The Sound of Kythera

Life in Kythera


A misunderstanding is supposed to be the reason for the construction of the temple of Agios Charalampos in Karavas. By the end of the 18th century, the people from Karavas, used to go congregate at the church of Panagia Despina at Vouno. However, one year the church in Vouno, finished the Holy Saturday liturgy without waiting for the people of Karava to come. This incident made the people of Karava to build this temple, in a tri-aisle basilica style, where many important artists of the time, worked in order to decorate internally. Agios Charalampos is the patron saint against the bubonic plague, which had three major outbreaks, during the time of Venetian occupation.
In the most northern part of Kythira, surrounded by brushwood and a panoramic view that starts from the sea and even captures the neighboring island of Elafonisos, is the Moudari Lighthouse. Built in 1853 and under British domination, the Lighthouse is 25m high. Getting to the top, requires climbing a set of very narrow and steep stairs. Prior to gaining electricity (and thus start working automatically), the Lighthouse worked on petrol so the presence of Lighthouse-keepers was essential for its smooth running. The Lighthouse typically housed 4 families, usually residents of the Karava village. Each family would have its own room as well as a small storage space . In order to get the Lighthouse’s lamp to light up, someone had to rotate a heavy manual crank every three hours. The petrol lamp would light up in a confined space dressed in crystal mirrors spaced 27 nautical mml apart. Today, the Lighthouse is automatic and completely silent but still, if one climbs to the confined space at the top and listens carefully, they might feel the rough sea coming to Kythira from headland Malia.
The Kytherian rusks are one of the island’s most sought for delicacies.Rich in flavour yet light and fluffy, this Kytherian biscuit can be enjoyed plain and can be found in a number of wheat varieties and robust flavourings . One of the best places one can first experience this unique treat, is Pavlos Koronaio’s bakery, known as “Karava’s Bakery”. Pavlos turned his grandfather’s oil press factory into a bakery in 1964. The only thing reminiscing its previous use, are some old machinery that are currently being showcased as museum exhibits. Karava’s Bakery produces 1.5 tonnes of rusks a day. The traditional baking procedure has now become mostly mechanized, yet, there’s still the cutting of the dough in perfect little rusk sizes that needs to occur by hand, using nothing but a small cleaver.
Nondas Vezos ties his fish-boat at the Agia Pelagia port and once he’s sold the entirety of his daily catch, he meets his friends at the Blue café, located at the village’s marina.Nondas is one of the last fishermen left in Kythera and just one of three fishermen in his village, Agia Pelagia, which used to be a fishermen village. Fishing, he explains, is a profession standing on its last legs . Kythera never had much of a fishing tradition. Most locals had olive trees, vineyards and beehives. The fishermen are few, yet, they are still faced with grave problems. Overfishing, pollution and climate change have reduced the amount of fish found in the seas, while the common attacks from seals and dolphins ruin their nets costing them large amounts of money. What seems to overcompensate for their hardships though is their daily contact with the sea as well as the afternoons spent at the cafe. Kythera is known for its delicious mullets, groupers, wipers and sea breams, but alas, a common delicacy of the past, the lobster, has now become extinct.
Kythira’s connection with the rest of Greece has been an ongoing challenge for the island’s residents and those wanting to visit. Isolated, due to its geographical location and often inaccessible due to its weather conditions and lack of a port capable of accomodating ships when the weather is playing up, the island was faced with some serious challenges. That all changed for the better in 1962 when the Kapsali marina was built and later on in 1996 with the Diakofti port. Up until then, ships would enter the Agia Pelagia port, or, in rougher weather the marina-less Kapsali port. Passenger boarding was a long and dangerous procedure since the ship would get anchored in the middle of the sea and passengers would get to it on little boats. In the occasion of a tumultuous sea, the boatmen would carry passengers from the beach to the boats on their shoulders. Even then, the hardship wouldn’t end since the ship couldn’t carry too many people and many were turned away . Those turned away would spend the rest of their days on their island harboured at Vaggelis Kapona’s coffee shop in Pelagia. Some would eventually hop onto the next ship and some would take a slow donkey-ride home.
Logothetianika is an old village that took its name from a family that came from Constantinople. According to tradition, in that family lived a minister of the emperor. At that time the name for the ministers was ‘logothetes’, e.g. logothetes of the street were the ministers of transportation. Therefore, this is how the village took its name. A landmark of Logothetianika is the holy church of Agios Minas, with the tall bell tower and the sweet-sounding bells . The church has also a big clock that rings every half an hour and its sound echoes in the nearby villages
Kythira’s National Airport was the catalyst for the island’s ability to connect with the rest of Greece as well as other countries. It is said, that Alexander Onassis himself paid the island a visit in the late 1960’s in order to explore the possibility of an airport . In the end, the airport was built in the Ammouses area which was known for its sandy ground that was favoured for viticulture. The airport saw its first landing on the 20th of December 1971, while the first charter flight took place many years later, in 2004. Today the airport offers frequent flights (even more so during the summer season) to the rest of Greece as well as other popular destinations like Denmark and Holland.
What you are two scavengers, a human organs trader and a whore doing in the cafe “The lovely Aloizianika”? Surely these are everyday figures of Kythera. They are, however, the main characters of the dramatic comedy ‘Oh! My kidneys’ written by Babis Tsikliropoulos, which is performed by the group ‘FOS’, one of the two adults’ theater groups of the island . Theatrical performances, dance and sports events, and the philharmonic band of the island, are the main creative activities of residents throughout the winter and a good opportunity for meeting friends.
Sunday 8 January 2006, 01:34 p.m: a major 6.9 magnitude earthquake stroke Kythera. Due to landslide, 50 old and abandoned houses, and roads were damaged, while the church of Agia Triada in Mitata, suffered considerable damage and ever since it stands derelict in the main square of the village, reminiscent of the natural disaster.

Michani Porfyrousa

A ship arrives at Kythera. The journey to Kythera starts now.

Zwi Myrtidiotissa Stone
Mr Stavros Stoumpos first arrived at Kythera from Sparta in 1957, when he completed his military service. He has lived at the Diakoft village ever since, a decision based on his love of the sea.When he first came to Diakofti, he found two coffee shops and quite a few inhabitants. Nowadays, the village only ever sees people in the summertime. During the winter months, Stavros Stoumpos is faced with loneliness and a stormy sea that often reaches his front door. Back in the day, he was a fisherman who disliked the taste of all but one (the mullet) types of fish. He has since sold his fish-boat, Diamanto, and spends most of his time growing vegetables in his backyard, harvesting wild weeds and collecting items that capture his interest . One of those items is a stone that he has named ‘Myrtidiotissa’. It hangs in his yard and he often hammers it to enjoy its sound.

One of the greatest hurdles that Kythera has often been faced with are the prolonged periods of water scarcity that cause damage to the island’s agricultural society. During those hardships in the past, Kytherians would resort to the Virgin Myrtidiotissa and other local saints while the procession of holy icons in times of great drought was also a frequent phenomenon. According to tradition, a Turkish man from Crete once stumbled upon a crowd of people processing the icon of the Vigin Myrtidiotissa and pleading her for rain. He was so taken aback by what he witnessed that he promised to dedicate a jewel in the shape of a crescent moon to the depicted Saint, if a miraculous solution occurred . Soon after, the drought was over. The man kept his promise and thus the Virgin Myrtidiotissa’s crown has ever since been adorned by a diamond crescent moon.
Panagia Spiliotissa is a small church in the settlement of the slaves, ‘Sklavianika’, which took its name after the Kytherians who were sold as slaves by the pirates, were bought back by their fellow people. In Christmas Eve, the Great Vesper is served here, and following that you can attend the children of the nearby villages reenacting the Nativity of Jesus in the small caves of the pastoral settlements, to the accompaniment of Christmas hymns.
The making of church candles in Agia Moni’s makeshift candle workshop is a procedure that requires fire, water, dirt and wind.The workshop was founded over 20 years ago by the father of the parish. It has since become the place that caters for the entire island. The procedure begins with a wick machine that uses a metal frame to knit the candle’s wick. Made from a bike’s pedal, a car jack and a switch, this machine is also makeshift. After the knitting, the frames are placed in the wax machine where they work in circular motions giving the wax the chance to dry between layers. The wax used has been left over from previously burnt or unused church candles that Father Georgios melts into a large pot and then puts through a sift to remove the wicks. The wicks are then placed into a large basinet filled with water. It is said that the remnants are ideally used as firelighters.

Zwi Roussos’ Ceramics
The ceramic workshop belonging to the Rousos family in Kato Livadi, carries on a century-old tradition. It all began when the family’s great-grandfather met a craftsman from Sifnos who taught him the art of pottery. Together, they built a sturdy furnace in which they created a large variety of ceramics that people used in their everyday lives. The family still remembers their great-grandfather mounting his donkey with ceramic pitchers and setting off at 2am on a Sunday morning so that he could be at the Potamos market when the sun would rise .

There’s two wine varieties to be found in Kythera, Petroulianos aka Petrolano (white wine) and Arhikara aka Fokiano (red wine), that are said to have been carried to the island by Asia Minor immigrants. The harvesting of the grapes is considered a family affair. Throughout August and up until the early days of September, families and friends dedicate their time to the harvesting and then stomping of the grapes. These activities have traditionally been accompanied by songs, festivities and celebrations. When, however, the amount of grapes harvested exceed expectations, the stomping becomes a grueling procedure. As Yiannis Deuterevos, who inherited the stomping equipment housed in the museum of Tsikalaria from his grandfather, remembers, the stomping of the grapes could take up to 12 hours. The procedure would commence in the early morning hours around 2 am to avoid any bees and wasps flying around. Three men were required within the stomping equipment and one more was summoned for carrying duties . The rise of dawn would still find the men in their same positions but bugs were no longer a threat as the developing wine’s potent must would act as a repellent. The stomping of 2.5 tonnes of grape, daily, would successfully cease at 2mp when the men would finally be able to have lunch and return to their homes.

Zwi Football match
Kythera’s football court is located in the midst of a field and was financed by the benefactor Panayiotis Mayeiras in 2011 in order to house sporting events on the island. Occasionally, the friendly matches between school teams require the acquisition of a ticket that is always accompanied by a glass of wine or raki. The profit always goes towards a school trip at the end of the year. Kythira is the home of eight teams: Asteras Kythiros, Lokalistas, Mpekatsiakos, Mpyrokoliakos, Keraunos, Mayri Thyella, K.E.F.A and Palaimahoi.

Thriskia Myrtidiotissa Litany
The litany of the holy icon of Panagia Myrtidiossa, that starts on the Quadragesima Sunday, is one of the most important religious customs of Kythera, a custom whose origins date back some centuries ago, to the Venetian occupation. In that time, in fear of the pirates that had already raided the monastery of Myrtidia in the past, Kytherians decided to safeguard the holy icon in the catholic temple in the fortress of Chora. In rememberance of this moving, every Easter, the holy icon leaves the monastery of Myrtidia, in the hands of the pious population and the tour around the island begins. The litany lasts for 15 days and covers 150km, passing from 40 villages and entering 48 churches .

Zwi Well in Rizes

Thriskia Metropolitan Church of Kythera
Built in the mid 1600’s, the Metropolitan Church of the Crucified Christ, is one of Kythera’s most important temples. Located in the Chora, the island’s surviving capital after the Byzantine Agios Dimitrios was pillaged by Barbarosa, the church has dim lighting and a unique, gold-plated wood-carved temple adorned by Heptanisian style hagiography. For the last 25 years, the church is being run by father Froumentios, born in Ethiopia by a Cypriot father and Kafalonian mother . Special days that are celebrated with great brilliance include Easter Sunday, Exaltation of the Holy Cross and of course the Assumption in August.

Zwi High school of Kythera
Financed and developed by the locals, Kythera’s sole high school was built in 1931 in the island’s capital. Every morning, after leased buses do the village rounds to bring children to Chora, the capital acquires a joyful atmosphere filled with children’s voices and laughter. Today, the high school has more than 100 students.

Although Kythira has a small number of farmers and land cultivation has experienced decline over recent years, the island is suitable for many types of crops. The particular geomorphological and climatic conditions of the island and the different soil types that can be found have allowed Kytherians to cultivate everything, from olive trees and vines to vegetables, along the whole island. A cultivation method that seems to stand out is the babakies, a type of anhydrous fields. In these local gardens grow many vegetable species such as tomatoes and zucchini with no watering , getting the nutrients they need from the sandy soil moist by the Katsifaras – the fog of Kythera that maintains the humidity of the island at high levels throughout the year-.