Posts Tagged ‘Athens’

Leonard Cohen on Hydra

July 20, 2020

In 1960 Leonard Cohen bought a house on the Greek Island of Hydra.

Once you’ve lived on Hydra you can’t live anywhere else, including Hydra. — Kenneth Koch

Leonard Cohen wished for somewhere quiet to write. He left Montreal on his first trip outside North America with a Canadian Arts Council Grant of $2,000 and one published book of poetry. He was writing a novel or trying to, blackening the pages three pages a day. Hydra seemed the ideal place, warm and sunny, especially compared with cold and grey and damp London. He arrived on Hydra with his green Olivetti. He had taken up an offer of Barbara Rothschild to stay on the island, only when he arrived at the house and mentioned her name, he was turned away by the housekeeper ‘we don’t need any more Jews here’. Leonard Cohen put a curse on the house and within six months it had burnt to the ground.

Prior to the purchase of his house, Charmian Clift and George Johnston offered a room in their house. He would sit writing on their terrace.

It was on Hydra he met Marianne and where he wrote ‘So Long Marianne’ and ‘Bird on the Wire’.

In a letter to his mother:

It has a huge terrace with a view of dramatic mountain and shining white houses. The rooms are large and cool with deep windows set in thick walls. I suppose it’s about 200 years old and many generations of sea-.men must have lived here. I will do a little work on it every year and in a few years it will be a mansion… I live on a hill and life has been going on here exactly the same for hundreds of years. All through the day you hear the calls of the street vendors and they are really rather musical… I get up around 7 generally and work till about noon. Early morning is coolest and therefore best, but I love the heat anyhow, especially when the Aegean Sea is 10 minutes from my door.

What more could an unknown writer ask for?

He was part of a group of writers and artist and poets who used to meet at Κατσικάς Katsikas.

One of his friends Charmian Clift wrote Peel Me A Lotus her account of living on Hydra in the late 1950s.

They were all cursed. Charmian Clift killed herself after leaving Hydra, George died a year later.

His first concert in Australia was dedicated to the couple and he opened with ‘Bird on the Wire’.

We have photographer James Burke to thank for a series of photographs of these days in 1960 on Hydra.

A Theatre for Dreamers a fictional account by Polly Samson seen through the eyes of an 18-year-old girl, who with a thousand pounds left to her by her mother escapes from an abusive father. She reads a book Peel Me A Lotus by Charmian Clift, sent to her mother by the author a close friend of her mother, of life on Hydra. She remembers the friend of her mother from when she was a child and writes to her asking if she can find her a room to rent.

We start in 2016, Leonard Cohen has recently died, a very sad loss, and Trump has won the US Presidential elections. Word reaches Hydra ‘and spread rapidly like a stench along the agora. There were horrified groans, even from the donkeys, disbelieving splutters from every table, passer-by and boat. For a moment it was a comfort to think at least Leonard had been spared this.’

AirBnB bookings fall off a cliff

April 9, 2020

With cities in lockdown, airports closed, borders closed, airlines grounded, bookings dried up, AirBnB hosts are bleating at having to refund bookings.

Sorry, we should not feel.

AirBnB is an unregulated sector, it is destroying cities, people being driven out of cities as apartments are let on AirBnB.

AirBnB is not the myth they would like us to believe, someone letting out a room occasionally, or maybe their home when they go away. It is apartments being bought, often whole apartment blocks, tenants evicted, or forced out by high rents. These are the people complaining, who are losing money, who are now trying to offload their properties onto the market.

AirBnB hosts would be operating illegally (nothing new there). Cyprus is in lockdown, hotels not allowed to open. Athens in lockdown, need a permit to go out, which has to be applied for.

EasyJet and other airlines grounded.

Airlines have to refund within seven days, tour companies within fourteen days. Why do AirBnB think they are the exception? Once again shows this sector must be regulated.

AirBnB greed, greedy hosts.

If AirBnB fails, excellent news. It is destroying cities with unregulated lets, driving tenants out of city centres.

With the country in lockdown, police and politicians and NHS staff are pleading with people to stay home, not visit the countryside, coastal resorts, police roadblocks in place, AirBnB is encouraging flouting of the lockdown by offering lets in the very places encouraged not to visit.

Hywel Williams a North Wales MP has called on AirBnB to “identify and delete” any home owners found advertising properties on their site as “Covid-19 retreats”.

Plaid Cymru’s Hywel Williams claims the online platform was guilty of “inexplicable and reckless inaction” after some holiday homes were offered up as safe bolt holes from the coronavirus outbreak sweeping the UK.

The Arfon MP says a number of properties across Snowdonia are still listed on AirBnB as available to rent ahead of the Easter weekend – and almost two weeks after the Government introduced laws to put the UK into lockdown in a bid to reduce the spread of Covid-19.

There were also reports of homes being let to tourists via AirBnB in Denbighshire and Anglesey.

There should be no bailout of AirBnB properties. Any rescue package would be to make the properties available to homeless, then let as social housing.

AirBnB is a zombie company kept alive on unsustainable debt. It has followed the route of too many zombie companies, hype to artificially inflate the value, vulture capitalists pour in money to inflate still further, then dump on the stock market for unsuspecting mugs to buy shares before the company is found to be worthless. AirBnB has been found out before it could dump on the stock market.

Contrast with FairBnB, which not only works with the local community, supports projects in the local community.

La Pila de Guatemala

December 17, 2019

La Pila a honey process coffee from Guatemala roasted by The Underdog.

Try different baristas, different coffee shops.

Stokes at The Lawn, as always I let Mike choose brewing method, I chose cappuccino and V60, Mike decided on French press.

My reason for trying a cappuccino, had been roasted to suit espresso,

At first I thought cafetiere, but as cooled easily the V60. The cappuccino not so good.

Beautiful colour the V60. Taste of fruits and wine.

All agreed, Nick, Mike and myself, excellent coffee.

Almost a month on, retry La Pila at Stokes at The Lawn. Usually I let Mike choose, today, as roasted for espresso, I chose, cappuccino and V60. Mike chose a flat white.

The classic cappuccino, rarely achieved, smooth and creamy. Not so, but nevertheless interesting fruity notes making the cappuccino an interesting drink. I was very much reminded of cappuccino at Makushi with their own light roast.

The V60 a disappointment, OK hot but not good as it cooled.

Mike said his flat white excellent.

Next, a few days later, The Specialty Coffee Shop. Again I chose, a cappuccino.

Not the classic smooth creamy, nevertheless interesting with fruity notes.

What was now left of the bag of coffee beans I gave as a gift to Michelangelo.

Special thanks to Mike barista at Stokes at The Lawn and Mohammad barista at The Speciality Coffee Shop.

Rodolfo and Reina are the proud owners of the La Pila farm. Rodolfo has basically been in coffee for his whole life. When he was young, he used to work on farms as a coffee picker to earn money. And when he was 25 years old, he inherited a plot of land from his father, so that he could start his own farm business.

Little by little he managed to make steps ahead, increase the volume of his coffee, and invest in another plot of land. He names his farm ‘La Pila’, which is a tank for water in this context, as he found a small water source on his farm. He made a small cement tank and decided to use this as a reference for his farm. Water is very scarce and precious in this region.

Rodolfo is very eager to improve the practices on his farm, to keep learning and innovating. He’d like to have a soil analysis done at his farm, so to optimize the root and foliar systems of his plants with adequate nutrition. He also plans to keep investing in the processing area. He came up with a genius system to depulp the coffee with a bicycle! Since 2017 we are working with him on honey and natural processing and are thrilled by the results.

La Pila single origin honey process, location Santa Ana la Montaña, Fraijanes, farmer Rodolfo Garcia, var yellow catuai, altitude 1750m, taste notes molasses, maple syrup, blackcurrant, roasted at The Underdog.

Mitropoleos Square

December 4, 2019

I have often passed through Mitropoleos Square in the evening, if time look in the large church, this the first time in daylight.

I learn from a man sat outside TOMS where I stop and have a coffee the name of the square.

I also learn that the large church is a cathedral, and the small old church outside a very old church, built on a holy site using the stones from previous civilisations.

Mokka coffee shop

December 4, 2019

Having looked in their retail shop next door, which is also where the coffee is roasted, it is to Mokka for a coffee.

I watch Greek coffee brewed on a hot bed of sand.

Excellent cappuccino.

It is a pity the coffee shop does not at least have the single origin coffee on sale.

The retail shop closes early at 3-30 in the afternoon. I asked why so early? No demand later.

Located on a busy main road outside Athens Central Market in Omonia.

Very professional staff who take a pride in their coffee.

How many coffee shops visit where grinders dismantled and cleaned every two days, coffee vacuumed out every night, coffee beans put to bed and sealed every night.

Mokka fourth generation founded in the mid-1920s.

Mokka retail shop

December 4, 2019

Usually I am lucky to find Mokka coffee shop open.

As I am earlier than usual and find their retail shop is open, I first look in Mokka shop, it closes at 1530 and this is the only visit I find open.

Massive industrial grinders for their coffee fed from a large roasting machine above, also single origin on a smaller roaster though still large compared to most roasteries in England.

When I asked abut the single origin coffee, I found the staff to be very knowledgeable and helpful.

I chose a Costa Rican single origin coffee.

Then to Mokka coffee shop.

Mokka fourth generation founded in the mid-1920s.

Tricksters

December 4, 2019

Three boxes, one hides an object, move around very fast, punter has to bet where it is hiding.

It does not have to be three boxes, it could be upturned cups.

Trickster I had seen the previous weekend. On the Saturday a different trickster, there on the Sunday, when two tricksters with same trick.

What I noticed on the Sunday, the same people gathered around who I had seen on the Saturday, obviously part of the scam. One fat guy happily bets then loses three fifty euro notes, another when trickster not looking, points to where the hidden object.

As a child I used to see this trick being played in Petticoat Lane.

I encountered these tricksters as I was walking between Thiso and Monastiraki Metro stations alongside the track overlooking the Ancient Agora.

I am blocked when I try to take photos.

Athens first Wednesday in November

December 4, 2019

My last day in Athens, a lovely sunny day, clear blue sky, 24 C.

Shocked to see tea pigs rubbish tea promoted. Bad enough finding this rubbish tea in England without seeing it spread to Athens.

I had intended from Acropoli walk around The Acropolis, Thisio, Monastiraki to Duo Goulies & Duo Mpoukies, followed by Mokka continue to Plaka.

But first, a detour to Little Tree to pick up a copy of Walking in Athens, a book I had spotted and flipped through several days previous.

En route I note the abandoned e-scooters, trip over one, and nearly go flying.

Schoolkids find one e-scooter that is not locked. They lock when moved. I say take it. They say no, do not wish to steal it. I should have explained borrow for the day, then leave, but park not to cause a nuisance, when no longer in use.

En route look at the derelict mansion featured in Walking in Athens.

Little Tree two copies of Walking in Athens, now only one.

I pass by The Underdog, pop in, but no time to stop.

I do though stop at the little snack bar outside Thisio Metro Station next to Coffee Island. The previous day, spinach pie without the cheese, today cheese pie. A pity as the spinach pie was excellent the cheese pie not so good.

Tricksters I had seen the previous weekend. On the Saturday a different trickster, there on the Sunday, when two tricksters with same trick.

What I noticed on the Sunday, the same people gathered around who I had seen on the Saturday, obviously part of the scam. One fat guy happily bets then loses three fifty euro notes, another when trickster not looking, points to where the hidden object.

Three boxes, one hides an object, move around very fast, punter has to bet where it is hiding.

As a child I used to see this trick being played in Petticoat Lane.

I am blocked when I try to take photos.

A change of plan, usually I visit Duo Goulies & Duo Mpoukies first then Mokka as one closes one hour later than the other. It also matches my direction of travel. Today the other way around, Mokka first, I am early and it matches my direction of travel.

I head straight up a rather unpleasant busy road from Monastiraki, pass by Dope. But why stop at Dope when Mokka only a few minutes walk away further up the road with superior coffee?

I look in the fish section of Central Market but do not venture in.

As I am earlier than usual and find their retail shop is open, I first look in Mokka shop, it closes at 1530 and this is the only visit I find open. Massive industrial grinders for their coffee, also single origin on a smaller roaster though still large compared to most roasteries in England.

I choose a Costa Rican single origin coffee.

Then to Mokka coffee shop. I watch Greek coffee brewed on a hot bed of sand.

Excellent cappuccino.

It is a pity the coffee shop does not at least have the single origin coffee on sale.

Too late for Duo Goulies & Duo Mpoukies and I get lost trying to find. OK I know where I am but no idea where to head.

I head to Just Made 33 and find open. Owner not there, I do not stop.

Then pass through Mitropoleos Square.

I often pass through in the evening, first time in daylight.

I pop in TOMS, a coffee shop that is a weird set up, sells shoes and glasses and claims to provide a week’s supply of water to third world need for each cup of coffee sold.

I am always wary of these claims. Far far better work with farmers, improve quality, fetch a higher price for the coffee beans.

The coffee shop, their flag ship store (not that I have encountered any others), was serving coffee in paper takeaway cups, thus damaging the environment of the very people they claim to be trying to help.

Also on sale e-coffee cups.

E-coffee cups have recently been embroiled in scandal. Toxins released from the cups into hot liquids, thus best avoided.

A lovely black cat had bagged a seat. At first does not appear to be friendly from the warning meow, but was friendly. Lost in translation.

I have a brief conversation with a man sat outside, even though now I am running late. He says ask next time I pass by, UK still in EU. He makes the point EU makes impossible for countries to leave a one way system. Hotel California. can check out but cannot leave.

He tells me I am paying to much heed to Yanis Varoufakis. Interesting as until that point, neither of us had mentioned Yanis Varoufakis by name, though we were very much discussing his ideas.

I walk pass Hadrian’s Arch and a lovey stone table in the courtyard of an apartment.

It is then head to Metro, head to airport.

Ο Μπαμπάς

December 3, 2019

Although very tired, nearing midnight and had wanted an early night, I decided to head to Duente for a craft beer. When I have passed by in the past told they have craft beer. No craft beer.

I try Little Tree, too late, already closed.

I then headed for the craft beer bar Ο Μπαμπάς that I found a few days previous.

I sat outside as a warm evening. It would be nice if they cleaned the tables though were cleaned when my order taken.

Nightmare using internet, access through a third party which appeared to be nothing but a trawl for personal data. I complained, they relented and gave me password for their wifi router.

Excellent craft beer but at 7 euros for a small bottle expensive.

I found by heading down the side of Acropolis Museum, on past Coco-Mat and keep going. On my way back, a different route along a busy main road.

As I pass a bar on a corner, red strip lighting, a man sat outside comes to life, tries to drag me in, tells me it is free. I decline his insistent offer, if for no other reason sounds dodgy. Blinds down the window, I peek through the gap, bar empty, a large circular bar, no one there but scantily dressed women around the bar.

A brothel?

Anana

December 3, 2019

I was headed to Peek a Bloom, but as passed by Anana decided to stop for a coffee.

Reasonable coffee.

Uncertain whether or not Cafeistas roast coffee for Anana or Anana use the Cafeistas facilities.

Books to read and buy. The only one of interest a guide to Greece a copy of which I had picked up from Foyer. Kennedy Greece, not a typical guide book, little vignettes of Greece.

Note: Photos of Anana poor quality, I had neglected to remove plastic film on the back of new phone.


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