Thursday, 31 January 2008

The "Smiling" Cave of Azogires

The Smiling Cave of Azogires.

Right below Viglistra there is what the tourists refer to as the “Smiley Cave”, a cave with two eyes, a nose and a smiling mouth. Look across from the Alpha Hotel you’ll see a red rock and then the cave; it has a face nearly like a human; more than human. This is a huge red cave to some known as Kokinos Spilios and to others as the Prosopo, meaning face.

This cave is believed to have been used for sacrifices by the Minoans and was certainly used as a hiding place during Turkish times. The cave has a series of patios inside, not natural but man made, like beds over the entrance and in the sides, possibly made and used by shepherds, and in front was a huge wall. This has now fallen down but you can still see it. Perhaps a kourta (pen) for the animals or a defence against the Turkish.

In the 1970s it was used as a campsite for the hippies. According to one story some of the hippies claimed that one night when they had a party, possibly a smoking party, they saw a UFO coming over the cave and shooting one of the rocks with laser beam! One of the rocks there does look a bit bizarre, as if it has been artificially split, so perhaps it is not just a hippy fantasy.

A woman in the 1960s, who said she was a clairvoyant, claimed she had a vision there and saw the spirit of a woman with a donkey inside the cave.

All around there is the area called Hallara, a place with huge cracks leading down perhaps 50 or more metres deep. In Turkish times when you killed a Turk, that’s the place you would take him so his body was not found; no body no crime. It was also a hiding place during the Second World War.

Monday, 28 January 2008

Tales of the Pater Papagregorakis #4

The Grave of Pater Gavriel Papagregorakis at the Holy Father's Monastery

The Funeral of Pater Gavriel

At the funeral of Pater Gavriel, one of the nuns who had been spiritually very close to him was praying in the church said, “If we had a good time together, give us a sign that you are here.”

At this, the thurible (the incense burner - currently in the museum) that was hung on the wall came off the wall and was seen by all swinging about in the middle of the church and panic broke out.

The nun again said, “If that was you and if we had a good time together, give us another sign.”

It was raining at the time and very windy and then a large rock fell off the cliff side onto the roof of the church but instead of breaking the roof and crushing everybody inside it rolled harmlessly off and down the hillside.

The nun then said, “If it was from you Pater Gavriel and if we had a good time together, on your 40 day anniversary I want to die and join you.”

40 days later, she died.


There is a house in the old village with a strange story about it.

It is said that the Turks who had the house, on having it completed, murdered the Christian builders in order that the secret or treasure of the house, whatever it is, would remain secret. Apparently, before they killed the builders they made them run around the house on the promise that if they did they would not be harmed. However the Turks eventually killed them all

It was within this house that two Turkish brothers were standing by an upper floor window in their house arguing over how they were going to divide up the land between them when their father died. As the argument got more and more heated, one is said to have looked out the window and shouted, “Here come the Christians to kill us all.”

His brother turned round, pulled out a gun and leaned out of the window to see what was happening, only to be pushed out of the window.

As he fell he just had time to fire one shot up at his brother. He missed, but the bullet mark can still be seen in the window of that house.

Monday, 21 January 2008

The strangeness of Azogires and the Alpha Kafenion

Where it all happens -allegedly.

Just in case the earth does move for you, the seismograph in the museum will detect it.

Not sure what or why, but it was there by the path leading from the Hotel to the Monastery!

So, why doesn't the Alpha Cafenion sell Alpha beer instead of Mythos? I think we should be told!

So, why is what appears to be a sea anchor, currently located in the Cafenion about as far from the sea as you can get and 300 or so metres up in the hills?

The remains of yet another mill wheel.

Be very afraid!

If sufficiently provoved, and if he can be bothered to wake up, the Cafenion's guard dog will not only savagely wag his tail at you, but will also attempt to lick you to death! You have been warned!

Just to give you an idea!

The Naiades Pool

The Naiades Pool

If you take the path down the side of the hill opposite the Alpha Hotel heading towards the Monastery, you come to the remains of the old Alpha CafĂ©. By the river there is the place the women used to wash their clothes; the same place the Holy Fathers used to gather to pray. According to local legend it’s also the only place on the river that’s inhabited by the Naiades; the spirits of the river. It’s been said for at least 300 years that that the Naiades would appear there at midnight and if you saw them and spoke to them they would steal your voice. It was enough just to say one word to them and they would take your voice away forever.

The Naiades were the nymphs of freshwater streams rivers and lakes, but were not limited to these water courses. Many Naiades could be found prancing around with Artemis, who chose 20 Naiades from Amnisus for companions. They were the daughters of rivergods. They had extremely long lifetimes, but they were not considered immortal, and were believed to have sat in on the Gods discussions on Olympus. There were 5 types of Naiades:

· Pegaiai, the Nymphs of Springs
· Krinaia, the Nymphs of Fountains
· Potameides, the Nymphs of Rivers and Streams
· Limnades or Limnatides, the Nymphs of Lakes
· Eleionomai, the Nymphs of Marshes

More caves

Tou Draco Oporos
(The Dragon's Portal)

Koukoutsakis caves

These are across the valley from the Alpha Hotel, you can see them on the map marked as Koukoutsakis Shepherds caves. These were used by Eftihis Koukoutsakis, the grandfather of the current Eftihis (Lucky) during the Second World War to hide New Zealand soldiers on the run from the Germans. They are also the original living place of the ancestors of the Koukoutsakis family who came to the village 300 years ago.

Before this time there had been a battle there between the Turks and the Christians. It was claimed by one group of people who came to the Alpha Hotel on some sort of spiritual retreat/holiday that, after going into a trance, they heard and saw part of the battle. At least 7 Christians and some children were killed on the night of the battle; we don’t know how many Turks died.

As you turn off the main road going towards the carved caves there is a very flat area with some piles of stone. During Minoan times this was a place of sacrifice to their gods. The snake was worshipped there. There was a woman in the 1990’s who wanted to build a monastery there but it failed; it seems nothing can be built there; it always fails. It is also a place known as Viglistra; the shepherds would sit there and use it as a vantage point to view the village and look out for Policemen, Turks, Germans - Viglistra means a place to watch in Cretan.

Dragon’s Water

If you go up the road past the turn off to the Carved Caves, above the road is the old path to Asphendiles. This path has a hole like a long cave, this was known as Tou Draco Oporos, the Dragons Portal.

It is said that the dragon would come out of the hole and eat children or weak people of the area. It used to be said that if you played music nicely enough outside the cave, the dragon would come out and obey your orders. 20 metres away from this is Dragon’s Water, a spring that no longer runs. However you can still see the water at the back of the road. It’s said that’s where the dragon came to drink water and attack animals in the area. Nobody knows what the dragon really was; it could have been a big snake, a real dragon or some kind of crocodile brought here by the Turks to terrify people.

Tales of Papa Papagregorakis #4

Protecting the village

Papa Gavriel was the Archimandrites of the monastery, the head monk and he was also a healer. Once in 1928 he was breaking stones and he got some cuts on his legs from the stone chips so he put some soil on the cuts and they stopped bleeding and healed up, that’s how pure the soil here was.

He was a good doctor and would heal the people of the village, healing broken bones lifting curses. He rescued people stopping feuds over land but he would also start feuds himself – he was the wrong priest to argue with!

When he was dying he left a curse on : ' he who stole from his land or cheated people over his land or saw someone stealing his land or cheating someone else over his land,' the curse being that that person would leave no male heirs.

'They would have as many male heirs as there are hairs on the palms on my hand,' he said.

4 or 5 families are said to have vanished from the village over the years, leaving only daughters – some were chopping down his trees, some putting animals on his land, some trying to steal his land.

It is said that one man sold him some land and in the 1940’s decided to take the land back. He became very ill and even the Doctors couldn’t help him. A wise old man in the village remembered Pater Gavriel’s words and told him “ Nephew, leave the Church lands alone.”

So the man wrote a letter giving up his claim to the land and two days later all his symptoms were gone and he was like a 20 year old again.

It is said that in the 1950s the villagers of Anidri tried to build a road from Anidri to Asfendiles by passing the village of Azogires, and going across the priest’s land. All the men of Azogires were ready to stop them with their guns but a temporary halt was called when lawyers got involved. Eventually, work was due to start again. This time the villagers from Asfendiles sided with those from Anidri in favour of the road and as a result only 4 men from Azogires turned up to stop them. They were faced with about 50 Anidrians and the Police stepped in to prevent a fight. The next day, as soon as the Anidri bulldozer got onto the priest’s land, it cut out, rolled down the hill and that was the end of the road.

About 30 years ago the church land up in the hills caught fire. The fire started to expand and to move towards Anidri and Asfendiles. The Azogires people saw the fire up on the hills through their binoculars and saw 100 or so people fighting it, The general view was that the Azogires men did not want the Asfendiles men to say that they had put out the Azogires fire so they went off from Azogires to fight it. When they got to the scene, the fire was out . There was nobody there but the were 99 brushes made from Oleander and Olive branches on the ground.

When the road from Asfendiles was built, they used dynamite to blow up the rocks. On one occasion a rock twice the size of a car was blown up and started rolling down the hillside.

A man started laughing and saying, ”There goes the priest’s olive trees!”

20 metres from the priest’s olive trees the rock started to go to the right and then to zig-zag through the priest’s olive trees, it turned right again and then into laughing man’s trees, knocking down half of them. The rock ended up below the Turkish Settlement in the valley and it’s still there to this day.

High Tech communications - Azogires style

It's a little known, but amazing, fact that Azogires was in the forefront of the Interwebnet revolution thing when Bill Gates was still but a twinkle in his great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather's eye.

Excavations carried out by a trained team of combat archeologists back in the 1860's, on the site of what is now the Alpha Kafenion, came up with conclusive proof that the inhabitants of Azogires had the worlds first Interwebnet Kafe several thousand years ago.

It would appear from the records available, mostly 45rpm, that what would have been a great leap forward for Cretan civilisation came to an abrupt halt when it was realised that:

1) The only PC in existance was that one in Azogires and therefore they couldn't send messages to anybody else,

2) Electricity hadn't been invented.

Thus, unfortunately, all that remains of the many great Azogires contributions to mankind is the painting on the plate shown above.

What's in a name?

Roadsigns on the Paleochora/Azogires Road; within 20 metres of each other!

Azogires or Azogyres?

It’s said that the name Azogires means in the old Cretan dialect, and means 'the circle of life', indicating a good place to live.

It's also said that Azogyres (note the Y) means, in the same dialect, an unpleasant smelly bush*.

The village we are concerned with is known as Azogires, in spite of the road signs, and is not to be confused with the other Azogyres, over the mountains towards Voutas.

* The source of this piece of information live in Azogires and is thought to be somewhat biased!

Tales of Papa Papagregorakis #3

The Evergreen Plane Tree

(The tree is located on the pathway down to the Monastery, just before the 'modern,' but now deserted, olive oil factory. See the map in the Alpha Kafenion.)

Papa Gavriel and the Plane Tree

Some people believed that the Evergreen Plane Tree had some sort of power for Papa Gavriel. The tree originally had 99 crosses formed by its branches, one for each of the Holy Fathers who followed St. John to Azogires, but nowadays there are a lot less.

Once Papa Gavriel was trying to build a bridge down stream from the current one to save the people having to walk up the valley to cross the river. But there was another plane tree in the way. He was cutting off a branch from this tree when another branch fell on his back, injuring him. They took him to the monastery.

The next day the villagers came to see him and offered to use his sharp axe to cut down the offending plane tree.

“What tree?” was Papa Gavriel’s reply.

They went down to the river and there was the offending plane tree: dry, rotting and falling apart.

When they made the road to the monastery the man with the bulldozer tried to remove the Evergreen Plane Tree. The villagers told him not to but he carried on, ignored them and cut into the roots of the tree. As he did, the bulldozer cut out. He started it again but when he cut into the roots it shut down again. The third time he hit the tree, the bulldozer cut out, rolled 5 metres backwards and rolled down the hill. It took another bulldozer to pull it out

In the 1990s there was a merchant who wanted to show that there was nothing special about the Evergreen Plane Tree. He and a friend took a branch of the tree and took it off in their car. Just outside the village the car broke down; it appeared to have run out of petrol.

They came back to the village for help thinking that someone had siphoned the petrol out of their car. When the helpers arrived with petrol can they found the petrol gauge reading full and petrol in the tank. They checked the electrics and the battery; all appeared to be all right but the car still would not start. Then one of the men said,

”Maybe there’s something about the tree after all”

and threw the branch out of the car. They turned the ignition key and the car started immediately.

Tales of Papa Papagregorakis #2

Papa Gavriel's vestments in the Azogires Museum
(For access to the Museum, enquire at the Alpha Kafenion)

Papa Gavriel and the Chandelier

Papa Gavriel went to a mosque or somewhere and got a crystal chandelier for the church but it was in a thousand pieces and had to be put together. He went to the kafenion and told a couple of men to come and help him put it together. They were playing cards and so they said, “Ok Priest, go ahead and we will come.”

Half an hour later the shouted to them “Are you coming or not?” and they said, “Yes.”

20 minutes later he walked into the kafenion with a stick and so they dropped their cards and all three went up to the church.

Papa Gavriel had put the chandelier pieces into lines and they were numbered so that they can be put together and put up.

Suddenly the priest started shouting at the men “Get out, get out now!”

“But we’ve come to fix the chandelier “ they said but he pushed them out of the church and closed the door.

Suddenly they start to hear noises from inside. Two minutes later Pater Gavriel opens the church door and there’s the chandelier hanging complete from the roof. Such was the inner power of Papa Gavriel –or George as his real name was.

Papa Gavriel and the Metropolitan

Once there used to be nuns in the monastery.

One time the Metropolitan, the head priest, from Selino/Kissamos came to see Papa Gavriel. The visit don’t go well and the Metropolitan was upset and angry because there was no reception committee for him, no bells were rung in his honour and nobody clapped when he came to the monastery. While they were sitting down to dinner with the other monks and nuns, the Metropolitan accused Papa Gavriel of having sex with the nuns – others who were jealous of Papa Gavriel had said this.

Papa Gavriel picked up his cassock, his long robe, and pointed to the injury he had received from the Turks saying ‘How can I have sex with anybody?”

Then he picked up the Metropolitan, put him on the monastery table and started to beat him –some say he also threatened to shoot him with his revolver!

That’s the reason Papa Gavriel left his land and property to the village of Azogires and not to the church, because he realized that these church people were not the proper people to have his land. Everything in the village used to be maintained with his money; the INKA Supermarket by Skala in Paleochora belongs to Azogires and his money paid for the road to be made from Paleochora to Azogires.

Papa Gavriel and the Wall

One day a man was walking to Anidri for a wedding dressed in his best clothes and he came across Papa Gavriel trying to move a stone the size of a table with a wooden beam; he wanted to build a wall. He had been working all his life so this was not unusual.

“Come and help me,” said the priest.

“I can’t” said the man, “I’ve got my best clothes on.”

“OK” said Papa Gavriel.

The man went 20 or 30 metres then feeling ashamed of himself, took his jacket off and went back to help the priest.

The two of them tried to move the stone but it was too big for them and all they could do was tilt it a little. Eventually Papa Gavriel said to the man “OK, go on to your wedding,” which the man did.

About 6 am the following day the man was walking back from Anidri and he looked for the stone but it wasn’t there, it was off the path and built into a wall which was packed with dirt - the work of 10 men for a couple of days.

He got to the bridge and saw the priest sitting there eating some cheese.

“How did you manage that?” he asked.

Papa Gavriel replied, “My friends helped me.”

“Who are your friends?” said the man................and the priest just smiled.

Nobody knows how it happened.