Nisyros: stumbling into the past.

Strange how things turn out.

Wednesday and I decided that rather than explore a couple of the new places I wanted to go I would instead finish my time on Nisyros with 3 days of fairly long walks with which I’m familiar and enjoy.  I would save the new stuff for next time, if in God’s grace there is a next time.

First up was to walk up to Emborios, a route I have only done in the upwards direction on one or two occasions before, then drop down the good kalderimi (stone-paved donkey path) to the caldera, walk along the tarmac to the path up through the col to Evangelistra and thence back to Mandraki.  Seemed good to me so, still breakfasting early to avoid the rambling hordes staying in the hotel, I set off at 09.30.

Fit as a butcher’s dog I reached Emborios by 11.00, far too early to stop for midday snack so I forced myself to have yet another frappé in the Balcony Taverna.  Can’t recommend the place enough.  Chilled.  Unpretentious. Fantastic view!

While sitting there sipping I noticed a few people appear on the top of one of the huge lava outcrops so, having sipped up, I headed off to find the path to it.  The view of the caldera from it was good but nothing more than from the taverna, just a bit higher. But it afforded the best views of Emborios that I have seen and walking to the edge and the steep drop down I saw the curved stone roof of what was obviously an old church.  The walk down to it was well worth the minimal effort and risk.  No idea how old the building was but obviously from the construction pretty old.  The carved stonework over the door was vaguely reminiscent of the stone-carved Horns of Consecration at the entrance to Nifios.  It may have been a nod to the local practice at the time it was built or something completely different, but it was very obviously not Minoan in origin or anywhere near as old.  I found the tiny place fascinating and kept going to the edge of the precipitous drop to try to get just that little bit better for photos.

View of Emborios, the Balcony Taverna closest

Looking down on the church perched on the edge of the rock outcrop with the caldera beyond and far below

The front of the church

Yet more New Stuff which I wasn’t even intending to look for.

The drop down the kalderimi to the crater was as enjoyable as usual, including the circumnavigation of the huge dead and fallen tree which completely blocks the zigzagging path simultaneously at two points.  But particularly enjoyable was poking into the abandoned stone-arched houses at the bottom of the path which were temporary home to a large colony of  bats.

Small group from a much larger colony

The route to the path over the col to Evangelistra and back to Mandraki is to trudge 10-15 minutes along the tarmac road.  Fired by the New Finds I decided not to walk the tarmac but to drop down to the floor of the caldera, at its highest at this point, and meander down through the terraces.

What an eye-opener!!  Within a short distance of getting off the road and on to the terraces I was in a whole new world.  Abandoned but in many cases still completely intact there were numbers of old stone houses of barrel arch construction.  Some were isolated but there was a cluster of about 10.  They were larger than the ones in the mountains,  some 3 metres by 5 and 3 metres in height internally, perhaps reflecting the fact that here on the caldera floor the terraces were much wider and were probably much more agriculturally wealthy than on the thinner soils of the mountains.

Two of the houses with large entrances next to each other had small tunnel enclaves inside which looked as if they may have been hiding places in times of conflict.  The openings to the tunnels were only about 30 cms high and could only be accessed by crawling flat.  Inside they were about 3 metres long and 1 metre wide.  Fascinating.

Close to the cluster of houses was an area which must have been used communally including large vessels carved out of lava and odd scraps of imported marble.  The scraps of marble seemed not to be associated with each other or any function but almost as if they were collected as items of intrinsic value in the same way that some now collect diamonds or other ‘precious’ stones, an indication of wealth.  They were also an indication that this was a people who traded because marble isn’t native to the island.

Two of the group of houses. Note the depth of soil over the top of the one on the left where the stonework has slipped away: makes it usable as a field!

Two large entrances ….

Tiny hiding-hole inside

Communal area

Large carved bowl and threshing circle

But most dramatic was a large rock carved into a throne-like chair.  Was this where the local community met to resolve issues, the chair reserved for the leader of the group?  It reminded me of a large stone throne I had seen many years before as part of the ‘Sculpture Trail’ near Saarbrucken in Germany except that that was a piece of art.  This was clearly functional or ceremonial. It made a great seat for my midday snack.

Enthroned with banana

I had thought that I might explore the area to the north of Armas on the way back but I just ran out of time.  This island is amazing.  Just when I was thinking that I would save some of the new exploration for another visit I stumble across a wealth of historical stuff I had no idea was there.  I sometimes sit there looking at these buildings and artefacts and wish I could go back in time and experience it like it was when this place was a thriving agricultural community.

There are now squill everywhere. Millions of them

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