Above: A doorway that’s definitely seen better days, although there are loquats going for free just outside. This is on the ‘main road’ through the village, just a couple of hundred metres up from our access lane. We were waiting on the road on Sunday at around midday for a couple of Greek friends to arrive from the town. We’d planned a long walk from the village down to the lake they call Braminia, which was built to supply water for all the hothouses west of Ierapetra, primarily in the Gra Ligia area. As we stood waiting for our friends to arrive, we were hailed from above. The garden just above the wall where we were waiting was occupied. We could already hear voices, but we weren’t sure who was up there.
No doubt having seen that it was us, our neighbour from above and behind our house, Giorgos, peeped at us from over the wall (where he was carrying on an animated conversation with the house owner) and shouted a greeting. He’s become much friendlier of late and I’ve only recently worked out why. He’s retired and spends most of his days following the same routine. He’ll tootle off on his aged Honda 90 moped most mornings, usually going to his horafi, his ‘allotment’ for want of a better way of describing it. He’s usually back home doing chores around the place at lunchtime, and always heads inside to sleep from about 3.00pm until 5.00pm. If we’re in our upper garden, his terrace is a little above and behind us. In the early days when we tried having a brief chat with him he’d seemed to us to be slightly edgy, offish even. Now he’s as friendly and friendly can be, and we know why. He’s a little hard of hearing.
There were occasions when I’d tried chatting with him, and his response was to furrow his brow and act like I was speaking Japanese or something. Finally I realised, if I shouted a little louder, he’d understand perfectly and his response to our doing just that has been to become much more genial, thankfully. So anyway, he asked us what we were waiting for and we told him. Under this new-found freedom to use the car to travel before taking some physical exercise, our friends Apostolis and Emmanuella were coming over and we were going to make the walk to the lake, masks around our chins of course, and texts duly sent to 13033. I’d worked out from Google Maps that we’d already walked to within a couple of hundred metres of the lake in the past and not even realised it. So I estimated that we’d be at the lakeside after about an hour’s walking, along a truly spectacular route through olive groves, scrub and mountainside.
But, as we awaited the arrival of our friends, Giorgos took a swipe at our gardening efforts. I’ve often remarked before, both on this blog and on the previous Rhodes one, plus in a couple of my Ramblings From Rhodes series of books, that Greeks, especially rural Greeks, generally view a flower or decorative garden as a waste of space. Giorgos was soon to unwittingly emphasis this point. When he stands on his modest veranda, he can look at our upper garden from above. Before we moved in, the plot had been left fallow for years by the previous owner. Plus, all along the top of the wall there had only been a two-foot high fence of chicken wire to prevent someone from falling ten feet to the driveway below…
As you can just about make out from the photo above, the chicken wire’s long gone and I’ve replaced it with a slightly higher and hopefully more attractive to the eye picket fence. Maybe it’s better view from this angle…
So anyway, there we were, minding our ow business waiting for our friends, and Giorgos asked us, “Why have you gone and planted flowers and stuff in your garden? You could put a lot of vegetables in there. Aubergines, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, you could be growing your own!”
When we assured him that a decorative garden was what we wanted, since half the village plies us with much better quality vegetables than we could ever grow, he decided to proffer yet more advice. “Well, there are plenty of small plots around here. You could rent one, start growing on that.”
See, this is what you find here; everyone wants to tell you what you should be doing. They all mean well, of course, but they can’t help themselves. I remember back in November 2005, when I was walking through Gennadi village on Rhodes with a new friend from Kalathos, and we walked past a truly derelict old cottage. The walls basically amounted to a pile of stones with a rotting old doorway set in the middle. Mihalis said to me, “Yanni, why are you renting a home? You could buy this, do it up. Have a place of your own.” And right there you have the reason why the majority of people who rent homes in Greece are the foreign workers. Yes, OK, there are more frequently theses days young Greek professionals who travel to other towns to find work, and they will rent a home. But they all have a place of their own back where they come from, trust me. Greeks seldom sell their family homes and consider renting to be a waste of money. I had to tell Mihalis on a number of occasions that any thought of us buying a place would only be entertained after we’d lived here for a few years, become more proficient at the language, more familiar with the system of bureaucracy and so forth. And each time we discussed it his brow would furrow and he’d look at me with that withering “poor soul, he doesn’t understand anything” expression.
By and large, a Greek will look at a flower garden and see a wasted opportunity. Only when we assured Giorgo that we’d tried growing vegetables not only on Rhodes, but here too last year, during our first winter on Crete, but with varying degrees of success, which actually amounted to failure, did he acquiesce slightly. I had to tell him, “Giorgos, why do we need to grow our own, with all the hard labour that it would entail, when almost on a weekly basis we get given vegetables of a much higher quality than we could ever hope to achieve?” With that he agreed, at least on the surface. But he still had another couple of stabs at persuading us that we’d be much happier if we had an allotment. “Much more tired out, rather,” I was tempted to reply, but resisted.
Anyway, only a couple of minutes past midday, when we’d agreed to meet the friends, they pulled up and got out of the car. We all bumped elbows and set off through the village for the lane that would lead us all the way to the lake. Below are some photos we took as we neared the lakeside, and indeed, stood on its shores. What they don’t show, is the egrets and herons that we got some superb views of, because I don’t have a good enough zoom on my phone’s camera for such things.
The lake’s gorgeous azure blue colour is I can only assume down to the type of clay that is found in the lakebed. There was, or rather still is, a large pond in Dorset, England, that they call the “Blue Pool” because it has a similar colour and the explanation is definitely that it’s the way the clay mixes with the water that produces that colour. Apart from egrets and herons, some of which we saw from very close quarters, there were swooping swallows, warbling chaffinches and a few varieties of duck to admire too. All in all, it was a superb walk, and the bonus came as we were returning, retracing our steps back along the dirt track that we’d come by. There, to our left, was a turtle, about dinner-plate sized, and it seemed to be making its way across the lane and down towards the lake. Do turtles hibernate? I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure that it was a turtle and not a tortoise. Its shell was still completely camouflaged by dried mud, and, had it not moved as we approached, we’d never have spotted it. Our assumption was that it had only just woken from its slumbers and needed to be back in the water as soon as it could get there…
By the time we got back to the village we’d covered 8 kilometres. It had been an exhilarating joy and we all agreed that it was indeed a great privilege to be living among such an environment.
Next post will be photos of Elounda, since we went there yesterday to stock up on books at the Eklektos Bookstore, run by Lynne McDonald.
Read about the books: https://johnphilipmanuel.wixsite.com/works