- 5 September 2020
Skyros, the island of ancient Greek tradition
Skyros is the right island if you are looking for a place to hide, a place to rest and give peace to both soul and body, where you can take part to the sacredness of some ancient rituals and where tradition is still strong and shows claws when it collides with some modern ideas of progress.
Mythology narrates that Achille’s mother Thetis, to avoid sending him to fight at the war of Troy, hid him on this island.
It is not for the kind of tourist that wants everything immediately; you have to conquer it, listen to it and discover it slowly.
The variety of the island’s landscapes
It is the largest and lesser known of the Sporades islands; it is located east of the Euboea Island, solitary and calm. The first impression, either you arrive by flight from Athens or by sea from the Kymi portry (Euboea), is that it immediately shows its duality: half of the island is covered by the green of a pine forest that reaches the sea; the other half, instead, is rocky and could seem like a treeless lunar landscape decorated with wind-moulded shrubs. Two islands that probably met and united in a very distant time.
If you arrive from the Linarià port, the reception reserved for those arriving is truly special; but I am not going to unveil the details, not to ruin the surprise! I would only suggest that you be on your feet !
The variety of landscapes in this territory of little more than 200 km2 does not bore the visitor: maritime pine forests, crystal clear waters, caves approachable only by sea, a mountain about 800 m high, where every year migratory birds nest, the Mediterranean scrub with its inebriating scents, freshwater springs to refresh from the heat, cultivated plains and vineyards. In short, there is something for everyone.
For sun lovers, the island’s beaches praise different types:
- golden and long the one of Magazia and Molos, where it is also possible to find some equipped beach bars (in Skyros umbrellas and sunbeds are free of charge);
- with pebbles that bruise your back, but where you can seek refuge when Meltemi blows (Kalamitsa);
- surrounded by green where the seawater is cooled by freshwater springs (Pefkos);
- reachable with a little effort (but it is worth it!) like Agios Petros or Agalipa;
- like a “postcard”, isolated from the world, but where there is no lack of a tavern where you can savour all the imaginable Greekness (Ag. Fokas).
Flavours and animals of Skyros
Local cuisine offers a variety of dishes based on goat and indigenous cheeses with genuine and strong flavours, still produced with traditional methods. Even though the sea is not as full of fish as it used to be, spaghetti with lobster is one of the main dishes of the island.
Skyros is an island of shepherds: goats, the queens of the island, have fun putting tourists to the test who must immediately learn the art of patience.
Besides goats, another very important animal in Skyros is the autochthonous skyrian horse. At first sight, considering its size, it could look like a pony, but it is not; in fact, it has all the characteristic of a “miniature” horse. To avoid the extinction of this very ancient species, associations were born and, especially in the summer, young volunteers from all over the world arrive to take care of these beautiful horses.
Panigiri: the traditional Greek festivals that make the island unique
Skyros is a place where the Panigiri (the Greek festivals dedicated to a particular saint) is organized in turn by families that invite all the community (tourists included!) to the celebration and the free sharing of simple food (usually rice and goat meat) takes place usually washed down with wine in plastic bottles. An atmosphere that takes you out of time, a genuine conviviality that lasts until late at night, sometimes until early in the morning. Choruses sing the conviviality and repeat refrains of ancient songs that talk about real life. In Skyros, unlike the other Greek islands, during the Panigiri you normally do not dance, you just sing (at least that is what tradition would like, even if opinions differ).
The occasion to dance comes with the carnival (Apocrypha) which on this island is special and must be experienced at least once in a lifetime!
Three are the main figures that you can meet dancing around Skyros town on the weekends before Easter fasting begins: the Ghèros (the old man), the Korela (young woman in traditional dress) and the Frangko (jester). The first one is the indisputable leader, hooded with a goatskin cloak, wool pants, skyrian sandals (trohade), shepherd’s cane and goatskin mask; the piece of that stands out in this costume is the very heavy belt made of dozens of cowbells that create a deafening sound that sends you into a trance! The other two figures accompany him in the village’s mule tracks where all the bars and the taverns are open until morning in a unique, ancient, Dionysian atmosphere… seeing is believing.
Outside the stereotypes and the routes of mass tourism, rich in tradition and tranquillity, this island stays with us forever when it enters our heart.
My name is Elena and I consider myself a citizen of the world. I have always felt Greece like home and it is an amazing sensation.