Personal and undiluted views
The Real Mani

1153 days ago

Photo Article from the Greek Hovel - heading into snake territory, olive pruning update

I have grossly underestimated the number of olive trees that sit on the land at the Greek Hovel. Yesterday and today I upped my quota to thirty so I have now pruned 160 which is what I thought we had. I was very wrong. But i now enter what I deem the land of the snake.

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1342 days ago

Photo Article from the Greek Hovel: Susan Shimmin's "lake" fills up

Shortly after the Mrs agreed to buy the Greek Hovel we got an email from the most excellent estate agent Susan Shimmin of the Real Mani suggesting that there was a small lake at the bottom of the valley which one must cross before climbing snake hill. At once I had visions of stocking it with trout like the one from Metsovo I enjoyed with the amazing baker of Zitsa. Then reality kicked in.

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1716 days ago

Photo Article: Four Christmas Puddings almost ready - thank you Darina & Myrtle Allen

You are meant to make your Christmas puddings six weeks before Christmas to allow them to age and mature and so, leaving it to the last possible moment I have now just done that. The recipe is from a cookbook from the Queen of Irish cooking the amazing Darina Allen although she says that it is from her mother in law Myrtle, the founder of Ballymaloe. I think that Myrtle is still with us though she must be 92 by now and I am lucky enough to have visited the famed cooking school near Cork several times.

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2427 days ago

My big bike and falling off it at the Greek Hovel

Occasionally I have fallen off the motorbikes I use when in Kambos as a result of Nikko and Vangelis leading me astray at the Kourounis taverna owned by lovely Eleni. It is hard enough getting back up the track from the village to the hovel in the dark when sober but after a refreshing evening it is very hard. But today I had a bit of a tumble at a bit of speed (15 kmh) and when stone cold sober.

This time around I have moved up from a 50 cc machine to a 150 cc bike. It is not a lust for speed or a desire to impress the birds, simply the knowledge that in winter getting up the track to the Greek hovel was always going to be tough. This machine has power and normally I feel pretty much in control.

But it rained heavily overnight 

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2428 days ago

Wuss of the year – Jamie the architect

An email today from Jamie the architect, business partner of the daughter of lovely Susan Shimmin of The Real Mani. - still to collect her Christmas pudding I brought out for her.jamie has seen the weather forecast (vreki – rain) for tomorrow and thinks it may be “safer” to visit the Greek Hovel on Thursday rather than tomorrow. Jeepers – this bloke is from Scotland so a bit of rain?

It goes without saying that I shall be on my motorbike up and down the two mile track from the Greek Hovel, down snake hill, over the dry (or not so dry) river and past the abandoned ghost filled monastery/convent and into Kambos tomorrow. I live in the hovel. I have assured him that it is all perfectly safe. What a Jessie.

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2454 days ago

Making the Real Man Christmas Puddings 2014 – a picture gallery

And it is done. The 2014 Christmas puddings have been prepared and steamed and now sit in a dark room awaiting their fate. It might seem a bit early but while most of these puddings are for the restaurant others have to travel. Three head off to Canada for a family gathering of pizza hardman Darren Atwater, four head off to Greece with me for Susan Shimmin at The Real Mani but also for lovely Eleni at Kourounis tavern, for Foti the Albanian and for my neighbours at the Greek Hovel in Kambos for our post olive harvest meal. A few are earmarked for gifts.

But the rest will be served at Real Man either as Christmas pudding on our Christmas menu HERE or as Christmas pudding Calzone – a festive desert pizza. It sounds odd but it tastes great!

As is now a ritual Darren and I made the puddings and then all staff members on duty had a stir and made a wish – five pictures five wishes: 

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2495 days ago

Picture article: The Cultural quarter of Kambos – Part 2 (Zarnata Castle)

Dominating Kambos on the other side of the Village from the Greek Hovel, is a once great fortress. As you head towards Stavropoula (home to the lovely Susan Shimmin of Real Mani) it is at the top of a steep climb to your right. Naturally I am too lazy to climb up that hill so I take the easy road to Zarnata Castle, by heading through the village of Stavropoula.

As with Kambos, the tourist passing through will see modern buildings on a main road and probably speed on towards Kardamili. But as with Kambos the back streets contain some gorgeous old stone Mani houses. There are also a couple of old churches of note. At this point I got totally lost and found myself way down a dusty track but an old man gave me directions in Greek  in response to the question “pu eni castro?”

Having asked the question in Greek I then tried to explain that I did not speak any Greek at all. And so

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2495 days ago

Picture article: The Cultural quarter of Kambos – Part 1

It was my last afternoon and so, having done my washing and tidied up the Greek Hovel (I do hope the Mrs is reading) it was time for a bit of sightseeing in the cultural quarter of Kambos. Quarter…I exaggerate a bit. However.

As one drives out of Kambos on the looping toad up the hill towards Stavropoula ( home to the lovely Susan Shimmin of Real Mani) on your right there are two monuments of note, one visible, the other hidden in olive groves.

From the road you can see a ruined Tower House. In the Mani of old the local gentry would build these constructions as they prepared for blood feuds, war, with other families of a similar status. Those in the lower orders were roped in to serve their local gentry. In some villages there are numerous Tower Houses as they were blessed with several families vying for power in that village.

There was always a race to build higher and higher towers so that you could dominate and shoot down on your enemies. Blood feuding was only halted when the Maniots joined together to fight the common enemy, i.e. the evil Turks.

In Kambos there is just one tower house and it is ruined. I am not sure when or why it was destroyed. The statue at the front is clearly of a Maniot with the traditional village people style bushy moustache. His dates are given as 1813-1877 

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2497 days ago

Paddy Leigh Fermor, The Mani and Kambos

Back in the 1960s my uncle visited the Mani on his first honeymoon. Oddly he and his wife were joined by another couple and within months his wife had run off with the other man. That is an aside. It took my uncle more than two days to get from Athens to the Mani so remote and cut off was the region. 

Here in Kambos the dirt track to Kardamili became a road back in 1965 (two years after that fateful honeymoon), roads south from there were built later. The man who brought this peninsular to the attention of the wider world was Paddy Leigh Fermor, a truly amazing man once described as a mixture of Indiana Jones, James Bond and Gerald Durrell.

Though incredibly clever, Paddy was no academic and so after being expelled from school (issues with a young lady) in 1933 he walked through Europe to Greece. Along the way he noticed that something was not quite right in Germany. When war broken out he signed up immediately and was sent into Greece since he spoke the language fluently. His most heroic exploit was in Crete where – with the partisans – he captured a German general on the North of the island and transported him across Crete to the South where he was lifted off by British Destroyer. The film, based on the episode, has Leigh Fermor played by Dirk Bogarde

In the war Paddy’s code name was Michalis. After the war he stayed on in Greece fighting with the Royalists in the Civil war. He refers to this in his two classic books on Greece

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2566 days ago

And the Greeks wonder why folks say “beware of Greeks bearing gifts?”

My new best friend Foti and I had a temporary falling out today. He asked to be paid for five days work at the hovel – 350 Euro for him and his assistant. Hmmmm. It seems as if his hourly rate has doubled and hang on…that is five days…he has only worked two for me.

It seems as if the old owner Athena told Foti that I had asked him to do three days’ work and that I would pay. This was of course a total lie. I have told my lawyer and lovely Susan Shimmin from Real Mani who explained this all to Foti and it is agreed that everyone, including the local Notary, will harass the bitch Athena and make her pay.

The doubling of the hourly rate ( albeit to only 5 Euro per hour per man) is because Foti has decided that he will be my business partner from January – i.e. for next year’s olive cycle when the yield will double thanks to our TLC, and until the he will charge me. Part of me thinks this is rather sharp and I should find another Albanian and get a better deal.  

However,

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2566 days ago

The Greek Hovel…a Monument to Right Thinking Folk

I am pondering what to name the Greek Hovel. It really does not matter as all post in Kambos is left at the garage for us to collect, but I was pondering putting up a name board in Greek “Write Minds” – it’s a pun geddit?

Lovely Susan Shimmin from The Real Mani is not perfect. She is, I fear, a bit of a deluded lefty like The Mrs and has already twigged that I see the world in a rather different way to her. And so she was delighted to reveal to me that The Hovel, although more than a century old, was – according to our sales contract largely burned down in the 1940s during the Greek Civil war.

It seems that the inhabitants of The Hovel at the time were Royalists

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2566 days ago

Report from the Greek Hovel Number 12 – Coping with Fear

What in nature scared me a few days ago? Snakes? Yes big time. But also rats, bats. scorpions and the dark. I also have a great fear of heights but that has not been an issue to date as I settle into the Greek hovel. But the rest of my phobias have come in spades.

 

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2571 days ago

The Long & Winding Road – Report from the Greek Hovel Number 2

I had forgotten just how remote our new Greek hovel was. Leaving the small village of Kambos (three tavernas, three food stores and a place that sells snake repellent) myself and Susan Shimmin from the Real Mani drive our respective cars past a small church. The road as we head downhill is, at first, pretty good. That is because the first building on it – and my nearest neighbour – is a monastery. At this point there are only a few potholes to deal with.

I shall return to the subject of my neighbour, the monk, later. And also to the relationship between State and Church here in Greece. Suffice to say that in an enormous building there is now just one resident. I plan to pop in and say hello at some stage next week.

As we pass the monastery the road deteriorates rapidly. While the Greek Sate must ensure that the Church is not put out in any way, caring for the needs of its ordinary citizens is no longer affordable. At this point the pot holes become cavernous and the tarmac disappears as we head to the bottom of the valley. I am in first gear and driving at five miles an hour.

At the bottom of the valley there is a river in winter which flows over the road. It is now totally dry but a pond still exists hidden behind the trees. I guess there must be a spring there. That is something else for me to investigate at some point. But now we start the steep climb up the other side of the valley.

Susan pushes on in her battered van

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