From Marilyn Tsolakis*, edited by Vasiliki Kerasta
I first heard about Kastellorizo growing up as a young girl in Australia, as both my parents were born on the island before emigrating in the 1930’s. The storytelling about the island, its people and proud history flows through my veins in a way that made me connect the first time I saw Kastellorizo in 1986. I sat on the pier and cried as I had finally come to my spiritual home where my parents lived as children and I felt the presence of my ancestors.
This catharsis was pivotal in helping me to understand who I am today. I keep returning to see the many changes that the island has undergone – I love the colourful homes, the boats and yachts coming and going, swimming in the harbor in front of Hotel Megisti or off the islet of Saint George, the mountain walks and discovering the many layers of history from the ancient world to the Byzantine, Ottoman, French and Italian occupiers over time.
Today, Kastellorizo proudly has reclaimed and continues to assert its Greek identity. You will see many tourists drinking ouzo at the tavernas lining the bay, and as the sun sets over the beautiful harbor you soak in the romance and wonder of this magical island that connects people from all over the world.
Whatever month you visit there is always something special to discover. Easter mesmerizes, when on Good Friday the Epitaphios (funerary bier of Christ) is brought down from churches of Aghios Konstantinos and Aghia Eleni and paraded around the harbour. The days of partying after the resurrection reminds you how much Greeks love to express themselves through the traditional dancing that embraces all age groups.
May is the month that the patron saints of the island, Constantine and Helen, are celebrated on the feast day on the 21st. July is the month when many tourists from Australia whose families are from Kastellorizo often visit and stay in their homes that have been restored, or built as monuments to their forbears.
July 19th is truly unique, a day when you may unknowingly be thrown into the harbor or have water dumped on you. This tradition commemorates the time when a lone priest threw himself into the harbor out of joy, when he saw his people returning to Kastellorizo after having been evacuated during Greece’s War of Independence. Many people come to experience the celebrations that are unique to the island. The municipality organizes souvlakia, drinks and a band as part of a glendi (party) to finish what is such a fun and energetic day.
Recently, in late August and early September, an international documentary film festival has been established which is gaining recognition. Many people enjoy sitting in the open air on a warm island night, viewing the quality films.
And for those of you who have not visited Kastellorizo, let me remind you in the words of the Greek poet, Cavafy “May there be many a summer morning when, with what pleasure, what joy, you come into harbors seen for the first time.”
Kastellorizo is beautiful to visit any time of the year and I am glad that I have two island homes – Australia and Kastellorizo.
*Marilyn Tsolakis is an English teacher and coordinator of the group Friends of Kastellorizo which organizes a range of events such as student exchanges, the international documentary festival and others.