July 2006

July 2006

Musical Tradition On Corfu

Musical Tradition On Corfu, July 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

June and July are punctuated by festivals and name days, and all such occasions are marked in Corfu with music of some kind. Occasionally, you still hear music that has nothing to do with anything as official as a festival, and everything to do with natural high spirits and good humour. For example:

It was a quiet Saturday in mid-June. Lunchtime. For once, not much traffic on the road outside our small office at Nissaki. Through the open windows and door floated a sound we hadn't heard for years - that of unaccompanied men's voices, singing the melodic old ballads of the Ionian, called 'cantades'.

Once, groups of men, wandering unsteadily home through the alleys of Corfu town after a convivial night out with the boys, used to sing like this, spontaneously, accompanied by a guitar or mandolin. One of the writers of this newsletter was lucky enough to be in Corfu in time to catch the end of this era, lucky enough to be the recipient, once, of one of these serenades beneath her balcony.

Watch the old Greek films on TV ( just for a change from satellite TV) and you will often see a scene in which a hopeful lover takes a group of his friends and stands beneath the window of his beloved and serenades her. More often than not, they are rewarded by a jug of water poured over them by the irate mother or father of their 'amoroso' as the Corfiots used to call lovers. The old Greek films reflected real life in many ways, a way of life now gone forever.

Corfu is as famous for its musical tradition as, say, Wales, and it has been the birthplace of many great musicians, commemorated in its street names and monuments.

Musical Tradition On Corfu, July 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

Today, such successful musicians as Sakis Rouvas, a highly popular singer and native of Corfu, and George Katsaros, composer of light music and responsible for the music of many films and TV shows, carry on the tradition. In the field of classical music, the name of pianist Dimitris Sgouros is internationally renowned.
Music is in the blood here: and the music of the Ionian is melodious, more influenced by Venice than by Byzantium, a product of the region's history.

Corfu's frequent processions, whether religious or secular, are always accompanied by several of the 'Philharmonic Orchestras' of which there are many in both town and country, vigorously supported and constantly rejuvenated by a fresh intake of youngsters keen to learn and to perform music.

Corfu today has choirs and orchestras of all kinds, and it also has a High School at Tzavros specializing in musical and theatrical studies alongside the usual high school curriculum. The Ionian University in Corfu town has a very active Department of Musical Studies, which is responsible for one of the important summer events described below - the Ionian Concerts.

Musical Tradition On Corfu, July 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

The Venetians introduced opera to Corfu in 1733, and performances continued until after the Union with Greece in 1864. During the years of the British Protectorate, the opera performances were well attended by parties of affluent British, often arriving by private yacht to enjoy a spot of Corfiot culture as part of their tour of the Mediterranean. Opera continues to be a passion of the Corfiots, though sadly the lovely theatre was bombed in the Second World War and later demolished. The lack of a suitable replacement has long been a grievance with the local people.

Events In June

The main religious festivals this month are those of the Holy Spirit on Monday 12th June, and All Saints on 18th June, when the church at Nissaki holds its panegyri, with music and dancing, spit-roasted lamb, copious amounts of wine and any number of 'pedlars' selling toys and gewgaws (bet you haven't heard that word for a while!) to tempt the kids. All are welcome, including the tourists, and it's all free of charge.

On 29th June the name day of Saints Peter and Paul is celebrated, so Chronia Polla to everyone called Petros or Pavlos.

Events In June, July 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

June is always ushered in by the Festival of the Ferrari, when the Chandris hotel group throws everyone else out of the parking area at the Dassia Chandris and hands it over to a number of dazzlingly red Ferrari cars. For a few days they are driven, slowly, around Corfu, shown off and paraded, and everyone dreams of owning one of these superb machines. The lucky ones who do, most of them Italians, simply smirk and wave as they pass through the villages. Not strictly a rally, certainly not a race, just fun.

Between 11th and 14th June the 'Brindisi to Corfu Regatta' takes place, with the participation of yachtsmen from Italy, several Balkan countries, and Greece. This event is the prelude to a summer of fantastic sailing in this perfect location, the Ionian.

Events In June, July 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

The end of June saw an event of a totally different type, the Pelekas Graffiti Festival! Yes, you read that correctly. People are actually being encouraged to cover walls in graffiti! A short walk from the centre of Pelekas village is a stretch of concrete wall 1200 metres long. From 30 June until 4 July, 170 artists, musicians and dancers from Greece and abroad, including 45 graffiti artists, 5 bands and 12 DJs, concentrated their efforts on turning those walls into a riot of colour and design, to the accompaniment of 6 live concerts, all free and open to the public. With a lively reputation as a hippy haunt in the sixties, Pelekas shows that its colourful past has had a long-lasting influence on its present day image. If you missed it this year, put a note in your diary for next year, it's really different.

It's back to music with the International 'Ionian Concerts' Festival of Corfu, lasting from 17th June to 1st August. Throughout that period, concerts are performed almost daily at various locations in Corfu Town, including the Ionian Academy (next to Cavalieri Hotel) and the open-air venue inside the Old Fortress. Free concerts are held at the Municipal Theatre, while free open-air performances will be taking place in the Town Hall Square and in the square in front of St Spiridon's Church. Concerts vary from full orchestras to small groups, from classical music to jazz and music workshops and seminars take place simultaneously under the auspices of the Music Dept of the Ionian University. A highlight this summer has been a concert of flamenco music and fado in the Old Fortress, a spectacular setting for a dramatic event.

Summer in Corfu definitely holds out a promise to music-lovers!

Village Festivals

Village Festivals, July 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel
What To Expect?

Nothing sophisticated, that's for sure. But you can expect an occasion of simple pleasures, delightfully old-fashioned, and a genuine welcome is extended to all, including the tourists. In fact, it is poignantly reminiscent of the English village fete as it used to be.

Village Festivals, July 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

The preparations begin well in advance of the Saint's day itself. The local priest, elderly and no longer as strong or as agile as he once was, recruits assistance from a younger priest of a nearby parish. The younger man is dispatched on various errands that include the carrying of the heavier items of church equipment out to the forecourt. There the matrons of the parish set to with buckets of detergent, polishing cloths and various tried-and-true methods of putting a shine on the silver and brass, including halved lemons, of which there is a plentiful supply in the village. The women dismantle grimy chandeliers and votive offerings, polish the censers too, but the crucifix and the church's icon are too precious for the hands of mere women and the priest himself gently wipes these clean with a reverent touch. The young priest, meanwhile, shins up the trees that overhang the forecourt and prunes them with enthusiasm. It is his job, too, to test the sound system, a job he performs with great flair. Wooden booths are built, bunting is washed and hung, banners hoisted aloft, and the local council sends a white van loaded with white plastic chairs and matching tables.

Village Festivals, July 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

The local women's group rehearses traditional dances and the members brush the velvet bodices and pleated silk skirts handed down by their great-grandmothers. The boys of the local athletics club get their hair cut, print leaflets on the local internet cafe's computer, and argue over who will run the raffle. Someone strims the grass verges and doughty Dina at the cafeneion beside the church stockpiles beers, ouzo, strong Greek coffee and ice cream. Her chairs and tables get their annual wash, as does the cafeneion cat, with her customary final rinse in Comfort. (It doesn't seem to do her any harm, and anyway Dina gives her a tranquillizer beforehand.)

Village Festivals, July 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

On the day itself, everyone attends church in the morning. Coming out of church, chattering and gossiping, people carry chunks of the special bread called 'artos' that is baked for such occasions, sweet and scattered with sesame seeds. Pieces are broken off and handed to passers-by, tourists and locals alike. Women carry sprigs, bunches and whole pots of basil that have been blessed with a sprinkle of holy water and this too is handed out. Come the evening, and the ladies of the parish have put on their best grey, black or navy blue dresses and pushed their tired feet into the shoes worn only for funerals and festivals. Fanning themselves with fans imported from Spain and Taiwan, they sit at the cafeneion with a modest glass of gazoza in front of them, while their men folk lounge and stroll and smoke just as they always have done. Dusk falls, the charcoal glows in the shallow pits built by the professional spit-builders and lamb-roasters. The musicians appear, violin, accordion, guitar and flute, the teenagers gather, in outfits their grannies don't approve of, and the festival gets underway. Chronia Polla!

Celebrity Of The Month

Celebrity Of The Month, July 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

World Cup this month, and one of football's great names is missing from the TV and newspaper coverage of the event. George Best, who died last November, was a regular visitor to Corfu in June and was considering buying a house here until illness caught up with him.
In later years, his drinking and the frequent brushes with the law that were a result of it overshadowed his once glittering and glamorous image, but Greeks love football and they love heroes, and to them George was still a hero. When George Best arrived at Corfu Airport on that first holiday, the taxi drivers swarmed around him, calling his name, patting him on the back, asking for his autograph. Everywhere he went, he was greeted with smiles and waves, but Greeks rarely mob or harass a celebrity, and his desire for privacy was respected. George loved Corfu, and Corfu loved him, for the charm that he had always had, and the modesty that he always displayed here. Beneath the scandals and bravado, there was another George Best, a man who was generous and loved to help people. The magic never quite dimmed, in spite of everything.

Agni Travel Corfu

Agni Travel Corfu, July 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

You probably already know that the Corfu Travel Guide was created, and is run by Taverna Agni and Agni Travel.

Agni Travel Corfu, July 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

Agni Travel offers over 50 selected properties along the NE Corfu Coast and for 2007 will be offering properties on the nearby island of Paxos.

Agni Travel Corfu, July 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

If you still have not choosen your Corfu holiday for later this year, then it is not too late and we can help. We offer villas with pools, traditional Greek houses and apartments.

Agni Travel Corfu, July 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel
Contact us on:

www.agni.gr/travel/
sales@agni.gr
Tel: 0030 26630 91609
Fax: 0030 26630 91705
UK Access Tel/Voice Mail: 020 8123 1535 (VoIP)

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School's Out!

School's Out!, July 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

Indeed it is, for approximately three months, as those of our readers who have settled here and are sending their children to Greek schools, will have discovered to their alarm.

If you, the parents, are not working, working from home, or if one of you works, then the kids could be in for an idyllic summer of discovery, much like the one Gerald Durrell spent here as a boy. Read 'My Family and Other Animals' for ideas, the book is easily obtainable in Corfu in summer, when all the resort shops seem to have copies of it on the bookstands.

This will be the summer when your children grow browner and healthier than ever before, learn to swim naturally, eat real food and, above all, learn Greek the easy way, playing with other kids on the beach.

There are other things for children to do in summer that are discreetly good for them without causing a panic! How about sailing lessons, for example, at the Corfu Nautical Club, or at Jan's Sailing Centre at Avlaki, at both of which equipment and tuition specially designed for children is available. They can learn to ride at one of several riding stables, learn tennis, karate or any one of a number of pursuits.

Once upon a time, Greek families living in towns or cities, such as Corfu town itself, or Athens, used to rent an apartment or a house somewhere by the sea for the duration of the summer. Mother would take up residence with the children while her husband would join them only at weekends, work permitting. It doesn't take a mind reader to see that this system was subject to a certain amount of abuse, but all involved seemed to accept that philosophically. The wives bathed together, exchanging symptoms of ailments and suspicions about their husbands, while their offspring turned into healthy young savages and forged friendships that lasted all their lives. The husbands appeared every so often to a hero's welcome, and by and large it was all for the best. Today, with many mothers working and no longer able, much as they would like it, to be shooed off to the country or seaside, summer for urban children is not the joy it once was. Camps organised by churches, Scouts or Guides, are popular. In Corfu the sea is never far away, and there are still extended families to take the children off to the village or the beach.

Weather In June

Weather In June, July 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

After a bewildering start, with more rain and lower temperatures than we have come to expect of June, it suddenly got hotter than it should do. Visitors arriving in early June soon found themselves begging for blankets, heating, heated swimming pools and even flights home as rain and low temperatures persisted. On 10th June, two storm systems collided over Corfu, and the sun beds we had prudently just vacated were soon piled high with hailstones like golf balls! Currently, temperatures are in the high thirties, but the Greek meteorologists insist that storms and rain are on the way. Corfu, however, has a weather pattern of its own, which I have heard referred to as 'the Corfu Phenomenon'. Basically, this means that whatever the forecasters say, we will actually get the opposite.

Weather In June, July 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel
Weather in July

Currently, it is perfect!

Book Of The Month

Book Of The Month, July 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

Now out in paperback, published by John Murray, is 'The Greek for Love' by James Chatto. Almost 20 years ago, in 1987, James Chatto and his wife Wendy Martin wrote about their experience of life in the small Corfiot village of Loutses, high up n the slopes of Mt. Pantocrator. The focus was on traditional village life, with the emphasis on food, growing and collecting it, preparing and eating it. It was a fascinating book, beautifully written. Now there is the new book, just as well written, still about life in Loutses, but concentrating on the finishing of the author's house there, on the villagers, and on events in the authors own life. Read it and you will want to get hold of the first book, but this is not so easy, eBay is one source.

Flora And Fauna

Throughout the summer, one nocturnal sound mystifies many visitors, a sound like a single, plaintive flute. From time to time, there are two separate notes, sounding just like sonar bleeps. Visitors to Corfu have been known to complain to their reps about this sound, claiming it keeps them awake, demanding action. They attribute it to water pumps and squeaky bicycles, and rarely understand that it is in fact the call of an owl, the Scops Owl, or Otus Scops.

Flora And Fauna, July 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

Scops Owl is common to most of southern Europe and northern Africa, and is migratory. In common with other tourists, it prefers a July temperature of not less than 22C, at night of course. It can be seen flying around lamp-posts, chasing large moths, which form part of its diet, it also takes small mammals such as mice and voles, occasionally a lizard, or even a smaller bird.

Its single mournful note is as much a feature of the Mediterranean night as the chirrup of the cicada is of the day.

Trivia:

In the Harry Potter books, Ron Weasley's owl, Pigwidgeon, is a Scops Owl.

Latest Trivia:

The Daily Mail of June 19th reported that the villagers of Thrupp, near Oxford, had been kept awake all night recently, night after night, by a sound that they thought at first was a faulty car alarm. Every four seconds the piercing bleep went off. Eventually, after many complaints, someone realised this was a Scops Owl, looking for a mate but unlikely to find one because he had no business being as far north as England. The Scops Owl in fact, is so rare in the UK that the last sighting was in 1858. No bigger than a thrush, the owl caused more upheaval for the village as it attracted hundreds of 'twitchers'.

Flora And Fauna, July 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel
Flowers (and not only) this month:

The fragile wild flowers of early summer have given way now to the showy and robust flowering of shrubs such as oleander, bougainvillea, plumbago and bignonia, and, of course, geraniums and pelargoniums, for the most part all cultivated, planted in private gardens or by local councils. Often, however, these plants 'escape' and turn into towering hedges by the roadside, or wind their way up trees such as the cypress, that meekly submits to this invasion.

Flora And Fauna, July 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

The yucca adorns its dusty spikes with a tall spire of clustered, creamy, bell-shaped flowers. The mulberry produces its fruit, surprising anyone who assumed it was a September fruit like the blackberry. My neighbour brought me some the other night, at half-past eleven, a mound of the delicately flavoured berries piled on one of the tree's own large plate-like leaves. She even brought me a piece of lemon with which to clean the stains off my hands! When I was a kid we used to shin up the mulberry trees in the local park, but picking the mulberries was one small crime you could not hide the stains on hands and lips were so hard to remove. What would we o without those great Greek lemons? Did a g and t ever taste as good as one made with a Corfiot lemon just picked off the tree?

Flora And Fauna, July 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

Next month I'll tell you all about gardens in Corfu...

Flora And Fauna, July 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

Food Of The Month

Food Of The Month, July 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

The Greeks love beans and, judging by recent posts on the Agni web site, so do our visitors! Popular on all taverna menus nowadays are 'Gigantes', large dried white beans, called 'butter beans' in the UK, soaked overnight, and baked in the oven with a rich sauce of tomatoes and onions, garlic and parsley. Secret ingredient- finely chopped fresh celery, for a delicate and subtle flavour. Lots of recipes were published on the Agni message boards in response to enquiries so I won't repeat them here.

Food Of The Month, July 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

Fresh green beans, a staple of the Greek summer diet, could not be easier to make. Like all Greek dishes cooked with olive oil, they are best eaten lukewarm or even cool. Simply saute two or three onions, the red ones are best, in some olive oil, add chopped tomatoes, either the fresh, plum tomatoes or the handy packaged 'Passata' ( but choose the chunky variety, not the thin tomato juice). Add a teaspoonful of tomato puree, make up a mugful of stock (vegetable or chicken) and add that, bring to the boil then lower the heat immediately, add salt and pepper, a handful of chopped parsley, one crushed clove of garlic, and about a kilo of trimmed beans. The beans should just be covered by the sauce add water if necessary. Allow to simmer until the beans are tender, then let the dish cool before you eat it. This becomes a meal in its own right if you add a few potatoes and carrots. Greeks use either runner beans or another variety I do not know the English name for, they are called 'barbounia' locally, light green, flattish beans.

Last month, mention of artichokes, and the dish called 'Anginares a la Polita' prompted a request for the recipe, so here it is.

The name 'Anginares a la Polita' means Artichokes in the Constantinople style. In the nineteen-twenties, thousands upon thousands of Greeks who had lived all their lives in Asia Minor,Turkey chiefly, were sent back to Greece by the Turks. This is not the place to go into details, but is a part of history that should be read about by anyone who plans to live in Greece, it explains a lot about modern life here. The Greeks from Constantinople, called Istanbul of course, now, referred to their city as the 'Polis', and their cooking skills were legendary.

Here is the recipe, I recommend thickening it as shown, at the final stage.

Ingredients:

8 artichokes 1/2 kilo potatoes 5 carrots juice from 2-3 lemons 4 spring onions 1 cup of olive oil 1 bunch of fresh dill or 3 tablespoons dried dill salt pepper

Method:

Slice the stem of the artichokes and remove the outer leaves. Rub each artichoke with the lemon and put all of them in bowl full of water. Cut the potatoes and the spring onions in medium sized slices. Slice the carrots and saute them together with the spring onions in a saucepan with the oil. Add the artichokes and the potatoes, the dill, the lemon juice, salt, pepper and enough water to cover them. Allow to cook, stirring occasionally, for 1 1/2 hours.

If you want the 'sauce' to be thick, you can mix a small teaspoon of cornflour in 1/4 cup (60 ml) water, add it and allow it to cook for another 5 minutes.
Don't forget - serve it lukewarm to allow the flavours to develop and blend and not be overwhelmed by the olive oil.

This recipe comes from the excellent web site, Greece-recipes.com

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