Every place has its own characteristics, determined primarily by the environment and the human presence. With the passage of time, some of them get stronger and some are lost. There are also some that dominate, creating stereotypes that prevent you from getting to know the others. Andros is often referred to in the guides as the Noble Island of the Cyclades. But is it really like this? Or it is more like the figurine of a woman, who alternates faces like the sea of the Aegean?
Chora of Andros, a seemingly floating, neoclassical town ready to set sail. With the stone lighthouse on her bow, it lights the night and beautifies the day. The seamanship and the commercial routes that were opening, formed a rising class that was expressed through the obvious nobility of the buildings of Agora, in Fabrika and Stenies, and in the green village of Apoikia. A brushstroke full of colours the tiles of the roofs, the cypress and lemon trees, and churches with domes. A breeze of self-confidence, creativity and culture, passed throughout the villages, pulsating with the violin. Just like a great Levante (eastern) wind.
Traveling south you see a new face. Smiling with an intense zest for life like a Korthian feast. The medieval settlements of the area, have everything. From the traces of the Upper Castle, the tower houses in Aidonia and Benetinano, the Byzantine Korthi, the fishermen houses at Plaka beach, the plateau with the three peaks in Mesa Vouni, to the bridge and water-mills in Dipotamata gorge. A fresh breeze of optimism, free, swirling in the vines, on the steps and the white houses, with the sound of the lute in the rhythm of ballos. Like an Ostro (southern) wind.
Heading north and another figure springs over the ridges. Imperious, self-sufficient, proving people’s pertinacity to dominate the landscape. Vourkoti’s fog, the dreamy village of Arni, the legendary village of Ammolochos, Gavrio and Batsi’s fishing boats, Gerolimni of Achla river, the wetlands of Vori, drifting you in earthen colors. A proud wind, unique, inventive, that bypasses roofings and courtyards and bends the plane trees. Kavontoritikos dance with the tsambouna sound. Like the Tramontane (northern) wind.
And where the thought stops, the drystones speak. From Campanos cape to the Strait, a human miracle has happened. Stone on stone, the perseverance of the locals to gain every inch of the land. And beside them, the threshing floors and the farmer houses and the dovecotes. A work of needlepoint of the countryside filled with marjoram fragrance and spoon sweets. With a network of paths not found elsewhere in Cycladic islands. With lush vegetation and lacy shores. Lasia, Ydrousa and Epagris.
The faces of Andros have soul and so much to narrate. All you require is just to look for them. The dozens of feasts, the burning stone ovens, the monasteries, the museums, the traditional cafés and the natural springs all awaiting passers-by to reveal the character of the island.
Andros in actuality is an ocean-steamer that sings and weaves.
* From the poem “Revolving Cranks”, that Andreas L. Embirikos has dedicated to his father, Hinterland, 1945
Cover Photo: Angela Strati
Photo/Video Credits: Alexandros Gardelis, Spyros Tsaousis
Proofreading: Margarita Tatakis