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Fortællinger fra Kreta | 4

Tales from Crete | 4

Zorba's faces

When visiting Greece as a tourist, you often come across the name Zorba. It is to most of us as Greek as Tzatziki and Ouzo, although the word Zorba, like so much else, is actually of Turkish origin.

When the Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis wrote the music for the legendary film "Zorba the Greek", he probably did not expect to be forever known in most of the world for his music. Most people can actually sing a bit of it just like that and that is not quite common with Greek music. The film was also a huge international success, not least because of Anthony Queen's starring role as the nature man Alexis Zorba and in particular because of his dance with Basil, played by Alan Bates. A scene that takes place on the Akrotiri peninsula, or more specifically in Stavros, where the dance scene was filmed.

But Zorba has many faces. Because although we happily sing along to the song and dance the best we can for once, there are hardly many people who think about what Zorba actually means. Zorba is the word for a "despotically rude person". Now some will probably, just like I did, think "despotic" - well, how do you describe it in plain Danish. So for me, there was nothing to do but look up Gyldendal's dictionary and see the meaning. Despotic means: autocratic, autocratic and tyrannical and the word comes from the Greek "Despotes" (lord).

Whether Zorba, as the name of the main character in the Cretan author Nikos Kazantzakis's book on which the film is based, was chosen based on the word's Turkish origin or whether the name perhaps refers more to the occupation of Crete during World War II, when the book was written, remains to be seen. But the fact that the name "Zorba" has such a significant meaning is surely the reason why they chose to call the last storm surge in Greece precisely "Zorba". It was an unusually fierce storm that washed away everything in its path and behaved everywhere like a true all-powerful tyrant who cannot be stopped by anything. 

The storm raged in Crete only a few days after I had sent our guests in Elena's Group Travels home from a lovely holiday and myself closed and switched off in Crete for this time. 

Only a few days Zorba showed his teeth in Crete, but they say that after storm comes sun and after sun comes rain, but with Zorba they got both storm and rain at the same time, so now most Cretans are happy that it is again quiet and sunny with a temperature of 26 degrees, so now it should probably be a good harvest of both the sweet Christmas oranges and olives, which will be harvested in a good month's time.

Michael Hall

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