Trip to Ag. Georgios, Selinari, Ag. Nicholaos & Lassiti in 1961.

What I have to show you here is a rare film posted by John Sooklaris on Youtube. Now John has posted several films on the web that you can see here on this site. This film, from 1961 is special. It shows a trip calling in at St George, Selinari; a celebration at Agios Nicholaos – including a diver – and loads of people. Then the bus trip goes on to the Lassiti Plateau and actually shows all the spinning windmills that were so famous there and that I mentioned here on this site a while ago.

So here is the video, I hope that you enjoy it.

Then extraordinarily, someone posted a tribute to John Sooklaris by videoing St Georges in the year 2009. Here it is:


Telling dad’s war story took years

This Anzac Day will be especially poignant for one Mt Eden author as he releases his first book about a heroic World War Two battle. Graham Power’s book, The Battle of Pink Hill – Crete, 1941, depicts the 12-day struggle on the Mediterranean island in which more than 670 Kiwis were killed.

He interviewed his veteran father Leslie Power for the book, agreeing to continue the interview at a later date. But Leslie, who was evacuated from Crete on June 1, 1941, died of a heart attack in 1995 before they finished the story. “We got as far as the landing on Crete. “The interview with my father took over an hour and we only covered the first couple of years.”

Mr Power was determined to tell the story and spent six years working on the book. He visited Crete in 2005. “Going to Crete was the highlight. It was a bit unreal – that people were killing each other left, right and centre. It is extremely peaceful now.” Of the nine veterans Mr Power spoke to during his research, four remain alive. “I concentrate on this battle, my book is hopefully balanced because it shows the German side too,” he says. Mr Power’s wife, Josephine, says her husband has had a unique experience. “He’s befriended all these vets,” she laughs. Mr Power’s daughter Hanna is also enthusiastic about the upcoming book. “Now Dad has all these crazy friends. He has learnt a lot – got a lot out of it personally that he never expected.” Miss Power says her father was humbled by the hospitality shown when he visited Crete and the overwhelming gratitude to New Zealanders who fought alongside the Cretans.

Brian Duncan, a family friend, helped to proof-read Mr Power’s book and says it is an unusual version of the battle that was neglected by media. “Graham has carefully gone about finding veterans and recording their remembrances. It is a really interesting view of the Battle of Pink Hill by the people who were there.” Mr Duncan says the author has been absolutely meticulous in his research.


The Fig Tree

Ah the wonderful fig tree. It grows everywhere and the figs appear mostly in October and November, although there are, of course, winter figs, even spring figs and summer figs I have heard. But there is something special about the fig tree. Forget the milky sap that some are allergic to, forget even the lack of rain we have and the prospect of cold this year, just remember the fig.

I can recall over forty five years ago in the rains and sleet of autumn in my school in Dunstable, Bedfordshire. Our English Literature teacher trying to warm our lives by talking of a splendid and magnificent Mediterranean sea, warm places and sun kissed beaches. All of it was a mystery to young boys dreaming of finding a girlfriend, a good job, a life.

Instead, he taught us a poem, a very special poem, simply called ‘Figs”.

It was by the splendid English poet and author D H Lawrence, and it carried me away to my island in the sun.

by D.H. Lawrence

The proper way to eat a fig, in society,
Is to split it in four, holding it by the stump,
And open it, so that it is a glittering, rosy, moist, honied, heavy-petalled four-petalled flower.

Then you throw away the skin
Which is just like a four-sepalled calyx,
After you have taken off the blossom, with your lips.

But the vulgar way
Is just to put your mouth to the crack, and take out the flesh in one bite.

Every fruit has its secret.

The fig is a very secretive fruit.
As you see it standing growing, you feel at once it is symbolic :
And it seems male.
But when you come to know it better, you agree with the Romans, it is female.

The Italians vulgarly say, it stands for the female part ; the fig-fruit :
The fissure, the yoni,
The wonderful moist conductivity towards the centre.

The flowering all inward and womb-fibrilled ;
And but one orifice.

The fig, the horse-shoe, the squash-blossom.

There was a flower that flowered inward, womb-ward ;
Now there is a fruit like a ripe womb.

It was always a secret.
That’s how it should be, the female should always be secret.

There never was any standing aloft and unfolded on a bough
Like other flowers, in a revelation of petals ;
Silver-pink peach, venetian green glass of medlars and sorb-apples,
Shallow wine-cups on short, bulging stems
Openly pledging heaven :
Here’s to the thorn in flower ! Here is to Utterance !
The brave, adventurous rosaceæ.

Folded upon itself, and secret unutterable,
And milky-sapped, sap that curdles milk and makes ricotta,
Sap that smells strange on your fingers, that even goats won’t taste it ;
Folded upon itself, enclosed like any Mohammedan woman,
Its nakedness all within-walls, its flowering forever unseen,
One small way of access only, and this close-curtained from the light ;
Fig, fruit of the female mystery, covert and inward,
Mediterranean fruit, with your covert nakedness,
Where everything happens invisible, flowering and fertilization, and fruiting
In the inwardness of your you, that eye will never see
Till it’s finished, and you’re over-ripe, and you burst to give up your ghost.

Till the drop of ripeness exudes,
And the year is over.

And then the fig has kept her secret long enough.
So it explodes, and you see through the fissure the scarlet.
And the fig is finished, the year is over.

That’s how the fig dies, showing her crimson through the purple slit
Like a wound, the exposure of her secret, on the open day.
Like a prostitute, the bursten fig, making a show of her secret.

That’s how women die too.

The year is fallen over-ripe,
The year of our women.
The year of our women is fallen over-ripe.
The secret is laid bare.
And rottenness soon sets in.
The year of our women is fallen over-ripe.

When Eve once knew in her mind that she was naked
She quickly sewed fig-leaves, and sewed the same for the man.
She’d been naked all her days before,
But till then, till that apple of knowledge, she hadn’t had the fact on her mind.

She got the fact on her mind, and quickly sewed fig-leaves.
And women have been sewing ever since.
But now they stitch to adorn the bursten fig, not to cover it.
They have their nakedness more than ever on their mind,
And they won’t let us forget it.

Now, the secret
Becomes an affirmation through moist, scarlet lips
That laugh at the Lord’s indignation.

What then, good Lord ! cry the women.
We have kept our secret long enough.
We are a ripe fig.
Let us burst into affirmation.

They forget, ripe figs won’t keep.
Ripe figs won’t keep.

Honey-white figs of the north, black figs with scarlet inside, of the south.
Ripe figs won’t keep, won’t keep in any clime.
What then, when women the world over have all bursten into affirmation ?
And bursten figs won’t keep ?

Recent Memories and Memorials


Deep in the heart of Crete, in the forever wonderful Amari Valley high in the hills south of Rethymno there are five or six villages on the western side of the valley on the slopes of the Kedros mountains. These villages, in 1944, were attacked by the occupying Germans and each one was razed to the ground by explosives. All the men were killed as well as several women. Just ordinary people going about the difficult business of farming for food for their families. No-one knows what zany reason the German troops had for decimating these peaceful villages. Some say it was reprisals for the kidnapping of the German General Kreipe, others suspect that it was to cover the German withdrawal. Perhaps there is no truth.

Outside the main village, Ano Meros, there has been erected a memorial to the many dead children, adults and old people that had nowhere to run and died by bullets in the terror that happened there. The memorial consists of a woman carving the names of the dead in stone.

The memorial to the dead of the Kedros villages in Amari

The memorial to the dead of the Kedros villages in Amari

This is a beautiful memorial in the middle of nowhere, so to speak. It attests to the immense courage and the long memories of the people of Crete. I, and I hope you too, will never forget them.

L is for Lassiti

ABC Wednesday

High in the mountains of Crete there is a plateau which once, some years ago, was famous for windmills. The scene of so many fluttering windmills was a sight to see. It used to look exactly like this.

Lassiti Windmills as they used to be

Lassiti Windmills as they used to be

In fact these were not so much windmills, but windpumps. Almost every field had one and it used to pump water up from the ground to water the fields. This picture was taken around forty years ago. Today the water is supplied by electrical or oil driven pumps and the windmills are, alas, gone with the wind.

Today Lassiti has changed. It still grows the staples of Crete, potatoes, apples, vegetables etc. But sadly without the wonderful windmills.

Lassiti Today

Lassiti Today

But do not worry, that is the way of the modern world. There is a consolation, of course. On the edge of the Lassiti Plateau were some real windmills, built many years ago to grind the corn. Today some of them have been rebuilt to house modern people. What goes around comes around.

So here they are

So here they are

Panagia Chrisoskalitissa Monastery, Elafonisi

Skywatch Friday

The monastery of Panagia Chrisoskalitissa, Our Lady of the Golden Step in English, is in the remote south west of Crete just six Kilometres from the lovely lagoon beach of Elafonisi. And it is glorious.

Panagia Chrisoskalitissa Monastery

Panagia Chrisoskalitissa Monastery

This photograph was taken when the sunset happened and thank heavens I had my camera to hand for the amount of beer that we had drunk with the priest and two English hitchikers was immense. Then came the meal with wine and a room to sleep in. But the next day we explored.

Panagia Chrisoskalitissa means Our Lady of the Golden Step. But what was the Golden Step? One of the nuns there explained to me that you have to be absolutely free of sin to see this step which is one of the ninety steps climbing up to the monastery’s front door. Unfortunately, I couldn’t see it, but the nun told me not to worry as she had not seen it either.

The monastery from the vegetable garden

The monastery from the vegetable garden

So we climbed the steps and were invited to partake of tsikoudia (raki) with two nuns and the priest. A monastery and a nunnery seems to merge into one down here. Then I was shown how to climb to the roof of the church ‘for the view’, of course.

The view south west from the roof

The view south west from the roof

This is a lovely place and we first went there about twenty years ago, then around ten years ago. We had to drive a gorge through a very old tunnel and some miles of dirt road to get to the monastery. Today the road is better, at least it is tarmacked, but one of the nuns is gone and the priest is much older than before when we first met him. But a wonderful man, nevertheless.

The priest

The priest

Here in the deep south west of Crete there is very little tourism. There are some rooms now where you can stay and near the beach at Elafonisi – perhaps Crete’s best beach with silver and rose coloured sand – there are a couple of tavernas. There are no hotels and no tavernas on the beach at all because this is one of Crete’s protected areas. But if you go there, it will stay forever in your memory.

Kalamaki Sunset

Skywatch Friday

Kalamaki, a village just north of Matala on the Messara coastline of Crete is a place that we have known for many years. Just over twenty years ago we, my wife and I, were there visiting one of the two very small tavernas that were on the beach. There were a few other buildings, but not many. We were eating shrimps just fished out of the sea, and they were superb.

This coastline faces west and you can watch the sun fall gently into the horizon as the evening wears down into night. In the taverna were some Macedonians from the north of Greece, there was toast after toast to ‘Makedon’ their home.

Today Kalamaki is much larger, but still a village. All along the front are new tavernas, bars and restaurants and today it is a holiday destination for all nationalities. But it still has the one of the finest beaches in Crete, alas not the original tavernas or the shrimps.

But still the sun winds gently into the sea as one and all stare at the beauty of this stunning moment.

Kalamaki Sunset

Kalamaki Sunset

This is a wonderful place. Enjoy!