My acquaintance with Catalunya started with the soprano Montserrat Caballet. The magnificent lady who sang in the 1982 Barcelona Olympics with Freddie Mercury. Then I discovered that Catalunya was colonised by Ancient Greeks, who settled around the Roses area. A few miles from Roses was «El Bulli», the restaurant of Ferran Adria, another great Catalan, one of the great chefs of the world. And close to it is the ancient city of Emporion (Empuries) founded in 575 BC by Greek colonists from Phocaea with the name of Ἐμπόριον (Emporion, meaning «trading place»). It was later occupied by the Romans (Latin: Emporiæ), but in the Early Middle Ages, when its exposed coastal position left it open to marauders, the town was abandoned. I close this personal reference with Manuel Vazquez Montalban, the Catalan writer and journalist. It was not until a few days ago that I read about the Catalan Company.

Magnas Societas Catalanorum, sometimes called the Grand Company and widely known as the Catalan Company, was a free company of Almogavar mercenaries founded by Roger de Flor in the early 14th-century.

Roger de Flor

Roger de Flor

Roger de Flor

De Flor was born in 1267 in Brindisi, which was a provence of Catalonia at the time, the second son of a Brindisi’s noblewoman and German falconer named Richard von Blum (Blume means flower in German) in the service of the Hohenstaufen rulers of southern Italy.

As a boy he went to sea and became a Knight Templar.

Seal of Templar Knights

Seal of Templar Knights

When Acre in Palestine fell to the Saracens (1291), he made his fortune by blackmailing refugees. Denounced by his grand master, he fled to Genoa and became commander of a force of almogávares (Spanish mercenaries) in service to the Aragonese king of Sicily, Frederick II, who was warring with the house of Anjou.

Coat of Arms - Hohenstaufen Family

Coat of Arms – Hohenstaufen Family

The Almogavars

Their name is the transformation into Catalan of an Arab word, al-mogauar, which means «one who devastates». Mountain shepherds from the Pyrenees mountains of Northern Spain or forest-dwellers, these were the men who carried war to the Arab taïfa, a war made up of raids, pillaging and unstable frontiers.

They withstood the Muslim invasions of Spain in the 7th and 8th century by heading higher into the hills and fighting raider warfare in the time honored tradition of guerrillas everywhere.  They were remarkable in that they were both fierce and disciplined in combat (outside combat, not so much).  They could move fast through very rugged terrain, attack a Muslim settlement, and then flee before reinforcements arrived.  Although they could stand against heavy cavalry, they proved very effective troops in running down the lighter Berber-style horsemen of the Iberian Muslim kingdoms.

The average Almughavar wore little to no armor, growing his hair and beards long.  He carried a spear, 2 heavy javelins (called azconas), and short stabbing sword.  They were the literal descendents of the Iberians that followed Hannibal into Rome, their weapons unchanged since the Romans copied them (naming them Pila and Gladius Hispaniensis).

Despite their barbarian appearance (and make no mistake, these were the hillbillies of the middle ages), the Alughavar understood two very modern principles of warfare:  1) there are no rules, and 2) defeat an enemy mentally first.  Almughavars routinely held their own against European heavy cavalry because they engaged in unchivalrous tactics like aiming for a man’s horse.  And before a battle, Almughavars would strike their blades against against stones, causing them to spark in the pre-dawn gloom while they chanted «Aur! Aur! Desperta Ferro!»  («Listen! Listen! Iron, Awaken!»).

The battle cry of the Almogàvers

Aur! Aur! Desperta ferro!
Deus aia!

Veyentnos sols venir, los pobles ja flamejen:
veyentnos sols passar, son bech los corbs netejen.
La guerra y lo saqueig, no hi ha mellors plahers.
Avant, almugavers! Que avisin als fossers!
La veu del somatent nos crida ja a la guerra.
Fadigues, plujes, neus, calors resistirem,
y si’ns abat la sòn, pendrèra per llit la terra,
y si’ns rendeix la fam carn crua menjarem!

Desperta ferro! Avant! Depressa com lo llamp
cayèm sobre son camp!
Almugavers, avant! Anem allí a fer carn!
Les feres tenen fam!

Meaning:

Listen! listen! Wake up, O iron! Help us God!…Just seeing us coming the villages are already ablaze. Just seeing us passing the crows are wiping their beaks. War and plunder, there are no greater pleasures. Forward Almogavars! Let them call the gravediggers! The voice of the somatent is calling us to war. Weariness, rains, snow and heat we shall endure. And if sleep overtakes us, we will use the earth as our bed. And if we get hungry, we shall eat raw meat. Wake up, O iron! Forward! Fast as the lightning let us fall over their camp! Forward Almogavars! Let us go there to make flesh, the wild beasts are hungry!

Sicilian Vespers

Sicilian Vespers

Sicilian Vespers

On March 30, 1282, Peter III of Aragon waged war on Charles of Anjou after the Sicilian Vespers for the possession of Naples and Sicily. The Almogavars formed the most effective element of his army. Their discipline, ferocity and the force with which they hurled their javelins made them formidable against heavy cavalry of the Angevin armies. They fought against cavalry by attacking the enemies” horses instead of the knights themselves. Once a knight was on the ground he was an easy victim of an Almogavar.

De Flor recruited Almogaver soldiers left unemployed with the Peace of Caltabellotta in 1302 by the Crown of Aragon who opposed the French dynasty of Anjou.

Andronicus II Palaeologus

The Battle of Bapheus occurred on 27 July 1302 between an Ottoman army under Osman I and a Byzantine army under George Mouzalon. The battle ended in a crucial Ottoman victory, cementing the Ottoman state and heralding the final capture of Byzantine Bithynia by the Turks. Bapheus was the first major victory for the nascent Ottoman emirate, and of major significance for its future expansion: the Byzantines effectively lost control of the countryside of Bithynia, withdrawing to their forts, which, isolated, fell one by one. The Byzantine defeat also sparked a massive exodus of the Christian population from the area into the European parts of the Empire, further altering the region’s demographic balance. Coupled with the disaster of Magnesia, which allowed the Turks to reach and establish themselves on the coasts of the Aegean Sea, Bapheus thus heralded the final loss of Asia Minor for Byzantium.

The  Byzantine emperor Andronicus II Palaeologus had to do something about the rising threat of the Ottoman Turks.

In 1303 Roger de Flor and the Catalan Company were commissioned by the Byzantine emperor Andronicus II Palaeologus and his son the co-emperor Michael IX Palaeologus to help them fight the Ottoman Turks.

Andronicus II Paleologus (1282 - 1328), fresco in the Holy Monastery of Prodromos in Serres

Andronicus II Paleologus (1282 – 1328), fresco in the Holy Monastery of Prodromos in Serres

Roger de Flor’s commission was sanctioned by the Aragonese, rulers in Sicily and southern Italy, who were quite eager to rid themselves of unemployed and unruly soldiers. Roger de Flor departed with 39 galleys and transports carrying around 1,500 knights and 4,000 Almogavars, special foot soldiers employed mainly serving the kingdom’s interests in the Mediterranean Sea, especially by the Crown of Aragon.

Roger de Flor arrived in Constantinople with the help of king Frederick III of Sicily in 1303, and married the niece of Andronicus, daughter of the Tsar of Bulgaria, and was named Grand Duke (head of the fleet).

The Catalan Company's itineraries in Anatolia and the Balkans

The Catalan Company’s itineraries in Anatolia and the Balkans

Roger de Flor campaigned with his Company in Anatolia, defeating the Turks but also engaging in widespread violence and looting of the Byzantine inhabitants. By this point, the Catalans, were considered by the Byzantines to be little better than brigands and freebooters. The successes had inflated the already arrogant De Flor, leading him to entertain plans of establishing his own dominion in Anatolia.

Roger de Flor entering Constantinople

Roger de Flor entering Constantinople

This put him at odds with the Byzantine Emperor, and the indiscipline of the Almogavars marked the end of Roger de Flor. On 30 April 1305, he was slain along with 300 cavalry and 1,000 infantry by theAlans, another group of mercenaries at the service of the Emperor. Roger had been in Adrianopolis (modern Edirne) attending a banquet offered by Emperor Michael. The emperor later attacked Gallipoli attempting to conquer the city from the remnants of the Company under the command of Berenguer d’Entença who had arrived with 9 Catalan galleys. The attack was unsuccessful, but it largely decimated the Company. Berenguer d’Entença was captured by the Genoese shortly after, and later liberated. The Company had only 206 horsemen, 1,256 foot soldiers left and no clear leader when Emperor Michael attacked, trusting in his numerical superiority, only to be defeated in Battle of Apros in July 1305.

Thus began the Catalan Vengeance.  For two years, the Catalan Company raided and ravaged the Thracian countryside.  They sacked Rodosto, brutally hacking apart every man, woman, and child in revenge for what was done to their brothers and their leader.  Although they had no siege works and so could not sack the walled cities, no Greek army could stand against them.  The emperor was forced to watch as the Catalans burnt the undefended outskirts of Constantinople.  So thorough was their domination that the two year pillage of Thrace ended not because they were forced out, but because there simply was not enough places that they could pillage for food.

Coat of Arms of Roger de Flor

Coat of Arms of Roger de Flor

The Battle of Gallipoli

One fascinating episode during the vengeance was the Battle of Gallipoli.  In 1306, the Catalan Company left their camp in Gallipoli and pursued the Alan force that had murdered their leader.  The 9,000 Alani were fleeing north-west to their homelands.  The Catalans caught up with them and butchered all but 300 in perhaps their most difficult battle.

Meanwhile, a contingent of Genoese mercenaries, at the Byzantine Emperor’s behest, attacked the poorly defended camp at Gallipoli.  The Company’s quartermaster, Ramon Muntaner, had at his command 7 horsemen, 133 infantry (mostly sailors and wounded Almughavars), and all the wives of the Catalan Company.  So he equipped the women and had them defend the walls under relentless Genoese crossbow barrages.  One wife refused to leave her post despite being wounded five times(!) in the face(!).  She stated that she would not surrender the honor of fighting in her husband’s place, except in death.

Finally the Genoese had run out of arrows, and the general berated them for being turned back in their assault of the walls by women.  Muntaner ordered his 6 remaining horsemen and 100 infantry to prepare to assault!  He had them discard their heavy armor now that the enemy had run out of ammunition, and opened the gates.  The surprising ferocity of their attack sent the Genoese reeling.  Their general was cut down in the first attack, and the will of the attackers was broken.  They fled and would have been cut down by the exhausted Catalans of Muntaner’s garrison were it not for a small company of Genoese reserves.

When the main body of the Catalan Company heard of the attack on their camp, they raced back and secured it.  But now the Company was at an impasse.  They had exacted what revenge they could, and the countryside was barren.  Worse, despite receiving reinforcements Spain and Sicily, the lords of these reinforcements clashed with the leaders of the Company.  The Catalan Company had begun to consume itself.  This growing rivalry persisted as the Catalan Company decided to head west, into Thessaly and down into Greece.  These struggles ended in bloodshed, and the expulsions/departure of some of the lords (including the famed Muntaner, who left more of disgust).

Erechteum and Frankish Tower on the Acropolis of Athens

Erechteum and Frankish Tower on the Acropolis of Athens

The Catalan Company in Athens

In 1310, Gautier or Walter V of Brienne, Duke of Athens, hired the Catalan Company to fight the Byzantine Greeks encroaching on his territory.

After the Company had successfully reduced his enemies, he attempted to expel the Company from Athens with their pay in arrears. The Company refusing this, Walter marched out with a strong force of French knights from Athens, the Morea and Naples and Greek foot from Athens. Walter’s army met the Catalans at the Battle of Cephissus (or Halmiros or Orchomenos). On the 15 March 1311 an army of 700 Frankish Knights, 2,300 cavalry and 12,000 foot soldiers led by Walter V of Brienne, met the Catalan Company of 3,000 of which 500 cavalry. There was also a contingent of 2,000 Turks standing by, to take the side of the winners.

The day before the battle, the Company flooded the battle field with the waters of Cephissus (Kiffissos) river, and made it very difficult for the heavy knights” cavalry to move, thus becoming prey to the agile and light  cavalry of the Company.

The Catalans won a devastating victory, killing Walter and almost all of his cavalry, and seizing his Duchy of Athens, excepting only the Lordship of Argos and Nauplia.

The battle marks the beginning of the Catalan domination of Athens (1311-1388).

Coat of arms of the Aragonese Kings

Coat of arms of the Aragonese Kings

In 1312, the Catalan Company appealed to Frederick III of Sicily to take over the duchy and he complied by appointing his second born son, Manfred of Sicily as Duke of Athens and Neopatria. The arms seen above are those of the Aragonese Kings of Sicily under which the Duchy of Athens came. (The Duchy of Athens)

The Catalan rule was to last until 1388–1390 when they were defeated by the Navarrese Company under Pedro de San Superano, Juan de Urtubia, and allied with the Florentines under Nerio I Acciaioli of Corinth. His descendants controlled them until 1456 when they were conquered by the Ottoman Empire. By that time, like many military enterprises, the Great Company had faded out of history.

Coat of Arms of the Duchy of Neopatria

Coat of Arms of the Duchy of Neopatria

The Duchy of Neopatria 

In 1318-1319 the Catalan Company, after having conquered most of the Duchy of Athens, expanded into the territories of the Despotate of Epirus in southern Thessaly, under Alfonso Frederick, the infante of the Kingdom of Sicily. The new territories were created a duchy and united with the Duchy of Athens as new possessions of the Crown of Aragon. The Duchy was divided into the captaincies of Siderokastron, Neopatria, New Patras (modern Ypati, Υπάτη), and Salona (modern Amfissa).

The Duchy of Neopatria

The Duchy of Neopatria

Part of the Duchy’s possessions in Thessaly was conquered by the Serbs of Stefan Dusan in 1337. In 1377, the title of Duke of Neopatria was assumed by Peter IV of Aragon. It was preserved among the subsidiary titles of his successors, and is still included in the full title of the Spanish monarchs.

The attacks of the Byzantine Empire progressively diminished the territory of the duchy until what was left of it fell completely into the hands of the Republic of Florence in 1390.

The Catalan Chronicle

Ramon Muntaner, one of the ringleaders of the Catalan Company’s expedition, recounted the adventures of the Almogaver army in the eastern Mediterranean in his Chronicle.

The Catalan Chronicle by Ramon Muntaner

Manuscript of the Catalan Chronicle

Ramon Muntaner (1265-1336) began to write the Crònica in 1325, at his estate of Xilvella, some sixteen years after leaving the Almogavars, and probably finished some three years later, in 1328. Muntaner’s Crònica is presented as an autobiography (in which the writer from Peralada takes on the role of counselor and political-military strategist) and, at the same time, as an historic memoir of the past of his kings (in order to justify the politics of the Crown of Aragon, the glorious past of the kingdom, and the even better future that must arrive), in which Muntaner appears as a exemplary and proud subject. (Xavier Bonillo Hoyos)

«The Catalan Chronicle is a vitally important source for warfare in northwestern Asia Minor and the eastern Balkans in the early 14th century. The author, Muntaner, was secretary and paymaster of the Catalan Company, an experienced mercenary formation that had previously fought in Sicily. His account is particularly important because, as paymaster, Muntaner had accurate daily figures at his disposal of the numbers of troops in the Company and gves plausible information about logistic problems, i.e. the acquisition of grain, other foodstuffs and fodder. The relative size of armies and their supply needs can therefore be computed from his figures with a degree of accuracy, as also casualties. There are other details often omitted from the standard accounts that deserve particular attention from Byzantinists. Firstly, the Catalans had brought their families with them to the Byzantine empire. Their ruthless fighting methods were thus a consequence of the fact that they were endeavouring to ensure the survival of a whole society that had migrated inside the frontiers of the Byzantine state. Secondly, it is apparent that the Catalan Company became the rallying point for many disaffected people who joined their fighting forces. Among them were dispossessed Greek soldiers and peasants, as well as clans of Turkish fighters from Asia Minor, who trusted the honesty of the Catalans more than that of their own political and military elites. The Catalan Company owed its successful recruitment of men to a range of grievances against the Byzantine state and its co-emperors, Andronikos II and Michael IX Palaiologos, who in Mutaner’s view had betrayed the original treaty and chrysobulls placing the Compnay under Byzantine authority. The Catalan Company was to some extent an experiment in multi-ethnic military democracy based on talent, courage and mutual need, in constrast to the divisive and grasping aristocratic politics of the Byzantine system. Third, Muntaner provides important indications about the laws of war. After Michael IX’s assassination of Catalan leader Roger de Flor, the Company challenged emperor Andronikos II to judicial combat, consisting of one, or ten, or a hundred champions on each side–the first examples of which date from the reign of the previous emperor, Michael VIII Palailogos. It is a good example of how the employment of western “barbarian” mercenaries resulted in the modification (or perhaps hybridization) of the Byzantine law of war to accomodate the “barbarian” systems of customary law that existed outside medieval Graeco-Roman positive and customary legal practice. «(Amazon, Dr. F. R. Trombley)  

flowers

When it comes to taste there are no geographical boundaries. Only cultural.

The setting for today’s union is provided by the Neapolitan Bay in Calabria. There lies the country that gave pizza to the world.

Ladotyri from Lesvos

Ladotyri from Lesvos

Today El Bordon’s Chorizo Extra (dulce) from Navarra, Basque Country,  joins ladotyri (sheep and goats cheese) from Lesvigal on the island of Lesvos in Greece to form a pizza dish that is as tasty as it can get.

The ladotyri is a yellow hard cheese made of sheep and goat’s milk on the island of Lesvos (Mytilini). In the traditional way of its preparation, it is stored for a period of three months in olive oil, which gives it its unique taste.  In mass production today the cheese is encased in a layer of parafffin that helps it preserve its moisture level. In spite of this departure from tradition, the cheese tastes really good.

The chorizo is made of pork belly (panceta) and the front leg (paleta), spanish paprika (pimenton), salt and garlic. The encasing is pig’s gut. There are no preservatives or additives. This type of chorizo is not spicy. It is sweet and tasty.

El Bordon, Chorizo extra

El Bordon, Chorizo extra

I prepare a basic dough with white flour, salt, water a dash of baking powder and spread it on a oiled baking tray.

On top I spread tomato paste, and place the chorizo and chopped coriander.

Chorizo and ladotyri pizza - ready to bake

Chorizo and ladotyri pizza – ready to bake

The shredded ladotyri is then added to finish the dish.

Bake in a 220 Centigrade oven for 20 minutes and you are ready.

Chorizo and ladotyri pizza baked and ready to serve

Chorizo and ladotyri pizza baked and ready to serve

Enjoy with a robust red. I had the Casalferro of 2005, by Barone Ricasoli.

Casalferro 2005, Barone Ricasoli

Casalferro 2005, Barone Ricasoli

Sangiovese and Merlot aged for 18 months in french oak barrels.

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all!

Ravani – Revani: semolina sponge cake with syrup

Κυριακή, 9 Δεκεμβρίου, 2012

I have been invited to lunch and the hostess asked me to prepare something sweet for the conclusion.

A good friend was telling me a few days ago about «ravani» or «revani», a semolina sponge cake dressed in syrup.

All of a sudden, the decision was made: Ravani for desert!!!!!

Ravani is the name we use in the south of Greece. The same cake is called revani in the north, and this is the name used in Tukey.

However, one should not hasten to add «country» labels to a cake that belongs to the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East.

The cake in Egypt comes with the name «Basbousa». From Egypt it has travelled west, so we find it in Lybia, and other countries in North Africa.

A well-travelled cake by necessity comes with many variations.

I chose to prepare the variation that is popular in the northern Greek Town of Veroia.

Ready to bake

Ravani: Ready to bake

Ingredients

3 eggs

150 grams of sour sheep’s yogurt

325 grams of white flour

150 grams of semolina

100 grams of sugar

1 teaspoon of baking powder

vanilla to your taste

For the syrup 

3 cups of water

3 cups of sugar

Notes:

1. I do not like the cake to be very sweet, so I did not use all the sugar, both in the cake and in the syrup.

2. I love pomegrenate, so I added some juice.

Ravani: Baked

Ravani: Baked

Preparation

Prepare the syrup and let it relax for 30 minutes.

Mix all the dry indredients by hand.

Mix the eggs, the yogurt and the pomegrenate juice until you have a uniform mix.

Bring the two mixew together and work them by hand until you have a sticky but semi-liquid mix.

Preheat a (add some butter so that it does not stick) baking tray in 180 degrees Celcius.

Place the mix in the hot tray and spread it evenly.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.

Ravani: Cut

Ravani: Cut

Cut in pieces and pour over the (cold) syrup.

Let it rest for at least 30 minutes.

Ravani: Served

Ravani: Served

Serve and enjoy!!!

 

Botrini’s Restaurant, Athens, Greece

Σάββατο, 1 Δεκεμβρίου, 2012

I recently visited Botrini’s Restaurant in a suburb of Athens, Greece.

Hector Botrini is one of the best chefs in Greece today. One might call him controversial, as he has followed the «Kitchen Nightmares» trail of Chef Ramsey’s TV show, hosting the Greek version of the show.

But cooking is cooking, regardless of how much you like the personality of the chef. So lets get to the real thing.

Botrini’s Athens restaurant opened in the summer of 2011.

As expected, the menu is short, and is divided in two parts. The «a la carte» and the «set menu» part.

My companion and I both had the set BOE menu.

Amuse Bouche

It all started with a Mediterranean «map on a tray» with the amuse buche. Nice presentation and a fun way to start the meal.

Anchovy and Red Pepper Terrine

The star of the tray was the anchovy and (sweet) red pepper terrine. This was an exercise in balance. The sweet pepper, balancing the sour anchovy. In my view the result was perfect. I would love to see this terrine as a first course.

Olive

Close second the «olive», accompanied by cheese and pastry concoctions.

Copa with melon and shrimp a la planca

First: Coppa (capicollo) with melon and shrimp grilled on a metal plate (a la planca). The shrimp is hidden under the cone of coppa, sliced very thin. Wonderful combination of surf and turf, with the icy melon bringing you down to earth.

Corfu fritura, feta cheese snow flakes, and stuffed sardine

First: Corfu Fritura with feta cheese snow flakes and stuffed sardine. The inverted fragment of a cone on the left side is a «sponge» that has absorbed tomato juice. The ball to its right is made of «lavrak(i)», or Mediterranean seabass, next to it is a shrimp, and then there is another ball of seabass, and two pieces of squid. You cannot see the stuffed sardine. On the right side you can see the «snow flakes» made of feta cheese. Overall, a tasty dish. I would have preferred to have less seabass and more stuffed sardines.

Bio chicken

Second: Bio Chicken. Cooked on a metal plate, deskinned, the bio chicken was juicy and tasty.

Goat

Second: Goat served with sea garlic cream, on a bed of koum kouat and sweet and sour «Mavrodafni» sauce. I particularly enjoyed the goat. Perfectly cooked, tender and moist.

Goat detail

I would like to make a special mention to the somelier of the restaurant, who served excellent greek wines from producers who have small volumes and therefore are not available in the retail stores. And the wine was included in the price of the set menu!

Although the restaurant was busy on a Friday night, the service was excellent.

Overall, great value for money, the complete dinner for two costs less than a meal in an ordinary fish taverna.

I will definitely visit Botrini’s restaurant again!

Greece: voices from the past

Κυριακή, 25 Νοεμβρίου, 2012

Mermaid – Γοργονα

As Greece continues to suffer from the worst financial, social and political crisis since the civil war of 1945-1949, I retreated back in time, and heard some voices from the past.

Καθως η Ελλας συνεχιζει να ευρισκεται εις την δινη της μεγαλυτερης οικονομικης, κοινωνικης και πολιτικης κρισης μετα τον εμφυλιο (1945-1949), αποσυρθηκα εις τον παρελθοντα χρονο για να ακουσω καποιες φωνες.

Kokinia between the wars (1918-1939) – Η Κοκινια στον μεσοπολεμο

«Οι μικροαστοι επιθυμουν τη δικτατορια μοναχα σα φτασουνε στο τελευταιο σταδιο του φοβου ή της απογνωσης ή της αβουλιας. Μα οσο υπαρχουν ελπιδες μιας εθνικης και ατομικης ανορθωσης, θελουνε να βλεπουνε τους λογαριασμους του Κρατους, να τους συζητουνε ελευθερα και να νοιωθουνε πως μπορουνε να αλλαξουνε το προσωπικο κατα το κεφι τους, σα νοικοκυραιοι.

Petite bourgeoisie are in favour of a dictatorship only when they arrive at the last stage of fear, desperation, or lack of direction. But as long as there are hopes of a national and personal recovery, they want to see the finances of the State, discuss them freely and feel that they can change the political personnel as they desire, like good housekeepers. (1)

Greece between the wars – Η Ελλας στον μεσοπολεμο

Η κοινοβουλευτικη συντεχνια βρηκε μια λυση της πολιτικης κρισης, που εσωζε τους θεσμους διχως να προσβαλλει τις σταδιοδρομιες και τα φιλοτιμα των κομματων και των προσωπων: Κυβερνηση συνασπισμου. Τα κομματα της συμπολιτευσης και της αντιπολιτευσης μοιραστηκαν τα υπουργεια με ενα κοινο «προγραμμα περισυλλογης», αφηνοντας εξω μερικες μικρες ομαδες των ακρων. Βρεθηκε ευκολα και ενας επιβλητικος γερος κοινοβουλευτικος, που ειχε καλες προσωπικες σχεσεις με ολους τους πολιτικους αρχηγους, και του δοθηκε η πρωθυπουργια. ..

The parliamentarians found a way out of the political crisis, that retained the institutions without assaulting the carriers and the pride of the parties and the political personnel: a coalition government. The parties of the majority and the opposition shared the ministerial posts on the basis of a common «recovery programme», leaving out the small groups of the extremes. It was easy to find a respectable aged parliamentarian, who had good personal relationships with all the party leaders, and make him the prime minister… (1)

Open air market in Thission, Athens – Λαϊκη Αγορα στο Θησειο

Ενιωθε και κατι αλλο, που σε λιγο αρχισε να το νιωθει κι ενα μερος του κοινου: οτι η Κυβερνηση του συνασπισμου απο τη φυση της, ειναι ανικανη να παρει γενναιες πρωτοβουλιες και να επιβαλει ριζικες λυσεις στα οικονομικα και κρατικα ζητηματα, που παραλυανε τη ζωη του τοπου. Ουτε την ξεκουρδισμενη μηχανη της διοικησης μπορουσε να φρεσκαρει και να ξανακουρδισει, ουτε το στρατο να καθαρισει απο τα ταραχοποια στοιχεια του, ουτε αληθινες οικονομιες να πραγματοποιησει και να ισοσκλεισει τον προϋπολογισμο, ουτε την εθνικη οικονομια να διευθυνει και να τη συγκρατησει σ” ενα ανεκτο επιπεδο μες στη συγχυση των διεθνων οικονομικων συνθηκων.

He also felt something else, which was also felt by the public: that the coalition Government was by nature unable to take bold initiatives and implement all-encompassing solutions to the financial and adminsitrative issues that were paralyzing the life of the country. The government could not refresh the broken down machinery of the state, nor clean up the army of its radical elements, cut public spending, balance the budget, and adequately manage the national economy in the midst of the international confusion.» (1)

Festival in Delphi – Δελφικες εορτες

«Γιατι λοιπον να μη μ” ανησυχει και να μη με εξοργιζει οταν διακρινω ξεδιαντροπα να καλλιεργειται μια κουλτουρα δηθεν εθνικη απο ατομα ή οργανισμους ή κομματα και με εναν σκοπο, την υποδουλωση σας, τον πνευματικο και αισθησιακο ευνουχισμο σας, την υποπτη αντικατασταση της ανησυχιας απο την ακινδυνη παραδοσιακη γραφικοτητα; Κι υστερα δεν ειναι επισης καπως υποπτη η αυθαιρεσια ορισμενων κομματικων οργανισμων να οικειοποιουνται την προοδευτικοτητα σα να” ναι γεννημα τους; Και ποία η διαφορα σ” αυθαιρεσια μ” εκεινους τους αλλους, τα τρωκτικα του τοπου μας, που ετσιθελικα οικειοποιουνται την εννοια του εθνους, ώστε όταν εναντιωνεσαι στις παρανομες επιδιωξεις τους να γινεσαι αυτοματα αντεθνικος; (2)

Maroussi

So why should I not be worried and outraged when I see people, organizations and parties promoting without shame a supposedly national culture with only one objective, your enslavement, your mental and sensual castration, and the suspicious substitution of concern by the harmless traditional stereotypes? Following that, isn’t it somehow suspicious to see some political organizations pretending that they are the owners of progressive ideas and beliefs? And in what do they differ from the others, the rats of our country, who declare themselves the owners of the concept of the nation, so that when you rise against their illegal designs you automatically become an enemy of the nation?» (2)

Technical Lyceum – Σιβιτανιδειος Σχολη

«Ο φασισμός στις μέρες μας φανερώνεται με δυο μορφές. Ή προκλητικός, με το πρόσχημα αντιδράσεως σε πολιτικά ή κοινωνικά γεγονότα που δεν ευνοούν την περίπτωσή τους ή παθητικός μες στον οποίο κυριαρχεί ο φόβος για ό,τι συμβαίνει γύρω μας. Ανοχή και παθητικότητα λοιπόν. Κι έτσι εδραιώνεται η πρόκληση. Με την ανοχή των πολλών. Προτιμότερο αργός και σιωπηλός θάνατος από την αντίδραση του ζωντανού και ευαίσθητου οργανισμού που περιέχουμε.

Fascism in our days appears with two faces. Either provocative, on the pretext of reacting to political or social events that do not favour them, or passive, where fear about everything going on around us is prominent. Tolerance and passivity give room to the challenge of fascism. We seem to prefer the slow and silent death to the reaction of the live and sensitive self inside us. (3)

George Theotokas (left). Athens 1941

Και μη βρίσκοντας αντίσταση από μια στέρεη παιδεία όλα αυτά δημιουργούν ένα κατάλληλο έδαφος για να ανθίσει ο εγωκεντρισμός η εγωπάθεια, η κενότητα και φυσικά κάθε κτηνώδες ένστιχτο στο εσωτερικό τους. Προσέξτε το χορό τους με τις ομοιόμορφες στρατιωτικές κινήσεις, μακρά από κάθε διάθεση επαφής και επικοινωνίας. Το τραγούδι τους με τις συνθηματικές επαναλαμβανόμενες λέξεις, η απουσία του βιβλίου και της σκέψης από τη συμπεριφορά τους και ο στόχος για μια άνετη σταδιοδρομία κέρδους και εύκολης επιτυχίας.

Not finding any resistance from a solid education, all these create a suitable ground for egocentricity to bloom, emptiness, and of course every animal instnct. Notice how they dance (the fascists) making these militarymovements, away from any desire to contaqct and communicate. Their song, with the coded repeating words, the anbsence of the book (reading) and thinking from their behaviour, and the goal of a comfortable career and easy success. (3)

M. Karagatsis in his youth

Βιώνουμε μέρα με τη μέρα περισσότερο το τμήμα του εαυτού μας – που ή φοβάται ή δεν σκέφτεται, επιδιώκοντας όσο γίνεται περισσότερα οφέλη. Ώσπου να βρεθεί ο κατάλληλος «αρχηγός» που θα ηγηθεί αυτό το κατάπτυστο περιεχόμενό μας. Και τότε θα ‘ναι αργά για ν’ αντιδράσουμε. Ο νεοναζισμός είμαστε εσείς κι εμείς – όπως στη γνωστή παράσταση του Πιραντέλο. Είμαστε εσείς, εμείς και τα παιδιά μας. Δεχόμαστε να ‘μαστε απάνθρωποι μπρος στους φορείς του AIDS, από άγνοια αλλά και τόσο «ανθρώπινοι» και συγκαταβατικοί μπροστά στα ανθρωποειδή ερπετά του φασισμού, πάλι από άγνοια, αλλά κι από φόβο κι από συνήθεια.

We experience day after day the part of ourself that is either scared or does not think, seeking to maximize personal benefits. Until we find the right «leader» to command this despicable side of our existence. But then it will be too late to react. Neonazism is you and us – as in the known play of Pirandello. It is us, us and our children. We accept to be inhuman when we face AIDS carriers, due to lack of knowledge, but so «human» and understanding in front of the humanoids of fascism, not only because of lack of knowledge, but also because of fear and habit.    (3)

Greek Civil War 1945-1949

Και το Κακό ελλοχεύει χωρίς προφύλαξη, χωρίς ντροπή. Ο νεοναζισμός δεν είναι θεωρία, σκέψη και αναρχία. Είναι μια παράσταση. Εσείς κι εμείς. Και πρωταγωνιστεί ο Θάνατος.

And Evil is lurking without precaution, without shame. Neonazism is not theory, thought, or anarchy. It is a show. You and us. And Death is the protagonist. ” (3)

Young women on a boat outside the port of Alexandroupolis – Κοπελλες σε βαρκα εξω απο την Αλεξανδρουπολη

«Στο αναμεταξυ (1921) οι νεοπλουτοι, μπουχτισμενοι απο ευκολοκερδισμενο παρά και λιμασμενοι απο μακροχρονια νηστεια, το” χαν ριξει εξω. Γινοταν ενα γλεντι αλλιωτικο, ουτε πρωτογονο ουτε συμβατικο, μα κατι το ατοπο, το χυδαιο. Προβαλαν μεσα στην ξαφνιασμενη κοινωνια της Αθηνας ανθρωποι αγνωστοι, μυστηριοι, που κανεις δεν ηξερε πούθε βαστουσε η σκουφια τους, με τις τσεπες φίσκα στο χρημα και διχως συναισθηση τι παει να πει χρημα. Σπαταλουσαν ποσα αφανταστα σ” ενα γλεντι κακογουστο κι άνοστο, μη λογαριαζοντας τιποτα, μην ξεροντας πως να διαθεσουν τα εκατομμυρια τους. Βασικη προϋποθεση του γλεντιου ηταν ν” αποχτησουν αμερικάνικο αυτοκινητο και να τριγυρναν στους ανυπαρκτους τοτε δρομους της Αττικης, αραζοντας σε ξωτικα λιμανια – Ραφηνα και Σκαραμαγκα – που ο μη εκατομμυριούχος μοναχα στ” ονειρο του μπορουσε να τα ιδει. Ησαν εκει κατι βρωμοταβερνες, που παρισταναν τα κεντρα πολυτελειας, που πουλουσαν τα τηγανητα μπαρμπουνια και τον μποτιλιαρισμενο σταφιδιτη σε τιμες αστρονομικες. (4)

Rafina 1930

In the meantime (1921), the newly rich, fed up by easily won money and starved by long abstinence, were going overboard. They were partying in a different way, neither primitive nor conventional, but somehow out of place and vulgar. Unknown, mysterious people, who nobody knew where they were coming from, were emerging in the midst of the puzzled Athenian society, with their pockets stuffed with money and no conception whatsoever of what money means. They were wasting unimaginable amounts of money in pasties of bad taste, disregarding everything, not knowing what to do with their money. A basiv requirement for them to have a good time was to buy an american car and roam the non-existent roads of Attica, arriving at exotix ports – Rafina and Skaramanga – which an ordinary person could see only in their dreams. There were some horrible tavernas there, pretending to be luxurious restaurants, selling fried barbounia and bottled wine at astronomical prices  » (4)

Miss Europe, 1926

«Η Ελλαδα πεθανε και τη σκοτωσαμε εμεις – δεν ειναι ρητορικο σχημα. Δεν υπαρχει προηγουμενο λαου που με αποφαση της Βουλης (ομοφωνη) να καταργει τον τροπο της γραφης που συντηρησε τη γλωσσα του ζωντανη δυο χιλιαδες χρονια. .. Ο ευρωπαιος, οταν υιοθετησει το μηδενισμο, ελεγε ο Ντοστογιεφκσυ, εχει τα ιδια ερεισματα ζωης που συντηρουσε και θρησκευομενος: την προτεραιοτητα της λογικης, τον ωφελιμισμο, τη θεσμοποιηση των ατομικων εξασφαλισεων, γι” αυτο και δυσκολα φτανει στην κοινωνικη αποσυνθεση και στο χαος. Ενω λαοι που επεζησαν μεσα στους αιωνες χαρη σε διαφορετικα ερεισματα ζωης – οπως οι Ρωσοι ή οι Ελληνες – οταν γινουν μηδενιστες, «βουτανε κατακεφαλα στον παραλογισμο» – δεν ξερουν μετρο. » (5)

Musicians – Στης μαστουρας το σκοπο

Greece is dead and we killed her – this is not a rhetorical statement. There is no precedent of a people who with a unanimous parliamentary vote abandons the way of writing that has preserved his language alive for two thousand years…. The european, when becomes a nihillist, wrote Dostoevski, has the same pillars in life that he had when he was a believer: the priority of rational thinking, utilitarianism, the institutionalization of the personal, and so it is difficult for him to arrive at social disintegration and chaos. While peoples who have survived through the centuries thanks to other pillars in life, like the Russians or the Greeks, when they become nihillists, «they go all the way to insanity», they know no restraint.  (5)

Korina in the Allatini Factory (6)

Θα σου παρουν τον ισκιο των δεντρων, θα τον παρουν

Θα σου παρουν τον ισκιο της θαλασσας, θα τον παρουν

Θα σου παρουν τον ισκιο της καρδιας, θα τον παρουν

Θα παρουν τον ισκιο σου… (7)

They will take away from you the shadow of the trees, they will take it

They will take away from you the shadow of the sea, they will take it

They will take away from you the shadow of the heart, they will take it

They will take away your shadow… (7)

Plakes, Volos

Sources – Πηγες

(1) Γιωργος  Θεοτοκας, ΑΡΓΩ 1936, Εστια. George Theotokas, ARGO 1936, Hestia Publishing.

(2) Μανος Χατζιδακις, Η πολιτκη στην τεχνη και η κακη τεχνη της πολτικης,   Ο Καθρεφτης και το Μαχαιρι, 1988, Ικαρος. Manos Hadjidakis, Politics in art and the bad art of politics, The mirror and the knife 1988, Ikaros Publishing.

(3) Μανος Χατζηδακις, Φεβρουαριος 1993, ΑΒΕΡΩΦ. Manos Hadjidakis, February 1993.

(4) Μ. Καραγατσης, Γιουγκερμαν, 1938, ΕΣΤΙΑ. M. Karagatsis, Yungermann, 1938, Hestia Publishing.

(5) Χρηστος Γιανναρας, Finis Greciae, 1986, Το Κενο στην τρεχουσα Πολιτικη, Εκδοσεις Καστανιωτη. Christos Giannaras, Finis Greciae, 1986, The vacuum in present day politics, Kastaniotis Publishing.

(6) Korina – Ceramics Allatini

(7) Γιωργος Σεφερης, Μερες Ε”, 15 Μαρτη 1947, Ικαρος Εκδοτικη. George Seferis, Days E”, 15 March 1947, Ikaros Publishing.

«Athinaeos Salsa Verde» with Fried Squid and Salted Cod

Παρασκευή, 23 Νοεμβρίου, 2012

Today I want to introduce the «Athinaeos Salsa Verde». The super star of a seafood meal that I enjoyed in a mild autumn day.

Athinaeos salsa verde – closeup

There is a multitude of green sauces in the mediterranean kitchen: persillade, gremolata, salsa verde, pistou, to name a few.

Athinaeos Salsa Verde

My salsa verde is made with ingredients that grow in my garden: parsley, coriander, mint, rocket, garlic and basil.

I put the mixed herds in the mixer, add oliver oil, a bit of coarse salt, and lemon juice.

The salsa is accompanied by fresh fried squid, fried salt cod, a fresh green salad with red-skinned radishes, and home made corn bread.

Fried fresh squid

I like fresh fried squid because it is always a challenge to fry it properly, and even greater a challenge, to buy really fresh squid. the really fresh squid has a flavour and an aroma that is so subtle and yet so prominent, that in my view is worth all the effort to find it and then fry it properly.

Fried fresh squid – detail

The elegance of the fried squid pooses the first challenge for the salsa verde. It should be mild enough not to overpower the subtlety of the squid, yet it should retain its personality and make its presence felt.

The second challenge to the salsa verde was posed by the fried salt cod.

Fried Salt Cod

One of the miracles of ancient seafood engineering, this cured pievce of fish has a unique taste that never fails to reward me, provided that the fish is of good quality and properly desalted and fried.

Fried salt cod – detail

The salsa verde has to stand tall in front of the strong personality of the salt cod, while at the same time it balances on the fine line  created by the taste of the squid.

A nice meal could not be complete without bread and a nice fresh salad.

Fresh salad with rocket, fresh onions, and red-skinned radishes.

The fresh salad contains: Rocket, fresh onions and red-skinned radishes from the garden, washed but not seasoned. Eaten with the hand. You pick whatever you like, sprinkle a bit of alst on it and squeeze a couple of drops of lemon juice. Then straight into the mouth cavity… Pleasure awaits the bold and the daring….

Corn bread

The bread is baked in the oven, and made of corn flour and water. Just that. And simply delicious.

Bon appetit!

Izmir, Turkey: a photo journal

Σάββατο, 17 Νοεμβρίου, 2012

View of the Izmir Bay at Dawn

I recently visited Izmir in Turkey for the first time.

The seaside promenade in Alsancak, Izmir, Turkey

It was an emotionally difficult trip, as I was overwhelmed by the historical background and the events of 1922 (see my relevant article). The seaside promenade that takes the visitor from Republic Square to Alsancak along the Kemal Ataturk boulevard is a landfill. Back in 1922 the shoreline was running along the paved road that is running by the buildings.

At the north of this stretch is the area where the refugees were stuck in September of 1922, trying to get on board a ship.  This is the site of a humanitarian disaster, one of the greatest before the second world war.

The stand for the ceremonies during Republic Day in Izmir, Turkey

Fate had it that my visit would coincide with the celebration of the establishment of the present day Turkish Republic – Cumhuriyet Bayramı: 29th October 1923.

Decorated Turkish Telekom Building, Izmir, Turkey

The city was fully decorated with flags and portraits of Kemal Ataturk. Very impressive indeed.

Portrait of Kemal Ataturk carved in a rock formation, Izmir, Turkey

On 29 October 1923, the new name of the nation and its status as a republic was declared. After that, a vote occurred in the Grand National Assembly of Turkey and Atatürk was selected as the 1st president of the Republic of Turkey by unanimous vote.

The clock tower, Izmir, Turkey

The clock tower in Konak Square was built in 1901 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Abdülhamid II’s (reigned 1876–1909) accession to the throne. It is ironic that Abdülhamid II (see my relevant article) marks the end of the Ottoman Empire and the emergence of the forces that will in 1923 declare the establishment of the Republic of Turkey. In this respect, the clock tower is a monument that embodies this historical borderline. The clock itself was a gift of German Emperor Wilhelm II (reigned 1888–1918). It is decorated in an elaborate Ottoman architecture. The tower which has an iron and lead skeleton,, at a height of 25 m (82 ft), features four fountains (Şadırvanı), which are placed around the base in a circular pattern, and the columns are inspired by Moorish themes.

Izmir City Hall (Governor’s Residence – Konak)

Izmir Governor’s official residence (Konak), is an almost identical replica of the original building built between 1869 and 1872, which itself was lost to a fire in 1970.

Izmir Tourism and Information Office – North side

One of the very few buildings of the «Ionian Jewel» that the visitor can see today in the city is the Izmir Tourism and Information Office.

National Bank of Greece, Izmir, Turkey – West side

It used to be the building of the National Bank of Greece. Note that the tower of the North side has been removed.

Ataturk Museum, Izmir, Turkey

The Ataturk Museum is located on the quay, and is one of the historical buildings that have been restored.

Two women on a bench, Izmir, Turkey

The Agora (Market) of Izmir, dates back to the Hellenistic and Roman periods of the city’s life.

Agora, Izmir, Turkey

The archaelogical site is in the area of Konak, on top of a hill.

Shops near Agora, Izmir, Turkey

The neighbourhood around Agora is a working man’s area.

Building in Izmir, Turkey

Izmir today is home for over 4 millions of people.

Outdoor market in the outskirts of Izmir, Turkey

A lot of them have come to Izmir from Anatolia.

Old and new homes for the Anatolian immigrants

The hills surrounding Izmir have been covered by the homes built for the Anatonian immigrants. The old homes are now being replaced by modern multistory buildings. This massive rennovation project will result in freeing the hills from the old homes and create parks and areas of recreation.

Guard in construction site (yapi), Izmir, Turkey

Overall, the building activity in Izmir is intensive, extensive, and very impressive.

Girls on a bus, Izmir, Turkey

In spite of the number of people and the challenges this creates, Izmir is a clean and safe city.

Basmane Gar, Izmir, Turkey

Historic Basmane Gar is İzmir’s main station forAegean regional trains, with connections to thesuburban and Metro lines

Woman and train, Izmir, Turkey

Traces of art of the past can be found in the city, even in some of sort of bad imitation.

Imitation of art, Izmir, Turkey

I am happy that I went. In spite of the fact that the emotions are mixed.

Karsiyaka Iskeleri (Ferry Boat Peer), Izmir, Turkey

After all, so many terrible things in human history have been the result of the quest for «cleanliness».

So «mixed» is ok.

Movenpick Hotel, Izmir, Turkey

If you are wondering what the food is like, you can read my article on the Topcu Restaurant in Izmir.

Good night Izmir.

Izmir market at night under the moonlight

Güle Güle!

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