For Greek Προς την αρχαία Καρθαία, στη νήσο ΚέαAs in fairy tales we stand uncertain at crossroads.
As pilgrims we share stories along the way.
The starting point is Korissia, the harbor of Kea. The Cycladic island is also known by its other name Tzia.
We drive to Kato Mera (Katomeria) following the road map. We stop at the parking lot to eat omelettes and drink coffee.
While our breakfast is prepared we walk to the stone shed hidden behind some houses of the village. We look at the posters containing photos and information about the archaeological site of ancient Karthaia.
I discuss with my friends about the location of this info booth and we all agree that it should be transported or repeated right in front at the harbour as the newly arrived reach the island. More people will be benefited from knowing about the place and be challenged to walk to Karthaia.
Karthaia has been one of the four city-states of the island of Kea, on the SE coast. It has been inhabited uninterrupted from the end of the Geometric period to late antiquity – in the Archaic period it has flourished.
The site has been visited since the 17th century. The excavations began in 1987 and continue with European funding from ESPA. They have uncovered ruins of the temple and the terrace of Apollo (530 BC), the temple of “Athena” (500 BC) building D, the propylon and a theater with 2.000 seats.
We choose to reach Karthaia walking the trail that begins from Kaliskia beach. So, we drive to Havouna. We see signs ‘Private space’, but ignore them until the road takes us to an isolated house. The dog bounces friendly and a man signals to us to make a U turn. Returning to the crossroad again, we meet an older man riding his donkey who points with his stick the dirt road along the seashore.
After passing by two amazing beaches we reach Kaliskia beach.
We start walking trail No 7 easily. The shrubs are low and the stones of the stonewalls (xirolithies) are relatively stable each time we climb over them. Sparse trees in an arid ground, stones, more stones, and a light sea breeze to lighten us up.
In our backpacks we carry cold water, vegetables and ring-biscuits (kouloures). Karthaia has no water or any shop, mind you.
The fence is tall, with a rusted wire on top. It takes us a while to straddle the fence from a lower point helping each other. We climb from one stepping stone to the next.
The ruins of the theatre are visible and on top the broken columns of the temples.
We watch the swimmers. Some seek a shade under the sheds, in the chapel and the warehouse. It is Sunday.
As we descend we see the contemporary buildings made of stone in the local building tradition. If I am not mistaken some of the materials to build them had been carried via the paved ancient path. I have walked another time – it is stiff and hilly, I did not recommend it for today.
Some people are still working here, in the excavations.The archaeologists recover slowly the theater ruins from evanescence, they recover memory from amnesia. It ignites in me a desire to learn more about history, how all this was build, what was the purpose, the function. I want to better understand how life has been here, the people that had worked, loved and made rituals. To learn how nature has been perceived in the ancient times.
We want to reach the second bay of Karthaia – Poles. We have to cross the path that connects the two bays.
The silent graves of Karthaia ground us and remind us of the minuscule point we occupy in the continuum of space and time.
We relish the tranquility, the harmony of the landscape merging with the lines of the ancient site.
Paths of 36 klm in total connected Karthaia with the other three
city-states of Kea. They were paved for their greatest part. All around there are traces of mining activity and agricultural cultivation.
After an hour, and a picnic on the beach, we return to the first bay of Κarthaia-Poles with our backpacks lighter. All the people have gone. We recline on the built benches in the portico of the warehouse.
Before leaving the site we squeeze into our backpacks a few empty plastic bottles and cigarette buttocks
chucked up on the beach.
Karthaia is a paradise, few people work here to preserve and keep it in this excellent condition, mostly volunteers.
Nature, beauty, tranquility, water, the clean sea, the fish… nothing is to be taken for granted. Everything asks for our proactive engagement. The least we can offer back is to spread knowledge and help to raise awareness.
This post was initially posted on July 2, 2012. My photos and info provided in the blog are related to the date of the post. Please check for updates before you visit. Find out more about the alternative path to Karthaia.
5 years later, on 15th May 2017 Karthaia is among the winners of the 2017 European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Awards for CONSERVATION. “The prize is considered to be Europe’s highest honour in the cultural heritage field. The 29 winners from 18 countries were selected out of 202 applications from 39 countries, nominated by organisations and individuals. The projects chosen this year are outreaching examples of creativity, innovation, sustainable development and social participation in the heritage field throughout Europe in 4 categories:
CONSERVATION – RESEARCH – DEDICATED SERVICE – EDUCATION, TRAINING AND AWARENESS-RAISING” #karthaia #europanostra
2013 © Copyright. All rights reserved
For the island of Kea/Tzia you may visit:
Μore about archaeological sites in Kea and about Mediterranean archaeology you will find here:
The Daughters of Kea and Ayia Irini
Athens hosts ‘Princesses’ of Mediterranean at the Museum of Cycladic Art