Where Zeus became a Man (with Cretan shepherds) by Sabine Ivanovas
Efstathiadis Group Editions. ISBN 960 226 584 1
Sabine Ivanovas is from Germany. She lives in Milatos, Crete since 1992.
In Milatos she met the shepherds from Mountain Idi (Ida or Psiloritis),
who spend their winters with their sheep near the green coast, while snow
covers the mountain pastures. Fascinated by the pride and traditions of
these men of Crete she followed them with her camera and recorded scenes
of a life of ancient ways that may have vanished in a few years from now.
This fascinating book is trilingual (english, german, greek) with 345
photographs and 2 maps.
1. Shepherds on Mount Ida - Tradition and Change
2. Men: Here they can still be Dare-Devils.
3. Women - And not only 'Erondas'
4. Mizithra - The Most Sensuous Cheese of the World
5. Shearing Sheep - The Work of the 'Kouretes'
6. Celebrations: With Lyra and Laouto
7. Chimadio - From the Mountains down to the Seashore.
This book is supposed to tell not only about Crete, her awe-inspiring
long past or the plenty-fold beauty of her landscape. Above all I would
like to give some impressions of the people who live on this island, who
are in many ways still perceivably the heirs of their great history and
who live in the wonderful nature of this smallest of all continents.
Since I have moved from Germany to Crete in 1992, the Cretans - equally
those who live near the sea and those who live in the mountains - have
always fascinated me with their generous hospitality and the open way
they welcome strangers like me to share their lives. Originally I chose
Crete as my place of living because the climate improved my weak health.
Now I know that I want to stay because I found a new home here. For this
I am very thankful to all Cretans who magnanimously welcomed my family
and me to their country, especially the people from our village Milatos
who never tired of telling me that I am one of them now. I feel very honoured
Here in the vicinities of Milatos I also happened to meet the shepherds
from Mount Ida who introduced me to another part of the island I had until
then not yet dared to explore: the mountains.
When I went up for the first time with my family to go beyond Zoniana,
on a stony lane that seemed to lead towards the end of the world, someone
asked us proudly: "How do you like our mountain?"
In this book I also want to show what seems to me the only possible answer
to this question: Mount Ida is fantastic, the crowning peak of an island
full of variety and beauty. From the heights of Mount Psiloritis all her
glory lies at your feet like a magic carpet which has the whole life woven
into its material.
For making this experience possible for me I would like to thank the
people from Zoniana, especially the family Parasyris with father Stelios
(called Polostelios ', meaning something like: Stelios, of many talents)
with his wife Irini and their children Eleni, Dimitris, lannis, Tassos,
Vangelis as well as their other relatives, who have shown and explained
to me what the life of the shepherds from Mount Ida looks and feels like.
In their company I experienced for the first time the distinctive peace
and stillness of a daily life with sheep, again and again they answered
my endless questions and told me so many wonderful stories.
would also like to express my gratitude towards the people from Anoghia,
especially the family Kounalis with father Vassilis (called 'Vassilikos',
apart from being derived from his first name it also means 'the royal
one') with his wife Kalliopi and their children Jana, Jorgo and Aris.
In their company I experienced how intensely alive a seemingly deserted
solitude like Xeraxyla (between Milatos and Neapoli) can feel through
the heartiness of its inhabitants, and also that you can only understand
the mystery of the Idean Cave when looking at it from the perspective
of the Milatos on the border of the Nida-plain.
In the few years I have been living here I have already seen the disappearance
of some old traditions. Nevertheless I hope and wish for the Cretans to
be able to keep the power and pride in their independence and originality
for the future.
A real European Community can only exist, 1 think, if each of us who
live in it keeps his or her characteristics and respects at the same time
the individuality of the others. So, speaking from Crete the often so-called
'cradle of Europe', I wish that we may perceive each other with respect
and interest, something I would also like to express in this trilingual
To come to know the original lifestile of the Cretans whoever is interested
ought to venture into the heart of the island, too. I can also highly
recommend a holiday near the sea in spring (see chapter 7).
Making holidays where the shepherds live is especially recommendable
for people who enjoy quiet and peaceful days. There is no need for fearing
language-problems: many Cretans can speak a little English and everybody
enjoys talking with hands and feet if necessary.
Buy the book Where Zeus Became a Man: With Cretan Shepherds from Amazon UK
MIZITHRA - THE MOST SENSUAL CHEESE OF THE
WORLD (extract from the book)
............"Ella mesa! - come in!" Zacharis calls me
when my shadow appears in front of the door. I bend down to look
into the dark opening. Nothing - from the brightness of the morning
I can't make out anything. I bend down even more and walk slowly
forward. My shoulders nearly meet the doorframe.
Then I'm inside of the round womb of the mitato, my eyes slowly
adjust to the darkness.
Next to a small fire on the outer border of the earth floor Zacharis
sits on a round stone bench following the inside curve of the vaulted
stone hut, stirring with calm, sure movements in a big copper cauldron
that sits in an opening of the bench over the fire. The small gaps
in between are filled with still humid, fresh clay (Zacharis makes
cheese for the first time today in this season) so that only the
lower part of the cauldron is touched by the fire. Time and again
soft billows of smoke rise from the slightly damp brushwood feeding
the fire and Zacharis calmly rubs his burning eyes now and then.
Certainly it would be easier to work with a gas cooker, but Zacharis
can't make up his mind yet to give up the old tradition. One or
two more years...
While we sit and talk quietly, the creamy, foamy milk in the cauldron
starts steaming slightly. Now the time has nearly come and our conversation
dies away. The fire has burnt down to silent ambers, the soft dripping
of the already finished kefalotiria (head-cheese) from a wooden
board on the wall is the only background for the muted rubbing of
the stem of a palm leaf Zacharis uses for stirring the fragrant
milk. At last he places the stave from the cauldron crosswise over
it, spreads the embers a little and stoops to fetch the baskets
he will need for making mizithra. He puts them in his reach on the
bench, pushes the big milking-bucket into the middle of the mitato
and places a double wooden board over it with a gap in the middle
so the whey can drip off. Finally he sets two mizithra baskets on
With his next gaze into the softly steaming cauldron he says quietly:
"Tora ejine - now it has turned out." Once again he takes
the stirring stave to circle it carefully along the inner rim of
the cauldron, cuts with a few movements the curdled milk so that
the whey separates in clearer traces from the dense white of the
Zacharis lifts the stave from the womb of the cauldron, makes
the sign of the cross over the bright circle of the new cheese,
smiles out of gratitude before God who has made his work succeed.
Filled with awe I forget my camera. Here I discover a kind of vital
faith that would do honour to every church. Holy art, the alchemy
Zacharis takes the big perforated ladle from a hook in the wall,
makes again the sign of the cross over the cauldron and starts cheerfully
to fill the first basket. Steam rises and the shepherd carefully
washes a spoon and a plate in the hot dripping whey. He fills the
plate with a generous ladle of hot mizithra and hands it to me.
"Kali orexi! - good appetite!"
That's what I have after all this ambrosial, sweet fragrance that's
filling the mitato. While the first spoonful of heavenly soft, warm
mizithra melts in my mouth I wonder if this delicious feeling of
well-being in the dark womb of the mitato isn't just bound to awaken
the earliest memories of childhood. And I remember a totally different
episode with warm mizithra (a female cheese in Greek by the way
- and which woman wouldn't wish to be so warm sweet and nourishing...),
a story from the other end of life:
Once I visited the old Konstantinos Sarris in our village (he
died in 1996 at the age of 96, until the end a proud Cretan), when
he was already quite weak and could hardly walk any more. I told
him of my visit in Xeraxyla with Vassilikos where I had eaten warm
mizithra, too. He nodded thoughtfully and said: "I'm an old
man now and don't desire women any more. But to eat warm mizithra
just one more time ..."
One week later I brought him a dish of warm mizithra from Xeraxyla.
He dipped the spoon into the bowl and lifted it deliberately to
his lips. I'll always remember his distant smile while he let the
mizithra melt in his mouth. He didn't eat more than that. Two months
later he died in his house without ever leaving it again...
Meanwhile the sun has risen high into the sky and penetrates the
smoky darkness from the hole in the middle of the mitato's dome.
White fog is wavering in the shaft of light, soaking the last few
days' outcome of mizithres that are drying on a wallboard with supernaturally
translucent white.............CONTINUED IN THE BOOK:
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