December Diary
 
Thursday, 1st December- the breeze still coming from the south, warm, sunny with blue sky. Walked along the beach, sea calm, weather like a good English summer's day.
 
Friday, 2nd December- met Alan and Margaret at Vrysses at 10.30 a.m. We enjoyed a great day out. We drove over to the south coast - weather hot and sunny - 24C. From the south coast we drove up into the white mountains to beautiful Aradena Gorge for a picnic. We then went on to  Agios Ionannis. On the return journey Alan turned right just past the Imbros Gorge and we returned to the National Road on the north coast via Asfendou, Kallikratis and Asi Gonia. This is a fantastic mountain road with numerous hairpin bends and climbs to over a thousand metres. The scenery is great and some village houses which had been abandoned are now being renovated.

We finished the day with a meal at our house at Provarma.


Saturday, 3rd December
- hot and sunny again. Breakfast and lunch outside on the balcony. We went for a walk in the afternoon and picked some oranges from trees belonging to Niki - Yiannis's wife.

Sunday, 4th December- warm and sunny again so we took a picnic and went off to explore a new mountain road Roy had seen while scanning the mountainside for birds. We had an exciting drive around numerous hairpin bends towards Psychro Pigardi, at over 1200 metres, in the Keramies region. The views out over the mountains towards the north coast, Chania and Rethymnon were fantastic. Where the road became a dirt track we were surprised to find a picnic area and behind that a taverna. It was about 2.15 p.m. so the picnic stayed in the car and we enjoyed a Sunday lunch, with several Greek families, in the taverna. The views from the taverna are wonderful. We ate rabbit stifado and chunks of pork cooked in a sauce with horta (mountain greens)mixed salad, local red wine and then tscouthia and sweet, honey drenched mini 'doughnuts'. Another great day out exploring this lovely island.


Monday, 5th December- Hot and sunny again, clear blue sky and no wind.  After posting some Christmas cards to England in Kalives we returned to the Imbros Gorge, and took the mountain road towards Kallikratis where we had been the previous Friday.  We drove to the highest point of the road and then walked along a track as far up as we could go.  The views were amazing and for the couple of hours we were there we had this vast mountain area to ourselves.



Tuesday, 6th December
-another warm day and breakfast on balcony - 19C. We went shopping the other side of Hania and bought lots of frozen food. We set off on the return journey and were diverted off the National Road at Souda. This resulted in a long drive back up through the hills on the south of the National Road, via Malaxa. The road has lots of bends and in some places is very narrow. There was a stream of traffic coming towards us most of the way. We later found out that there had been a demonstration against the proposed oil storage tanks in Souda Bay.

The weather was warm and sunny again the next day.

Thursday, 8th December - after breakfast outside we drove eastwards along the coast to Rethymnon. We spent a pleasant few hours wandering around the harbour and maze of streets.  We enjoyed lunch sitting outside.

Friday, 9th December - the day started off bright and sunny but by around 2 p.m. it became much cooler. Heavy rain began late afternoon.  The power went off several times but only for a few seconds. Our emergency lighting proved very useful when the power went off for 10 minutes or so, later in the evening.

Saturday, 10th December - Weather much cooler so we used the newly installed central heating. We visited the new internet cafe in Vrysses to attempt an update of the website. We had to admit defeat after an hour or more as the system was so slow and only updated the front page. I managed just one e-mail. Hopefully it will have a faster connection in the near future.

Sunday, 11th December - dull and cloudy. We visited the internet cafe in Kalives - it was closed. The weather brightened and we enjoyed a walk along the beach.

Monday, 12th December - dull and cloudy again. We went shopping in Souda and then went to the internet cafe at Kalives again. We were trying to order Christmas gifts but the system was so slow we gave up.

Tuesday, 13th December - another enjoyable ladies' afternoon at Xirosterni. As it was the last 'get together' before Christmas we all took along a small gift.

Wednesday, 14th December - much cooler that morning. We then had a storm and torrential rain. About 3 p.m. it became brighter and we had lunch outside. Yiannis delivered preserves which his wife had made - delicious. Torrential rain returned that evening.

Thursday, 15th December - the day started dry. We left quite early for a trip along the National Road to Lidl and Champion for Christmas supplies. We arrived to find both supermarkets closed. Local people were arriving and were surprised to find the stores closed. It was a 'Saint's' day so in the local area shops closed for the day. Further into Hania it was business as usual so we were able to shop - it took longer and there was torrential rain as we returned at 3 p.m.

Friday, 16th December - the day started with a blue sky and sunshine. We enjoyed a walk on the beach, at Kalives, in warm sunshine. Later in the day it became cloudy, cooler and then heavy rain.

Saturday, 17th December - blue sky and sunshine - hot at times - gusts of wind and then calm. Lunch outside and then we walked to our landlord's orange grove where we picked a bag of fruit. We have fresh orange juice every day and eat as many oranges as we wish.

Alan and Margaret joined us for dinner that evening. 

The next couple of days were cold and wet with some sunny periods. There are still lots of butterflies- especially around the remaining leaves on the vine. There are also more flies than in the summer.

We now have completed the rental agreement for our house. This was a four page document with 18 questions and rules and regulations, which had to be completed in triplicate. As it was all in Greek, George, Yiannis' son, translated it and answered the questions. We need this to arrange for a telephone connection and internet - next year now!

Tuesday, 20th December - after the cold, wet weather the snow is now much lower down on the mountains. The tallest peaks are completely white. The weather was dry with sunny periods so we took a picnic up towards the mountains around Samonas and Ramni to look at the snow. We enjoyed some wonderful, wintry views. The temperature dropped to 6C in the mountains. 



Wednesday, 21st December
- the shortest day so now we look forward to spring and more hours of daylight. The day started dull and dry but by late morning we had blue skies and sunshine again. From the balcony we can see the snow on the White Mountains over to the south.

Friday, 23rd December - this was the day of the Christmas meeting of the Crete Western Wildlife Watch. We met at The Cretan Corner Taverna at 12.45 p.m and walked up through the village to look at the family church, for which we were kindly given the key. It is a lovely church set in a wonderful position with views of the White Mountains. The weather was cool and dull and it started to rain before we returned to the taverna at 2 p.m. for lunch. There were 27 people for lunch, although not all joined us on the walk. We enjoyed traditional bean soup or prawn cocktail followed by lamb fricasee with various salads and local soft white cheese washed down with local wine. Ginger cake and lemon cake followed with coffee and tscouthia. Sue, who owns the taverna, with her husband Nikos, had baked a special pitta - a large, round, sweet, flat cake which contains a silver coin. These pittas are cut at the end of the year in all business's and clubs, and in the villages on New Year's Eve. The person who receives the piece of cake containing the coin has good luck for the year. Roy cut the pitta in the traditional way, cutting a circle from the middle for Christos and then dividing the cake into the number of people present.


When we arrived back at Provarma - about 5 p.m. Yiannis delivered some Christmas cookies which his wife, Niki, had made. They were the white Christmas shortbreads smothered in icing sugar (kourambiedes) and the bullet shaped cinnamon cookies (melomakarona or finikies) which are covered with nuts and drenched in syrup. Both delicious and beautifully presented.

Christmas Eve was cold with torrential rain. We were thankful for our central heating. Christmas Day - the weather changed. We woke to blue skies and sunshine. We had breakfast outside, on the balcony, and opened our presents. We then joined Alan and Margaret and their family for a lovely Christmas lunch and tea. When we drove back home around midnight the temperature was 0C in some parts of the country-side.

Boxing Day - We took a picnic to nearby Melidoni, in the mountains, and walked towards the snowline. It is quite a rough track but we met a car on the way down from the snow with a melting snowman on the bonnet. This is a tradition. The locals see if they can get back to the towns and villages before the snow melts!

Melidoni (above)


More snow - photo taken Christmas Day


Christmas is a difficult time to be away from family and close friends and we wish everyone a really wonderful Christmas (probably will have gone by the time we manage to update the website but we will keep trying.)
 
The next 2 days began dull with some rain but brightened later. We visited an Austrian couple in the village who have lovingly restored a Cretan house over several years. We enjoyed traditional Austrian Christmas cakes and coffee. The next day we drove to the Maheri gorge, parked the car and walked in warm sunshine. There were numerous birds. The highlight being a Golden Eagle as we were returning home. Lunch that day at 4 p.m.!

Thursday, 29th December - once more we woke to blue skies and sunshine and breakfast on the balcony. We had to get essential supplies from Kalives and then walked along the beach. It was beautiful. The sea was calm. In the sunshine we enjoyed a temperature of 21C. Later we took a picnic to the mountains and had another walk around Melidoni.

Friday, 30th December - the day started warm and sunny. We drove to Kato Stalos to visit Adonis Pavlakis. He was not at home but we left a New Year card and small gift. We continued westwards to the Rodopos peninsula for a picnic. We drove up the mountain road, on the east of the peninsula, past the monastery. Here the road climbs along the cliff face by the sea. We revisted the pretty bay at Afrata - reached by a winding lane alongside a small gorge. We retraced our steps and continued along the Rodopos. There were several flowers in bloom, including almond blossom. There are numerous beehive sites. On the way back to Provarma Adonis called and invited us for coffee the next morning. 

Afrata Cove

Beehives


Saturday, 31st December
- it was warm enough for breakfast on the balcony again. We then set off for Kato Stalos and coffee with Adonis - about 30 minutes away along the National Road to the west. He welcomed us with his usual generosity. His friend Theo, from Athens, had been staying with him for a few days. He asked us to go with him to his home village of Vrysses - about 10 minutes away by car. We said goodbye to Adonis who gave us a gift of three bottles of wine, a large jar of honey and a cake!  On arrival at his village Theo insisted that we picked oranges, lemons and mandarins from his land. Three large bags were loaded into the car. We then walked up to the top of the village to meet his brother, who still lives in the family house. We looked down onto the village square and two churches. We ate fruit and cookies and admired the views. Theo then asked us to join him to meet an 80 year old man who was celebrating his name day. However, it was also a year since his 35 year old son had been killed in a car accident in another larger village - also called Vrysses. He was naturally very sad. He asked us to join him at a large table outside. We sat in the sun and were offered walnuts, tscouthia and fruit. We chatted for a while - Theo interpreting. He told us about his son and brought out a photograph of him. He told us how he had fought Germans in the war. I told him about my father's war experiences.  After a couple of hours we said our goodbyes and continued onto the Rodopos again.

We arrived home late fully intending to go out again later to Vamos of Stilos to see in the New Year. However, we were exhausted after our busy day.  The weather had turned cold and wet so we opted for Greek T.V. which was good. We then went onto the balcony at midnight to watch the fireworks and listen to the guns! We were later told that the usual festivities at Vamos had not taken place - so it would have been a wasted journey.

That brings us to the end of another year. We wish everyone a Healthy, Happy and Successful for 2006.  We are looking forward to many more adventures during the coming months.  

 
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