For Greek http://goo.gl/x30FrvAs in fairy tales, we stand uncertain at crossroads.
As pilgrims we make stories along the way and have interesting encounters.
We start at 9:30 am from Korissia, the harbor of Kea, the island known also by the name of Tzia.
At Kato Mera (Katomeria), we stop to eat omelets in the traditional kafeneio. While breakfast is prepared, we pass quickly from the stone shed, hidden behind the square of the village, which serves as information photo gallery about the archaeological site of ancient Karthea. With my friends we share the opinion that it should be transported at the harbor, in full view, to attract hikers and let everyone benefit from such a thorough presentation.
One of the four city-states of the island of Kea, on the SE coast, Karthea was inhabited continuously from the end of the Geometric period to late antiquity and flourished in the Archaic period.
Travelers have been visiting the monument 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.
With my friends we agree to arrive to Karthea from the trail starting from the beach of Kaliskia.
So, we drive to Havouna, and then we see signs ‘Private space’, but ignore them until the road takes us to a lonely house. The dog bounces friendly and its owner signals to make a U turn. Returning at the crossroad again, we meet an older man riding his donkey, who directs us pointing towards the dirt road along the sea with his stick.
We drive downhill and cross with a car coming the opposite direction, from the seaside.
We have to stop the car anyway, so we grasp the opportunity to step out; as our numb bodies step on the arid earth, the other driver shares his morning discoveries from wandering in the area. After he goes, my friends, who do not understand Greek, ask me what he was talking about.They tease me because I am standing stunned by the unexpected charm of our last encounter at this empty field.
We continue in the best mood on the long dirt road, we pass two wonderful beaches and we reach Kaliskia beach.
We start walking trail No 7 easily. Weeds are sparse, the shrubs low, and the stones of the stonewall (xirolithia) stand in place every time we climb them. The trees are few, a refreshing breeze is cooling us, only our backpacks are a bit heavy; we carry cold water, vegetables and ring-biscuits (kouloures).
Everything goes smoothly until now! The improvised door, the only opening on the tall stonewall that stretches around the field as far as we can see, is locked, with a padlock. The fence is tall, with a rusted wire on top. We wonder if it protects the site from the goats. We delay to straddle the fence from a lower point, lending each other a helping hand. We climb from one stepping stone to the next, without losing our good mood. We overcome this obstacle, too.
On the other side we see the ruins of the theater, down, and higher the broken columns of the temples.
We stand to watch the swimmers; other people find refuge from the sun under the sheds, in the chapel and the adjacent warehouse. It is Sunday.
We descend. The contemporary buildings are made of local stone and the Cycladic colors; it was possible to build them by carrying materials from the paved ancient path. Like the old man’s walking stick we are instructed to look back, to make the present possible. Some people are still working here, in the excavations.The archaeologists recover slowly the theater ruins from evanescence, a victory over the ephemeral.
We proceed to the second beach of Karthea after crossing the path that connects the two bays of Poles.
The silent presence of the graves of Karthea is a reminder of the undisputed sovereignty of time. The gaze seeks the tranquility of the belfry, follows the soothing curve of the hills. The harmony of the ancient site and the landscape is grounding me.
Paths, for the most part paved, of a total length of 36 km, used to connect Karthea with the other three city-states of Kea. All around there are traces of mining activity and agricultural cultivation.
We drop into the water after 45 minutes of walking.
After an hour, and a picnic on the beach, we return to the first bay of Poles with our backpacks lighter. All the people have gone. We recline on the built benches in the portico of the warehouse. I close my eyes and before falling asleep the images of our journey pass quickly through my mind.
This post was initially posted on July 2, 2012.
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more about the island of Kea/Tzia:
Take a walk in the unseen side of the island of Kea, from the Byzantine times,
Rewarding Stops at Chora or Ioulida,
To the Lighthouse of Saint Nicolas
more about archaeology, around Mediterranean sea:
The Daughters of Kea and Ayia Irini
Athens hosts ‘Princesses’ of Mediterranean at the Museum of Cycladic Art