In less than an hour by foot, it is possible to reach the small church of Agios Nektarios from the center of Magganitis.
The church of Agios Nektarios is located west of our village, on the very rough road to Karkinagri, the westernmost settlement of Ikaria.
This path is so desolate that aside from the occasional car, all one can hear is the distant clinking of bells as the goats jump over the boulders in the mountains.
We have been in Ikaria for weeks, and though pork seems to make its way into every meal people try to feed us here, we never saw a single pig anywhere – until today! Most Ikarians do not have the luxury or habit of keeping animals as pets, and are mainly inclined to keep animals that serve a purpose, such as for meat, milk or eggs. This pig is surely destined to become a meal at some point, but since we will be leaving the island within a few weeks, we will probably not be around to partake in its demise.
Despite its bleakness, this path is an excellent place to witness some geology in action.
Southwestern Ikaria got its boulders through a process called “spheroidal weathering.” In places where this occurs, granite starts out by fracturing along joints in the subsurface, which splits the rocks into cubes. When water seeps into these cracks, chemical decay transforms the exposed areas into a type of granite sand called “grus.” The corners of the granite cubes have the most joint intersections, thus are the most susceptible to breaking down. This is why the boulders are rounded instead of angular. The process of spheroidal weathering all takes place underground, and the boulders are eventually exposed through the process of erosion.
Nektarios was born in the 1800s in an area that is now occupied by Turkey. He started as a shop assistant, then took a teaching job on the island of Chios. There he entered the local monastery and eventually was appointed deacon. As deacon, he was much admired for his writings and teachings, as well as his love and patience toward his flock. He was eventually ordained bishop in an Egyptian diocese. His popularity stirred envy in higher church officials, and he was eventually removed from his role.
He returned to Greece, continued to write and teach, and was inspired to found a monastery for women in Aegina. The monastery thrived, and Nektarios spent the rest of his days serving as a spiritual guide there. He was also visited by people from distant lands who sought advice and healing.
After his death, several miracles were attributed to him. Some years later, in 1961, the Orthodox Church declared him a saint. His feast day is celebrated on November 9th every year.
The church is locked. I look around for a key, but it is nowhere to be found.
After walking past the church, I come to what looks like a giant puddle, but is actually a stream that is flowing over the entire road.
Various sycamores grow all over the world. This variety, with lacier leaves, grows in Asia and Southern Europe. Sycamores prefer wet areas, and they are found predictably in Ikaria around streams and river canyons. They are some of the largest trees growing on the island.
This road leads to the west coast of Ikaria, and would take the better part of a day to walk there. Most cars don’t even come this far.