Books and Good Reading
Anastasios (Tasos) Sakoulis was born in Athens in 1966. He graduated from the University of Thessaloniki in 1991 and later studied at the Mediterranean Agronomic Institute in Chania, Crete - his first contact with the 'Big Island'.
Like many others before him Tasos Sakoulis was bewitched by this beautiful island. Here he shares some magical moments of nature on the island which have captured his own imagination.

Title: Moments of Cretan Nature: Author: Anastasios Sakoulis.
Publisher: Typocreta, Iraklieo, Crete.  ISBN 960-91979-0-6
Copyright: Anastasios Sakoulis.
Published 2002.  Price: Around $20. 
Source. Bookshops.

Unique.  In my somewhat limited experience of books on Cretan nature, though I wouldn't be at all surprised to find that it is.  In it's 94 high quality gloss paper pages, 'Moments of Cretan Nature' manages to include all of only 2731 words!  Around 28 words per page if one excludes the few words forming dedication, preface and foreword.  If you divide the words per picture you come to an even better ratio - around 28 words per picture.  But then, if one picture equals a thousand words, this book is book worth at least 96 thousand words.........

Is it?...........  It is.

Comparing pictures with words could possibly be a serious error if the pictures themselves do not command attention - being too small to convey sufficient detail to be meaningful.  Or lacking the impact to trigger positive emotions in the viewer.  Also, I can think of far less difficult subjects with which to try to capture the attention of any audience than a book of photographs on Cretan nature.  A real challenge.

The photographs in this beautifully illustrated book are neither small nor lacking detail.

Tasos Sakoulis  succeeds magnificently in capturing some moments of Cretan nature.  There are a total of 96 original photographs with its 24cm x 22cm pages - almost none of them as small as an average sized 6 x 4 photograph.  Indeed, 47 of the pages contain pictures which occupy the majority of the page, which accounts for the very few words.  Words are simply not needed.  

If you want to know whether the photographs are any good - take a look at the magnificent little egrets occupying almost the whole of page 39, or the pictures heading the seven main sections of the book which in every case occupy about 75% of a two page spread. 

   1. Islets - Very short - pages 14/17 
   2. Coastline - Informative - pages 18/29
   3. Wetlands - Nice Photographs - pages 30/39
   4. Lowlands - Outstanding - pages 40/63
   5. Gorges - Short - pages 64/71
   6. Plateaus - Brief - pages 72/77
   7. Mountains - Nice one! - pages 78/94

I would say that some of the photographs are indeed worth a thousand words.  Certainly the vast majority are worth at least several hundred in anyone's language.  Which brings me to another, definitely praiseworthy aspect of the book.  It is bi-lingual..........  Although the first language used is, understandably, Greek - the second is English.  A boon, I would have thought, to the majority of non-Greek speakers likely to be interested in the book.  Not only that, the translations, from beginning to end, are literal.  Invaluable.  Whilst it might not seem particularly useful, to the average English person, to be able to say that "The wheater (Oenanthe oenanthe) is a common breeding visitor..........." in Greek, it would certainly be a show-stopper at your local Greek language class in the UK!!   Few people learning Greek seem to be taught to converse about specialist topics outside the area of the taverna or beach-bar.  If you want to start specialising somewhere, where better than the Cretan countryside.

Back to the book!  The only drawback to the book, if indeed there is one, is that it deals with a very broad subject - Cretan nature - and then samples a little of each aspect.  Rather as a good Greek restaurant will serve several food samples - Mezethes - in an attempt to seduce into a full blown meal.  The drawback here is that the full blown meal never arrives.  The book leaves you feeling that there must be more, and that you haven't had it!!  On the other hand, perhaps this is, in fact, the biggest compliment one can make - that the book leaves you with the feeling that there must be more, and that you wouldn't mind sampling it...  

Exactly the description of an excellent meal passed on to me by the best man at my wedding - a chef  - who treated food as an art form.  The main objective, he said, was to serve food of such quality and presentation that the enjoyment was complete - almost.  That the diner should be left with the feeling that the whole meal had been superb, but that just a little more of such enjoyment would be very welcome.  Keep it just out of reach, he said, and the diner would return again for more!  Never leave him quite satiated!!

Tasos Sakoulis' book serves up some superb photographic fare.  But there is too little on the Islets.

The section on the coastline is informative and there are a few nice photographs, although sometimes the magic of a photograph such as that on page 25, of the sea ruffling gently against a shore - apparently late in the day against a late sun - the bronze light swathing the twinkling beach in pale bronze and silver, eludes the captions. This photograph being almost dismissed with a cursory "The north coast has many sandy beaches, which are mainly exploited by the tourist industry".  The picture, however, remains beautiful...

Likewise, the section on the wetlands is informative but not, for me, particularly inspiring.   Apart, that is, from the bird photographs.  Some are superb.  The Night Heron on page 32; the Wood Sandpiper on page 33; a Glossy Ibis on page37 and, for me, one of the most spectacular photographs in the whole book - Little Egrets.  A spectacular full page 39.  A little low in the frame but almost alive!  There are of course 15 other pictures in this section, but again for me, they are dwarfed by these four.

Lowlands - alone worth the price of the book maybe.  Something like thirty photographs covering terrain; flowers; birds; and reptiles makes for nice book browsing.  Whilst I don't personally find an olive grove full of flowers - wild papavers and anemones at a distance (page 42) and a whole page 43 of purple lupins to be 'get-up-and-go'.... But then I live for most of the year on Crete - maybe if you live in the middle of Manchester where such flowers are maybe not so common....   The birds however, the birds are magic!  Around 13 superb pictures in just one section.  Almost every one either special or very much so!  A hooded crow chick in the nest on p44; the 'Oh-so-proud' Red-footed Falcons on P45; the beautiful Greenfinch on p46; the absolutely superb action shot of Goldfinch apparently bathing at a river on p50; the acutely attentive Yellow Wagtail on P51; the Winchat and Stonechat on P59; amazing!  But what should have been an awe-inspiring Long -eared Owl on page 48 looks a bit rigid to me.  The European Bee Eater on P49 speaks for itself - perfect!  This section of the book also contains a couple of nice landscape shots and a few very nice flowers on p52 and p53 particularly; a super Green Toad on p55.

Oh, and don't miss the Crested Lark on P63.....

Gorges.  A few very nice landscapes; flowers; a couple of Jackdaws and what should have been a full page picture of the rare Griffon Vulture on page 70.  My only question is "why wasn't it?" This section felt like a quick overview - the ordeorves without the meal....

Plateaus.  A very brief chapter, largely centered on the Omalos Plateau, with brief mention of the Limnacaro plateau on Mount Dikti.  I would like to have seen much more on the plateaus of Crete - particularly the Lassithi plateau with its ring of mountain villages.  A brilliant introductory photograph of Omalos, P72/3  - otherwise not much fare.

Mountains. The final section of the book has some very nice and unusual photographs of Cretan mountains.  In the latter category - very nice that is - I really did like the picture of cypress trees on page 83.  Particularly the tree trunk in the middle foreground which looks to me like a kangeroo!   The picture of the Berberis cretica in bloom seems a little out of place, although it isn't.  I did not see any particular merit in the photograph of Mount Dikti on page 8, but the valley of Erganos - western mount Dikti - on Page 90 is outstanding.  The waterfall on P91 is a nice picture, but is totally dwarfed by the superiority of the remaining three pictures in the book - Goats which have climbed a low tree on a cliffside to eat the tender shoots (P92); a very rare Bearded Vulture soaring against a blue sky (p93); and undoubtedly what must be one of the rarest photographs of one of the rarest live bird in the world - a Bearded Vulture chick fledged in 2001 - one of only two that year (P94), which was still alive when the book was published.

The Bearded Vulture chick is named "Anastasia" from 'Anastasis' - interpreted 'Resurrection' - which has to be the hope of anyone reading that particular photo caption and looking at the picture.

Tasos Sakoulis has a love of the Cretan countryside which shows in this work.  It is nowhere more obvious than in that final picture on page 94 - the embodiment of a threatened species fighting for survival.  This author is one of those who, by bringing the nature of the Cretan countryside to the attention of others, is fighting there - right alongside it - in the name of survival.

This book is worth having on anyone's bookshelf.