submitted by James Victor Prineas on 01.02.2008
“The Globe” is a leading national newspaper in Canada, and in August an article appeared in it called “Ancient modern Greece” by Chris Koentges from Calgary, whose maternal grandfather just happened to be a “Kypriades” from Karavas who also lived in Miles in Queensland. Kythera gets more than a mention in the article:
“Last year, they (the Kytherians - ed) organized a virtual island; part oral history, part scrapbook, part postmodern atlas, all community. It is one of the most extraordinary sites on the Web, inhabited almost entirely by digital neophytes. In many cases, kythera-family.net is its descendants' first exposure to the Internet – and the only contact they have with their island. In other words, as Kythera dwindles to pseudo-extinction, Kythera is simultaneously being born from its own memories.”
We’ll have to excuse him for the bit about “pseudo-extinction” – I’m sure he just wanted to make it sound more dramatic (same goes for all who write about our “barren” island). You can read the whole article, which incidentally has resulted in an avalanche of visits to the site from far north America, by going to our website and clicking on the link to the article at the top of the page.
Last month Robin Tzannes who also curates our “Kythera Museum of Natural History” on the site, wrote her first “Letter from Kythera”. It was so popular I asked her to write one each month for the e-mail version of this newsletter, which goes out to over 600 friends of Kythera all over the world. I received her next “letter” a few days ago and it was about “Babakias”, which are in my opinion one of the most fantastic aspects of life on Kythera. For all those who have spent time on the island and eaten the incredibly tasty miniature fruit and vegetables which come from growing slowly and unwatered in what looks to the untrained eye like an abandoned sunburnt weed-garden, the article opposite will bring back fond memories. It’s an theme I’ve always wanted to write about myself, and Robin has done it better than I ever could.
And here is the latest numbers from the site:
August 2004: 3777 entries (August 2003: 177 entries)
James Prineas, Website Team Leader Europe
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The other day my koumbara asked if I would help her pick fasolia (beans). I knew it would be pleasant work in the cool of evening, and happily agreed to meet her at seven o’clock in the babakia.
The babakia is a marvellous “waterless” garden, one that requires just the right conditions to make it work: the winters must be very wet, the summer days must be very dry, and the summer nights must be moist with dew. The soil must be rich and loose, without too much sand or clay.
During the rainy season, the babakia is plowed several times to make sure that the ground is evenly wet far below the surface. To keep weeds down, the final plowing is timed to coincide with the last rains of spring. Then the garden is planted, and left on its own. When the weather turns dry, the surface of the babakia hardens, forming a crust beneath which enough moisture has been trapped to nourish the roots, while the night mists hydrate the plant above the surface. A good babakia requires no watering and no maintenance beyond harvesting the abundance of beans, melons and tomatoes it produces.
This year Kythera's babakias are enjoying a bumper crop of fasolia. Koumbara and I picked and picked, and still the garden seemed full. As we moved along the rows of bushes dripping with ripe green beans, I couldn’t resist nibbling a few, savouring the delightful contrast between the crisp outer pod, still warm from the sun, and the cool, sweet, juicy beans inside.
Despite my nibbling, we quickly filled seven big bags of beans. Koumbaros arrived with his truck, and I put my bags inside. “No, no,” he said, “those are for you.”
I protested. “We're only two people, we can’t possible eat all these beans.”
“Keep them,” he insisted, “or give them away. We have too much already!”
And then I realised, they didn’t need my help picking beans at all. Rather, they needed my help consuming them. With typical Kytherian generosity, they merely wanted to share the summer's bounty. Well, I was willing to oblige, and accepted a bulging bag of beans, along with a couple of peponi and some tomatoes. We’ve been eating them for days, and I'm happy to report that the beans are absolutely delicious.
by Robin Tzannes, Kepriotianika, Kythera.
Teacher, journalist, poet and author, Sydney NSW Australia
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