You know that my blog likes interviews and this one… well, it’s a good one because it’s like a documentary! I mean that you can just stare at the photos (loads of them) streaming over the questions and answers, only that I thought that the context was interesting too, so I got into the trouble to translate the whole thing in English and then I sent it over to be added as subtitles to the video on youtube. Which video is an illustrated version of an interview to my good Ikarian friend, Angelos K., founding member and representative of the Mountain Climbing and Hiking Association of Ikaria (OPS Ikarias), by Babis Kokosis for «The Hiking Trails of Greece» a regular radio show on «The Voice of Greece», the international Greek state Radio (ERA 5). Unlike what you might have expected, the pictures do not show landscapes and trails and maps and stuff like that but people!
As the introduction goes:
«The photos showing in this video made by OPS Ikarias were taken along our various hiking trips and many other activities in the nature of Ikaria from 2008 to 2016. They are a tribute to our older and newer friends and members of the Club who walk and enjoy the island’s fascinating landscapes and take part in the club’s projects and activities. They are our inspiration and our one and only support. This video is dedicated to them!»
. ***Find button to turn on "subtitles". Seen best in full screen mode! .
You can read my translation of Angelos’s radio interview by opening this link to OPS Ikarias Google docs. The interviewer introduces the show like this:
«Today we will visit Ikaria, an island that has managed, in spite of the growing tourist development, to maintain a big part of its cultural traditions.
The natural particularities of Ikaria are many. They are shaped by the geographical features and the position of the island in the Aegean Sea. Ikaria consists of a long mountainous mass stretching from east to west forming a ridge with heights over 1000 m. and separating the island in two sides: the northern side with mild slopes, forestlands and abundant waters, and the southern side with stony grounds and steep slopes. Therefore, it displays an impressive variety of landscapes and natural sights which the visitor can discover by following its numerous trails while getting in touch with its history and the legendary particular way of life of its inhabitants.
Let’s find out a bit more about the hiking routes of the island as well as what a hiker may encounter in them through our talk with Mr. Angelos Kalokairinos, representative of the local Hiking Club.»
And if you are a Greek reader you can check out the original transcript in this link.
The video, seen best in full screen mode, it goes without saying, includes a selection of pictures from the Flickr Album: «Mountain Climbing and Hiking Club of Ikaria». I have exercised my influence 🙂 and gotten a specially coded link so you can see all the pictures -not only the public ones. So take advantage of this privilege and enjoy an amazing slideshow! But if you just like a quick view, here is the album straight out of Flickr:
Ikaria, May 14 2016 [BIG DAY!]
it was my name day and I was planning a relaxed, unambitious post about the wonderful things an English couple who live in Ikaria do with pebbles from the beach, when all of a sudden the famous Jamie Oliver, after his visit to the Chiapas last month, landed on the island to look into our cooking and shoot scenes for his next show!!! I am still and always a bad cook (my only improvement has been towards safety but unfortunately not towards taste) so don’t be afraid, I am not going to go crazy about recipes. I do think, however, that the island has a wealth of natural, healthy foods and natural and healthy ways of cooking. But I am not going to go crazy about that either. This was planned to be a relaxed, unambitious post, and a relaxed, unambitious post it is going to be. I’ll just push Nik and Stef’s stones a bit to the side and make room for a few pictures of Ikarian food from Jamie Oliver’s instagram, plus a few shots with heavier stuff taken in Ikarian restaurants by adamansel52, a ‘food tourist’ who toured the island last month. Move your mouse over the photos to read the descriptions. Scroll down to find a surprise. Nothing to do with food! It’s just another Ikarian summer drawing near!!!
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In this entry I am going to speak about a friend who lives in Ikaria and I am going to tell you about her work.
Those of you who are interested in our small island world can’t but have noticed a young woman who appears in many pictures from Ikaria on the internet, all of which taken in wild natural settings in both summer and winter. This is Xenia Apostolopoulou and it’s about time for you to know who she is and what she does in our island.
Back in 2008 like many young people at that time, Xenia escaped from the chaotic and depressive urban frame of Athens and she moved to Ikaria. She wanted to try to grow roots in a place that seemed unspoilt, a natural place where she could feel at home. We know it, not all of those young people were lucky. After the last tourist is gone the island folds up to itself in autumn and this can be tough for strangers. But Xenia had three big advantages. Those were her love for nature, her patience against odds and her understanding for people. So she has made it! Now she is a full resident and she is very happy about her new life. Everybody who knows her is very happy about it too!
Ikaria also proved good for Xenia in another way. She has found a job, two jobs to be precise, in the two fields that the island boasts of plentiness: bees and mountains. So our friend became a beekeeper and a mountain tour guide. But if almost anybody can learn and keep bees, so to speak, even on the roof of a house, to get to know the secrets of a rough mountainous island, to walk and learn all the footpaths, to catch the spirit of the land, to know the history, understand the traditions, and above everything, to be able to communicate all this to visitors so that they see and feel a portion of what she sees and feels in Ikaria, is not an easy thing that anybody can do. But Xenia has done it, she does it and she does it well. Here is how everything started.
The most important thing is to knock at the right door. 😉 Weeks only after her arrival Xenia joined the newly-founded Mountain Climbing and Hiking Association of Ikaria and because of her love for nature and her experience in hiking, she was elected among the members of the board. Days later their first hike was to the mountain tops on the route we call ‘ridge walk’ or ‘transikarian trail». See the relevant entry in their blog (in Greek) and look at some pictures of her out there, On these rough but spectacular landscapes Xenia proved no green horn! 🙂
Many group hikes followed like the Mushroom Hunt in Myrsonas river and the first OPSikarian hike on my beloved Trail of the Elves where Xenia not only hiked hard with team spirit but showed a talent in photography of nature as well. Until finally, the following spring we discovered her inclination. During the first group hike of the OPS Ikarians in the upper part of Chalares canyon Xenia jumped and swam in the icy-cold river pools like a water nymph all in smiles!
Exploring is part of the job and Xenia, being a learner of Ikaria, was always a volunteer, like for instance in the quest for the forgotten Trail of the Lighthouse Guards at the island’s western end.
But what am I doing? 😮 This entry is badly planned! It will take me ages and pages to deploy Xenia’s story in the mountains of Ikaria! So let the pictures speak. I found them in this gallery at her profile in Flickr. One sees there nearly 100 photos of this amazing woman in rivers, on mountain tops, inside forests, taken while she is hiking, climbing, marking the paths (sometimes with her baby on her back!), laughing with friends, dancing in activist performances, leading groups, taking part in everything that goes on, sharing, making things better. 😀
As I said, today, after the first years of learning and exploring, Xenia works as a mountain guide. Some of you may have heard of her from the hikes and botanical course she does for the dancing and hiking groups of Ursula every spring and autumn. But most probably you have seen her at work in the photos of the hiking tour with the Czech photographer Zdenek Senkyrik last year. Currently, as her son Orfeas has grown up, she takes up more guided hikes as well as other activities in the nature of Ikaria in partnership with KANGA.
Unfortunately there is no space left for me to post their schedule in this entry so you’d better contact her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or through facebook and ask her to send you a copy. One thing I will say as a conclusion. At last somebody is doing in Ikaria what I have been asked to do so many times by friends and strangers since I started taking photos and writing about my island. I always felt awkard about denying for one more reason. Though it’s true that the island needs guides, I knew nobody who was reliable and professional enough to recommend. But now there is and it’s a very good one! A burden has gone off my back and I am relieved!
Xenia Apostolopoulou was born in 1975. Her father is Greek and her mother is Austrian. She spent her childhood in Austria, Germany and Greece. She was involved in homeopathy, botanical study and therapy, she worked as receptionist in hotels as well as guide in several Greek islands. She also worked for various NGOs in projects related to animal welfare and helping disabled persons. She has travelled a lot and she has lived in many places of Greece. Once in Ikaria she got various temporary jobs, until she decided to dedicate herself to apiculture and mountain guiding. Founding member and partner of KANGA, besides Greek, she speaks German, English and Spanish.
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One’s own country is the country where one does not need a map, even less a Google map with coordinates, to go around. But Ikaria is not your country so maybe you do. As a matter of fact, I think you do. Our little island is very complicated and if you have a doubt just go and browse through my «landscapes of others» set of illustrated entries. I’d rather see people walking these landscapes, instead of those disastrous goats, therefore, besides my explorers, I hold in great esteem the people who make maps and share them with the world, evenmore, when these people go for originality, have good taste and stay away from clichés.
As you have assumed, since my last entry about the «Ikaria Guidebook», I have changed course, and have taken on to the practical side of things. Let’s say, how about hiking safely in the famous but little known, ancient Forest of Radi? How about going in the depths of the upper part of Chalares canyon to find waterfalls and pools to swim naked? 😉
Don’t worry about crowds, ’cause the articles that I will suggest speak about places only for the few. And I would be surprised if you met even few. Take my word, I have been in both these places several times and in spite their breathtaking wild beauty, I never met a living soul!
Although Ikaria has all the assets to become an AAA mountain and outdoor destination, nobody on the island seems
to care to know what to do about it so things are left to chance. Taking everything into account, it doesn’t matter. With the exception of the short tourist boom of August, we are and, as it seems, we will always be an island for the few – the few hunters of adventure in a wild and exciting unknown! 😎
But even hunters of adventure need help sometimes…
The first Google mapped hiking route I would like to present to you today was created by the local Mountain Climbing &’ Hiking Association (OPS Ikarias) and it is about a circular hike in the Forest of Radi which lies between the village of Petropouli in Messaria and the village of Frantato in Perameria. Their blog can be easily translated through Google translate, so here is what they say in the announcement of the completion of this hiking route:
«Hello Readers! After many hiking trips and searches which ended in defining a circular route in Radi Forest, our Hiking Club proudly presents the digital map: «The Round of Radi Forest»!»
They have indeed made many trips and searches and their Google map the best evidence. This document contains 70 pins with coordinates along an intricate trail of more than 12 kilometers, most of them inside a thick forest, as well as 145 photos! If not for anything but only to appreciate the ammount of their work I think it’s worthwhile to zoom in to make a virtual walk from pin to pin and browse through the pictures. What a feat! But as they said when I asked, that magical forest was worth it!
If you click on the image below you will be transported to the OPS Ikarias website where you can read/translate their entry. At the end there is a list of advice and instructions which you may find useful before you do this hike.
And now, after thick mysterious woods, let’s speak about rocks, sun and river water. Do you remember our friend Zdeněk Šenkyřík, the Czech photographer who I praised in my blog last July? Well, Zdeněk recently revisited his material from Ikaria as well as other islands and reorganized everything into something that I would call «Do it like Zdeněk!»
Introducing his chapter about Ikaria Zdeněk says:
«In 2014 while we were planning our trip to Samos, we made a small change to visit Ikaria as well. We wanted to get to know this paradise for lovers of wild nature – canyons, waterfalls, mountain hikes – awesome!»
Indeed, once on the island last June he and his partner Petra were guided by the members of OPS Ikarias and they discovered several places of the kind they were looking for. A list of these spots which are so well shown in Zdeněk’s photos appears in a Google map inside the general page about Ikaria. But the best map and the best photos are included in the subchapter «Chalares Ikaria – swimming in waterfalls». Click on the image below to be transported to that page. We ❤ Zdeněk and Petra!
Still, before closing this, I have to advise everybody who found these hikes appealing to read again my forenote about the situation in Ikaria about hiking. To find and explore safely and succesfully the amazing forest of Radi or the wild and secluded upper part of Chalares canyon the best thing to do is to contact the members of OPS Ikarias, either at their blog which is open to comments or at their facebook page. Like they did with the Czech friends, not only they will be willing to help but they will also have other interesting suggestions according to your likes and the time of the year.
Eleni Ik ❤
Saturday February 28, 2015
I am not sorry to interrupt the series of landscapes of others because this seems to be a good guidebook for Ikaria. Our friend Alexia’s work (1) is out of print and anyway it was only in Greek. On the other hand, the A.K.K. Editions hiking map is out of sale and I know from Angelos himself that it’s not likely to publish anything as good as that about Ikaria in the near future (2). During a visit at his house and having insisted that he should, he showed me a confidential copy of the recent e-book by Charlene Caprio and Lefteris Tsouris on his computer and I liked it. I didn’t have time to read it thoroughly and I couldn’t take it home with me because the copy was code-protected but I trust Angelo’s word. It’s an honest, careful and responsible piece of work based on long field research and that was also my impression after having read the one hundred PDF pages diagonally. The texts are to the point without unneeded literature and the maps are bold, nicely colored, clear and helpful. But the best thing about this Guidebook is the emphasis on hiking. I took a note of how the authors put it:
«We believe that the best way to understand Ikaria is by exploring the island’s footpaths called ‘monopatia‘. Spanning over 150 km in a configuration akin to a giant spider’s web over the island, Ikaria’s footpaths evolved over hundreds of years. Many of them connect remote villages with rivers, watermills, forests, mountain peaks, sea areas, more natural elements and other villages. The footpaths also reach areas inaccessible by vehicles and traverse the mountain’s inner folds. By exploring the footpaths, you will start to discover Ikaria’s unique environment and culture…»
As I couldn’t agree more, I also took note of the titles of the ten hiking routes recommended, mapped and described by the two authors in the last and longest part of the edition. The photos of Peter Wan who contributed in the edition are stunning and you can see some in the webpage of the e-book, however to introduce these hikes I prefered to use photos either from our blogs or the ones taken in the course of time by the members of the Mountain Climbing and Hiking Club of Ikaria. Those people are, after all, the volunteers who explore and discover, design, walk and maintain the mentionned footpaths. The authors duly acknowledge their contribution and by the way, so am I on a more personal level. If not for them and their endless discoveries, perhaps my passion for Ikaria wouldn’t be so strong.
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