Tilos: traumatic changes and empty shells

If you get bored with the words and just want to look at the pictures, scroll down and click on the ones you want to see larger.  But there are a few more words at the end.

Norman Tebbit, one of the senior ministers in Margaret Thatcher’s much hated or much nostalged right wing government (depending on your political perspective)is famous for his advice to the unemployed, the economically-challenged in society, to ‘get on your bikes’.  History will remember him for this one phrase, liberally translated as:  GO SOMEWHERE ELSE.  BUGGER OFF! (reason for this diatribe another time)

There were not many bikes around in the mid-1950’s on Tilos but a whole community decided that there was no point in struggling on where they were and they left their settlement, the ‘capital’ of the island, en masse.  The main problem was lack of water.  For an agricultural society water is essential but therein lies the rub.  The society thrives , grows and makes more demands on water for crops and personal use …. just as the climate is changing and rainfall is getting less.

To put it in context, imagine the population of London deciding they had to leave because the problems of rising sea-levels breaching the Thames Barrier were just too much to cope with any longer … and Boris could do nothing except wax jocular.

Back to Tilos.  It’s a bit of a bummer really.  Communities located high up the mountainsides out of sight of the sea not because that was where the best agricultural land was so much as to avoid pillaging pirates who plagued the Aegean for centuries. As water levels dropped the terraced fields were nolonger viable agriculturally and famously (at least locally so) in the  mid 1950’s (1956 if I remember correctly) the remaining residents of Micro Horio on Tilos decided to leave.  They had had enough and left, reportedly taking their roofs with them.

That bit I think is a bit fanciful, the evidence on the ground doesn’t bear it out.  Most roofs were obviously made of soil on a lattice of timbers and brushwood – nothing to take with when you leave really.  My guess is that most of the roofs collapsed.  But leave, virtually overnight, they did and the very extensive remains are there to see as are the dried up, desiccated, ant-eaten trees and the nolonger-cropped terraced fields.

Another piece of folklore is also of doubtful provenance, that they all  moved down to the coast and Livadia.  The probability is that most of them moved to either North America or Australia along with millions of other Greeks escaping the dire economic austerity visited on them by the Second World War.

I walked to Micro Horio on Tuesday.  Not my first visit by any means.  It’s a kind of pilgrimage, a sort of respect for those who accepted and dealt with the trauma of a rogue elephant at the door.  It must have taken a lot of courage in the face of desperation.  Truth be told I find it fascinating walking the narrow alleys between the roofless small, thick-stone-walled houses.

There are no ghosts walking the streets but it takes little imagination to think of this place, built of stone on rock, teaming with life, large families spilling out of the tiny houses (by modern standards) for outdoor living.  Here and there communal olive presses, doubtless used for generations, still stand solid, too massive to move and of no use elsewhere even if they could be and so simply abandoned.

The main church is still maintained and two others are kept as historic monuments (more about which another time).  But the village is most famous now for its night club.  It’s not my scene (I’m old enough to not have a scene … or a bag) but apparently it kicks off about midnight every night and goes on until the small hours with free buses back to Livadia every hour or so, until about 05.30 at weekends in the summer. The thinking , brilliant in its simplicity, is that those who want to rave can do so in Micro Horio because there is no-one there to complain about the noise!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I have been to Micro Horio a number of times, outside rave-hours, and taken many photos but I still took more this visit.  This  is partly to record the changes with the passage of time (an excuse) but also because I suffer from RPS, Repetitive Photo Syndrome, and always think I can do better.

This time I climbed the mountain behind to get a different perspective.  Steep ascent, no footpath but very enjoyable despite the aggressive vegetation (more about which another time)..

A really good day.  Micro Horio is a must on Tilos though the walk up the mountain behind is a bit serious …. not a Sunday stroll.

Approaching Micro Horio on the footpath from Livadia

Approaching Micro Horio on the footpath from Livadia

At one time obviously an important spring - hence the architecture - but long since dried up

At one time obviously an important spring – hence the architecture – but long since dried up

One of the many trees reduce to an ant-eaten stump by decades of drought ... with the village behind

One of the many trees reduce to an ant-eaten stump by decades of drought … with the village behind

Olive press complete with grinding stone just left behind

Olive press complete with grinding stone just left behind

... and another.

… and another.

Some of the houses are modern by European standards this one built in dedicated on 22 August 1912, years after the slum house I was brought up in which was twice the size and had an outside loo

Some of the houses are modern by European standards this one  dedicated on 22 August 1912, years after the slum house I was brought up in which was twice the size and had its own outside loo.

You are more likely to see goats than people wandering the alleys of Micro Horio

You are more likely to see goats than people wandering the alleys of Micro Horio

Looking across a series of roofless houses, stone walls survive but wooden roofs decay

Looking across a series of roofless houses, stone walls survive but wooden roofs decay

A somewhat grander house than many with windows, a front 'yard, and a 'fourno' (oven)

A somewhat grander house than many with windows, a front ‘yard, and a ‘fourno’ (oven)

The remains of the castle built by the Venetians on a rocky crag close to the top of the village

The remains of the castle built by the Venetians on a rocky crag close to the top of the village

Looking from the castle across the main church to the night club area

Looking from the castle across the main church to the night club area

Zooming in on the village from the mountain behind

Zooming in on the village from the mountain behind

Apologies to those who only read the blog to check that I’m still alive and not dropped off some cliff somewhere.  I’m out doing stuff and photographing it rather than writing about it.  Hence the long gaps between posts compared to previous years.

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