Prasés, a magic Cretan day and night

 

It is the 28th of October the date when in 1940 General Metaxas rejected the ultimatum by which Italy demanded the right to occupy Greece.
The Oxi-day (oxhi=no) is celebrated all over the country and in Chania there will be a big parade. As we watched this parade last year, we have instead decided to attend the chestnut festival in the village of Prasés.
We have passed there many times and some of you may recall this from my Omalos story. We were then a little uncertain about the road. 

“About 200 metres in front of us are 3 men, all dressed in black, discussing something; it is easy to tell from all their gestures.

I drive towards them. 

"Are you crazy, we have a lot money, two cameras and one binocular and look at those men? Don’t you understand they will rob us"!!

"Endaksi agapi mou, they look a little wild but these men are mountain men and they are supposed to look like that".  

She acts very fast and in seconds everything is hidden. Two young men and one old approach the jeep, window up on one side but down on my side. I try to ask about the road to the village of Prasés and immediately there is a huge smile on the old mans face. He is willing to show us the way and in two seconds he is in the backseat 

"Pame “(Lets´s go")

We continue down the hill and the road is very, very bad and kind of soft. I can feel the right-side wheels sinking in the mud. This is good, very good!!! My co-driver has changed into a pale-face whispering:

"He just wants us to drive him home. Then he will leave us to ourselves and we will never find our way back" 

From behind the man asks: "Apo pou eisai" (Where are you from?). 

The silence is broken and we have now reached the bottom of the valley and it is very nice down here. Everything is green and yellow-coloured flowers cover many of the bushes. Some of the trees -maybe fruit trees - are dressed in white flowers. A brook runs along the road and we have to cross it a couple of times. There are also gates to open and Sofia does a great job and our passenger in the back is smiling and happy.

It was of course a happy ending to this story:“A big hug and a kiss from Sofia and we leave him with a happy smile on his face “  

The Omalos story will soon be up!!

The road to the village is nice and the views over the mountains are breathtaking. When we arrive about 10.30 in the morning, the activity is already very high. People  run to and fro. We park the Volvo and join the villagers. In the centre of the village the roar is turning into a “market” with three houses and one kafenion in one side and two houses and a combined taverna/kafenion on the other. Tree also frames the “market” and in the background we see the mountain slopes, also covered by trees and bushes.

Here and there in the landscape are small white houses and some dirt roads (we know one them that’s for sure) leading all the way up to Omalos. The sky above is blue and a smooth, warm wind is coming from south. On our left side, from the front of the kafenion, tables and chairs in white plastic are placed and formed like a big fan. On the other side the tables and the chairs are placed along the road. There are still plenty of space though for cars and even for the early morning bus to pass trough. Further down the road on the right side is a small church, today decorated with flowers. From a low hill behind the “market” we have a perfect view of it all. Not many guests yet, but it is still early.

We are forced back down to the “market” again by a teasing smell. In front of the house next to the taverna food is prepared. Hugh casseroles with lamb and katsika are put over open fire and the cooks, three men using gaily coloured aprons, are watching over them very closely.They say, that skimming is very important and of course they are right.

Herbs?

No, just salt and that´s it. On the ground, waiting to be brought inside, are some beer cases filled with meat from the casseroles. To our joy one of the cooks suddenly says:

Oriste parakalo

We grab one piece each and everybody around seems to look at us with a big question mark on their faces.

Silence for short moment

Endaksi?” 

Nai nai to vrasto einai poli poli nostimo

What could be more wrong here than to say  “To  many cooks spoil the broth”.

 

There are also chestnuts boiling in water in some big pots, all looked after by an old woman dressed in black. When I take a picture of her, she is smiling towards me in a warm and  very kind way. It is so easy to love this people and it is truly an honour to get to know them and to be a part of their charm, hospitality and friendship.


"
Ela, ela apo edo sto fourno".
A young strong-looking woman is waving to us to come and take some photos.
Behind the casseroles is an oven in which she is roasting chestnuts. They are black and very hot but they taste very nice.
"
Ela mesa".
She is dragging Sofia and me inside the house, where on some tables there are chestnuts made in different ways; boiled, roasted, honey-dipped, chocolate-covered and many more.
She tells us to taste all the different kinds and they are nice, especially the one with chocolate.
There are also plenty of bottles filled with tsikoudia and local wine along one of the walls. It is easy to tell, that this will be good party.
I leave the ladies and the nuts, sorry chestnuts, behind.


Opposite from the taverna another teasing smell is mixing in the air. The curling smoke tells me, that there is a grill somewhere over there. I cannot see it because it's situated down below.
Crossing the road, I notice that cars are being parked on both sides all the way down to the church. Dressed up people, old and young are now joining the festival and soon the "market" will be crowded.
At the entrances to the "market" are two men selling tickets to the fabulous price of only 3.500 Drx.
The masters of the brizoles work in the heat from the grill in a high tempo. They turn the meat over and over again only using their hands.
At the same moment as I am zooming them in with my videocamera, my right eye register the sign from one of the masters and I hear "
Ela".
I am joining them and a big brizola and a glass of wine is presented to me. Heaven is close!
They tell me, that this is the third year the village organise a party like this to celebrate the chestnuts and it is the first time outdoors.
"
My friend, you have brought good weather", they say in one voice.
"
Have I"? Yes of course I have.
Next to us are some eight or ten barrels spreading that special smell of mash. In a couple of days it will be first class tsikoudia. Maybe it would be a good idea to return by then.
After a superb brizola, two glasses of a wine we finish our private mini barbecue party with a glass of one of the best tsikoudies I have ever tasted.


 

Time to find back to Sofia again.
The meat, to vrasto, on the other side is now ready and the men are straining the broth, which will be used for pilaffi.
Young boys put chestnuts, salads and bottles, both wine and tsikoudia, on the tables.
Everywhere I hear the famous and well-known words "Yamas" or "Si gia".
The fan has changed from white into a mixture of red, blue, green, yellow, brown, black, and pink and so on in the most beautiful way. People are dressed in all colours and this has given life to the fan and it is moving and changing all the time. The party is on.
But where is Sofia?
I look around and soon I find her in a big company eating, drinking and laughing.
She has met a good friend of ours, Nikos, the cook from Taverna Moutoupaki, and his company.
She is in good hands so I continue to explore what is happening with the food. The pilaffi is made inside the "chestnut-house" and the cook in charge stir rice and broth together with a wooden ladle.
The critical moment, when to stop, in order to have a perfect pilaffi does not seem to bother him at all because his wife supports him. She is the specialist in the village.
From outside we hear musicians tuning their instruments, the lira and the laoto

After a few minutes the pilaffi is ready and now  things happen very fast.  Boys and girls run in high speed out to the tables with dishes filled with meat and pilaffi and from the other side of the road brizoles are brought out in the same way. The young boys in the orchestra start to play.
What a perfect timing!

 

I return to Sofia and join her and her company. Good and much food, wine and chestnuts, good and bad stories and a lot of laughter in the company of friendly and nice people, what more can we ask for. After too much food we need to move a little and therefore we take a walk along the road. Cars are parked everywhere and the evening-bus is stuck in a bend. The driver tries over and over again but it is impossible for him to pass. A couple of passengers jump out from the bus and the rest is very simple. They lift two of the cars into the ditch and the road is free. The car-drivers will for sure wonder; did I really park my car that bad? I sincerely hope, that is was the man in the family, who parked the car otherwise…

The hours pass fast and soon it is dark. Above the mountains the man in the moon is looking down at the people and the good food. It is new moon so he looks kind of hungry. I invite him to the party:

"My friend, how about a brizola and some pilaffi?"

 Yes wow, that would be very nice, thank you. As you can see I am starved"

What a happening that would be. From a new moon to a full moon in one night.

In each end of the "market" fires are lit by a couple of women, while others with a knife make short cuts in the chestnuts before they are put onto the live coal to be roasted.
Children run around, play and scream of joy and happiness. In front of the fan young men dance and sing to the traditional music accompanied by people clapping their hands. "
Opa! Opa!"

We can almost touch the atmosphere; it is one of those magical Cretan nights. Unfortunately there is an end to everything and we have to go back to Chania but… who is that man over there, yes, the man with the grey hair, the moustache and a big smile on his face? He looks very familiar. I am sure; he is the "robber", whom we brought back from Omalos about six or seven years ago. Shall we or shall we not make us know to him? Will he or is it possible for him to remember us?

We decide to leave him and his company behind. Maybe we can come back some other time and look him up (as a matter of fact we did but that will be another story). It is late when we arrive back to Chania. It is impossible to sleep. When I close my eyes, the impressions from the village and its people run like a movie and I am back in Prasés again. Next to me in her bed Sofia dances the night away and I am sure she also is back in the village. It has been a magic day and night in Crete…again

 Kriti stis kardies mas

lars and Sofia

 

                                                    

 

                               .......and our friend the moon is full and happy again 

Prasés preparing for "glenti". In the background the slopes up towards Omalos.

 

Cretan

I guess this is the way Sofia looked upon our passenger.

 

The Chefs for the vrasto.

 

Kastana(chestnuts)being roasted 

 

This is where they know how to make a brisola and raki. 

The Chef of pilaffi

The "glenti" has started

Traditional dance

Fire in the night 

 

You will find more photos from Prasés just click here