Posts tagged ‘Ikaria’

Greek politics: Theater of the absurd

From the mobilisation in Ikaria

From the mobilisation in Ikaria

It is becoming more and more difficult to report news from Greece, my country, in an unbiased manner. It is becoming obvious, more and more every day, that there is a “conspiracy” (for lack of a better word) to slaughter labour rights and therefore the working people for the benefit of an undefined and mostly imaginary “development”.

It is a universal truth that “development” is a desirable state. Who wants to stay behind? The dilemma that emerges today in our part of the world is “Development for whom? Development in what direction?” Is it “development” to turn into desert a spot of natural beauty in order to “create jobs”? Is it “development” to ask people to work, uninsured, for whatever salary his employer suggests? Is it “development” to dismantle [1]hospitals on far away islands without providing adequate health facilities? Is it “development” when salaries drop and prices skyrocket because they follow the rules of the market?

Does the Greek situation mark the return of TINA-there is no alternative, according to Ms Thatcher, to the barbarism of unbridled profiteering?

The general sentiment is that the country is cruising towards a steel door and no one can find the brakes.


[1] The hospital of Ikaria, built by funds donated from expatriates and not by the State, is ‘abolished” and the islanders sent to nearby Samos. It is obvious that this is a move planned on the map and not rooted in reality. During the winter months the Ikariotes are cut off from any other land and have had to look after themselves for centuries. Now they have to become their own doctors and midwives.

And then they went to the seashore

Greece has had a busy agenda this year: we had elections – twice, we have had two different governments and going for the third, right before the elections fires ate up part of the Attica forests, pharmacists refuse to provide medicine for the social security patients claiming that they have not been paid for months, the new Prime Minister goes to hospital together with the new Financial Minister, pensioners do not know how much pension they are going to get!

How can one react to such a situation? Pretend to be Zorbas and start dancing or, with temperatures around and over 35 degrees, hit the seaside. This is in accordance with Melina Merkouri’s interpretation of Medea: no tragedy, no killing of children, a happy family which, after the father’s minor lapse, get together again and head to the seaside. How can a woman, even a barbarian, kill her children?
With these thoughts in mind I have started looking for the perfect island for this year.

Seychelles Ikaria style


Ikaria, Nikaria according to the locals, is very popular with the Greeks but not so much with foreign tourists. According to friends coming from the island Ikaria is a well-kept secret.

I was invited to the 100 year anniversary of the Ikarian revolution, a revolution whose existence I ignored but it says something for this tiny island’s inhabitants. During the 1912 Turkish – Italian war the Ikariotes took advantage of the conflict and rebelled against the Turkish guard (a very small guard to be honest) and declared the island an independent state with its own national anthem and flag. They were incorporated to the Greek state five or six months later but they still threaten with independence when ignored by the central government and always vote left. “The red island” among its friends, Ikaria boasts archaeological sites, lovely beaches, geological wonders, villages that wake up and start work after 10 o’clock at night (!) and endless fairs: Saint this and saint that are reason enough to have a celebration that includes eating, drinking the famous Ikarian wine and a lot of dancing. Ikariotikos is a very popular island dance performed on every occasion and often without any occasion.

Maganitis: village and beach with interesting geological phenomena. Reminded me of Meteora.


Well, Ikaria is not an easy destination but definitely a different, interesting, vibrant, colourful small island.

This will also pass… : could that be the secret of a long and healthy life?

I watched a tv documentary the other day dedicated to the oldest and fittest people in Greece. It was actually filmed on the island of Ikaria, on the Eastern side of the Aegean, very close to the Turkish shores.
People of over 90 smiled peacefully, some sang and fewer danced before the camera. The common denominators that emerged are: little food locally produced, close family and communal ties, at least a glass of red wine daily and lack of stress. The journalist focused on the latter and the answer was that the vast majority of old people were happy to live within a very small income lived very close to nature and kept age old traditions that provided them with entertainment without costing a lot, with social contact and a safety net against stress and pressures.
The one real example of how these people apply what they preach to real life and impressed me the most was the hand embroidered sign one of the grandmothers had bequeathed to her grandchildren: “This will also pass…” . A message of patience and fortitude, so simple and yet so deep, it teaches us how to resist the disease generating stress and the various unavoidable difficulties of everyday life. A message of hope and survival in today’s crazy world.
(There is a video of one of the smiling old ladies on Mega tv – watch it if you understand Greek – Ola gia tin ygeia mou is the name of the programme)