Further Explorations of Psara – Agios Nikolaos Church

I suspect that instead of a series of “dear diary” entries my next few posts may just become a bit of a brain dump. I have so much so say about this little island but only have limited time in which to get my thoughts down. There is wifi across the island but at times it is incredibly slow, making updating the blog very tiresome. I snatch an hour or so when I come back to the studio at night and maybe the same in the morning before I head out, always anxious that the special moments I have experienced are lost, and never to be remembered.

On my second evening here I walked up to Agios Nikolaos Church just before going for my evening meal. The days here are hot from first thing in the morning but the temperature does take a bit of a drop in the evenings – for which I’m truly grateful.

I had read that there are 60 steps up to the church. However I swear to God that I’d counted 80! I huffed and I puffed my way up the steps just in time to catch the sun setting over Antipsara.

I had heard Psara described as one of the most remote Greek islands there is. I don’t think that it is remote especially with Chios being a short boat ride away – just a short trip by boat to Volissos (though around 4 hours to Chios town). Chios, although not always in view, is ever present and feels almost within touching distance. However, on Psara you do get a sense of remoteness. If you look out to sea from Agios Nikolaos Church or anywhere on the west of the island and beyond the small islets, there is nothing. Or rather nothing that can be seen. The nearest landmass beyond the horizon is Evia and mainland Greece. You need to go South and East to feel connected to other places.

Sitting on the rock of Thymiana, the construction of Agios Nikolaos began in1785 – the year Constantine Kanaris was born. Eight years later the construction was complete. The church in its original form was short lived as in 1824, the church was destroyed and pillaged by the Ottomans, stripping it of the valuable assets that had been donated by the local people. Forty years later when the locals Psariots returned home, the church was rebuilt and repaired.

The repair work can be seen if you look close enough. The beautiful marble frame sitting around main entrance has been carefully patched, but if you stand at a distance you’d never know.

In the courtyard is a monument to another Psariot hero, Konstantinos Nikodimos who was a crucial figure in the War of Independence.

The views from here are quite spectacular and a great place to watch the sun set behind the small island of Antipsara. Looking back towards the harbour, I can see the beach of Kato Gialos Beach with the waves crashing on its shore. The rock of Mavri Rachi curving around its left side. Beyond this is the village houses with their terracotta tiled rooves and then the wide bay of the harbour.

The walk down is easy though my vertigo does try to rear its ugly head. I’m now ready to eat. One of the most popular eateries along the front is Aldebaran taverna on the harbour front. It seems to be the most popular with the locals so on that basis I go there to dine. The kitchen doesn’t open until 7.30 and I am there a little before but it isn’t a problem. I have a glass of wine and I am brought some local cheese and cucumber strips whilst I wait.

This evening I have the Aldebaran salad – a salad of tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, locally grown capers and onions with a spicy, yoghurt sauce (and it’s massive) and also the dish of the day which is grilled pork meat. The portions are humongous. I try but fail to eat it all and I feel guilty leaving so much tasty food. This is one of the pitfalls of travelling solo.

Whilst eating I detect a certain frisson in the air. The one that alerts you to the fact that a ferry is due into the port. OK maybe it wasn’t just a frisson but a certain upsurge in traffic activity where at least 5 cars make their way to the harbour. Nobody was there to journey forth but to collect goods from the ship. This it seems is a daily activity, the Psara Glory providing a lifeline to everyone’s needs.

Beyond the harbour wall decorated in Psara’s historic heroes, I can see the lights atop the two masts of the Psara Glory. Dusk is just setting in and a couple of fishing boats are also coming home to roost. Don’t you just love the sound of when a ship drops its anchor. The clank clank clank as the chain drops through the cat’s hole and the splash as the anchor hits the water. It sends shivers down my spine it does. Maybe my seafaring ancestors are channelling their spirits through to me at times like this. The Psara Glory is home to sleep before setting off for Chios first thing in the morning.

The evening’s entertainment were provided by the cats – so many cats. The cats are daring and during a video call with one of my granddaughters she took great delight in watching one of them snatch bread from my table. It was done with such skill. The cat tipped the bread basket up with her paw and whipped off the nearest piece of bread to her and shot off before any of the other cats got a look in.

I head back to my studio with a new found confidence in the directions. I enter the village by the entrance to the left of Psara Travel and then follow the signs for the medical centre. This zigzagged route takes me past the Holy Church of the Transfiguration of the Saviour which is a beautiful and prominent church only beaten in size and height by Agios Nikolaos. This is now a key landmark in which to get my bearings when I find myself lost in the labyrinth of the village. Once past the church there is a semi renovated house made from bricks (very unusual as the rest are predominantly made from stone). On the left there is a derelict old house with ornate concrete balustrades. I take a right at the sign for the bakery and I eventually come to the playground that sits right in the heart of the community.

The walk back to the studios takes me past a number of semi derelict buildings that makes the surroundingsvillage very atmospheric. There is a plant that seems to grow on almost every corner of the village. My plant identifying app seems to indicate that it is a flower called ‘four o’clock’ because it’s flowers unfurl in the late afternoon. It comes in so many different colours from bright yellow, red and fuchsia pink. It looks like Nicotiana but it seems to be a perennial. Goodness me the scent is strong and very heady in the evening. At almost every turn this scent is on the breeze, that along with the smell of basil which grows almost like small trees here.

My neighbours are sitting in their usual places on their doorsteps and as I pass wish me a ‘Kalinichta’. I love staying here right in the heart of this neighbourhood. I’m exited to see what tomorrow brings.

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