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We stay almost a week in the south of Evia, at Karystos

Home -> Europe -> Greece -> Travelogue Greece -> 26 to 31 May 2019

Sunday 26 May, we stay almost a week in the south of Evia, at Karystos

When we want to pay, Yannis and Teije are so busy talking about the Greek language that we almost forget to hand in the key. It won't be the first time!
We have to drive about 450 kilometers today, but we have also a lunch date with Reinder and Paulien who have a house in Amaliapolis for years. Paulien is a co-student of Teije in a Greek conversation club and we also visited them last year. As a professor of Euro-Asian archeology, Reinder has carried out excavations here for many years and last year he has shown us around.
In order not to lose any time, we the highway this time, but at the first toll gate the barrier automatically goes up when we stop in front of it. At the second toll booth there is someone who gives us a receipt (keep it well until you leave the highway, she says in Greek) but we don't have to pay anything. And so it goes on. We calculate that for the entire ride we have saved at least € 17.
We agreed to meet at their house and after coffee we have lunch in the village. It is clear that they know exactly where we should be because the food is delicious. They also tell us that toll roads are free today because of the elections. Officially everyone has to vote in the municipality where he or she is registered but many people work in a different place so they have to travel. It seems that in the past the government even reimbursed travel costs. Later we hear from some Greeks, especially those who work in tourism, that it is not possible for them to travel far. Like our friend Vassilis who is now a waiter on one of the islands but is registered in Larissa. He would then have to take 2 days off, which would cost him the income he desperately needs.
After lunch we continue to Evia, because we still have more than 4 hours to go.
The southwest coast of EviaEvia is the largest island of Greece after Crete, although it is not well known to foreign tourists, mainly Greeks go on holiday here. Two years ago we visited the north, but then it became so hot that we fled to the cooler west of Greece. In the coming days we will therefore explore the south, which is much rougher than the north with many mountains, canyons and, we have read, beautiful sandy beaches. After Chalkida, the capital of Evia, we still have two hours on two-lane roads, but to our surprise it is a very good road, certainly all the way in the south where we go back into the mountains but hardly encounter any traffic. The landscape here is much more bare than in the north where there are lots of woods.
View from our balcony in Karystos The garden of our apartment complex in KarystosOur apartment is just outside Karystos on the south coast of Evia, but the navigation is having some trouble finding it and wants to lead us through a street where the car doesn't even fit between the walls. We will get there with a detour and we are welcomed by mother and daughter. Good thing that Teije can help himself in Greek because only the daughter speaks a handful of English. That surprises me, but mainly Greeks come here from Athens. Because we are the only guests we get a free upgrade to the nicest apartment that normally costs € 100 per night (we pay € 45) but that didn't really matter to me. Now we have to walk the stairs because the bedroom and the large balcony is on the 1st floor.
We have a large balcony in KarystosBut we do have a lot of space and a very nice, large balcony, it is one of the more luxurious places we have had in Greece so far (but also one of the most expensive). We also have a nice view of Karystos and the sea because we are a bit higher on a hill. And it is nice and warm, last week it was still somewhat unstable. Now we have plenty of sun and it is almost unfortunate that we do not have a parasol on the balcony. Then we remember we have a little parasol with us which we can also use here. A nice place, I could stay here for a while. At first we booked for 4 nights but if we like the area, we might want to stay a bit longer. Since we are the only guests, it must be no problem.
According to the owner, there will be other Dutch people tomorrow. Why Dutch people? On a holiday we have no need to see fellow countrymen!

Monday 27 May 2019, walking through Karystos an almost to the Dimosaris gorge

We sleep late this morning although it would have been even better if there hadn't been a snorer next to me. It is slightly cloudy but mostly sunny and 24 degrees. Perfect for a homemade breakfast on the balcony.
The port of Karystos on Evia The boulevard of Karystos on EviaThen we drive to the town of Karystos, which is sheltered by a large bay. In ancient Greece, the city state (polis) Carystos was nearby and throughout history there have always been people living here. The city was named after the centaur Karystos or Carystus, son of the wise Chiron and the nymph Chariclo. Centaurs were in Greek mythology beings who had the lower part of a horse and the torso of a human. Centaurs had a rather bad reputation because they were rather wild, they had no control over the instincts of their animal lower body. Chiron was a positive exception to this, but we do not know whether this also applied to Karystos.
Nice boat in Karystos, Evia Anchor before the Venetian fort in KarystosA long boulevard runs along the coast and there are many boats moored. We first look for a place to drink coffee and although it is not that busy, we have to wait a very long time before we are served and even longer before we get our coffee that is meanwhile lukewarm. The terraces along the boulevard are fuller here than we saw last week, but there seem to be few foreign tourists.
At the harbor pier is a monument for the unknown fisherman with a statue and a large anchor and behind it is the Venetian fort Boutzri that can no longer be visited today.
St. Nicholas church in KarystosThe St. Nicholas Church is prominent on a square in the center of the city and has light blue domes. We go inside to have a look, but for us these churches all look a bit the same, we don't know enough about it to appreciate the decorations. However, the good maintenance of the building and the rich decorations show that there is money for the maintenace of such a building. The Greek Orthodox faith is still the state religion of Greece, although the government makes cautious attempts to loosen the bond between state and faith, but that raises a lot of resistance (from the church, obviously), especially when it comes to money and property.
Fresh meat at the butcher, Karystos The Greek kitchen also in Dutch, KarystosIn a window of a butcher we see the carcasses of turkeys (I think) hanging and a little further along the road a restaurant that wants to lure foreigners with the text 'Greek cuisine' in various languages. Too bad it just went wrong in Dutch: it says 'Greek cooking' instead of kitchen.
The boulevard is actually a long line of restaurants and bars that are right next to each other and they are all open so we won't have to search as we have done the last few days. But now we drive around in the neighborhood and most beaches seem to be southwest of the city. If we find a nice beach today for the coming days, we don't have to look for it anymore.
Just outside the center, Karystos has a very long sandy beach of over a kilometer long, but we drive further and see many more smaller beaches that lie in bays and where there is virtually no one. We have a few nice options for ourselves.
Countless roads in the southwest of Evia Roads near Karystos in a deserted areaThe area is becoming increasingly deserted, but the closer we get to an area called Erodios on the map, the more roads suddenly appear, all numbered from 1 to 70. Someone here has probably planned some gigantic project, but it did probably not get started except for the roads. We assume that the municipality is responsible for the roads and we are curious whether the official or local policy maker who has given permission for the construction of all those roads still has a job. You can see it well on the satellite photo of Googlemaps, it is just madness!
A very broad road, but for whom (on Evia)?And there are also steep roads with a blind summit. One is so steep that I find it really scary, what if we plunge into the sea when we are over the top. According to Teije that is not possible at all, but that is how it feels, I just don't like it. And again we have not turned the dashcam on! We turn it on when we go down again (we will show it later here) but that is less scary. But I'm not going up again!
A little later we arrive at a plateau which is as broad as a highway, there can be at least 8 cars next to each other. What would the purpose of this be? At least we can turn very easily and I like that better than the turn at the top of the steep road we did earlier.
The St. George church in Marmari on EviaTeije tries to drive these roads in the hope to get to Marmari, the harbor town nearby where the ferry departs from Rafina, but despite the many roads, the areas are not connected and we first have to return to Karystos. Marmari is smaller than Karystos but closer to the ferry, so Athenians can be in southern Evia within 2 hours. Compared to Karystos it is a sleepy village and not very touristy and we soon drive away again.
And Teije still has a nice route, according to him at least. He wants to drive through Agios Dimitrios to the gorge of Dimosaris and then around the Ochi Mountains, which dominate the south of Evia, back to Karystos. On the way to Agios Dimitrios we come through a spectacular gorge where you can make beautiful walks, but my back and Teije's knees vote unanimously against that. Until the town of Paradeisi the roads are ok but after that the road turns into hell for me: narrow, winding, crumbled edges and no crash barriers along the steep abysses. Spectacular vistas but I have no eye for that, with sweat in my hands I sit in the passenger seat.
The gorge to Agios Dimitrios on Evia The beach of Agios Dimitrios on EviaAlong the way we stop now and then to take some pictures of the gorge but you don't really see the depth and I am glad we don't have to go back this way. Although? After the secluded beach at Agios Dimitrios the road goes up again and after a few kilometers the road becomes downright bad with thick holes and even more crumbled parts. A ride through the Dimosaris gorge is therefore not possible, even Teije sees that this is not an option, but that does mean that we have to go back the same way, there is no alternative. What a rotten road but I can't close my eyes either!
I am so happy when we are back in Karystos, but we have never been through Paradeisi again, so we must have taken another turn somewhere. We park the car in the port area and stop at the first restaurant we see. While I am trying to recover from the ride, Teije is already busy talking to the waitress in Greek. Although I don't understand it, it's still nice to hear. But first i need a cold drink.
At the beginning of the evening we are back at our apartment and there are no other Dutch people, would we be lucky? Later we hear that the Dutchmen who would come today had problems with their travel schedule, which prevented them from making it and they canceled their stay.

Tuesday 28 May 2019, to Castello Rosso and we are going to clean a beach

Free with every order: a kind of vanilla sugar waterWe start on the terrace of Chovoli where we were yesterday afternoon and Teije has a chance to practice some more in Greek because the waiter and waitresses clearly like to talk to him. This will become our main café for the coming days. As soon as we are seated the waiter first brings two glasses with a clear liquid and a white substance in it with a spoon. Yesterday we also wondered what it is and now we ask the waiter. The explanation is that it is a kind of vanilla sugar that you can spoon and we see several people licking it or taking bites from it. It is called ypovrichio, in English it is also called submarine sweet. Greeks are fond of sweet things, but we find it mostly to taste like sugar.
The red castle above Karystos Windmills seen from the red castle above KarystosThen we drive to the castle above the town that was built in the 13th century on top of the foundations of a Byzantine fortress from the 11th century. The road to it is (again) narrow and winding and we have to climb the last part. Castello Rosso (Red Castle) was later conquered by Franks who sold it on to the Venetians and in the end it was the Ottomans who extended the castle even further and now the defensive walls are still very impressive. All kinds of rare plants grow in the walls. I myself stay a little lower to enjoy the view because the path to the castle lends itself more to a clambering than for a light walk.
View of the top of the Ochi mountains View of KarystosThe castle stands on a hill at the foot of the Ochi mountain where the supreme god Zeus Hera would have met. Hera was raised on Evia by a nymph and when Zeus saw her he fell immediately in love. He tried to conquer her by taking on the form of a pathetic, numb cuckoo. When she warmed him to her chest, he resumed his own form to seduce her. However, she only wanted to give in if he would marry her and he agreed. Many myths have been told about all extramarital adventures of Zeus afterwards and the revenge of Hera. The mountain is named after the ancient Greek word 'ocheuo', which meant the encounter or sexual intercourse of Zeus and Hera.
The highest peak of the mountains is 1399 meters and it is a rugged mountain with steep walls and deep abysses, too heavy for us to walk to. On top there is a so-called dragon house, mysterious buildings that are only built in this region, whose origins are still unknown. According to legends, dragons lived here and Mount Ochi has the most impressive drakospiti as they are called in Greek (we will visit another one later). There would even be visible impressions in the rocks that, according to the stories, are of dragon feet.
The roofs of the houses are damaged, but there is an explanation for this according to the local folklore: the dragon who lived here once fell in love with a village girl and kept her imprisoned in a dragon house near Rouklia, a little further away. He visited her every night, but because he was afraid of dogs and the girl's brother, who was searching for her during the day, had a dog, he made sure that he was woken up every morning by the neighing of his horse. He gave it just enough food for the night but so little that the beast got hungry again before sunset. But at some point the girl got fed up with the dragon (would she have let herself voluntarily abducted, you wonder) and she gave the horse so much hay that it didn't whinny. Her brother appeared with the dog and the dragon jumped out of fear on top of the roof instead of on his horse (so it is not a flying dragon). He then fled to his dragon house at the top of Mount Ochi, chased by the dog, and in his hurry to enter the house he jumped straight through the roof. That explains the holes in the roofs but we don't know what has become of the dragon or dragons.
A dead loggerhead turtle on Evia, Caretta Caretta A dead loggerhead turtle on EviaThe rest of the day we go to the beach and we stay there much longer than we had planned. The weather is lovely but when we walk on the 300 meter long beach, which we have completely to ourselves, we see a lot of plastic washing up from the sea and at the end of the beach we see a dead turtle. It is a loggerhead turtle (caretta caretta) and his or her shield is at least 70 centimeters long, so an adult animal. Would it be choked by plastic? We had already fished some plastic from the sea, but somehow, seeing that dead turtle makes us fanatically clean up the plastic on the beach.
A polluted beach at Karystos with a dead sea turtle We're gonna clean up the beachIt is warm and we occasionally dive into the water to cool down, lie on the sand for a while and then go back to work. With sticks that we use as a pin, we collect the larger pieces, including many bags that we can use to put in the smaller items. And we find everything: plastic chairs buried under the sand, complete fishing nets, plastic bottles but above all many small things. Bottle caps, pens, lighters, a new toothbrush still in the package and strange, narrow tubes with a colored liquid that looks rather chemical and scary (according to our youngest daughter you can break the tubes and distribute a colored light for a while).
Removing waste from the beach near KarystosBut the most dangerous are probably the smallest pieces of plastic: brightly colored red, blue and green hard plastic and the plastics that are falling apart. We work increasingly methodically and we soon realize that cleaning a beach of 300 by 15 meters is quite a chore. We search for about fifteen minutes and then have to cool off in the sea. Ultimately we will be entertained by this for 5 days. After every visit to the beach we collect the mess and bring it to the field where our car is. We cover everything well with some stones so that it cannot blow away. That gives a good feeling and after 5 days the beach is a lot cleaner!
In the evening we eat at our favorite restaurant and afterwards we return to our apartment where we (Teije in Greek of course) arrange that we want to stay a little longer. We indicate that we don't mind going to another (cheaper) apartment but there are virtually no guests so we can stay in our 100-euro-per-night house for € 45 a night. Perfect.

Wednesday 29 May 2019, the archeological museum of Karystos and to the beach

The small archaeological museum in KarystosToday we start the day with a cultural visit, namely to the archaeological museum of Karystos. It is located at the library and has only 2 small rooms, the entrance is also only 2 euros per person. There are mainly burial tombs, but for a region that has been inhabited for thousands of years, we still find it scanty. A Dutch archaeologist has done excavations in the neighborhood for an old settlement, but it is unclear whether any of his finds can also be found in here.
Then it's time for a cappuccino on the terrace and then to work on the beach where we collect a lot of plastic today, at least about 10 kilos. We leave organic waste such as rotten wood where it is, we stick to collecting plastic, there is way too much of that. In the shade it is 28 degrees Celsius but here on the beach a lot warmer and I am glad that I can occasionally go into the water. That is not nearly as cold as last week, it is already nice and pleasant. At the end of the afternoon we rest at our regular cafe with a cold orange juice and a beer and the rest of the evening we have a great time at our own apartment. I can very easily get used to such relaxing days as today.

Thursday 30 May 2019, to the Potami waterfall

Windmill parts at Akrotiri, Evia Heavy transport of windmill parts, EviaAfter our morning coffee we first drive to the east. When we drove to southern Evia a few days ago, we had already noticed that the mountain slopes were littered with wind farms and that additional windmills were still being built. How do they get those parts all those mountains? At Akrotiri is a landing place where the parts are brought ashore and from there driven up by truck. Gigantic parts that have to be brought up over sandy paths with hairpin bends and without crash barriers. I wouldn't want to be a truck driver here!
Windmills in the south of EviaFortunately we only come across these trucks a few times on the road and then luckily on the somewhat wider sections. But we do see that an entire infrastructure has been build to transport the parts as easily as possible. It is mainly German companies that work here and the windmills provide the most energy for the villages in southern Evia. But whether they enhance the natural beauty? Not really so. But it is always better than a coal-fired power station. There has been some resistance against the parks but there are probably not enough people living in the area to take that into account.
Centaur image for an unfinished hotel at Bouros beach, south Evia Centaur with rider at the Bouros beach in the south of EviaThe paved road along the coast ends at Bouros and there we see a statue called "the centaur and the nymph" and is probably depicting Chiron and Charikla, the parents of Karystos. On the internet we mainly read that people think it is a beautiful or a horrible statue. In any case, it is located quite special here, such a hopeful image with the blue sea in the background and a huge, dilapidated hotel complex that illustrates that here people (in vain) had put a lot of hope in mass tourism. Actually it is a somewhat sad sight but that makes it special again.
Mountain goats in the south of EviaFrom Bouros we drive inland to Platanistos and on the way we come across an almost dried-up waterfall where climbing goats have a great time. The road is generally quite narrow but the curves are very wide, probably for those long trucks that also drive along here with the parts for the windmills. Occasionally we see sand paths leading from the road that they have to take into the hills. They probably won't get close to Platanistos because then the bends become a lot narrower. Especially in the village itself, such a truck can never pass by the roads there.
Water well at Platanistos Waterfall at Platanistos in the south of EviaJust outside the village is the 10-meter high Potami waterfall right along the road and a spring that flows straight from the rocks. Not very impressive but it is in a beautiful setting. It is a lovely place with a calm brook among the trees but we are not the only ones who want to sit here. Dutch people, of course, we could have known that ... You come across them everywhere.
You can descend to the river, there are benches and you can also walk along the crystal clear water. And with the spring water we can also clean our windscreen. But like everywhere in Greece, there is probably little running water in July and August.
I don't want to continue further on this road and we drive back to lie on the beach for a few more hours (and of course to clean up plastic). Then we order a chicken burger at another restaurant in Karystos, but get a complete meal. All in all we had a nice and peaceful day again.

Friday 31 May 2019, a dragon's house at Styra

The entrance of a dragon house (drakospiti) at Styra A so-called dragon house at Styra in EviaThe dragon house on top of the Ochi mountain was too difficult a climb for us, but at Styra there is one right next to the road, although it is less well preserved. It stands on a slope in a bend of the road and there is only a small parking space so you have to be careful if you want to stop there.
Scholars still disagree when these strange buildings were made, some say in the 3rd century BC, others date them more than 1,000 years earlier. There are remains of about 25 such structures in the south of Evia and you won't find them anywhere else in Greece.
A dragon house at Styra on EviaThey are built on steep places from where you have a good view of the surroundings and are characterized by their architectural style: large pieces of limestone and slate are stacked on each other without any cement and yet they are still standing upright after all those centuries (and earthquakes). The entrance is formed by 2 low standing stones with thick and heavy horizontal cover plates on top. It reminds us a bit of the entrances to prehistoric burial mounds in England and Scotland. The walls of flat slates run diagonally upwards towards the center, forming a kind of pyramid-shaped roof. In addition to age, the architectural style is still a mystery.
Statue in the port of Marmari The walking large sandy beach at MarmariLast night we decided where we want to go next. At first we had Andros in mind but the ferry ride is terribly expensive so we looked at the map a bit and found a fairly large island just off the coast that we had never heard of, Salamina. We drive back from Styra via Marmari to see if we can take the boat to Rafina tomorrow or make a detour all the way via Chalkis. But the harbor town is still deserted and the harbor office is closed. The information on the internet about the departure times of boats does not always seem to be correct, so we decide that we will take the detour, which takes about 2 hours longer.
To the south of Marmari we drive to the Golden Beach, a sandbar that is constantly moving and changing shape.
Warning sign at the beach of Marmari Warning sign at the beach of MarmariAt the beach there are a lot of warning signs that we have not seen before and the nicest ones are those with the text that you have to wait at least 3 hours to swim after a meal and what you should do if you need help: don't panic and call for help. Well, if I am taken by a wave, I will probably not be able not to panic. Such advice is of little use if your head goes down because then you can no longer call for help. It is also advised not to go swimming alone.
The mausoleum of a Roman officer in KarystosBack in Karystos we look for the remains of a Roman mausoleum that lie in the middle of a residential street between the houses. It was probably from an officer who supervised the marble quarries in the area. The building itself resembled a temple and was also made of marble, but now only the lower layers can be seen. What else could be hidden underneath the houses in the neighborhood, I wonder?
Our beach south of Karystos The garbage after a few days of beach cleaningAfter a short coffee break we go to our beach, relax, swim and clean up some more plastic. For days we had a lot of fun making the beach a little cleaner and we collected a decent pile of trash, which gives a very good feeling, even if it is just a nothing compared to all the plastic waste in the sea. We should actually report to the town hall that they have to remove a pile of plastic here, but that has already closed. Hopefully a garbage truck will soon come along with someone who is so wise to take this pile with him.
The view from our apartment in Karystos Dusk from our apartment in KarystosOn our last evening there are more clouds and we get to see a beautiful sunset from our balcony. Every time we go to a new destination, we have to wait and see what it will be like, the apartment, the environment, the beaches and which places of interest we can see but this is clearly a place I want to visit again, especially because it is so little touristy (despite all the Dutch we have encountered). If they also asphalt the roads in the mountains, make them wider and put guardrails alongside it, then it would really be perfect!


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