When I was in Holland, I visited an open-air windmill museum in Zaanse Schans . One of the windmills was being used to show the history of the clog, and there was a display in the windmill of how clogs were made. Dutch clogs look kind of strange, and I didn't think anyone would wear them now, as they look so dated, stemming back from a time when people had less and didn't have access to much else - until I saw an older-looking gent wearing a pair of bright yellow clogs as he was riding his bike in a quiet suburb of a Dutch town in the north.
When I decided to buy a pair of clogs (in the Swedish style and not the Dutch , even though they are made in Holland, because I'd really stand out if I ever chose to wear the latter in Crete), my husband thought I was mad. But they suit my kind of lifestyle - I only wear shoes when I have to, and if I can slip them on and off easily, all the better. I was given instructions at the clog windmill as to how to wear them "Always with a thick pair of socks, so they don't cause you any discomfort."
I began wearing my clogs in Hania in late autumn. I noticed that they made a lot of noise as I walked on the bare tiles of the floor, but I only put them on just before I was ready to leave the house. They were relatively quiet on the carpeted areas. But still, they did not pass by unnoticed. I wore them yesterday as I was taking a piece of moussaka to yiayia (which we cooked in the wood-fired heater). She looked down at my feet and said "So it's you who's been wearing tsokara!"
"Oops," I started apologetically. Yiayia lives downstairs from us, so I was obviously making quite a clatter as I walked about the house in them. "I didn't realise they were that loud, mama, sorry."
"I haven't heard that noise in years," she continued, as if she hadn't heard me. "They were the only shoes we had when I was a young girl, and throughout the war years. Our fathers would hew them out of wood, and nail a piece of leather on top for your feet. Most people didn't actually have any shoes at all, so I was very lucky that my father had made me a pair. And my mother never let me wear them without socks, unlike other children, whose feet were always looking red and sore, because they had no socks to wear with their clogs. And they had no other shoes, so if they didn't wear them, then they'd have to go barefoot. So many children had dirty feet in those days."
"They must have been useful in the fields, mama," I said, hoping to coax her memory to tell me more.
"Well, they never got left stuck in the mud, but if you were walking on the flat road, you often tripped because they were quite slippery. They needed a bit of rubber on the sole, but we didn't have anything, especially when the war broke out. We had nothing, not even any food. And I walked in those clogs without socks to the neighbouring village where we took refuge with another family. By the time we got there, my legs were so red and sore that my ankles had swelled and I collapsed."
Although she went through a terrible ordeal during WW2 , she still has the courage to talk about it. Even though she says she'd like to forget those times, it seems that in her older age (my mother-in-law is 88), she remembers those days even more clearly.