Greece 2017. Part Four: Sparta – Ancient & Modern

Dimos Sparta

Spending three full weeks in Sparta presented numerous opportunities to explore and savor this region of my heritage. In both ancient and modern times, Sparta has been integral to the history of the Peloponnese, although its role as the major political and cultural center has fluctuated.

My home base was the Menelaion Hotel, situated on the main street (Konstantinou Palaiologou) in the center of town. Contemporary Sparta is vibrant and engaging. During my three-week stay, everything I needed was easily accessible.

Fresh food and baked goods enticed me and kept me fed daily, July 2017

 

My favorite sign!

One of my the most beautiful stores in Sparta is owned by my cousin, Dimitris Papagiannakos. He keeps it stocked with items both beautiful and practical. I love to visit with him and share news of our families. I never leave without buying lovely treasures that delight my family.

Papagiannakos Home Goods Store, Sparta. Dimitris Papagiannakos and Carol Kostakos Petranek, July 2017

Like much in Sparta, the buildings are a mix of old and new. The main street is wide and lined with towering palm trees. Despite the parking spaces on both sides and in the center, people double and triple park, making it difficult to navigate. On the side streets, cars are parked on the sidewalk with all four wheels off the road. If they can do it, so can I, but…I left two wheels on the road because I panicked at trying to maneuver the entire car onto the sidewalk. I awoke the last morning in the city to find a parking ticket on the windshield. I was fined 40 euros for blocking traffic. Even worse, the police removed the license tags from the front and back of my rental car, thus ensuring that any violator pays the fine!

Sparta, July 2017

The Dimarheion, or Town Hall, and its platea is the hub of the city. By day or by night, people congregate at outdoor tables to dine, visit, listen to concerts and even watch soccer matches. With Greek night life in full swing at 9:00, where else would you find a concert that begins at 10:00 p.m.? I love the sociality of the city; you don’t ever have to be alone!

Dimarheion, July 2017

Life at 10:00 p.m. – a concert at the platea; men watching soccer game; others chatting in a cafe

The Ancient Sparta archaeological site is within walking distance at the edge of the city. On the way, I passed the imposing statue of Leonidas, king of the city-state of Sparta from 490 to 480 B.C.; immortalized when he and his 300 soldiers were killed by the Persians in the Battle of Thermopylae.

King Leonidas and me! July 2017

I visited the ruins in the middle of the afternoon–3:00–when locals were sleeping and other tourists were smart enough to rest in their air conditioned hotels.

As I walked the paths around the ruins, the modern city was visible; a constant reminder of old and new.

Sparta, old and new, July 2017

I tried to imagine life in the old city. Peoples’ everyday lives were very different from ours in substance, but not in human experience: birthing, growing, learning, loving, laughing, mourning, dying–are we not all the same?

History captured in stone, July 2017

Panorama, July 2017

Walkways and structures, July 2017

If these edifices could talk…. July 2017

 

Leaving Sparta was hard. What I miss:

  • Family
  • Friends who are like family
  • Dry air
  • Plateas
  • Sidewalk dining and outdoor living
  • Fresh squeezed orange juice
  • Fresh veggies from my cousins’ gardens
  • History
  • Churches everywhere
  • Taygetos mountains
  • 10:00 pm concerts on the platea
  • Philoxenia

What I do not miss:

  • No traffic lights
  • Driving in the city
  • Parking on the sidewalk
  • Motorcyclists
  • Limited store hours
  • Graffiti
  • Disrepair

Till next time!!❤

 

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Village History Books in the Library of Sparta

The paper record trail has stopped, and you are stumped. Where to go now? You’ve obtained any and all documents available from the Archives (local and online), the Town Hall (Dimarheion), the village churches and the Greek Orthodox Mitropolis. You’ve taken a DNA test and are wading through the results, but you and your matches can’t go back far enough to find your common ancestor.

You are tempted to give up, but it’s not yet time to close the books on your research — in fact, it’s time to open them. The library awaits.

Central Library of Sparta

If you are researching in the Sparta region, there is a resource you have not yet tapped. The Central Library of Sparta has an impressive collection of village history books. These have been researched and written by schoolteachers, historians, or simply people with a deep love of their ancestral home. They have labored for years to document stories and compile family trees. Their goal is to preserve the history and pass on the legacy of their village, whether large or small, historically relevant or not. They do not want the past to be lost to time.

In July 2014, Gregory Kontos and I met such a dedicated historian. His name was Nikolaos Ath. Bagiokos, a schoolteacher in Anavryti who dedicated twenty years to researching and writing the history of Anavryti and its families.  During summers when school was out, he painstakingly located any and all extant records as well as previously written histories of Anavryti. He compiled this information into his life’s work, Anavryti Taygetos. As we visited with him in his home, he expressed joy that a woman from America would travel across the ocean to learn about her roots and seek out those who could teach her. I asked him, “Why did you spend 20 years to research and write this book?” His response was simple but firmly spoken:  “I wanted to write the book so people in future can know about their families.”

When I was in Sparta this past July, I learned that Mr. Bagiokos, lovingly referred to as Ο Δάσκαλος (the teacher), passed away shortly after I met him in 2014. However, he will be remembered and honored by all who read his book and learn the stories of their families which will not be found in vital records.

Nikolaos Ath. Bagiokos with his book, Anavryti Taygetos

These village history books are priceless. They provide a glimpse into everyday life in the village as well as customs, folklore, songs, poetry. Some contain biographical sketches of prominent families or earliest settlers. All shed new light on the world of our ancestors.

I know personally of their worth:  in July 2016, my research into my Christakos family of Xirokambi skyrocketed to a new level when a friend introduced me to the book, Koumousta of Lacedaimonos. It was through this book that I learned the genesis of the family — information that the authors gleaned through oral histories and painstaking research, not to be duplicated anywhere else.

Because these books are so valuable to a researcher, I made an inventory of the ones kept at Library of Sparta during my visit there in July 2017. I took a photo of every book cover, its title page and index (if there was one). Unfortunately, only a few books included indexes, which makes it necessary to review every page to see if specific surnames are mentioned. As I perused each volume, I found that all have names of families. Thus, if there is a book from your village, it is worth the effort to obtain a copy. If the book cannot be purchased, you can view it and digitize it at the Library.

My inventory captures the books on the shelves, but it is not the entire collection. There is a catalog, somewhat outdated (2007) which lists additional books kept elsewhere in the library.

Laconia History Section, Central Library of Sparta

Below is a list of titles and authors of books kept on the shelves as shown in the photo above. Most of these books are out of print. However, you may be able to contact the author or publisher to obtain a copy.

If you would like to see the title page and publishing information on any of these books, click this link to open a Dropbox folder. The books are in alphabetical order by title; most books will have 2-3 images; e.g., there is one book on the village of Agoriani but it has three images of its cover and title pages:  Agoriani (1), Agoriari (2), Agoriari (3).

Remember — having names and dates will fill a pedigree chart, but having stories of your ancestors will fill your heart.

Agoriani Papadogiannis, Dimitrios Ath.
Agoriani and Voreia Vergadou, Georgios Ath.
Amykles Antonakos, Sarantos
Amykles Anagnostopoulos, Georgios D.
Anavryti Pikoula, G.
Anavryti, Taygetos Bagiokos, Nikolaos Ath.
Ano Glykovrvrysi, The Roots of Our Village Papapostolos, Chysafo
Anogeia Lambrakos, Ilias G.
Apidea Kalodimas, Nikolaos E.
Arcadia Zaharopoulos, Ioan. Z.
Ardouvista, Androuvista of Exo Mani Vagiakos, Dikaios V.
Arna Prokopidis, Harilaos Ant.
Asimi Georgouli, Polychroni B.
Barsinikos Moutoulas, Pantelis
Chrysafa Lambrinakos, Giannis
Dafni Milonakos, Stavros L.
Dimitsanas Giannaropoulos, Ioannas K.
Elafonisi Mentis, Konstandinos S.
Falanthou, Villages of Gritsopoulos, Tasos Ath.
Georgitsi and Georgitsiani, A Village, A History Koutsis, Giannis A.
Georgitsi, the Beautiful Koutsis, Giannis A.
Geraki Moutsopoulos, N.K. and Dimitrokallis, G.
Geraki, Album none
Geraki, Byzantine LaFontaine, Jacqueline
Geraki, Excursion Palaiologos, Pavlos et al
Geraki, History Gritsopoulos, Tasos Ath.
Geraki, History and Memories Poulitsa, Panagiotis I.
Geraki, The Oils of Poulitsa, Panagiotis Il.
Geraki, Woven in none
Gkiotsali and Agios Dimitrios Batsakis, Kon. S. and Pragalos, Dim. A.
Goranus Plagianni, Kosta Styl.
Haraka Skagkos, Nektarios I.
Kalamata Anaplioti, Gianni
Karyes Machairas, Panos Styl.
Karyes – Arachova Pitsiou, Kosta M.
Kastania Konroa, IoNNIA f.
Kavo Malia Arvanitis, Takis
Kerasias, Arcadia Stafanos, Anast. G.
Kokkinorrachi Athanasoulis, Dimitrios C.
Krokees Rozakos, Nikos I.
Krokees, Carnival Women’s Syllogos of Krokees
Krokees, Levetsova Liakakos, Petros
Kynouria Geronta, Rania
Kythira Kalligeros, Emmanouel P.
Leukoma of Molaois Moschovakos, Ioannis Sot.
Logkanikos by Georgakaki Georgakaki, Stavros Pan.
Logkanikos by Souchleris Souchleris, Leonidas
Lukia Avloulos, Stavros
Megali Vrysi of the Past Grigori, Chari Ath.
Melitinis Mihalou, Georgios
Metamorfosi Koutsogiannopoulos, G. D.
Molaoi Moschovakos, Ioannis Sot.
Palaiopanagia, Anogeia & Xirokambi Katsafanas, Dimitris G.
Paliomonastiro Stathaki, Stathi D.
Patrida Kountouri, Petros G.
Pellana, Ancient Smyrios, Athanasios G.
Pellana, In the Footsteps of Menelaous and Helen
Petrina Poulimenakos, Aris
Plytra & Karavvostasi Vlahaki-Proia, Matina
Sellasias, Administrative, Population Kapetanakis-Stathopoulos, Dimitra
Sellasias, Emigrants to Ellis Island Kapetanakis-Stathopoulos, Dimitra
Stemnitsa Theofili, Georgios Ant.
Tainaro Koutsilieri, Anargyros
Trapezontis, Kabourakiou History and Folklore Vasilakos, Vasileios et al
Tripolitsas Gritsopoulos, Tasos Ath.
Tsakona Tsakona, Stratis G.
Tsintzina (2 versions) Moutoulas, Pantelis
Tsouni Grigoris, Charis Ath.
Vardonia & the Turko-Vardouniotes Kapsali, Gerasimos
Varvitsa and Skoura Poumelioti, Poth. Georg.
Varvitsa and surrounding villages Mathaios, Nikos L.
Varvitsa by Bortsos Bortsos, Dimitrios Petros
Vassara Theofilis, Giagkos
Vatika Arvanitis, Takis
Vatika, My Homeland Kasouli-Simeonoglou, Aspasia
Vatika, The Fossil Forest Alevizou, Stavroula
Veroia Koufos, Nikolaos I.
Voia Arvanitis, Takis Chr.
Voutiani Trikilis, Takis
Voutiani, Sparta Tzannetos, Ioannis Konstantinos
Vresthena Spiliakou, Spiliou P.
Vrontamas Drepania, Manolis
Vrontamas, The Holocaust of Drepania, Manolis
When I Was a Child, 1939-1945 Diamantakos, Nikos
Xirokambi Laskaris, Dimitrios G.
Zaraka, Folklore Poumeliotis, Panagiotis Georg.
Zarax Petroleka, Konst.
Zarnatas, Messinia Tsilivi, Nikos Ath.

Return to Greece, 2016. Part Six: It’s All About Family

This is the sixth post in a series about my trip to Greece, June 30-July 20, 2016 — an amazing journey of history, family and discovery. Previous posts can be found here.

Open arms with tight hugs. Kisses on both cheeks. Happy smiles and joyful reunions. This is how my family greets me when I return to Sparta. There are so many places to explore and discover; but for me this is the bottom line:  it’s all about family. Prior to my visits to Greece, the names and places on my pedigree chart were simply long names and dots on a map. Now, they are attached to real people who have become a vibrant and important part of my extended family.

Joy is sharing what you love with whom you love. For me, joy is introducing my family to their roots — touring our villages and meeting our relatives. Kathy’s paternal grandparents are Kallianes from Kastania (now Kastoreion) and Linardakis from Vordonia. Although we don’t know of family now living there, we so enjoyed exploring the towns, peering into shops, watching chickens, dogs and cats roam their yards, and looking at stone and stucco houses that have sheltered countless families through countless years.

Kastoreion, Laconia. July 2016

Kastoreion, Laconia. ancestral village of the Kallianes family, July 2016

Vordonia, Laconia, July 2016

Andrew, Ben and Kathy at the Linardakis village of Vordonia, Laconia, July 2016

I love the monuments erected in every town that memorialize those who died in military service. My heart skips whenever I find an ancestral name etched in marble. Even if I cannot connect that individual to my line, I know that in these small villages, people with the same surname are almost certain to be related. While driving in Vordonia, we turned into a back street and unexpectedly were confronted by the village monument. stopping to examine it, I became emotional when I showed Ben and Andrew several men with the Linardakis surname.

Finding the Linardakis surname; Vordonia, July 2016

Finding the Linardakis surname; Vordonia, July 2016

Visiting our Aridas and Kostakos familes in Agios Ioannis has endeared my grandchildren to their Spartan relatives and grounded them to the land of their ancestors. Bridging the Atlantic and meeting kin has widened their concept of family. Eating a meal in a house built by their ancestor in the mid-1800’s has brought them a sense of “rootedness” that is unparalleled. And best of all, they were warmly embraced and loved immediately by all who met them.

These are photos of my Kostakos and Aridas family in Agios Ioannis, Sparta. They are on my father’s side — my grandparents were John Andrew (Ioannis Andreas) Kostakos and Hariklia Aridas, both born in Agios Ioannis. On the Kostakos side, our common ancestor is Andreas Kostakos who was married twice: first to Anastasia, then to Poletimi Christakos. These two Kostakos families are descended from Andreas and Anastasia; I am descended from Andreas and Poletimi. On the Aridas line, our common ancestor is Michail Aridas and his wife, Stamatina.

Ioanna Kostakos Family, with Ben Soper, Andrew Soper, Kathy Lynard, Carol Kostakos Petranek, Peggy and Vassilis Vlachogiannis, Agios Ioannis, July 2016

Family of Ioanna Kostakos of Agios Ioannis. With Ben Soper, Andrew Soper, Kathy Lynard, Carol Kostakos Petranek, Peggy and Vassilis Vachaviolis, and Ioanna Kostakos, July 2016

family-kostakos-eleni-group-07-13

Family of Eleni Kostakos of Agios Ioannis. Natasa, Panos, Eleni, Eleni, Panorea, Carol Kostakos Petranek, July 2016

Family of George Aridas, Agios Ioannis. George, Roula, Adamandia Aridas; George's sister, Afroditi. July 2016

Family of George Aridas, Agios Ioannis. George, Roula, Adamandia Aridas; George’s sister, Afroditi. July 2016

This is the Chelidonis Family of Athens. Nikos is my second cousin on my mother’s line. His mother was Tasia Eftaxia from Mystras; our common ancestor is Ioannis Eftaxias, born 1809. My grandmother, Angelina Eftaxias Papagiannakos, was Tasia’s aunt. Panagiotis found me on Facebook three years ago, and we met in person during my trip in 2014. We were so excited to connect our families, as neither of us knew that the other existed!

Family if Nikos Chelidonis, Athens. Viki, Nikos, Panagiotis. July 2016

Family if Nikos Chelidonis, Athens. Viki, Nikos, Panagiotis. July 2016

The Eftaxias family of Mystras has long roots in Mystras. My grandmother, Angelina Eftaxias is the aunt of Andreas (photo on left). Andreas’ son, Lewnidas, is a master stone mason and works on churches and other buildings throughout southern Laconia.

Andreas Eftaxias, his son. Lewnidas ad Afroditi. Mystras, July 2016

Andreas Eftaxias, his son. Lewnidas ad Afroditi. Mystras, July 2016

Lewnidas and Andreas told me that our first Eftaxias ancestor escaped from Constantinople during the Ottoman conquest in 1453! He and three friends fled together and settled in Mystras. Lewnidas showed me a bronze medallion that was brought by this ancestor and kept by the family for generations. I posted this photo on our HellenicGenealogyGeek Facebook page and knowledgeable friends there described the medallion: l-r: Christ on the cross; Byzantine cross with words, ” Ιησούς Χριστός Νικά”; the Holy Mother, Mary; and the Holy Trinity, possibly based on Rublev‘s painting of the same name.

Medallion dating to 1453, belonging to Eftaxias family; Mystras, July 2016

Medallion dating to 1453, belonging to Eftaxias family; Mystras, July 2016

I was so thrilled to extend my family further on this trip. My new-found cousin, Dimitrios Papagiannakos, and his wife, Georgia, own a beautiful home goods store in Sparta which sells a myriad of items from cooking utensils to beautiful crystal. I think I gave Dimitrios quite a shock when I walked into his store and introduced myself as his cousin from America! I had brought photos of his Pappas family in the U.S., including a group shot taken at our Pappas Cousin’s Reunion. Working around his customers, we managed to have a spirited and lovely conversation about our families. My only regret was that his parents were out of town and I was unable to meet them. Next trip!

papagiannakos-store-collage

Dimitrios and Georgia Papagiannakos in their lovely home goods store, Sparta, July 2016

I also traveled to Markopoulos, northeast of Athens, to meet Vassilis Papagiannakos, owner of the Papagiannakos Winery. The winery was started by his grandfather, also named Vassilis, in 1919. Now managed by the 3rd generation of Papagiannakos’, Vassilis and his wife, Antonia, have expanded the business, developed new and award-winning wines, and constructed a beautiful edifice where business events, weddings and other activities are held. Although Vassilis and I do not know how–or if– we are related, we are looking to explore our family roots together.

papagiannakos-winery-collage

Vassilis and Antonia Papagiannakos and their daughter, Aggeliki. Papagiannakos Winery, Markopoulos, July 2016

Every trip to Greece strengthens my family ties. I love these cousins. They set an example of hard work, honesty and devotion to our family and our heritage. I am ever-grateful to have the means and the opportunity to introduce them to my own descendants. Together, we carry on traditions and relationships that honor our ancestors.

Papou’s House in Sheepshead Bay

I love going to the home of my Kostakos grandparents in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. Sitting on a very rare double-wide lot, it was spacious and airy inside with beautifully manicured lawns and gardens surrounding it. I have happy childhood memories of exploring all of its nooks and crannies with my cousins.

Last weekend as we were scanning my grandparents’ photos, we came across this rare treasure: a picture of my grandfather, John, standing proudly at the side of his house.

Andrew John Kostakos, standing on the side of his home at 2669 East 26th Street, Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, NY, 1953

Andrew John Kostakos, standing on the side of his home at 2669 East 26th Street, Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, NY, 1953

Looking at a similar view of house today (below), I honestly think it has lost some of its grandeur. The original color was a Williamsburg blue with hardwood siding which lent an air of aristocracy, not evident in the gold cedar shake shingles pictured below.

Sheepshead Bay House, side view, 2016

Sheepshead Bay House, side view, 2016

We calculated that Papou and Yiayia bought their home in 1950. We all agreed with my cousin, John, who said, “it was the most beautiful house I had ever walked into.” This home had amenities not seen in the average residence. On the first floor was a large living room enhanced with a three-dimensional fresco of three horses hanging over the fireplace. The fresco was raised, and it looked as if the horses were jumping out of the wall, headed right towards you. There was a dining room with a butler’s pantry, a breakfast room, a big beautiful kitchen, and as seen on the right above, a sun porch. There was even a wine cellar in the basement. The second floor had three bedrooms – a master bedroom and two smaller ones. John said, “the one thing I couldn’t get over was that the sink and toilet were in separate rooms from the tub,” a most unusual feature in the 1950’s.

Cousin Marianne remembered that there were crawl spaces all over the house; in the attic and even in bedroom closets. One day, she found a stash of Colorforms and Gulliver’s Travels cutouts as she was exploring.

The house sat on an unheard-of double lot situated three blocks from the Sheepshead Bay waterfront. As other homes were encircled in concrete, Papou’s house was surrounded by green, manicured lawns and flower gardens. We cousins sprinted around the property playing all types of games, not realizing as youngsters what a rare treat that was in the city.

John recalled hearing that our grandfather paid $25,000 for the house in 1950, bargaining the owner down from his asking price of $30,000. Looking ahead to the time when the big house would inevitably be too much to care for, Papou built a two-family brick house on the property in 1963. Eventually, this became the home of his daughter, Alice, who cared for both of her parents throughout their lives. My cousin, John, now lives in the apartment upstairs and he watches over Alice who lives on the first level. It is the home where we gathered last weekend for our scanfest.

Sheepshead Bay House (2)

Sheepshead Bay house with 2-story home on property, 2016

This house is my grandfather’s testament of attaining the American dream. As an illiterate 17-year-old orphaned immigrant from a village outside Sparta, Papou traveled on a ship alone, coming to the new world to join his older brother, Vasileios. Papou went from push-cart vendor to Coney Island kiosk owner, to proprietor of a successful seafood restaurant in Williamsburg and owner of many properties in Brooklyn and Long Island. His is a legacy that brings continued pride and inspiration to his many loving descendants.

 

The new road from Athens to Sparta

During my first visit to Sparta years ago, the main road from Athens to Sparta was winding and narrow, making the trip long (over 4 hours) but picturesque as I drove over the Corinth Canal and through the many villages.

In 2014, a new road extended from Athens to Tripoli. It bypassed Corinth and the villages to Tripoli. It was a breeze to drive the smoothly paved, new superhighway; however, I had to exit onto local roads to continue from Tripoli to Sparta.

Now, the new highway is competed, cutting the travel time down to 2-1/2 hours. Today (April 8, 2016), Eleftharia online posted a video of the new road with this brief description (google translated):  Within the next ten days awaiting delivery motorway Lefktro – Sparta (A71), which will reduce the distance of laconic capital from Kalamata, Tripoli and Athens. The Eleftheriaonline.gr visited the motorway and publish shots of the new road, the statue of Leonidas, the municipal stadium, but also a panoramic view of Sparta …

Finished just in time for my next visit! I loved seeing the new road I will soon be traversing. Enjoy the view with me!