Saturday, 15 March 2008

Sophia's World Famous Omelette

Sophia Koukoutsakis

Sophia’s World Famous Omelette.

The story goes that sometime back in the 1950’s when Sophia Koukoutsakis, the grandmother of Lucky, was in her kafenion – across the road from the present site of the Alpha Kafenion – two American tourists arrived in the village and called in looking for something to eat. They were noteworthy characters being the first tourists seen in Azogires and being much bigger and healthier than most of the villagers.

Since it appeared that the word “omelette” was the only one that the visitors and Sophia had in common, she prepared them an omelette with three or four eggs and whatever else she had to hand that day.

Her cooking obviously had the desired effect because when the visitors went, they left behind a 100 Drachma tip – three or four day’s wages for work in the fields in those days. Apparently the villagers were still talking about the size of the tip several months later!

By the 1960’s and 1970’s the fame of Azogires had spread and it had become the home of 30 or 40 hippies from all over the world. Many of these young people had little or no money and so every day Sophia would cook a huge omelette of eggs, potatoes, tomatoes, garlic, onions, mizritha cheese and herbs to feed those who couldn't otherwise afford to eat. The hippies eventually moved on but they took with them the memory of Sophia’s omelette and when they returned to visit, as many still do, they always seemed to want Sophia’s Omelette.

Today, Harriet Koukoutsakis, Sophia’s daughter in law, is the one responsible for keeping the tradition going and for preparing and cooking “Sophia’s World Famous Omelette” and if you try one you’ll soon see why it’s so famous!

Friday, 14 March 2008

Another First for Azogires!

The first delivery!
Today's paper showing we are the first!!! ( The van delivers in Paleochora tomorrow!)

Not only having had the first car in the Paleochora area (circa 1950); the first television in the area (circa 1955) but today, 14 March 2008, at 16.30 hours, Azogires and the Alpha Kafeniion had first ice cream of the 2008 season delivered!!!

Paleochora eat your heart out!!

Monday, 10 March 2008

The Priest's Plants

The Priest's Vine

The shoot off The Priest's Vine at the Alfa Hotel



The Priest's Vine

Tucked away amongst the bushes, in the ruins of the old village, not far from the Alpha Waterfall, is an old grapevine, the Priest's Vine.

According to tradition, this was brought back to Azogires from Jerusalem in the early 20th century by Pater Papagregorakis. The grapes are the "Rizaki" type, planted mostly for eating although they do make a good but heavy wine. This particular vine isn't currently in use but a shoot from it is now one of the two grapevines that provide fruit, shelter and shade over the communal patio at the Alpha Hotel, just up the road from the kafenion.


Close to the priest’s vine down by the waterfall there is growing a single bush known locally as ‘Pirigraphi.’ In the old days this bush was highly prized by the local women for its healing properties. Antonis Alibertis’s book “Healing Aromatic and Edible Plants of Crete” (available in Delphini Books in Paleochora) States, amongst other things, that “Leaves of bay mixed with fringed rue and pounded together are used as a plaster in cases of congestion of the male genitals.”

The plant, also said to have been brought to the village by Pater Papagregorakis, has been identified by local botanist Jenny Neal as a subspecies of Ruta chalepenis, Fringed Rue.

While this is a Cretan plant, it’s very unusual to find it growing on its own, in such a secluded spot.


The other plant associated with Pater Papagregorakis is the date palm growing down behind the old olive factory. Again it is said that he brought this back to the village from Jerusalem. There were originally three palm trees, known locally as Vai, and their leaves were used during the Vaio, the Palm Sunday celebrations.

I know you!

Up until the 1980’s the old tradition of masked visiting was kept up by the women and children in Azogires. On the days immediately before the start of Lent, women would dress up, often as men, or cover themselves in white sheets in such a way as to disguise themselves completely – even from their husbands. They would then go from house to house in the village and round the kafenions in total silence other than approaching people and whispering the words,

“I know you.”

They would be given food and drink and then depart, still without having said any more than “I know you.”

The effect of encountering these disguised and almost mute creatures who claim to know you was, and is, very unnerving – as one person who saw this back in the old days said,

“You might even be drinking or playing backgammon with your own wife and never know it!”

Back then the children of the village would also go around in fancy dress immediately before lent and, like they do at Christmas, sing a song or ring a bell outside your door in the expectation of been given sweets or a few drachmas.

The traditions have almost died out in the village but down in Paleochora on the evenings before the carnival, you might still encounter a totally disguised character, possibly female, which will come up to you and whisper,

“I know you.”

Saturday, 1 March 2008

The trees, the trees!

The legacy of the snow continues to persist long after the snow itself has disappeared.

Those who have driven around Azogires on the back roads will be aware of the hazard presented by the stakes used to support olive nets. When these stakes are driven into banks on the side of the road and left sticking out at an angle into the road, they can make very effective devices for stripping paint from the sides of cars! Now added to the stripping stakes are the olive barricades!

The weight of the snow on 18 February had a disastrous effect on many olive trees in the area with many branches being broken off and the hills around have echoed, for the last week or so, with the merry sound of chain saws as the farmers try to bring some sort of order to the chaos.

Until it’s sorted, be careful how you drive on the back roads!