Καλά Χριστούγεννα

The festive season is definitely upon us. There is no escaping from the fact that we are coming to the end of another year (and another decade!).

So, to all the readers of this blog and my Facebook page I would like to say …..

Σας Εύχομαι Καλά Χριστούγεννα και Ευτυχισμένο το Νέο Έτος 2020.

Πολλά Χρονιά και Καλά Δεκαετία

An Appeal

To any Hellenophile Brits that remember the Falklands conflict and how it must have felt to sit on an island far from your mother country with a less than friendly foreign power breathing down your neck, spare a thought for the people of Kastellorizo on Megisti, only 2km from the Turkish coast and just about the most distant Greek island from Athens.


If you want to try your Greek, read this appeal and send a card……



A Proverb Song

Following a post by Centro Linguistico Unofficial on Facebook I spotted this post from Omilo (I’ve mentioned them before) which features a song from Melina Tanagri where the lyrics are made up from Greek proverbs.

The Omilo page provides the lyrics, translation and explanation of the proverbs. As they say, a great way to understand a people is to explore their proverbs. So this is well worth a read and a view….

11 Greek Proverbs in One Song

It includes one which seems appropriate for this time of electioneering here in the UK…..

Όπου ακούς πολλά κεράσια, κράτα και μικρό καλάθι.

(In the face of grand promises keep your hopes in check.  Literally: When you hear of many cherries, hold a small basket.)

Owls to Athens

250px-Tetradrachm_Athens_480-420BC_MBA_Lyon.jpgThis post was inspired by a Facebook conversation with a Greek friend and is another diversion into the alleyways of language that I find fascinating.

It started with this link to an article in the magazine Dokari which described the find of residues from Greek red wine in Celtic drinking vessels in the Burgundy area of France dating to the 5th to 7th Century BCE. (if you want to read the full paper you can find it here).

I said the idea of sending red wine to Burgundy sounded like a Greek version of what in English is called “sending coals to Newcastle” (The northeast of England used to be an important coal mining area).

Apparently the equivalent expression in Greek is “Κομίζω γλαύκα εις Aθήνας” or “Φέρνω κουκουβάγια στην πόλη των Αθηνών“.

How does “sending owls to the the town of Athens” work?

The “owls” are the silver drachma coins of ancient Athens.  Struck from silver from the mines in Laurion, south west of Athens, it was the wealth that these coins represented that powered the Athenian state. So, “sending Owls to Athens” comes to mean sending something to where there is already plenty of it.

There’s a good explanation in this Wikipedia entry.

Γλαύκα ִis the word for owl, the sacred bird of the Goddess Athena. Γλαύκος in modern Greek is the colour pale blue, although in ancient Greek it would be more properly described as “bright” (I have written about this before). So when Homer talks of “bright-eyed Athena” he is linking his description to the bird that represented her. The idea persists in the modern English term for the eye condition glaucoma, where the iris of the eye may appear “bright” – in reality pale green – (or at least not dark).

Owls to Athens” is also the title of a historical novel by Harry Turtledove, for folk that like historical fiction.

Incidentally, Greek wine is getting good critical reviews these days. Here’s an article rating some of the best Greek wines by respected wine writer, Jancis Robinson: More Greek Wines Please.

So. why not give in to your inner Celt and join the Burgundians in a glass  or two of Greek sunshine to stave off the onset of winter?


PA037199.jpgToday (28th October) is Όχι Day (literally “No! Day”) in Greece when they remember the defiance of  prime minister Ioannis Metaxas in 1940. He is supposed to have replied with the single word “No!” when presented with an ultimatum by Axis forces threatening to enter Greek territory.

It was the start of four years of heroic resistance and considerable suffering for the Greek people – it is estimated that over 40,000 civilians died in Athens alone of starvation. Metaxas’ (and the Greek people’s) resistance is celebrated each year with a public holiday.

If the sea was wine

and boats were cups.

These two lines turn up in a traditional song “In the Foam of the Sea” (Εις τον αφρό της θάλασσας) and I found them on the back of a door in Kissamos at the Kelari taverna where we stopped for a very pleasant coffee on our trip around the western end of Crete.

First of all, I liked the door and then I thought, I’ll translate this. Is obviously a poem or a song. How hard can it be? Well, first of all you have a look….


The first problem you hit is that some of the words don’t seem to make sense. What on earth is “υόσμο” in the third line of the third verse, for example?

Then you remember that there is more than one way to write some Greek characters. (A useful guide to Greek handwriting can be found here). In this case a lot of the “υ” are in fact “κ”, so υόσμο is in fact κόσμο (world).

Having done that, you work away at it with your dictionary until you realise that it’s making no sense at all and then you message a Greek and say “HELP!”

Kindly, Τόνια Τάβλα helped me out again. She says that this kind of 4-verse poem or 4-verse 2 -stanza poem is very common all over Greece. Very often they are wry, humorous poems.

However these four short verses that don’t seem to have much to do with one another.

You can find my transposition of the Greek and my (actually mainly Τόνια’s) translation here if you want to check your own efforts: Kissamos Poem.

If you would like to hear the original song sung, here are the Χορωδία Κερκύρας / Corfu Choir. on YouTube.

Two More Signs

After my warning signs post, I was hoping to take some pictures on our trip to add to the catalogue. The trouble is that Chania is so overcome with φιλόξενια that almost all signs are bi-lingual in Greek and English, so you rarely need to understand the Greek.

However I did spot a couple of examples which, while they are still pretty obvious, I thought were worth sharing.

Firstly, this instruction not to park (μη σαθμεύετε instead of the often seen μη παρκάρετε)  because of the garage (γκαράζ).


Secondly, there was this easily overlooked sign which tells you that the Halepa Road (Δρόμος Χαλέπας) is closed because of work (Κλείστη Λόγω Εργών) and you had better turn right if you want to go towards the airport (Προς Αεροδρόμιο).