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Showing posts from November, 2017

Sklavoi – Village of the Slaves

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When you look at a map of an area there are often a number of exciting looking places to investigate but at first glance Sklavoi does not appear to be one of them. Which is why I want to go there for I often find the most interesting things where they are least expected. For instance the connection between this little church down here, grasshoppers and the bomb disposal squad. The church is dedicated to St. Barbara, a young lady of Christian persuasion who's father was an out and out pagan. When he learnt of her conversion he went at her with a sword whereupon the wall of the tower (in which he kept her) exploded. Babs finished up, unharmed, in a mountain gorge alongside two very surprised shepherds. Her father pursued her, one of the shepherds betrayed her and he was turned to stone for his treachery. Not only that, his entire flock was turned into grasshoppers (which seems to have been quite popular in the past – see Chrysopigi - Source of Gold). She was caught and tortured and …

Steve's Nature Quiz #26

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In last week's #CreteNature blog we finished up in a taverna talking about mermaids. But from which country did the mermaid myth originate?

a) Syria

b) Greece

c) Iraq


If ever a quiz question was designed to court controversy then a question regarding myth origins has to be it. At the risk of being shot down in flames I will tentatively assert that the first mermaid was the Assyrian goddess Atargatis from around 1,000 BC. Like many a goddess before and since she fell in love with a mortal (this one was a shepherd) and accidentally killed him. Mortified, she jumped into a lake and turned herself into a fish. Even that seems to have gone off half cock as she only managed the transition from the waist down. It is somewhat comforting to know that even goddesses sometimes have days when things just don't go right. Assyria equates with modern day Syria and so the answer is A.

A little more on mermaids but much more on modern day wildlife can be found in this week's #CreteNature b…

Sikia Beach – Frozen in Time

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In previous weeks we've been back in time 800 years and joined the Venetians in their hill fort at Monte Forte and 2,000 years with the last of the Minoans at their place in Praesos. This week we're going back over 20 million years into the geological past to a beach that you will no longer find in any good beach guide to Crete. Lift a little patch of this massive slab of rock with your fingers (which is surprisingly easy to do) and you can rub the sand away from the underside with your thumb. It's covered with various lichens on the surface but let's go up and see what plants have colonised the edges. Plenty of Heather, as you'd expect on a sandy soil, and down among the roots some beautiful little autumn flowering Narcissi. We also have some spherical heads of Alliums. Garlic, onion, chive and shallot are all Alliums and we have about fifteen different species growing wild here on Crete. As to which these are I'd have to check with our botanist friend, Steve …

Steve's Nature Quiz #25

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In this week's #CreteNature blog we were looking at herbs but which is the correct pronunciation of the word 'herb'?

a) herb

b) 'erb

c) both are correct.


It all rather depends on when and where you lived. 'erb used to be the accepted pronunciation in England and it is still the accepted pronunciation in America. It wasn't until the nineteenth century that the Brits decided that as the H was there it may as well be used and herb became the standard. So the answer is c) both are correct.

Not only were we discovering herbs or 'erbs this week but also butterflies, lizards and spiders with a bit of ancient history thrown in for good measure. Join us for our weekly wander around the idyllic Cretan countryside with this week's walk Further Back in Time to Praesos

Further back in Time – to Praesos

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A couple of weeks back we were overlooking the Venetian hill fort of Monte Forte and this week's little excursion takes us even further back in time to the Ancient town of Praesos. It's pretty well an old pile of stones now and nobody lives there but hopefully we'll find some wildlife. Well, here it is and it looks like we've got a hill to climb so I'll tell you what I know about the place on the way up. Two thousand two hundred years ago it was inhabited by the descendants of the Minoans and they were having a pretty hard time of it. This was because most of Crete had been taken over by the Dorians from mainland Greece and Praesos was one of the last outposts. These Dorians held Itanos to the north and Ierapetra to the south and Praesos finally fell to the Ierapetran Dorians in 155BC. Incidentally Praesos is also a genus of Geometer moths but as to why is a bit of a mystery as they are found in Australia I believe. 
When they weren't being attacked they lived …

Steve's Nature Quiz #24

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We are now well into the third season of the year but which is the most recent term for this period of the year?

a) harvest

b) autumn

c) fall

No trick question this week, if you said Fall then you'd be right (but it's a close run thing). Prior to the 1500s the term Harvest was used in England to mark the season between Summer and Winter and many European languages still use a variation of this word. Gradually in the 1500s Autumn, from the Latin autumnus took over in England and harvest began to change its meaning to the specific gathering in of crops. In the 1540s the phrase 'fall of leaves' also came into use but it wasn't until the 1660s that this was reduced to simply the Fall. Fall and Autumn battled it out and Autumn eventually won through in England. The colonists took both to America with them but Fall won through which is why the Americans refer to the season as the Fall whilst the English call it Autumn.

More Autumnal observations in this week's #Crete…

Achladia (It's All Gone Pear Shaped)

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From the springs of Paraspori it is a short hop to the village of Achladia which, in Greek, means pears which is as good a reason as any to stop by the side of the road and take a look at some wild ones. Now you may think that a pear is a pear is a pear but there are over twenty different species of wild pear to say nothing of the three thousand or so varieties that have been cultivated from just three of those species; Pyrus communis being the one we are most familiar with in Europe and America. This one howeveris not Pyrus communis but Pyrus spinosa, the Almond leaved Pear. One of the main differences between the two species, which I feel duty bound to point out before you finish filling your bag with them, is that these are not only inedible but toxic. Foraging is a delightful hobby but can be deadly. A golden rule should be Never assume that you can consume.
And now to a plant that is not only edible but deliciously quaffable when fermented and bottled. As far as I am aware there …