It’s nearly time to leave Zákynthos. Our year-and-a-half-long odyssey to Europe is nigh-on over. What a time we’ve had! And yes, I can feel another book about Zákynthos, or better, about the whole trip, coming on.
One day on our previous visit to Zante two years ago we noticed workmen clearing up a large amount of sand on Solomós Square, the main square in Zákynthos town. We went about our business and thought no more about it. Reading the local paper the next day I found out what the sand had been for: jousting. I read that again: jousting? In Zákynthos? Ναι! Continue reading
Of all the nationalities I could have been if I wasn’t Irish, French would have suited me best. That has nothing to do with my French-sounding surname, which actually comes from a far-flung corner of county Mayo on the west coast of Ireland, but rather from the affinity I’ve pretentiously felt with the language and – oui – the culture since I was young. I did French in school, liked it, did well at it, read some French books, and really got into French cinema, especially if it involved nudity, which it usually did. To this day, my favourite movies include “Le Boucher”, “Diva”, and “Rififi”. Some days here on Zakynthos, I feel like I’m starring in my own Marcel Pagnol adaptation, like the père in “La Gloire de mon Père”.
After dropping one pair of Aussies off (Alexander and Eoin, at school), we proceeded to the crossroads at Lithakiá to pick up another. Louise, who runs the Zakynthian tradition, food and culture facebook group, and her sister Julie, had arranged to meet us there and come walk the Marathiá coastal trail with us this fine May morning. In fact, it’ll soon be too fine to do this sort of walk, so Tina and I have had to be diligent in getting as many walks in Zakynthos done as we can, while we can.
As we got out of the cars at Botsolo Taverna, the starting point of our walk, a fifth member of the group jumped out of the boot of Louise’s car: Mishka, a huge female rottweiler. Well, as Louise explained, ‘mishka’ means baby bear in Russian, so Mishka is well-named indeed.
Okay, this is going to be more of a newsy blog with an update of all the little bits and pieces that we’ve been up to lately. We’ve been here just over five weeks now, and Spring is in full bloom. There was a frenzy of activity in the fields about a week ago with hay being mown and baled, summer vegies planted and olive groves cleared of rampant thistles. It’s slowed down a bit now but there’s always someone in one of the neighbouring fields busy at work doing something agricultural that I can’t always identify.
Mayday in Greece
The first of May is known as Protomagiá (Πρωτομαγιά) in Greece. People get the day off work, kids get the day off school, and everyone heads out into the countryside to pick flowers. Knowing far better than to ask Alexander and Eoin if they wanted to go for a walk after breakfast, we simply told them to brush their teeth, put on their outside gear, and see us downstairs in five minutes. In the meantime Tina and I had drawn up a plan to drive up to Vrachíonas, the highest mountain here in Zakynthos, and walk to the top. Twenty minutes later, we were ready to go.. Continue reading
Our good friend, Yorgo, is a self-sufficiency guru. Not in the modern “let’s escape consumerism and go back to our roots” kind of way but out of tradition, inclination, and to a large part, necessity. A lot of the people around here have never escaped from their “roots” and take pride in growing a lot of their own food. Continue reading
We parked on the edge of Kalamáki near the beachfront hotel that probably wouldn’t get planning permission anymore, and walked around it to get to Crystal Beach. Had the hotel taken its name from the beach, or vice versa? With the sun right in our faces, we tramped along the sand, appreciating the fact that there wasn’t a sinner, or a nudist, in sight. The sun had risen just over an hour ago, over that very hill, Mount Skopós. I had thought about taking my togs and having a quick dip, but at 8:15 in the morning it was still a bit fresh. No need to worry: we had all season. The darkness of the sand here reminded me of the beaches on Santorini. I took a photo of a small starfish. When was the last time I saw one of those? I’m not 100% sure I ever have before.
Taking advantage of a beautiful spring day, we hopped in the car and drove through the mountain range that dominates the west side of the island, to a little village called Loucha. One the highest villages in Zakynthos, Loucha is nestled in a triangular-shaped green valley. Continue reading
The book about Zakynthos is coming along nicely, if slowly. I’m up to 12,500 words. That’s still much less than I wrote for my Malaysia Diary, though. However, following advice I got on the Google+ Travel Writers community, I’ve downloaded Scrivener, a program specifically designed to help you write a book. I wasn’t convinced that Word was the answer, nor Google Docs, which I’d been using up to now. Scrivener‘s a cool word. I came across a while ago it doing Irish on Memrise; the Irish for writer is scríbhneoir, pronounced skreev-nore, more or less, so they suggested using this old English word as a way to remember it, since they’re obviously cognates.
Megali Domada in Greece
Anyway, one of the reasons we came to Zante as early as April was to spend Easter here, something we’ve never done. We never spend Easter anywhere, really; other than having a very big meal at Tina’s parents’ house, Easter usually just goes by unremarked, like passing an internet celebrity in the street. Anyway, as you might have guessed, Easter is big in Greece. Although Easter itself is called Πάσχα, Páscha, the week leading up to Easter, Holy Week, is called Μεγάλη Βδομάδα here, literally Big Week. It’s certainly bigger than Christmas. Continue reading