Just when I begin to think that the island has nothing else new to offer, we find something else! With less than three weeks left in Ikaria for the year, we discovered a little known hidden treasure. Last Sunday my friend Efthimia invited us to go with her and her daughters, Avgi and Sotiria, to the other side of the island to visit Drakano Castle (which we visited last summer), to swim at the beach in Faros (where the children had their field trip), and to visit a monastery in the town of Xilositri.
The monastery, which I hadn’t known about, had been active until 2012, when the last nun living there passed away. We arrived, expecting to find it closed and planned on walking around the perimeter to just view the property, but when the kids were sitting in the shade, leaning against the gate, it popped open and a man was standing there. He is here from Athens cleaning the property with a few other nuns, and it just so happened he was at the monastery when we stopped by. He was kind enough to show us around.
The property isn’t that large, but it has amazing views of the sea and the mountains. A number of the buildings had crumbled or had been destroyed in the fires on the island in 1993. During the fires the residents worked hard to protect the church, and it wasn’t damaged at all. As with all churches we have seen in Greece it has its own unique beauty, including a hand crafted, painted wooden alter. Many of the rooms and buildings haven’t been used for years, and the kids had fun discovering things that were “quite old”–including a rotary phone which I had to explain to them how to work.
I didn’t learn a lot about the history of the monastery, but I do believe that it was built in the 1700’s. I really hope that they are able to preserve it and do something with the property. It was such an amazing place, and I felt very fortunate that a caretaker was there and we were able to see inside. It would be a shame if other’s aren’t able to enjoy it.
The remainder of the day we explored Drakano again, and the kids enjoyed running around the ruins. However, I think that they enjoyed the two-hour swim that followed the most. Later in the evening we stopped by a wedding of a friend of Etfhimia. Sofia and the boys and I returned to Karavostamo after the ceremony, but Rea stayed on with her friends to enjoy the celebration.
This week Sofia and Stella’s brother, Chris, returned with his son Zach (who was here last summer as well). We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to show them the hidden cave, which Sofia and I think is one of the best finds of the island. Sofia brought along gloves and a rope so that we could travel further into the cave. After sliding down a slippery and muddy slope we entered a larger, open area with more amazing rock stalactite and stalagmites. Some of them were much crystalized and some reminded us of ocean coral. We also saw a rope hanging from the roof and couldn’t figure out how it got there until Zach R. figured out it was a long root. The closer we looked, we saw roots everywhere.
And while I share treasures, I will share these two photos. My father swimming with the kids, and the “Super Moon” of 2013 rising of Ikaria.