by John Lamkin
Discovering the beautiful Greek island of Ios
“Really,” you say”….”I thought that island had been discovered long ago!” And, so it has, but this is now and what comes to mind when hearing its name is an island famed for its ongoing party scene that takes place every summer. Primarily composed of young people lying on the sand beaches trying for just that right tone of bronze, to the active and ongoing night life of dancing and drinking and (well, whatever), the phenomenon relates directly to the summer season where young people from Europe and the U. K. and, yes, from all over the world gather for fun in the sun (Cancun, with its HOT spring breaks is green with envy). But now those days are over for me. I guess I’ve become more of an explorer – in my own way.
There’s a lot more to Ios than the summer partying and, like peeling away the layers of an onion, we see an island that is not only physically beautiful with its famed white-washed buildings with their sky-blue roofs clustered on the hillside, but is rich in sites to see and places to visit. From the ruins on Skarkos hill, showing archeological evidence of the people who inhabited this island in ancient days to the many (365) churches of its various occupants over millennia to the ruins of a 15th Century Venetian castle, we see the stamp of many previous civilizations.
The old village known as Chora can be reached by a variety of ways from the Ormos harbor. Whether walking up the steep donkey path or riding the bus, arriving at this picturesque Cycladic village will throw you back in time. The narrow, winding streets, full of stairs, make it inaccessible for cars, so here the modern world is not quite so intrusive, allowing the visitor to glimpse life as it was so very long ago, an experience quite different from the accelerated change and expansion that most of us are so used to. Here, too, visitors will find the Odysseas Elytis theatre. Constructed in the ancient style, it was named after one of Greece‘s most famous poets who has kept this tradition alive.
And, the ancient
On another hill, also just a short distance from the harbor, is the settlement of Skarkos. It’s said to be one of the most important of the Prehistoric Cycladic settlements dating back to the 3rd millennium B.C. Although most of us believe that our present world has made major advances, here we can see that more than two thousand years ago, the people of this small village on this relatively small Greek Island had well organized systems of sewage disposal as well as rain water dispersal. In their two-storied buildings archaeologists have unearthed metal, bone and stone-made utensils and tools in addition to earthen pots and containers that were in common usage.
Windmills were in extensive use and out of the original 12 windmills, two remain in excellent condition. These can be seen on the square of the Mills, next to the road that leads into the old town. There is also a small museum exhibiting an interesting collection of artifacts from Skarkos including a set of inscribed stones from the Hellenic period. Speaking of which, Homer, famous Greek poet and story teller of this period, is reputed to be buried on this island and one of the three graves standing on a small hill is said to be Homer’s Tomb. Since his mother, Clymene, was born on this island, that could very well be his final resting place but, as of now, it is still conjecture. “Let me not then die ingloriously and without a struggle, but let me first do some great thing that shall be told among men hereafter.” Even if we’ve not read the famous works of Homer, the Iliad and the Odyssey, we recognize the greatness of the author who has expressed ideas that still live on in our current lives.
Archeological evidences of ancient cultures, magnificent views of the intensely blue waters of the Aegean Sea, an impressive amphitheater, magnificent golden sand beaches (more than 30 of them) are all to be found by peeling away the onion-like layers of this island. But still another layer brings us to the rich variety of restaurants as well as the ubiquitous ouzo and coffee houses that provide relaxation and socialization. Finally, we come to the core….the rich heritage of this island and the warmth and friendliness of its people, many who’s families have lived on the island for many generations continuing their traditions, now open to sharing those traditions with the contemporary visitor who arrives on their shores.
If You Go
This article first appeared in Examiner.
Images of donkey, boat and pelican are from Flickr Creative Commons – Club Med
John Lamkin An award-winning journalist and photographer, he started travel writing as an escape from the drudgery of being an aerospace engineer – dropped the engineering, kept the writing. John went on to study at the San Francisco Art Institute, then on to found the now famous San Francisco Camerawork.
He may be found on horseback riding through the jungle to explore an ancient Maya ruin, or sitting on the balcony of a five-star plus resort, sipping an exotic drink, or interviewing a fashion celeb, or….
John is the Executive Editor of FWT Magazine: food wine travel. He belongs to several professional organizations including the International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association where he serves as a Board Member and as the Publications Chair.
His recent book about the Zapotec weavers of Mexico’s Oaxaca Valley is reaping critical acclaim.
John will go anywhere for a story and believes as Isabelle Eberhardt once said, “A nomad I will remain for life, in love with distant and uncharted places.”