Monday, 4 June 2012

The way we were: Koumbes (Κουμπές)

There was once an old grand-looking mansion located on the road between port of Souda and the town of Hania. It had arched windows, and it was in a derelict state. It reminded me old grandeur that could not be maintained. The mansion looked distinctly Ottoman in style, and I suppose it must have been owned at one point by a family of rich Cretan Turks, who were all sent away during the population exchange in 1922, when Turkish-speaking Christians were sent to Greece and Greek-speaking Muslims were sent to Turkey, to live in foregin lands and never to return to the place they called their homeland.  Every day, I would pass it as I drove to work, and thought to myself that one day, I would stop and photograph it. Then another day as I was driving past, I noticed that something didn't look right. In the place where the mansion used to be, there was now a pile of rubble. It was gone forever.

Every day as I drive to work and back home, I pass many old landmarks in Hania which remind me of the town's relatively recent past, when there were a large number of Ottoman Turks living here. One of the most unusual landmarks would have to be the former mosque at the traffic lights of Koumbes, where I am often held up. Thankfully, that building is still in use and it is well maintained.

The former mosque at the traffic lights of Koumbes is now used as souvlatzidiko - some of the best souvlaki and roast chicken is sold here. The hairdresser's salon next door to it has closed, a victim of the economic crisis.

Just before Christmas, I noticed a calendar sitting at a cashier's desk at an INKA supermarket (the local chain in Hania), which contained images of Hania's past, as life was a century ago. Many of the mages of such landmarks are not included in the tourist images that visitors to Greece carry with them. Even the locals will be surprised when they see photos of familiar landmarks in unfamiliar environments.

Koumbes, 1913; the landmark is seen from the same aspect in both pictures. The road to the left leads into the town of Hania, the road to the right (not visible in the photos) leads to the port of Souda and the road straight ahead leads to the hills of Malaxa. The horse and carriage in the photo are heading towards the town of Hania. 
Greece's present is curently under threat, due to the changes that are necessary in order to secure the country's future. Who knows when landmarks such as these ones will also be eradicated.

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