May 07, 2014

Across the Island

Psiliamos Beach
The brilliant Aegean

It was a relief to open the shutters tonight when the wind finally stopped howling.  In spite of 50 mph gusts, Leonardo picked me up for lunch and we drove over to Platis Gialis Beach on the north shore of the island where oddly the wind was not as severe. “You’ll love the wind,” he said when we started out.  Along the way we passed exquisite uninhabited beaches accessible only on foot.  “This is Paradise,” he kept saying.  Indeed there is that feeling.  Slowly you stop the worries of the conventional world and ease into a simple presence.

Best table at the Taverna
The woman who owns the Taverna with her husband had done the cooking which produced the finest aroma of Greek food that I’ve yet to inhale.  She was born in this place and has lived there all her life.  Her eyes were clear with an authentic and loving gaze and oh my, the food was delicious.  We drank the local wine that the Taverna had produced, a strong wine a bit like retsina but not restsina.  As you drank, it got better and better the way wine is supposed to.  It was never heady, just warm and heartening. 

A view of some abandoned terracing.
Friendly goats in the hills
Sadly, Scotch broom which is highly invasive is taking over certain areas of the island.  Only low growing trees appear in patchy groups which in America we’d call coast live oak.  The island, I’m told, lost its trees to abundant agriculture, goats and sheep, and the persistence of wind.  At one time, the island produced a great deal of wine.  In 1970 there were 10,000 people living here with all the supporting services that were needed for this population.  Now there are only about 1200.  When the mines closed there was no longer enough work and slowly the population decreased and agriculture diminished.  Remnants of the terracing remains and is almost everywhere in the hills.  But some young people are coming back and are beginning to rebuild the wine industry with a potential to support a larger population.