This shrub is called “Koumaria” by the Greeks. It is an evergreen shrub native to the Mediterranean, and is one of many wild edible foods available in Ikaria. The fruit is ripe when red, and has a sweet soft interior, with slightly tart seeds covering the outside.
From the 16th through the 19th centuries, Ikaria was plagued by pirates. As a result, the island’s residents did not inhabit the shores, but instead built many dispersed dwellings in the interior of the island.
The ridge of the mountain Atheras separates the North and South of Ikaria. Magganitis is on the very steep southern slope of this ridge.
There are too few children in Magganitis to justify school funding, so instead, the government subsidizes a taxi service to shuttle all four of them to school in Evdilos, a town on the northern part of the island. The back building is used by the town doctor, who is only available several days a week.
During winter, this is the business that is open most frequently in Magganitis. Most days it is open from 11am to 3pm, and then opens again at 7pm for the evening. People come by during the day mainly for groceries and coffee. In the evening it becomes a lively meeting place for the town’s residents, and the room can be filled with over twenty people at a time, all drinking and exchanging conversation. The social fabric is healthy, and all people, including the elders, are well-integrated and cared for.
Each village’s main church is dedicated to a particular saint of the Greek Orthodox religion. The church in Magganitis is Agios Nikolaos (Saint Nicholas). There are over one-hundred churches on Ikaria, and not enough priests for all of them. A priest comes to Magganitis to run a church service every other week.
Saints play such an important role in Greek life that a person’s nameday is much more important than their actual birthday. (If someone is named after a Saint, there is a large celebration on their “nameday”). If they are not named after a Saint, they celebrate their nameday on “All Saints Day.”
Blue was a common color for many years because people had an ingredient on hand to use with their whitewash that tinted materials blue. In the 60s and 70s, in an effort to promote unity and tourism, the Greek government made it law that all buildings had to be painted with blue paint. This is no longer the case, but nonetheless, blue remains a prominent color, especially on the islands.
It is said that on a very clear day, Turkey is even visible from the coast of Ikaria.
Our rental is locked and dark when we arrive in the village at 1am in the morning, and a brother and sister named Lambros and Athina eventually come to retrieve us and give us a room for the night. This view is from their patio.
There are trees throughout Magganitis that are pruned in this fashion. They have a sparse growing habit, and pruning them like this forces them to grow back more densely in the spring and provide better shade in the hot summer months.
We are renting a downstairs room in this building. Because there are almost no tourists here during the winter, we have the patio to ourselves. Even many of the Greeks who live here now go to Athens or elsewhere to work or spend winter with their families. Ikaria is undergoing a transition from a place people permanently live to a place people use for summer vacation.
Fishing is important here in Magganitis, and a large portion of the village’s men have sailing and fishing experience. Up until 1985, Magganitis was only connected to other towns by sea.