Thursday, October 31, 2013

Christine Presents: It's Halloween!


I love this holiday: the costumes, the candy, the decorations and of course the little ones coming to the door for treats. They are so cute. But the holiday is so much more and is rooted in ancient customs and religion.

For the past thirty plus years we have decorated the house for this wonderful holiday. This year we were gone for most of the month and just returned late last night from Greece. One decoration is adorning my living room table and it was a birthday gift before we left on our travels. It's a single owl that my grand daughter picked out then was promptly afraid of.


Ancient Origins of Halloween

Halloween's origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1. This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31 they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. In addition to causing trouble and damaging crops, Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions about the future. For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort and direction during the long, dark winter.

To commemorate the event, Druids built huge sacred bonfires, where the people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities. During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other's fortunes. When the celebration was over, they re-lit their hearth fires, which they had extinguished earlier that evening, from the sacred bonfire to help protect them during the coming winter.

By 43 A.D., the Roman Empire had conquered the majority of Celtic territory. In the course of the four hundred years that they ruled the Celtic lands, two festivals of Roman origin were combined with the traditional Celtic celebration of Samhain. The first was Feralia, a day in late October when the Romans traditionally commemorated the passing of the dead. The second was a day to honor Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona is the apple and the incorporation of this celebration into Samhain probably explains the tradition of "bobbing" for apples that is practiced today on Halloween.

On May 13, 609 A.D., Pope Boniface IV dedicated the Pantheon in Rome in honor of all Christian martyrs, and the Catholic feast of All Martyrs Day was established in the Western church. Pope Gregory III (731–741) later expanded the festival to include all saints as well as all martyrs, and moved the observance from May 13 to November 1. By the 9th century the influence of Christianity had spread into Celtic lands, where it gradually blended with and supplanted the older Celtic rites. In 1000 A.D., the church would make November 2 All Souls' Day, a day to honor the dead. It is widely believed today that the church was attempting to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a related, but church-sanctioned holiday. All Souls Day was celebrated similarly to Samhain, with big bonfires, parades, and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels and devils. The All Saints Day celebration was also called All-hallows or All-hallowmas (from Middle English Alholowmesse meaning All Saints' Day) and the night before it, the traditional night of Samhain in the Celtic religion, began to be called All-hallows Eve and, eventually, Halloween.

Halloween Comes to America

Celebration of Halloween was extremely limited in colonial New England because of the rigid Protestant belief systems there. Halloween was much more common in Maryland and the southern colonies. As the beliefs and customs of different European ethnic groups as well as the American Indians meshed, a distinctly American version of Halloween began to emerge. The first celebrations included "play parties," public events held to celebrate the harvest, where neighbors would share stories of the dead, tell each other's fortunes, dance and sing. Colonial Halloween festivities also featured the telling of ghost stories and mischief-making of all kinds. By the middle of the nineteenth century, annual autumn festivities were common, but Halloween was not yet celebrated everywhere in the country.

In the second half of the nineteenth century, America was flooded with new immigrants. These new immigrants, especially the millions of Irish fleeing Ireland's potato famine of 1846, helped to popularize the celebration of Halloween nationally. Taking from Irish and English traditions, Americans began to dress up in costumes and go house to house asking for food or money, a practice that eventually became today's "trick-or-treat" tradition. Young women believed that on Halloween they could divine the name or appearance of their future husband by doing tricks with yarn, apple parings or mirrors.

In the late 1800s, there was a move in America to mold Halloween into a holiday more about community and neighborly get-togethers than about ghosts, pranks and witchcraft. At the turn of the century, Halloween parties for both children and adults became the most common way to celebrate the day. Parties focused on games, foods of the season and festive costumes. Parents were encouraged by newspapers and community leaders to take anything "frightening" or "grotesque" out of Halloween celebrations. Because of these efforts, Halloween lost most of its superstitious and religious overtones by the beginning of the twentieth century.

By the 1920s and 1930s, Halloween had become a secular, but community-centered holiday, with parades and town-wide parties as the featured entertainment. Despite the best efforts of many schools and communities, vandalism began to plague Halloween celebrations in many communities during this time. By the 1950s, town leaders had successfully limited vandalism and Halloween had evolved into a holiday directed mainly at the young. Due to the high numbers of young children during the fifties baby boom, parties moved from town civic centers into the classroom or home, where they could be more easily accommodated. Between 1920 and 1950, the centuries-old practice of trick-or-treating was also revived. Trick-or-treating was a relatively inexpensive way for an entire community to share the Halloween celebration. In theory, families could also prevent tricks being played on them by providing the neighborhood children with small treats. A new American tradition was born, and it has continued to grow. Today, Americans spend an estimated $6 billion annually on Halloween, making it the country's second largest commercial holiday.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Christine Presents: The End Of A Great Adventure, Phase 1

Crete to Athens, the second shortest flight. It took forty-two minutes from start to finish. The hotel, Sofitel, is across the street from the Athens Airport. It's a five star hotel and very nice. What makes it even better the walk from the hotel is only about two minutes. Thank goodness because our flight leaves at 6:30 AM.

In Crete the airport is so tiny the check in booths weren't open two hours before our flight. Ours was the first flight from that airport. They checked everyone through the gate about forty minutes before take off then we sat in a separate room until all the passengers had arrived. We were then shuttled by a bus less than fifty yards to the plane.

That seemed a bit ridiculous although it wasn't the first time. We were also shuttled to the plane in Tirrana and it was about the same distance.

Small store in security. The only one in our tiny section.

Phase two starts tomorrow. Thankfully we don't have to be at the airport three hours early, only two. I know, my sweet travel agent, if you are reading this you will tell me three but the airport says two. We will fly to Frankfurt then on to Vancouver and finally PDX.

My oldest daughters family is arriving at PDX from Disney Land one hour later so we are waiting in the airport for their arrival. Not sure how everyone is getting home. My youngest daughter will be there with our car to pick us up and the other grandmother will be with the Disney family. I think they will most likely go home with her.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Christine Presents: Fira

Fira is the capital city of Santorini. It is located mid-island and from different parts of the city one can see the caldera and the ocean on the other side. Fira is situated above the old port. Most if not all of the cruise ships still use the old port. From the port one can reach the city in three ways: by donkey, by the tram or by walking up the steps which zig zag their way across the steep slope.

The ferry, which we took from Crete to Santorini and back uses the new port. One can reach Fira either by taxi or bus. We took a taxi from the port to our hotel but when we returned the next day we rode the city bus. My husband likes to ride in the front of the bus. OMG, I thought the bus was going to plunge over the cliff with each hairpin turn. Needless to say, I closed my eyes so I wouldn't see my ultimate death. Well, I'm really not over dramatic but we did reach the bottom in tip-top shape.

From a restaurant on Fira looking at the caldera.
Looks much the same as from Oia.

Walkway of expensive gift shops on Fira. This is the first thing the cruise ship passengers see, dubbed the Gold Street which is lined by aggressive jewelry sales people and expensive restaurants. Down below their on many more affordable shops and cafes. Between gold street and the main traffic street is a cozy labyrinth of streets with the islands top museum and a pair of cathedrals.

While Oia is more famous for its sunsets, Fira's are also beautiful. 

Recipe of the Day: Spinach pie but I haven't tasted it yet, so I'm waiting.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Christine Presents: Oia (contest is coming to an end. Don't forget to leave a comment)

Oia (ee-ah) Santorini

Oia might be one of the most romantic places in the world. I used to think Paris, beyond a doubt, was the most romantic city in the world. Now I know better. While the thought of Paris, the Eiffel Tower and walking along the Champs Elysees is romantic there are other places just as romantic one of them being Oia and watching the sunset.

Oia is the classic too pretty to be true place to imagine when someone says Greek Islands. This ensemble of white washed houses and blue domes is delicately draped over a steep slope at the top of a cliff. The town is positioned just right for enjoying a spectacular sunset over the caldera. 

On July 9, 1956 Oia was devastated by a serious earthquake and left in ruins. The natives rebuilt the town making it more picture perfect than before. One can see ruins of the old town scattered about the new. However the ruins have been barricaded and filled with garbage.

A way from the main road one can find narrow winding lanes full of shops, cafes, and restaurants. One can buy any type of souvenir here, from items costing one euro to hundreds.

At the far tip of Oia is the old turret view point offering a breathtaking three hundred sixty degree view of the caldera and islands surrounding the main one. 

The most interesting houses are burrowed into the side of the rock cliffs. These houses surrounded by air filled pumice are ideally insulated. Once the poorest dwellings in town today only millionaires can afford to own. And most are rented as very pricey motels.

Recipe of the day: Saginake

Greek Saganaki - Fried Cheese Appetizer

In Greek: σαγανάκι (pronounced sah-ghah-NAH-kee)
Saganaki dishes take their name from the pan in which they are made. A sagani is a two-handled pan that is made in many different materials. In the market, look for a small paella pan, small cast iron skillet, or even an oval au gratin dish.
Serve this as an appetizer, as an hors d'oeuvre, or as part of a meal made up of a varied selection ofmezethes. The key to success with this dish is to get the oil hot (before it starts to smoke) before frying.

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes


  • 1 pound (about 1/2 kg) of kefalotyri or kasseri cheese (or pecorino romano)
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil
  • 2/3 cup of flour for dredging
  • 2-3 lemons, quartered


Cut the cheese into slices or wedges that are 1/2 inch thick by 2 1/2 to 3 inches wide. Moisten each slice with cold water and dredge in the flour. In a sagani (Greek pan used for this dish) or a small heavy-bottomed frying pan (cast-iron works best), heat the oil over medium-high heat, and sear each slice in 1 tablespoon of oil until golden-brown on both sides. Serve hot with a last-minute squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
Serve with ouzo or wine, olives, vegetable mezethes, tomatoes, and crusty bread.
Yield: 6 servings
  • If desired, the cheese can be dipped into beaten egg (after the flour).
  • If you enjoy a little pepper, add some fresh ground black pepper to the flour before dredging the cheese.


Christine Presents: Nearing the Journey's End, Santorini

Kali mera fill mou,
(good morning my friends, Greek)

The Flyingcat took us from Crete to Santorini yesterday morning. In places it was a bumpy ride in other places nice and smooth. We reached the port at the bottom of the cliffs on the western side of the island then hailed a cab. The ride brought us to a small hotel outside of Oia (ee-ah). After checking in we walked a scenic back trail to the town. This church was at the top of trail looking into the sea.

This chapel is dedicated to Profitis Ilias. It may refer to Elijah in the Hebrew Bible considered a Saint by Christians.

Volcano Island or
Nea Kameni

This island is in the middle of the caldera also called New Burnt Island. This island emerged from the sea in 1707. The last small eruption on the island occurred in 1950 and steam and sulphur dioxide are sometimes emitted at the current active crater. This caldera was formed similar to Oregon's Crater Lake.

Once a tidy conical shape the mountain exploded around 1630 BC and what is called the Minoan eruption, one of the largest in human history. It blew out 24 cubic miles of volcanic material, at least four times the amount ejected by Krakatoa. A super heated pyroplastic flow similar to Mt. St. Helens swept down the islands slopes. The emptied out volcano collapsed under its own weight forming the flooded caldera. 

Recipe of the Day: Cheesecake from -

The first cheesecake was created in Ancient Greece, even though the first appearance of the modern cheesecake (see above) was in New York.

Cheese moulds dating from 2000 BC were excavated on the Greek island of Samos and the writer Athenaeus is credited with writing the first Greek cheesecake recipe in 230 AD - the oldest known surviving Greek recipe. The physician Aegimus also wrote a book on the art of making cheesecakes.

It is believed to have been served to athletes at the first Olympic Games in 776 BC as it was considered to be a good source of energy. Cheesecake was also used as a wedding cake in ancient times.

The recipe? Pretty basic, but it nevertheless sounds healthy.

"Pound the cheese until it is smooth and pasty - mix the pounded cheese in a brass pan with honey and spring wheat flour - heat the cheese cake 'in one mass' - allow to cool then serve."

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Christine Presents: Crete

Kali mera fill mou,
(good morning my friends, Greek)

We are now on the island of Crete (Kreta). It's a beautiful island with tons of history yet we have spent the day lying by the pool, shooting pictures of the sunset and swimming in the Mediterranean Sea.


Crete was the birthplace of European civilization, the home of the Minoans who prospered centuries before classical Greece. Crete came under the successive rules of the Greeks, the Romans, the Byzantine Empire, the Venetians and of course the turks.

The largest of the Greek Islands Crete is the fifth larges island in the Mediterranean. Crete is the most southerly point in Europe, further south than parts of the north African coast. It's hot dry summers last far longer here than they do elsewhere in Greece. 


Crete played a crucial role in ancient Greek legends. This was largely due to the belief that Zeus was born and brought up here.

Zeus' son minos was punished by Poseidon who caused Mino's wife to fallen love with a bull and their coupling resulted in the birth of the minotar. Minos imprisoned the Minotaur in a labyrinth.

Recipe of the Day: Spinach Pie, Spanakopita (Greek Spinach Pie


Original recipe makes 1 - 9x9 inch panChange Servings
 3 tablespoons olive oil
 1 large onion, chopped
 1 bunch green onions, chopped
 2 cloves garlic, minced
 2 pounds spinach, rinsed and chopped
 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
 2 eggs, lightly beaten
 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
 8 sheets phyllo dough
 1/4 cup olive oil


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly oil a 9x9 inch square baking pan.
Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute onion, green onions and garlic, until soft and lightly browned. Stir in spinach and parsley, and continue to saute until spinach is limp, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
In a medium bowl, mix together eggs, ricotta, and feta. Stir in spinach mixture. Lay 1 sheet of phyllo dough in prepared baking pan, and brush lightly with olive oil. Lay another sheet of phyllo dough on top, brush with olive oil, and repeat process with two more sheets of phyllo. The sheets will overlap the pan. Spread spinach and cheese mixture into pan and fold overhanging dough over filling. Brush with oil, then layer remaining 4 sheets of phyllo dough, brushing each with oil. Tuck overhanging dough into pan to seal filling.
Bake in preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until golden brown. Cut into squares and serve while hot.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Christine Presents: The Monastery at Meteora

Kali mera fill mou,
(good morning my friends, Greek)

Oh my, today I experienced the shortest plane ride ever, Athens to Crete in twenty-four minutes, includes taxiing. I relaxed today by the pool, trying for a tan. Haven't had one of those in so many years I don't care to count and tomorrow I'm going to check one more item off my bucket list--swim in the Mediterranean Sea. But I don't have pictures of Crete (Kreta) so I'm going to go back in time to some of the places I've been that I haven't posted about.

Can you see the face in the rock?

Today I'm going to take you to Meteora, Greece. It lies between Delphi and the Adriatic Sea. Steep rocks climb to the sky and atop those rocks are monasteries. We drove the winding roads to reach the top where the wind howled and the air was icy. I can't imagine how cold this place would be in the winter.

The Meteora is one of the largest and most important complexes of Eastern Orthodox monasteries in Greece, second only to Mt. Athos. The six monasteries are built on natural sandstone rock pillars at the northwestern edge of the Plain of Thessaly near the town of Kalambaka in central Greece.

Meteora meanings: middle of the sky, suspended in the air, and or in the heavens above - related to meteorite. 

The rocks reach to the sky and the monasteries sit at the very top!

These rocks must be a rock climbers dream. There was one place where many flags of various nations dotted a plateau on the way to the top. 

So picturesque, so beautiful but would I want to live here? Well, I was asked that numerous times in Albania by the Koci family. How do you say 'no'? It's beautiful but... we have so many beautiful places in America and we have paved roads in our cities. 


The exact date of the establishment of the monasteries is unknown but by the late eleventh and early twelfth centuries a monastic state had formed in the area. By the end of the twelfth century and ascetic community had flocked to Meteora. Access to the monasteries was originally and deliberately difficult, requiring either long ladders lashed together or large nets used to haul up both goods and people. This required quite a leap of faith. The ropes were replaced, so the story goes, only "when the Lord let them brake." Until the seventeenth century this was the primary means of conveying goods and people to these eyries.

Six of the monasteries remain today.More than twenty monasteries were built originally. Each of the remaining six has fewer than ten inhabitants, four by men and two by women.

Recipe of the day:  Pastitsio - Baked Pasta with Meat and Bechamel Topping

Pastitsio - Baked Pasta with Meat and Bechamel Topping

Three essential components make up this dish - pasta, meat filling, and a creamy bechamel sauce which are layered in a pan and baked to a golden brown. Each stage will require dirtying some pots and pans, but I think you will agree that the end result is well worth the clean up!

Prep Time: 45 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes


1/2 cup olive oil
2 lbs. ground beef (or ground lamb, or a mixture of both)
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 cup dry white wine
1 14 oz. can tomato puree or sauce
3 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese (or Kefalotyri if available)
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 tbsp. breadcrumbs
1 pkg. #2 Macaroni for Pastitsio (500g)- available at Greek or ethnic groceries. You can substitute ziti or penne
4 egg whites (reserve the yolks for bechamel sauce)
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)

For the bechamel sauce:
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks)
1 cup all purpose flour
1 quart milk, warmed
8 egg yolks, beaten lightly
a pinch of ground nutmeg

Note: Cut pasta like ziti or penne can flatten more than the long Pastitsio noodles, which tend to get twisted when layered. I suggest cooking 2 lbs. of cut pasta to ensure that you have adequate coverage of the pan. If you prefer, you can scale that back to 1 lb.

This recipe will yield about 24 servings depending upon the size of your pieces. I use a lasagna pan that is roughly 12 x 18 x 3 inches deep.

Begin with the Meat Filling:
Heat olive oil in a large saute pan. Add ground beef and cook over medium-high heat until pink color disappears, about 5 minutes. Add onions and cook until they are translucent, about 5 minutes more.

Add wine, tomato sauce, parsley, allspice, cinnamon, salt, and pepper and allow sauce to simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. While sauce is simmering put water on to boil for pasta.

Cook pasta noodles according to package directions and drain well. Rinse noodles in colander under cold water to cool them slightly.

Stir in 3 tbsp. breadcrumbs to meat sauce to absorb excess liquid and remove from heat.

Melt 1/2 cup butter in pasta pot and return cooked noodles to the pot. Stir in beaten egg whites and 1 cup of grated cheese and toss lightly, being careful not to break the noodles.

Brush the bottom and sides of the lasagna pan with olive oil. Layer the bottom with half the pasta noodles and press down so that they are somewhat flat.

Add the meat filling in an even layer to the pasta. Top with remaining pasta noodles and flatten top layer as best you can.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees while you prepare the bechamel sauce.

Bechamel Sauce:
Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat. Using a whisk, add flour to melted butter whisking continuously to make a smooth paste or roux. Allow the flour/butter mixture to cook for a minute but do not allow it to brown.

Add warmed milk to mixture in a steady stream, whisking continuously. Simmer over low heat until it thickens but does not boil.

Remove from heat and stir in beaten egg yolks. Add pinch of nutmeg. If sauce still needs to thicken, return to heat and cook over very low heat while continuing to stir.

Bechamel is thicker than gravy but not quite as thick as pudding. It should be somewhere in between. One way to tell if it is thick enough is to dip your wooden spoon in the sauce and draw your finger across the back of the spoon. If the sauce holds a visible line then it is thick enough.

Pour the bechamel over the pasta noodles making sure to pour sauce down in to the corners as well. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese. Bake in 350 degree oven for approximately 45 minutes or until the top is a nice golden color.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Christine Presents: Her Extended Family

Culture differences:

I've read about the differences in culture between the countries but never experienced it before. While I love my newly met Albanian family, I would never change lifestyles. The woman really is seen differently, some would say less than equal but I don't believe this. The woman seems to understand what is expected of them but accept it as all they know. The men seem to treat them with respect and love. It's just that I want to be able to make decisions for myself. Maybe they do...

Relis and his cousins

I found that enjoying the company of people you want so to communicate with extremely taxing. We were, however, blessed that our son-in-law speaks fluent Albanian and English. He wasn't always available to translate.

His cousins both spoke fluent social English. It was fun to talk with them and learn about their dreams and aspirations. The youngest is about twelve years old. He even went to English lessons on Saturday morning. He is so eager to learn about everything, especially America. We talked about the development of the European culture and the American. He loves history and he told me all about Christopher Columbus and Magellan. As a retired teacher this eagerness to learn was inspiring to me. I'd become rather jaded. Even the best students I saw did not have this enthusiasm when it came to learning.

Grandma and Grandpa with Relis and Jenee

The older nephew, probably about sixteen, seemed more interested in the photographs I'd taken and  seeing the world. He spoke of professional photography. I wasn't sure if that was what he wanted to do or if some of the photos I showed him he thought were professional.

Relis' sister is going to school to become a nurse and spoke some English. She is starting her masters program in Tirana and one of the requirements is English. They speak of English as the International Language and is a must to learn.

I also had a chance to speak with Relis' uncle's wife. We had a brief conversation about the roles of women and equality. She was very curious about everything American.

I was so impressed with my extended family.

This is everyone but the youngest cousin who must have taken this picture

The role of the guest: Be waited on and expected to do nothing, especially in front of the men. When I was just in the presence of the women, and with the youngest nephew as an interpreter, I cut an apple and shared. At first they were a bit alarmed but after a few minutes and my explaining that I wanted to do this, they accepted. I'm sure this would not have been allowed if any man was present.

Just before we left for the airport the grandfather's sister came to visit. She had walked quite a ways to see us. I think she might have been a bit sad that she'd missed our daughter who'd had to leave earlier that morning. But she was a feisty woman, with opinions she shared. She gave me a great big sweaty hug and cheek kisses when she arrived and when we left for the airport. I loved her the minute I saw her.

Grandpa and his sister

What an experience and perhaps some day we will return.

I was given several recipes but I will have to figure out amount of ingredients. They cook by memory. The family is fairly self-sufficient. They grow black grapes and white grapes which they eat, make jam from as well as raki (our equivalent is 'moonshine'). They drink it whenever they please. They also grow tomatoes, cucumbers, white (pinto) beans, green beans, figs (made fig jam), olive trees, oranges, tangerines, apples, lettuce, and persimmons. There was probably more...

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Christine Presents, Leaving Albania

Mir mesji shoket e mi,
Good morning my friends,

We put one of the travelers on a plane home today. She had to return after two weeks in Greece and Albania to work. We are heading back to Athens for two nights then we are heading to Crete and Santorini. We are hoping for a little relaxation after a hectic week of sight seeing. Although the sight seeing won't end there but the travel distance isn't quite so far.

Looking forward to a glass of wine in monostraki square tonight and relaxing day tomorrow. The next day we are up early for a 9:00 flight.

Yesterday we visited Kruja Castle just above Relis home in Lac. Before we traveled I'd googled castles in Albania and one castle showed up. It wasn't Kruja.

Kruja Castle, Albania

To the right is the castle, behind is the fortress and behind that are steep cliffs extending into the sky. This was the strongest hold against the Ottoman's in Albania. Eventually there were able to capture this castle.

The history of Albania is varied. Many wanted to capture this beautiful country yet over time someone else would invade. The Romans, the Greeks and the Ottomans invaded and captured yet now, Albania has finally held strong. The Nazis in WWII pretty much walked through this country, ignoring them. Yet even what seemed to be only a few years ago they were fighting again.

Many of the people changed religion in order to survive. When the country was held by the Romans they became Catholic. When the Ottomans invaded, they were muslim. I'm sure many held to their religious beliefs and many were most likely persecuted or killed. 

Kruja Castle, Albania
Looking over the countryside.

More recipes and symbols of Albania and Greek to come.
Not today, too much to do.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Christine Presents: The Way to Loc, Albania

Kali mera fill mou,
(good morning my friends, Greek)

Leaving Igoumenitsa, Greece and heading up the mainland toward Albania. On our right we could see the Ionia Sea soon to become the Adriatic Sea. One and the same but of different names. We stopped at a bakery in the city and bought pastries. Mine was cheese in phylo dough. Love that stuff and must remember to make more recipes with it, the dough is so flaky and light.

Headed to the boarder we hit a detour and had to drive in fields to go around the dam. Relis did say we would drive through a field on the way to his home in Loc, Albania. LOL, I don’t think he meant this.

After leaving the border station we headed toward a national park where we could tour the grounds of the castle at Butrint. This place was amazing. It was shaped in a triangle with and sat on an island. The outer wall were about fifty percent intact. There were numerous building, including a Bapistry, a forum and a theatre.

After leaving the Butrint, we headed north along the coast but managed to get lost in the city taking several turns in the wrong the direction. There are no signs. I mean there are NO signs to anywhere. To get back on the right road, Relis, my Albanian son-in-law, would lean out the window and yell, rougae Produda, meaning route to Produda. It was the next city in line to our final destination.

There are people hawking wares everywhere and one quickly learns to ignore or firmly tell them ‘no’ but one little boy at the castle was different. Relis likes to talk to them. Speaking some English, he asked me where I was from and I told him Oregon and quickly thought he might not know where that was so I told him America. His reply with a cheeky grin, “Obama.” That stole my heart. And of course I had to take a picture of him.

Hairpin turns up one mountain then down the next. Mile after mile we experienced hairpin turns that featured magnificent scenery. We saw sunlight glisten off the waters of the ocean and foggy clouds float around Korfu and the other islands in the sea.

We stopped in Borsh, Albania for coffee and the little restaurant there featured a waterfall through its center. The coastline of Albania is becoming a tourist attraction not just for the Europeans but for Americans as well. Many of the restaurants feature menus in English as well as Albanian.

More to come:

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Christine Presents: Journey to Delphi

Kalimera, my friends,
(good morning)


Because of the areas long association with Gaiya, Athena was worshipped at Delphi along with Apollo.

I had an epiphany while reading a t-shirt in Plakka and saw the word, kalimera, and it’s meaning. We had been walking through Plakka and the vendors would say, kalimera, but I would hear calamari, which means octopus. I would shake my head and think I needed my ears cleaned. So, now I know one more word in Greek.

Early in the morning we headed from Athens, first destination on our road trip was Delphi, second the monastery in Meteora, Greece. Final stop for the day would be Igoumenitsa.

Delphi, hairpin turns and unimaginable scenery.  I am not a fan of hairpin turns and drivers playing bumper cars behind you. This picturesque location is set high in the mountains. Ohei (no), these are the mountains we in the northwest know as the Rockies or even the Cascades, but they are incredibly steep and treacherous. It is hard to believe that people in the ancient times were able to construct temples and build a life in this rugged terrain. In Athens which was comparably flat, I often wondered how they constructed the temples, how the materials for the these were carted from place to place.


This structure was the center piece of the entire sanctuary. It was dedicated to the god who ruled the hillside and it housed the oracle who spoke in his name. This was the third and largest temple built on this site. It was funded by Phillip of Macedon and dedicated in the time of Alexander the Great.

Delphi, besides Olympia, Nemea and Corinth held athletic games. At the top of the mountain there was a stadium, theater seating as well as judges seating.

Everywhere we have been this trip, excavation seems to be an ongoing process with an archeologist/anthropologist watching. At Olympia they removed dirt in huge bucketfulls and in Delphi they had small brushes and seemed to be sorting through what hadn’t been removed.