submitted by James Victor Prineas on 01.02.2008
Migration Conference on Kythera
The administration team of Kythera-Family.net was invited to give a lecture at the International Conference on Kytherian Migration, which was held in Hora in mid-September. I was given the honour of representing our website and was pleased to see so many local non-academic Kytherians as well as the academic elite attending the lectures. Our presentation illustrated the attraction of the site not just to “Kythera-lovers” but also to private and academic researchers. To illustrate the point, a week before the conference a questionnaire was formulated with the help of Migration / Diaspora expert Vassiliki Chrysanthopoulou and was sent out to the 600 recipients of our email newsletter. A week later more than 100 responses had reached us, which according to delegates at the conference was an extraordinary response. Once evaluated the material will be posted on the site for all to use. Many Kytherians living on the island learned of the website for the first time at the conference. I was approached by teachers from the local high school who expressed interest their students posting their Kythera-related school-work, such as historical or environmental projects, on the site.
Another milestone was reached on the day of the conference presentation: the entry count on the site passed the 4000 mark. Thanks to all who have contributed! One of whom is the curator of the Kythera Museum of Natural History, Robin Tzannes. Thanks to her also for her Letter from Kythera which follows below.
James Prineas, Website Team Leader Europe
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Letter from Kythera by Robin Tzannes
MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY ROCKS ON
The Kythera Museum of Natural History had a special visit from geologist Markos Megaloikonomos last month. Markos,
who grew up on Kythera, earned a degree in geology from Athens University. He was on the island this summer conducting geotechnical research above Kapsali, on the road to Kalamos, which has been the site of perpetual winter mud slides. Markos drilled for soil samples to identify the rock layers and determine the water level, in order to help prevent future landslides. While he was in town, Markos set up an exhibition in the Old Mercato in Hora, sharing his private collection of rocks, minerals and fossils with the people of Kythera.
“I’ve had all these things in boxes for so long,” Markos said, “I thought people might be interested in looking at them.”
Between working in Kapsali and running his exhibition, Markos found time to visit us and identify the rocks and minerals in the museum collection. They are currently being photographed and will be posted online at Kythera-family.net shortly.
At the end of summer, our village began to buzz with excitement about the grape harvest, as freshly scrubbed wine barrels appeared outside of every apothiki. One morning when the time was right for picking, eight of us, armed with serrated kitchen knives, gathered in the vineyard. Methodically we made our way down the rows, cutting the heavy bunches of grapes and dropping them into crates, which were then loaded onto a truck and taken to the wine press.
In the old days, of course, there were no automated presses, and the grapes were actually stomped by foot, in a large trough called a lano. In those days, wine was often more plentiful than water, especially in summer, when water was scarce and precious. But there was always plenty of wine for children and adults to drink at every meal, and to enliven the dances in the village square. Given the importance of wine, it’s not surprising that every household had its own lano. Many still do, and stomping grapes remains a congenial activity, people helping one another to make the work go faster. Grapes are frequently pressed at night, to avoid attracting bees, wasps and hornets. A little bit of juice is put aside to make the dark pudding called mustolevria, and the rest is poured into barrels to ferment. All those bubbling barrels give the villages in September a rich, heady, sweet-and-sour smell. After forty days, the barrels are tapped, and the year’s supply of “dopio krasi,” or local wine, is ready.
The Kytherian wine varies greatly in taste, colour and bouquet, but it is usually light red, fruity and sweet, with an earthy, raw edge that identifies it as genuine, unrefined dopio krasi. For non-Kytherians, a taste for dopio is not easily acquired. But my husband George, who is half-Kytherian, just loves dopio krasi. In fact, he has a barrel bubbling away as I write. He calls it “Biblical wine,” not just because the method of making it has remained unchanged for thousands of years, but because the Kytherian vines themselves are said to be as old as Moses.
And now, with a glass of last year’s dopio, I drink your health. Yasas!
Robin Tzannes, Kepriotianika, Kythera.
Teacher, journalist, poet and author, Sydney NSW Australia
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