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Wednesday, 29 June 2016

A very white view of Brexit

In all the Brexit discussions, I have not come across any discussion of the similarities between the Greek and the UK referenda. There are so many similarities, at least to me, and I wonder how the great economics analysts have missed this point, or maybe they have glossed over it. Since I haven't found anything written about it, I'll give you my thoughts on it in this post. If I don't do it, who else will?

A friend recommended to me that I watch the 'Lexit' film (click here if you wish to see it: https://youtu.be/Z0kuJhkMLWs) made by UK left-wing thinkers that wanted a Brexit outcome (and they got it). It's probably the most balanced Brexit debate I've seen as it doesn't use scaremongering or immigration fears. Probably this is its greatest downfall: it bases all the Brexit arguments on trade and markets. That is not what the EU is all about.

Lexit is, naturally, very biased against the EU, but it reminds me uncannily of the Greek left's idealistic beliefs before SYRIZA came into power. Syriza kept highlighting its desire to stay in the EU, but essentially, Syriza was covertly against the EU. We all know full well how strongly Tsipras fought against everything the EU tried to get him to do, and he STILL supports the Greek public during strike action against his own government, when it passes measures to meet the EU's demands. SYRIZA/Tsipras couldn't state publicly that they were against the EU for mainly one reason: Greeks, generally speaking, do NOT want to leave the EU and they do NOT want to leave the euro and go back to the drachma. This should have been the first sign pointing to SYRIZA's feeble-mindedness: historically, it's always been the left that has been against the EU, in all parts of the European world.

In many ways, Lexit seems to make sense when it says that the EU is a choice between the market vs society. It's mainly right-wingers who will choose the market (ie the EU), while left-wingers will choose society. The film mentions some of the greatest UK advocates of society: Tony Benn, a staunch Labour MP, and Bob Crow, a trade unionist, are among them. Bob Crow reminds me of Arthur Scargill, another trade unionist who fought against Margaret Thatcher; he is also anti-EU. These men are all said to be pro-workers' rights, but in the end, they are/were in essence supporting 'closed shops', something Greeks know about quite well from pre-crisis times. Mention was made in Lexit about the loss of workers' rights, aka the rules that trade unions insist on for workers, which often go against sound business practices. Trade unions had great clout in Greece's recent past (pre-crisis); they could (and sometimes still do) bring the country to a standstill and hold it to ransom - but only because the country 'had' money back then. Now that the government is not free to spend the meagre resources it has available in a random way, trade unions' power has been broken. It sounds a little Thatcherite, doesn't it? Indeed: Greece was just 20-30 years behind the times.

Trade unions are just another form of a market, a less open one, with their own specific rules and regulations that support their own members. By supporting trade union policies, we were not really being democratic. Lexit argues that the EU is made up of appointed members, not elected members, so it's undemocratic. But for the most part, members from one state are appointed by the elected government of that state. Isn't that what we elect governments for? We elect them to get on with the job, and not to have to keep asking us what to do every time they want to do something. Sometimes they get things wrong, other times they don't tell us everything (Lexit claims that TTIP - another trade agreement - is being discussed in secret); but we should all know by now that politics is a dirty game, and at the present time, we do not have an alternative to traditional politics when it comes to running a country. Having said that, politics is much more transparent these days - technology (the rise of the internet) have really helped towards this effort.

The Greek referendum showed a clear split between the left and the right, which is not quite how the UK referendum turned out. The UK referendum also saw right-wingers that supported the LEAVE vote. Of course, there is a huge difference between the Greek and the UK referenda, the main one being that the Greek one was based on a question that was very open to interpretation: the question of the Greek referendum, which went something like: "Should the Greek government agree on a particular loan agreement?" got a resounding OXI (NO) outcome. So the government didn't agree to enforce that particular agreement... they decided to agree to something else instead... which to many analysts felt much worse than the 'original' agreement. Most people would agree that the OXI of the people was reinterpreted as a NAI by the government, giving rise to many photo memes based on phone conversations between David Cameron and Alexis Tsipras.
David Cameron is speaking on the phone:
Hi Alexi! If the British vote OXI to the union, could you make it NAI? 

What might have happened if the Greek referendum question had been 'leave the EU or not', or 'leave the eurozone or not'? The answer would probably have been REMAIN in both cases. Take note: I am remembering what the mood of the time was back then. Even as late as September 2015, during the second general election of the year (the third national election if you count the referendum), the candidates/parties wanting to see Greece out of the eurozone were not voted in. Things may have changed now almost a year later - but in my opinion, not by much.

In the Lexit film, Greece is regarded as crushed, with vicious austerity being imposed. If a country doesn't have money, even the word 'austerity' is being misused: Greece is BANKRUPT. It doesn't have the money to spend on basic state infrastructure, which led to a loss of jobs in the over-inflated public sector, which in turn scratched off the veneer: Greece looks so unkempt. Greece had been crushing itself before becoming bankrupt and begging others for money; in the past, money appeared magically whenever it was needed, but this is no longer the case. No wonder Greece's public assets needed to be 'flogged off' (as lexit claims). Greece's referendum result was also regarded as crushed by the EU. But OXI remained OXI - at least for the referendum question. The NAI was only given for another agreement - but that something else wasn't subjected to a referendum result! So the fireman-trade unionist is not just biased but blatantly misleading when he says that Greece was forced to sign an austere bailout package: Greece wanted more and more money by the time it had come to that stage!

In my opinion, Lexit looked more like a trade-unionists' opinion about the EU. I found that I couldn't trust everything the speakers said - they are using their own forms of 'popaganda' to make their claims sound believable. They used Varoufakis' claim that 'EU = terrorism', but they dislike Varoufakis' support for the EU. They insist that the ECB created last year's bank run in Greece just before the referendum. These British Lexiters are totally clueless about Greeks' love of hoarding cash. It really wasn't feasible to have millions of euros outside the banks, in homes, buried in fields. We are talking about 2015 - no Greek government till then had even attempted to engage citizens to learn how to use plastic money. And citizens on their part were preferred cash, a bit like King Midas: they liked to see it and count it - because they were not educated in how to do the same thing with their plastic cash. But even that has caught up with Greece now: as of 1st of August 2016, only plastic payments will be accepted in some businesses.

Lexit concentrates on the UK fishing industry and blames the EU for destroying it. With a Brexit, the UK will supposedly be able to build up their fishing industry to its former glory, and ports will start working again, and so will all those workers like porters and fish cleaners who now don't have jobs because the fishing industry has been decimated. I really wonder if the EU (if it were indeed at fault here) is truly responsible for the demise of the fishing industry. Young people move away form small towns because they aren't as exciting as big towns - in short, they don't want to live in small towns, and when they are forced to move back to small towns for economic reasons, they generally wish they were living elsewhere. Reviving coastal northern towns like Redcar, Hartlepool and Sunderland (which all voted overwhelmingly for Brexit) will take a lot more than building new homes and providing more state services: you have to make people want to go and live there, and from what I know of small Greek towns, I don't think there'll be many takers.

What's left in the UK is to pull the trigger and start the Brexit procedure. But no one is in a rush to pull that trigger. I don't even believe that the trigger will be pulled. It will have to be done by the head Brexiter (whoever that will be, once the Tories elect their new leader) ... who will be living and working in London... which voted overwhelmingly to BREMAIN, not to BREXIT! We are probably just about to find out that the Greeks and the Brits aren't much different after all; that Brexit just might have to be reinterpreted, so that it will end up looking like a Bremain. There may be huge differences between the countries of Greece and the UK, but since the UK referendum, it's pretty obvious that 'we all different, but we all froot'.

Brexit was not just a Lexit: it was also a Rexit - David Cameron was clearly a minority in his own party. Lexiters dislike banks, large corporations, capitalism - in short, they hate the right. But many people to the right of politics also supported Brexit. Left wingers don't want to associate with right wingers. So Lexit is actually ignoring its brothers in arms. Brexit has caused so many divisions in the UK - divided not just the country (Scotland wants to stay in the EU); it's divided traditional political groups - who seem to have similar ideas with each other. What is needed is to understand why the right also wanted to leave the UK - and who was actually voting for which side.



On the face of it, Brexit was a protest vote in much the same way as the OXI vote in Greece. Both referenda showed a very stark divide in the country. The groups who voted for OXI/LEAVE are very similar, as are the groups who voted for NAI/REMAIN:
  • OXI/LEAVE = 'I have nothing to lose': angry, poor, stubborn, idealistic, casting aside globalisation, nationalistic, nostalgic
  • NAI/REMAIN = 'I have everything to lose': elite, wealthy, anxious, scared of losing comfort, progressive
It's easier to understand why LEAVE won when viewed in this way:
- where is most of the money?
- where are most of the jobs?
- where are the most unemployed?
- where do the happiest people live?
- where do the most anxious live?
- which people in the UK have an inferiority complex?
- which have a superiority complex?
- where do most people who insist on making their main income from the arts live?
- how much will a person get if they sold their home?
- where do most 'educated' people live?
- what did expats vote?
- which areas of the UK do neo-immigrants go to for work?
- which parts of the country are the most exciting?
- which parts of the country are the most boring?
- which parts of the UK rely on the London bubble?
- which parts of the UK does the London bubble rely on?
The answer to the last question seems to be 'none'.

A shake up of old stagnant values isn't a bad thing. Every once in a while, we need a shake up. But what does Brexit tell us about the right wingers who want it? Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage were the main 'stars' of Brexit. On the one hand, we have a former right wing mayor of London; on the other hand, we have a UK MEP who heads a small far-right party that strongly opposes immigration. What made them decide that Britain will be Greater when it Brexits? I can only think of one question from my list above that encompasses their view: they have superiority complexes, and as politicians, they like to be heard - in short, they are power hungry. For some people, the incredible power that they have over weaker sectors of society is not enough - they want more.

What about immigration? Well, there was just a TINY bit of talk about that topic in the Lexit film. Immigration is not about blaming individuals, says Lexit: "free movement is, at its core, a neo-liberal attack on labour, on bargaining power, and on wage rates." That can really only mean one thing: immigraiton brings wages down. I guess that this is a bad thing in Lexiters' minds. No immigrant was given any air-time in Lexit. Why? Aren't immigrants a driving force in the UK? Are there no Lexiter British immigrants? Lexit shows no interest in them. Even the fireman trade unionist admits this: "Trade unions... have been far too silent about the issue." Lexit is totally biased pro-white British people. There was no BLACK speaker in the film: only Aaron Bastani had a foreign sounding name (apparently, he is of Iranian descent), but his accent was clearly British, and he had nothing to say about immigrants. Hence, Lexit is an ethnocentric view of Brexit. A claim is made that the EU underestimates 'our own people': white British people, I take it. The credits lists mainly English-sounding names (very few are non-English). Lexit is kind of racist, if you ask me.

I'd love to hear your views. I'd also love to add some more questions to the list I made above. But the end hasn't come yet. Article 50 has not yet been triggered. We all know what the Greek OXI vote ended up looking like. I can already see that I will not be needing to rush to get a passport issued. The UK will still be a part of the EU for a long, long time. Good luck, UK.

©All Rights Reserved/Organically cooked. No part of this blog may be reproduced and/or copied by any means without prior consent from Maria Verivaki.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Brexit

Greece crossed a similar line to Brexit almost a year ago, when it came close to Grexit. 
The only difference is that Greece was at the time like the lame child of Europe which needed to be dragged along by someone stronger. Thanks to the EU, Greece was propped up, despite the difficulties that this entailed for both sides. Respect is due to the EU for forcing Alexis Tsipras to stay in the meeting room in order to come to an agreement with the EU without a Grexit. 
Life is always harder on the disabled but they too have rights which can only be exercised in a supportive environment. Greece's bailout terms are tough, but that's because Greece was in a very very tough position. 
The UK is not regarded as being in a difficult position. Its not regarded as lame, like Greece.  The UK isn't being treated as disabled, like Greece was. Its being treated as pig headed. That's why the EU isn't happy with the UK - it didn't have to come to this, as the message of the song (which was playing on my local radio station this morning, right after the UK's referendum results were announced) implies:


We took the wrong route,
and don't ask how or why,
we found ourselves in this deadlock.
You might be to blame,
maybe I am to blame,
perhaps it was just meant to be.

Now there remains no other solution,
but only separation
and if a tear does appear,
time will dry it,
time will dry it.

I can't, you can't
go back in time,
to not make the same mistake again.
We now both see it,
from this impasse,
whatever we do to get out of it is too little, too late.

Now there remains no other solution,
but only separation
and if a tear does appear,
time will dry it,
time will dry it.

Bye bye Mr Cameron, hello money-loving and black-hating leaders.

Coming soon: Boris Johnson as PM, and maybe Trump to follow in the US (now that he got a bit of oomph from Brexit), two nylon haired tossers that will soon be ruling the world.

I hear Scotland wants another referendum now. The United Kingdom was never really united after all. 

©All Rights Reserved/Organically cooked. No part of this blog may be reproduced and/or copied by any means without prior consent from Maria Verivaki.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Last Lands Conquered

My latest quilt project is about how the world was conquered. Many of the fabrics were collected from scraps, repurposed fabrics (eg curtains), used clothing and gifts from friends. The design of the quilt top is broadly based on a pattern I found on the web (Lantern Bloom by Fons and Porter). As I was using fabric scraps, I adapted the pattern to suit by scrap sizes, and added sashing to make it bigger. 


The fabrics were chosen with a specific story in mind: the race to conquer the last lands on Earth. 

The South Pacific's colours and patterns were waiting to be discovered.
The whole world had been discovered...
... and all the oceans of the Earth had been sailed...
... in the company of the animals of the sea and the land...
... with the knowledge gained from clocks and stars, using the sun and the moon as guides on those very long journeys.
The last great land mass to be discovered - New Zealand - was finally colonised in 1840 by the British (the French would have got it if the Brits hadn't got there when they did), and it slowly began to be anglified and eventually europeanised.

Not everyone was interested in the Far East - modern Greece had just come into being and was a popular stop on young men's Grand Tour, notably Lord Byron's, who died fighting for Greece's liberation. Greece's beauty and her monuments became famous to the point that some visitors - like Thomas Bruce, aka the Earl of Elgin - set their sights on taking some with them when they left. 

And in this way, the last undisocvered lands were conquered and pillaged. 

A lot of discovering was going on in the early 1800s. And in 2016, we are still talking about what happened 200 or so years ago, and still arguing about whether it was right or wrong. Whichever it was, one thing we can say is that it was the way of the world. What had to happen did happen. Many things that are happening today continue to happen even though they are not desirable. Time and tide wait for no man.

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Thursday, 16 June 2016

Samaria Gorge (Φαράγγι της Σαμαριάς)

Last weekend, I went on a trek through the Samaria Gorge with the students from my workplace at MAICh. The Samaria Gorge, which is extremely well documented in the web, is a 13km ravine created from the path of a river between a mountain plateau and the sea. This is my second time walking down the gorge - the last time I went through it was about 22 years ago with a cousin. The Samaria Gorge is often regarded as a nature reserve, but it should be pointed out that it has been subject to human intervention since ancient times. So what is really being protected here is the essence of this interaction. It only became a tourist site about 50 years ago, but people have been walking through the gorge for many centuries before that. In ancient times, the wood from the cypress trees in the gorge was exported to Egypt, along with a small but thriving industry making wooden columns for the Minoan palaces on the island. During times of war, people hid in the gorge away from the enemies of the time. The Samaria Gorge remained inhabited until 1962, which is not all that long ago, hence there are clear signs of human intervention all over the gorge, its most important characteristic:


"The most important characteristic of the landscape of Samaria is the intense interaction between humans and nature. The relationship exists both in today's presence of humans as observers/walkers and in the historical imprint that the inhabitants of Samaria have left on this space. The traditional habitations of village, oil press, vines, and preserved chapels declare the powerful relationship that the inhabitants of Samaria had with this place." (Samaria National Park information leaflet, which you get on entry to the gorge)

Since the area was transformed into a nature reserve, the aspect of human intervention has taken different forms. Where once the inhabitants of the gorge were building churches and houses, the local administrative unit now in charge of the nature reserve is ensuring that there are fire protection units and toilets at regular intervals. Fresh water sources are also located in the many rest stations along the way, and the buildings erected by former inhabitants are preserved for historical reasons. Another important aspect of the modern administration of the gorge is that it acts as a refuge for endangered species, such as the agrimi, known as the Cretan ibex, Capra aegagrus cretica, which is normally very shy and keeps away form humans. But some of those found in the gorge have become familiar with the presence of human beings and the students in my group did actually see them up close - one person even fed them from their hands. (I was unlucky, in that I did not see any agrimi - next time, maybe.)



Work in the gorge is ongoing. The pathways that have been created are not all natural - specific work has been conducted on the gorge to make it both accessible and safe. As recently as 1991, the well-preserved Byzantine church of St Nikolas was discovered just 3km from the entrance of the gorge at the Omalos plateau. It had been hiding amidst a part of the forest which was cleared to make way for a path and rest stop.



The largest rest area and the best organised is found in the middle of the gorge in the former village of Samaria (7km in the gorge, its mid-point) where the gorge gets its name from. Here, you will see how man interacted with nature to make nature work for him, despite the difficulties of the terrain. The original residents' olive groves and vineyards are retained here. Some of the houses have been repurposed as medical centres and other administration units.



The most famous picture in the gorge is the 'sideroportes', the iron gates, so called because of their hardiness to the gushing water of the wintertime that passes through them. The narrowest point of the path is found here: the mountain sides are just 3m in width, just enough for two people to spread out their hands between them. This part of the gorge is found close to the exit near the south coast.



During my walk through the gorge, I rested at all the stops and it took me 6 hours. But the gorge can be walked downhill in anything as little as 4 hours. Walking it so quickly means that you will probably not stop to take in the sights along the way. One of the most important aspects of the walk is to spend time on observation. There were a fair number of walkers doing the sprint version on the day I walked through it (it was a busy day at the gorge). When they asked me to move over so they could zip by me like a streak of lightning, I didn't do so because I would have fallen into a ditch. (Since I was wider than them, they were obliged to wait). I also met up with some walkers doing the uphill version, which is said to be better on your feet. The path is nearly all filled with rocks and stones, so good walking shoes are a must (NOT open toed sandals). Climbers' sticks are really really helpful - three-four legs are really much better than two! The gorge is safe enough for children to walk through it, but take note: it's an easy but strenuous walk in hot conditions. (Be prepared for whinges and whines.)



The gorge can be walked down or walked up. It's up to the walker which route s/he chooses to do. At the end of the downhill walk, you get to the coastal isolated village of Agia Roumeli where you have a swim in the sea on the (almost) black pebble sand, whereas the other end of the gorge is found in a mountain plateau and is therefore not as enticing as being on the coast. Whatever you choose, you need to be aware that this is not a round trip - you arrive at/depart from the plateau by car/bus, and you depart from/arrive at Agia Roumeli by ferry boat, where you must take another bus to get to the town centre of Hania (or wherever else you may be staying in the region). Some people overnight at the plateau on Omalos and/or the vibrant coastal village of Agia Roumeli which does not have wheeled-vehicle access to other parts of the island. It should also be noted that the Samaria Gorge is not the only gorge in the area - the south coast of Crete has many ravines, which have all been created in the same way as Samaria, which is the deepest and longest. The Samaria gorge is in fact the longest gorge in the whole of Europe (not even the Swiss Alps beat us on this one).



The gorge is the second place in Greece that I have been to which does not seem to show any signs of commercial activity for a long stretch (the other place was Lake Kremaston, a very spooky nature paradise on the central mainland). When you come out of the gorge on the downhill walk, a warden will take your ticket (to ensure that no one stays in the gorge overnight, as camping is not allowed), and at this point, the commercial activity will strike you in the face, as if you woke up form a dream. in the form of cafes, restaurants and souvenir shops. The walk to the beach takes you along the river delta, past the former old town of Agia Roumeli where people lived in the past until the gorge area became a nature reserve (it was possibly the location of the ancient city of Tarra, mentioned in Homer's works), through a paved road (suitable for cars) lined with the houses of residents, which eventually leads you to the very touristy but oh so enticing and highly picturesque village of the new Agia Roumeli. (You don't have to walk that bit if you don't want to - for just €1.50, a mini-bus takes you from close to the exit of the gorge to the sea. This facility didn't exist when I first walked through the gorge.)



Since the walk is not a round trip, you need to be well prepared. Hotels and tour companies organise the whole trip for you. If you prefer to do it on an individual basis, it will cost you as follows:
- €7.50 for the bus to Omalos from the town centre of Hania
- €6.00 for the entry ticket to the gorge
- €1.50 for the bus ride from the exit to the gorge to the seaside (optional)
- €12 for the ferry boat ride from Agia Roumeli to Souyia or Sfakia (depending on which village you prefer to visit) - the last ones leave daily from the coast at 5:30pm; if you take the boat for Sfakia, you may wish to stop off and stay overnight at the village of Loutro, another inaccessible-by-road- gem on the south coast of Crete
- €8-9 for the bus from Souyia or Sfakia to the town centre of Hania (the buses leave once the ferries arrive at the port).
You don't need to carry much with you: a small backpack with a water bottle, some food, sunscreen and bathing clothes (including jandals as I would call them in New Zealand, aka flip-flops) is all you need, plus some money (or credit card - I saw bog large new colourful signs denoting that CCs are now accepted!) for a delicious relaxing meal when you exit the gorge. Phone and wifi are not available in the gorge, only out of it. And everyone working in the gorge area, without exception, has an adequate level English. Listen out for the switch from the Cretan dialect as spoken by a moustachioed black-shirt local to English - Cretans' evolution really shows in this aspect alone!.

My full photo set, with more information contained in some of the captions, can be viewed here:

If you have origins from Crete, then you really should walk through the Samaria gorge at one point in your life at least, so I can say that I have fulfilled this vow.

 ©All Rights Reserved/Organically cooked. No part of this blog may be reproduced and/or copied by any means without prior consent from Maria Verivaki.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Visitors (Επισκέπτες)

My most recent visitors came from far away, not just from another country, but from another continent. Students from the University of Arkansas, headed by Leslie Edgar, they flew directly into Hania, straight from that other continent. Understandably, they were very tired from the long journey and jet lag complicated matters, making it quite a challenge to keep up with my introductory lecture on the environmental basis of the sustainability of Crete. To really get to grips with a topic of this kind, you mustn't be in a lecture room - you need to take to the streets. After a restful evening, we set off the next morning in search of tangible signs of Hania's survival over the centuries that would create lasting impressions for our visitors from the University of Arkansas.

We started off our walk at the Agora, a traditional 'fresh' market in the town centre, based on the site of the main open-air market of older times, making its existence on this site not at all coincidental. The Agora has nowadays become a glorified Cretan souvenir shopping mall, and it doesn't sell just fresh produce but it's a good start to getting acquainted with the fruits of this good earth.
Before entering the Agora, I asked my group to take a quick look around the square which revealed an interesting array of sight: some senior citizens sitting on the benches watching the world go by, the down-and-outs of the town debating the latest political events, a constant stream of tourists offloading from their coaches wearing number badges on their shirts. A lot of action in one small space, with a real community feel. But the people's chatter combined with the noise of the traffic roaring past the main square of the town can give the initial impression of chaos to the uninitiated. Where does this chaos lead?

My visitors were well informed about the subjects of their interest: sustainability, environment, local/organic food production. They bombarded me with questions, many questions. The sights they were about to encounter were wholly new to them and required explanations. So I tried to put it all into perspective for them:

  • Are all the products sold in the Agora from the island? (No. The Agora has taken on both supermarket and touristic dimensions over the years. So while there may be many local fruits and vegetables being sold in the Agora, there will also be Himalayan pink salt and made-in-China souvenirs)
  • So many cured olive varieties! Do you eat them all? (No. Many of the curing techniques are relatively recent developments, as technology becomes more advanced. We prefer the traditional varieites of cured olives, but people are diversifying their tastes which is why a wide variety of cured olives are now found all over the island.)
  • Does that dry bread go mouldy? (My visitors are referring to παξιμάδι (Cretan dry rusk). No. It never goes mouldy. It will last forever. It may not taste so good a couple of years from now, but it will still be edible, as long as moisture never gets close to it.) 
  • Oh... I just saw the butcher handling meat without wearing gloves. Aren't there health and safety regulations here governing this kind of thing?  (Yes, there are. But this kind of thing, while not uncommon, is not really frowned upon. If you really think about it, the meat that the butcher is displaying has been handled very few times by humans. It doesn't necessarily go through a long chain. Health and safety regulations probably do require the butcher to wear gloves... but it's not that policed. Kind of like smoking. Look at the staff member in the butcher's in the neighbouring stall - she's smoking. It's a Greek thing... not necessarily a good thing, but just a Greek thing. 
  • Do you buy your meat supply here? (No.)
  • Er... what's with the phallic symbol-shaped souvenirs? (No idea... I think tourists like them... They're from the north... It's dark there... Really, it's anybody's guess.)

We must have spent a good hour of our time in the Agora, as there was so much to take in, in such a short space of time there. Some things do not make sense in the global world; but they seem to make perfect sense in a small town on a Mediterranean island. 

On exiting the Agora, we were faced with the sun above our heads. It was going to get hot. May had been a very dry month, so unnaturally dry, that we were already parched and summer had not even started. We made our way through the town's jumble of narrow streets, doing our best to avoid crashing into the crowds of other tourists. Every now and then, we would catch a glimpse of the sea through the streets we passed. But there was still more to see before we got to the water's edge: the lone minaret that resembles Rapunzel's tower, the church that used to be a mosque and now houses both a bell tower and a minaret, the Byzantine walls, the Venetian walls, ancient Kydonia.

Noting that my visitors were getting tired and were probably feeling rather hungry as they passed by the various food outlets with their delicious smells wafting in the air, I announced the final stop of the tour before they could appease their stomachs with a souvlaki. We were at this point walking along Kanevaro St, away from the Minoan ruins of the original town, and the busy Santrivani square with its cafes and souvenir shops had just come into view. 

"OK, guys," I said, "I'll let you walk to the corner fot he street on your own, because I think you will want to savour the next few seconds privately, without my explanations." They looked at me puzzled, and kept on walking. I slowed down to a complete halt a few metres behind them as they rounded the corner. I could hear their gasps as the view of the Venetian harbour hit their faces full on.


At that moment, they probably forgot all about the questions they had been asking me earlier in the day, let alone the answers I gave them. That first sight of the Venetian harbour will probably remain embedded in their memories for the rest of their lives, summarising their visit to Hania, as they leave with the hope that they will return one day.

*** *** ***

More youthful visitors with inquiring minds, this time from the University of Nebraska, headed by Tala Awada.


I took this bunch through Nea Hora, ending up at the laiki (street market), where they all bought vegetables that they would use the next day in a culinary lesson, with the MAICh chef. A nice way to not only try something new and unfamiliar to you, but also to see how it is prepared for enjoyment.

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