KALO XRISTOUYENNI! MERRY CHIRSTMAS FROM GREECE! December 2015
This will be our first Christmas spent in our home here in Skala Polichnitos. Last Christmas we spent three weeks in the U.K. visiting family, which involved flying to Heathrow, travelling to Stafford, Wolverhampton, Manchester, Glasgow, North Wales and Bristol. Never again, we said! So this year we are staying at home, at least until 27th December when we fly back to the U.K. again.
It’s been an incredible year. First came our decision to move from Thermi where we enjoyed last winter in Maire’s house (with central heating, needed when the temperatures plummeted below freezing for several days during January). We chose instead to buy a bungalow with land, a few hundred yards from the sea. Skala Polichnitos is a small fishing village on the Gulf of Kalloni, a very beautiful unspoilt area, popular with migrating birds – and the twitchers who follow them in springtime.
So we did the same and saw some magical sights – flamingoes, stilts and avocets on the salt flats, eagles, shrikes, buntings, bee eaters, flycatchers, all in our garden. Ah, the “garden”. An ambitious word for the plot of land we spent our energy clearing in the early part of the year. However, we’ve planted fruit trees and had a good harvest of fruit from the existing plum and nectarine trees. We had to take down the large almond tree by the house, to avoid damage to our neighbour’s property. But we still have a fig, some palms and conifers and a small bottle brush tree that seems to flower indiscriminately. I’ve planted magenta and red bougainvillea to train up the walls and there is one enormous vine over the pergola at the back of the house.
As spring gave way to summer the heat increased. So did the population of Skala Polichnitos. It’s a summer holiday place for people who live in Athens and other cities on the mainland of Greece and the influx is remarkable. In the heat of July and August most of the local houses were occupied and traffic along our narrow concrete roads got quite hectic at times. We retreated indoors during the day when it was over 30 degrees from early morning until dark.
We made several trips to the UK during the year so that we can keep close to family particularly my father who had his 93rd birthday this year. And our visitors included Emma with Archie, Kundalini yoga teacher friend Jayne, long-time friends Janet & Phillip. All very welcome here to share our relaxing environment, and permit us to show them the highlights of Lesvos island.
And we have found it wonderfully relaxing for the majority of our time. Yes, there have been some challenges. The Greek financial situation meant we had to change a few plans during June/July but it was not a major problem for us. The economy here is struggling but we feel that we are able to make a contribution however small, by buying locally and supporting local businesses in any way we can.
This led us to having a gorgeous fireplace built by the local stonemason, using Polichnitos stone and local marble. It enhances our living room and means we can burn olive wood, of which there is a plentiful supply on the island each year as olive groves are pruned to improve the crop. We have needed the fire at night for some weeks now because temperatures really drop at night. Daytime may be warm and sunny, mainly blue skies, but often with a cold wind from the north-east.
The family has increased too, in the form of a little dog who arrived one day, starving hungry, apparently having recently had puppies, and simply stayed. We are calling her Lady (the Lady is a tramp?) and she adores Bryn. She follows happily when we walk on the beach or around the lanes and curls up on any available chair when she can get away with it.
Stray dogs are common in Greece; many are abandoned after the summer here and the Greek way of dealing with their animals seems harsh to us Brits. On the other hand, the Greeks have welcomed the thousands and thousands of Syrians fleeing their own country in fear of their lives. Around 1500 refugees daily have been arriving in small harbours and on beaches around the north and east of this island, all through this year. That is a phenomenal number of displaced people for one island to have to handle. But none have been turned away. We have seen the masses of small tents covering a huge area around the ferry port (an area which was used for car parking, so mainly rough ground and tarmac and no shade from the heat) And we have seen some of the hundreds of individuals, families and groups, walking from the coast to Mytilene – a distance of up to 100 kilometres. Piles of debris can be seen along these roads too, as refugees jettison the lifejackets and spare clothing in an attempt to lighten their load. What strikes us about these people is, that they are on their journey to freedom and Lesvos is one of the staging posts in that journey, so they are passing through with gratitude for any help provided en route.
Settling into a new place takes time and when that new place is a new country with a new language and cultural differences, settling down is a multi-stage process. Here, now, I feel blessed with the fresh air, sunshine, natural healthy food, the unrushed pace of life and the gentle, kind, courteous, easy-going Greek folks who have made us welcome here. Who appreciate our efforts to communicate in stumbling Greek and smile as they answer us in perfect English!!
So we look forward to next year and another chapter in our voyage of discovering how to live life on a Greek island. Meanwhile we hope that you will keep in touch and perhaps visit us one day here in Lesvos.
Merry Christmas and Happy New year.
Barbara & Bryn