a year of STORIES AND PHOTOS
iving on an island somewhere in the Aegean Sea, is like living on a star; it’s the strange feeling of being part of a constellation, yet disconnected at the same time... It’s this Sea that sets us free, and it’s this Sea that draws our limits... Our islands swim through a golden light. I think that’s the reason why people here are so warm, gentle and creative. Their creativity and love for life is shown through the colours of their boats, their flowers in their yards, their amazing cooking and their storytelling...
SPRING SUMMER AUTUMN WINTER A YEAR OF AEGEAN STORIES
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Popeye. Red and blue. Green and yellow. Moby Dick. Tatoos. Seagulls. Rust on metal. Plaited ropes. Salt. Fishing raincoats. Seashells on the deck. Superstitious and brave. Organized and homesick.
The routes of the ships I AM STANDING in front of my window, watching the ferry sailing. It must have left Naxos about an hour ago, and it is now sailing to Ios and Thira. A few hours later I will watch it return with all its deck lights on, like floating candles, on its way back to its next port... I am always surprised to realize that the sight of passing ships gives me such a feeling of pleasure and relief... I feel that this is because for me, the passing of these ships has a deeper, more metaphysical role: the role of punctuating the rhythm of life on the Aegean islands.. The passing of the ships feels like the inner working of a silent clock; people here are used of looking at the sea, gazing for the passing of the next ferry as if they need to subconsciously re-confirm their sense of time in their everyday lives. These routes define us all in some way. They donâ€™t just link us with the rest of the world, but they also bring a kind of a deeper esoteric rhythmic balance to the island; a balance that in the old days was created by the elements of nature only: the position of the stars or the movement of the sun in the sky... /////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////
25th of March in Marpissa
THE 25TH OF MARCH is a double celebration day in Greece. It is the anniversary of the day that the Greeksunder the motto Freedom or Death- started their revolution against the Turkish occupation in 1821, that led to their indepenence. It is also a religious celebration of the Evangelismos tis Panagias (Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary). In the traditional village of Marpissa in the island of Paros, the celebration activities started some days ago: the schoolboys learned poems suitable for the day; The houses and streets were decorated with our blue and white flag; People went shopping in order to be prepared for the typical food of the 25th of March: bakaliaros skordalia (fried cod accompanied by a garlic spread). I am touched by the level of people’s participation to festivities here. The atmosphere is so much different than in the big cities; everything is an occasion for them to get involved, to connect, to celebrate… So, on Sunday morning, the beautiful village of Marpissa looked like a busy hive! It’s picturesque white and grey streets were full of children walking in a hurry to go to the parade, of parents taking photographs, of housewives taking plates with bakalaros skordalia to their neighbor to taste, of old people talking about how they used to celebrate when they were young. By noon, everything calmed down… People started gathering to houses, to taste the traditional plate of bakaliaros skordalia, patzaria (boiled beet roots), fresh bread and local wine. And by four o’clock in the afternoon, you could see smiling people enjoying the warm spring sun by the sea or in the countryside. A few hours later, when the sun had set leaving a purple sky, something amazing happened: people came out of their houses, holding torches and lanterns, to participate to the custom of labadiforia (walking and singing traditional songs of the revolution holding lighted torches). Being able to walk in Marpissa, surrounded by friends and familiar faces, sharing the same experience that my grandparents lived, moved me. It was the perfect ending for a perfect spring day, where both nature and the people of Marpissa celebrated.
The amazing Aegean stone lace XEROLITHIES ARE THE DRY STONE WALLS that create the characteristic images of the Aegean landscape; local stones combined together, without any cohesive material, forming walls that spread all over the island surface, in perfect harmony with the morphology of the land. Those well designed walls, curvy and proud, standing untouched by time, run through our islands like a stone lace, imitating nature so wisely that they seem part of it. Itâ€™s hard to distinguish the character of the scenery where the xerolithies are present; are we talking about a human environment, or about a natural environment? The magic of the traditional Aegean architecture is all about this perspective: human intervention inspired by the nature, respecting the volumes of the land. The xerolithies, had a very important role helping the development of life here at the Aegean: holding back soil, they created surfaces of cultivable land in the form of levels, in the mountains and in areas exposed to the strong sea winds; The stones used for the walls were taken from the nearby areas, which were cleared for farming; they held back the rainwater directing it to the crops and they served as boundary fences for the adjoining properties. Those stone walls created biotopes, providing protection for an important number of local plants and animals. You can see those unique samples of our architectural legacy even in the smallest Aegean islands. You can see them in the mountains and you can see them near the sea. This traditional way of stonework was used to build stables and bridges, windmills, paths and fences. Covered with mosses and lichens, beautiful in their simplicity, t he xerolithies carry the traces of an art that is about to be forgotten.
Sweet rafiolia: THE RECIPE /////////////////////////////////
For the filling: 1kilo of myzithra cheese 1 cup of sugar 2 eggs, lightly beaten 1 tsp of cinnamon some orange zest
For the dough: Â˝ package of all-purpose flour 1 small cup of olive oil 1 small cup of water 1/2 tsp of salt some vinegar * some extra sugar and cinnamon mixed together for topping ////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// You pass the Put all the a spoon.
myzithra cheese through a hand mill to become softer.
ingredients for the filling in a bowl and mix well using
Place the flour in a bowl; add the salt and the vinegar, the olive oil and then the water. Knead to make soft and smooth dough, then cover the bowl with a towel and leave it to rest in a warm place for half an hour. Spread flour over your working surface. Divide the dough into balls of equal size. Using a wooden rolling pin, open them into flat circles 10 cm in diameter. Place a tablespoon of the filling in each circle, and then fold the half of the pie on top of another, to form the shape of a half moon. Put some olive oil in a frying pan and fry the rafiolia from both sides in medium heat, until golden. Remove from the fire and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. Tip: you can make a savory variation of this recipe by using feta cheese and myzithra for the filling, without the addition of sugar.
Back home for the holidays! I AM ONCE AGAIN ON THE BLUE STAR Boat, returning to my island after several months of travelling and a big dose of Athens; I feel strange, the winter memories of the island being all quiet and calm are still vivid within my mind. Now, the ferryboat is full of people, full of energy and colorful bags. The young woman who sits next to me is talking on the phone with her mother: I can’t help overhearing; Her mother, who lives on the island, is asking her what she wants to have for dinner. I smile. Don’t you just love Greek mothers? Or do all Mediterranean moms use to call and ask their adult daughters and sons if they had dinner? The truth is, that a welcome home cooked dinner from your mother can instantly make you feel at home! I hear that she is going to have gemista (tomatoes and peppers stuffed with rice)-such a Greek classic mommy’s comfort food recipe. Which are the flavors that make you feel at home? For me, it would be the flavors of the summer, those that were waiting for me at the island after a hard working winter in Athens: my grandmother’ s moussaka or her amazing kolokythokeftedes, my mother’s giouvetsi and my father’s grilled fish. I remember those dishes being a part of almost every welcome dinner in my family. They were always there, on the table under the bougainvillea at the sea view balcony, to welcome friends from abroad, classmates that came for a visit and all sorts of family reunions. Suddenly, another phone is ringing and interrupts my thoughts: it’s my mother; and guess what, she wants to ask if I had dinner, because there’s no trouble, she can prepare something… A few hours later, I am home. There are friends and family that wait for me there, and a plate of kolokythokeftedes that is still hot; it feels good to be back…
There are three important elements that make a panigiri successful: good music, good wine, good food.
The Aegean Wind WE CAN’T SEE the wind, but when I close my eyes and think about it, Paros comes into my mind. I love the wind. It is so connected with everyday life on the islands, like as if one of our ancient ancestors planted it here. I love the names that old fishermen gave to the wind: Maestros, tramontana, zefyros, sorokada, pounentis, it’s like poetry to my ears. In the summer, our days start with a family council, to decide where are we going to swim, depending on the direction of the wind. You must be very careful with your hat, umbrella and sea mattress, if you don’ t want to find them in Santorini! Wind surfers don’ t mind though. We always take a light jacket when we go out for the evening, and we place rocks on everything, tablecloths, doors, restaurant catalogues and sea towels. In the winter, well, that’s a different story.. We see the wind as big waves or as dancing clouds. When the sea turns white, people walk with their eyes half closed, and they know it’ s the time to make a fasolada or a steamy fish soup. The wind here in Paros always reveals secrets; Brings us odours from oregano and wild grass from the fields nearby. Brings us echoes and musics from the distant next village. And brings us memories, from the clean clothes drying in the sun, that smell of the sea and olive oil soap...
The Tourist “Etymologically, the word tour is derived from the Latin, ‘tornare’ and the Greek, ‘tornos’, meaning ‘a lathe or circle; the movement around a central point or axis’. This meaning changed in modern English to represent ‘one’s turn’. The suffix –ism is defined as ‘an action or process; typical behaviour or quality’, while the suffix, –ist denotes ‘one that performs a given action’. When the word tour and the suffixes –ism and –ist are combined, they suggest the action of movement around a circle. One can argue that a circle represents a starting point, which ultimately returns back to its beginning. Therefore, like a circle, a tour represents a journey in that it is a round-trip, i.e., the act of leaving and then returning to the original starting point, and therefore, one who takes such a journey can be called a tourist.”* The people who travel have always fascinated me: Tourists, nomads, jet setters, pilgrims and wanderers, coming and going to places, leaving their mark and taking with them indelible memories. The exchange of ideas and habits is bound to happen, no matter what the travel purposes are; the tourist has the possibility to make a difference to another person’s life and profoundly change himself at the same time. If we examine our life through the eyes of a tourist, we can allow ourselves to detach from the routine patterns that limit our self-expression, while the tourist returns to the familiar starting point after having a chance not only to discover a new place, but a new self as well. Sometimes, the inspiration of this communication and sharing of concepts is so intense, that the local person becomes the tourist, and the tourist becomes the local. Who knows where a journey could lead?
The small table by the sea THE SMALL TABLE by the sea: is this picture familiar to you? It could be in Paros, Naxos, Sifnos or in Folegandrosâ€Ś Since the 1950s, the trademark small table by the sea, surrounded by sea trees and the songs of crickets, waits for couples in love to come and rest. There will always be the waiter, with a towel around his shoulder, who will lean towards the table, and will ask with a smile: what are the kids having? There will always be the tomato salad with capers and olive oil and fried squid served with lemon... There will always be the feel of sand under your naked feet. And there will always be the promise of happiness, and the wish that this wonâ€™t fade after the summer is over...
End of August …AT THE AEGEAN ISLANDS; it calms during the night when the sea waves stand still and the full moon is reflecting on the water surface. I am waiting for the blue moon’s rise from the mountains of Naxos. Wrapped around my jean jacket and scarf and with a beach bag containing some cheese and wine, I am meeting with friends to watch the second moon of the month together. What a great way to celebrate the end of August… The summer doesn’t end here though, when September comes. A very particular period of the year is just about to begin. It’s what we call the small summer: the vine harvest starts and people prepare dry figs and raisins for the winter. The atmosphere is so clear that you have the impression you can touch all the islands that are close. The sunset colors are amazing… Fishermen are happy; you can hear the engines of their fishing boats at dawn and see their boat’s characteristic red and green lights at night. The mild seasonal changes are obvious when you live in an island. We are connected with the wind, the sea and the earth. And with the moon, let alone such a beautiful moon like the one we have tonight.
Loukoumades me meli THIS IS A RECIPE by Mrs. Georgia Fysilani from Paros; her loukoumades are always light, airy and crispy. This dessert is easy to make, with ingredients that you may already have in the kitchen. Sweet, sticky, delicious: Enjoy! For the batter: 1 kilo of flour / 1 envelope of dry yeast / a pinch of salt / a pinch of sugar / warm water / oil (for frying) Topping: 1 cup of honey / ground cinnamon • Mix well the flour, yeast, salt and sugar. Add water, until you have a batter that is thick, soft and elastic. • Heat the oil in a deep pot. (Make a test to see if the oil is ready: drop a tablespoon of batter into the pan; it should rise to the top, taking a deep golden color). Spoon tablespoons of batter into the hot oil (from a low height to avoid splattering) and fry the loukoumades until they are evenly golden (around 4 minutes). Remove them from the pan with a slotted spoon and drain on absorbent paper. • Pour the honey into a saucepan and heat it, until it becomes runny. Drizzle it over the hot loukoumades and sprinkle with cinnamon.
Serenity THESE DAYS I HAVE the impression that I live in a 60s postcard, there is a sweet Technicolor sensation all over the island. The horizon is free from the summer monthâ€™s haze. Naxos, Ios, Heraklia, seem like pebbles in a calm lake, changing colors during the day that vary from a morning mauve to a mid-day gold and then to a dark afternoon red. There are fewer people here now, moving slowly inside the traditional alleys, reading their books on the sandy beaches, eating fish at the seaside taverns. Septemberâ€™s serenity that is reflecting on the water is reflecting on the peopleâ€™s faces as well; or is it the other way round? With our televisions still sleeping and with our windows open, we balance within a parenthesis of inner calm and understanding. To gaze at the water is another way of returning home. From there, all journeys begin.
A feast among friends TONIGHT, AT THE VILLAGE OF FINIKIA in Santorini, another unique Aegean panigiri will take place: the canaves are opening and people gather to celebrate Agia Matrona, the Saint who protects the village. For the habitants of Santorini, the time to relax and meet with friends has come; a few weeks away from the first winter’ s cold, they will catch you up on all the summer news and share their thoughts and feelings. At this breathtaking architectural scenery, there will be music, there will be dancing, there will be a feast to remember: the pure local wine will fill the glasses, the sound of the tsambounes will become the dancer’ s heartbeat and the shadows of the musicians will reflect on the old cave walls. If you observe the faces of the musicians, you will notice that they are looking at the dancer’ s steps as they play… They are searching for the good dancers, in order to be inspired and play for them. It’ s a dionysiac breeze of joy, self-expression and unity; one of those special Aegean experiences; to celebrate like a child and to feel eternal in the same time. Magic.
Winter is Coming I KNOW I MAY SOUND like one of the Game of Thrones characters, but the weather topic, is not an icebreaker nor just small talk when you live in the country. Everybody here is talking about the weather and about the winter that is coming: will it rain enough to save the crops; when will it stop raining in order to start the olive harvest; what are the best alternative heating solutions; Often, the above questions are answered during the tsikoudia or souma distillation procedure, which signals the beginning of the winter at the Aegean islands. The â€œcauldronsâ€? period starts now and the fire burns without stop as the distillers give the transparent strong alcoholic beverage that will keep us warm at winter joyful gatherings. Wintertime in the islands is a unique experience. It is romantic and it is wild in the same time. It is a challenge. And I love it.
Welcomes and Goodbyes ISLAND PEOPLE standing at the port saying welcome and goodbye to their loved ones: an image so familiar and as old as time. Ports know everything; because ports have seen everything; Boats that come loaded with peopleâ€™s eagerness and expectations. Boats that are leaving, carrying the burden of so many goodbyes. You can see both sadness and joy in the eyes of the people with luggage; Ports are the places of contrary emotions. The welcomes are full of questions and chitchat. They are usually followed by one of the most pleasant things that someone can experience in life: the welcome lunch. Aegean welcome lunches can be unforgettableâ€Ś They bring back to your memory flavors and aromas that make you feel nostalgic and in the same time they set the tone for the days to come. Welcomes are all about sharing; the sharing of common time; the sharing of feelings; the sharing of experiences. Goodbyes are another story. If the sharing of the welcoming was deep, they can be intense. And intense goodbyes are silent: a big hug and a smile can be enough. Goodbyes are the secret art of reading between the lines. The people that stand at the port watching the ferries leave, will go back to their lives trying to re-invent a daily routine that is not connected with the feeling that something is missing. The people that stand on the ferryboat deck watching the island lights disappear from the horizon will go back to their lives trying to create a plan that will permit them to come back.
Wood-fired oven baked chickpeas 1 kilo of chickpeas 3-4 large onions 6 gloves of garlic pealed 1 whole small garlic 1cup of olive oil 2 leaves of laurel Rosemary Salt Water Soak the chickpeas overnight in water, wash them and drain them. Place the drained chickpeas into a pot, add the onions, chopped in big pieces, the garlic gloves, the whole garlic (no need to clean it, jus wash it), the herbs, and 2 pinches of salt. Mix the ingredients with a spoon, then add enough water to cover themand a little more. Add the olive oil. Cover the pot with a lid, and place it in the oven for slow cooking for about 8-10 hours. It would be perfect if you could bake the revithia in a wooden-fire oven or into a fireplace, but an electrical oven would do.
At Mrs. Flora’s As Cycladic as it gets
I COULDN’T START TALKING to you about Mrs. Flora’s Aegean traditional home, without telling some things about her first; and it is very easy for me, because she is one of the kindest, good-hearted people I know… I close my eyes and imagine her walking in the streets of Marpissa, always having something nice to say to her neighbors, always with a smile, always in a hurry because she wants to prepare a pie for her grandchildren or work at her loom. She is a symbol for me; of all the old time stories I’ve heard about the beautiful Aegean people and about the art of living a simple, yet colorful life where creativity and hospitality are values that are transmitted from one generation to the next. Her home is exactly like her; unpretentious and joyful: one of the few spaces I have visited that even thought are full of antiques, create such a feeling of lightness and freshness, almost like a playground. White and blue, red and turquoise, you can see the same color touches in Flora’s Cycladic interior and in her beautiful weavings… But the thing I love mostly about her house, is that everything about it is locally originated; from the handcrafted furniture to the shells and sea sponges that are part of the decoration, from the loom carpets and the old photograph compositions, to the traditional Aegean ceiling and walls that are built in the most efficient way; all the elements of the house create an ensemble that seems to have grown naturally, like a tree or a sand hill. Human intervention kept to the absolute minimum and close to the human scale: That is the magic of the traditional Aegean architecture…
LIVING HERE is something I still haven’t got used to. In every day there is a moment that makes me feel as if I moved here yesterday… I am often surprised by dozens of small things that make me smile: every time I reverse the gear to drive away from my house and I see the sea reflecting on the mirror; when I am at the supermarket and I discover tags on the vegetables and fruits that write sweet potatoes or tangerines from Paros and I know that they are so fresh; when someone I don’t know says good morning to me; To walk inside a traditional white settlement that unfolds like labyrinth and to be able to smell the wood burning fireplaces is always exotic to me. The winter sky has the most incredible colors and it changes, constantly. At night,
it is so full of stars that make every Christmas decoration seem unnecessary. I am amazed that I am here. Even though I miss my friends in Athens and sometimes I feel disconnected with my life as it was a couple of years ago. The island and the communication through this blog that grows slowly but firmly are a source of lasting inspiration and I am grateful for it. I don’ t know if the Aegean islands sing in a different frequency in the wintertime, maybe it’s us becoming more connected now that the summer’s buzz is over; but last night when I was walking home after meeting with friends, the words Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright – came to my mind. And for the first time, they made sense.
â€œIt is not down in any map; true places never are.â€? Herman Melville
All the beautiful people AEGEANPAN is one year old: a year of creation, traveling, cooking and most of all, meeting beautiful people. We cannot describe how grateful we are, for all the people that welcome us into their homes and kitchens, into their lives, share their dreams and memories and make it possible for us to connect even more with a part of the world that we love. And of course, itâ€™s you, our marvelous readers: you are always with us when we cook at a farmhouse, when we work on a boat, when we dance at a panigiri... We are still amazed by this communication that can unite so profoundly, a small Greek island with faraway places and people. Your comments, your feedback and support are precious; the wind in our sails. This blog wouldnâ€™t exist without our families. Their love and kindness is our inspiration when we travel and when we return home. If we are able to capture the hospitality and creativity of the Aegean people, it is because we can recognize it through our personal experiences. Our families made this possible. To all those beautiful people, a big thank you : ) Christos Drazos | Photography Maria Alipranti | Design & Storytelling