Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Limnos then and now – Part I

My first visit to Limnos was as a young teenager back in 1983. I was travelling with my Dad and younger sister on a month-long adventure driving across Greece, covering much of the country from the gorgeous Ionian Sea island of Corfu to the picturesque mainland region of Ioannina, over the mountains of Metsovo and Meteora, then winding up the final week of our trip in Limnos.

The old family house was only a shell of what it is today, and the island itself was more than a little rough around the edges, having never been preened for tourism and bearing the brunt of various earthquakes over the years. Limnos was (and to those who don't have a family-roots bias, still is) a far cry from the idyllic white-washed image people have of the Greek islands, but as a first-time traveller I was eager to explore the island where my grandmother was born and where other relatives were still living.

Armed with an instamatic camera, I used an entire roll of film in Limnos (a massive 24 photos), 14 of which were of decent enough quality to put into a photo album. (Take note young things: an Instamatic was a Kodak point-and-shoot camera, popular in the 70s and 80s, the name of which, and quality of images that it produced, arguably providing the main inspiration for Instagram.)

Before we left to come to Limnos this year, I digitised these 14 photos from 1983 (using the high-tech method of taking photos of the photos!) in preparation for a project that I'm currently working on: to find the exact locations depicted in the original images, and photograph them as they are today.

As you might have noticed, I've been very bad at keeping the momentum going with this blog, even while here in Limnos with all the inspiration a Greek island has to offer, but with only 16 days left here in Limnos I am determined to at least complete the 'Limnos then and now' project before we leave. It's a bit self-indulgent, I know, but I hope it might also be of interest to others, especially those that know Limnos, to see how things have (or haven't) changed here. And don't worry, I have also been busily documenting some of Koula's cooking sessions in the kitchen here at the house and will be posting those recipes soon.

So back to the project: so far I've located and photographed 8 of the 14 shots. Some have been easy, others are proving to be a lot harder to locate! But the most challenging photo that I am yet to take will be a shot of my dad in the back terrace of the house sitting at a table with his uncle and another old friend. As the uncle and friend have unfortunately since passed, Tony and my dad's brother George will step in to complete the trio, however, the challenging part of this shot will be recreating the scene itself.

I believe the furniture and other props in the shot still exist somewhere here in this large rambling house of ours, so over the next few days Julia and I will be on a mission to find and gather the necessary elements to reconstruct the scene, 31 years after the fact :).

In the meantime, here are two of the 'then and now' pairs of photographs that I've taken so far. They were both taken in the main town of Myrina, during siesta time when all is quiet down the main street.

The first pair of shots begins with an old building suffering a severe lean, seemingly destined for a life in ruin, but now has thankfully been 'pushed back' and patched up to live on its days in the new millennium.

And in the following pics, the kiosk has long been gone but 31 years later the plane tree still grows, its trunk perhaps twice the thickness of its former self. Perhaps more importantly though are the fine examples of 80s fashion depicted in the first pic, most notably the shorts on the guy with the pram.

Part II of the 'Limnos then and now' series can be found here.

Tomorrow Tony and I will be preparing the family lunch and plan to include vegetarian moussaka on the menu so I'll be sure to write that one up for the blog in the next few days. Koula will also be helping with preparations and has promised to make a batch of her sticky sweet baklava rolls that I have featured previously on the blog here. Until then, keep an eye on Facebook for random photos from Limnos and I'll do my best to drag myself away from the glorious sunshine here to write again soon.


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