A life experience of a Polish girl on the Greek island of Crete.

Polka pisze wiec po polsku tez bedzie…

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Run Chania, Run

Yes, you can!

That’s the attitude that to my surprise 600 people showed during today’s 4 km run in Chania. I would never guess that so many people in this town have athletic shoes to be used for something more than a lazy walk around coffee bars of Chania harbor. I was impressed and proud of MY community that things are changing here too. That’s a happy change!

Families, friends, elder mums and paps, even dogs with their active owners moving along the Venetian harbor, stepping on the wet from sea waves cobbled stones fought their way through the Dikastiria Square up to Agora – Municipal Market. 

So much fun, people literally looked happy and satisfied. 

I wish such initiatives take place more often. That shows that even in deep crisis of national spirits and rather disappointing views for the future, it is worth trying to transform small parts of every day routine and habits. And it does not always take a lot of money. Willingness and pure enthusiasm is the key to create and learn new things. 

That’s what I tried to pass later on to two girls who happened to appear on my way looking for the lift to Chania. Students at the local University got late for the bus which due to the slow schedule on Sundays, it would reappear again after two hours! I could not resist asking them if the University strike is over? I couldn’t also resist telling them that they should not allow others to manipulate them. I do not agree to brainwash young people, sustain strike and at the same time without fulfilling their duties, teachers get paid. Girls looked a bit surprised and I bet they will spread the word about the crazy blonde driving Hyundai! They dared to mention something about the responsibilities of government and local authorities. However, I disagreed again. You cannot wait for the country to solve all your problems, I told them. In my opinion, Universities should create a system that in some way would be able to support financially needs of their students and their teachers as well as contribute to the communities that exist around them. Unfortunately, I do not think they understood that at the end of a day, they are the ones who lose: both time and money. In order to avoid any delays, strikes and pricy inefficiencies of the system, the rest will go abroad to get their diplomas, as the half of Greek government did!  

I bet at the end of our trip, they regretted entering my vehicle. I bet they just wanted to go for a coffee and did not need anybody to preach them on the relaxing Sunday afternoon. 

Thinking and turning it into action is a very tiring thing, but I believe it is more interesting than passively waiting for the others to provide. 

I guess I will never accept advice that some people tend to give me: “Don’t waste your saliva and time”! Not my style, I would say.I am the opinionated one.

OXI Days

Greek word Όχι  (read Ohi or Ochi) – No, stands as a symbol of Greek nation’s pride and their resistance against foreign forces in order to sustain country’s independence. It was the word which once spoken by the country’s leader unified the whole Greek nation against the enemy.

Those were the times when Greeks believed and followed strategic decisions of the ones who ruled on behalf of λαός (laos /nation).  

Every year, on the 28th of October, Greeks celebrate one of the most important events in their history. On this day, back to 1940 Greek Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas right after the party in the German embassy in Athens, rejected the ultimatum of Italians to enter the country and occupy it with no battle ahead – in a peaceful manner, so they thought those Italians. Metaxas was supposed to say one word “No” and that’s how Greece entered the World War II. 

To commemorate this one day, the 28th of October called Ohi Day is a public holiday when  students, soldiers, pilots, policemen, firefighters together with any other groups that contribute to safety and well-being of Greek country march in front of their leaders to pay tribute to them and demonstrate the nation’s power to the rest of population.

This year Ohi Day was not a happy moment and, I think, it was completely out of the question to demand from Greeks to pay any tribute to their leaders. Again, it became another occasion for the Greeks to demonstrate their disappointment and disgust to the leaders and politicians who used their power and brought Greece to the point of deep crisis. And we do not talk just about economy but about the loss of pride and credibility of this proud nation. On a day of such important celebration, commemorating those who fought for this country, it was sad to watch all those demonstrations and examples of riots. It was also bizarre and confusing to watch young students wearing on their arms swastika symbols crossed with a red line. This is when you pose yourself a question: “Should I hate the ones who placed the trap or the ones who led me to the trap, left me trapped and escaped themselves?” 

Was it right for the Greeks to march in front of their leaders and turn their heads in opposite direction, in a silent way presenting their disagreement and lack of respect? Yes, in this particular case, I think it was the least and the most civilized way they could show their “No” reaction to what was done to them. 

Though, I am really concerned that the way things develop in Greece, to turn head or even to spit in government direction, it will be an infrequent civilized act to show how unhappy people are. 

I just hope that at least in the whole situation, the respect among casual people will be re-born and some team spirit will start growing. 

The ones who marched in Chania, they may not have appeared enthusiastic in front of the officials’ stage, but they marched proudly in front of the gathered viewers (although much less people arrived this year) and overall created a peaceful atmosphere. 

A wave of crappy slogans from the crowd of kind of sloppy down-the-hill part of society tried to follow, but since no one seemed to be interested in damaging the atmosphere, things kind of slowed down before they even started. 

I managed to catch a few moments of this year ”Ohi” parade. Have a look how it was done in Chania…Cretan traditional costumes and …those Greek soldiers:) 


video


Tuesday, 25 October 2011

In the world of Saints

I had a weird dream. Some of my teeth were removed and I saw one tooth falling down. Generally, it is not good to see teeth while dreaming. It usually symbolizes health problems in the family or any kind of sad experience: bad atmosphere and bad people around you, lack of money and any other sorts of unpleasant events. Though, they also say that any dream that appears on Sunday, it does not come true! Hopefully. 

We are pretty superstitious in my Greek as well as Polish family, but nothing beats the prodigy senses of my mother-in –law –Paula’s power rules! She is one and the only expert starting from dream interpretation and continuing through all the ways how to reject bad energy and evil eye. 

We could not leave the house early in the morning without a little piece of garlic wrapped in a plastic bag hidden in our pockets. 

It has been six months since a family member died and as after 9 days, 3 months and later on the day of 9 months and one year after the death, family gathers in the church to pray and give a tribute to the lost one. 

We went up to Apokoronas area, to the Embroznieros village. Little, traditional place with a few huts up the hills and some olive and walnut trees. Except of church, there is absolutely nothing to do. A few houses, intense smell of burnt wood letting you know that autumn is in full swing. 

Mnimosino (μνημόσυνο) starts very early and it continues for at least two hours. People arrive, light candles, pray. Right after the mass, there is some water, juice or coffee served. Something that looks like a “birthday cake” is taken out of the church, the sugar layer is cut and everybody gets treated with a mix of barley, parsley, raisins, seeds of pomegranate and rich doze of sugar. A dead person cake, I would call it.  Served in little paper bags, with a plastic spoon. “God forgive him/her”  - we say and pack a full spoon to our mouth. Not the tastiest snack in the world, but definitely worth trying. Then, depending on the family, there are also cookies, spinach pies, croissants offered. 

Interesting experience although the whole thing with a  food consumption around the churches, it always seems to me a little bit awkward. Probably because I have never been taught to dine with Saints, shall I say?  

Right on the way from Apokorona to Chania, there is another famous church. It is a sort of suicide to park there, on the edge of Cretan highway. I wonder why so far no one has taken initiative to fix a nice and human being parking – looks like everybody is waiting for God to fix the problem (not the first and the last time). Compensation for the stress to pass the road and reach the church, is the nice cake waiting for those who managed to enter the chapel of Agios Fanourios.

Agios Fanourios – the saint in charge of lost things. He’s the one who helps us find what we are looking for, not necessarily tangible goods. You bake for him a nice, rich pita (pita is not only bread for souvlaki, but it can also be any kind of puffy cake) and miracle is supposed to happen. And it does for many people. There are lots of “tamata” hanging from the icon of Saint Fanourios. Most with symbols of men and women probably meaning that a love of their life was found. A few show a house, a  heart or simply say “Evharisto” (ευχαριστώ/ thank you). If you ever drive from Chania towards Rethymnon, it is worth stopping and visiting this place. Just watch out for the speeding cars of a highway. 

There is nothing more pleasant than a visit in Orthodox Church and then a quick Greek coffee on the way to the next church.

If we talk about any churches around Chania, there is one that through all those years has a special meaning for me and my family. Located on the Akrotiri Peninsula, off the main road to Marathi beach. Panagia Hosti – it is an old church though looking like an abandoned stone hut from outside. You must enter to realize how special this place is, with a main altar hidden in the underground chapel. Smell of humidity and burnt candles and coal. Little lizards crawling on the walls, making funny noises  - so called creatures of Saint Mary (never ever try to hurt them!) This is definitely the place to visit when you crave for the peace of mind. Better than any breathing exercises to bring a temporary relax of your senses – if, of course, you do not find it spooky to stay surrounded by Saint killing dragons or looking at you with a sight of “ I know it all”. 

Before I came to Crete, I was never fond of any “primitive” images hanging in the churches. My friendship with Saints started on the island and I can tell you, it is a nice, peaceful relationship. 

I have even started a small collection with one precious icon – custom made – just for me. 

If you do not believe, you can always treat it as a charm. Because it is, indeed.