A WALKING HOLIDAY IN NAXOS

Some years ago I partook of a wonderful holiday in Naxos, the largest but least touristic island of the Cyclades in the Aegean Sea, where with some friends we walked the ancient Donkey trails. And because of it being spring time, the whole of the island was covered in the blooms of wild flowers and herbs, a wonderful sight to behold! The fragrance of Oregano, Thyme, Chamomile, Lavender, and Melissa were a daily delight.

The island is also very rich in archaeological finds and remains as it has been lived on constantly for the past 3000 years.
Simple but beautiful Byzantine churches and monasteries are to be found all over the island, many containing icons of great artistic value, covered in gold leaf and intricate painting, some are also half covered in silver to protect the paintings. The architecture of these churches, while simple, I found very graceful and atheistically pleasing, painted in brilliant white with some of the domes in Greek blue, and the older ones, of which we saw quite a few, are built in natural stone, even the roofs are.

The highest mountain on the island is called Zas and is 1004 metres high; I only ever saw it with its head in the clouds. Some people believe that Zeus was born here while others think that he was born on Crete and grew up here. Naxos is supposed to be the island where Theseus left behind the Cretan princess Ariadne after she helped him escape from the labyrinth where he had killed the Minotaur. Ariadne is then supposed to have fallen in love with Dionysus. Mythology abounds in the Greek islands and it was just lovely to see with my own eyes things that I would have read about long ago.

Gosh, the food was marvellous and I enjoyed eating every Greek dish. So I had lots of salads made with organic and sun ripened tomatoes, olives, and cucumbers and covered in the most delicious local feta cheese and olive oil. Then there were the goat and lamb dishes, the bean and tomato dishes, absolutely mouth watering, and always the fried potatoes.
People are fond there too of sweet things, lots of honey and sesame seeds and almonds, all this baked scrumptiously wrapped in filo pastry and served with strong Greek coffee in tiny cups. My favourite was some sort of sweetmeat covered in powdered icing sugar and with a delicate flavour of pure rose essence. Not to forget the drinks, the Ozo I found overrated and did not take to, but there is another drink, a liquor made from the leaves of a tree, a hybrid between lemon and grapefruit, it is called Citron and pronounced Kitron, they come in three different colours, supposed to be three different strengths but the Naxiots were unclear which colour was the strongest! I fancied them all as this drink gave me a nice gentle sense of lightness of being.

The meal that I can remember as being the most wonderful, we ate at a tavern in a remote village after a long strenuous walk through the mountains. Rosemarie, our guide, knew the people and we were all welcomed with open arms. The nice woman of the house served us a lovely goats stew flavoured with the sort of aromatic herbs we had been walking through, there were long, podgy, green beans in a tomato sauce, potatoes fried in olive oil and rice wrapped in olive leaves and tasting real good. This same lady happen to be very fond of roses and not only did she have lovely old scented roses in vases all over the place, they were also on the napkins and tablecloths.

The town of Naxos or Hora as it is called and where we had our accommodation is built on a hill forming a natural acropolis, on top of which is a fortress, dating from the occupation by the Venetians. Along the sides is a labyrinth of streets, narrow and stepped, the houses are a brilliant white and the doors and windows blue, arches are everywhere and some are very low so that even I had to bend down to pass through them. Here and there geraniums and bougainvillea flowers throw a lovely dash of added colour making the whole a beautiful place full of photo opportunities. Word has it that the town was built in this way to fool the pirates and give the town folk the chance to escape when being attacked, apparently the arches connected from house to house, who knows. It is a delightful town and I got lost several times in the labyrinth but enjoyed finding my way out again eventually.

One of the first days we passed the main Greek orthodox cathedral, built on the site of an earlier small church (Zoodochos Pighi), it took its present form in 1780-7, and it is dedicated to St.Nicodemus the Athonite and to St.Nektarios. Large quantities of materials from ancient temples were used in its construction! Its solid granite pillars are supposed to have come from the ruins of Delos. Anyway, we were curious as to what was going on inside as we could hear the singing of a low male voice. At our entrance we were invited in to take part of the baptism of a child. The priest, with a long white beard, was singing and doing his rituals. There was the scent of incense, and candles were lit all over the place. The child was totally undressed as it would then be dressed in a whole set of elaborate new clothes. The church looked interesting; it was covered in icons some of which were exquisite art.

Along the promenade there were the many restaurants, most of them for the tourists but some were clearly the haunts of the locals, mainly the men sitting drinking their Ozo and talking, or is it philosophising, while overhead the octopus were hanging to dry on wooden sticks in the sun.

The walks took us over hills and rocks and through meadows and even over a small river in one valley. The views were magnificent, especially the white villages hugging the mountainsides, Filotis being one of the nicest and nearest to Mount Zas. We passed the olive groves along the valleys. And went along the rocky mountain paths were we would come across herds of goats, we also saw ducks and a lone turkey. We noticed that there are very few cattle here on the island.
There was a lot more that we were delighted to see; there was the Kouros, an ancient statue never fully erected and still lying in its ancient quarry. The marble quarries and the emery and obsidian stone. The ruins of the temple to Demetre. The colour of the deep blue of the Aegean Sea. The interesting looking moths, butterflies, lizards and beetles. The beautiful sunsets. The lovely little shops full of copies of artefacts, some of which I saw in the local archaeological museum, very ancient remnants of life in Naxos and the Cyclades.

I came home very energised and happy, and with lots of photos and some stone samples. On our way back we stopped for one day in Athens and visited the Acropolis. I must say that I was surprised at the effect it had on me, I was very impressed. We also saw the change of the guards which I thought was very funny! We saw the remains of the temple to Zeus and Hadrian’s Arch. Our hotel was very close to this area and the evening of our arrival we hung out in the colourful Plaka district, little streets, some paved in marble, full of life, shops looking vibrant and lively and very full of all sorts of souvenirs but also local produce and stunning Greek tunics and other clothing and jewellery, they were pulsating with the laughter of Greeks and tourists alike all of whom seemed excited to be alive! There was music, and in line with Greek tradition, carnations thrown all over the place.
There is lovely architecture to be seen here too in the houses, so this is a great place for an evening walk.

This visit to Naxos and Athens took place many years ago but I still have great memories of the beauty and the sheer delight of seeing some of the monuments that I had read about. It is another one of these places where I can go in my mind and be delighted.

WINDSTILL

There is a strange quietness about tonight

It is the quietness of the absence of wind

And in this land so close to the wild Atlantic Ocean ~ that is rather unusual

We know of the stillness before a storm

Or the quietness we experience on some rare days when not a blade of grass is stirring

Or the stillness after a thunderstorm when only the blackbird sings

and nothing moves

But tonight it is a quietness all of its own

it woke me up

THE GARDEN ~ LUSH AFTER THE RAINS

During the afternoon I found the cool air in the garden conducive to looking over my notes. I’m doing the second part of ‘Fundamentals of Plant biology’ course and am finding it absolutely fascinating, if a little challenging too! Keep the old brain working 🙂

So the solstice came and went and we are enjoying midsummer weather, it is all good, and life is feeling a little more like normal again. At least I hope it is for everyone else too.

LEARNING ABOUT WORDPRESS

Here I have three different images which I have been able to minimize using ‘GIMP’ which is a free download app that helps you lower the pixels on your image. The reason I am so busy with this right now is that my media library was coming close again to maximum usage percentage, and I really had to think this time what to do about it. So I asked a question in the help forum of WordPress.com and I have received very good information since. I was advised first of all that my images were way too large for my blog site and it was explained to me how to remedy this for future use. It took a little of practice but thanks to the step-wise instruction that I received it became very easy and hence I have now put these three images on here. I changed them from well over 3GB to a mere 200 or 300KB. So this is mastered and I feel happy that I have gained yet another insight in how all this works.

I still have to add a new site to my present blog as I was advised to export some of my older blog posts there in order to give me more space in my media library. I think that I have understood what to do but I am not sure yet and I will have to go and do it presently and find out how it works.

For a long time I have just floated along with WordPress, I found it easy enough to muddle through it and it looked good enough so I never really read up on what the possibilities are, now that has to change, I want to understand it better and make better use of all its possibilities. To enhance my blog posts for example though I am happy enough with them, I think it is good to keep learning. Half the battle is knowing the lingo and understanding what words or terms refer to. I have used the internet ever since it started and I even used to teach people how to use it while working in the library, but since I retired I fear that I have fallen behind in use of technology and what is available. I think even my grandchildren understand all this modern technology better than I, and things change so rapidly! Still it is good for the brain to try and work it all out.

The staff at WordPress are very helpful and for that I am grateful.

So now it remains to be seen if my photos (the three that I posted) came out in enough detail. You might have to click into each photo to get a larger view.

Please let me know any additional tips or your own experiences with your blog, I would find it very interesting.

Thank you.

A LIVING LANDSCAPE

Looking for signs of life whether in the past or in the now. This is what currently interests me in my photography. I’ve always been shy of taking photos of people, I have felt that it would be too intrusive, and because of my interest in nature I mostly take photos of plants, landscape or insects. This I enjoy. But recently it has come to my attention that I am always searching for signs of human habitation or activity, signs that the land has been worked, of structures having been used by humans; bridges, stone walls, gate posts, ruins, ancient pathways, old churches or houses or other structures. All these are interesting and give pleasure, not only from trying to find out more about them locally, from the internet or from books, but also from the sheer beauty of them.

My attention has been drawn by my friends and followers that you like to see this variety too in my blogs, and I find this very helpful and realise that by blogging and interaction with my other blogger friends I get to know myself better, and I define what I really want to record. I am grateful to everyone.

And so yes also on this walk last Saturday I did come across a broken old iron gate, rusty and fallen down, it has had its use in the past of that I am sure. And then I saw an iron gate post which is quite an unusual find around this area and I wonder how long it has been supporting this newish galvanised gate. Was this always a gatepost? Or did it start its life as something different on a farm in the area?

It is always lovely to see acres of crops, stretches of land that change colour according to the seasons and to what is grown on them, also fields or meadows sometimes with cattle. There is something so soothing and reassuring about a pastural landscape, I think that it goes very deep in a person, to see the land being used and crops being grown, it gives a deep feeling of safety and that all is still well with our earth despite all the environmental problems.

And then I spotted a red ribbon in this tree and it reminded me of an old tradition, not only in Ireland as I have seen it in South India too. People tie ribbons usually on hawthorn trees as a gift for spirits or fairies and as a symbol of a prayer or a wish granted, usually someone with an illness or unhappiness. This is done mainly during May around the feast of Bealtaine. I was quite surprised to spot this ribbon and it does add to the interest.

But here are also some of the wild flowers along my path, as always such a delight.

It has been another glorious day today after a real thunderstorm yesterday with a heavy rain shower, but it is this rain that makes the countryside in Ireland so green, lush and beautiful. We very seldom get thunder here usually only one clap and done, but this one took half an hour with brilliant skies and fantastic lightning and afterwards when the sky cleared and the rain stopped all was still, and then a blackbird started to sing!

JUST NOW

Just now we returned from catching some fresh air and admiring the beauty of Loch Hyne some 10 minutes drive from here. There were many people, young and old swimming and more people chatting over cups of tea. The sun had come out and it was now actually warm. A most beautiful evening and a great ambience.

I noticed two new flowering plants that I want to identify. Ok I think that both these two photos are Sea Spurreys. The one on the right might be Greater Sea spurrey (Spergularia media) but I have a suspicion that it is actually Rock Spurrey but in order to confirm that I have to go back and check the underside of the sepals. This little flower has 10 stamens and the sepals are shorter than the petals. The photo on the left, I will also go and double check this little plant, it is a Spurrey but I am not sure which one, probably the same as the one on the right but not in as good a condition. So some homework for me to do.

Lichens growing on the stone wall.

We both feel refreshed and ready to head into a peaceful night.

SOFTLY FLOWS THE RIVER ILEN ~ another walk

On a fine day like today I took a long walk along the river Ilen. After it has meandered through the town of Skibbereen it flows towards Old Court and this is where my hike took me. The Ilen river ‘An Aighlinnis’ in Gaelic, is beautiful. It flows from the Mullaghmesha mountain in the area between Drimoleague and Dunmanway. Skibbereen is the largest settlement along its way to the sea at Baltimore. Here, just outside the town and downstream a lot of young and sportive folks enjoy canoeing, and upstream it is salmon and trout fishing that attracts people to its waters. I have always personally liked the Ilen river because often when I pass it the surface would be like a mirror, reflecting the trees and houses, and that is so lovely. I think that this river makes Skibbereen and surrounding area what it is. A very scenic place.

On my walk today I crossed the ‘New’ Bridge, in my eye a beautiful bridge and I am glad to say that I found out some information about the design of this bridge. I love old bridges.

Here at low tide it is easy to see the abutments just above the water which act as support for the arches and strengthen the whole structure against the power of the flowing water.

‘New’ bridge has got beautiful arches, this bridge has been constructed with segmental arches.  This arch type is made from a segment of a circle, allowing for a flatter arch, which in turn allowed for flatter carriageways, and to reduce the hump-back profile. This hump-back profile was the result of an earlier design of a masonry bridge where the arch was constructed in a semi-circular form.  These bridges are still very common in County Cork.  The segmental style, however, became a common feature of 19th century bridges and ‘New’ Bridge in Skibbereen is a fine example of such a style. The bridge is constructed of limestone and sandstone which is the rock most commonly found in the area.

So I started towards Church Cross on the N71, this is a very popular walk with keep fit enthusiasts. Looking back towards the town I was surprised to see some horses grazing in a field bordering the river.
My walk took me over ‘New’ Bridge where plenty of wild flowers grown on its walls. Common mouse-ear and oxeye daisies among others.

This walk took me one hour and was most pleasant and, at the moment, at least it was very quiet. The sun was blazing and the wind played in my hair and was very refreshing. What a treat after all the gardening work which was rather intense during the past week. I decided that I will keep Sundays for walking, although around here it is better not to stick to a certain day as you never know what the weather will bring.

In the black circle is the route of my walk, when I see it on the map it is a tiny walk in the larger area of Skibbereen area.
While both Ian and I returned to this spot by the river today we noticed several fish jumping up and down. The river Ilen is known to be one of the cleanest rivers in Ireland. We are so lucky.

MEMORIES OF AN OLD FRIEND

This time I am sharing a tribute to the man I was married to for 31 years and also the father of our lovely daughter Tjorven and grandfather of our five wonderful grandchildren. Ron died from cancer on Monday the 11th of May. He became very good mates with my husband Ian and he was a regular friend to our house, Ron and I remained friends.

I would like to share a tribute from the West Cork Chamber Music Festival team, I quote;

“We are sad to hear that one of our earliest supporters and volunteers, Ron Victor, has passed away after a long illness. He was an integral and much-valued part of our team for many years.

In the early days, he and his then wife Agnes were generous supporters of West Cork Music and Ron then became the man who took care of moving all heavy equipment at the West Cork Chamber Music Festivals. So much goes on behind the scenes to ensure the smooth running of the Festival concerts and Ron’s contribution was vital. He made sure that everything which was needed in Bantry House, whether pianos, chairs, box office tables or boxes of wine, was there. Everything he did was with enthusiasm, energy and a smile which we all remember with great fondness.

Ron had a deep love of Baroque music and he spent so many hours listening to it while driving thousands of miles in his removal van, that he developed an encyclopaedic knowledge of the repertoire by ear. It was his passion for Early Music which influenced Francis Humphrys’ decision to include it in the Festival programme.”

For a number of years, the Cork County Council harpsichord was transported to ten schools for a week of Baroque workshops in January and it was Ron who made this possible, moving the instrument carefully from school to school while seeing the music he loved being played for a new generation of music-lovers.

Ron was introduced to early music by his friend Antoon Tandt at age 18. The first composer he became familiar with was Heinrich Schutz, and especially his ‘Psalmen Davids’, during our time together it is what we shared most of all, our love of early music, it was a huge factor in our relationship and our daughter was brought up in a home resounding of music by Bach, Buxtehude, Schutz, Ockegem, Tallis, and many other fine composers.  Eventually Ron became involved with West Cork Chamber Music Festival and later with the East Cork Early Music Festival which he enjoyed very much. His love of beautiful music knew no bounds, he listened to it until close to the time he died. 

The team at East Cork Early Music Festival were also greatly saddened to learn that Ron Victor passed away. They said he was a great lover of early music, always smiling and was so helpful to our festival over many years.

Ron’s grandchildren also contributed some memories of their grandpa, I will just give a flavour of their thoughts. Hazel who is 13 years old said that she remembers her grandpa as an amazing, kind and funny person. Alice who is 11 has memories of all the gifts and sweets that her grandpa would bring back from his travels. Ruben who is aged 9 thinks of his grandpa as a superhero, he recons that he made the world. Jasmin aged 8 thought grandpa was funny and nice, she also thought that he was wise and she remembered his 70th birthday party and all the nice cake. Willow is only five and she remembers grandpa as being ‘young’, she also remembers that he took a lot of photos. It is lovely to hear the tributes of the grandchildren for their grandpa.

Ron ended up living in the Philippines where he had a new relationship towards the latter part of his life. He loved the life there, the natural world and the climate. He returned to Belgium for a visit and to organize some things. He was subsequently diagnosed with cancer and he remained with family who very kindly looked after him while he was undergoing treatment.

So we have been busy organising the funeral service in this time of Corona virus when people cannot travel or indeed when funerals are very private, that is no problem in its own and we were able to attend and all be together during Ron’s funeral service at the crematorium in Kortrijk via live video. I had the privilege of picking the music and choose some lovely pieces by Bach and Purcell. Many family members wrote beautifully worded farewell pieces. It was a beautiful service. A good send off to Ron and a solace for the family.

Rest in peace Ron, there will be many people who will miss you.

A NEW WALK

As from a few days ago, and after a lockdown period of over seven weeks we over seventies are allowed out for a daily walk. Well I did not have to be told twice and though it was raining for the last two days I did go out. But today the sun shone and it was mild again and beautiful. I badly needed to connect with nature big time, and so I choose a walk which was the last walk my grandchildren and I did together in early February. It is a country road close to our town, taking you right out into farmland, a sight to behold, beautiful.
The sun playing through the leaves of the trees threw dappled shadows on to the road, something that I love to see whether it is in a painting or in reality.
This is farm land, lovely to behold and behind those hills in the distance is the sea, the Atlantic Ocean!