Tuesday, 29 July 2008

More Hydraulics

Hydraulic Engineering

Take a walk up the hill from the Alfa Kafenion and if you turn off to the right just before the entrance of the Alfa Hotel, you’ll be more of less able to follow the route of the once extensive water works that drove the mills that supplied the flour for the whole of the Azogires area.

The theory behind the network was that water, initially collected from the river, was stored in a series of concrete cisterns above each factory. When needed, it was then extracted from the cisterns by gravity feed through channels and used to drive simple water turbines within the factory. Having been used, the water was then channelled into the next cistern in line to be stored for use further down the hill.

The remains of the network can be seen to start with a cistern at the top of the valley, just below the road but now hidden and partially destroyed, and lead on through a series of concrete water channels, ending up in a final cistern located just above the now abandoned olive oil factory by the Ever Green Plane tree.

The scheme was initially developed by the famous local priest Pater Papagregorakis towards the end of the 19th century and though now in ruins, in its day the complex of channels and cisterns provided the motive power for three flourmills, an olive oil factory and a tannery. To provide some measure of comfort for the Azogirans while waiting for the flour to be ground, and presumably some income when the mills weren’t working, a kafenion was located on the top of the building containing the third, lowest, flourmill and olive oil factory.

The first flourmill, the one at the top of the slope, along with one of the two lower flourmills, the old olive oil factory and kafenion, went out of use in the 1930’s although the tannery is believed to have continued in use for some time beyond this. The second flourmill was still in use, and still driven via the original water scheme, until the 1970’s.

Of the three mills only the second one now remains. The first flourmill has long fallen into ruins. The lower buildings, flourmill, olive oil factory and kafenion, were eventually demolished in the 1970’s to make way for a new olive oil factory that can still to be seen by the Ever Green Plane tree. Although driven by electricity, this new mill didn’t last as long as its water driven forerunners, closing in 1992. Planted next to the remains of the tannery, and having outlasted it, is fine specimen of Quercus ithaburensis subsp. macrolepis (Q. macrolepis), Valonia Oak or Velanidia; an oak that was deliberately planted here in order to harvest its large, long scaled acorn cups, from which a black dye was extracted for use in the tanning process

The best spot for something approaching an overall view of this impressive feat of engineering is standing at the Venetian style bridge. Here you can see both the channels running down towards you, the second and third cisterns behind you and just a bit downhill on the path towards the Ever Green Plane tree, the remains of the second flourmill.


Sketch of mill works
'Leat' below road
Old Flour Mill ( Holding tanks and water channels are above the mill.)

The basic description of a Cretan water driven mill is given in “The making of the Cretan Landscape”, an excellent book written by Oliver Rackham and Jennifer Moody and published by Manchester University Press.

To see and appreciate just how they operated in real life, take the path opposite the Alpha Hotel down to the Holy Father’s Monastery. About 20 metres in from the road on the left hand side as you go down the path you can see the channel of the first leat or water channel. This took water from the hillside and would have originally directed it to a vertical chimney like shaft with a nozzle at the bottom. The pressure of the water falling from the leat was used to drive a wooden bladed turbine which turned a vertical shaft connected to a mill wheel. The water channel currently ends in mid air but in the past there was a flour mill, built by the priest Gabriel Papagregorakis, about 8 or 9 metres below. This mill was in use up to the early 1930's.

Going on down the hill, if you look from the Venetian style bridge back up towards the road, you will see a water channel on the left hand side of the bridge. This took the water from the flour mill under the bridge and into what appears to be a circular reservoir or holding tank. From this tank another leat carried the water to a point over another flour mill. If you venture very carefully inside the ruins of the factory you can still see the nozzle where the water would have come out from the wall, having fallen the 4 or 5 metres from the leat above. This mill lasted until the 1970's.

Also within the ruins is one of the old mill wheels.
Water from the holding tank above the second flour mill went to another tank and then was used to drive another flour mill, an olive oil factory and a tannery - all subsequently demolished in the late 1930's and replaced by the "new" olive oil factory.

The mill wheels along the road leading down to the Monastery are from the “new”, electrically driven, olive oil factory, built to replace the “old” water driven mills, which were then demolished; the "new" olive oil factory finally being shut in 1992. While it’s difficult to say where these particular wheels originated, mill wheels were apparently cut out of the rock on the sea shore just outside Paleochora. If you walk along the Sandy Beach towards Grameno and continue past the end of the sand, about 100 metres before you run out of land to walk on you will come to a stretch of grey stone sloping into the sea with numerous circular hollows where the stone has been extracted.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Monday, 21 July 2008

The Truth is out there!

Confusion reigns throughout the whole of the interwebnetty community in Azogires, Paleochora and beyond as to when exactly Mr Eftihis Koukoutsakis celebrates his 2? birthday.

According to the posting made by said gentleman on Facebook it was on 20 July. However, other people distinctly recall him telling them it was in mid August and yet more people think it’s sometime in September. The person in question seems reluctant to confirm any date and seems to have forgotten when his own birthday is, presumably a sign of his rapidly advancing old age.

Sunday, 20 July 2008



The Fourth International Azogires Bicycle Competion took place last week. The competitors were very tired but happy to have arrived in Azogires. The prizes were, of course, all homemade local products such as: Olive Oil, Raki and Wine.

FIRST PRIZE winner was Nobbi Pahl who is a Veteran in our contest and won the Olive Oil.

SECOND PRIZE winner was Nick Placzek who won the Raki.

THIRD PRIZE winner was Stefan Jacobi who won the Red Wine.

They all registered for next year's contest.

We hope to see you there also, so if you want to register or organize your own contest in our Village please feel free to call in or contact us.

(Unfortunately, there appears to have been no record kept of what place Lucky finished in.)

Tuesday, 15 July 2008


Many years ago there was a robbery in a merchants store in Azogires and clothing was taken along with other household items. The shop owner asked the villagers if they knew who did it. Luckily for the thieves, no one knew because the Azogirians in those days used to deliver their own brand of justice to criminals such as thieves, and sometimes their justice was rather painful.
So the store owner decided to play the last Card in his deck. He went to the Metropolitan, the most senior priest, and told him that if the items were not returned he, the merchant, would be bankrupted.
The Metropolitan replied that he would help and that the merchant should go home and seven priests would come on the following Sunday to make an Aforesmo ( An Aforesmos is a piece of paper, writen by the Metropolitan himself, and given to seven priests. They would then come to the church and ring the church bells for a long while to warn the thief to give himself up. If he didn't, they would read the paper and whatever the Metropolitan had writen on it would happen to the thief. Most of the time what is writen on is not so nice; death curses and more, things we cannot even imagine today.)
Eventually the seven priests came entered the Church of the 99 Holy Fathers. It was a peacefull afternoon my Grandfather Eftihis Koukoutsakis, who was witness to the events, said, and the whole village gathered there to see what would happen.
In the late afternoon, before they were about to start reading the Aforesmos, the clothing and the other items were spoted hanging on some trees across the mountain from the church.
Immediately the priests stopped. But it wasn't so simple; once this paper is writen there are two choices, either read it or destroy it. However, where do you destroy such an item? Clearly you cannot do it just anywhere because it contains dangerous magic.
So the the priests set out to find a remote position and eventually they did. Between Azogires and Anidri they found deserted spot and here they stopped, placed the paper on the ground, said their prayers so that the magic would not follow them and burned it.
But as the Aforesmos was burning, the ground around it sunk, creating a huge hole, known as a Voulisma meaning "ground that sinks."
Even today you can view this position: if you take the Azogires to Anidri path, as you walk along you will see the sunken land below the path.
Next time you are tempted to steal something, think again, as my Grandfather used to say; and he was trully a wise man

Wednesday, 9 July 2008


For 54 years my father, Antonis Koukoutsakis, had been claiming that he had found a ruin above the Church of St. John the Hermit and for 54 years people were telling him that it doesn't exist.Finally this winter my father told me he discovered it when he was 5 years old and together we decided to go out on a hunt for this ruin. In the end we found it, proving the entire village wrong.
But by closing one mystery we opened another when we found a bizarre shaped piece of metal. Not knowing what it is we brought it down to the Cafe and started asking the locals, only to be told that this is not a tool of any sort.

Well today, six months later, we have proved them wrong once more.

My uncle Pavlos Koukoutsakis who has lived in Athens for the past 40 years, told us that he remembered the ruin and that he kept Honey Bees in it 50 years ago. So I thought it would be wise to show him this piece of metal that we found laying around. He immediatly he recognized it he said

"That's mine, I had that tool for separating the Honey trays inside the Bee hive."

So we returned it to him since he is the rightful owner of it, and it made him twenty years old again by brigning back those old memories