The Australian Adventure

                                                                           Vol.7    September 2015
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 Dear Friends,
This is the first in a series of newsletters where we would like introduce ourselves to you and give you an intimate look at Sparta, our homeland. Through stories of our ancestors, and descriptions of our landscape we wish to share with you our culture, food and daily life in Lakonia. Our  hope is that from this you will understand our passion for the products we sell and for the natural wonders that bring them forth to us.
Mystras Castle Town
          The Last Stand of East Roman Empire..
                      Mystras – The  Castle Town
      Now it’s time to visit some of the beautiful places of Laconia. Many  of them are just a few miles from Sparta.
     One of these places is Mystras. It was a fortified town a former municipality in Laconia. Situated on Mount Taygetus near Ancient Sparta it was once the capital of the Byzantine Empire in the 14th and 15th centuries. You may not know this but Ancient Sparta survived until 398 A.C. when it was destroyed by Alaric – the first king of the Visigoths. The place was abandoned until 1834 when  king Otto decided to build a new city about six miles from Mystras.
     When Constantine XI Dragases Palaiologos died in battle on May 29th 1453 defending Constantinople, it marked the fall of the city and the end of the Roman Empire which had continued in the East for almost 1000 years after the fall of the Western Roman Empire.
      Constantine was crowned in the cathedral at Mystra by the local bishop.It was rare but not unprecedented for an emperor to be crowned in a provincial city.
      During this time, a great man and renowned teacher lived there. His name was George Plethon Gemistos. He was one of the chief pioneers of the revival of the Greek learning in Western Europe.  He taught and wrote many works in the areas of Philosophy, Astronomy, History and Geography  and compiled digests of many  Ancient Greek Classical writings. He also founded a school of philosophy in Mystras. Amongst his pupils were Vasilios Bessarion and George Scholarius (who later became the first Patriarch of Constantinople and George Plethon’s enemy!).
      George Plethon died in Mystras in 1452 or 1454 and in 1466 some of his Italian disciples, headed by Sigismondo Malatesta, stole his remains from Mystras and interred them in the Tempio Malatestiano in Rimini, so, as he said  “That the great Teacher may be among free men”.
      Well we’d  need hundreds of pages to write the history of Mystras (or “Sparta” as the People were still naming the castle town back then). So we’ll write more about  this place and its history in the future. But, as you  can see,  long after King Leonidas , it was the last Emperor of Byzantine (Roman) Empire who left this place to defend Greece and also the Great Teacher Plethon Gemistos, whose pupils spread the ancient scripts to the West  which led to the era of the European Renaissance…
   George's village today

     The Trip to Australia..

     The place was The Chevron Hotel in Melbourne. It was 1970 and Frank Sinatra, one of the world’s most famous singers was on stage, enchanting the crowd for one more night. Suddenly, Frank stops singing for a moment and gently speaks into the mic: “George, please turn the lights on me…”
     The “George” he was speaking to was none other than the very same George who had had so many adventures (both good and bad) in Sparta for so many years. It was in 1961 when George, in his mid-twenties made the difficult decision to leave his beloved village and his parents, seeking a better future on the far off continent of Australia.
    His life in the village of Serveika  had been tough and his future remained uncertain. As he watched many of his fellow villagers leaving for Canada, the U.S. and  Australia he found himself wondering if he shouldn’t go too.  The decision was made and with his parent’s blessings he left for another land half way around the world. Journeying from Serveika  to Sparta, and from Athens to Pireaus  he then boarded  a ship for his long journey. It would be 30 days before he would set eyes on his new home, the city of Melbourne.
   As he settled into his new life George was determined to work hard and wasting no time he found a temporary job, took lessons to learn the language and then took on a second temporary job.
After few months his luck improved and got a permanent job at The Chevron Hotel. Even after being hired as a permanent employee. George continued to work both night and day to become successful. He worked three jobs at that time, joining a cleaning team and working to clean offices and buildings after his day shift ended at the Chevron and joining a catering company where he served food as a waiter at events like birthdays and weddings.
     Several years passed and he was thriving. The owners of the Chevron were so pleased with him that they promoted him to a management position, but this promotion was only the first of many promotions George would receive. Over the next years George worked in several posts at the hotel. He even worked as a “lighting technician” for the music hall inside the hotel. This was one of  “opening moments” of his life and the Frank Sinatra show was one moment that he held in his memory and in his heart forever. After all, how many people get to be asked by Frank Sinatra to “ Please turn on the lights on me”?
    In 1971 after over a decade of work and progress, George got married. Soon he had started a family and his two children  Jehny and Costas filled his heart with happiness. Now George starting thinking about the future and his home that now seemed so far away. He was still working two and three jobs and there were even times when he had to sleep in his car, just to get time for sleep between jobs. Ten years went by like this until one day in 1974 he finally had enough money to return to his beloved village and see again his parents. By now it had been 13 years and he couldn’t way to return!
    He started by buying a house in Sparta, but had to return to Melbourne for money and more work. George had made plans to return to Greece for good in 1979 and the owners of the hotel were sad when George announced that he would be leaving soon. When the time had come to leave the owners of The Chevron knew that George won’t ever return to work in Melbourne but as an act of appreciation they told him that if he ever change his mind,  their door will be open for him anytime.
    George’s two young children Jehny and Costas was 7 and 6 years when they saw their father’s home land for the first time. The family moved to the house in  Sparta George had purchased some years earlier and now George had everything he had ever desired: A family and a home of his own, his beloved parents and the village just 20 minutes away...

Please take Your seat on our table..
Welcome to our family….
As descendants of Vasilis, we are native Spartans who have lived on this land our entire lives. Sparta is small in size but its legacy is known throughout the world. Our dream is to show our friends this remarkable land we call home and share all she has to offer with them.  Sparta is freedom, dignity, courage and hospitality and in that sense we are all Spartans, regardless of where we come from or the place we call home.  
Recipe of the Month

Chicken in Oven with Kalamon Olives.
1  big chicken, cut in 8 pieces.
4oz of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
18oz of mushrooms in slices.
2-3 peppers (red and green ones)
1 big onion in slices.
6 oz   Kalamon Olives in Slices.
7 oz  “yellow” cheese
5 bay leaves
2 cloves (garlic)
(Sea) Salt,  black pepper,  (wild) oregano, (wild) thyme
2 oz of honey (from wild flowers)
2 ripe tomatoes
1 oz  white wine
4oz of water
Put all the ingredients –except the olives and cheese -  in a oven dish.Don’t forget to add the water and wine.
Cover the dish with an aluminum foil.
Put it in the oven at 360F  and cook it for 1 hour.
Then , remove the aluminium foil and cook it for  almost one more hour.
Note:  10’ before  the end of cooking add in the dish the olives and the cheese.
Ofcource,  You can replace the chicken with Turkey or Pork.

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Arhidamou 6 str.
Sparta 23100

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