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Newsletter Archive > April 2008

Newsletter Archive

submitted by James Victor Prineas on 23.03.2009

April 2008

Dear Friends of Kythera,

Spring has arrived in Europe (well it has on Kythera and more-or-less has in Berlin but probably not in Northern Finland...) - Anna Comino's latest website "blog" below will give all of us not lucky enough to be on the island right now a chance to at least get an impression of the season there ...

Our website team has been hard at work over the past few months to come up with a "relaunch" design for the site. Wonderful though the site still is, after 5 years online the functionality is starting to show its age - 5 years is three lifetimes in the world of the web... - and we are keen to update the design and features. Although our team works on a voluntary basis, the reprogramming of the site - which is still to be done - is not for free as it is done by a commercial programming firm called Skygate (.de). So we need your financial support to move ahead and keep the site appealing to the wide audience of Kythera-lovers. As you probably already know, the Kythera site is totally non-profit and the payment of programming and hosting bills is tightly controlled by the Kytherian Association of Australia as well as the Site Team Leader in Sydney, Angelo Notaras. If you're interesting in supporting the relaunch then we can send you screenshots and feature-lists in which you can judge for yourself what a "giant leap forward" we have planned for the site. Just send me a mail to receive the "Relaunch Overview".

Best regards from a "Blooming Berlin"

>James Prineas, KFN Team Leader Europe

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>April: Kythera in Spring
from Anna Cominos' regular "52 Weeks on Kythera" Blog.

Kythera is a bloom and all is splendid. Red poppies grow from abandoned rock walls, wild orchids lurk in the shadows of elderly plane trees and wild daisies line all the roadsides ... a visual sensory overload. A steady 48 hours of rain over the past few days has opened long-time-dried up water springs, and fortunately the creek-beds are flowing rapidly.

Rapid would be the best word describe Kythera on this April Fools Day.

>Rapid Changes.
While the winter hibernation has been long, the floral arrival of spring has everyone out cleaning, painting and preparing for the opening of the 2008 tourist season which is marked by the Easter holidays (April 28). Many Kytherians, mainly from Athens, return to the island and communally roast ‘the fattened’ lamb, dance, drink, chill-out at many of Kythera’s beaches.

Daylight Saving arrived last Saturday so we are already waking up an hour earlier and you can feel the day cranking-up to spill into the night. The Spring light brings a solemn sanctity to Lent (the 40 day fasting period leading up to Greek Orthodox Easter) that follow a very quite end to the Apokries (Carnivale) season.

The Apokries Parade in Kythera is traditionally held in Potamos was cancelled due to the passing of Polychronis (see a previous blog). The satirical Carnivale floats parade directly past the Chrysafides family bakery and as a sign of respect for the bereaved family and considering that the Baker Boys are the driving forces in the month-long Celebrations, this years Apokries were cancelled.

Greece is now recovering from a month-long series of national strikes that crippled the country in protest to the Government Pension reforms. Electrcity, banks, schools, courts, transports were all affected ... even television stations closed because technicians were out. Kythera is a (warped) microcosm of Greece and the veil of national inertia has only just lifted.

>Windmills Update
Yes, No, Yes, No. You kind of get the drift. The ‘Yes Men’ (Local Council, Public Trust & Power Co) take a small step backward (more like a goose-step really) and the well-informed Opposition (which is your run-of-the-mill locals) are on the defence. It is not a certain deal, but the money-grab is so immense the struggle to have the windmills here will be intense. The "Banana-heads", elected to the Local Council, have revealed that the Energy Co. ‘maps’ include 44 "monsters’ to be placed above Agia Pelagia.

But all this talk is giving one local Construction Supplies Business (I will call him Vlakras) the chance to amass the equipment needed to deliver this 5 year-long project. Coincidentally Vlakras holds a key position in the current serving Local Government and the issue of conflict of interest has gone unspoken. Po…Po…Po….enas vlakras ki misos.
If I sound sarcastic and deflated that is ‘cos I am. What is there to discuss…… 144 Windmills????

Ship Ahoy mateys!!! There seems to be a breakthrough on the issue of the 2nd ship. This service planned to launch early June, will focus connecting Kythera to our closest mainland coast, the Peloponnese, with daily connections to Neapolis.
It may appear that the local Kytherian issues are more of the same, but someone has definitely changed the backdrop and turned ON the lights. The days are glorious sunny and the blueness of the sea is enticing: some locals have even taken their first ’chilly’ dips. Tractors prepare the raw earth for seeding.

Culture has woken its sleepy-tail with a two-day Childrens' festival focusing on Environmental issues; a music concert by the local ODEION (music school); and local Satirical Comedy about local issues bring hush to the cavernous Astikon Kafenion in Potamos.

On Sunday afternoons we drive to Kapsali for much-anticipated crepes at "Vanilla" and we await the initiation for the 2008 Kytherian Summer. For a peep at what sings in our hearts when you lament ‘Tsirigo’ visit the magnificent paintings of local artist Daphne Petrohilos

>Anna Cominos
You can read Anna's previous blogs on the site - just go to and click on Blogs in the navigation on the left.

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>“Grandma Don’t Make Marmalade” by Crissouli

Round, plump, fragrant – begging to be squeezed and prodded... the market stalls beckon. I’m taken back...

The stove has been burning for some time. There’s a kettle to the side, ever ready and bubbling. It will be needed often today, for there are many hours to go.

Buckets and boxes of plump red tomatoes await. Knives are sharpened, cutting boards scrubbed. The jars and bottles are sterilised, onions are peeled, as is the garlic. Small, white earthenware dishes hold the spices and all is ready – it’s salsa day. My Aunt and my Grandmother work as a well organised team – no directions needed. They’ve done this many times before.

I watch – waiting and learning. My job is to clear up after them, though I’m too small to go near the knives. Today, my Aunt has given me my favourite job. I get to strip the leaves from the basil that we picked fresh, earlier this morning. I love the clean fragrance that it allows to linger on my fingers. My Grandmother uses the same recipe that she and her mother used when she was a young girl on Kythera, passed from mother to daughter for generations. I can’t help but wonder if each cook has added her own special touch or whether the recipe has actually changed over the years, for it remains unwritten, “kept in the heart” as my Aunt would say. My Grandmother doesn’t talk as much about Kythera as my Grandfather did, but there’s something about the routine of preparing food that encourages her to share. I’m like a little sponge, soaking up every word.

I start to ask questions, I always have questions, but my Aunt shakes her head slightly, as if to say “just let her talk”. My Grandmother’s broken English fascinates me and I hang on every word as it follows it’s own rhythm. She doesn’t say much, just how important it is to use the freshest of ingredients. She is chopping and cutting, “just so, Crissouli” and every piece is the same size as the last. She tells us that her mother would have all pieces the same, so that the salsa would cook evenly. She says something in Greek which I don’t understand and she and my Aunt laugh. No one explains, but I don’t mind, for I know they are happy. The rhythm of the cutting occupies them both now, so much to do, and they are all but silent, just the continual soft chop of the knives against the boards and the kettle, bubbling and beckoning as it awaits it’s call.

The kitchen is large, far larger than ours now, but there has been a big family growing up here, and they needed the room. It’s spring time and a gentle breeze is playing with the white lace curtain, daring it to come out the window to play. The room is filled with all the promise of great meals ahead. As I watch the white lace, it reminds me of the copious amounts of icing sugar that the kourabiethes are drenched with. I can’t decide whether that’s my favourite cooking day, baking so many varieties of biscuits or whether I like it best when my Yiayia bakes baklava. To this day, my favourite spice is cinnamon... I use it in so many dishes. There was no bought pastry, my Yiayia made her own. I was allowed to help crush the nuts and sometimes to brush melted butter over the pastry sheets, urged to work quickly so the pastry wouldn’t dry out. The sheets we weren’t using were kept moist under a damp towel, “ not too damp, just so…” The crowning glory as it were, was to listen carefully as the hot syrup was poured over the crisp pastry... if you were very quiet, you could hear a gentle crackle. That was the sign of a good baklava. I could barely wait for it to cool.

My Grandmother and my Aunts, also my Mother, made almost everything themselves, as many others did. There were shelves laden with home-made sauces, and pickles and chutneys. Olives were resting in brine and fruit was in tall jars, carefully sealed and looking so inviting. But it was the jams that always caught my eye, jars and jars of so many varieties, nearly all of the fruit was home grown, or from a relative’s or friend’s garden. Each of the jars proudly displayed their contents, the fruit within looked as if had been carefully arranged, piece by piece. There were silky smooth jams, but the most majestic were always the marmalades. Some had whole slices pressed up against the sides of the jars. Others had the peel in fine, long strips. They had all been cooked “just so”, so the colours remained vibrant and tempting.

As I wandered between the rows of heavily laden market stalls, revelling in the pleasure of choosing from the wonderful displays of fresh produce, my eye is taken by a snowy white cloth, stacked with jars of jams. It’s a long time since I made jams...I’m easily tempted, as these days, “Grandma don’t make marmalade”..

>Crissouli ©2008 email:

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From our message board:

Dear Kytherians,
I was lucky enough to get some wonderful VLITA SEEDS that I want to plant in New York this spring 2008. What advice can the elders give me for thavma crops this summer?
Adrienne Kalligeros

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>February: Death on Kythera
from Anna Cominos' regular "52 Weeks on Kythera" Blog.

Is the fragility of life linked to seismic activity? While the Greek mass media speculates about a futuristic natural catastrophe, this week Kythera has been plunged into deep grief with the sad passing of two popular people, boat-builder Dimitri (Vlahos) Diacopoulos and professional diver Polychronis Chrysafitis, both of whom lived larger than life.

Dimitri (Vlahos) Diacopoulos, aged 63, was a modern-day Poseidon and one of Greece’s remaining traditional boat-builders. A Kytherian enigma, Dimitri could be found at his boat-shed at Agia Patrikia constructing a caique (wooden fishing boat) or at Moustakia’s Taverna in Agia Pelagia adding his laconic remarks to any political debate.

Part-poet, part-philosopher, Dimitri was an incredible boat builder and carpenter: his knowledge of sea vessels was unmatched in Kythera. His woodworking capabilities were a bridge to a time long gone. Unafraid of whom he was, the often gruff Dimitri had amassed an impressive collection of by-gone woodworking tools.

A deeply caring man with short curly hair and bright ocean blue eyes, Dimitri could recognise where a ‘caique’ (fishing boat) was built, from afar. Always a big-man Dimitri had various medical complications that intensified with age, recently underwent a serious operation that he never recovered from.

Dimtri leaves behind his wife Irini, children Mihalis, Nicoletta and Ourania and grandchildren. It feels as if the bright candlelight of Agia Patrikia has been snuffed-out.

The tragedy of the accidental death of Polychronis Chrysafitis aged 36, feels insurmountable. Polychronis, the eldest of ‘the Baker Boys’ (the Chrysafitis family have long owned the Bakery in Potamos, delivering bread to most of the island) was a gentleman, who lived an inspirational and dignified life pursuing what he loved best - adventuring.
In the Navy he became a ‘frogman’ with the elite diving corps. Once released from the Navy, he went on diving professionally and travelled internationally diving to recover ships.

Much beloved by all, the gentle and softly-spoken Polychronis had a deep respect for life. He wasn’t a person to shout and bellow and yet he pursued his own path with absolute determination. While the first generation of Baker Boys now in their 60s – Tassos & Jimmy recently retired passing the business onto their sons – Tassos’s sons Polychronis & Nikos along with Jimmy’s sons Polychronis (nicknamed Seinfeld) and George, Polychronis maturely walked away from the lucrative bakery to set up a Diving/Fishing shop in Potamos.

The elder Polychronis was born with a deep love of exploring the natural world, even as a teenager he was an accomplished spear-fisherman and mountaineer. He had explored many of the island’s most inhospitable rock-faces and coastlines in detail. Perhaps you joined Polychronis on one of his climbing tours along the Kaki-Lagada.

The painful stillness of Potamos as people helplessly gathered last night outside the iconic Potamos bakery in shock, needing to hear that it wasn’t true, was eerie. While details of his passing are still vague it has been reported in the media that he was diving at the Scaramanga Ship Yard in Attica when the accident happend. The tragedy is heightened by the fact that the accident occurred at a depth of only 4 metres.

There is a deep lament for all the dreams Polychronis will not realise. In order to start Kythera’s own diving school he recently bought a building in Potamos to relocate his shop and business, looking forward to being permanently based here. His deep love of Kythera and all he planned to do here is now also lost.

Like Dimtri, Polychronis was loved by many and will be missed by all. I feel sadness for the young people of the island who will never come into contact with these two truly individual beings, but the best lesson we can now hope to have from them is that we can learn by honouring their work and their love of our island.

Today Wednesday 26 February 2008 Kythera cries for its Fallen. May They Both Rest in Peace.

Anna Cominos, KFN Lead Reporter on Kythera

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