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  • Lia Vernescu

Papa Michalis, and his museum

He created - in his own house - an enchanted place where you step back in time and immerse in the Cretan life the way it was. His dedication, his love and the care for his homeland - and especially its people - are unique to me. You look at all those things that belonged to people that are gone, and somehow you feel grateful that somebody put them together and did not let them go into oblivion . . . That's patriotism in truth, the genuine one; not the vain, trumpeted patriotism like we see a lot in the world . . . His work is without end . . .

A Greek friend says that in Greece there are many such small museums, created by individuals, with their own money, in their own area, and often in their own houses; made with love and passion and a duty to preserve and pass on their heritage.

Papa Michalis Georgoulakis and his ancestors built the house in 1890, and started collecting objects dated from even earlier: chronologically, the entire collection spans from 1820 until recently.


. . . We were in Crete, driving through villages, and got lost. And in one village, we saw the sign of the museum, up in the distance, perched between roofs and walls of houses. We recognised the emblem of Constantinople (the two-headed eagle) and the word "mouzeion", with "eleftheria" ("freedom") above it, so we stopped, parked the car, and found our way through a maze of narrow streets. And there, to the end of the village, there was the "mouzeion". . .

The door was open, but there was nobody in. We were alone, so we entered the museum and wandered about, mesmerised. Everything was as if illuminated in the sunlight filtered through the vine leaves and the blue flowers from the trees. It was magic, tranquil and serene. And later on, at a moment, when I turned my head, I saw him . . . Papa Michalis. He must have come down from upstairs. It was so unexpected, he was quite an appearance, in his red robe fastened with a wide leather belt, the big cross on the chain on his chest, the long white beard - he looked majestic, he looked like patriarchs from the Bible, he was so imposing. We were lost not only in space, but in time as well. We wanted to take a picture of him but we were intimidated to do so: one cannot capture his spirit in a picture . . .

We could not talk a thing with him because of the language barrier. He only invited us to sit on chairs, he himself sat on one, and we sat and looked at each other for a while. Without saying a word. Just looking at each other, but as if we were having a deep and long conversation.


Googling Papa Michalis now, I find out that he passed away in 2008. It must have happened a short while after we visited him. The museum is being looked after by his children; nowadays, it is called "Oriseum museum". The words that describe him the best are these (found on, on their „traveller's diary”):

„ . . . knowing that present becomes past very fast . . .”

~ Papa Michalis Georgoulakis Mouzeion - Asomatos village, Crete ~

foto: © Lia Vernescu

P.S. Well, am pus această postare sub „Runatice” pentru că urme de Papa Michalis se pot recunoaște în nana Eufemia (și, mult mai vag, în Esan) - personaje din romanul meu „Runa și demonul scrisului”. Peste care am adăugat o anume fotografie din albumul lui Kurt Hielscher: „Rumänien. Landschaft, Bauten, Volksleben, Leipzig, F.A. Brockhaus 1933” (da, nana Eufemia este chiar ea...):


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