Sunday, August 25, 2013

Limnos 2013

Oh my how time flies. It feels like yesterday that I posted Koula's recipe for spanakopita here, and today we are already back in Limnos again. And while it feels like only a day has gone by since I last wrote here, a lot has happened since then.

Earlier this year I started a new blog to combine my passions for cooking, photography, vegetarianism and all things Greek. Greek Vegetarian is primarily a food blog but over time, stories about family and holidays have also made their way into my ramblings.

To my greatest delight, Greek Vegetarian now has a small group of followers that seem interested in the recipes and stories I share, so I have decided to also include our latest Limnian adventures over there on the Greek Vegetarian blog.

That's not to say that A Limnian Tale will be left to gather dust. I haven't forgotten that there are many stories yet to tell and videos to produce and post here from our 2012 trip. I fully intend to complete that epic task right here on this blog, one day.

In the meantime, I'd love to see you over at the Greek Vegetarian blog where I'm posting the latest photos and stories, live from Limnos! Koula and George are here, the house is looking better than ever, the weather is gorgeous and the beach, oh the beach... Click on the link below to join us:

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Koula's Spanakopita (spinach and cheese pie)

There's something about the combination of salty cheese, squishy spinach and crispy pastry that really starts the party for my tastebuds. It's so yum, and so Greek, and yay for me it's vegetarian!

Unlike my other attempts at preparing Greek pastry-based dishes, my efforts with spanakopita at home have been mildly successful. But mildly is not mind-blowingly. I'll leave that to the spanakopita expert, my aunt Koula.

Here is her recipe for a great big tray of spanakopita, fit for a tastebud party, or any party at all.

Koula's Spanakopita


1kg frozen chopped spinach
2 bunches of spring onions, finely chopped
4 leeks, finely chopped
200g feta cheese, crumbled
300g ricotta cheese, roughly chopped
80g parmesan cheese, grated
6 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons semolina
8 sheets of filo pastry
1 large sheet of puff pastry (to cover baking dish)
200g melted butter for brushing pastry


Preheat fan-forced oven to 175 degrees celsius.

Slowly defrost and heat up the frozen spinach in a large pot with the lid on. You will probably need a larger pot than the one Koula used – she struggled to keep the mixture from overflowing once the other ingredients were added!

Meanwhile, in a separate pan fry the spring onions and leeks on low heat until softened. Add onion mixture to spinach and mix thoroughly. Remove from heat.

Combine the cheeses in a large bowl and mix well by cutting through cheeses with a spatula or fork. Add cheese mixture to spinach and onion mixture and mix thoroughly.

Add semolina to the mixture – this is to help absorb some of the liquid from the spinanch.

Add eggs and combine well.

Lay 8 sheets of filo pastry in a large baking dish, brushing with melted butter between each sheet.

Pour the entire spinach mixture over the filo pastry. If you are using the gigantic Greek filo sheets, do what Koula does and fold the pastry over the mixture so it all fits snuggly in the baking dish. If you are in Australia our filo pastry sheets are smaller and should fit the baking dish you are using without the need to fold the pastry.

Ensure the spinach mixture is evenly distributed in the dish, fold the pastry over if using the giant Greek filo sheets, then carefully lay a sheet of puff pastry over the top.

Cut the puff pastry to define the portions of spanakopita, then brush the pastry surface with an egg wash made up of one egg and a teaspoon of brandy. Koula says the brandy takes away the smell of the egg.

Bake in the oven for 1 hour.

Oh my god, this is so yum ... Thanks Koula!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

A Limnian Tale – New Look for the New Year

As you may have noticed, I've kept my promise to continue to post the stories, recipes and taverna reviews from our last trip to Limnos in July and August this year (oops, I mean last year. Is it really 2013 already?) There's also still an epic entry to come for our two-day adventure in Scotland which I'm really looking forward to detailing here.

You may have also noticed that A Limnian Tale now has a new look. I felt the bright blue background was a little overpowering and wanted to give the blog a more subtle overall look, to give more emphasis to the photos and make reading a little easier. I've also categorised each post with labels so specific topics of interest can be found on the blog. Let us know what you think of the new layout – we would love to hear from you.

It's been almost six months since Tony and I returned to Melbourne and we already have hopes to go back to Limnos again some time in August. Our favourite Greek island is always on our minds and time spent there with my dad becomes more cherished every year. However, a trip to Greece for us this year depends very much on our financial situation. Having recently been made redundant from my full-time job as a graphic designer, I've chosen to try freelancing for a while which of course means an unreliable income. And with Tony already an expert in unreliable-income living, we both have to wait and see if we can afford to go back to Limnos this year. Even more incentive to make the back-log of stories from 2012 last as long as possible!

In the meantime, we hope you'll continue to follow our Limnian adventures, both past and those still to come, and if you have a story of your own to tell about the island we all love, or you just want to say "hi", please drop us a line in the comments section.

Happy New Year everyone and ευτυχισμένο τον καινούργιο χρόνο!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Motor scooter ride to Cape Faraklo, Limnos

If there's only one place on Limnos that you should risk riding a motor scooter to, it's the unsigned, unmapped but spectacular volcanic location of Cape Faraklo. The area is also sometimes known as Falakros, meaning "bald", a name given to describe the large, barren hills of the area. Be aware though, the only way to reach the rugged coast of the northern parts of the island is by luck.

Your first challenge is to get through the village of Propouli, the last village before the roads turn to gravel. Propouli may be the smallest village of the island, but it has been cleverly designed to prevent visitors from leaving. The main square of the village is a lovely shaded area to sit and sip on frappes before heading back out into the sun to ride to Cape Faraklo. But it's not dragging yourself away from the frappes that's the hard part. Trying to ride out of the village without getting caught in a loop that takes you back to the square is nothing short of an embarrassing nightmare – the locals laughing at you every time you go past ... for the seventeenth time.

And this was just the beginning of our guessing-game adventure. Once you finally make your way out of Propouli, several gravel roads beckon you to veer off the main track with hopeful expectations that they will take you due north, only to branch off into several more gravel roads in every direction except north. Some will take you to Falakros, others won't. Your only real option at this point is to refer to eenie meenie mynie moe technology.

Glimpses of the ocean beyond the sand dunes are an encouraging sign and as long as you keep taking the tracks that lead to the sea, you just might reach the final golden fork in the road where the one and only landmark that will take you to Cape Faraklo lies. Lying on the ground in the dead grass is an old wooden sign that has fallen off its rusty post. The sign has "ηφαιστειακοί βράχοι" hand-painted on it, which is Greek for "volcanic rocks". This is the only indication available anywhere on these gravel roads that gives you hope you are heading in the right direction.

If you're four-wheel driving, this rocky adventure will be a lot of fun for you, but on a 50cc motor scooter fitted with bicycle tyres in searing 37-degree heat the destination really needs to be magnificent to make the ride bearable, let alone fun. And magnificent it was.

Much of the area is made up of rugged coastlines carved by wild, swirly surf crashing against the rocks. The rock surface is flat enough to walk along and, as long as you're not taken out by an unexpected tsunami-sized wave, you will eventually reach the beautiful geological marvel of the volcanic rock formations of the cape.

Evidence of an extinct volcano remains in the form of petrified lava around the coast of this magical area. Large bubble formations, lava rivers and a huge "wave" of solidified volcanic matter has been frozen in time in the most amazing colours and textures. I've never seen anything like it. Such a beautiful, naturally sculptured landscape of colour and movement that truly takes your breath away.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Venetian Castle of Limnos, "Castro"

It was another excruciatingly hot day in Limnos, and Tony and I were not in the best of moods, having just been kicked off the Anemos touring boat that morning.

I wish I could entertain you with a sordid story of us rolling around drunk at 8 o'clock in the morning and causing all sorts of havoc on the boat with behaviour that was simply not tolerated by the lovely owners of Anemos, Litsa and George. But I'm sorry to say that (on this day) no such debauchery was to be had.

It was just a double-booking with a Greek wedding party, and we, along with another 15 tourists, came off second best. These things happen in Greece. There's no need for the tourists to contribute to making chaos. The Greeks make their own chaos. But we love it.

Or should I rephrase – in hindsight we love it. At that moment of being told we all had to get off the boat, we didn't love it.

And we still didn't love it when we were sweltering with heat exhaustion dragging our feet up the rocky path to the spectacular site of Limnos' Venetian fortress, Castro. It was so hot I was creating mud in my sandals with the combination of sweat and dirt. It was so hot you could have fried eggs on Tony's head. It was so hot we had no hope whatsoever of climbing to the top of the Castro.

The photos here are not the most spectacular. On previous trips to Limnos the weather was more forgiving and there were no double-booked wedding parties to get us off side. In the past we have made it to the pinnacle of Castro several times where the views over Myrina are beautiful and far-reaching. You can read about our previous climbs and a bit about the history of Castro by clicking here and here.

You can also see a wobbly but fairly representative video I filmed last year of the view from the top of Castro by clicking here.

On this brain-sizzling day we turned back at the half-way point, just before our heads exploded. Upon our descent, to our delight we came across a small herd of young deer. Around 30 or 40 deer occupy the Castro mountain. It is believed that a pair of them were brought over from Rhodes as a gift to Limnos to rid the island of snakes.

We quietly approached them as they grazed on piles of dry grass left for them by the locals under the shade of some trees. They weren't phased by our presence and thankfully all of our spontaneous human combustion symptoms had subsided as there would have been one mighty explosion with all that hay.

The walk down Castro is both relieving after a strenuous climb, and rewarding with many photo opportunities. A gorgeous little white-washed church nestled amongst the rocks and overlooking Romaikos Yiallos beach is one of our favourite spots to sit and catch our breath. You will also come across Nefeli Cafe on the way down the hill, serving ice cold frappes and biscotti with panoramic panels of glass offering sweeping views over Myrina.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Galazio Limani Taverna, Moudros

Once the capital of Limnos, Moudros is now the second largest town on the island. The bay of Moudros is one of the largest natural harbours in the Aegean and is a picturesque place to sit at one of the two large tavernas and ponder the history of the First World War and the role Moudros played as a safe haven for injured soldiers during the Gallipoli campaign.

The tavernas of Moudros are also known as a safe haven for many families of cats. On this day we chose to eat at Galazio Limani Taverna, simply because there were more cats there that afternoon.

The traditional use of bright blue paint on Greek islands is said to keep the bad spirits away, and if there is one place in Limnos that would have to be free from the nasties of all things evil, it is Galazio Limani.

The owner, Nikolaos Karamalis, is one of the friendliest and most professional restauranteurs in Limnos. His personalised service and welcoming demeanour is second to none. On quieter days he will even sit and have a chat with you and encourage you to feed your scraps to the cats. No wonder these feline residents love it here.

Obligatory bread always kicks off a Greek meal, closely followed (or preceded by) a couple of cold beers, and the fresh, home-made bread of Galazio Limani was one of the better ones we'd munched on in Limnos.

It was evident my stomach could do with a rest after a fairly steady routine of stuffing it with cheese croquettes and deep fried vegetables as my eyes were instantly drawn to the bowl of bright green string beans I'd spotted at the table next to us.

Tony wasn't quite ready to take a break from his hard-core, stomach-loading exercises and decided to order the Limnian cheese saganaki, Greek salad, smoked mackerel and lamb stew ... with chips.

The saganaki came in three different shapes and sizes which is a little unconventional given the traditional triangle wedge that usually arrives. Obviously this was too much for Tony to tackle on his own so I thought the least I could do was relieve him of his cheese-eating duties and take the small round one. I also helped him out with the salad.

Everything was fresh and delicious, but the stand-out for me was the string beans. I ate that whole bowl (the beans, not the bowl). They were the best green beans I'd ever tasted and despite the word "string" being in their name, there was not a string to be found. They were crunchy yet melt-in-the-mouth tender, lightly oiled and salted but green as Scottish grass I tell you. I don't know how else to describe them. I just could not get enough of them.

And there were no bathroom incidents the next day.

It was an extremely hot day but Galazio Limani is completely shaded by a large canopy surrounded by leafy trees and cooled slightly by welcome breezes from the bay. This is the perfect place to retreat from the mid-afternoon sun and enjoy fresh Limnian cuisine. And if you're lucky, you might be entertained by the antics of some gorgeous little kittens like we were. Click here to read about the rest of our day in Moudros and see the video of the kittens at play.

Galazio Limani doesn't have a website but can be found at:
Moudros Harbour, Limnos
Phone: +30 225 407 1041
Rating: 8.5/10

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Boat trips around Limnos

Two very prominent figures in the Limnian community are boat trip operators Litsa and her husband George – well known not just for the business that they run, but for their flamboyant personalities and genuine hospitality. For 17 years these two have been taking tourists around the island on their traditional wooden Greek fishing boat "Anemos", and every time we are in Limnos we join them on at least three boat trips. This year it was four.

Known as a "kaiki" (pronounced "ky-i-ki") the art of creating these beautiful boats comes from the heart. They are built from pinewood, the frame constructed from curved carvel planking and finished with decking known as "katastroma". A prominent bow post makes the kaiki stand out from the rest of the Mediterranean working boats. Sometimes the wooden steering arm of the kaiki is carved in the face of an animal. Each kaiki is unique and built from memory, without any plans, simply relying on the boat builder's passion for the sea.

George and Litsa have four trips on offer: West coast cruise, South coast cruise, Sunset cruise and a day trip to the small neighbouring island, Agios Efstratios. We have done them all and we both agree the West coast cruise is the most picturesque and best value-for-money trip they offer. For 35 euros you are taken on a full-day trip along the west coast of the island. It includes a two-hour stop at a secluded beach that's only accessible by boat, an impressive buffet lunch, all the wine you can drink and lots of entertainment from Litsa and George.

George is loud, but Litsa is louder. Together they provide hilarious entertainment for the passengers on board. Litsa screams at George in Greek, telling him how to steer the boat, her voice echoing off all the cliff faces around us, and he would just roll his eyes and give us a look that we all know means "See this crazy woman I have to deal with??" Crazy as she is, Litsa keeps everyone very well entertained and informed – her knowledge of the island, its history and geography, is encyclopaedic.

Below: Tony with Litsa

Some of the most spectacular sites on these boat trips are the vertical cliffs where wild mountain goats cling to 180-degree cliff faces. I'm always fascinated by their skill and bravery to explore these treacherous parts of the island, and try not to think about them not being able to find their way back to higher ground. In her thick Greek accent, Litsa reassures us she sees the goats climbing up and down the cliff faces all the time, "These goats are acrobats!"

If you look closely in the picture below, right in the centre of the photo you will see a lone black goat. How did he get there? But more importantly, how will he get out of there!!

During the stop at the secluded beach George will sometimes go diving for sea urchins, and if you're lucky you might be treated to eating one of these slimy orange blobs, torn straight out of its gnarly body by the rather sadistic George. One time Tony was happy to indulge in this peculiar delicacy, being rather adventurous when it comes to eating strange foods. After swallowing what he described as a slippery bag of salt, he resolved there was no need to try one of those again.

Click here to see a video of our various boat trips, including Tony's wonderful sea urchin eating experience.

The trip to Agios Efstratios is more or less a commuting trip for the residents of the small island to come to Limnos for their weekly shopping needs. Agios Efstratios has only 300 inhabitants. It's a pleasant boat trip if you love the open sea, travelling around three hours each way. The island itself has a couple of tavernas in the port where you can enjoy a leisurely lunch for a few hours before the boat goes back to Limnos.

If you take the south coast tour, you visit the beautiful Thanos beach where the water is shallow and flat and there's music at the beach bars and lots of activity at the peak of the summer season.

The sunset cruise takes you half-way up the west coast, leaving Myrina port a couple of hours before sunset. The sunset viewing location is spectacular – on the horizon is Mount Athos on the Greek mainland and the second-highest mountain in Greece, and behind you is a vast expanse of mineral-rich cliff faces emitting a brilliant golden glow. What a beautiful way to end another wonderful day in Limnos.

Litza and George's boat trips come with the highest recommendations from Tony and I. They run boat trips almost every day of the week during the summer months. Call George on his mobile next time you're in Limnos to book one of these must-do boat trips.

Anemos boat trips, Limnos
Call George: 6945 132 163