“Ηow did you discover us here, at the edge of the world? People who don’t have relatives on the island rarely come here on their own.” A friendly man came out to his small garden together with his dog – barking loudly enough to raise the dead – to give us directions. And he posed the obvious question of how we ended up on Paleo Trikeri, the only inhabited island of the Pagasetic Gulf south of Mt Pilio (Pelion).
It is a true piece of paradise, so pure and untouched by people that, as I write these lines, my heart sinks a little at the thought that the publicity might ruin this haven.
The island is a floating olive grove comprising between 60,000 – 70,000 olive trees on 2,5 square km of land. Their roots are old and their trunks look like natural sculptures.
Just like on Hydra, vehicles are forbidden; visitors must leave their cars at Alogoporos, the nearest point on the mainland, and from there travel across by taxi-boat; the journey is five minutes long.
After disembarking at the port’s small settlement, visitors must – necessarily – walk on a network of paths that lead to small bays. The olive trees reach down to the breaking waves and the waters are crystal-clear.
All in all, there are not more than 40 houses inhabited by locals, who are warmhearted people; there is a limited number of rentals, and two tavernas. There are no supermarkets, or bars, or cafes.
The only attraction is the impressive Convent of Panagia Evangelistria, built around the time of the War of Greek Independence (which began in 1821); it comprises approximately 100 cells. A few of them are functional and offered for accommodation at an extremely low price. There are no more nuns left at the convent; only one woman works as a caretaker.
From 1949 to 1952, the cells housed the guards of the women who were exiled to the island – it is estimated that about 5,000 women detainees passed through Trikeri during this period. They lived in tents barely big enough to sleep in.
Today, the small island has a lot to offer to visitors; an incredibly beautiful landscape, extra-fresh seafood (like the steamed limpets) and, most of all, silence.
The few days I spent on Trikeri brought to mind memories of my childhood years. In the stillness, all I could hear was the sound of birds chirping, rustling leaves in the trees, a caique’s two-stroke engine, the buzzing of the cicadas, and the waves.
As for crowds and anxiety, they were nowhere to be found – not even in my dreams.
This article was first published in Greek at kathimerini.gr