It was early afternoon, when I arrived at Anogia mountain village, in northern Crete. The bright spring sunshine draped the famous village, and a cool breeze was blowing from Psiloritis mountain to the neighborhood of Perahori, where men with black shirts were sitting cross-legged around small tables, holding their thick beads on their hands.
I was looking for a museum. A folklore art museum. The museum of Grylios as I was told.
Any questions I asked they did not enlightened me. Until one old lady who came out in her yard that smelled onion sautéed said “Aaaah…You are asking about Sakoulas…”.
I was not looking for Sakoulas. I was looking for a museum.
Soon I discovered that if I wanted to see the museum I should absolutely had to find Sakoulas.
Someone called him. I saw him coming to me when I shouted. Sakoulas is the nickname of Mr.Giorgis Skoulas (Skoulas is perhaps the most popular surname in that village) son of Grylios, the one who made the museum. He was a typical local Cretan old man with a white traditional kerchief on his head. He opened the museum, lit a cigarette and told me about the museum’s creator, namely his father. Of course first I heard his story and then I saw at the site. You don’t say no to an old man from Anogia easily…
“You know why my father’s nickname was Grylios?” asked me.
No. Why should I know? I said to myself.
“Because when he was baby he was opening his eyes wide (Grylios in local speech is exactly the one that looks with the eyes wide open, with bulging eyes).
Uncle Grylios was not alive anymore. Alcibiades Skoulas was his name. He was an old shepherd, farmer and he owned a small coffee shop in Anogia village. “He did all jobs …” said Giorgis. Wise and witty, Uncle Grylios, having sucked the deep wisdom of life decided, in old age, to capture beauty as he understood it. As he saw beauty with the bulging eyes of his soul.
He started to paint when he was 68 years old! Unbelievable! And at his 70’s he began to carve wood and stone. By the age of 94 – when he left for the long journey over the peaks of Psiloritis mountain to heaven…- he made a bunch of works inspired by the life of the village and his personal conception of Cretan history.
It was time to see the small museum. Which is a little naive, a lovely collection of folk art. It is a collection of stone sculptures – made from local stone – and wood carvings. All folk, naive and very innocent show depicting couples, shepherds, animals and numerous flowers, faces of women, many portraits of the historical Greek Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos. There are also folk paintings depicting scenes from the village life in Anogia, battles of the Cretan history, chieftains, local musicians. “The wood is maple, walnut, medlar, mulberry and others” Giorgis shouts. “All all he did was just using his imagination … If you told him “do this” … he could not do it. “
I looked at scenes from the battle of Arkadi, the Christian mass in the village’s church, I touched the handsomely carved figures of shepherds and animals. I looked at the female figures, all rough and rugged like the stones of divine mountain Psiloritis. And I thought that the appointment of people with beauty in life can be slow, but eventually it happens.
Shortly before his end Uncle Grylios wanted to leave his footprints. And left a small, incredibly sincere, pilgrimage to the mountain folk culture of Crete.
How humbling it is…
I salute the old local Cretan while he was locking the museum.
“Hey young man, come to buy you a raki…” he shouted through his mustache, smiling.
It would be a sin to say no …
Where am I?
Anogia village is located in the prefecture of Rethymno, on the northern slopes of Mt. Psiloritis. The quickest way to get there is through Heraklion – Tylissos, following the old national road to Rethimno.
If you come in Anogia and want to see the small museum, ask the people at the square of the Perahori, for Sakoulas: his real name is Giorgos Skoulas.
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