SKopelos

By Sofia, Dec 21 2018 07:12PM

A devout catholic friend was surprised when I mentioned that I was fasting, as she believed that fasting was associated with Great Lent.


Not so. Fasts are still widely observed in Greece! In addition to the regular, all-year-round-strict-fasting each Wednesday and Friday, there are four long fast times within the year known as σαρακοστή (sarakosti or forty days), with each varying from the other marginally.


On most occasions I follow them. At least when I am here. My reason is not religious, but as a matter of community spirit and detox. Plus, they are simpler to achieve when there are rules and the companionship of others.


The pre-Christmas fast is the second long period of fasting after Great Lent. It always begins 15 November and ends 24 December. Over the 40-day period, no meat or any products which derive from animal or poultry are consumed. With the exception of Wednesdays and Fridays - days of strict fasting throughout the year - fish and seafood is allowed, every day, until 17 December, which marks the last pre-Christmas week. The fast then becomes vegan suited up to 24 December.


This is why the bumper nettle find, in my previous blog, was such an excitement!


See below some fast-worthy creations shared with others.


Beetroot with horseradish salad and carrot with cranberries salad
Beetroot with horseradish salad and carrot with cranberries salad
Foraged meal of samphire, squid and pumpkin
Foraged meal of samphire, squid and pumpkin
Main course of squid and nettles. Beetroot and carrots at rear
Main course of squid and nettles. Beetroot and carrots at rear
The squid and nettles to be prepared
The squid and nettles to be prepared
Rita and Elena tucking in. I am taking the photo
Rita and Elena tucking in. I am taking the photo

By Sofia, Dec 14 2018 07:28PM

Out and about on a sunny day for a drive and a walk in nature, I came across a disused goat pen station.


Therein, and all around it, my eyes feasted on a field of newly-sprouted pot herbs, young wild nettles and wild mushrooms.


I am cautious with mushrooms and tend to leave them be, but I foraged the nettles gleefully and will use them to add to stews, soups and pies. Plus, happily, there are more than enough to share with others.



A sunny day for a walk in Skopelos' beautiful nature
A sunny day for a walk in Skopelos' beautiful nature
Out in the woods
Out in the woods
A magnificent feast for a nettle-forager's eyes!
A magnificent feast for a nettle-forager's eyes!
The bumper crop close up
The bumper crop close up
Et voila: a snack of chickpea and nettle falafel with herring and carrot
Et voila: a snack of chickpea and nettle falafel with herring and carrot

By Sofia, Dec 8 2018 12:09PM

Enticing images of unique beauty and exquisite majestic landscapes make up the white cloak of nature covering the high mountainous terrains of Greece and elsewhere.


The penetrating cold, however, draws one to cozy fires and brings to mind approaching festivities of light, colour and harmony which blend decorously with the chimeric black and white frosty images of nature.


These days on Skopelos, in more benign weather, the island's artists, shopkeepers and charitable institutions, take this chance to boost their earthly needs to prepare for the annual seasonal Bazaar held the week beginning 10 December.


Poster of the Bazaar, by Elena
Poster of the Bazaar, by Elena
Friends meet to discuss the Bazaar
Friends meet to discuss the Bazaar
Christmas Bazaar forage at IDEA shop
Christmas Bazaar forage at IDEA shop
The bar ath the IDEA, with mother and daughter busy already
The bar ath the IDEA, with mother and daughter busy already
Winter scenes, courtesy of Kastoria 365
Winter scenes, courtesy of Kastoria 365

By Sofia, Dec 2 2018 04:56PM

On the slopes of legendary mount Vitsi, in the Macedonia province of northern Greece, time flows as continually as the waves break on the shores of Thessaly.


It is here, on beautiful Skopelos island in Thessaly, that I have partially settled. Out of season, during the winter months, I still travel widely in central Europe, where I grew up and later worked. The reflections here represent a kind of closure of the the past 70 years of my life, recognising the people and places of that past; their obstacles and achievements.


Sadly, the flows of refugees driven out of their homes by harassment, unrest and wars have not ceased, but in many areas have increased. Despite all that is good, the inhumanity which pervades so much of our world seems to persist, flooding and ebbing over time but never fully receding.


Kastoria, with its lake, remarkably like Skopelos Town with its bay
Kastoria, with its lake, remarkably like Skopelos Town with its bay
Skopelos Town with its bay, remarkably like Kastroia with its lake!
Skopelos Town with its bay, remarkably like Kastroia with its lake!
Mount Vitcho in northern Greece
Mount Vitcho in northern Greece
Bapchor, my village  before 1948
Bapchor, my village before 1948
Bapchor NOW!
Bapchor NOW!

By Sofia, Nov 18 2018 08:58AM

I was born in the village of Bapchor (now known as Poimenikon) in the prefecture of Kastoria, high up on the slopes of Mount Vitsi, the third highest mountain in Greece. It lies about half-way between the towns of Florina and Kastoria in Macedonia of northern Greece.


I am told the village was very beautiful, with its stone houses and their slate covered roofs. Records from 1920 show that the Bapchor settlement had Sveti Georgi as its main church, an Orthodox church, under the Metropolis of Kastoria. The village school was grand and smart, and was attended by over 150 pupils. There were approximately 200 houses of two or more storeys. The extended families were patriarchal, with each household consisting of approximately 15/17 persons; a common phenomena those times. From this it can be surmised that the village had over 3000 inhabitants.


It is speculated that the village was built so high up in the mountains by its first inhabitants either to avoid some kind of persecution, or for some religious purpose. Originally, it served the inhabitants as a summer settlement, where the villagers grazed and tended their livestock, returning to their winter habitation, which was situated approximately where Vissini is. There are no records of when Bapchor became a permanent settlement in those early years, but hearsay puts it around the year 1650.


The village had very good craftsmen, but its main industries were forestry, hill farming, animal husbandry and dairy produce. In the Ottoman era there are records of male members from the community traveling for work to Constantinople, mainly as loggers, supporting their families and returning to the village. The main migrations took place at the turns of the 19th and 20th centuries, when migrations to America, Canada, and later Australia took place.


The Greek Civil War of 1946-49 put an end to the village life, and the terrain of the mountains become the centre of the war zone. Every occupant of the village fled, all to become refugees, or to settle in neighboring villages or towns. This was an end to the village life and the village - and all surroundings - lay abandoned and derelict, the houses crumbling. Nature took back what rightfully is hers!.


Early this year it was brought to my attention that Sveti Georgi, the village church, left plundered and decaying over the years, was due to be restored. I followed the progress of the restoration and later learned that before the winter set in, a Divine Liturgy, the first for 70 years, was to be held there with the inauguration ceremony. I am not at all religious, but this news spelled for me a modicum of life being injected back into my birth place. I wanted to be there to hear the bell chime again after 70 years, to see people lighting candles, children running around and playing, as is habitual in a village with life. I decided to try to make the journey, and did it. The event for me was emotional to say the least.


Attached are some photos of the day. These, and many more, were also sent to other members of the community, dispersed around the continents of the earth.


A modicum of life and light returns to Sveti Georgi in Bapchor
A modicum of life and light returns to Sveti Georgi in Bapchor
Families arrive by foot on the old mule path
Families arrive by foot on the old mule path
Bread for the service
Bread for the service
They gather again, connected by the past
They gather again, connected by the past
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I'm Sofia, 39 Steps' owner and host. This is an occasional blog to keep in touch with my regular guests, give a taste of Skopeliti life and share my experiences of foraging through the summer season

 

Sofia

 

Sofia's 39 Steps Forage Blog

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