Since we last spoke, I went back to Chios to try and get to the famous island of longevity, Ikaria, I had to see if there were any outward signs as why these people lived so long. It has been suggested it’s the food and the climate. I bought a book while there on Ikarian recipes and I will share them with you. It’s a diet that is predominately vegetarian with very little meat but I was surprised to find that there were not that many seafood recipes.
I arrive at Agios Kyrikos, Ikaria’s capital, fondly known on the island as Agios. Even though it’s centre of the island, it is still a rather small town. I jumped into a taxi to take me to my pre-booked pensione; Evon’s Rooms. It turned out that Evon was a Greek Australian and we became friends as we found our common denominator. As it was early in the season – I was there in April – and business was slow, Evon and I spent a lot of time together. He drove me around the island, I saw it all, he took me to people’s homes and saw it from the inside as well and in the evening we played cards. Evon’s rooms are in an small village called Faros; a very quiet village, there are two taverna’s on the beach that open when ever they feel like it and usually after 3:00 pm – not conducive to my Anglo eating timetable. But then that is the way the whole island operates.
The island is extremely mountainous which we all know mountains are better for one’s health then the sea on a daily basis. The traditional diet is mainly vegetarian, some meat and some fish. But I will be controversial and say it’s the way the population confronts daily life that gives them their extended life spans. I have never seen such a laid back people. So laid back that they are not even aware how famous they are to cash in on the fame. There does not seem to be a taverna on the island that has only Ikarian food, I asked Evon about that and he just said: “They eat like that in their homes”.
I was taken to a lovely restaurant up high on one of the mountain sides overlooking the sea run by a lady who cooks popular Greek food but not necessarily Ikarian and there I tasted the best goat cheese of my life, a local product called “Kathoura” made solely from goat’s milk, did I mention the whole island is full of goats?
No one is in a hurry to do anything about anything on this island. As physically beautiful as the island, it is also neglected. The majority of the roads are dirt roads and one must have the right car to travel over them, but that is not a local government problem but a national problem as the money has to come from the state coffers. To point out the laid back attitude a good example is the village of Christos Rihon where nothing gets going till after 3.00 pm. Shops open at three in the afternoon, in Greece that is mesimeri. I asked my newfound friend why and he told me that it goes back when people would tend to their fields in the morning before any shops, shopping or other commercial trade was done in the village. In this village there is a bakery that has been in the same family for many generations, it is these days run by a young man in his 30’s who gets up at baking time, bakes the bread and then goes where ever else, leaves the key in the door, the village people go get their own bread and leave the money in the allocated place. Can anyone imagine this happening anywhere else in Greece or anywhere else for that matter?
I believe in my heart and with the intelligence that life has given me that longevity is mostly due to this laid back lifestyle, and Evon agrees with me. Having said that for the tourist industry it should market the island on its longevity it contradicts the fact that if this is done it will put the locals on the treadmill of the ‘hurry’ and the money wheel there for defeating the purpose. Dilemma.
I got caught with bad weather and spent longer on Ikaria then I had planned, eventually I got off to get to Kos where a friend was expecting me. It was off-season and the boats weren’t regular, I had to go via Samos first, then to Kalymnos to find a boat for Kos, which meant an overnight stay in both these beautiful places. I had been to Samos in the past but never been to Kalymnos and I must say Kalymnos town was very pretty and very post card beautiful, but I had to get to Kos.
At last I got there, Monica waiting for me. For those of you who have never been to Kos please do and try and get some of the spring season in, the country side is a wash of colour, poppies, daisies, camomile and all sorts of mauve and purple flowers. The town of Kos is a mini Rhodes with the old Knights of St John fortified town as well as the expending town outside. There are taverns with an abundance of fantastic food. I was there a week and I’m sure that the two extra kilos I’m currently carrying are from Kos.
What can I say about this beautiful island? The ruins of Asclepius the first hospital named after Asclepius the god of medicine, healing, rejuvenation and physicians. Hippocrates being the first modern doctor and this was where he practised medicine. It was one of my outstanding moments on my travels and a moving experience. I stood looking at the remains of a wide staircase leading to the Temple of Asclepius and I felt my heart fluttering. Hippocrates was the first doctor to separate the spiritual from the physical by advocating that the gods did not send disease but it was an earthly human problem. The first hospital along with the religious shrines because he did believe that the spirit needed healing as well as the body. The island is so rich in herbs and other plants Hippocrates utilised nature for his medicines.
I stood looking at the wide staircase and wondered as to why Greeks have left all this behind in medicine and today we find the average Greek of a certain age with a back full of commercial medications.
From there I went across to Bodrum, Turkey, just forty-five minute boat ride, to discover a young female doctor practising complementary/alternative medicine, the spirit and the body is focused on simultaneously. I stayed a few days to explore and went back to Kos to catch a flight to Crete where again friends were waiting for me to spend Easter with them.
I spent Easter at friend’s hotel in Hersonisos, I slept and just lazed around, met new interesting people and had a wonderfully entertaining Easter Sunday around a table eating and drinking rakies, can’t do the alcohol very well I’m afraid never was able to do it. I went to Chania one day as that is the only place in Crete I had never seen on my two previous trips there. Very pretty town, great food, as all over Crete, the Cretans know how to eat. The island is a slow food paradise and an organic food paradise.
And by the way Greece is doing well. The Chinese and the Russians want to invest, life has become cheaper from that expensive ride it was on. People have come down from their false high, the arts are thriving, and I believe that the food industry will be Greece’s next big industry.
The sun shines, the sea is very blue and the history is never ending let’s all support Greece simply by being positive and not negative about its problems. Greece will survive and come out of this more mature and in better a condition.
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