submitted by Helen Tzortzopoulos on 21.07.2005
Events on Kythera.
From the Kytheraismos Newspaper,
published, and distributed throughout the world monthly,
Main News, in English
By Helen Tzortzopoulos
It seems months since Easter came and went and yet it is not even a month. The trouble is that most of us are so busy with our day-to-day problems that time rolls on before we know it. Life has passed us by and we are left alone with our reflections - what we should have done but never did. So let this be a warning to those of us who hesitate about doing things — we must be “doers” — we must not baulk at the prospect of doing something adventurous, something different or something out of character. At the end of our lives, this is what is left. Now you may naturally ask “what has brought about this direction of thought”? Well, I was just reminiscing on the last time I fulfilled an ambition of mine. Two years ago, I had sailed on a yacht to Kythera, which in the end proved to be a rather eventful journey, but certainly one that Twill dwell on time and time again. Since then, nothing (!)
Now about Easter....
Kythera came alive with tourists at Easter— perhaps a good indication of what we can expect for the summer season. It seems that the free advertising (TV. serial and church related scandals) is proving beneficial to the island’s economy. Should there be another successful T.V. series the businesses on the island will soon have resolved their financial obligations! Joke aside, no one should complain — it was a good start to the season but hoteliers, taverns and restaurants will have to provide an outstanding service and maintain an affordable level of prices. As we all know, excessive accommodation prices and the reputation of an “expensive island” has always been one of Kythera’s drawbacks - it acts more as a deterrent than a draw card. This practice together with steep travel costs and unreliable transport services is not such a lucrative package for a middle class family after all...
On the basis of the foregoing, the Municipal Council has recently announced the formation of a Committee for Tourism made up of local persons involved in different areas of tourism (transportation, room rentals, business, travel etc.) On 23rd April they organized the first in a series of seminars on Tourism with a number of guest speakers including former Minister for Tourism Mr. N. Skoulas. Discussions revolved around development of the industry, the need for providing services of high standards in a competitive environment and the importance of marketing. We understand however, that rticipation was disappointingly poor. As the Kytherian munity is relatively new to the tourism industry perhaps uklbe a good time for those involved to acquire a little
a knowledge and understanding of the industry. After ingventured nothing gained.
Back to Easter
The weather thoughwindy, was fine and sunny over the Easter holoday and on Easter Sunday, most
households were occupied with the preparations for roasting the traditional lamb or kid over a spit— a task which for those involved meant rising at the crack of dawn!! The more competitive chefs demonstrate their skill with the preparation of “kokkoretsii" - skewered pieces of offal around which kilometers of goat gut are spun to form a scrummy casing. As a rule, this is also positioned parallel to the lamb over the charcoal pit and to have a go turning - the rotisserie with one hand whilst holding a “stubby” of cold beer in the other for the next few hours.
Pain and suffering from the blistering heat of live coals is not without its just rewards however. The perfectly turned lamb is finally ready and with machete in hand the head “butcher” of the family hacks at the carcass as the by now ravenous guests (all table manners aside!) pull and tear the poor lamb to bits. Predictably there is a guest or two who conveniently turn up just as the lamb hits the table.
Still on Easter
Easter church services were held in most towns and villages as the shortage of priests meant that some of the local priests had to double up on services throughout Holy Week. The Epitaphio service on Good Friday is one of the most poignant services of the Orthodox Church. Hora, our island’s capital, probably offers the most incredible and unforgettable spectacle on that particular night. Avlemonas also attracts a number of visitors from other villages. This year my family chose to go there for a change (reputedly, our local church at Karava did not have a priest that night — which, to our embarrassment the next morning, was not quite so resulting in our local church virtually empty). The church in Avlemonas not being of the enormity of most of our village churches, could not hold the hundreds waiting out in the quadrangle, who, due to the evening chill took to the restaurants and tavernas lining the foreshore. When the solemn procession of the Epitaphio went past, everyone jumped to their feet, raced to pay homage and then scrambled back to the taverna to continue savoring the Lenten fare gracing the tables.
The midnight Ascension service is the highlight of Holy Week and most people aim to carry home the flame from the Holy Light to light their Holy oil lamp. After that, it is food once again — a midnight feast in the form of a soup known as “mayeiritsa” - and red eggs of course! At this point we say, Chistos Anesti (Christ has risen) and Chronia Pohla.
For years now, it has been common practice for residents of Agia Pelagia to roast their lambs along the beachfront and to celebrate Easter Sunday together. It is nice to note that the hospitable local society still caters for the town’s tourists and extends an open invitation to them to join in the festivities from dawn to dusk.
What nicer season to find yourself on Kythera than Spring when the countryside is alive with the vibrant colours of our native flora. As it was a dual celebration this year with Easter Sunday falling on the 1st May (Mayday) we went out to “catch our May"- this is a literal translation - for tradition holds that you pick flowers and form a wreath (to place on your front door or balcony) bequeathed to the month of May.
For Kytherians, the week following Easter Sunday is just as busy as that preceding it. Our island’s most revered icon, that of the Panagia Myrtidiotissa leaves her “throne” at the Monastery of Myrtidia on the Sunday after Lent and is escorted to Hora where it stays until Easter. Hereafter this resplendent icon is transported from to~vn to town for the next 15 days on foot and on the third Sunday after Easter (Miroforon) the icon is carried back to her base from the last village of Calokairines to the Monastery. It is a tradition which has withstood the passage of time. In the past, the icon would have been escorted by an enormous throng of people. Now one wonders for how much longer this tradition will last -every year there are fewer and fewer shoulders on which to rest this heavy icon as it transits the villages. The problem is not because there are less people on the island - it is just that people are ceasing to care in maintaining tradition. Sadly, these same people will one day turn round and regret the fact that these practices have faded into oblivion.
Well, we all know that Kythera lies in one of the potentially most active seismic areas of the Mediterranean. Lmaginemy horror when one evening, being with a group of friends for a drink in Capsali, this orange glow caught the corner of my eye and I thought the Kastro had erupted! Stunned and mortified at the sight, I then realized the orange glow was nothing more than bright floodlights lighting up the castle. Horror of horrors! One of our island’s most sacred monuments has been turned into a halloween pumpkin!!
On 14th May, the Nomarhia of Piraeus, in conjunction with Kythera’s Eparheio headed by our Eparhos Miss Christina Fatseas, organized a one-day seminar at the Kytherian Syndesmos in Hora on a topic which should have drawn the interest of most local inhabitants — that of protection of our island from bushfires. The seminar was divided into 4 Sections
.....Forest Conservation 2005
.....Avoidance & containing bushifires
.....The current position relating to bushfire protection on Kythera
.....Volunteers: An unexploited force
As a rule, the only time people are concerned is when their own property is threatened. If they have not lived the expenence of being involved one way or another ie. physically fighting bushfires or actually having suffered losses, they rarely care. In the past, certain areas of Kythera have suffered irreparable damage from bushfires, with huge tracts of agricultural hand and forests having been destroyed —inevitably due to someone’s negligence. Hopefully, our dynamic fire fighting squad will be ready to deal with any potential bushfire hazard this summer.
Hey! We better tell them that the Kastro is on fire!
Some do care
Through the voice of its local Society, residents and businesses of Potamos have expressed their dissatisfaction with the Municipal Council for its indifference in resolving the sewage problem of the town. The anticipated increase in volume of waste during the summer months poses a threat to the health and well-being of everyone and the executive Committee of the Society demands that the Council takes immediate steps to rectify the situation.
K.E.P. — Civility for citizens?
K.E.P. (Centre for Information and Assistance to Citizens) is a government service where the public can make enquiries on matters relating to Greek citizenship, customs duties, taxes, medical health and pension schemes, investments in Greece military service, education, work permits, education etc. It has now announced a service phone number which can be reached by Greeks of the Diaspora 14 hours per day in order to cover time differences. To access this service from abroad you have to dial 01130210485 7000 and hopefully your questions will be answered.
Cretans v. Kytherians
On 10th May at the port of Piraeus there was a little skirmish on the quayside when Kytheriaii lorry drivers found that their lorries could not be loaded onto the F/B MYRTIDIOTISSA for Kythera as Cretan trucks and lorries had been given iority. This was the first time that such a thing occurred and ir drivers of course were not in the least bit happy as throughout winter, it is only the Kytherian trucks that provide e business (Cretan vehicles have a choice of other Cretan vessels) - in this case it was a question of fairness. After a tw-hour confrontation and delay due to Kytherian passengers blocking the stern ramp of the vessel in a show of protest, the MYRTIDIOTISSA finally set sail leaving our Kytherian ferries and angry drivers behind. Let’s hope that this is not a sample of things to come in summer!
Let me finish on a happy note! l aim ecstatic. I have just learned that as from the 27th June there will be a Fuiday evening boat (the F/B MYRTIDIOTISSA) departing Piraeus at 17.00hrs for Kythera with the return jouney departing Kythera late on Sunday evening. My prayers have been answered! Weekends on Kythera ahead!!
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