Monday, 27 August 2012

Greek colours: Blue and white (Γαλανόλευκο)

Blue and white are often found in Greek-based themes. Admittedly, we are surrounded by a lot of blue and white, but this colour combination is not always the one that represents all of Greece. It is mainly an island or coastal theme, or should I say was, because these days, there is a move away from the blue and white colour combination in newer constructions. It's just one way Greece is changing.

Looking back on my photographs of last year's Greek holiday, I notice a complete absence of the blue and white theme in housing and other forms of accommodation in my 800 or so photographs. Apart from the sky and the water (whether sea or river), the blue and white theme did not predominate - our holidays are rarely taken by the coast or an island (since we live on one). In the Pelion mountain range, the northern peninsula is full of white houses with brown wooden shutters, and stone-tiled roofs. The Meteora monasteries were all stone and wood work. Epirus was full of red-tiled roofs, as was Central Greece; the town of Karpenisi, located 1000m above sea level looked almost like a modern town with multi-storied apartment blocks, while the houses in the surrounding villages were made in the local style of stone, again with red-tiled roofs.

old town topanas hania chaniaA quick look around my neighbourhood also confirms the absence of blue and white in my own environment. The older houses were mainly made of stone covered in light-coloured earthy tones. Blue shutters are now a rare sight, possibly because aluminium windows and shutters (instead of wood) are now more popular. Coastal villages in Crete are still based on the blue and white theme, but again, they are usually older constructions again.

vathi hania chaniaBlue and white remain standards in our signposting. All our mileage signs are blue with a white outline.  Blue and white are also used to note the name of a village. Blue is still used for street signs. Our village post boxes are blue, and so are our recycling bins. As a rule, this is found all over Greece.

Most small Greek islands still have that blue-and-white look when you first approach them by ferry. This is what I remember of most of my island-hopping trips when I first arrived in Greece and had more time to travel. The closest I have ever got to the blue and white colour combination in recent times is on Kithira, an island near the Peloponese coast, four hours away by ferry from Hania. We took this trip in early spring a couple of years ago. It almost felt quite kitschy to us because we rarely visit islands when we go on holiday. But it also reminded us of what it feels like to take a holiday on a Greek island. The blue and white combination while on vacation conjures up images of a timeless Greece, even to the Greek, especially when they live far away from such a sight in their own country.

Approaching the island of Kithira: Blue and white doesn't always come in an idyllic form - when the weather is rough, the blue and white often turns into shades of grey. Instead of a blue sky, it is white, while the mountains take on a threatening dark blue shade.

On the island of Kithira:  This has to be about one of the coolest sights I've ever seen - a retired captain built his home in the shape of boat, all with the blue and white theme of course. His love of the sea has remained with him, even on the land.

Bonus photograph: my own craftwork - the Greek flag, made into a lady's purse.

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