Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Dog gangs, name days, and sand dunes

There are two main "stray dog gangs" as we call them, that roam the streets of Limnos. The large lanky dogs of the labrador variety, and the small scruffy mutts of the terrier variety. The lanky gang trot around the inner laneways near the tavernas of the port of Myrina, usually with tails wagging and a generally harmless demeanour. The scruffy gang on the other hand, obviously suffer from small-dog syndrome as they scurry around the residential areas of Myrina, barking and snarling at people, and fighting amongst themselves, often splitting up into pairs and running rampant all over the place, still barking, then eventually gathering together as a group again to continue terrorising the village.

It is the gentle lanky gang that we have grown fond of, so much so that we were compelled one night to go to the supermarket to buy a large bag of dog biscuits, a big plastic bowl and bottles of water, in an effort to feed and hydrate these poor, skinny homeless dogs of Limnos. During the quiet times, siesta and early evening, we will set off down to the marina on the bike, armed with bag-load of dog supplies, leaving little piles of biscuits for them around the streets. Sometimes we will encounter the gang and watch them gulp down a full litre and a half of water from the bowl in a matter of seconds. Other times there may be a lone dog keeping its distance from us, but knowing we have food, and only approaching the pile of biscuits after we've walked away.

It's so sad seeing these dogs in the condition they are. The poor things are so skinny and their faces so sad, but they are so friendly – surprising, given they're mostly subjected to abuse from unsympathetic people – and you can see they are still seeking affection and human contact. This only makes it so much more heart-breaking because we really have to avoid touching these poor sickly dogs.

Last night we were very happy to see a local Greek lady providing the dogs with their own little hand-made foil bowls of spaghetti bolognese. There are seven dogs in the lanky gang and she had a bowl for each one of them! We observed from across the road – it was obvious her mission was premeditated, which probably meant she does this for them every night. It's very encouraging to see people being so kind to animals. Unlike the horrible kid we saw at a taverna last night kicking a cat into the sand like a football. I was mortified, and got up out of my seat and abused him. He ran away to his parents frightened by the Australian woman yelling at him in a language he didn't understand – they saw what he did, but what did they do? They gave him a hug. I was preparing to strangle the kid if he came near a cat again while Tony was making every effort to scare any approaching cats away for fear of a police intervention, hefty bail-out and headline news "Nut Ozzie Woman Kill Greek Child".

On a lighter note, the Greeks love a good celebration, and the biggest day to be celebrated in Greece is August 15th, the Name Day of Panayia, or St Mary. Anyone with a name derived from Panayia (my dad being one of them – it may seem far-fetched that "Takis" can be derived from Panayia but apparently you start with "Panayotis" which is sometimes affectionately known as "Panayotakis" which is then shortened to "Takis". I'm sure "Lisa" could also be found in there somewhere), gets to celebrate the day birthday-style, so as you can imagine, there are parties going on everywhere in Greece on this day, with just about everyone able to claim their name is derived from Panayia.

On Sunday night we had a big party here at the house with neighbours and friends to celebrate dad's name day. Koula and Julia had spent the three days' prior preparing all the food. And boy was there some amazing food. The evening was warm and the mosquitos were abundant, but the atmosphere was festive and frivolous with lots of ouzo and retsina (Greek wine flavoured with pine needles). The next day Tony and I were up early to take off on our northern excursion of the island on the moped to Gomati beach and the Gomati sand dunes.

We had a full day's ride ahead of us, and packed with a backpack full of picnic lunch and bottles of water (Tony carrying it front-ways, baby papoose style), we rode over more gravel and rock than we had encountered during our whole time here in Limnos so far. It was blazing hot, dry and dusty, our faces whacked with wasps and beetles, our shoulders sunburnt and bums flattened and sore, but it was worth the ride to see the dunes and the rock formations of Gomati beach. The sand dunes were magnificent but the sand so hot beneath our thonged feet we couldn't walk the distance to experience the full scale of these majestic sand dunes. Others were better equipped than us with appropriate footwear, and in the photo below you can see a tiny line of miniature ant-sized people taking the walk across the dunes.

We have only one week left here in Limnos and we are making the most of every day now. Yesterday we took another ride over to the eastern side of the island to explore the archeological remains of the ancient civilisation of Poliochni, then over to Moudros for lunch. Tomorrow I will write about that adventure, as right now I have a very important task to take care of – filling in the white lines my singlet top has created on my shoulders. Koula insists I clean this uneven mess up immediately..

The Lanky Dog Gang of Myrina.

Sad and hungry member of the LDG.

Me and Koula, preparing for Panayia Name Day celebrations.

Tony and George waiting for the guests to arrive.

Panayia Name Day food.

Party at the Mavrellis House (Mavrellis is my dad's mother's maiden name – her family being the original owners of the house).

Dad cutting his cake.

Tony and his baby.

Rocks at Gomati beach, north Limnos.

Taking in the sun on a Gomati rock.

Gomati rock patterns.

Gomati sand dunes and ant people.

Tumble weed and the Gomati sea.

Oleander is native to Greece and other parts of Southern Europe.

Gomati cow.

Gomati turkey and her baby.