Last Days in Agios Kirykos

Though this may look like the beginning of a commercial for a four-wheel-drive vehicle, it is actually a picture of the Hyundai Matrix that we’ve been driving around Ikaria for almost a month. Due to the expense of gas and the dangerousness of the local roads, we’ll be returning it to the rental car company in less than a week.
Agios Kirykos Port
We drive to Agios Kirykos several days in a row, since soon we will no longer have access to things like grocery stores and banks.

Agios Kirykos Streets

Agios Kirykos Streets

Agios Kirykos Christmas ornaments
Christmas decorations are starting to go up.

Christmas Santa

Agios Kirykos ChristmasTree
In the main square in Agios Kirykos, children play around the Christmas tree, which has been created with a synthetic fabric of some kind.
Christmas Shopping
Christmas shopping with baby, outside the Agios Kirykos floral and plant shop.
Painted Succulents
These succulents have been coated with paint for the holidays.
Chocolate Santas
The sweet shops sell chocolate Santas. However, we have learned that, although the Greeks make some delicious products, chocolate is definitely not their forte.
Christmas display
Christmas displays line the shop windows.
Mistletoe doves
Even the doves are getting into the holiday spirit under the “mistletoe.”
Collared doves
There are no domestic pigeons in Ikaria. These collared doves seem to fill the same niche, pecking for crumbs in areas with a lot of human activity, such as the larger towns of the island.
Fish market in Agios Kirykos
Fresh fish have arrived at the Agios Kirykos fish and meat market.
The fish at the back of this bin are called “Balades” in Greek and are a form of sea bream. They are a deep-sea fish, which is why their eyes are so large.
Oregano Chips
The Greeks love oregano so much that in some shops, the only potato chips available are “Rigani” flavored.
Oregano chips
I only purchased these chips once, out of curiosity. They did not taste like oregano to me -more like celery salt or poultry seasoning.

We eventually locate some plain potato-chips, which are labeled as “Salt-flavored.”

Feta Container
The smallest size of feta available in most stores is a 2-kilo container, which equals about 4 and a half pounds of cheese.

Given the amount of feta most Greeks eat in one sitting, this container will likely yield only four or five servings!

Stormy Day
On our second day in Agios Kirykos, there is a windstorm starting, and a flight from the island’s one airport has been cancelled.

The area next to the port, which is visible in the photograph above, is usually full of vehicles. Due to the high winds and water, they have almost all been moved away in order to prevent damage.

Agios Kirykos back alleys
The back alleys of Agios Kirykos.


Ikaria’s communist organization has a large sign hanging near the main square.
Christmas Cats
The many cats of Agios Kirykos have claimed every possible surface as nap space. These two are resting on an olive harvesting net, which is for sale at the nursery in town.

Motorcycle Cat

Cat in dumpster

Many of the feral cats in Greece are Aegean cats, a breed that has developed naturally, without selective breeding by humans, and is therefore resistant to many usual genetic diseases. Aegean cats originate from the Cyclades – a group of islands that lies directly to the southwest of Ikaria. The cats are usually bi-colored or tri-colored, with white being the most dominant color.

Agios Kirykos
Later in the day, a single boat decides to brave the rough waters in the port.

Late afternoon sun

Agios Kirykos boat

Agios Kirykos Jetty
We decide to walk out to the end of the jetty in order to see a tall metal statue honoring Icarus, for whom Ikaria is named.

The large letters on the side of the wall spell out “Welcome to the island of Ikaria” in Greek.

Icarus Statue

According to Greek mythology, Icarus – son of Daedalus – carelessly flew too close to the sun, melted his wax wings, and plunged into the sea just off the southern coast of Ikaria.

Sunlit spray on the jetty
Looking back toward town, the late afternoon sun illuminates the sea spray coming over the edge of the jetty.
Agios Kirykos
The sun shines on the hillside, lighting up Agios Kirykos church.
Icarus Rock
On our way home, we can see Icarus rock from the road. This is where Icarus is said to have fallen when he lost his wings.

This rock can be reached by boat from our village, but most people have taken their boats out of the dock for the winter, so we are unlikely to go on any excursions.

Kitty Diner
Back at our room in Magganitis, the kitty diner is open for business.
Lambros Cats
Up the street, Lambros has the same situation.

Lambros’s sister, Athina, will be staying in Athens until next year. He doesn’t miss her nagging him to put on extra sweaters all the time, but he does miss her cooking. He’s finally solved the food issue by paying one of the women in the village to cook him a daily meal for 150 Euros a month, which equals about $180. He spends the rest of his time feeding stray cats, watching television, taking walks, watering plants, and enjoying general peace and quiet.

Lambros gives us some “kathoura” cheese to try. It is homemade by one of his relatives. Kathoura is a special local cheese that isn’t sold in stores at all, but instead is found in homes and restaurants all over the island. It has a flavor much like fresh mozzarella, and can either be salted or unsalted.
Alekos, who is Lambros’s cousin and also the owner of the rooms where we’re staying, has come back to Ikaria for several days.
He’s bought some sea bream from Agios Kirykos!
De-scaling balades
He de-scales the fish in his garage while one of the neighborhood cats waits patiently at the window for a scrap.
Balades final rinse
Time to give the sea bream a final rinse.
Flouring Balades
Within several minutes, they are floured and ready to go in the frying pan.

Frying Balades

Balades Dinner
Complete with a Greek salad, bread and wine.
Lambros joins us for dinner as well.
Aleko's ship
Alekos comes from a line of seamen, and has worked as a ship engineer his entire life. This is a photo of his ship from years ago.
Aleko's father's ship
This picture, from 1933, shows Aleko’s father’s ship.
Ship Compass
Old ship compass
Oil Lamp
Anyone born here before the 1980s remembers growing up in Magganitis without electricity. This is an old oil lamp that was used during that time.
There are advantages to being on a mountainous island with very few lights. After nightfall, we are able to see the spectacular Geminid meteor showers from the hill above our room.

Visibility Check

Visibility Check
If the mountaintops are obscured by clouds, it is not wise to travel.

The winding narrow road that goes from the southern coast near Magganitis over the top of the Atheras ridge becomes dangerous in weather like this. We have gotten used to checking visibility daily.

Mountain Clouds
This is the only morning we forgot to look up.

This photo represents our drive over the top of the mountain. Shortly after the photo was taken, we almost collided with a car that was driving down the middle of the road with no headlights on. I wish I could say this is unusual – but in Greece, most drivers seem to have a death wish.

Mountain Clouds

Mountain Clouds
Trees start to appear in the clouds.

Mountain Clouds

Steep Hill Sign
We’ve cleared the tallest part of the ridge, and can now see the usual road signs once again.
Two Vehicles Stopped
And the usual traffic jams.

These two vehicles are stopped in the middle of the road while the drivers have a nice leisurely conversation. This is an extremely common sight in Ikaria, where no one is ever worried about time.

Pickup with goatskin and wine
Ikaria’s population is not many more than 8000 people – and in the wintertime, even fewer. This means it is usual to see the same vehicle on the road multiple days in a row.

We see this blue pickup almost every day we take our car out. This particular day, it is transporting a fresh goat skin and a barrel of wine.

Three-wheeled truck
A three-wheeled truck transporting olives.
Exclamation Sign
These exclamation signs are all over the island. They are a warning for danger ahead.
Faded Stop Sign
This long-ignored stop sign finally gave up.
A supermarket on the North shore, built in the middle of nowhere on the edge of the sea. Also, the only location of cheddar cheese on the entire island.
Megalo Fragma
Megalo Fragma, a lake created by Pezi Dam.

This reservoir is located at an altitude of 1600 feet in a natural depression created by the mountaintops surrounding Raches. Because the location was naturally efficient for the collection of rainwater flowing off the mountain peaks, Ikarians constructed a small dam here, on the river Myrsonas, that captures the water that would otherwise go to waste.

In times of heavy rainfall, the excess water flows into the sea as it would naturally. No project to harness this excess water has yet been finalized, though over the years, there have been murmurings of a project for a hydroelectric plant.

Megalo Fragma
The wetlands area around Fragma are an important habitat for many species of birds and amphibians.
Mounte Monastery
The sign for Evaggelismos “Mounte” Monastery, located above Megalo Fragma.
Mounte Monastery
The monastery was first built here in 1460 A.D., after the Virgin Mary appeared to a local resident in a dream, disclosing this exact location as the site for unearthing an exquisite icon of the Immaculate Conception. This icon remains on display at the monastery today.
Mountes Monastery
At a later date, the original monastery was widened and two additional chapels constructed, resulting in a three-domed basilica.

Three-domed basilica

Mounte Monastery
Mounte Monastery was originally founded as a “nunnery” for monastic sisters, and remained such until 2013.
Mounte Monastery
The monastery houses many murals and icons, including some creations by the famous painter Zosima.

Unfortunately, due to our off-season visit, not a single building was open.

Mountes Monastery
During the years of the Greek Civil War, at the end of the 1940s, the monastery served as a sanatorium for 120 political refugees suffering from tuberculosis, some of whom are still buried here in the courtyard.

Mounte Courtyard

Mounte Monastery
The origin of the monastery’s name is contested. One theory states that a family from Chios, who financed the renovation of the monastery in 1893, gave their name to it. Another theory states that “Mounte” came from the Italian word for mountain,”Il monte,” and was given during the Italian occupation of the 1940s due to the monastery’s location amongst the mountains.

Mounte Monastery

There is one monk who tends to the monastery today. He gives tours and holds occasional services.

Lower Chalaris Canyon – Nas to Raches

Nas Street
The streets of Nas, a tiny village of fifty permanent inhabitants, on the northwest coast of Ikaria.

Nas is as far west as we can come on the main road from Evdilos. If we continue down the west part of the island on the dirt road toward Karkinagri, we will no longer be covered under our rental car agreement.

Nas child
Outside the one taverna that is currently open, a child plays in the sunlight.
Nas Taverna
Inside, her mother makes us some delicious food – souvlaki, boiled greens, beets, and fava dip with lemon.
Nas Beach
The village of Nas overlooks a picturesque beach, as well as the ruins of a temple for Artemis.

Nas, beloved by Ikarians, is believed to be the very first settlement on the island, and was an important port for ships seeking harbor on the way to Asia Minor.

Temple from afar
Temple ruins from afar.

The word “Nas” is thought to be derived from the Greek work for temple, “Naos,” or a modification of the ancient name”Ma,” used for the goddess Artemis throughout Asia Minor.

Trail down to Nas Beach
The trail down to the beach in Nas, which is considered to be one of Ikaria’s most beautiful. It is also one of a handful of nude beaches on the island.

Nas Beach

Nas Beach steps
Looking back up toward the top, with most of the village of Nas visible on the hill above.
Chalaris Mouth
The mouth of the Chalaris River, which ends at the beach in Nas. The Chalaris River is the biggest river in Ikaria.
Nas Beach
From the ruins of a 15th century harbor quay looking out toward Nas Beach.

Nas Beach

Temple Ruins
In the 6th century, a temple was built in this spot for the mother goddess Artemis, protector of seafarers, hunters, and wild animals.
Temple Ruins
The temple was in fair condition until 1830, when most of the stone blocks were dismantled by villagers for the single purpose of constructing a church.

According to historical records, the temple’s statue of Artemis, which was originally housed in the temple, was hidden in the nearby river. The giant columns of the temple are visible underwater if snorkeling off the coast.

Nas Trailhead
A hike through the lower Chalaris Canyon starts at this point near the mouth of the Chalaris River.

In order to access the trailhead, which is difficult to find and obscured on the side of the road, we start from the main road through Nas and continue toward Karkinagri. Just past Nas, the road curves and there is a small overpass that crosses over the canyon. We park at this point, next to the small pool pictured above, and locate a red marker for the trail on the east side of the overpass, climbing along the side of the hill.

Chalaris Trail
The trail starts in a boulder field.
Chalaris Trail
This hike is listed as challenging, and lives up to its reputation.

The trail, which climbs along the steep slope of the Chalaris Canyon, promises to shred shoes and weaken knees, and is not recommended for those who are scared of heights.

Chalaris Trail
Pools are nestled in amongst the rocky landscape.

Chalaris Trail

Chalaris Trail

Chalaris Hike

Chalaris Trail
From the pools near the mouth of the river, a steep ascent begins.

Chalaris Trail

Chalaris Tree

Chalaris Cliff

Chalaris hike
A dense network of black tubing has been painstakingly placed through the most remote areas of Ikaria, and brings water from high mountain springs to villages all over the island.
Chalaris Trail
The view looking back toward Nas

Chalaris Trail

Chalaris trees
Climbing toward the Raches region, pine tree forests appear. The needles cover uneven ground, which makes for an unpredictable hiking situation.

Chalaris Forest

Chalaris Forest

Chalaris View

Chalaris View

In 2005, a native Ikarian advocated for the development of hiking paths throughout this area, in an effort not only to bring awareness to the natural beauty of the gorge, but also to promote future protection of Chalaris Canyon in the face of environmental concerns such as overgrazing.

A network of trails was subsequently etched into the landscape here – a labor of love on the part of local volunteers from groups such as SCI Hellas volunteers and the Citizens’ Movement of Raches.

Chalaris Canyon
The view looking down Chalaris Canyon toward Ikaria’s interior.

Tragically, in the fall of 2010, torrential rainstorms caused a massive landslide on the overgrazed, fragile slopes of Lower Chalaris Canyon, which leveled the earth and destroyed most of the trees, waterfalls, caves and pools along the river. A huge amount of debris was strewn throughout the canyon – mostly broken plastic irrigation tubing  – and required a massive clean-up during the following spring.

The Upper Chalaris Canyon is preserved in its previous state, and is considered to be an even more challenging hike that allows access to a waterfall and pool network within the Raches area. However, the only entrance to the trail that we could locate, near Profitas Elias just past Christos Raches, does not appear to be upkept, and is inaccessible from the road.

Raches Door
After several hours of hiking, the Lower Chalaris Trail leads up to the village of Christos Raches.
Round of Raches
Christos Raches is a base for a network of hiking trails called “The Round of Raches.”

The inner western section of Ikaria was historically very isolated. Up until several decades ago, the trails that were created by locals over hundreds of years served mainly Ikarians themselves. They were intended for pedestrians and animals who were transporting various goods from one village to another.

Since 1995, an eco-tourism effort has been underway, with the support of local organizations, to maintain and extend this network of trails so that all visitors may enjoy the rugged beauty of the island’s interior.

Round of Raches

The trail markers for the Round of Raches are clearly marked, with various colors and shapes denoting which trails to follow. This happens to be the trail that is marked with a yellow-bordered red dot, which means that at some point, this trail will split into a red-marked trail and a separate yellow-marked trail.

Round of Raches
The “Round of Raches” offers multiple options for hikes in the area.

Round of Raches

Round of Raches

Round of Raches
A view of Christos Raches, as we follow the “monopatia” or footpaths, away from the village.

Round of Raches

Round of Raches

The hike from Nas to Raches and back takes about five-six hours.

Traveling back along the north shore, our last stop for the day is in Armenistis.

In summer, Armenistis is the most popular village in Ikaria, due to its proximity to the more desirable sandy beaches as well as the hiking trails of Raches. In winter, it is a ghost town.



Leonidas and Ioanna
We find only one place open in the whole town – a sweet shop called “Grand Mam’s Recipes,” run by a husband and wife named Leonidas and Ioanna.
Armenistis Loukoumades
The sweet shop sells loukoumades and homemade goat milk ice cream. Also available are cookies, Ikarian herbal teas, various savory pies and jars of jam and spoon sweets.



“Philoxenia,” or friendship to strangers, is an ancient concept that developed when Greeks believed that gods, disguised as strangers, walked amongst them. The ritual of this reciprocal hospitality seems to persist today, and is a point of pride for many Ikarians.

It is impossible to get lonely in Magganitis.

Grocery shopping for two items may last for several hours because the shopkeeper wants to pour us wine, feed us homemade food, and socialize. 

We’ve lost count of how many times we’ve gone to pay for our drinks at the end of a night in the village cafe, only to find out that one of our Greek friends has already covered the tab.

We also get frequent invitations to people’s houses. Because it is a small village, there are no addresses here. People give directions using landmarks instead. 

Today we are going to visit Mikalis, an acquaintance who lives outside Magganitis. Our only instructions are to walk west a few miles out of town and look for his house near a small church called Agios Nektarios.

Skull On Rock

Mikalis lives in an area that was once a fertile and desirable place for villagers to have their gardens. Now it is mostly barren – with rocks, small trees, and the occasional goat.

Yellowjacket Nest
A yellowjacket nest stretches across the path.
A stream near Mikalis's house
The small stream just outside Mikalis’s house.

Mikalis Exterior

Luckily, his house is easy to find because it is incongruous with traditional Ikarian architecture: he has built a North American-style cabin using large cedar logs that his son transported from Chillawack, British Columbia. 

Mikalis Solar
Mikalis has installed six 250-watt Japanese-made (Kyocera) solar panels outside his home.
Mikalis House
The cedar log theme continues inside the house.

Mikalis House

Mikalis House
This is the closest design to an American-style bathroom that we have seen on the island so far.

Not all bathrooms in Greece have shower stalls, and even fewer have bathtubs. For instance, after we take showers in our apartment bathroom (the whole room is the shower stall), we squeegee the water down the drain with a dustpan and wipe down the floor with a towel.

Almost no toilet in Greece can accommodate toilet paper. There are small bins in all bathrooms where waste paper must be disposed of.

Mikalis Smoking
Mikalis is very proud of his “American-style” house and loves to have visitors.

The wine pictured in the carafe is homemade, like much of the wine encountered in Ikaria. It is all within a year old – and at the rate Ikarians drink it, does not last into the second year anyway. The flavor of each family’s wine is unique, and most do not resemble the commercially distributed wine we are familiar with – but instead have varying degrees of dry earthiness, sweetness,  or band-aid like aroma (high Brettanomyces yeast concentration) that take some time to get used to. Nonetheless, the local wine tastes clean on the palate and pairs well with most of the simple food here.

Mikalis Feta
We are served a small meal. It consists of feta cheese.
Kefalo Gravieri
More cheese. This is a harder cheese called KefaloGravieri. It tastes like a combination of gouda and parmesan, with a hint of goat.
Mikalis Cheese
Yet more cheese. This is a soft cheese with herbs added. The herb added is a wild savory called “Throumbi,” which tastes like a mixture of oregano and thyme.
Mikalis Throumbi
Mikalis is grinding throumbi that he gathered himself. The wild savory grows on the mountain only above 1500 feet.

Visiting Ikarians is an open-ended endeavor that could potentially last all day. People are profoundly generous and are often inexhaustible hosts.

And of course, all Greek households have an infinite supply of bread, feta, wine, and stories, thereby giving guests no excuse at all to ever leave.


Nameday Celebration

Agios Nikolaos
Today is a nameday celebration in honor of Agios Nikolaos (Saint Nicholas). A number of Greek people in town, as well as the main church in Magganitis, are named after the patron saint.

Both men and women may be named after patron Saint Nikolaos. For instance, we know multiple men named “Nikos,” and several women called “Nikki.”

Inside Agios Nikolaos
Anyone named after the patron Saint Nikolaos, or anyone who has anyone in their family named after the patron saint, attends the celebration at Agios Nikolaos this morning.

Like the majority of churches in Ikaria, Agios Nikolaos follows the Greek Orthodox tradition. The Greek Orthodox Church has been an integral part of maintaining identity and culture in Greece, especially while Greeks lived under Ottoman control for hundreds of years. Most important holidays are connected with the Church.

Nikolaos Icons
Icons depicting Saint Nikolaos.

During the two hour church service, people filter in when they are able. The ritual of entering the church involves crossing oneself, and kissing one or more of these icons.

It is also customary to take beeswax candles to light, as a prayer either for oneself or a loved one in need. Candles are an important symbol of faith in the Church, and are displayed prominently.

The first time I attended a church service here, I did not realize that there was a “men’s” side, and a “women’s” side, and I went to stand in the first spot I saw, which happened to be on the “men’s” side. Immediately, a lady from across the aisle smiled and motioned to me to come sit down next to her. I thought she was just happy to see me! It was only later that I realized I was just getting put in the “proper spot.”

Artos Bread
Church-goers bring many large round bread loaves called “Artos,” or sacramental bread, which are cut up into large chunks after the ceremony and distributed amongst the townsfolk.

The bread loaves are all slightly different, but they are all made with wheat and are slightly sweet, often containing seeds such as fennel or sesame.

Cutting Artos bread
Cutting the sacramental bread.
Leaving Agios Nikolaos
Outside the church after the ceremony, people stop to wish each other “Chronia Pola,” or ‘Many Years!”

There would normally be live music performed for a nameday celebration like this. However, due to the recent death of a musician from Magganitis, a period of respect is observed in which other musicians refrain from playing during events.

Cafe Crowd
Everyone, including the priest, packs into the cafe across the street.

Going to the cafe to drink, eat and talk after church service helps bind everyone in the village together socially.

Panagiotis fries up some “loukoumades” for everyone. “Loukoumades” are the Greek version of doughnuts, made by frying little balls of dough, drenching them in honey, and sprinkling cinnamon on top.


After the nameday celebration at Agios Nikolaos, people continue celebrating for the rest of the day in their homes. Little parties happen all over Magganitis, and people may go from one house to another – to drink, eat, and enjoy good company for hours on end.

Magganitis at dusk

Magganitis Village / Part III

I had no idea that the starving cat I’ve been feeding was a mother. She brings her three kittens with her one morning to get breakfast.
Kittens eating
Cat food goes on the grocery list sooner than expected.
Roula Patio
Time to visit Roula, or “Bou-Bou,” as she’s called by townspeople.
Close to our room, Bou-Bou has a little store called “BouBoukakia.”

BouBoukakia is an eclectic and colorful space: groceries are shelved amongst knick-knacks of all sorts – beach stones in bottles, shells, ceramic figurines, family photos, and plants. Bou-Bou also serves food here, but the grocery/cafe keeps informal hours in the winter, so it’s best to call ahead.

Roula Pation
On Bou-Bou’s patio, plants and beach rocks fill every nook and cranny.

Roula patio

Bou Bou Rocks
Painted stones are a signature element of Bou-Bou’s space.
Seychelles Swim
The sunny warm days are dwindling, so we seize the opportunity to go for a swim.
Matthew swimming in the Aegean Sea.
Magganitis Coastline
Seychelles is not the only beach near Magganitis. Within town, there is rumored to be another beach called Firodi.
Magganitis Coastline
We set off in search of Firodi Beach.
Magganitis Coastline
This turns out to be the wrong road.
Magganitis Coastline
What this photo does not show is us getting lost in an olive grove and injured by an olive tree.

We are told by a local that during this time of year, olive tree injuries in Greek hospitals increase exponentially.

Magganitis Coastline
This looks like a beach entrance.
Ferodi Beach
We have the beach to ourselves.

Ferodi Boulder

Ferodi Cave
A narrow cave.
Ferodi Beach
Matthew watches small sea creatures by the shore.
Ferodi Beach
We find shells, broken rosary beads, and the ubiquitous plastic debris that now adorns the world’s beaches and oceans.

Rusty door

Theoktistis Monastery

Sign to Theoktistis monastery
Theoktistis monastery is located in the northern interior of the island, in a pine forest near the village of Pigi.
Theoktistis Monastery
No one knows exactly when the monastery was built, but it was operating as far back as the year 1500, when it was recorded that as many as 100 monks lived here.
Theoktistis Monastery
The main temple is designed in a barrel-vaulted style and contains several murals. Unfortunately, no buildings are open while we’re here.

Theoktistis Monastery

Theoktistis monastery
The last inhabitants left the monastery in 1982. Today, it is cared for by residents of the surrounding villages.

Theoktistis Monastery

Theoktistis Monastery
In addition to the main temple, the monastery consists of fifteen cells, plus various other structures and spaces.

Theoktistis monastery

Theoktistis Monastery

Theoktistis Monastery

Theoktistis Monastery
There are dozens of types of flowers at the monastery, including common marigolds.
Purple flower
Our favorite was this glowing African Daisy with an icy indigo core.
Because most people gather wild herbs in Ikaria, it is rare to see this familiar version of rosemary.
Chapel of Theokespasti
Up the hill from the main temple is the Chapel of Theokespasti, which is built into a cave underneath a boulder – a pirate-era building technique.
Chapel of Theokespasti
“Theokespasti” means ‘Roof provided by God.’

Magganitis Village / Part II

Giant Squash
These giant two-foot long winter squashes are starting to appear outside people’s doors. After going to someone’s house for dinner one night, we come home with our very own giant squash.
Giant Cabbage
Most Ikarians grow these large collard greens in their gardens over the winter. They are not available in stores.
Uncle Giorgos Goat
One of three goats belonging to Uncle Giorgos.

Uncle Giorgos is Mikalis’s elderly uncle, and lives below the olive grove in Paleohora. Most conversations with him involved shouting back and forth across the olive fields, so it was weeks before we actually met him in person.

Last Olives
Olive harvesting continues. Mikalis is rushing to get his olives picked and pressed before he leaves for Athens in a few days in order to be with a family member having surgery.

As it turns out, the ferry going to Athens that day was cancelled due to rough seas, and we saw him running to catch a plane instead (which he also missed, because he was still in the Magganitis cafe a day later, eating salt fish and drinking tsipouro (very strong pomace brandy).

Brining Olives
These are olives from this year, in the process of being cured. They are being soaked in water for several weeks to remove the bitterness.
Last Years Olives
These are last year’s olives. Mikalis tells us they are preserved in corn oil because olive oil causes them to spoil faster.
Mikalis's house
This is Mikalis’s house, which his great-grandparents built in 1908.
Mikalis's Garden
Mikalis shows us his garden, which grows on terraced slopes beneath his house.

Mikalis lives right next to the sea, and loves to have coffee every morning on his patio underneath his fig tree. He describes it as “parathissos,” the Greek word for “paradise.”

Mikalis Garden

Mikalis Garden

Mikalis picks tomatoes
Mikalis picks tomatoes for us out of his garden.
Mikalis picks a rose
Fragrant white roses.

Mikalis is retired, like most of the people who live in Magganitis year-round. Younger people must move to Athens, America, or elsewhere in order to find work, and can only visit Ikaria during the summer months when they have vacation. Many of the retired people who live here now spent decades of their lives in mainland Greece or America in order to earn money, and are now enjoying the relaxed lifestyle of the island in their old age.

Lambros and Athina
We are invited again for one last meal with Lambros and Athina before Athina leaves to spend the holidays with her daughters in Athens.

The meal includes a ziti-like meat casserole, savory pumpkin and greens pasties, and cabbage salad. Once again, when I tell Athina there is too much food on my plate, she doubles it.

Quince Spoon Sweets
Western-style desserts are not commonly eaten after meals, but it is popular to serve a small plate of spoon sweets. At this time of year it is usually quince.
Old Rose Bush
This rose bush growing near Lambros and Athina’s house is 150 years old, and produces extremely fragrant roses. It was brought from their father’s village, Chrisostomo, and planted in this spot by Lambros and Athina’s father the year he married their mother.