Tag Archives: Kritsa

August 15 celebration for the Virgin Mary

DSCN0783This photo from 14 August 2017 shows the evening service at the famous Byzantine church, Panagia Kera situated just before Kritsa. It is dedicated to Mary the Mother of God and this service is the prelude to one of the most important religious celebrations in Greece on 15 August, to mark the Dormition of Virgin Mary. On the Greek Orthodox calendar this date marks the moment when Mary, Christ’s mother, ascended into Heaven. This religious and public holiday is a celebration for the reunion of the mother with her son.

Many Greeks prepare follow a fasting regime from 1 to 14 August. The fast is broken on the 15th so we expect to hear much partying around Kritsa with the tempting smells of barbecues.

As you might expect, 15 August is the name day for women named Maria, but only if they’re married. Those called Despoina celebrate too as their name refers to ‘the Lady’. With so many women in Kritsa named Maria, Despoina, Despina, Deppy and Pipina, 15 August is a very festive affair. Don’t feel sorry for the unmarried women and girls called Maria or Despoina as they’ll enjoy their celebrations in November.

The famous Faneromenis Monastery, circa 35 km from Kritsa, is very important to these celebrations. It is traditional for people to make a pilgrimage here and many still make the trek overnight to arrive at the monastery for the morning service. This is where Rodanthe, real life heroine of my first novel set in 1823, Kritsotopoula, Girl of Kritsa attended the secret school in this monastery.

Screen version Rodanthe's GiftIn my second novel, Rodanthe’s Gift there is a chapter based on a group of women making the pilgrimage to Faneromenis Monastery. It features Rodanthe’s mother as a young woman making an important meeting with a young man called Mathaios. Here is excerpt from that chapter…

Faneromenis Festival

Brother Michalis stood at his favourite vantage point, at the high gatehouse window of the fortified monastery, willing his failing sight to penetrate the dark cloak of night. He anticipated the first pinpricks of light from oil lamps heralding women from villages as far away as Kritsa.

First to appear around midnight were those from the nearby hamlet below the monastery. These hostesses had justifiable pride in the feast they’d prepared to feed pilgrims after the service held that very morning, on the fifteenth of August, to celebrate the Dormition of the Panagia when Mary, Mother of God, fell asleep. The previous two-week fast banning meat, poultry, milk, cheese, eggs, fish, oil and wine produced an abundance of ingredients for their baking and making. Local menfolk never attended this service out of respect for the many women craving an opportunity to kiss the monastery’s miraculous icon of the Panagia, Mother of God. Despite this, cheerful men set prime hogs to roast, in certain knowledge they’d make short work of the leftovers. Brother Michalis sniffed the air. Yes, there was a faint aroma proving the fat porker was above the firepit. His belly rumbled as he remembered the youthful hours he’d spent turning the spit, and he rubbed his arms as if the memory pained him. Sandals slapping on stone steps made him smile. ‘Might have guessed you two would join me. Ever since you realised visitors brought cakes and pastries you’ve been too excited to rest between services.’

As he stepped back from the window, Brother Michalis feigned protests. ‘I’d have thought soon-to-be deacons above hugs and kisses.’

Instead of gaining cheer from the easy familiarity, Mathaios felt tears prickle and moved to peer from the window. He wondered if this was the right time to tell these dear people his news. One stood instead of a papa and the other as his adopted brother. As he swallowed the lump in his throat he decided not to spoil the festival, reminding himself there was time to spare as he’d assured the abbot he’d tell them before September. In a cheery voice, he masked his emotions. ‘Lamplights head this way. Come, Nikolaos, let’s greet them.’

The distance between women of the Kritsa group belied the fact they’d set out as a closely formed unit full of chatter and anticipation. Those unable to face the final steep climb until first light took advantage of hospitality in the nearby hamlet of monastery servants. One spurning rest was Irini, and as she crested the last mound her weariness evaporated at the sight of lamps with dancing flames set along the monastery’s steep steps. With her arms sweeping, she spun. ‘God is so near. Those stars invite us to touch the heavens. Since we passed our village sentries, I’ve felt free as a bird, and enjoyed every step of our trek.’ Giddy, she clutched her friend Katerina by the arm. ‘Our pilgrimage is more enjoyable for having you to walk with.’

‘How could I refuse when you explained about kissing the icon famed for aiding women?’

Sad in an instant, Irini hugged Katerina. ‘Your plea is an easy guess. Two stillborn boys is unbearable.’

‘Place your palm here. Can you feel it? My prayer is for a girl babe.’

‘No wonder you agreed so fast when I suggested we wear our looser white cotton smocks without aprons and take waistcoats for church instead.’

‘Your gift of a long white scarf kept the worst of the sun off me and felt more comfortable than our usual face-binding kerchiefs.’

‘You’ll see more women wear them tomorrow for the service. So many women wear the constant black of mourning, I was surprised the first time I saw Grandma wear a white scarf at the monastery. Of more importance, does my cousin know about the baby?’

‘I’ll tell him when we return.’ As superstitious as most local folk, Katerina made the sign against the evil eye. Frightened by speaking her dream aloud, she changed the subject. ‘Lights head our way.’

‘I expect it’s the lads. It’s two years since our last pilgrimage from Kritsa, and I’ve missed them.’

With an ease forged in childhood, Irini kissed the tubby youth, Nikolaos. Not expecting Mathaios to have grown so tall, Irini blushed, grateful for the cover of darkness as she took his proffered hand. In her confusion Irini forgot to let go and failed to make introductions.

‘Hello, I’m Katerina. I married Irini’s cousin and settled in Kritsa.’

A group of six including Irini’s mama drew near and Nikolaos called out to attract their attention. Puffed from exertion, they flung themselves on the brittle remains of sunburnt grass, clamouring for the water flasks the thoughtful youths carried. When the rested group walked on, none noticed how a young pair lagged, chatting in quiet voices with tinkles of laughter.

Reverend Abbot, twenty monks, five novices and eight pupils of the secret school filed to stand in front of the small church in the cleft of the rock. The congregation took it in turns to enter the church to kiss the revered icon after the monastic population had paid their due respects. On their return to the courtyard, the audience sought shade from the hot sun. Settled under the soothing tones of melodic chanting, Katerina risked a whisper. ‘I made my special prayer when kissing the Panagia.’

Irini delivered a hug. There was no chance to answer as the crowd hushed to see the icon placed on a bier decorated with dried flowers and grasses. Carried aloft by monks, it toured the monastery precincts. When visitors filed behind monks, novices and schoolboys, Irini’s mama realised there’d been a muddle because Mathaios was out of his rightful place, walking with her daughter at the rear of the procession.

Later, as they sat digesting an amazing array of food, Irini’s mama said, ‘Shall we take our leave, Katerina? Distance seems greater on our tired trek home.’

‘Not yet. Irini says schoolboys and novices plan to sing mantinades: rhyming couplets to commemorate brave rebels who plotted against ruling Venetians, long before Ottoman oppressors took control of Crete.’

Irini saw her mama’s eyebrows arch, and nodded. ‘Mathaios told me. A recent earth tremor dislodged stones behind the refectory to reveal pots of hidden verse written on fine goatskin.’

Flushed cheeks and sparkling eyes didn’t escape sharp eyes. ‘Tsk, retire behind the female rest screens. Don’t return until you’ve retied your dishevelled scarf – your hair is showing.’ As Irini rose, those nearby resumed gossiping, pretending they’d not witnessed her chastisement.

Performers bowed low to signal the recitation’s end, and as applause fell away, Irini whispered, ‘Today’s men should heed those words. It’s time to resist the Turks.’

‘You’ve been listening to your papa resenting paying bail to guarantee our return. Did you think it worth it, Katerina?’

‘It was everything promised, and more. How can we thank the monks and the generous folk who’ve treated us so well?’

‘Let’s sing a chorus to repay their kindness.’

Although proud of her daughter’s voice, Irini’s mama was aghast that she’d dared to perform a soft lullaby outside family confines. Desperate to hide the indiscretion, she rose and stretched out her hands to her neighbours. ‘Come, let everyone sing thanks.’

*

Once the monastery’s great studded gate thudded shut, the women set off, chattering and laughing until caution on the steep path kept them quiet as far as the hamlet. Safe here, they milled to bid a proper farewell to friends and family they might not see again until their next trip. While waiting for a Kritsa grandma to deliver a matchmaking message, Irini noticed her friend hunched over and pacing. A second glance took in the tears. ‘Are you too hot? Shall I fetch water?’

Panagia Mou, Mother of God, help me. My prayer passed unnoticed among the many. This babe doesn’t want my love.’

*

Happy to toil in the hot courtyard Mathaios pushed his broom around in a daze, not noticing busy hands had already completed the task. In an uncharacteristic moment of idleness, he watched a cat crouch, stare fixed on a small bird enjoying his trilling. ‘Ah, cat. Sweet Irini has a voice to put songbirds to shame.’

After speaking her name aloud, it fixed in his head. Such a lively girl, not giggling and silly. He sighed. No doubt she’d make some lucky man a wonderful wife. ‘Ouch, that thought hurt.’

‘Hey, are you talking to yourself?’

‘Sorry, Nikolaos. What shall we do next?’

‘Help me stack planks used as food trestles.’

Midway through the task Mathaios discovered a large basket under bushes. ‘This must be Aunt’s. My bed cushion, a gift from her, has the same embroidered design as this cloth cover.’

‘Is anything important in there?’

‘Ha ha! I should have guessed. There’s enough food here to keep my uncle going for two days. I’ll take it down for them, the walk will do me good. Tell Brother Michalis I’ll stay overnight and be back in time for matins.’

Ahead of him a multihued sea with bands of turquoise, azure, cobalt and cerulean stretched to the grey-lined horizon. Whenever he walked to his aunt’s he stood mesmerised on this jutting rock above the five dome-roofed stone dwellings of the monastery servants and shepherds. From his elevated position he could see the ever-changing scene among the bays created by the headlands known as the Five Fingers. This late afternoon, white foaming waves surged into the bays at differing speeds and angles and, to the far right, slapped the foot of the rounded Thripti Mountains, now caressed by a pink hue of the reflected setting sun. In the stillness he heard a distressed whimper beneath his rock ledge.

‘Irini? Whatever is wrong? Why are you here?’

In her wretchedness she clung to him without realising her scarf lie by her side. Instinct had him caressing her back, his hand under her long tresses, soothing her until her sobs ceased.

‘If it’s true God manages everything, I don’t understand.’ At his gentle squeeze she continued. ‘Katerina wants a baby. Is that too much to ask?’

Lost for words, he didn’t answer; whatever the issue, he wanted to continue holding her.

‘Mama fears for her life. Blood loss was disproportionate for the tiny babe, another boy.’

Not registering Mathaios held her, she accepted his hemmed and pristine white cotton square.

‘Who knows what God plans for us. My mama died in childbirth, leaving Aunt to care for me among her brood until I was old enough to join the monastery boys.’

Despite her words – ‘I shouldn’t sit here with you, someone may see,’ – she moved closer, resting against his arm which embraced her shoulders. ‘Trouble is, there’s nowhere else I want to be.’

Not trusting his emotions, he kept quiet, eyes closed, enjoying her closeness. With a start he realised they needed to move. ‘Night falls and I fear you’ll slip. Let me escort you downhill.’

‘Whatever will people say?’

‘I carry Aunt’s basket of food. No one will comment, if you replace your scarf.’

If you’d like to read more, just Click Here.

DSCN0831Another local church that is well worth a visit to participate in the celebrations is the church dedicated to Panagia Koprakiani on the Katharo Plateau. You can find more information and directions in my non fiction guide, Explore Kritsa.

Whatever you do to celebrate 15 August, have fun. x

 

Explore Kritsa, Crete

Explore-Kritsa_screen versionI’m proud to announce publication of my latest book on 27th July 2019, and this time its non-fiction.

The Kindle version is at a launch price of £1.99. via this link viewbook.at/ExploreKritsa If, like me, you prefer a ‘proper’ book this is the link: http://mybook.to/ExploreKritsa

This book reflects my love for Kritsa, a village on the Greek island of Crete where I’ve enjoyed a home since 2001. Since then I’ve enjoyed many varied experiences and walks that I’m happy to share. While researching for my novels, Kritsotopoula, Girl of Kritsa and Rodanthe’s Gift I accumulated a range of information about Greece and Kritsa and the book includes some of this insight.

Presented in three parts, the book has a month by month guide to my view of Kritsa life, 15 local walks ranging from gentle strolls to strenuous hikes and useful information such as where to eat and drink.

Explore Kritsa is available in both paperback and Kindle versions via Amazon and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the book will soon be on sale in Eklektos Bookshop, Elounda and shops in Kritsa – I’ll update as and when I get more information.
Here’s the July chapter from the month by month guide to give you an idea of what to expect…

July, Brings Summer Festivals

Here we are in peak season, and high temperatures drain energy. Me? Well I spend part of most days at the beach. With Agios Nikolaos only a bus ride away it’s easy to access beaches, and if you’ve a car then you’ll discover a good variety within thirty minutes. You can choose a beach with full tourist facilities or a quieter retreat where it’s appropriate to take your own sunlounger and snacks.

July sees the start of the Meltemi season when winds blow from the north. A tip: if you find it too blustery on a north-facing beach, select one facing towards the east. Sad to say you’ll sometimes encounter a shore covered in plastic refuse brought in by wind and waves. If this happens, the best option is to choose a beach facing a different direction. On organised beaches there are often staff on litter-picking duties to resolve the issue. I’m not saying this to put you off the fabulous local beaches, but I’d hate you to see rubbish and think that it’s a permanent blight.

In this hot weather it’s good to explore Kritsa early morning, when shady kafenions beckon. Another excellent time to visit is late afternoon when the sun passes behind the mountains. I’ll confess to enjoying a room with air conditioning for two hours mid-afternoon. Then, with a long, warm evening ahead, we’ve energy for a stroll. Funny how we seldom make it home without stopping for a cold beer. There are so many great kafenions and tavernas, and we enjoy visiting them all as the summer progresses. Some places use fans to waft air around and I always hope they have another for the cook.

Keep your eyes open for posters advertising Μαγεροτσικαλιάσματα, Magerotsikaliasmata, one of Kritsa’s annual festivals. I recommend you arrive after 9.00 p.m. to enjoy local music, dancing and food. The venue is the schoolyard and you purchase tickets on the way in. Wine, beer and raki are available to buy on site. Look around the various cooking demonstrations to see food cooked over open fires. When you’re ready to eat, hand over your ticket and volunteer waiters will bring your meal. Once the music starts, people take to the dance floor. Other people have said it, but the way children dance makes you think it’s in their DNA. Cretan music and dance are customs handed down from one generation to the next. I’ve heard a local musician practising from the time he was a boy. At first, we winced as we passed; now we stand and listen to appreciate his incredible playing. If you fancy learning to dance, there are local classes with an open invitation to participate. Me? I prefer to watch. During these festivals the musicians play for as long as someone keeps dancing. I’ve been on our balcony at dawn and heard them – what stamina!

If you’re finding the excessive heat hard to cope with, try a trip to the Katharo Plateau where you’ll find it several degrees cooler than Kritsa. Blast out the car’s air conditioning or open windows wide for the 16 km trip up a twisting asphalt road. Once there you’ll find three tavernas serving rustic refreshments.

A good choice for a sundown stroll is the village of Kroustas, 4 km further on from Kritsa. Our walk starts with views towards the Thripti Mountains. Here you’ll have a fabulous, iconic view that captures attention as the reflected sunset turns the mountains a delicious pink. Hidden depths and contours stand out more than at any other time of day. As you watch, the shadow creeps upwards until it snuffs out the light.

In this heat I’m keeping my walking recommendations short and sweet:

Walk 2: Panagia Kera, the Famous Byzantine Church – 2.2 km. This is an ideal morning stroll through the shady olive groves, ending with opportunity for rest and refreshments.

Walk 4: Kroustas Views and Backstreets – 2.2 km. As mentioned above, this is ideal for late afternoon/early evening. Afterwards you can enjoy refreshments in Kroustas’ main street, where arches of shady mulberry trees keep the heat at bay.

The second part of the book has walking directions and sketch maps for 15 walks ranging from strolls to uphill hikes. There’s a walk for you if you’ve only a short time in Kritsa and want to know what you’re seeing as you stroll by. Then, if you’ve time and energy to spare you can choose walks to suit your fitness level and interests. As well as directions, the walking guide gives snippets of information about the churches, historical sites and views that you pass. One of my early readers thinks people with no intention of walking will also enjoy reading the directions/information to gain insight from the comfort of their armchair.

Although I make walk suggestions to suit the season and topical information, you can do more or less depending on the weather, your interest and fitness.

I used an app called Wikiloc to record the routes and give details of how to download information to help you stay on track. For an example Click here.

In the third section, Useful Information, I cover how to get to Kritsa, historical snippets including when there is free admission to local archaeological sites, places to stay in Kritsa and where to eat.

Whether you’re an armchair traveler, planning a visit, arrive for a brief tour, book accommodation or have a home in the village this book is for you – just Click Here.

Click here for more information and I hope you enjoy Explore Kritsa.

New novel, Rodanthe’s Gift

screen version rodanthe's giftI’m proud to say my latest novel, Rodanthe’s Gift, is now on sale in Crete at Eklektos Book Shop, Elounda, and Nikitakis Gift shop in the upper square of Kritsa. Both the book and the Kindle version are available from Amazon via this universal link – viewbook.at/Rodanthe

The atrocities in Milatos Caves and the terrible siege of Messolonghi on mainland Greece are woven into this historical novel. Although the book follows on from Kritsotopoula, Girl of Kritsa, it is a stand alone story.

Milatos Caves, now house a chapel to remember those who were massacred.

The Garden of Heroes, in Messolonghi on mainland Greece is now a haven of peace within the city walls. The stacked caskets represent the kegs of gunpowder a brave man used to blow up the old and infirm rather than allow them to be captured by the besieging Turk and Egyptian force.

Here are three of the early reviews on Amazon.

Mr. R. Clark 5.0 out of 5 stars Rip-roaring historical adventure

 

Suzi Stembridge 5.0 out of 5 stars Ever imagined how it must be to be caught up in war or massacre?

Winter Reads Set in Greece

Short days and cold nights make it an ideal time to snuggle up with a book, and a mug of hot chocolate. My crystal ball tells me there are some great new books heading for publication in 2019. How do I know? Well, I was proud to act as a beta reader for some authors I admire and I’ll give details in due course. Meanwhile, I thought I’d share information about the books I’m most looking forward to reading in January.

Before I do this, I’ll mention  my first novel, Kritsotopoula, Girl of Kritsa has a revised cover. Thanks to advice from Nikos, my favourite bookseller at Nikitakis Gift Shop in the centre of Kritsa, the fonts are now easier to read. I hope some customers in Aristidis Cafe across the road spot it while enjoying their refreshments. 

Kritsotopoula screen versionRodanthe, the feisty daughter of Kritsa’s pappas (priest), spent her childhood longing for her father’s approval without appreciating his efforts to keep her safe under Ottoman oppression.

Years later, the ruling Pasha orders Rodanthe’s kidnap intent on making her his wife. Determined not to yield, Rodanthe tricks the Pasha and then flees to the mountains dressed as a young man.

After joining rebels as Spanomanolis (Beardless Manolis), she draws on her unusual experiences and rare education to maintain her disguise throughout daring raids.

The crisper Greek meander design matches the one on  Rodanthe’s Gift to make the link between them more obvious.

Screen version Rodanthe's GiftFour mourners stand over the shrouded body of the exceptional female rebel, Rodanthe. Each suffers the loss of a daughter, friend, lost love or valued ally. Her injured papa, Mathaios, kneels at her graveside, begging forgiveness for his sinful decision to keep her baptismal gold a secret. He later bequests the remaining coins to her young friend Petros. A gift with consequences beyond imagination. Kostas loved Rodanthe, but only realised this truth moments before her death. Now dependent on others for his mobility, he resolves to play a significant role in the continuing conflict.When rebel leader Captain Kazanis leaves the graveyard, his focus is on leading the local fight for freedom. However, betrayal and grief take him far beyond his beloved Crete.

Right, that’s my update and here are the books I’m looking forward to reading:

carpetI loved Kathryn’s The Embroiderer and I’ve high expectations of The Carpet Weaver of Usak.

Set amidst the timeless landscape and remote villages of Anatolia, The Carpet Weaver of Uşak is the haunting and unforgettable story of a deep friendship between two women, one Greek Orthodox, the other a Muslim Turk: a friendship that transcends an atmosphere of mistrust, fear and ultimate collapse, long after the wars end. 


saintMarjory McGinn’s travel memoirs are first class and this one, A Saint for the Summer is her first novel. 

Journalist Bronte McKnight visits a hillside village in the beautiful Mani region of Greece to help her estranged expat father Angus with a medical problem. She soon discovers that Angus, has lured her to solve a mystery from the Second World War, when a family member disappeared. 


phaedraI’ve admired Beryl Darby since I first read Yannis, her epic novel set on Spinalonga, Crete’s leper island. (Yes, other novel’s set here are available, but Yannis IMHO is best.) Beryl keeps her readers hooked and book 23 is Phaedra

Phaedra is born a healthy girl and followed eighteen months later by an equally healthy boy. Although there is bad feeling between Eleni and Maria, their enmity comes to a head when Maria’s daughter is found to have leprosy and transported to Spinalonga, giving rise to tragic occurrences.

storm

Effrosyni Moschoudi has created her own genre of spooky Greek reads. I have read the first two books in The Lady Of The Pier Trilogy and I’m looking forward to book three, The Storm.

When Sofia falls in love, a mourning spirit haunts her. The Storm is the concluding part of the trilogy that merges the stories of Sofia and Laura into one. 


These will keep me busy for a while, and if I enjoy a book I will of course add a review on Amazon. It only takes a few minutes and I know only too well how important it is for an author to have feedback.

Help me decide what to read next, what can you recommend?

Eastern Crete – A Notebook

517D17qjCKL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_ One of my favourite travel writers, Richard Clark has a new book out focusing on my favourite region of Crete. Well, I live there so I cheerfully admit my bias. Richard has a knack of taking you on a journey through his eyes that either makes you nod in appreciation with a ‘Yep, that’s what I thought/saw about that place’ or ‘Mmm, I must visit there.’

Many guidebooks about Crete are unfortunately out of date and only skim the places they mention. Richard brings a fresh approach, and gives more detail while encouraging your own exploration. I’m proud to say I was able to make a small contribution to the book and thoroughly recommend it.

To learn more about the book Click Here.

The photo on the book cover was taken in Elounda and I’m looking forward to standing right there to soak in the view. Congratulations, Richard for capturing ‘my’ end of Crete so well.

When I visited the Amazon site to copy Richard’s book cover photo I noticed the price of my novel Kritsotopoula, Girl of Kritsa has a limited price reduction on the Kindle version so it is an excellent time to buy if you want to add to your summer reading – Click Here.

Happy summer reading. X

 

 

 

 

Visit Lato, a Dorian Gem

RICOH IMAGING
Turn right for Lato

Just four Kilometres from Kritsa you can explore the wonderful Dorian archaeological site of Lato. Take the main road to Kritsa, and turn right just as the road starts to ascend. Ooops, if you pass Argyro rent rooms you’ve missed the turn and need to drive around the one way system. The road passes the football club and the entrance to Kritsa Gorge, before winding upwards.

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At a Y shaped junction with the magnificent sculpture of Kritsotopoula, Girl of Kritsa you need the right fork. Hopefully you’ll have time to visit the Kritsotopoula first. The small gate is to keep wandering goats and sheep out, not welcome visitors.

A short way after this, on the left, there is a yellow marker to denote the stepped path downhill to Laconia. The battle of Kritsa, commemorated by the Kritsotopoula carving, tried to prevent Turk forces from gaining access to this valuable path. Of course, these steps were used back in Dorian times when the descending path led to the tiny port now called Agios Nikolaos.

DSCN1485.jpgAnd speaking of Dorians…. a few metres further on, you’ll find the parking place to visit the Lato site. Open every day except Monday between 8.00 a.m and 3.00 p.m.

Some August evening’s, atmospheric musical events are held at Lato, often free of charge. I loved it the times I’ve attended, but confess to surprise at women wearing sparkly high heels. Truth to tell they probably don’t think much of my walking boots, although I think they’re better suited to the rough uneven terrain.

DSCN1495.jpgA day time visit to Lato is an unhurried affair. With no anxious guides to hurry you around, there is time to stroll, climb, and sit among houses, workshops, fortifications, market place, and the prytaneum – central hearth of sacred fire kept alight via careful tending by the king and his family. DSCN1498_optimized.jpgAs you stroll through the theatre, temples, public buildings, and cisterns you can ponder on those who lived here in some splendour. To read more via one of my favourite Crete information sites CLICK HERE.

DSCN1502_optimized.jpgIn October 2017, I was ‘hit’ by a Dorian story line prompted by a passing thought about sewage and waste removal. By the time I left I knew where two protagonists lived, what they could see, and how one of them died.  These photos are prompt enough to get me started…one day. Luckily, Lato is a short walk or drive from my Kritsa home, so I can pop back any time I need inspiration.

DSCN1509.jpgThis distant boat, Eclipse seen between hill clefts was moored off Agios Nikolaos for several weeks September/October 2017. It is the super yacht owned by Chelsea owner, Roman Abramovich. The local rumour mill was in overdrive and the local paper concluded there is a large property deal in the offing. Whatever he does, whatever he spends, I bet it is not still welcoming visitors after 2,500 years like Lato does.

DSCN1545_optimized.jpgI was intrigued in this corner of a temple… is that a window or a missing stone block?

Whatever the answer, I enjoyed gazing through the square gap.

 

Beryl Darby Meets Kazanis

STOP PRESS: Less than one hour before scheduled publication of this post I was shocked and saddened to learn Nikos Massaros, a generous man to the people of Kritsa, died today. My first instinct was to delete this post as it features a meeting with him. I decided to continue with it as a personal thank you to a special man. May your memory be eternal, Nikos. You will certainly be missed. X

wp-1448437265394.jpegAs Christmas is almost here, I wanted to write a special post. It is ten years since I’ve been in Kritsa for Christmas, and although I love this village nativity scene, I’ve used it before.  In the end, I steered away from traditional Christmas greetings to share the warmth of a fabulous day spent with Beryl Darby, author of Yannis, a novel set in Crete on the leper island of Spinalonga.

143725467Over the past few years, Beryl and I have enjoyed a day out in and around Kritsa. As a prolific writer of novels set in Crete, Beryl is always keen to absorb local folklore, and visit  places that might be useful in a future novel.

First stop with Beryl was a visit to the house where Rodanthe, (heroine of my novel Kritsotopoula, Girl of Kritsa) lived in the early 1800’s. Now the house is a museum I’ve a sneaky feeling a future character of Beryl’s will pay a visit to this iconic corner of Kritsa.

If you want to visit the museum take the main road through Kritsa, it is called Kritsotopoula Street, follow this until it becomes a pedestrian alley, then continue to the end to reach the museum.

 

 

Nikos Massaros, a descendent of Rodanthe’s family, led a group of dedicated people to bring the museum to life, and this was our lucky day as he was inside to answer questions. Close to this house is the small church of Afentis Christos where Rodanthe’s father used to be the pappas (priest). The church doesn’t look much from the outside, but the new roof and plaster protect wonderful remains of frescos.

DSCN1303.jpgIn this photo, Nikos and Beryl view the information board placed outside of the church. To see the frescos you’ll need to attend one of only two church services per year on the evening of 5th October, or the morning of 6th October...perhaps I’ll see you there. To read about my first visit to the church in 2015, post renovations CLICK HERE.

 

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Beryl is a keen admirer of our local sculptor, Nigel Ratcliffe, and on a previous visit enjoyed seeing his amazing carving of Kritstsotopoula. Nigel now has another exquisite piece of work showing Captain Kazanis and his rebels, including ‘my’ Rodanthe situated high in the mountains. If you’d like more details, CLICK HERE. Meanwhile, my husband kindly drove Beryl and I up to the mountains.

After the Katharo Plateau we stopped to admire the hazy view of Lassithi below, and soon had the company of many inquisitive goats.

 

 

Parking near Nigel’s fabulous sculpture I was mesmerised by two men sat under a nearby walnut tree. I had written a similar scene in my draft novel, Rodanthe’s Gift.

 

Petros, my fictional son of Captain Kazanis, sat in this very spot with his special friend:

Leaving their donkey to graze, the youngsters rested against the skeletal remains of a walnut tree.
‘Did Turks burn this tree, Petros?’
‘No, it was a lightning strike.’
Did nothing last? He remembered the thick trunk, with long guns resting against it, while Pa lolled in welcome shade with his men, all guffawing as they drank raki, plotted and schemed. A lump in his throat prompted him to change the subject. ‘Today we’ll reach my home and I can’t wait to see Zacharias.’

DSCN1343.jpgBack in the present day… The men under the tree beckoned us to join them and proffered plastic cups of raki. Well, it would be rude not to!  This photo shows one of our hosts lobbing a rock at walnuts to provide a fresh snack to nibble with the raki – delicious and thought provoking. As a result my novel now has the following scene.

 

‘What are you doing, Petros?’
‘It’s a walnut. I’m planting it in the ground.’
‘You’re crying. Why are you sad?’
‘Kazanis Spring must have a walnut tree. It will be a memorial for Pa.’ He dabbed his wet cheeks, chuckling at a sudden memory. ‘I almost killed him once when I lobbed a rock to bring walnuts down. I missed the nuts and hit his head.’ He gave his backside a subconscious pat at the memory of a thrashing. ‘Such a long time ago. I’ll just water this before we leave.’

DSCN1349.jpgHere’s Beryl mingling with Kazanis, Rodanthe in disguise, and the rest of the rebels. Beryl’s mind was racing too as she made a mental note of a story line where a visitor’s car broke down at this remote spot.

Next we drove further along the dirt track as there was another key scene in my story I wanted to share with Beryl.

A magnificent weather sculptured head looks out across a ravine towards Zinia. Through a gap in trees you can glimpse the church where Rodanthe cut off her hair to improve her disguise as a young man. I found out about this head too late to mention it in Kritstopoula, Girl of Kritsa, but it is in the sequel. While looking around, sharp eyed Beryl noticed another ‘face’ on the back of the rock. I was more interested in watching one of the hunters we’d seen earlier descend a path to the ravine. Now I knew how Petros could get from the church at Zinia to this rock head. I love it when story lines fall in place.

 

Christmas is always such a rush, so I hope reading this blog post has given you a short break. Whatever you do to celebrate the season, have fun.  I shall use spare time to continue tidying up Rodanthe’s Gift ready for publication in 2018. If you’d like me to let you know the date of publication send me your details via the contact form below.

 

Finally, thank you for visiting my blog, it means so much.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, 2018.

Up and Over Thripti Mountains

Across Kritsa olive groves to Thripti

From my balcony in Kritsa, Crete we gaze out across olive groves to the sea with the Thripti Mountains providing a wonderful backdrop. Such a wide expanse means we always have an amazing view no matter what the weather, but perhaps it’s no surprise that a blue sky is my favourite. During the early part of the day the mountains look one-dimensional. Drama begins in the afternoon when the setting sun sends angled rays to bring the mountains to sharp relief.

After enjoying many lazy August beach days we wanted a change of scene, so welcomed the drive up and over the mountains to the south coast. The road to the village of Thripti is tarmac/concrete all the way and suitable for any car driven by someone who doesn’t mind the road sometimes going close to a sheer drop or needing a tight move to pass a vehicle going in the opposite direction. However, to go beyond Thripti, a 4×4 vehicle is best.

A trip to Thripti is a great experience in its own right, and the village taverna does great mezes, small dishes of food to accompany your drinks.

 

 

To pass over the mountains, the dusty road winds between towering cliffs and then bumps down to the beautiful village of Orino at the head of a gorge that runs to the sea.

 

You can also access Orino from Koutsouras on the south-east coast via a winding, safe tarmac road and is certainly worth a visit if you want to see a thriving community well away from the trappings of tourism. There are two tavernas where you can enjoy a drink and mezes local style.

There is a lovely communal theatre area and on previous visits we’ve seen people busy cleaning up after festivals. Our tradition is to take a packed lunch to enjoy on the shady steps. Sometimes a delightful lady has delivered fruit and raki to finish our lunch. A surprise visitor, she appears from nowhere, and then dashes away, she must just love giving in true Cretan style.

We’ve not walked the gorge…yet. If you’d like guidance from people who have walked the gorge CLICK HERE

Meanwhile, here’s a set of photos from Orinio, full of blooms despite August heat.

 

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Down on the south coast the sea looked so inviting, and thanks to Steve of the fabulous blog Crete Nature we knew a hidden rock pool for a lovely swim.

I hope you’ve enjoyed a ‘dip’ in my summer photos.

 

 

Kritsotopoula’s Kritsa Launch

5-DSC06051Aristidis Cafe, in the centre of Kritsa, is right opposite Nikitakis Gift shop where my historical adventure novel, Kritsotopoula, Girl of Kritsa is on sale.

Although the location of Aristidis Cafe made it an obvious venue for a launch party, the main reasons I chose it are the hosts, Aristidis and his wife Irene, who go out of their way to welcome guests to Kritsa. Their comfortable seating and sun umbrellas make it a great relaxing point for visitors to the village, and of course, those umbrellas gave us good protection from the rain!

It gave me an extra thrill that despite the language issue, several local people came along to wish me well, including the Chair of the Kritsa Village Cultural Association, Νικος Κοκκινης and the Chair of the planned Kritsotopoula museum, Νικος Μασσαρος. Three local women, with excellent English language skills, also bought copies of the book so I await their feedback with a mix of nervous excitement!

2015-05-28 19.21.52This is me with Nikos, owner of Nikitakis gift shop. Even though he’d moved the book stand inside due to a rain shower, it didn’t dampen my spirits. I count myself lucky that Nikos chose to stock Kritsotopoula, Girl of Kritsa right in the middle of Kritsotopoula Street.

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These traditional musicians added to the lively atmosphere, no one danced though, too busy chatting!

3-DSC06052Of course Nikos sold books during the evening,  and I felt like a celebrity as I signed copies. This is me signing the book bought by Steve Daniels, who writes one of my favourite blogs, Crete Nature.

Some guests even brought along books for me to sign that they’d previously purchased, either from Eklektos Bookshop in Elounda or via Amazon, shame I couldn’t sign the ebook versions!

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Just for fun we had a prize draw and winners now have an exclusive T Shirt, cap, key ring or pen, all sporting the image of the Kritsotopoula, Girl of Kritsa book cover.

Here is the T Shirt winner, Jean Dugmore.

JessieJessie, the owner Elixirio, Kritsa’s quirky mezes cafe won the hat, and here she is modeling it beautifully. If you fancy an a relaxed evening, with a range of delicious home cooked mezes while you sip your drinks in a shady arbour, then I can recomend you pay a visit, you’ll find Jessie opposite Kritsa school.

My work in progress is a sequel called Rodanthe’s Gift which includes a mystery about the location of some hidden gold, so we had a free to enter game based on this. Thanks to my friend Ann, who managed to speak to virtually everyone during the evening, we gained many entries to find the hidden treasure. Arisitidis generously donated a meal voucher for the lucky winner, of the treasure hunt, Julie Pidsley.

DSCF6788Thank you to Crete Homes for supporting me via sponsorship for this launch event and for placing a link to my blog on their website. This is Hilary Dawson, from Crete Homes displaying Nigel Ratcliffe’s retelling of the legendary poem, Rhodanthe’s Song. I’m indebted to Nigel for generously sharing his translation of the early Greek poem, and for his wise feedback on my early drafts. Our collaboration will continue as Nigel and I have already discussed how I might use some of his work in my sequel, Rodanthe’s Gift. Meanwhile, I look forward to seeing both Rhodanthe’s Song and Kritsotopoula, Girl of Kritsa next to each other in the planned Kritsotopoula museum.

Thank you to Robin Williams, editor of Crete Today Newsletter for allowing me to use this photo of me with Hilary. If you’d like this great monthly newsletter, please email Robin via mediaplus1941@gmail.com

Most other photos are courtesy of Cynthia Pay who gave me permission to use them. Thank you Cindy.

Sincere thanks to all of those people who came along despite the ‘iffy’ weather, and to those who couldn’t attend but still sent best wishes.

Finally, if you enjoy the book, please add a review to Amazon Reviews, they don’t mind if you bought it elsewhere, and it would mean a great deal to me. X

PS – a few days after the event, a report of the event appeared in the local daily newspaper, so thanks to the reporter, Leonidas Klontzas for attending during the event and for making such a full report. I have a cutting from the newspaper so that I can translate it. Meanwhile,  this link will take you to a shorter review on line and, if you can’t read Greek then Google translate will help you read it.

http://www.anatolh.com/lasithi-news/agios-nikolaos/item/102223-παρουσίαση-της-κριτσωτοπούλας