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
I Promise!!! No more discussions on transport this month and for a very good reason I may add. Next week Easter is upon us and after trying to follow the path of ‘righteousness’ for the past forty days most of us dedicated Kytherians will of course head for Kythera - our little gem in the Mediterranean - for the customary celebrations. Should we get there and back hassle free, you will hear about it should we fail to get there or hack you will certainly hear about it loud and clear!!! So far, things look promising and with tickets already in hand I dare say no more, as I brace myself for a wonderful Easter with family and friends.
Prayers, candles and incense
The villages on the island come out of their winter lethargy as homes are re-opened by their city dwelling owners, opening wide doors and windows to let in the fresh air of Spring. For many, part of the tradition is going to church and throughout Holy Week the Greek Orthodox services are well attended. Every evening, the bells of the village church beckon everyone to Vespers. The re-enactment of Jesus Christ’s final week on earth through poignant church services every evening, his crucifixion, suffering and subsequent ascension, is quite a dramatic experience, particularly for anyone foreign to the ritual. The praying and chanting of robed and bearded priests and the heavy aroma of the incense and burning candles permeates the air arousing one’s spiritual emotions.
Red Eggs and tsoureki
Preparing for Easter is quite a ceremony and of course, as always here in Greece, life revolves around food. Everything culminates in one big feast! So next week, housewives will be busy spring cleaning and baking. Traditional Easter baking includes koulourakia (scrumptious rings or twists of biscuit dough) and tsourekia, similar perhaps to hot cross buns. Young children have a whale of a time playing with a piece of dough and believe me an even better one when dying red eggs !! So let’s prepare Easter is just around the corner. This is what’s good about living in Greece. Every “next week” is a celebration an inevitable feast of some sort and so our lives move from week to week, feast to feast at such a fast pace that it will be Christmas again before we know it ..the supremest of feasts!!!!
A taste of honey
Greek honey has been the centre of controversy this past month. The grossly overstated media coverage frightened people into throwing away their jars of honey and reverting to sugar! Supermarkets rapidly removed numerous well known brands of Greek honey from their shelves. Luckily, Kytherian honey which is one of the island’s major industries was not amongst the brands. Certain honey producers in Europe (including Greece) were not conforming with the directives given out by the E.U on procedures involved in the maintenance and cleaning of beehives at the end of the season. They continued to use a substance known as “keroskoni” which had been found to be potentially cancerous as early as 1998 and Greek beekeepers were advised by the relative agricultural department only in September of 2003! So when this came to the fore there was utter chaos!
Fortunately though, it appears that the Kytherian Beekeeper’s Co-operative has done a sterling job in keeping its members well informed. The Co-Op. was founded and organised by John Protopsaltis of Mitata in 1996. Since then it has flourished and is probably the most efficient honey co-operative in Greece today having a membership of some 35 beekeepers. It is estimated that there are some 10 independent beekeepers also on the island. The number of hives kept by these apiarists ranges anywhere from 2 or 3 to 400-500. The industry has provided many local farmers with a lucrative income. For some it is a fulltime occupation for others a hobby. Whichever though, beekeeping is a very exacting and arduous undertaking -in fact it is a science requiring knowledge, expertise and patience.
The current President is Nick Skoutis whose attraction to Kythera stems from childhood visits. Today, after five years on the island, he is a fulltime beekeeper with some 400 hives to tend to. In his capacity as President, he is continuing the vigorous campaign for the protection of the name “Kytherian” honey. Kytherian thyme honey has, over the years, established a worldwide reputation for its purity and unique taste. The Co-Op. is striving for E.U. recognition and protection of the term “Kytherian” to apply only to certified Kytherian produced honey. Unfortunately, there are brands of honey on the market bearing the name “Kythera” which have no relation to Kythera whatsoever nor is their taste anywhere near that of our authentic thyme honey. Protection of the name therefore will also afford protection to the consumer as far as quality is concerned. In a brief discussion we had on the subject, Mr. Skoutis explained that the Co-Op is the means through which its members can safeguard their product. To this end, samples are sent to the State Laboratories every year for quality analysis. Kytherian honey is also on its way to being certified as “organic”, a process which takes some years of testing before approval is granted by the relevant authorized organization. Another advantage of maintaining the Coop is that its members can qualify for substantial benefits and subsidies through E.U. programmes. So it is definitely in the Kytherian beekeepers’ interests to keep up their support of the Co-Operative.
The Co-Operative organized a seminar at the Cultural Centre of Potamos on the 26th/27th February, in conjunction with a leading pharmaceutical company on organic substances which combat diseases effecting the health and lifespan of bees. Visiting specialists included veterinary surgeons, chemists, health and food technologists who spoke to a packed house about the industry within Greece and its current problems. They elaborated on means and methods for improving the quality of honey (how can that be? we have the best!); and the correct application and quantities of organic substances to be used. This meeting was held prior to the public furor that erupted over keroscorini and it was, interestingly, attended by almost all beekeepers, members and non- members alike. It is Skoutis’ intention that the Co-Operative continues to hold regular seminars and meetings to cover topics such as diseases, hygiene, organic production methods, modern processing facilities and marketing in an endeavour to keep local beekeepers updated on new developments in the industry.
Even though every spoonful of Kytherian honey may be worth its weight in gold you can rest assured that it is the absolute best that money can buy!!
The keyword is promotion
The Tourist Panorama 2005 which attracts leading Greek and international tourist and travel agents was held in Piraeus on the 9th April. Kythera was well represented at its own stand which was sponsored by the Municipal Council of Kythera as well as featuring in the stand of the Prefecture of Piraeus. During the exhibition 15 young dancers dressed in local costumes from the Kytherian Brotherhood of Piraeus performed traditional Kytherian dances drawing the attention and admiration of visitors. We understand that
this summer, most hotels on the island are already heavily booked so it looks as if a good season is ahead for all businesses relying on the tourist trade. If this is so, Kytherian hoteliers should consider themselves very fortunate as this is contrary to the expectations of the President of the Greek Hotels Association who anticipates a very bleak tourist season for the rest of Greece.
Chop chop chop!
Whilst some people strive to create an awareness for maintaining or improving the environment on the island, there is always someone else or some group who out of pure ignorance or purely for financial gain will do something contrary to nature. There have been numerous complaints about unlicensed quarries mushrooming all over the island causing havoc to the environment by cutting chunks out of the landscape - and the authorities are turning a blind eye! Recently though, a license was given by the Nomarhia to a quarry to operate just 2 kms out of Milopotamos which has caused the residents of one of Kythera’s most attractive towns to protest vigorously. They have submitted a petition to the Nomarhia with copies to all related governmental and local authorities, M.P’s, Ministry for Tourism etc. demanding revocation of the license.
Petitions are a way of drawing attention to a cause and sometimes they do bring the desired result. Rumours are rife that Bishop Kirillos will be moved to another Mitropolis and this is rather disturbing news for our Kytherian community as Bishop Kirillos has been instrumental in bringing peace and harmony to the island following the numerous scandals featuring the notorious Archimandrates Iossakis and Kirillos in the mid 90’s. (Mind you, we should be indebted to these two as they have managed to keep Kythera in the headline news for the past few months!) Consequent to these alleged rumours, a petition has been submitted by the major Kytherian bodies the Trifillion Foundation, the Kytherian Syndesmos & Kytherian Brotherhood requesting that Bishop Kirillos remains at the head of the Kytherian Mitropolis.
A plea for blood donors has been issued by the Kytherian & Anti-Kytherian Blood Donors Association on behalf of the Kytherian Blood Bank of the Tzanneion Hospital in Piraeus which supplies blood to patients of Kytherian descent. This year however, as demand has exceeded supply, the Tzanneion Hospital has announced that it is not in a position to assist any further unless supplies are replenished. Volunteers to the cause give their blood during the month of August on Kythera but the Association is now seeking new volunteers in Athens or Piraeus who will assist in meeting the request. The supply of blood has always been a major problem in Greece for anyone faced with an operation in any hospital and the patient is required to furnish a quantity of blood prior to being operated upon!
Dates for your diary
On the 15th May, at 09:00 am, the Kytherian Brotherhood of Piraeus will be holding a service at the Church of the Myrtidiotissa in Neo Falioron, Piraeus in memory of Ossios Theodoros, a patron saint of Kythera (who reputedly tamed the venomous snakes of the island circa 960 AD). His memory was always officially celebrated at the monastery of Ossios Theodoros (near Aroniadika) on the 12th May each year but due to the scandals of recent years, interest in this festival has somewhat waned.
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