Monday, March 14, 2011
Kalosinatos was also exhausted. When he’d finished he took off his golden slippers. He couldn’t find his old black ones anywhere. His bosses had most probably thrown them away. They’d decided he was not presentable enough in his worn-out old black shoes. He decided to go barefoot.He found Panorea lying by the Sea. It was dark, the moonlight faint, the stars too high in the sky to give any light.
The Sea and Panorea were consoling each other, as usual. “Come and sit next to me”, Panorea called to Kalosinatos.“Take me in your arms. I’m thirsty and in pain. Oh, look at the seaweed, how it embraces my worn-out feet.”“The sewage smells so badly”, Kalosinatos cried out, in disgust.“It’s not my fault”, the Sea protested. “Tons of raw sewage, chemicals, rubbish are thrown into my arms all the time.” “Everywhere it’s the same. Please sit with me”, Panorea insisted. “I am here, near both of you”. “I’m sick. I think I could finally be dying. My whole body is disintegrating. I need water, fresh water, water that doesn’t turn my insides into rock. My hair is falling out. They’ve made such fortunes and yet they haven’t made provision for water supplies, for their well being, for the future of their children, let alone for caring for us. I’m thirsty, thirsty, so thirsty, Kolosinate, do something, Holy Man. I need a doctor, a hospital.”“Panorea, you know that isn’t possible. The hospital collapsed years ago. I can’t do anything. My strength and powers are exhausted. I’m finished, too, Panorea.”“Please stop crying Panorea. As long as we stick together, perhaps there’s a future,” the Sea gasped. “Even the members of the clan are not well. They’re sick. They’re rotting. Can’t you see? In spite of all the money they have, they’re sick in mind and in body. They take drugs to alter their moods.
Nobody cares about anything. They don’t seem to care that when they fall sick they have to travel long distances to find medical care. They die on the way, far from their own beds, in hotel rooms, in the presence of their despairing relatives. Of course they then beg me, day and night, to cure them by magic, using miraculous cures. They’ve forgotten, or most probably they never understood, why I am here. I did not come here to practise medicine, or to liberate them from slavery, or to satisfy all their whims. I came here to teach love, tolerance, hard and honest work, respect and dignity. What have they done?” Kalosinatos’s voice was sad. His eyes were sorrowful. His voice was hoarse.Suddenly the Sea roared.Panorea grabbed Kalosinatos. She trembled.A mighty wind whipped through the land. Mice that had gathered round and had been gently licking Panorea’s tears ran away in panic. Petrified stray dogs looked towards the dark shadow of the mountains opposite.Enormous mosquitoes were now flying above them. Their faces resembled those of humans. On their heads they had gold wreaths. Thick hair covered their bodies, and they had lions’ teeth. Human blood was dripping from their mouths.The wind was blowing from all directions. The Sea became wild.“I’ve also had enough. We must save ourselves,” the Sea screamed, retreating rapidly from the shore and from her friends, and rushing away towards the far horizon.The dogs barked. The mice ran and hid under mountains of rubbish.Stars started falling from the sky. The earth shook.Those among the young and old who were asleep at home awoke in horror. The rest of the clan, who were passing away the night having fun, abandoned their amusements and ran towards the shore.“Panorea, what’s going on?” they shouted.“I’m thirsty! Water, water!”“Well, that’s not a reason for an earthquake. Calm down, come and drink a bottle of water.”The roaring intensified.The people couldn’t hear each other speak.The moon vanished. Suddenly the sea changed direction. She turned back towards the shore. Although it was dark, She could be seen charging towards them. A bright beam emanating from Kalosinatos’ palm lit up the waves and the horizon, and broke the darkness of the night.“Kalosinate, the sea is coming towards us. We’ll be drowned. Do something!” they all screamed.
A second earthquake shook the land. Mountains split in the middle. Houses collapsed. Chunks of cement, bricks, and iron bars fell on the heaps of rubbish scattered all around. The clan-members were yelling. They saw the swimming pools bursting. The water was pouring down towards the sea, taking with it dead cats, drowned rats, plastic and cars.“Panorea, Kalosinate, Eternal Beings, save us!”Twelve-feet-high waves were chasing in, one after another. Thunder and lightning were followed by a hailstorm. Hail stones as big as rocks were landing everywhere, hitting everything.The shore where Panorea and Kalosinatos were sitting broke away from the land. The great chasm thus created sucked in whatever was nearby. Panorea and Kalosinatos were nowhere to be seen.The men in charge of the supermarket where Kalosinatos was forced to sell his wares were running away in despair, only to fall headlong into the chasm, still holding their huge bags full of money. The Sea swallowed up whatever managed to escape the widening chasm. The turmoil had brought the birds out of their nests; they were flying in crazed circles above the devastated land. Following the mysterious light, they saw a single majestic white wave travelling out to sea at an amazing speed, leaving all the devastation behind. The birds suddenly saw Panorea and Kalosinatos lying peacefully upon the wave. They were holding hands. They, in turn, saw the birds and smiled.“Come and join us!” they called. The birds hovered above them a little and then sat on Panoreas’ lap. She stroked them gently and they grasped her torn skirt for safety.The tempest lasted until daybreak.Nobody could have predicted such a disaster in the Mediterranean. At dawn the Sun appeared, pinkish, warm, timid. He emerged from behind the grey mountains and looked around for Panorea. A rainbow had appeared. The Sea was now calm and had returned to her usual seductive shades of blue.The Sun couldn’t see Panorea or Kalosinators anywhere.“As soon as I warm the place they will come.”
He looked closely at the land, and saw ruins everywhere. Broken fridges, burnt-out cars, iron pipes, great chunks of cement and wrecked and capsized boats were scattered all around.There was not a living soul to be seen.Then the faint bleating of sheep was heard in the distance, mixed with the gentle cries of babies.“Any minute now they’ll turn up. They must have gone somewhere, but they always come back”, said the Sun to himself, with a knowing smile.
© Maria Strani-Potts, 09/07/2008
Friday, March 11, 2011
Thursday, March 3, 2011
One summer’s day, during a quiet period between sieges and battles, he decided to visit the lake, desiring to find the gold and to bring it down to Ioannina to replenish his coffers. Who else could have a better claim on the gold than the Pasha of Epirus? Dire warnings about the ferocity of the dragon that lived in the lake did not deter him.
He gathered his slaves, loaded canoes and other equipment on their backs and set off for the top.
The Pasha’s plan was to enjoy the lake’s pristine waters, then to drain it and to recover the gold.
Nowadays the long climb up to the lake can be undertaken relatively easily, as there is a good path for most of the way; but in those days the terrain was wild.
After days of hard trekking they reached the lake. Ali went for his canoe ride and then drew up a plan about how to drain the lake.
In spite of it being the middle of a summer, a violent storm struck suddenly. The usually calm waters of the lake became a seething turmoil. Many men were drowned. The rest of them, including Ali Pasha, fled back down the mountain, yelling that the dragon was taking its revenge.
The truth or otherwise of this legend is irrelevant. Its purpose is to emphasize the Pasha’s greed and cruelty as well as the might and beauty of the Pindus Mountains.
There are few places in Europe that the travel industry has not exploited. I cannot claim that modern travellers have not set foot in the remote parts of Ali’s pashalik, but the Zagori (where the Drakolimni is to be found) still remains one of the least-explored areas of Europe, and the scenery is stunning.
“Come to Zagori!” I say to those who lament the tourist developments of Greece.
Its natural grandeur will capture the imagination of anyone seeking the magic and atmosphere of Ancient Greece. A mountainous area in the northwestern corner of Greece, not far from the Greek-Albanian border, the Zagori still remains unspoilt, beautiful, and dramatic.
The region has been continually inhabited by semi-nomadic livestock breeders for thousands of years before Christ and consists of forty-five villages. The vernacular architecture and beauty of the Zagori cannot fail to enrich one’s perception of Greece and of course of Europe.
The villages are perched high on the mountain slopes. From the many lookout points, stupendous views of the gorges can be enjoyed. Walks through the famous Vikos Gorge will satisfy the adventurous as well as the casual lover of nature. There are many routes from which to choose.
The area is divided into Eastern, Central, and Western Zagori. At the 19th kilometre point on the Ioannina-Konitsa highway there is a pedestrian flyover bridge. The signpost to the Vikos Gorge points to the right and this is the road to follow in order to reach the villages of Central Zagori.
The road is good, albeit with many bends, and just when you might think you are about to take off, a statue appears on a hilltop to the left. It is the giant-sized image of a woman, The Woman of Zagori. Zagori women have become another legend in Greek history, because of their brave contribution during the Second World War. Climbing the mountains in the harshest conditions, they carried ammunition, food and clothing on their backs. In peacetime, they stayed behind while the men went abroad to work.
They looked after the old people, the livestock, and produced children who later studied and went to university, having learnt the ethics of hard work; many of them became great benefactors to the area.
Do take the short walk to the top of the hill. This female image should be seen not just as a war memorial, but also as a monument to ancient, silent, unpretentious feminism.
The many villages are well signposted but almost invisible until you approach them. The stone houses, with roofs made of large slabs of flat local stone, are the same grey colour as the mountain rock. Often very substantial, and built in a style unique to the region, the houses have enclosed courtyards, guarded by large wooden gates. They seem formidable, but behind their fortified walls they hide the most enchanting yards. Full of flowers, these courtyards are dominated by the colour blue. Pots, flagstone joints and window frames are all painted blue, just like the sky above.
Vitsa, in Central Zagori, is the best place to spend two or three nights. Of all Greek villages it offers the ultimate Greek experience in order to enjoy the traditional hospitality and the mountain scenery. People often drive past it on the way to better-known Monodendri at the end of the road, but Vitsa has many more hidden treasures.
There are around seven main guesthouses/hotels in Vitsa. Bed and breakfast accommodation is also available. Impressively clean, centrally heated and with all modern amenities, the rooms are big enough to accommodate up to four people each.
All Zagori bedrooms have their own particular design. Wooden platforms of king-size proportions provide plenty of sleeping space on either side of the fireplace. Early in the morning only the tinkling sound of hundreds of harmoniously tuned goat bells can be heard, for miles around.
Some of the guesthouses/hotels (Selini, Beloi, En Hora Vizitsa) have restaurants attached. The others, such as Troada and Filira, offer bed and breakfast. There are about five restaurants operating in the village. Cleanliness is paramount here; the dining rooms are traditional, with open fires in the winter and cool yards covered with vines for dining al fresco in the summer.
The local specialities are well known and visitors come from far and wide to enjoy them. Predominantly a dairy region, quality grilled meats and stews, cheese, yoghurt, buttermilk, trahana (local home made sour milk based pasta) are on offer, but many vegetarian dishes are also available. The pies of the region are what bring visitors back time and time again, particularly the Zagori flour pie (alevropita). The recipe is a well-guarded secret, but I suspect that it is much the same recipe as for Yorkshire Pudding, with chunks of feta cheese added to it, and then baked in the oven. There are also wild-greens pies, chicken and spinach pies.
The village restaurants are within easy walking distance from each other and so are the hotels.
Tsipouro (local schnapps) is served before the meals and sparkling Zitsa wine can be ordered to accompany the meals. Lord Byron enjoyed it when he visited the monastery of Zitsa in 1809.
Discriminating visitors keep returning here, seeking not just the essence of nature but also the taste of the local cuisine. The walks and fresh mountain air will help you digest the food quickly!
Each restaurant has its own speciality:
‘Cinnamon and Clove’ specializes in wild mushrooms. Beloi offers authentic Epirot cuisine and Selini, located just outside the village, offers a panoramic view from the veranda as well as the best-baked aubergine dish in the world.
En Hora Versitsa, in the village square, offers a good view of a section of the gorge, as well as of Upper Vitsa, with its imposing stone manor houses. Dishes of giant baked beans served with greens are as appetising as the chicken soup.
Yannis’ Kafenio, at the entrance to Lower Vitsa, serves ouzo, wine, schnapps, mountain tea, beer, coffee and preserves. He does wonderful charcoal-grilled sausages in the summer and serves them with homemade fries.
Troada, a hotel on the way down from the square to the Vitsa Steps, is a beautifully restored manor house.
Filira offers bed and breakfast and heaps of traditional Zagori charm.
The best time to visit Zagori is in the autumn (just about now, in October and early November), when the trees turn red, yellow and copper and the temperature is perfect.
If you happen to be in Vitsa for a weekend then you can enjoy an Orthodox service in one of the churches. In the Greek Church you can come and go while the service takes place. Nobody minds. On Sunday morning you will hear the bells ringing and then you will know which church is functioning that day. Our Lady in Kato Vitsa is the oldest church in Vitsa. It became a parish church between 1600-1625. Small and intimate, it offers a powerful spiritual experience.
A walk from the village down the “Vitsa Steps” to Misios Bridge is a must. If you do not want to do the full seven-hour trek from Monodendri to Vikos village or the even longer trek up to Papingo and to the Dragon Lake, take the short walk to Kokoros Bridge. It is much easier and less demanding. The river at the bottom is full of water for much of the year, but by June it dries up.
In the winter the temperature can be low, but more often than not the warm Greek sun enables residents and visitors to eat outdoors, to go for walks, climb the mountain tracks and visit the other villages.
Oxies (Oaks) is situated beyond Monodendri. From there the gorge can be seen at its most dramatic. When I’m there, I often think of the British poet Peter Levi, who once wrote the line, “Virtue is in the mountains and in the stony villages.”
Who can argue with that?
See also “The Ionian Islands and Epirus, A Cultural History” (Signal Books, Oxford, 2010)
Saturday, February 19, 2011
“Where do you come from?” asked a Dorchester waiter as we were settling the bill. “From just up the road, in Poundbury,” “Mmm…posh, eh?” he replied, raising his eyebrows. “Have you met Prince Charles?”
‘Meddling’, ‘Remote from ordinary people’, ‘Backward looking’ are a few of the comments often used to attack Prince Charles and his ideas.
I became interested in Poundbury in the early 1990s. As a regular visitor to Dorset I have been following the Prince’s ideas concerning Poundbury with interest; the never-ending controversy about the project has given me much food for thought. Last November we went ahead and bought a lovely little house in Poundbury, in our beloved Dorset.
It is evident that those who are negative about the project are mostly people unfamiliar with Poundbury. Many have never seen it and only know it from hearsay. Those who live in Poundbury seem to love it and claim they would never live anywhere else. According to most residents I’ve met, Prince Charles has done a wonderful job in providing ordinary people with affordable, tasteful, well-built housing in one of the most beautiful areas of Britain.
As for me, Poundbury has not only changed my life but also my attitude towards Britain. In Poundbury I’ve been cured of my chronic homesickness for Greece. I’m so content here that I’ve almost forgotten my home country. I love modern cities like Sydney and Perth, Australia, but I hate what contemporary architects, civil engineers and developers have inflicted upon the United Kingdom and other countries in the name of modernism or modernity. Many pre- and post-War houses (whether from the ‘30s, the ‘60s or ‘70s) seem dated, worn-out and undesirable, even if they are “of their time”. Some friends who used to live in Council or private housing estates have moved out and headed for the countryside. Others bought period houses, if they could afford them. Cottage prices in Dorset have kept their high values because of their desirability. It’s clear to me that this preference stands in contradiction to the perceptions and plans of many modern developers.
Too many town planners, local authorities and architects seem to have no idea what ‘ordinary people’ want and need. They project their own self-interested ideas, force them on people, claiming that they know best, and we have to live with the consequences for the rest of our lives.
The prince has proved that he knows better, in my view. In spite of his privileged background he has demonstrated, through his work and actions that he has a good knowledge of how ordinary people prefer to live and of what is good for the environment. The attacks on him are not only grossly disrespectful but also unfair.
Simon Conibear, the Duchy of Cornwall Development Manager of Poundbury, is intelligent, capable, easy to talk to, and focused. He’s been with the project for 14 years. “The Prince is aware of the comments and he is sensitive to them. He’s happy with the implementation of his vision, in spite of some compromises. His life has brought him into contact with the best and the worst in the English landscape. He is still involved with the project and he visits four times a year. Poundbury had to be created on the basis of commercial viability. It is required by Act of Parliament that the Duchy acts commercially as an organisation. It has proved, if anything, that better-quality development is viable as well as better in terms of sustainability.”
Based on the principles of New Urbanism ( www.newurbanism.com), Poundbury is providing us with a neighbourhood, diverse in population and use.
Poundbury is anything but retro. Its town planning principles have been proven to be appealing to residents. Prince Charles and master-planner Leon Krier realized their vision with flair. Dorchester, the County Town, has been extended in a truly innovative, spectacular, uplifting way. I am certainly not the only one to appreciate the Duchy’s work
Jamie Butcher, a 17-year-old student (he’s studying Outdoor Education), told me “I moved to Poundbury from Dorchester with my parents three years ago. We needed a bigger but affordable house so my parents could foster children and so that we could have space for our two dogs. We love it here. It is stylish, modern, and affordable. I cycle to the college. I have many friends who live in Poundbury. The lovely Dorset beaches are close by, and that’s fun. I like the fact that there are rules. We all know where we stand. I wouldn’t like to live on an ordinary estate. They are dreary, boring and grey, although the houses might have bigger gardens. I prefer it here. I like the layout of Poundbury, its lanes, squares, and courtyards. There are many apartments, such as Synergy Housing, a joint-ownership type of accommodation, and the Duchy is building more. They help young people to have a good start in life. This is also good because young professionals will be able to afford to live here in the future. Poundbury is cool….”
Marie-Chantal Lugg is French and married to an English Chartered Engineer. She has lived in England for over 30 years “We moved to Poundbury from Dorchester in 2001. I had bought the Prince’s book “A Vision of Britain” before Poundbury started. Later, when my family used to visit from France, we all became interested in the Prince’s concept and its development and fell in love with the place. It looked authentically English – in the traditional way. We fell in love with the place and found a lovely house in a nice location. We thought that the houses were, and are, logically priced. It was convenient for the boys to walk to the Thomas Hardye School. Poundbury is clean and orderly. Our house has five bedrooms. It looks like a Dorset cottage from the outside and yet it’s modern inside. I like the use of traditional Dorset materials such as stone, brick and flint. We love living here. Poundbury residents have only come to live here after very careful consideration. Artists, business people, young and old, all make for a very interesting community. There are lots of small independent shops in Poundbury and Dorchester. It’s sad when they attack the Prince. Some think Poundbury has been designed for the privileged, but we know this is not the truth. Its strong point is that we’re all mixed. Others were afraid that Poundbury would override Dorchester. In fact Poundbury has enhanced our County Town financially and socially. The place is more diverse now. In my view, Poundbury has been successful for many reasons. Restaurants and shops have reasonable prices. The houses are manageable. You don’t need a fortune to buy or renovate them. I attended a presentation by Leon Krier where he explained the concept of Italian towns and the importance of variety in town planning. Mews, lanes, squares and courtyards create a series of interesting spaces. Speeding is prevented by irregular roads, so there is no need for humps or traffic lights. There are no traffic signals of any kind in Poundbury, to clutter the place. I have great respect for the Prince and his work. The Prince and Mr. Krier know what they’re talking about. It’s a beautiful concept.”
I couldn’t agree more. I love walking to the store, to the Garden Centre, to the restaurants, and each time I can take a different route. There are so many architectural points of interest, like fountains and squares that encourage social intercourse among us. The lack of front gardens creates an atmosphere of openness.
Poundbury offers employment to 1000 people and this will increase to 2000 by the time of its completion. It has definitely brought employment to Dorchester and it has contributed to the economy by millions of pounds. A report to be issued by the County Council in a few weeks time will demonstrate how large that economic impact has been.
Lynn Ο΄Leary, who has lived in the area for twenty-eight years, and who works in Poundbury, says “All the houses are different and interesting. Poundbury is excellent for walking because of the many paths that interlink. The common spaces encourage residents to get to know each other. There is a very relaxed atmosphere. The Prince’s vision of creating an evolving town has been successful. Poundbury does evolve; he had great foresight. He has provided much employment in the area. The houses are easy to clean, and gardens are easy to keep. The houses open to the street so the front is visible easily. This deters crime.”
Steven Jolly originally came from Manchester. The Guinness Trust granted him a house in Poundbury three years ago. He is disabled, so the house was fitted with a lift. “There are many strict, silly rules about the place,” he told me. “We can’t have an aviary in the garden, or independent satellite TV - and we can’t have a washing line, apart from the rotary type that doesn’t dry the clothes properly. I don’t like the pebbly gravel on the pavements,” he said with a smile. Steven was the first to welcome us when we arrived. He lives exactly opposite. In spite of the rules he’s happy here. “If you had a choice between a ‘Council house’ outside Poundbury and this one, which would you choose?” “This one, of course!” he laughed. “If Prince Charles knocked on your door tomorrow to see how you were getting on, what would you say to him?” With a twinkle in his eye, he replied “I’d say, ‘Your Highness, you certainly put this place together well. Your idea of mixing shops, small businesses, factories, social and private housing makes it a fantastic place to live.” “Would you say you’re grateful to him for the opportunity he’s given you?” “Oh yes, of course we’re grateful. He didn’t have to provide his land to house people like us. He is rich. He doesn’t need any more money. He means well. Poundbury should be used as a model all over the country and Prince Charles should be appointed as an adviser for other towns. He’s not old-fashioned…he’s a man of the future. Haven’t you seen that we have no churches in Poundbury? Religion is divisive; but we’re going to have a Quiet Place pretty soon, where we can sit quietly and think about things. Thank you Prince Charles!”
It’s a fallacy that the Prince is always looking back. He certainly never copied nineteen sixties tower blocks, which, it’s been argued, have encouraged crime and a sense of despair. Where were the innovative, thoughtful architects then?
I’ve always believed that the grass is greener elsewhere. I’ve lived in many places around the world. Nowhere did I feel as I feel here. In Poundbury I’ve found a place where everything around me is pleasing, clean, well thought-out and within a reasonable price.
Jo Warren, Associate Director of estate agents Elder and Froy, has been working in the Poundbury office for the last six years. “Prices vary in Poundbury from £145,000 to £595,000. Houses vary in size and are mixed. There are shared equity properties, social housing, private houses, small and big apartments. All intermingle with shops, offices, and small factories. Prices remain stable here. Poundbury hasn’t suffered from the price drop like the rest of the country. June was the best month we’ve ever had. The Prince’s vision was fantastic. He included everything. He set out to create a truly mixed community. The residents come from all social backgrounds, ages and all parts of England. He was keen to create a sustainable environment in which people can live and work, a mixed community of social backgrounds and ages. There are no front gardens. People can’t hide behind hedges, park boats, caravans, or store rubbish in front.”
Simon Conibear tells me that the stipulations were worked out by the Prince’s team in 1988. “It was decided that this was needed. The stipulations make the place harmonious. People on the whole like rules. They know how Poundbury works and that’s why they decide to come and live here. They value the endeavor to create some kind of harmony,”
The Prince’s vision has brought about a kind of aura in the place, which is impossible to define, as there are many contributing factors.
Simon says that the present population of Poundbury is 2000. “By the time the project is complete there ought to be 4000. We are hoping that by 2025 the entire project will be finished.”
Colombian Rosea Gomez is married to an Englishman. They moved to Poundbury from Bogota five years ago. The Thomas Hardye School was the main factor. Their son (17) has done well there. Her husband found out about Poundbury on the internet. He came to the UK first. He liked the school and Poundbury. It was the time of the annual square dance event. He thought it was a lively place. Everybody was out dancing and enjoying themselves. They decided to live here. Their boy could walk to school. Rosie, having lived a cosmopolitan life, thinks it’s a pity that they don’t bring more multicultural activities to the area; foreign artists don’t visit Dorchester much. But the beauty of the area, the uninterrupted vistas, the pretty Dorset villages and the proximity to beaches of outstanding beauty make up for the lack of an international cultural scene. She’s made a lot of friends through various Poundbury societies.
John Butcher works as Site Manager at the Prince of Wales School in Dorchester.
He’s one of the directors of one of the Poundbury Management Companies. “Everybody who buys a house in Poundbury also buys a share in the Company. The system is democratic. I cycle to work. We are concerned about traffic issues and try to find solutions. The use of local material makes houses energy-efficient and warm in winter. Their layout is good. This is modern living within a beautifully designed town”.
Simon Conibear says: “How we live our lives is as important to achieving energy efficiency as how we insulate our properties, what we do with the environment around us; proximity to the shops and work place, are all important. Sustainability is achieved by the use of natural materials, where possible. We’re planning to build an anaerobic digester, which will generate electricity and heating. This will compensate for energy consumed at Poundbury, so making it effectively carbon neutral. ”.
James Foster- Pegg, director of the Poundbury Garden Centre has been working in Poundbury for four and a half years. “It’s true to say that the Garden Centre has become a big part of the community. The place is new and people like to experiment. Poundbury has a positive air about it. The Engine Room (a coffee shop/restaurant) belongs to us. Restaurants are key to any garden business. The food is mostly locally sourced, and reasonably priced. We provide space for functions and cultural events. The Garden Centre is a good meeting place, with its own gallery. We have space for artists from all over the place. The Prince’s efforts are commendable. I have great respect for what he does for others.”
If posh means a clean, civilized, environment with sensible rules for enjoyable, harmonious communal living and a decent existence, then yes, we are posh and proud of it!
Saturday, January 8, 2011
It reminds me of my poor Kalosinatos (in Panorea) and of his plight.
The article was published under the pseudonym Silektis.
Saint Spiridon has been in the news lately. The government has decided to give his church its own independent legal status. Until recently, the church, as well as the relics of the Saint, belonged to the Boulgari family.
The Boulgari family became the owners of St. Spiridon in the following circumstances:
George Kaloheretos, a resident of Constantinople, had St. Spiridon’s relics in his possession. After the fall of the city in 1453, he departed, taking the relics with him.
First he went to Epirus and then to Corfu.
Once in Corfu, Kaloheretos’ granddaughter married Stamatelo Boulgari (a Corfu resident). Since then the family of Boulgari has been the owner of the Saint and the church.
The governmental decision has changed matters.
We will not occupy ourselves (in this article) with the administrative matters of the church. This is of secondary importance. What is of major interest is the way the relics of the Saint have been safeguarded in Corfu for centuries , as well as the concentrated devotion of all Corfiots towards St. Spiridon.
For five centuries, during which time Corfu has gone through many hardships and has witnessed one occupation after another, the island has managed to sustain intact its faith and veneration for the Saint’s relics. When Corfiots are incapable of alleviating suffering for themselves, they turn to St. Spiridon to beg for strength. They lay their fate at his feet, when they themselves are powerless.
As a rule, and according to the folklore of the fair island of the Phaeacians, the Saint always listens and responds to the Corfiots’ prayers.
Let us look at one of those folkloric stories, which is based on a historical fact.
It was on Christmas Eve of 1629, when the first signs of the plague appeared in Corfu.
The Venetians occupied the island then. It is well known that the Venetian Republic took strict measures in order to safeguard the health and safety of its inhabitants.
How did the plague come to Corfu? That is the first question that preoccupied the Venetian Administration. They started investigating the problem meticulously. As a result of the investigation, the following was revealed:
Among the Corfiot aristocracy lived a gentleman-lawyer with the name Odigitrianos Sarantaris.
One day, one of the lawyer’s servants visited a Turkish ship moored in Corfu harbour. Once on board, he bought an expensive kerchief, which he gave as a present to his lady, Mrs. Sarantari.
Mrs. Sarantari placed the kerchief in her daughter’s wardrobe. Soon after, the daughter became ill with the plague, and died the following day. The doctors and family did not realize the cause of her death.
It was natural that, because of Mr. Sarantis’ social status, his daughter’s funeral would give rise to much grief and commiseration from the crowds.
A vast number of people attended the funeral, in order to express their condolences to the grieving family. Many Corfiot women kissed the grieving mother.
This plethora of people arriving at the heart of the infection had a terrible outcome. The plague spread throughout Corfu.
This was discovered as a result of the investigation of the matter.
As the number of victims increased by the day, the anger of the people towards the Sarantari family also increased. Public unrest followed, which the authorities had to control. They had to do whatever they could to calm public opinion.
Acting on the health and safety laws of the land, the local administration sent the entire family, in haste, to the Lazareto at Gouvia. However, the people continued to demand Sarantaris’ head on the platter.
The Administration had no choice but to succumb to the people’s outrage. They put poor Sarantaris on board a ship where he was shot without any procedures.
It was mostly the peasants who had demanded this harsh act, when they arrived in town in large numbers and in a threatening mood.
After the execution, a Magnificatio Service took place in the church of St. Spiridon. The Corfiots cried out to ask for the Saint’s help.
It was Palm Sunday. Suddenly, during the service, it was announced that the plague had gone and that health had been restored on the island.
A triumphant procession followed. The casket containing St. Spyridon’s relics was paraded throughout the town among the many grateful Corfiots. Some said that they had seen Saint Spiridon during the plague and had heard him saying that Corfu wouldl be saved - an illusion that can even be explained scientifically, if one takes the deep faith of the Corfiots under consideration.
The prison guards said that they had also seen a light burning above the belfry of the church during the plague.
After the triumphant procession, a collection of money was organized and five thousand ducats were collected. The money was used to decorate the church.
This is not my own story. It is as I found it in the magazine THEATIS one winter’s night, sitting by an open log fire.
Sunday, January 2, 2011
It is a number of years since I wrote “Panorea”. For an abridged version in English, see my first blog posting.
Panorea is not just the personification of Corfu, but an allegory of the world and what we have done to it.
Has anything changed? No!
Corfu is in a worse condition than ever. Its plight (just consider the accumulation of rubbish before Christmas) was mitigated only by the cold weather. If the dreadful refuse disposal situation had happened in the middle of the summer, we would all have had cholera, as they had in Mandouki in 1855, or even the plague, as in 1629-1630.
I am told the new hospital is finally operational. That’s good! I wish the doctors and nursing staff all the best of luck.
As for the rest? The market is an eyesore. The old harbour is a disaster. The roads are in a terrible state. The traffic is appalling. One can smell misery from afar.
Over the Christmas holiday, I saw -for the first time- the English version of the film Pollyanna.
I have never read the book. One of this year’s resolutions is to read it. Pollyanna is an American children’s classic, written by Eleanor H. Porter. As a mother, I failed to read it to my children. Other books were more in fashion at the time.
Pollyanna, like Panorea, is the name of the girl who is the main character in the respective books. As a result of the story, the name Pollyanna has become synonymous with optimism and a bright disposition. The main theme of the book and the books that followed is the glad game.
The Glad Game is a game that celebrates the good things we have, and avoids despair about the horrors around us.
Although the ending of Panorea is not all that pessimistic, the two heroines represent two totally different attitudes.
There is no glad game in my book. Or is there?
It is up to the reader to interpret the nature of the “glad game” in which Panorea’s tribe was engaged.
The glad game, according to Pollyanna, is a useful tool. If we all played it, perhaps we would all be much happier than we are. We would have no wars, and we would not climb over dead bodies in order to get what we feel we lack.