Saturday, 27 August 2011

The Great and the Beautiful

We live in a world that seems to worship its own kind of greatness and produce its own kind of heroes. Popular tv shows  like Greek or American Idol X-Factor or Master Chef and reality television shows that are anything but reality, capitalize on this exact thing. Oprah Winfrey needs only mention a product on her "Favourite Things" list and the sales skyrocket. Athletes' are paid exorbitant amounts of money while teachers struggle on fixed income schedules. We have video games like Guitar Hero and Worlds of War Craft, where one becomes a "hero" by beating the game. It makes one wonder at our standard of measuremen when it comes to greatness.

Howard W. Hunter writes:

It's true that most of the world's heroes don't last very long in the public mind; but, nevertheless, there is never a lack of champions and great achievers. We hear almost daily of athletes breaking records; scientists inventing marvelous new devices, machines, and processes; and doctors saving lives in new ways. We are constantly being exposed to exceptionally gifted musicians and entertainers and to unusually talented artists, architects, and builders. Magazines, billboards, and television commercials bombard us with pictures of individuals with perfect teeth and flawless features, wearing stylish clothes, and doing whatever it is that "successful" people do.
Because we are being constantly exposed to the world's definition of greatness, it is understandable that we might make comparisons between what we are and what others are-or seem to be-and also between what we have and what others have. Although it is true that making comparisons can be beneficial and may motivate us to accomplish much good and to improve our lives, yet we often allow unfair and improper comparisons to destroy our happiness when they cause us to feel unfulfilled or inadequate or unsuccessful. Sometimes, because of these feelings, we are led into error and dwell on our failures while ignoring aspects of our lives that may contain elements of true greatness.

To me the elements of true greatness lie in little deeds of kindness in our daily lives like a loving parent, a true friend, a faithful companion, sharing your sandwich with a homeless person, loving yourself as you really are so that you can love others. This is the essence of the great and the beautiful.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Back from Sifnos

When you are on holiday, time flies. Ten days flew by in Sifnos without realising it. I went there alone but this did not prevent me from having a great time. I enjoy being my own company in the first place, doing whatever I want like swimming, fishing, sailing or  basking in the sun reading my favourite books. Secondly, I've made a few good friends there - all islanders - who won my heart from the very first day I set foot on Sifnos, 5 summers ago. Sifnos then was a very quiet island unlike most of the Cyclades. Only a few Athenians visited the island due to its proximity to Athens. Nowadays, Sifnos has become a very touristy island. Of course this is good for the islanders whose livelihood only depends on fishing and on tourism.

I spent most of the days fishing - I had a good catch! - then sailing to Sifnos' unspoilt beaches, meeting friends and, naturally, tasting for yet another summer the unique Sifnos traditional cooking.It is not accidental that Sifnos is the homeland of many great Greek chefs as for instance Nikos Tselemendes and Marcos. The traditional Sifnos cuisine cuisine is delicious and it includes dishes such as: chickpea croquettes, string beans with garlic paste, Sunday traditional chickpea soup, which is put in the oven on Saturday night and is cooked during the whole night with wood, caper-salad, meat cooked in the mastelo (traditional utensil made of potter’s clay). And fish, of course! Likecalamari, for instance.

Apart from giving birth to Dionysus, patron god of wine, Greece is the birthplace of the first VSOP wines in history. They were the wines of the islands of Chios and Thassos, renowned in the entire ancient world. Due to various historic and social reasons, as well as natural disasters, the art of wine-making was neglected from the middle of the nineteenth century until the early sixties. It was then that the ancient traditions of wine-making started being rediscovered and today, one can find many excellent Greek wines produced all over the country. When tasting Greek wine, bear in mind that it is a product of a distinctive environment and of grape varieties unknown to western wine lovers. Sifnos is no exception and produces some great wines,

My friend Manolis' reastaurant in Vathi is my favourite. The best clay oven food on the island. If you are lucky he may be roasting a lamb. Manolis has been the heart and soul of Vathi for decades. Though his son Stelios has taken over the runing of the restaurant, Manolis is always there acting as host and ambassador of kefi. A truly wonderful restaurant that should not be missed, particularly for a late and lingering lunch. Excellent wine from the barrel, baked foods from the oven, fried kalamari, whatever fish has been brought in, and the best Greek salads in all the Cyclades topped with arugula and mizithra, a Sifniot cheese less sharp then feta and the consistency of cottage cheese. When you are finished just jump right in the clean water of Vathi bay and then come back for a Greek coffee and baklava. If you decide that this is the life for you, then you can rent rooms right behind the restaurant, just like I did. (Manolis passed away in 2009 but his spirit lives on.)

So, how about you? Did you have a nice summer holiday? Where did you go? 

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Summer Holidays

With the new recession in Greece  and a depression in Asian and European  markets yesterday (almost a black Tuesday), I shouldn't be taking a holiday at all! June and July were busier than ever before - hence all work and no play. It's not easy these days to be an economist and run your own business. Since June, people have been protesting all over Greece against the government's new austerity measures which are to me not only unreasonable but completely insane. The bottom line is that the average citizen will pay off our debt to Europe. No, this is not a joke!

Well, I was so tired and so exhausted that I promised myself to take a break. August 15, called Dekapentavgoustos in Greece, is like a second Easter to us. I can't imagine spending this important Greek holiday in any other place than Sifnos. This is an island I fell in love with many years ago, long before it started developping tourism.

Sifnos, lies in the middle of the Cyclades islands between Serifos, Kimolos and Antiparos and is about 80 nautical miles from Piraeus. It has an area of 74 sq. km. and a shoreline of 70 km, with a population of 2000. The island is reached on the ferries which run on the Piraeus- Kythnos- Serifos- Sifnos- Sifnos- Kimolos line, and there are also sailings to other islands in the Cyclades.

Sifnos was very wealthy in ancient times, thanks to its gold and silver mines. Proof of this, is the treasury which the Siphnians built at Delphi in the 6th century BC to house their offerings. However, it appears that something went wrong with the mines; either they were worked out or flooded by the sea -we do not know which- and their production ceased. In ancient times, Siphnos's wealth was measured by the gold and silver it produced, in the last two centuries it can be measured by its cultural output.