Friday, 23 November 2007

The Azogires Olympics - a true tale

It’s alleged that in about 1976, Azogires, for a very brief moment, nearly became the centre of international attention by being the first village in Greece to revive the ancient tradition of young men competing in foot races whilst naked – the manner in which the original Olympic games were conducted.

According to a local legend* a young Austrian girl then living in the village came to the attention of a rather elderly villager who, in spite of his wife’s protestations, got into the habit of visiting the young lady each morning with presents of bread, olives and honey. It was a purely platonic relationship; the age of the gentleman in question, he was believed to be over 90 at the time, ensuring this.

Eventually the young lady fell under the spell of a handsome** young Scotsman and, in due course, what might be described as a non-platonic relationship developed between these two.

The Austro/ Hibernian entente was rudely disturbed one morning by the arrival of the older Greek man. In those days no doors in the village were ever left locked and when he came to deliver his daily gift, he knocked on the door, opened it and found that the young lady had a somewhat younger suitor. On discovering the couple in bed, his pride was sorely wounded. He then lost his temper and producing his knife, proceeded to exclaim, in a loud voice and complete with graphic gesticulation, exactly what he proposed to do to the young Scot.

At about this point Caledonian discretion overcame Caledonian valour and, without further ado, or pausing to get dressed, our hero leaped out of the bed and out of the window. He then proceeded to make his way, at high speed, down the road past the Alpha Kafenion, pursued, albeit at some distance, by the elderly Greek gentleman who was still waving his knife.

It is said that as the spectacle passed the Kafenion an Austrian resident watching the naked figure remarked that it would be a nice idea to revive the Olympics in their original form. Fortunately, or unfortunately, his suggestion was never taken up.

The number of points the Judges awarded to either of the competitors is not recorded.

*Believed to be one Andrew Millar.
** This fact has been disputed.

Thursday, 22 November 2007



The origins of black magic in the area.

In the old days some people used to use Solomonicgraphs. These were pieces of paper, papyrus or velum, leather, rolls with evil things written on them, that invited the devils to come and do work for you. There used to be some in the village but people just gave them away or threw them away because they were so evil; there are some in Chania Archives.

A priest in the village had one and he used it. His wife used to tell him to get wood; and he would get the devils to do it, she would say do this, do that and he would get them to do it.

Even though he was a priest he was doing this.

Then one day he said the wrong words to them and they wouldn’t leave. He then spent three days and three nights, or maybe four days and four nights, burning incense and saying prayers in his house before they would leave. He then went down to the river and threw the Solomonicgraphs in the water.

Legend has it that that’s how the people in the old days built their towers and big walls, but that’s just the legend.

The Golden Pig


The Golden Pig

Down the hill below the road under the Alpha Hotel is and area called Saita - Arrow – Sagittarius for example – the ancient Greek word for an Archer.

This was an area known for its archery contests; because the land was flat that’s where they practiced archery. According to legend the prize in the contests was a “Golden Pig” and this is said to be still buried somewhere around here. However, only the blessed one will be able to see it and the man who reinstates the archery contest again or a clairvoyant will be able to uncover the “Golden Pig.”

Before Venetian times there was a battle between local clans (Families) there –families meaning a King and his people. It’s said that if you go out on a Thursday night at the right time and on the right night, you can hear the arrows flying passed your ears and if you meditate enough you can hear the sound of the battle still going on.

Many people have tried to find the Golden Pig – many people have failed – many people have claimed that they know where it is but it’s cursed and nobody can get it.
Nobody really knows the truth of what happened there, all they know is that people died for the Golden Pig that is still buried there; they only know that the final battle happened.

The olive trees in that area are dated to at least 2000 years old. The smallest olive tree is about one metre in diameter and they are planted one next to the other in lines around the outside of the clearing to leave the land clear for arrow fighting and training and target practice.

Ghost Stories

Ghost stories

One day, not so long ago, a man was coming up the road from the direction of the lower part of the village and just before he got to the main road that leads to the kafenion he saw two things like legless hippopotamuses floating in the air and trying to say something to him. He was scared of this and ran away.

Also in that area, below the Alpha Hotel towards Saita, people have reported seeing things that look like calves and these have been sighted at least 50 times. Strange things have happened in that valley.

One local man had a dream that he should go and dig under a pine tree near the Church of Agio Georgos and he would find a pot of gold. But he told his wife of the dream, something according to local belief that he should not have done. He dug in the spot and dug up a pot full of charcoal. He kept the pot but threw the charcoal away not realising that gold, without oxygen, becomes black if left long enough.

There are about 30 burial places around the village, some of them very old and some very mystical. One house is said to be cursed; those who live in it will have no descendants. At least 4 families have lived there and none of their babies survived.

The house behind it was said to have a big rock beneath it that housed a demon and this demon would come out and strangle the babies. One old lady, the great grandmother of the owner of the Alpha Kafenion, put an end to this by “buying” one of the babies. As soon as a child was born she went into the house and gave the parents 20 drachma saying “This child doesn’t belong to you anymore, you’re raising it for me.”

The child survived and the killings stopped. The houses there are still cursed though. Recently a person living in the house was arrested and was deported.

Crows now sit in the trees around the houses, day and night, and the area is very spooky, little will grow there only pine trees.

Another house in the village is haunted. This house used to be a kafenion and a man was murdered there one day, shot in the back by someone who was jealous of him. The dying man turned around to shoot his assailant but his gun was empty; he had used up all his bullets at a festival.

His ghost is still said to haunt the house but it’s believed to be a friendly ghost and not to mean harm.

The Carved Caves of Azogires

The Carved Caves of Azogires.

View from the inside of the larger cave - note the Alpha Kafenion across the valley!

Drive, or walk, away from the Alpha Kafenion in the direction of Sougia. About 1 km past the Alpha, take the first road on the right; it’s just past Agio Theodoros church.

Go over /through the ford across the road and carry on up the hill for about 800 metres. Ignore the first small pathway on your right hand side, this leads down to some shepherds’ huts, and take the obvious, unpaved, farm road on your right hand side, just by some large rocks.

Keeping the high ground to your left, follow this road to a gate across it. Go through the gate, making sure you shut it after you, round a bend and there you will be facing the Carved Caves. From the paved road it will take about 12 –15 minutes walk

The lower cave is accessible by an iron ladder and the upper chambers accessible, to those with a good head for heights, by steps on the rock face with assistance from a permanent rope handrail.

The caves themselves have a long history of occupation and inside them can be seen carved cisterns used for water storage, the water being channelled through the limestone rock into the holding tanks. There are also carved storage shelves used in the past for storing food.

Looking at the caves it’s easy to see how and why they were used as a place of refuge; one person at the entrance of the upper cave can deny entry to an army.

Monday, 19 November 2007

The Venetian Style Bridge

The old Venetian Style Bridge used to be the main meeting place of the village and the main place that people would gather to try and sort out any difference they had with each other, it’s said that many people have been shot there

All the children coming back from school used to carve their names on the bridge and the names there include that of a politician who wrote his name there before going on to be famous. Also carved onto the bridge are the initials EAM possibly standing for Ethniko Apeleftherotiko Metopo - Εθνικό Απελευθερωτικό Μέτωπο, the political wing of the main, Communist lead, anti Nazi resistance movement; or possibly the initials of one of the village children?

The Bridge itself was last repaired in 1914 according to the date carved on it and was built in the style of the old Venitian bridges of Crete, replacing an old wooden bridge that used to span the river at this point..

The Three Road

It’s a famous point known as a Three Road, a meeting of three roads and it’s this junction of the roads that gives the spot magical powers.

It is said that you should collect enough onions to make a large circle and then buy a black handled Cretan knife, one that hasn’t been used, and take the knife, the onions and a musical instrument to the Three Road on the night of Tuesday 13th. You place the onions in a circle on the ground, put the knife in the ground in the middle of the circle and then sit on the handle of the knife. You then take your musical instrument and start to play.

At midnight, if it’s the right night and the right moon, you’ll suddenly hear many other musicians playing, hundreds if not thousands, men and women together all coming towards the Three Road. They’ll then start asking you questions; what is your name, who are you, do you want some gold, come out of the circle, do you want one of our women? Whatever you do you mustn’t speak to them and most of all you mustn’t allow any part of your body to go out of the circle. They’ll ask you to play on your instrument and while you’re playing they’ll say “We can’t reach you; we can’t hear you; come out of the circle.”

But you mustn’t even stick a finger out of the circle or they’ll grab it and drag you off – if you give them even a fingernail they’ll drag you off – you must keep playing your instrument and eventually they’ll go away.

The next morning you get off the knife and come out of the circle and you’ll be the best musician the world has ever known.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

The Holy Fathers of Azogires

The Holy Fathers.

According to the story, around 1300, there lived in Turkey a holy man called John the Hermit. In time he gathered round him some 98 followers and, becoming too popular with the local people because of the cures they carried out, John decided to pray to God to show him where they could go to live in solitude. In a dream John was told that he and his followers should go and preach the gospel in Crete. He got his band together and they set off on their voyage.

Before going they had agreed that they would follow John’s orders and that if one of them died, the others would die as well.

Bad weather interrupted their trip and they were stranded on the island of Gavdos for 24 days waiting for the storms to clear. The day that the wind broke John was so deep in prayer that he was invisible and the 98 Holy Fathers set off without him.

On arriving in Crete they discovered that John was missing and began to call for him to join them. John heard their calls and realised that his followers had gone ahead. He then spread cloak on the water he sailed from Gavdos to Crete, arriving 3 hours later.

The Holy Fathers lived in a cave up in the hills above Azogires but were instrumental in founding the Monastery. Their cave is up in the hills behind the Alpha kafenion, in the direction of Spaniakos, and can be reached by following the road that turns off to the right just before you get to the Alpha. It takes about an hour to walk up to it and you can pick up a map in the Alpha.

The Holy Fathers located the Monastery in the valley below the current village, near an Evergreen Plane Tree and close to what was then a perpetual spring; the Spring of the Holy Fathers.

It is said that when 99 crosses are made on the Holy Fathers' tree by branches overlapping each other, the tree will die.

In the meantime, St John, having built the Church that carries his name, left his followers and moved on to the north of the island where he died and is buried.

Where am I?

A question often asked but usually the morning after a pleasent afternoon in the Alpha!

To be a bit more specific, you are in Crete (Kriti) the 5th largest island in the Mediterranean. The island covers an area of 8336 Km2 and is 257Km long and between 12 and 61Km wide.

To be even more specific, you are in the Alpha Kafenion, 369 metres above sea level, in Azogires, a village community 8 Km outside Paleochora.

Most specific of all, according to the best approximation on Google Earth, The Alpha Kafenion Azogires is at: 35°16’21.14N 23° 43’12.77E

Azogires is located in the Prefecture Chania, the Province of SELINO (one of four set up Chania in 13th Century by Venetians) and is part of the Municipality of Pelekanos.

Azogires currently has a population of approximately 50 people (and lots of goats) although in the past it had many more, people that is - we're not too sure about the goats!

Thursday, 1 November 2007


Welcome to the Alpha Kafenion Blogspot.

The aim of the blog spot is to inform those who don't know about Azogires who we are and what we offer and keep those who do know it, up to date with what's been going on here and in particular in the Alpha Kafenion.

As you may know, the Alpha Kafenion is located in an area of outstanding peace, tranquility and natural beauty, right in the centre of Azogires, just 8 km outside Paleochora in South Western Crete. Naturally we're very proud of our area, its history and its beauty and we delight in having the opportunity to share our pleasure with you.

Any comments about Azogires or the Alpha Kafenion, rude or otherwise, or photographs of us or the area will all be gratefully received and, if they are not too rude, might even be published here!