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  Nr. 27 - June 2000
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Gia Sta Xeria Sou, Beneto!

by Angelica Eder, June 2000
Blessed be your Hands Benetto!

As you enter the gates of Scorpios Museum, you suddenly find yourself in a magic little garden, where the feeling comes into your mind that you have been taken back in time to the poetic realms of your childhood world of Gulliver’s Travels and Alice in Wonderland (without the magic “drink me” potion!).

When you ring the bell, Poppi ‘pops out’ of the small building and welcomes you with a friendly smile and directs you to the magnificent display, a mini-mundus of traditional Cycladic architecture, which awaits you. As you walk along the pathways in the beautifully landscaped garden you may recognise some buildings from your travels - each one representing the architectural highlights of different islands, such as the famous pilgrimage church of Tinos, one of the lovely Tinos pigeon towers, a watermill from Naxos, the Venetian Castle of Paroikia, a blacksmith’s workshop (almost life-size), an oil-press, churches, windmills, the lighthouse of Andros, the amphitheatre of Milos and many more. Also along the perimeter walls you will find interesting bric-a-brac of old tools and items recalling some of the history of everyday life in a rural community.

If you are lucky, you will even come across Benetto working on his latest piece and have the opportunity to chat with him.

Poppi will then invite you to see inside the museum building where you will find more miniature artifacts and tools from local agricultural life on display - a loom, a farmhouse, a raki distillation boiler, a windmill - each item reflecting the skills and lifestyle within the local traditions on the islands. You will also find a wonderful collection of model boats and ships to attract your attention. There are samples of simple fishing boats, cargo vessels, magnificent two and three-masted sailing ships, ancient warships and a model of the famous steamboat “Moschanti” one of the first passenger ships to travel to and from the islands.

The history of this enchanting place goes back to when, like many young men from the islands, Benetto went to sea, where for many years he travelled around the world on big cargo ships and worked in the Penteli quarries. When he met Poppi, he settled down, though he continued to make his living from the sea. Initially he began on his uncle’s boat, which was used to transport things from Paros to Antiparos - the “Galiotta” (to be seen at the museum). As a talented and skilled craftsman, he built his own first fishing boat - Laïki Poppi, named after his lovely wife.

When not busy at sea or in the fields, Benetto spent all his free time building miniatures and small models and artifacts, and still continues to do so today. The actual creation of each piece is preceded by meticulous research, plans and sketches and then elaborated with natural materials in every detail.

In 1977, the couple bought a piece of land, cleared and planted it, and that is where Benetto started to display his first pieces just for friends and neighbours to look at. With the passing years the collection grew, as Benetto and Poppi devoted all their love, effort and time to preserving the old Cycladic ways and traditions, so that they would not be lost to the memory of the world. This culminated in the ‘museum’ which opened in 1990.

Benetto’s last piece is a wonderful church, dedicated to his daughter Katerina, which is built to scale and perfect in every detail - big enough for the priest to enter - which is what he did when it was inaugurated on 23rd April surrounded by friends and admirers.

Benetto and Poppi’s work is very much appreciated among the local people and reflects the love and dedication they have put into it. As a quotation on the wall of the museum says “Love needs signs - needs modesty - needs the hare’s careful run and the bird’s quickness.”

You can find Scorpios museum past the airport, towards Aliki. Turn left just before the Total petrol station. It is open every day from 1st May to 30th September 10.00-14.00 and from 10th June also 18.00-20.00hrs. Entrance fee 500drs. Tel: Benetto & Poppi Skiadas - 91129, 91391.
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