Year End

Magganitis Sunny Day
A sunny December day in Magganitis.

Ikaria has a mild climate, and the winters are generally short. Because the village of Magganitis is on the south side of the island, it can be as much as ten degrees warmer in winter than the villages on the other side of the mountain.

Aegean Rainstorm
A rainstorm moving across the Aegean Sea.

Winter is also when Magganitis receives most of its rain. However, it tends to rain in small bursts and not constantly. There are also sporadic lightning storms and high winds. The warmer winds, “Notyas,” originate in Africa, while the colder winds and storms, “Voryas,” come from Northern Europe. There is also occasional hail, which can occur during otherwise pleasant weather.

Stormy Walk
Two minutes before a hail storm.
Stormy Port
A storm looms over Magganitis.
Power Outage
We have a few candles for nights with no electricity.

We lose power and/or internet about once a week. If the lights don’t come back on by nightfall, we light a candle and go to bed early.


The winter weather in Magganitis is extremely changeable, which makes it imperative to seize the moment when there is a period of warmth and sunshine.

Cactus In The Sun

Last Olives
This is the very last of Mikalis’s olive harvest.

On every good weather day in December, the villagers continue busily harvesting olives. Mikalis is sorting through the last of his crop in order to separate the good and bad olives. It is later in the season and many of the olives have tiny holes where olive maggots have made their homes. The bad olives can still go to the olive press for oil, but cannot be preserved whole because they will rot.

Helping Nikki
Olive sacks are heavy.

We are out walking one day, and stop to help one of the villagers, Nikki, load her olive sacks into her vehicle.

Nikki and Mersina
Nikki and her sister Mersina.

Nikki and her sister Mersina are on their way to the oil press today. Nikki is a widow, and her five children all live in the United States or Canada. Like many others here, she calls her home in Ikaria “paradise,” but is also lonely for her family. She tries to stay busy here in the village.

Burn Pile
After pruning the olive trees for the year, families burn the branches, along with any other yard debris they have.

On any given day, there is a very smoky fire going somewhere in the village or in the surrounding areas. But strangely enough, there never seems to be more than one at a time, which keeps the air in the village somewhat breathable.

Ikarian Garden
Broccoli and lettuce grow in a winter garden.

The importance of these gardens should not be underestimated. Most Greeks who live in the city do not have access to their own fresh  food and must buy everything. Here in Ikaria, people are able to gather vegetables and fruit from their garden year-round, so they are always guaranteed to have a plate of food on their table, even when money gets tight.

In past years, when Magganitis was even more isolated and received no imports, families had to gather and produce everything they needed. This is changing now, as imports and infrastructure increase.

Magganitis Hotel
This area has been under construction since we arrived. The buildings will eventually be used as vacation rentals.
A villager shows off a large harvest of herbs and greens.
This vitamin-rich mix includes dandelion leaves and other bitter herbs.

We have a bit of trouble getting greens, due to the fact that we don’t have our own garden here. Ironically, since most people have vegetables and fruits at their homes, the cafes don’t even bother to stock them.

Ripe Lemons
All the citrus has ripened.

The cafe brought in a crate of lemons to sell, but they went moldy because no one was buying them. Everyone has too many lemons of their own!

Kostas is still harvesting his olives too. The electric device he is using to spin the olives off the top branches is powered by a diesel generator.

Just taking a short walk in Magganitis can easily result in several dinner invitations. Tonight, Kostas invites us over to BouBoukakia for a fish meal.

Kostas Fish Dinner
One of the most common meals here is simple fried fish with sliced lemon.

The next night, at Cafe Pantepoleion, a fisherman named Giorgos very generously sends us home with two kilos of raw squid.

Kalamari Whole
Unprocessed kalamari.

In the United States, when buying seafood such as squid, there is usually a certain amount of processing that has occurred before the consumer takes the product home. This is not the case in rural Greek villages.

Being novices to the cooking of squid, preparing the kalamari consumed the better part of a day. I should say that most of the day was actually spent staring at the leaking 2-kilo bag of squid, wondering what to do. And in the end, it was definitely one of the more time-consuming meals we’ve ever prepared.

Kalamari Prep
Preparing kalamari

We finally tackle it, but it is a two-person job.

Kalamari pen
Kalamari pen.

The innards of the squid must be removed, including the rigid pen.

Kalamari Skin
Peeling off the outer layer of speckled skin.

The sheath of speckled exterior flesh must be peeled off carefully and discarded. Otherwise the kalamari becomes tough while cooking.

Squid is extremely slippery, and we drop it multiple times while attempting to process it.

Kalamari Waste
Kalamari waste.

The “wings” and the ink sacs can be optionally retained for cooking, but since these are large squid, we choose not to use the wings, which can be tougher to prepare. And we accidentally puncture the ink sacs while pulling the entrails out. In the end, we have a good number of squid trimmings -the heads, eyes, hard pieces, beak, skin, and other inedible bits – which the cats are more than happy to eat for us. 

Kalamari Ingredients
Kalamari, ready for cooking.

What is left after our laborious effort: the smooth white ring-like exterior of the squid. 

Kalamari Strips
Kalamari, chopped into strips.

Our kitchen is covered in squid juice. We can’t get the smell off our hands, and we feel like we may never be clean again.

But…some onions, red wine, tomatoes, lemon and parsley…and a few hours later…

We have a delicious dinner! Thank you Giorgo!

Kalamari Pasta
Kalamari with onions, wine, tomatoes, and lemon, served over pasta.

Kalamari will always be a bit chewy, but if is cooked either very fast under high heat, or long and slow, it will eventually become quite tender as well. Anything in between these two cooking methods will result in a rubbery texture.

Solstice Dawn
Solstice sunrise.

We get up early on the shortest day of the year and watch the sun come up over the sea.

Solstice Moon
We also make time to watch the solstice moon drift through the wispy evening clouds. 
Cafe Doriforos
Cafe Doriforos

This period of winter gets very quiet in the village, as many people head back to Athens until Easter. Nightlife is centered around the few cafes that are open for the locals. There are almost no tourists here at this time of year. The cozy and warm Cafe Doriforos is reliably open every evening – with drinks, small plates of food, and sometimes live music.

Cafe Doriforos
The interior of Cafe Doriforos is quaint and cozy.

“Doriforos” means ‘satellite’ in English. The name of the cafe is used infrequently –  instead, the locals say they are going to “Christina” – the name of the woman who runs the small taverna.

Cafe Doriforos
Christina (left) runs Cafe Doriforos with her husband (middle).

Christina is from the United States, born to a Greek family. She speaks fluent Greek and English. Now she lives here in Magganitis and runs the cafe.

As we get closer to the beginning of Christmas, Panagiotis – who runs Cafe Pantepoleion – arranges a concert.

Panagiotis has played the violin for years and seems to know an infinite number of songs. His repertoire includes traditional songs from the Aegean area and Greek islands: wedding songs, dances such as zeibetiko, rembetiko music, and even the occasional tango.

A beautiful striped lute will soon take the stage.

Panagiotis is playing the concert with a friend from Evdilos. Cafe Pantepoleion welcomes visitors from all over the island, who crowd in to hear good music, eat special food, and drink until all hours.

Concert Dancing
Around 1am, the dancing starts.

When the Greeks say the music goes all night, they aren’t kidding. Mid-morning, it is time to get a ride home with several other people. As it turns out, they are not going home to bed yet! Instead, they are going over to drink coffee at Vasso’s house.

Vasso Coffee
Coffee and cookies at Vasso’s house.
Vasso Kitchen
Vasso’s kitchen is filled with antiques.
Vasso Iron
An old-style iron.
Vasso Grain Mill
Underneath the clay vessel there is even an old grain mill consisting of two stone plates and a crank.

Vasso sends cookies home with us. It is almost time for the sun to come up!

Magganitis Dawn

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