The old men in Astiraki

It is early in the morning; the golden sun has just raised above the mountaintops in the eas t.  The air in the village of Anogia is still cool and fresh. The view from our balcony at Aris hotel is marvellous. The long shadows from the mountains are creating peculiar patterns in the landscape below and in the distance we hear a donkey say "kalimera" to his master. 

 We have paid in advance for our room and will try to sneak out without too much noise.  Not a chance, our landlady Evangelia always on alert with narrowed smiling eyes, catches us, when we put the first toe on the staircase. "Kalimera sas, don't you want some breakfast before you leave?" We explain to her, that it is still too early in the morning and also too early after the dinner we had yesterday evening at the taverna near by. Why? In Anogia you eat μακαρονια με τυρι (spaghetti with cheese and meat) and drink the rather strong local wine. After a meal like that you cannot eat for many, many hours. Flowers, apples and a small bottle of tsikodiá are soon in our hands. You never leave Aris hotel empty-handed. Kisses, hugs and away we go.

The activity in Anogia is already high, not from young people, no, no it is the old ladies hanging up tablecloths, blankets, handbags, carpets and so on outside their houses. Soon the buyers, the tourists, will come and bargain. We leave Anogia behind heading towards Heraklion. No tourist-traffic at this our, we only meet some Toyotas and Mazdas, always with 3 persons inside and the dog behind on the platform, on their way to the goats or to the fields. Before we hit the road to Heraklion, we drive a couple of kilometres up towards the Nidaplateau, just to enjoy the fantastic views from Psiloritis and listen to the bells from thousands of katsikas (half-wild black goats). No disturbing noises from cars, aeroplanes or other technical machinery. I have said it many times before and I repeat; Life is beautiful.

After a couple of hours we are on the move again and we can now slowly feel some emptiness in our stomachs. A road-sign shows "Astiraki" and we turn to the left. The road is nice and after 15 minutes we are in Astiraki. A crossing of 5 roads is the centre of the village and here we find two kafenions. The one to the left with a big tree in front seems to be very empty. The one to right is more lively, one old man outside having his first metrio (half-sweet Greek coffee) of the day and inside a woman, dressed in black, running around looking for something. The man calls for the blackbird to come out to take the order. We ask, if there is a possibility to have something to eat, an omelette, some bread and tea or coffee. "Parakalló?????"  "OXI!!!!!…..........just coffee, black". The man next to us enters the scene again and hits the table with his fist and tells the blackbird something but we are lucky enough not to understand a word. Anyway she disappears and after five minutes she is back with her apron full of eggs and bread. Antonis, our saviour, is a nice old man and he tells us a lot about the village and the surroundings. He has been working in Germany for a couple of years, so the language we use is swegergreek. It is a funny language I can tell you but it works quite well. 

Our little blackbird serves a perfect breakfast and when we explain to her that it is really delicious, she gets in a better mood and sings like a blackbird back home in Sweden in a warm summer evening. We offer Antonis a beer and we enjoy ourselves in his company.

Time to have a look at the village under the guidance of our new- found friend. We walk through the narrow streets and we notice that some of the roofs are covered of grapes. "Stafida" explains Antonis. Grapes put there to end up as raisins. The village is not big but it has a hotel of its own. We meet with the owner and Antonis says if we return again then we shall stay the night and there will food, wine, music and dancing. Soon we are outside of Antonis house where we meet with his sister and her daughter. They are cleaning stafidas and of course we receive some to taste. Antonis is a little bit naughty. While I am taking some photos of the ladies, he puts his hand on my wife's but. He is lucky we are in Greece, in Sweden nowadays we would call it sexual abuse.  I tell Sofia, that this is normal and is sometimes what the old men do to younger women in Greece.  "I have read about it in a book somewhere". 

 She is smiling back to me!!  Life is nice!  Anyway we bid them all farewell and return to our jeep.

 

The year after we returned again to Astiraki. Now the kafenion to the left is open and there are about 5 old men sitting under the big tree drinking ouzo or tsikodiá. Antonis recognises us immediately and offers a beer. After a while we are 15 persons around the tables and we offer them a glass of tsikodiá and soon the heat is on. Laughter, singing, stories of which we understand just a little, more tsikodiá and fun, fun, fun. Looking out behind the corners here and there, we see the faces of curious women. What is going on in their village????  They gather into small groups and chat pspspsp ……….psps. My camera comes up and whoops they are vanished. As I sneak closer to a corner I can hear them again ……. pspspspspspsp.  When I show myself to them, they smile. I ask them to line up for a photo. Giggling like 10 years old girls the women gather up and the photo is taken and another one and another one. The filmstars of Astiraki in action. What is Hollywood compared to this.?  Antonis has again put his hand where it should not be. He never semms to give up. Another new friend of ours, Manolis, asks, if we can guess how old the fellows around the table are? Well they look somewhere between 65 and 85 so that is our answer. Laughter!!!!!  "I am the youngest", Antonis says and I am 73 years old. Aha, that's why he still has that special power of his left. Now we also understand, why they call us "paidia" all the time. Manolis himself is 103 years old and reads without glasses. Amazing!

Time to leave Astiraki for this time. They all jump to their feet and yes we have to promise we will come back. "If you will be here all of you next year, we will for sure also be back".   The last words are from Manolis, 103 years old: "Well, I will be here, but I am not too sure about you, paidi mou"!!!!

 

                 

The filmstars of Astiraki in action                                                     Outside the kafenion

 

(We have brought the rest of the photos from the kafenion to our friends in the village. Unfortunately the owner of "our" kafenion" passed away some years ago and the kafenion is now closed) 

 

                                                                      

                                                                       We miss our friend from the kafenion 

 

Kriti stis kardies mas

lars kai Sofia

 

I wonder where Antonis has his left hand