The Greek House: The Story of a Painters Love Affair with the Island of Sifnos

The Greek House
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We were a generation that did not feel we had to have apartments with dishwashers and all that stuff. House renovations can create terrible frictions and break ups in relationships. Money becomes a major factor. The island changed — and I changed for sure. But that house was never a holiday place.

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It was a studio and a work place. Often alone I would call Tim and he was alone in Hadlyme and we were wondering why we were doing this to each other. But there were little signs that would tell me it was time to move on. No other island. I have been a one-island man. You must hike on the island as much as possible — especially from the monastery of Vrissi down to Kastro.

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Climbing Profitis Elias [the highest point on the island] is an exceptionally beautiful experience particularly with a full moon rising. The valley of Chriossopigi from all sides is amazing.

The Greek House: The Story of a Painter's Love Affair with the Island of Sifnos

Olaf College. Leave your comments And who had no connection with me and, I am sure, found me even more alien than I found them. I was not part of their world. At one point in those first years— you had to go every year— I was made acutely aware of my alienness. I found myself attached to a medical corps where the officer in charge of the physical examinations of new recruits— a sneering, superior sort— ordered me to assist him. He gave me the unenviable job, no matter how gay I might have thought I was, of sitting in front of the naked recruits and sticking two fingers up in their scrotum while they coughed— testing for hernias.

There were hundreds of recruits; the parade went on and on, students, farm boys, bankers, all of them smirking down at me.

This little cruelty seemed to amuse the officer, and the other officers too. Obviously they all sensed something, maybe that I was gay, or that there was simply something about me, too arty, too different from them, and they pounced. How did they know, I wondered, or how did they guess? At that point I had only the haziest notion that my attraction to men really meant anything, that I might not grow out of it but might actually grow into it.

Church on Sifnos, via Visit Greece's Flickr. As the summer days passed, the magic of Sifnos settled over me as lightly and gently as some fine golden powder, as light as the fairy dust blown by Tinker Bell into the faces of the Darling children to get them up and flying on their way to Neverland. My days there were peaceful and I hoped they would never end. The dry heat never seemed oppressive; in truth, the warmth of the sun and the fire one sensed behind it always excited me.

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The landscape, with olive and fruit trees growing in profusion, with the sea always nearby, seemed the perfect place to live and work. The days were long, and one could accomplish an enormous amount. Pictures poured out of me, piling up on the table or pinned to the flaking walls of my ruin. Fortunately, I was getting enough work done that I usually felt I had plenty of time to hike all the way up to Apollonia whenever I wanted to, and a hike it was, more than two hours each way.

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But there was no other way to get there; the road was not finished and would not be for another year or more. Happily, I discovered that I loved to walk on Sifnos. My route led through the same richly fertile farmland we had passed on the way to Platy Ghialos that first day in the taxi, but the walking route was more direct. I took paths that the islanders had used for centuries, up into the hills, across donkey paths and goat trails, skirting terraces and climbing huge stone stairs that led up and over the high back of the island.

The view was vast and changed constantly. Everywhere there were flowers and flowering shrubs. I knew the names of only a few of them— anemone, delphinium, wild cyclamen, monkshood, and broom— but there seemed to be thousands of them of all kinds. By early June the rain had stopped, and the fields and flowers began to dry up, but the olive trees retained their silvery gray-green color, and the dark pines and cedars stood sharp against the golds and yellows of the dry fields. As I walked, I was bombarded by waves of smells and sounds. Sage was the dominant scent, but there were any number of other hot, dusty herbal smells, along with the deafening sounds of crickets and cicadas.

If I needed a rest, it seemed there was always a little white church or an empty monastery with a spring-fed well nearby, an old bucket close beside it, and a tree to sit under to cool off in the dry, dry air. I often ran into farmers on their donkeys, almost always in old buttoned-up tweed jackets, their sun-browned, bony wrists and rough hands poking out of the sleeves, and caps or straw hats on their heads against the sun.

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They would offer me figs or tomatoes or whatever they had in their pockets. Eventually they all got to know me and, I think, thought well of me for walking the island; walking made me somehow closer to them, made me feel I belonged to their world a little. Christian Brechneff by Jacques Burkhardt. All information passed through this little kafenion— about the erratic comings and goings of the always terrible ferryboats, the newest arrivals and the latest departures, the perilous state of fishing, or the crop damage caused by too little rain— all the gossip in the island villages about marriages, pregnancies with or without marriages, illnesses, and deaths.

It was where you saw your friends, made new friends. All the vegetables and fruits one might need were laid out in old baskets under the pines, the farmers showing their produce while their donkeys stood dozing nearby in the shade, tails switching lazily at the flies. After resting awhile I would run my errands. There was the post office next door, where telegrams were sent and received and phone calls were made— there were no private phones on Sifnos yet.

Thomas, with his small grocery shop, ran the licensed National B ank of Greece office, and all minor money transactions were handled there. The butcher next door was called Christo, and very soon, so was I.

The Greek House

Christian is not really a Greek name, and I was quickly rechristened Christo. I loved it. It was a new identity, a new skin.

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The Greek House and millions of other books are available for Amazon Kindle. The Greek House: The Story of a Painter's Love Affair with the Island of Sifnos Hardcover – June 11, When Christian Brechneff first set foot on the Greek island of Sifnos, it was the spring of A richly rewarding narrative about a young painter's love affair with the Greek island of Sifnos When Christian Brechneff first set foot on the Greek island of Sifnos.

It was like being part of the language itself. And it was like being somebody on the island, a kind of personage, it seemed to me. I began to introduce myself as C hristo to islanders and foreigners alike. People like Chuck who had known me as Christian still called me that, but everyone new called me Christo. In time, Christo the butcher would affectionately call me Christaki or, fonder yet, Christaki mou. There were very few shops in Apollonia then, very little real business as such. The islanders were quite innocent about money, and much of the local economy was barter, the islanders trading their crops and wares and animals.