My darling Serifos

Serifos_island_old_photo_1978_karavi_my_darling_serifos

Serifos-beach-karavi-summer
Sarah our four-legged member of the family and me at our nearby beach, 2011

 

at the Port of Serifos, July 2020
July 2020, an early morning at the Port

My darling Serifos (1), published 2012

More than 30 years ago, walking down the dirt road to Platis Gialos, I fell in love with Serifos: red soil and schist stones till the sea and in the shadow of the tamarisks, the flavors Nikoulias’ wife, the mother of many smiling daughters and sons had to offer.

serifos-my-darling-island-cyclades-greeceThat same unforgettable autumn, I fell in love with a boulder-stone in Rammos; some time later with Margarita, the cook, and her husband Giorgis the fisherman, at the edge of Livadi;

serifos-margarita-giorgos-myserifos-the-writers-home
Giorgis the fisherman

 

my darling Serifos
Margarita the cook

A winter afternoon I discovered Panagia, the small village up the hill and the grocery store of Vitos and Antonia, who both stole another piece of my heart;

my darling Serifos, Kapetania, March 2019
decades after we’ve first met with Vitos, we meet every year in “Kapetania” the masquerade traditional feast

A hot summer’s day noon found me swimming and enchanted in the nook with the green waters down in Vagia; a windy Sunday I found shelder in Moustakias’ cook house, in Koutalas and one hot spring Saturday I wished to become a fish in Lia beach.

my darling Serifos, August, Rammos
August in our neighbourhood, Rammos

The secrets of the place got revealed little by little, as is always the case.

my darling Serifos, March

Secrets like a sunset in Liomantra, a local fair in St. Giannis Prodromos with the “ktitores”* tending you as if at home;

Serifos Bakery. Artos, is the greek word for bread

another local fair in St. Thekla with the sky being illuminated by the lightnings and -every year unfailingly- during the fair of Sotiras at Kalo Ampeli with the youth dancing balos -the local dance- and the elders on the violin and on the lute.

Serifos, Kapetania, our masquerade day, every winter
all together, laughing and yelling, celebrating LIFE in Kapetania

Moments of happiness on an island that was not blessed with forests and rivers, but with a barren land -hence the island’s official name Serifos– with rocks and iron -hence the appellation, the iron island.

Serifos, Cyclades, moments of life

How could you know these things when you first arrive: the precious clusters of bοulder-stones; or the tradition in metallurgy; or the tiny one-room stone houses that you still see scattered onto the plateaus or conveniently positioned in the furrows, that are called cells and they were the rooms where the miners spent their nights.

my-darling-serifos-the-writers-home-rental-cyclades

A wandering in a place like this wonderful island which I made my land, needs you to be ready as long prepared and open to encounters, a flâneur, as Charles Baudelaire calls it, a wanderer, a promenader, a traveler.

serifos-meet-the-locals-the-writers-home-travel-cyclades

And then you might be the lucky one who will taste grandma Sevasti’s caper, the local homemade wine or the cheese that nestles down in the ground with herbs until it reaches your palate, a full moon in August or a night with stars that you think you can touch them if you just extend your arms.

serifos-aubergine-family-produce-meet-the-locals

Gifts of a rock in the Aegean that will offer themselves to you if as long as you stay here, you find something from yourself to give back.

Serifos, the ritual of echinus opening

my darling Serifos

Vici Theodoropoulou, 2012.

** “ktitores” are called the locals who have the responsibility to take care of the maintenance of the church throughout the year. They are also the ones that prepare and serve the delicious local treats that are offered to everybody, during the day and during the night of the fair

serifos-meet-the-locals-the-writers-home
“My darling Serifos” (1) was written for the municipality’s book, Serifos Greece, published 2012.

Karavi beach

A playful though functional navigation to my darling island, Serifos 

My Darling Serifos (2), published 2021

I love to call it ‘serifoula’[1], the island of Serifos. And I do not even know if this name suits a rock in the Aegean, and I don’t even care if it does. This rock embraced me around forty years ago, and I reciprocate the favor and the tenderness with as much love as I hold within me.

I arrived at Livadi -we call it ‘Livadi’, the port of the island- during a windless, summery Friday afternoon towards the end of the ‘70s by the slow boat Agios Georgios which does not travel anymore, accompanied by an almost empty backpack for two. Without a bike, neither a motorcycle nor a car. Without a booking at any of the very few rooms to rent on the island. With no tent and no sleeping bag. Why not? Isn’t it for the youth when a sky full of stars is enough?

It is since then I loved to play Situationists’[2] games for wandering at places which I wished to map psycho-geographically[3].

The game during that summer was starting with flipping the very many pages of the alphabetical guide, published at that time yearly by the Greek Ministry of Tourism. It felt like shuffling cards and it was followed by something like throwing the dice. Meaning that with eyes open I deliberately chose a letter of the alphabet, put my finger on one of the locations starting with the fortune letter. Then with eyes closed I dragged my finger vertically along the many places. The game was accomplished by the moment my finger stopped at the name revealing the destination.

This is how I reached Serifos. And the map of my first journey on the island was marked by the name STAMATIS[4]. I use to often think with a smile that my first dérive[5] on the island had already indicated that sooner or later I should stop here. 

Stamatis since then had his cookery at Livadi. Traditional kitchen, moussaka, pasticcio in big pans, grape leaves filled with rice, filled zucchinis, lemon pork cooked in the pot, freshly fried potatoes, and straight from his bahce[6] to your plate tomato and cucumber for the Greek salad. But it was not for his food that he became an ambient light and a landmark on the map of that journey.

It was that once it got dark and we had not a shelter for the night, he spoke abundantly and generously as it was his food speaking. “No worries guys”, he said, “when the last ones leave, we will connect the soft chairs here in the corner of the yard, we will bring you pillows and blankets, you will sleep here tonight, and tomorrow something better will come up”. This is exactly what happened.

Stamatis left this world early. Ηis son, Thodoros, took the baton for all the well-cooked ever since at STAMATIS. And today, if luck is on my site, I can taste there, at the same yard, the fish that his grandson, Stamatis, brings straight from the sea to the table.

While mapping a place on the basis of situations and emotions, all sorts of encounters may become a landmark. It is worth noting that the Situationists’ Psychogeography, a movement and a term unknown to many, is nothing more complicated than what I have been invited to do here, to spontaneously describe in fragments and with play as a tool, my distinct neighbourhood.

So let’s continue with mapping.

I returned to the island I once left after years, a young mother of two at the time. And the challenge of that journey was to check whether a piece of land could undertake the task to become the link that would bind me to this rock.

But wait. It is worth explaining that wandering in a place, as this is proposed by Psychogegraphy, is more of a personal path towards routes for which it is uncertain if we choose them or they choose us, rather than a festive parade. Thus I need to reveal at this point my legendary luggage on that journey.

I had watched back then the “Double life of Veronique”[7], I had fallen in love with the film’s music too, I had discovered the soundtrack at the crane’s lilliputian record store in Amsterdam, I had just got a portable CD player, oh, yeah with headphones, and at the deck of the slow boat that was bringing many of us to ‘Serifoula’ that evening, I was ecstatically reading the book “Speak, Memory”[8] from the unforgettable Exantas’ edition while listening to Prisner’s music in a continuous loop.

This travelling equipment was mythical. I will forever remember.

So somehow like that, immersed in Kieślowski’s images, in Prisner’s melodies and in Nabokov’s words, once we stepped on Livadi, I left the others going to dinner and, pulled by my gorgeous book, I ensconced myself in the folding armchair of a bar. The haunting sound of ‘Hotel California’[9] invited me to linger on there. It was time for a drink. 

The sun was setting behind Oros, leaving Livadi in the promising colors that enrich this island at the end of the day. It was again windless, something not so common for the windy Serifos. And the sound of the melodies someone in the backside of the bar was choosing, felt like a reception imposing oneself to a random nostalgia.

At that very moment, the curly-hair six-footer man appeared over my head and asked me if I wanted a drink. And it is only a game of situations that could have set up an encounter as such.

Since my adolescent years in Athens I have known this man until our paths were separated, I thought. But no. Dimitris from Polytechneio and Vouliagmeni had left Athens behind him and rooted on Serifos a life, a home, and his bar, KARNAGIO.

It was him the DJ on the decks that evening. And it is him the DJ ever since up until today. And I still love to sit there, late in the night, once the post meridiem are leaving and those who stay are either dancing to the songs or floating through layers of time while gazing at the port.

And the years are passing by fast. Serifos is growing in beauty, I want to say, and is literally fighting in keeping with it’s humane characteristics.

So, here are a couple of ambient signs on my map nowadays.

Demosthenes who a few years ago returned to the island with his knowledge and solicitude, set up at the beginning his central wintering apiary at Nohta, near Saint Aikaterini. And after he expanded and sweetened us all with serifian honeys from MELISSONAS DIAMANTI, got awarded last year in the context of the 1st Panhellenic Premium Quality Honey Contest for his Thyme Honey, but also for his exceptional and certified Wild Lavender Honey.

Did you know that in the south side of Serifos fine, wild lavender is blooming?

Dimitris from the legendary AERINO at Chora went down to the Port and turned out the lights at CAPTAIN’s, a haunt wide open to those who love rich dishes, coffee and drinks in front of the sea. Lucky those who will find themselves there during an evening with live music.

Αggelos unfolded the unprecedented in the island’s chronicles patisserie, DEUX AMIS, where croissants are a delight for the heart, cheese-pies with sesame and honey are disappearing before you manage to come closer to them, and chocolate pies in clay pots are leading you inτο temptations worth falling for. Not to mention the ice creams, all home-made with fresh milk, gliding like a balm in the palates.

Evaggelia opened GLYKISMA with traditional spoon sweets and local delicatessen. And there, in the alley behind the Saint Nicolas’ chapel, she bakes local almond-macaroons, orange-pies and unbeatable oil cookies, with clove and plenty of sesame.

Here we go now to an old and dearly beloved hangout place, where all of a sudden this spring, I’ve met with the newcomers. It is worth writing many lines about this place, yet, being very touched I will briefly put it in the map.

I spent the last decade in ANEMOS. Kyriakos was running the place. And at his place daily, through afternoon or evening shifts, I was working on the chapters of my next novel in a state of entertaining companionship, sitting at the little table in front of the bar’s desk and navigating by a view you cannot get enough from.

At the beginning of this past May I saw up there from a far, freshly painted shutters and paintbrushes drying. I went up the stairs bringing wishes for a wonderful season after all this corona dampness we have experienced. And instead of the acquaintances, I met Danae and Anastasis, two young people with sleeves rolled up and their bubbly little girl, working on their dream.

They had already renamed the place MOLE and had already met with Io who had just come back from Cardiff’s Fine Arts School. She was the one who painted a mole on the entrance wall and another fresco inside. They are planning to leave the city, they were telling me while grandma was looking after the bubbly little girl, and to build their lifes on Serifos. They are dreaming of keeping the place wide open during the whole year, exactly how it used to operate in the past, open during winters and summers, welcoming all day long travelers and locals and, like an aerostat I was filled up with their fresh desires and youthful impulse.

My Serifoula is changing. But with all the portrayed beginnings she will manage, I believe, to preserve the humane in the geography.

madder root the natural dye for easter eggs Serifos

Margarita, the cook, cleaning the madder root, 2022.  Rubia Tinctorum is a plant known for its dyeing properties since ancient times. This is the natural dye for our Easter Eggs 

Vicky Theodoropoulou*, September, 2021

  • Vicky Theodoropoulou is an awarded Greek writer. For the past 11 years, she has been living on Serifos and spends her vacations in Athens. 

[1] -oula: suffix declaring loving-kindness

[2] Situationists: an avant-garde movement of artists, architects and writers who aimed to suggest playful  and inventing ways of navigating

[3] Psychogeography: term invented by Guy Debord in 1955, inspired by Charles Baudelaire’s concept of flaneur – a wanderer

[4] stamato[σταματώ]: Greek verb, meaning stop moving

[5] dérive: French word used to indicate the floating or drifting at a specific place

[6] bahces: the orchard

[7] a film written and directed by Krzysztof Kieślowski, 1991.

[8] an autobiographical memoir by writer Vladimir Nabokov, 1951

[9] a song by the band The Eagles, 1976.

serifos-house-rental-home-thewritershome-vacations

Serifos Soulful
my darling Serifos
we’ll meet again
winter is coming
let me tell you about a winter evening at Home

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