βρισκομαι στην Ικαρια και δεν αντεχω παρα να γραψω στη γλωσσα του τοπου, δηλαδη στα Ελληνικα. Ειναι χειμωνας, εποχη για παλιες ιστοριες. Ομως δεν μου βγαινει να σας πω μια δικη μου γιατι ειμαι πολυ κουρασμενη.
Back home for Christmas
«Έχω βρεθεί καταχείμωνο στην Ικαρία, τότε που οι λιγοστοί κάτοικοι λουφάζουν περιμένοντας να περάσουν οι δύσκολες εποχές. Αγριεμένος ο καιρός, τρία μέτρα ψηλή η θάλασσα, ορμάει με πάταγο στην προκυμαία και η νύχτα προμηνύεται όλο βουητό και αντάρα. Ο Αρμενιστής, ένα παλιό ψαροχώρι, εκτεθειμένο στους βορεινούς καιρούς, δεν κρατάει το χειμώνα πάνω από τριάντα ανθρώπους. Όσοι δεν κάθονται γύρω από τη σπιτική φωτιά μαζεύονται στον καφενέ, τραβούν τα παραθυρόφυλλα και τις ξύλινες πόρτες που μαστιγώνονται από θαλασσινές ριπές. Παλιοί ναυτικοί και μετανάστες που γύρισαν ύστερα από χρόνια στην Αμερική, βολεύονται γύρω απ’ τη σόμπα, ψήνουν κάστανα και πίνουν ρακί.»
«Ο μπάρμπα-Δημήτρης, ο Κόχυλας, ο καφετζής, άρχοντας της λιτότητας, αράζει σ’ έναν πάγκο στη γωνία, χωμένος σ’ ένα βαρύ δερματόδετο βιβλίο που αν κανείς κάνει τον κόπο και πλησιάσει, θα διαβάσει: “Απομνημονεύματα του Στρατηγού Σαράφη„. Η γυναίκα του, η κυρά-Μαρία, όρθια στην άλλη γωνία, στην κουζίνα, τηγανίζει ψαράκια που τσιτσιρίζουν στο τηγάνι της. Ο καφενές τρίζει από την επίθεση των καιρών και όσοι είναι μαζεμένοι γύρω από τη σόμπα ξαναμμένοι από τη ρακή, το ρίχνουν στη συζήτηση για τα καράβια που έπιαναν παλιά στην Ικαρία.»
«Το μεγάλο ερώτημα που ρίχτηκε στη κουβέντα, είναι: “Πότε ήρθε για τελευταία φορά το Μιμίκα Λ. στον Αρμενιστή„. Ήταν το ’47 ή το ’49; Για όσους δεν ξέρουν τι λαός είναι οι Ικαριώτες, πρέπει να πω ότι είναι πρωτομάστορες του καλαμπουριού και των ιστοριών. Όταν άρχιζε ο Στρατής ο Αφιανές ερχότανε μια στιγμή που βρισκόσουνα, χωρίς να το καταλάβεις, κυκλωμένος από παντού να τσαλαβουτάς μέσα στο τραγελαφικό και το παράδοξο. Κι όταν σηκωνότανε όρθιος ο Σταμάτης ο Κόχυλας, ο μεγάλος αδελφός του μπάρμπα-Δημήτρη, που ’χε κι αυτός έναν μικρό καφενέ πάνω από την προκυμαία, κοντός, ξερακιανός, αργομίλητος, τότε απλωνότανε νεκρική σιγή. Κι έπειτα, τα καλαμπούρια. Οι Ικαριώτες μπορούν να πειράζουν ο έναν τον άλλον για μια ολόκληρη νύχτα. Το κάνουν σαν ένα παιχνίδι που γυρίζει γύρω-γύρω κι αυτός που αρχίζει θα δεχτεί με τη σειρά του τα πειράγματα των άλλων. Άντρες πλατύστερνοι και βαριοκόκκαλοι, γέρνουν πάνω στην καρέκλα και με μάτια που λάμπουν από περιπαικτική διάθεση αμολάν το καλαμπούρι ενώ με τα χοντροδάχτυλά τους τρίβουν το κάστανο και ταυτόχρονα περιεργάζονται μία το θύμα και μία τις αντιδράσεις της παρέας. Ώρες-ώρες ο καφενές σείεται από τα γέλια. Πότε ήταν λοιπόν, το ’47 ή το ’49; Ήταν πριν από το γάμο του Τάσου του Φραγκούλη ή τότε που ο Τσαντίρης ο γέρος γύρισε από το Σικάγο και είπε ότι θέλει ν’ αφήσει τα κόκαλά του εδώ πέρα στα χώματα τα πατρογονικά.»
«Όποιος δεν καλοθυμάται γίνεται αντικείμενο γενικής θυμηδίας. Μετά η συζήτηση προχωράει στα παλιά καράβια. Το Προπολεμικό «Φρίντο» που έκαιγε κάρβουνο, το «Παντελής», το «Δεσποινάκι» και η «Μαριλένα» πρώην «Κωστάκης Τόγιας». Μετά ερχότανε το «Μυρτιδιώτισσα» η «Μιμίκα Λ» και τα ιταλικά: ο «Κολοκοτρώνης», ο «Καραϊσκάκης» και το «Έλλη». Καράβια, φαντάσματα καραβιών που πέρναγαν σαν παλιές γκραβούρες μέσα απ’ την κουβέντα τους.»
«Αλήθεια, τι απόσταση από το “Μιμίκα Λ.„ μέχρι το “Αιγαίο„! Κι από το Ο/Γ “Αιγαίο„ στις αρχές της δεκαετίας του ’80 ως τα σήμερα, τέλη του ’90. Παλιά σιδερένια βαπόρια με στρογγυλές πρύμνες, μυτερές πλώρες και ξύλινα καταστρώματα. Παστωμένα με άσπρη λαδομπογιά, με δερμάτινους καναπέδες και ξύλινες επενδύσεις. Το “Αιγαίο„ παλιό και ταλαιπωρημένο διέσχιζε το Ικάριο, βυθιζόταν με την πλώρη μέσα στο κύμα κι όταν σηκωνότανε πάνω από την ίσαλο γραμμή έβλεπες τα μίνια και τις ξεφλουδισμένες μπογιές του. Οι Ικαριώτες όμως ήταν βαθιά δεμένοι μ’ αυτό το πλοίο. Τους έφερνε στον Πειραιά μ’ όλους τους καιρούς κι από κει πίσω στο σπίτι τους. Γέρνανε στις κουπαστές και αγναντεύαν το νησί τους καθώς το καράβι έπλεε κατά μήκος του για μια ολόκληρη ώρα γιατί είναι ένα εξαιρετικά μακρόστενο νησί η Ικαρία.»
«Όπως το πλοίο έβγαινε από τον Άγιο Κήρυκο και τράβαγε δυτικά παραπλέοντας όλη τη νότια πλευρά του νησιού που την δέρνει το Ικάριο δείχνανε ο ένας στον άλλο με το δάχτυλο, και ονομάζανε με το όνομά τους, όλα τα χωριά, ένα, ένα. Γέροι με χοντρά τζην και καρρώ πουκάμισα φοράγανε εκείνα τα παλιά αμερικάνικα γυαλιά με τον μαύρο σκελετό που έδιναν οι αμερικάνικες κοινωνικές υπηρεσίες, το αμερικάνικο ΙΚΑ, στη δεκαετία του ’60. Στις πλάτες τους κρεμόταν ο γυλιός φτιαγμένος από δέρμα κατσίκας με το τρίχωμα προς τα έξω. Γυναίκες μαντηλοδεμένες, νύφες, γαμπροί, παιδιά.»
«Διακρίνανε τα χωριά το ένα μετά το άλλο και στο τέλος πια τον Μαγγανίτη και μετά το Καρκινάγρι, που κρέμονταν πάνω στον απόκρημνο βράχο. Ξεχώριζαν το δρόμο που χρόνια τώρα πάσχιζε, με τις μπουλντόζες και τα φουρνέλα, ν’ ανοίξει η ΜΟΜΑ για να ενώσει το νησί. Κι όταν προσπέρναγαν το ακρωτήριο Παππάς, με τον φάρο του, τότε ήσυχοι πια κατέβαιναν στα σαλόνια του καραβιού και παρέες-παρέες άνοιγαν τα φαγητά με τα κεφτεδάκια και το ψωμοτύρι και τραβάγανε κοντά τη νταμιτζάνα με το κόκκινο Ικαριώτικο κρασί.»
« . . . ».
Τι ωραιο κειμενο!
Καλε μου αγνωστε αναγνωστη αν θελεις κι ενα οχι για τη θαλασσα αλλα για το βουνο της ιδιας ή πιο παλιας εποχης, διαβασε στο μπλογκ της Νανας το:
Κι αν θες τη γνωμη μου, πιστευω οτι και σημερα πισω απο το τσιμεντο, τα μηχανηματα και το τουριστικο
πασαλειμμα επικαλυμμα, κατι δυνατο απο ολα αυτα υπαρχει ακομα. ❤
Ικαρια, 27 Ιανουαριου 2016
I am publishing here a translated version of a recent post from lifo.gr firstly because Lefteris, the hero of the article, is a «new Ikarian» who, the same as Xenia, happens to be a member of KANGA, the partnership of local guides which I wrote about in April, and secondly because I think that what he does, besides being a guide, is very interesting. Lefteris is a modern food gatherer, specializing in samphire. He has been gathering this tasty and nutritious wild plant which is very abundant at the rocky shores of Ikaria, since he moved to the island nine years ago. In the following interview given to Dionissis Anemogiannis in June, Lefteris talks about his work, about the value of «kritamo» (samphire or sea fennel in Greek) and about living -and making a living- in Ikaria. Not only have I tasted his delicious little jars, but I also totally agree with his opinions. I wish him the best and I hope that you too, after reading the article, will share the same feeling.
There something in this view which hides in the many hillsides of Ikaria, those dressed in olive trees and those which are barren, full of rocks, something that sounds like a call repeated with the voice of the cicadas. Sometimes it is the echo of ourselves as we long for relaxation, for a humane way to live our of lives. Sometimes it’s just the rough beauty of the landscape and the unworldly silence which we forget encaged as we are in greyness and noise. To such a call Lefteris Trikiriotis responded when he took the desicion to leave Athens and move back to the island of his ancestors to seclude himself in an old stone house inside the gorge of the river Charakas in Rahes. After years of experimenting and familiarizing himself with everything that nature provides, Lefteris feels that he has succeeded in his purpose: to content himself with little and to live from the land, through gathering and through culitivating one of the less known treasures of the land of Greece: samphire.
«With nutritional and therapeutic properties acknowledged since antiquity samphire is a wholesome aliment, secret of the Mediterranean gastronomy, able to add taste to almost everything.»
Samphire («Kritamo» in Greek) is a succulent plant which grows on the coastal areas of the Mediterranean. In the Greek kitchen it is used to garnish dakos or as a base layer for cooked fish, usually processed as pickles. However, Lefteris’s wild samphire isn’t pickled. The fleshy leaves of the plant are seasoned in a mixture of wine and vinegar which keeps them fresh and highlights their intense and crisp taste which has a distinctive bitterness in the background like the taste of wild green herbs of the mountain. With nutritional and therapeutic properties acknowledged since antiquity samphire is a wholesome aliment, secret of mediterranean gastronomy which can add taste to almost everything. During a break from his work which in this time of the year keeps him busy for more than 12 hours a day, we talked with Lefteris and he shared with us his tastes, his thoughts and his goals, making come alive in frontt of us a sustainable solution to the crisis: the model of «undergrowth», which is about men and women who pursue a new relationship with themselves, with nature and with money.
— Lefteris, how did you decide to move to Ikaria? How difficult/easy was this decision for you?
«I grew up in a small «Ikarian colony» in the neighborhood of Perama near Piraeus but I didn’t live all my life there. I moved to the island where my family comes from when I decided to resign from a well-paid job in an industrial environment in the summer of 2005. After I spent one year in Crete working as a book peddler, I visited Ikaria on holidays as I was doing almost every summer, and a sequence of events kept me on the island till today. In the nine years that I live here I have done many jobs, as it is usual in Ikaria, among them herb gathering and outdoor guiding. It wasn’t difficult for me to go on with my life outside Athens. I followed my inner voice and allowed myself to shape the course of my life in the way I felt and not in the way imposed to me by the model of modern consumer society. As I left Athens I knew only one thing, that I didn’t want to work as an employee for any financial compensation whatsoever as long as that choice was against my conscience and did not cover the needs of my soul.»
— How did you decide to start cultivating and gathering samphire?
«For many people in our country the environment is like the black box of an airplane. When I started to explore the island as a professional guide as well as for pleasure, I came to discover a literally new world. My gradual familiarization with plants brought about the first tastings and the first attempts to process local products; one of these was samphire. I adored this plant as it is durable and thrifty and I believed that I could work with it towards practicing a successful trade in the long term. Later on, after research and trials in reproducing the plant, I made sure that it can be multiplied, so at a certain point I decided to try to cultivate it with the help of my companion and a friend.»
— What does someone need to cultivate samphire and how easy is it to find it in the wild?
«One needs to know the existence and the edibility of this self-sown summer herb and to afford to be as crazy as to cultivate something that noone else cultivates. In some islands of the Aegean and coastal areas of Greece and the Mediterranean it grows in large populations, while in others it is found only scarcely or not at all. I just happened to have frequent encounters with the particular plant which grows along a good part of the rocky coastline of the island.»
— Which are the difficulties that a modern food gatherer may encounter?
«The profession of the food gatherer is rare, more or less vague and undefined by the law, while its insecurity makes it difficult to provide a long term viability to anyone who is interested in this business. Also, bureaucracy does not allow the unobstructed practice of this particular activity as there is no national administrative plan for wild nature in Greece. As a result, even when someone wants to practice food gathering lawfully with responsibility and respect, he or she faces intractable deadlocks. Thereupon one needs to have imagination and decisiveness to create a living space that hasn’t been anticipated or classified by the authorities. One also needs to wrestle against several imaginable or unimaginable public services with totally rigid and outdated mindsets. Practically, the profession requires a deep love and respect for nature which offers generously to us rich sources of food inside its various ecosystems. One can find many of these ecosystems even in a small island like Ikaria. To become a food gatherer you have to explore a place for years, you have to experiment and to taste the various self-sown edible plants of the place. The wild herbs, fruit, crops, mushrooms, bulbs and even seaweed may give you new ideas about our diet and about new cultivations. Especially in Greece where we have one of the richest floras in Europe in relation to the size of our country, there are many species of plants waiting to be discovered and put to value.»
— What is your daily routine on the island? Can you describe an ordinary day?
«There is no ‘ordinary’ day on the island, and by this I don’t mean that there is no repetition. In Ikaria, like everywhere in the countryside, life follows a more natural course depending on the season, the agricultural activities and the whims of the weather. A winter, for example, can be rainy and windy and the result sometimes is that you have to stay indoors for days or weeks. Food gathering is not a routine job and I chose it against the advice of friends and relatives. When someone chooses this profession there is no pay safety. On the other hand, there is enough freedom so as to be able to improvise, to go on working with joy and to shape my daily schedule at will. The culture of a simple way of life and the pursuit of quality leisure time are two keystones which characterize to a great extent life on the island. I share this point of view with my companion, so for the last two years we have lived together in an old stone house inside an olive grove in the gorge of Charakas river. This particular time of the year I am working more intensively and I don’t have time to think about a lot of things. However, there are times when the machine crashes and then we escape for a while to some beautiful lonely cove or to some natural pool of one of the many rivers which carve the slopes of the mountains. After working hard I usually look forward to going back home to see the progress of my vegetables, the fruit trees in the orchard and to hug with my companion. I am looking for some rest and the company of my friends to end the day smoothly until the following morning when hard work will start again. The thought which often comes as a capping stone of all this effort to cover my financial needs is to ask for the least and content myself with little.»
— How would you characterize life on the island?
«Life in Ikaria is hard, difficult on the economic side but rich in the social side. Its rewards are scarce but they keep you alive and of course, the way someone will experience a place depends mainly on his or her personality and not on the social environment. Walking through a foggy forest of perennial oaks, hunting mushrooms in a cloudy autumn morning, is enough to bewitch you and make you risk everything to stay there forever. Every place has a lot to offer, natural landscapes, social relations, pleasures, hardships, as long as you decide to expose yourself to the place and experience its qualities.»
— What are your plans for the future?
«After nine years of hard work every summer I would like to find some time for a holiday at the end of August. I also intend to add more seedlings of samphire to the plantation that I have started. I want to build a house with natural materials to shelter my flesh and fashion the land around it to make it suitable for permaculture.»
— How do you like to eat samphire?
«Raw, the moment I gather it, with salt to add to the taste and with iodine to color my fingers. Also, fresh steaming hot together with vegetables from my garden, with natural rice or cereals, inside a simple tomato salad with a lot of olive oil and lemon, in a quick omeletith fresh eggs from the vagrant chicken of my neighbor, or in a fresh sasandwichth kathoura (fresh local white cheese from goat milk) and tomato, minced into a puree of legumes (split peas, broad beans, chickpeas, lupins, etc.»
You can find the Wild Samphire of Ikaria in selected stores around Greece. You may also purchase it from ikariastore. You may contact Lefteris Trikiriotis at 6974042417 or his facebook page. The photos of the article are by Niko Dayandas from his film «Little Land» produced by ΑΝΕΜΟΝ. You can download the film from here.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐
(cropped from source)
You know, the last thing Ikaria is known for is church life and monasticism. The people are very religious in a natural, casual way, indifferent of formalities, nevertheless always showing a sincere and full respect of higher forces which control our destinies. Whether one believes in the salvation of the soul or not, religion provides consolation because, salvation taken apart, it does speak about the soul while economics do not. And believing in the soul, the existence of a soul, whether this soul is immortal or not, is something very important in the life of the island. Religion also provides occasions for celebration and community gatherings. It also offers an explanation for natural things as well as for «luck» : God’s will. And natural things and lucky or unlucky circumstances are also important elements in the consistence of Ikarian life. To cut this short, we have churches – a lot of big and small churches. They are, so to speak, our guardians, houses of God, houses of the spirit (soul) of the community: «be good and be good to each other» (be good to God).
But what about monasteries? Thereupon we are a failure. Although there are a few monasteries, there is no monastic tradition in Ikaria, at least none as strong as in some other islands. In my opinion, besides our natural dislike for discipline and formalities, the most important reason is that the island is poor and cannot sustain monastic communities. The rocky soil produces hardly enough for the population so the Ikarians, even though devout believers, could not afford, so to speak again, professionals in prayer, experts in salvation. Like everything else in Ikaria, the tending of the soul had to be done by the poeple themselves with the occasional help of an educated priest or solitary monk.
Yet, there are exeptions. If monasteries didn’t thrive, small hermitages were abundant in the slopes of Mt Atheras. But let’s not think that these retreats were inhabited by anchorites who pursued unification with God like in Mt Athos or Sinai. Though little is known about the lives of these people, it’s obvious to me that they were more or less ordinary men and women who either by some misfortune or simply because of taste, discarded the joys of the marital bed and the comforts of village and family life. They walked away from the world, seeking solitude, entrusting their fate to their labouring hands, to good God and to Mother nature. I am all respect for them. It’s hard to believe that in am island as virgin and wild as Ikaria and in a time when most settlements were of the kind of «lost villages» (see, entry), there were people who sought even more solitude and peace! Out-of-the-worldness must be some sort of second nature to us. The outer the better, the further the better, the remotest and most inaccessible is the best, ask my friend Nana & co about it!
Anyway, this entry was not meant to be a dissertation of the religious ethics of the Aegean. I have come to Ikaria for the winter and recently my friends, the explorers of OPS Ikarias, in the course of a project to create a long-distance trail from one side of the island to the other, have been in love with a wild area under the tops of Mt Atheras where according to local legends various groups of monks lived in different periods of time from the 15th century to the 1800s. I saw the photos and I found these landscapes absolutely enthralling.
What made men and women walk out of the world and settle in places like this? What kind of experiences were they after? Were they looking for God? Did they want be gods themselves? Was it because of a practical reason such as piracy, oppression, social disorder and percecutions? Or is it something inherent to the human nature? Escapism? Some people just drop everything and go?.. Is that it? 🙄
I have always been too committed to everything I do and to everybody I love to even think about escaping. But as I am growing older, sometimes I am tired of the world and this makes me wonder. Until I sort this out, you take a good look at those rocky wildernesses. Take a good look at those vast views to the mountains above, the sea straight ahead and the skies all over. I am inviting you to find your answer.
Dear readers, hoping that you are familiar with my idea of presenting selected material about Ikaria loaded on the internet by bloggers, photographers and writers, I am proudly presenting to you today in an interesting collation the works of two women photographers, Kerstin Hehmann from Germany and Isabelle Gressier from France. Unlike Zdeněk Senkyrik from my previous entry, whose photos are carefully set with an emphasis on landscapes, Kerstin and Isabelle come with ‘snapshots‘, the one of happy people who dance in various summer festivals and the other of silent buildings, isolated or deserted houses in wintry landscapes. It was my fancy to put Kerstin and Isabelle’s very dissimilar photos side by side in this entry. I wanted to make a point and I am very satisfied of the result. I hope that you too, my dear readers, after a little bit of thought, will be able to see the connection.
Dear readers, you haven’t grasped the connection yet? Here’s another dozen of collated shots 😳
Does this picture by Kerstin of a valley lost in the mountains which doesn’t see a living soul for months and suddenly it’s stuffed with cars and people for no apparent reason, help you understand? I suppose not 😳
Dear readers, this is stuff to talk about for hours and maybe also make a book of. It’s our beloved ikarian enigma and I won’t bother you with it anymore. But before I let off, allow me to suggest to you to read the following parts of an interview by Nikos Dayandas, the maker of «Little Land», about his experiences in Ikaria. Our friend Elina found it, chose the best parts and added them in a comment under my entry about this great documentary. Here they are translated in English. This interview does not solve the riddle of «The Two Sides», yet it’s a few steps to the right direction. It’s one of the best and shortest descriptions that I have ever heard or read about life on our island.
That’s all from me for now, goodbye. The micro goes to Nikos
«Going there I realized that the island was full of young people who were indeed non-Ikarians or they were Ikarians who hadn’t been born or lived in Ikaria.»
«There is no local who doesn’t do two or three jobs at the same time; from a little garden near his or her house to the beehives at some distant hillside; from a sour cherry orchard in a field to the sheepfold in some place near.»
«It’s given that they work very hard. They just have this particularity that they do everything in their own time, everyone in his own clearly personal understanding of when is the right moment to do something.»
«When you are there, you do get the feeling that things really are a bit slower. You are surrounded by a strange calmness, everything is peaceful, the people are mild too. In Crete, for example, Cretans are intense characters. Cretan music is fast, their drinks are very strong. The Ikarian culture on the other hand is different, milder. It’s the sound of the little violin, their dance is a slow circular dance, they add water to their wine…»
«When you arrive there, your first impression is, first of all, the nature and its wildness. You see right away that the place hasn’t been developed.»
«You, know, because I have studied archeology, the Ikarians in many aspects remind to me of the Ionian civilization, they have almost ancient Greek tendencies. Everything they do, their pace and their activities are «all in good measure«. Or like a granny says in the film, life goes like a circle from good to bad and back again. This is, let’s say, the Heraclitean «everything flows«. The way they see things is founded on some basic ideas which are deeply rooted in Greek philosophy, even though they aren’t themselves necessarily aware of the fact.»
and the best (according to Elina and of course I agree!)
« … Ikarians also had another particularity in their society. The island has always had a liking to Communism and because the local communists had a very hard time with persecussions and exiles, after democracy was restored in 1974 the people started to reward them with mayoral posts. This is the political dimension of the mysticism of the place. So for several decades you had KKE partisans fixed in public posts through which European Union funding came and every time they said: «Leave it. We won’t take it!» They wrote all that on their balls, something that may have seemed criminal at that time, however today you can say that they may have been saved exactly because of that. Because it’s a place that hasn’t changed.»