mostly small towns', with his generalisations such as 'People don't seem to be afraid of their neighbours or the government(see His facebook post practically went viral. Then along came Paul Owen's '(very) rough guide to America from an Englishman in New York': 'It’s best to think of the police as a sort of occupying army and avoid them accordingly – particularly if you are not white' (see More recently, Madhvi Pankhania gave us 'an English view of Australia': 'Australians can be sensitive – convict jokes will go down like a lead (see

I'll take a stab at continuing the meme, with my view of Greece, although I won't be writing as a citizen of another nationality. I can no longer genuinely say I'm a New Zelander without feeling like I'm fooling you. I'm describing Greeks as a 'Greek-something' (both an insider and an outsider). I've based my ideas below loosely on the three above quoted posts.
  1. Greece is a really safe holiday destination. Greek street protests take place in well-defined spaces, and it's very easy to be a bystander watching a protest safely from a short distance.
  2. Greeks are often heard shouting in a group; they are actually having a normal conversation with one another.
  3. Traditional Greek food is really tasty and quite cheap. But it looks rather plain, and not at all refined. That's because Greek tavernas serve the kind of food a mother or grandmother would cook for her family.
  4. If you order some 'toast' in Greece, you'll get a hot ham and cheese sandwich, not dry blackened bread. English toast is generally regarded as something you eat at a hotel breakfast.
  5. Whatever you order in a Greek restaurant, it comes with fried potatoes, including 'toast' (crisps/chips might be served as an alternative to fried potatoes).
  6. Souvlaki (aka yiro, gyro sandwich) is the national takeout meal, eaten at least once a week. Fasolada (bean soup) and fakies (lentil soup) are two other nationally unifying dish - they're each made once or twice a month by all homecooks throughout the year in most parts of Greece.
  7. Greeks eat a lot of junk food but they also eat a lot of home-cooked food; that's why they tend to be chunky/stocky. 
  8. Although organic food is gaining ground in Greece, it's not quite as popular as locally produced fresh seasonal products. To be able to grow your own food is regarded as a source of pride.
  9. Although feta cheese is well known all over the country, all regions produce their own varieties of different kinds of cheese, wine, bread, sausage, cured meats, etc. Places located 50 kilometres away from each other count as 'different' regions - they will each have their own different names for the same product. 
  10. 'Kek' is what the round cake with a hole in it is called (the one Mrs Portokalos calle 'kek' in My Big Fat greek Wedding). All other types of cake are known generically as 'gliko' (sweet). 
  11. The kafeneio is the equivalent of an English pub: it serves both coffee and alcohol, as well as food. Like pubs in small English towns, kafeneia are more like community living rooms. 
  12. The kafeneio is also a political unit. You frequent the kafeneio that expresses your political views. 
  13. Politics is talked about everywhere by everyone. 
  14. The Greek political left is not the same thing as what is regarded globally as the political left. Syriza called itself a centre-left party, when initially it was regarded  as a radical left party by the global press. 
  15. Young Greeks often marry at a municipal office these days. They have a church wedding after the birth of their first child. 
  16. Greeks are on the whole smart casual dressers. 
  17. Greeks are defined by their accents. 
  18. Taxi drivers know all the local gossip, as do hairdressers.
  19. Greeks generally don't drink tea. When they do, they think of it as something used for medicinal purposes only (eg when you feel ill). 
  20. Wherever you are, you can ask for a glass of water and no one will expect you to pay for it. The price of plain bottled water is regulated by the government, and it's very cheap. (In the Athens museum area last summer, a small bottle cost 0.35 eurocents; at most kiosks, this bottle will be sold for no more than 0.50 eurocents.)
  21. The Greek public health system is a shambles, but the doctors are almost universally excellent.
  22. Things don't always happen/start right on the stated time. They may happen/start 5 or 15 or 30 or 45 or 60 or more minutes later.
  23. Greeks are dreadful drivers, but their parking skills is second to none.
  24. Greek roads leave a lot to be desired, but you can actually drive quite safely on them. 
  25. Greek homes are to be envied - most people live in very modern apartments or houses with fitted kitchens, and not the little whitewashed houses often depicted in tourist images of Greece.
  26. Everyone has a washing machine (we don't do laundromats) but driers are rare - that's because there's a lot of sunlight throughout the year in Greece, despite the cold winters.
  27. Contrary to popular belief, it does actually get very cold in Greece in winter.
  28. Apartments for rent usually come unfurnished; Greeks think the idea of sleeping in someone else’s bed is disgusting. 
  29. Contrary to popular belief, the Greek police are very helpful and friendly. This change has come about since the crisis. 
  30. The buses and (sometimes) the trains may not look very flashy, but they do work. The Athens metro is the fastest and cleanest metro I've ever encountered.
  31. It may look all Greek to you initially, but contrary to popular belief, the Greek letters of the alphabet are very easy to learn and there are strict pronunciation rules for letters and combinations of letter (unlike English). 
  32. Everyone seems to have a profession of some sorts. Greeks are often introduced to other people first by their name and then by their profession. Education matters, and this attitude cuts across every social class.
  33. Unlike her European counterparts, the capital city of Greece, Athens, is one of the cheapest cities to live in in Greece. Petrol is cheapest in Athens.
  34. 'Petrelaio' is diesel; unleaded petrol is 'venzini'.
  35. It may seem like Greeks drink a lot of soft drinks, but they do actually prefer their own regional brands. Greek soft drinks have an awesome taste.
  36. Macedonia will always be Greek to the Greeks, even if it's also Macedonian. It's still Greek to them.
  37. Contrary to popular belief, the Greek woman rules the roost. She just lets the man think he wears the trousers.
  38. In general terms, German habits are regarded as a source of derision (in tourist areas, Germans stand out by wearing white socks and sandals); Israelis are regarded as strange people (in tourist areas, Israeli cruise ships are guarded by the local police because they are 'afraid of attacks': attacks from what? See No. 1); Americans and the British are seen seen mainly as idiots, even though Greeks are infatuated by London and the English accent. 
  39. Turkey is regarded as a nice place to go on a short holiday, but only the coastal Mediterranean parts; the Turks are our friends, but Turkey is still the enemy. 
  40. Cypriots are not Greeks - Cypriots will also remind you of this. Some Cypriots speak Greek, which is where the confusion lies - Cyprus is another country, not a Greek island. 
  41. Greeks still throw used toilet paper in a bin and they never flush it in the toilet. Toilets really do block if used TP is flushed down the loo. (On a positive note, Greek beaches rarely get flooded with sewage - now you know why.)
  42. Greeks are not at all as homophobic as they are often depicted in the foreign press. But Greek gay men do not fit the global paradigm of homosexuality. 
  43. Greeks call black-skinned people 'mavri' (mavri = black), not because they are racist, but because they are describing black people's skin colour and they regard them as an ethnic group (however wrong that may be). Greeks aren't as racist as the global press makes them out to be - they are more likely to be intra-racist, ie they may have something negative to say about another Greek person from a different region than their own - it's got to do with feeling superior. 
  44. Graffiti is so ingrained in Greek culture that it is taken for granted. No one ever really talks about it. Except for foreigners. 
  45. Ditto the above for stray cats and dogs. 
  46. Greeks love a good joke. But they don't like/get English humour. They prefer American comedy.
  47. Many motorcycle drivers are seen riding without a helmet. It may not always kill them, but it's generally young males that get killed when they fall off a motorcycle (and in 99% of cases, they weren't wearing a helmet). 
  48. The word 'malaka' may be a term of endearment among in-groups. But if you don't belong to the in-group, it's best not to use it. You'll be asked 'who are you calling a malaka?' instead of getting a friendly welcome.
  49. Queuing is now becoming more orderly in Greece than it used to be. The global media likes to show long queues of Greek people waiting for their turn (especially during the pre- and post-referendum period with the closed banks). But queues are rare outside Athens. 
  50. You don't have to tip. Really. But a tip is always appreciated and you will be thanked profusely for it.
  51. Bargaining is regarded as part of Greek culture, but what most people don't realise is that it's usually the customer who demands to bargain. Greek prices are always pretty much fixed.
  52. If you do want to bargain, you probably won't get a receipt for the product/service you were buying. (Serves you right.)
  53. There seem to be a lot of newspapers for the country's size. Most people buy a Sunday paper mainly for the offers included in it (eg supermarket/petrol vouchers, etc). Internet news sources now abound.
  54. On television news and other shows, one person is rarely talking at one time. Although this seems confusing to most people, it doesn't seem to impede Greeks' understanding of the discussion.
  55. Some olive trees in Greece are older than America.  
  56. Almost everyone in Greece has been through a private language institute where they learnt English. 
  57. Almost everyone in Greece speaks a reasonable level of English. Even the elderly seem to be able to understand what a foreigner is asking them and they are able to point them in the right direction.
  58. Cold coffees in Greece are awesome. My favorite is freddo cappuccino, and it has the same awesome taste wherever I've had it. (Most people like to drink 'frappe' - ice-cold 'beaten' Nescafe.)
  59. Drinking beer on the road from a bottle is regarded as very bad taste. Drinking beer without food is OK as long as you are sitting down and you are at a cafe/bar kind of place. Since beer is always served cold, drinking beer is not really seen as the coolest thing to do in the winter, unless you find yourself in a heated space.
  60. The Acropolis is the most awesome rock in the universe. It's taken by the Greeks for granted only by those for whom it is part of the daily commute scenery (ie Athenians). 
  61. The universal greeting is "yiasou" (or 'yia'. The universal farewell is also "Yiasou" (or 'yia'). 
  62. Greek tomatoes really do taste different from tomatoes from other countries. 
  63. It's generally believed that Greeks are racist against the Roma. It works both ways: the Roma tend to keep themselves apart from the mainstream community. 
  64. Olive oil in Greece is known as 'oil', because that's what most if not all people use on a daily basis in their cooking. We differentiate among seed oils, naming them according to their origin. But olive oil is just oil.
  65. Greeks love their cars. They long for the days to return when they will be able to afford the car they gave up in the crisis due to the high taxes. Cars are regarded as a work of art which is why they don't have bumper stickers because Greeks don't want to dirty them). 
  66. Greeks like having euros. They remember the drachma with nostalgia, but they know it looks like Monopoly money compared to what they've got now. 
  67. Greeks hate winter because it costs them money to keep warm, and because they are outside people, and winter keeps them inside. 
  68. World War 2 is remembered by Greeks in a similar way as the Holocaust is remembered by Jews.
  69. Greeks love to smoke and the smoking ban is broken many times. But they do smoke more cheaply nowadays: they usually roll their own and they also do e-cigs. Nota bene: if you go to a bar/cafe.taverna and expect other patrons not to smoke, you are the crazy person, not the smokers. I know this rule well: that's why I rarely go to these places. I hate cigarette smoke. 
  70. Greece is changing. Every Greek knows this, and regrets it in some ways, but also understands that this has to happen. 
 Thanks to Chris Murphy and Frances McKenzie for their input.

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