Converations from Tripolis

I have walked from Tripolis to Kakouri. One third of the distance might include the outskirts of Tripolis, until you reach the provincial road to Levidi that crosses your path perpendicularly. After this the road narrows. There is a small church on cement stilts opposite on the right. The road narrows and has a shiny tar surface, spotted with sheep droppings that have been flattened into black discs on the grey road.

After that you pass a place called Xania, which is halfway between town and village. It is a collection of a few houses, stables and chairs on the side of the road that used to welcome villagers on the way back from the market at Tripolis in the days when they too used to walk to peddle their wares. They would have had hard earned cash in the scarves around their necks, some of which could be spent on a coffee or cooled water with cherry preserve.

After this on the right you can see Analipsi, the mountain above Kakouri. It is covered on an oak bush called pournari for the lower two thirds. The peak is at about 1800 meters, and is rock and screed. Just above the junction of the pournari there is a small plateau facing Tripolis and if you lock closely you can see the white walls and red tiles of a tiny church called Analipsi, The Resurrection.

After Xania, below Analipsi, is a small round hill called Kortsouli, with the ancient city of Mantinea at its feet. The road to Old Man Simbonis’ farm runs along the outer boundary wall of great stone blocks that are 2500 years old, and everyone referred to his farm as Kortsouli. An everyday term used easily that encompassed a whole civilization of proud farmers and warriors.

After Kortsouli, also on the right, is a taller round hill, with another church, this time Agio Ilia. This is hidden amongst the pines on the crest. This saint’s churches are always on the top of mountains or hills, closer to the sun, after which he is named.

The road curves slightly, left here, right there, but there is no altitude change from Tripolis to Kakouri, until you enter the village which straddles the foothills of Analipsi. From Agio Ilia you enter an avenue of plane trees, their white fluff ball blossoms covering the road like snow in late summer. A few of the trees are missing, like a tooth missing in the gnarled mouth of a villager. In the missing tree’s place is a small iconostasio, in remembrance of the young person who died driving too fast on this quiet road. If the tragedy was recent, or if they were really loved, there is a fresh bunch of flowers lying inside with the burning olive oil wick.

As the avenue ends you enter the village, with Simbonis’ house on the right and the old Manelis house on the left. My grandmother grew up as a Manelis there. In front, in the elbow of the fork, is a bigger iconostasio for The Ascension, and on the right is the now disused village spring, where we used to fill our large glass wicker covered bottles for house water when we first arrived in the village.

If you follow the left fork, towards Levidi, at the first intersection 150 meters further on is our house, the Patriko, on the left opposite corner.

The Iconostasio Analipsi in the elbow of the fork of the road as you enter Kakouri

Conversations about Rabbits

The smell of stifado alone warmed me up that winter evening. The onions that were stewing released an earthy tone reminiscent of the harvest smell in the plains. This was sweetened by the cinnamon and wine. The slow bubbling of the pot on top of the wood burning stove made the kitchen so inviting, warm beyond the invitation.

Kortsouli is a hill nearby the ancient ruins of Mantinea, in the plains of Tripolis. We always referred to the farm that Old Man Simbonis had there as just that, Kortsouli. When we were children my brother would spend time in the ruins before they were excavated and find arrow heads and other items from the war against the Athenians.

The building on the farm was medieval. Some of the ancient blocks of the walls of Mantinea were incorporated into the mud wall that formed the outer wall of sheds, stables and a simple summer home, when the old man would stay at Kortsouli if there was a harvest or birthing. The heavy wooden double doors, big enough to allow a horse cart through, faced Mantinea. On the right of the door was a pigeon loft, and next to that the rabbit hutch.

The rabbits faced the courtyard through old chicken mesh, with a handmade wooden frame hinged to allow entry.  One day a litter had been born, and somehow all three of us and some children from the village ended up at Kortsouli. Often one or two of us were there with the old man. Originally it would involve a donkey ride from the village house, but later he got a Zundapp motorcycle and we would ride pillion. My father used to walk there, and I still do not understand how we were allowed on the motorcycle when in South Africa we were not even allowed to look at them. My brother even had an accident once when the old man rode into the furrow along the narrow tarred road. My father trusted his life, and his children’s, with his best friend, George Simbonis.

I do not remember the day we played with the rabbits. I remember my favourite captain’s hat, but do not remember donning the rabbit as a prince would for some wedding. I think we adopted a rabbit each, and were allowed to play with them each time we were at Kortsouli. I remember the soft fur, the warm wet nuzzle against my palm. The heat and dust of the courtyard, reprieved by the shade of a mulberry tree just outside the gates, and another at the other corner, shading the well with cold dark water.

Many years later I remember eating the winter kitchen stifado and crying inside. Because the main ingredient of stifado is rabbit.