Thursday, September 17, 2020

Greek fishing ~ Tradition and Tourism

We often hear them before we see them. The sound of the engines calling out the passing of those small wooden boats, each carrying a lone fishermen to a distant place on the sea where he will set or gather his nets.

Alone on the sea - the fisherman sets his nets

Now that it has been a few years, we've come to recognize the distinctive sounds of the engines: a rat-a-tat-tat, or put-put-put, or a chuga -chuga sound alerts us to which of the boats will be sailing past our home overlooking the Messinian Bay each evening just as the sun sets

The same is true of the boat engine's call in the early mornings - sometimes before it is light enough to see them -- we know someone is either starting or ending their day's work. 

'Captain' Adonis has one of my favorite boats in the harbor

The charm of those colorfully painted boats, piled high with nets when in the harbor, may have been one of the things that drew us to Greece. Now that we are expats living just outside a fishing village in the rural Peloponnese, the rhythms of the fishing fleet are a daily part of our lives. 

A solitary life on the sea - Agios Nikolaos

Over the years as we have watched the comings and goings of those boats we've speculated on how lonely a profession it must be. Alone, out at sea and far from anyone else, even though in this day and age internet and mobile devices have eased the isolation a bit.


Season begins with the boats returned to the sea

Greek Fishing Traditions

Many fishermen in our village -- like others throughout Greece -- are proud to be carrying on their family's tradition. Often times it was the work of father and grandfather, sometimes going back even further. 

Fishing in Greece goes way back. Some accounts say it dates back to the upper Paleolithic Age, 40,000 years ago. Fishing is depicted in the art of ancient Greece dating back to the 5th Century B.C.

The day's catch arrive in Gerolimenas 

Throughout Greece fishermen continue to use the same traditional methods as have been used for decades before them. With boats ranging in size from six to 12 meters (20- to 40-feet), the Greek fishing fleet is estimated to be around 17,000 boats. Yet, an amazing 30,000 - 33,000 people are employed, directly or indirectly, in the fishing industry here.

The Sunday morning's catch on display

Of the some 476 species of fish in Greece, some 90 marine species are caught and include: sardines, anchovies, cod, mullet, red snapper and plaice (flounder). But every fisherman will tell you the waters -- especially in our area -- are becoming 'fished out'. . .some blame the use of dynamite decades ago and others claim it is irresponsible fishing practices of the present-day. For whatever the cause, the catch is often small.  


Agios Nikolaos harbor in September

There is a charm and mystique about those boats and those who operate them. How often has one or the other of us said, 'Wouldn't it be fun to go out with a fisherman sometime?'

Greek Fishing Tourism

Captain Antonis - May 2019

Last year, for an article I was writing about expat life, I took the photo of one of our local fishermen as he returned to the harbor. At the time, we didn't know him but he always seemed to be working in the harbor when we would pass. It wasn't until a few weeks ago that we finally met Captain Antonis' because this year his boat and a sign near it, announced that he is now doing fishing cruises. The boat still has its nets, but it also sports a bench, a chair and a couple of stools.

Fishing boat trips from Agios Nikolaos

It didn't take us long to round up a few friends and set a date to get out on that fishing boat!

Leaving the harbor of Agios Nikolaos

On a bright Sunday morning we pulled out of the harbor just as we had watched so many boats do over the years. It was amazing how quickly we left the land far behind as we headed to the small marker floating out at sea, the marker noting where the fishing net had been placed.

The small marker shows the net location

It was time to gather the net - a most amazing feat to be done by one person. A pole and grip are attached to the boat gear shift knob so that the fisherman can reel in the net in the back of the boat and still manage to shift gears in the cabin. A masterful move to be sure!

Shifting gears and pulling the net

And then up came the net, and more net and more net. . .shift the gear and roll in more net. The wonder of what might come up in the net turned the adults on board into little kids again as our anticipation got away from us.

What would come up in that net?

'Maybe a big one today,' the Captain kept saying as the massive lengths of net began piling up.

Hauling in the net and hopefully a catch or two 

Little did we know at the time that we were experiencing a relatively new form of Greek tourism: fishing tourism. Fishing tourism come into being back in 2015 when legislation was passed that allows professional fishermen such as Captain Antonis - with the appropriate license -to welcome guests on the boats for recreational fishing or as passengers.  

Peloponnese tourism folks have been working in recent years on ways to develop alternative tourism opportunities in our area. Alternative tourism is loosely defined as that which gives experiences that are up close and personal with people and places one visits. This is one example of that: the tourist (as we were that day) getting to interact and participate in a real Greek fishing experience.

Lion fish will make some tasty soup

Now this isn't to be confused with recreational fishing where you rent a boat and go out with a guide and fish - this is strictly fishing tourism as done on a real-life working fishing boat.  

Fishing tourism, endorsed by the World Wildlife Federation, is a means of bolstering the livelihood of the fishermen while taking the pressure off the fish stocks. As of last December only 150 fishermen in the country were licensed to offer fishing tourism excursions.  

Untangling the net

We are most happy Captain Antonis is one of those offering such an incredible experience to folks such as us. As it turned out the catch was only a few small fish -- several of which the Captain returned to the sea. 

Setting off in the wake of pirates

The net was gathered within the first half hour, leaving us another 3.5 hours on the sea. And that I plan to tell you about next time because. . . we set off in the wake of pirates.  And pirates in this area require a whole story in themselves! Thanks for being with us today and we hope to see you back here again - bring some friends with you!

For those wanting more information on Captain Antonis' cruises:
The cost for four hours for up to 6 people including food and beverages was 180 euros. To book a cruise email the captain at:, phone +30 27210 77544.

Linking soon with:

Monday, September 7, 2020

In Greece ~ The islet, The egg and Helen of Troy

Just as twilight was turning the sea and sky a dusty rose on a Saturday evening two weeks ago, the blaring of horns on fishing boats broke the stillness that usually accompanies sunset. 

It was such a cacophony that we raced to our front deck to watch the gathering of the silhouetted boats near the small fishing harbor below us. 

At twilight the boats began circling in the harbor

'Has someone drowned?" I asked The Scout, who was scanning the water with the binoculars. 'Did one of the fleet just sink?' We'd never heard such a commotion in our Peloponnese neighborhood even during the height of holiday celebrations. We'd also never seen the boats gathering as they were in our sleepy little village of Agios Dimitrios.

The Egg Dedication - Photo credit: Takis Fileas photo

It wasn't long before the shrill squeal of a microphone being tested joined the honking horns. It was then we turned our attention on the harborside where a stage and plastic chairs had been set up in an area that normally serves as a parking lot. 

'The Egg' on the islet

Must be 'The Egg', we agreed, in answer to my earlier questions, as 'The Egg' is one of the biggest things to happen here in recent years.  And the reason the egg is here can be attributed to another big even that took place here centuries ago. . .or so the story goes.

The Islet and the Egg 

The islet and The Stone House on the Hill (left) - Peter Coroneas photo

As the photo above shows, there's an islet just off the coastline in front of our Stone House on the Hill.  To the casual observer, it seems but a small outcropping of rocks but its size belies its rather enormous history. 

It was this very islet on which Helen of Troy and her brothers, the Dioscuri twins; Castor, the mortal son of the King of Sparta and Pollux, the supernatural son of Zeus were born.   

According to legend, the supreme god Zeus fell in love with Leda, wife of the King of Sparta. So Zeus turned himself into a pale white swan that was fleeing from an eagle and took refuge in Leda's arms. 

From that encounter Leda produced an egg from which Helen and the Dioscuri twins were born.

Pefnos Islet and The Egg

I know. You are probably thinking, oh-no, there she goes again mixing fact and fiction, legend and real life, just like I did a few weeks ago when I wrote about Nestor's Palace.  But to get a feel for our expat life here, you must get a dose of the real and imagined from me every so often because that is the world in which we live. 

As I wrote before, the mixing of the two does start messing with your mind because we find that even  we speak of mythological people and places as if they are real. I tell people that Helen was born on the islet in front of my house as a matter of fact, just as I used to tell people I lived down the street from a Starbucks in Kirkland.   

But writers through history seem to have confirmed some of these claims about this rather unusual birth. In fact Pausanias, the ancient traveler, mentions as early as 150 BC that the Dioscuri were born on this very islet. There was once a pair of  bronze statues of the brothers on the islet - they were mentioned in writings as 'recently' as 1795. 

Only history knows what happened to those statues but I can tell you the island now has a very tangible egg honoring that long-ago love story.

The Islet hatches an Egg Summer 2020

The egg's creation this summer was spearheaded by Greek sculptor Giannis Gouzos and archeologist Petros Themelis. And Dr. Elias Moutzouri is credited with the photographic materials. Funding, in part, was provided by our Municipal Government.

The Egg in the beginning stages - Credit on photo

I have to tell you that in the beginning we paid little attention to the actual creation of the egg. There was activity on the islet but often swimmers use it as a starting or stopping point so we gave it little notice until it seemed to become the talk of the village.  'Have you seen the egg being built!?'

The Egg on the Islet

Work continued for several weeks as the project creators were shuttled back and forth by boat to the islet. And then as if out of nowhere, the egg appeared. 

The Egg being built

So back to that Saturday night. . . the night the Egg was dedicated.  Sitting on our deck we listened to song after song sung by Greek vocalists in honor of Helen and the love story that led to her birth. After night fell, a lone fishing boat's light highlighted the egg. There is something about the ease with which real and imagined can be mixed here and on nights like this the two blended in perfect harmony.

As always thanks for the time you spend with us as we give you a look at our expat world in the Greek Peloponnese. Next time we  are doing a staycation Greek fishing village style! Come back for a different look at this place we call home, Agios Nikolaos!

Linking sometime in the near future with:

Mosaic Monday
Through My Lens
Travel Tuesday
Our World Tuesday
My Corner of the World Wednesday
Wordless Wednesday


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