Thursday, 1 May 2008

May Day 2008 (Πρωτομαγιά)




We ate everything: dakos rusk, marathopita, gardoumia (sheep's intestines wound round tripe - the little dark pieces are the animal's spleen), stamnagathi, tzatziki, fried potatoes, local sausage and roast lamb and potatoes (1 beer, 2 lemonades; 45 euro).

The taverna was non-descript; it didn't even have a discernible name, suffice it to say that it was located in the historical village of Therisso, about 15 minutes away from our house, and it was the second taverna on the right-hand side as you enter the village. We didn't find any tables in the first one, which is why we ended up here, but later, when we went for a walk in the upper part of the village, we found all the tavernas doing a booming trade. At the end of the meal, we were treated to a very good tsikoudia and some ravani cake.

Labour Day (one of the zillions of public holidays in Greece; in combination with regular strikes, it's a wonder Greeks get any work done at all) is associated with spring weather, village walks and flowers; Therisso has got it all. The village itself is a popular place for hiking, despite the rubbish and rubble that is left in full view of the tourists and local visitors coming to this verdant village. I suppose the locals don't need to care because they know that the visitors will just keep on coming, whether the road is full of somebody else's household garbage or not, especially now that a construction company has bought some prime land at the very entrance to the village - the end of the long gorge that separates the moutainside village from the rest of Hania - and turned it into brick-built houses which are going to be sold to British retirees (the new 'neighbourhood' has been given the name "The Maples" of all things). During the Labour Day holiday, it's traditional to collect flowers and make them into a garland, but we let all the other Greeks who'd piled into the village (access to it is via a very narrow road) do this and left the countryside in the same state that we found it in.

Therisso's lush foliage makes it a suitable place for raising sheep and goats, which explains the animal dung found all over the road - shepherds and cattle obviously have the right of way here. There are also dairy stations, roughshod milking sheds and huts for wintering animals, so it can be safely assumed that the meat cooked in a taverna of the region will have been raised in the same area. The olive oil used in the dakos rusk and stamnagathi was clearly extra virgin, the same stuff used to fry the marathopita and the chips, the same one used to make the gardoumia stew. In fact, most of the farmers here own a taverna or butchery, and the locals who like to dine here come from all over Western Crete. Therisso is a popular winter resort. It can get snowed in, although the roads these days are cleared quite quickly by the councils. In the summer, it is less popular simply because it isn't located by the sea, but the food remains delicious right throughout the year.

The old village school has been turned into a museum worth visiting: the Museum of the National Resistance, 1941-1945. It contains mainly photographic material; sadly most of it is very gruesome, clearly illustrating the horrific torturous events of the Nazi Occupation of Crete. It is the kind of museum all Greeks should visit, whether they are Cretans or not, because what the Cretans suffered was pretty much what the rest of Greece suffered during WWII. I remember seeing similar atrocities in a museum at Kalavrita. I will not echo the senseless remark made by a woman who was also visiting the area at the same time as my family: "1 euro entrance fee? I've already been, so I won't bother." She was Greek. The picture shows the bravery of the Cretans who, during the Battle of Crete which was lost to the Germans, despite being ill-equipped for battle, fought with whatever means they could - their bare hands and the stones from their fields. There's a cemetery full of German paratroopers in Maleme, an air force base in Hania.

On our return journey back home, we passed a few picnickers, which was a delight to see. I don't know if it was the rising cost of living or the acquisition of Western customs that kept them away from the tavernas and frappe coffee bars.

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