Crossing the Mountain

 

Walls
The landscape coming over the Atheras ridge is rocky and dry. Stone walls and terraces make up large portions of the land.
Roadside Church
Roadside church.
Catnap
We pass through several very quiet villages where there appear to be more cats than people.
Petropouli
We stop in Petropouli to look for the path into the Old Forest.

Petropouli

Petropouli
There is not a single person around to give us directions to the trailhead. We’ll have to come back another time.
North Coast
Our first view of the North coast of Ikaria as we make our way to the town of Evdilos.
Evdilos
Evdilos, Ikaria’s second port city.

The newer port cities in Ikaria, such as Evdilos and Agios Kirykos, were built after the mid-1800s when piracy was finally eradicated on the island.

Evdilos Port
The name “Evdilos” is said to come from the word for “visible” or “eye-catching,” though if the word is typed into a translation program, it is directly translated as meaning “vindictive.”
Evdilos Port
Evdilos was the capitol of Ikaria from 1834 – 1912 (the second Turkish occupation), before Agios Kirykos was given the title of capitol city.

People regularly fish in this harbor. Surprisingly, the water is very clear, and dozens of medium-sized fish can be seen swimming in the shallow waters here.

Evdilos Cat

Evdilos is a gateway for many of the locations in the North. There are other smaller roads that bypass Evdilos and seem closer to certain destinations, but generally the decision comes down to the following: “One-lane paved road with blind corners or scarier one-lane dirt road with blind corners?”

Bearded Man
This man is selling bundles of herbs and wild mushrooms he’s collected in the mountains.

The herb pictured above is a type of sage that is native to Ikaria. The flavor is reminiscent of North American sage, but with a more complex and pungent flavor.

Balsam Tea
This is a freshly brewed pot of balsam tea. It has a more subdued flavor than the sage.
Mountain Tea
All over the island, this plant is dried and labelled simply as “Mountain Tea.”
It is what is known in English as “ironwort,” and is used regularly by the people in Ikaria. It is said to be good for digestion and immunity. Due to its high demand as a medicinal tea, and the subsequent harvesting of the flowers before seed formation, the species is in decline throughout the Balkan Peninsula and Greece.

People in Ikaria drink tea from herbs they have gathered themselves. Many people who live here have a deep connection to the natural world, and recognize the edible and medicinal plants that grow around them. Several times, I have walked into the cafe holding a strange herb I’ve gathered in the mountains, and most people know the name of it and can tell me how to prepare it.

Mushrooms
Fresh wild mushrooms.

Evdilos Street

On our second day passing through Evdilos, every single business in town is closed. We are told by a Greek, in English, that it is due to a strike regarding “taxis.” We set off for home, perplexed as to why everything else was closed if it was only the taxis that were on strike. Later someone else explained that it all had to do with “taxes.”

Evdilos Port

Strikes occur very frequently in Greece. There is no reliable way of finding out about them ahead of time. As a result, we have three different back-up plans for getting off the island in January in case of transportation strikes.

Castle Road
On the way home, we see a sign for the “Castle Koskina,” and decide to take the road up the hill to check it out.
Castle Panorama
Castle Koskina, seen from afar. The Byzantine castle is almost all ruins now. The visible building constructed atop the castle ruins is “Agios Giorgios,” a renovated 10th century church.
Castle
Koskina Castle was built on the top of a very steep hill in order to provide a vantage point for enemy and pirate attacks.

Ikaria has several ancient castle ruins and a unique landscape that caught the eye of the major series “Game of Thrones,” which approached the government of Ikaria several years ago with the intention of filming the location of “Dorne” here. The official story is that “Greek bureaucracy” impeded the process. The local story is that the mayor of Ikaria said no. Regardless, “Game of Thrones” was forced to find another filming location and moved on to Spain instead.

Lone Goat
A lone goat stops to survey the landscape.
Marble hills
A goat herd makes its way over hills of marble.

There is evidence that most of Ikaria was once covered in forest. In recent years, due to EU subsidies, goats have increased three-fold. Overgrazing and associated issues have rendered many parts of the island barren, and are contributing to erosion and decrease in plant species.

Goat Herd

Castle ruins
This is the closest we get to the castle ruins. The road is rough, reaching the top involves a steep climb on foot, and we’re running out of daylight. Time to turn back.

There is really not much left of Koskina Castle – one must use the imagination. Though we hear from a friend that the 360 degree view from the top is spectacular, and also a perfect place to watch meteor showers.

Castle
Coming down, the paved road below us is a welcome sight.

Lone Tree

Sunset
Back in Magganitis just in time for sunset.

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