Psara – Ambles Around the Neighbourhood

Thanks to yesterday’s message from my host Diana I now have two trips booked. Trips that would have been impossible on foot and now will enable me to see a bit more of the island. On Sunday I have a “child” taking me to the monastery in the North of the island and on Monday that same child will take me to the Archaeological Park in the West of the island. I am to meet this person in the coffee shop at 11am tomorrow.

So today I don’t feel as much under pressure to exert myself. Today I’m going to explore this charming little village further and see if I can begin to fathom out this maze.

The architecture in the village is quite a mixture of very old stone houses to newer, brick built houses (though these seem to be in the minority). Psara is a very barren and rocky island so they have plenty of the materials in which to build these houses. The first thing that I noticed was the cuboid and angular design of the houses – new and old. I’d mentioned previously that some of the churches look quite utilitarian – again this same style of an oblong with a terracotta tiled pitch roof and this also is reflected in the houses.

The next thing that caught my eye in the old houses is the thickness of the walls. You can see this in how deep the windows and doors are set back. There are many derelict stones houses where the windows no longer exist. This gives a great view of how thick the walls were and how the houses were constructed – I guess similar to a cemented dry stone wall style. Most of the old stone houses were around 18 inches thick by I did see some that must have been around 24 inches. They were certainly built to last. Although the island doesn’t have much in the way of agriculture due to the barren nature of the island, there are little pockets of fertile land – mainly in gardens and small holdings where a variety of vegetables are grown.

I figured out (just by getting lost) that the main arterial road starts at the port and then encircles the village – anticlockwise around the harbour front and clockwise along the western side of the village. Where the circle meets in the north of the village, it then spreads out across other parts of the island.

Within the village the roads are narrower and with space for single line traffic and motorbikes. None of the roads get very busy. The only traffic jam I saw was when one fisherman in his truck stopped to chat to someone in a cafe oblivious to the fact that there was a car behind him. The most frenetic it gets is when the Psara Glory comes in every evening with a fresh batch of goods to be collected.

I easily fathomed my route to the port by using the church as an anchor point but beyond that layout of the village is a mystery. Just when I think that I’ve got my bearings, I find that I’m not at the place that I expected to be. The village is truly a labyrinth. All the better for keeping the enemies at bay.

Not everything is labelled on Google Maps and that is part of the challenge – a rather fun challenge. There are several small mini-markets scattered about. The really old fashioned ones where there is an absolute mish-mash of things all on the same shelf – pegs next to a bunch of grapes – that kind of thing.

When I say minimarket, they are actually small annexes to someone’s house. The first one I found on my second evening purely by chance. At that point I was already lost in the village but when I stumbled across it I took the opportunity to buy a few things – you know – chocolate, biscuits, water – regular emergency supplies. The light was on in the shop but nobody was there. Through another door I could hear a tv, so I gave a tentative “Yasou”. A few minutes later an elderly lady comes through to the shop.

The shop may be old fashioned in some respects but you can still pay by contactless card so not completely from another era – only in appearance and charm. The lady from the shop also kindly pointed me in the right direction of my studio based purely on the two words “Diana” and “Playground”. It doesn’t get more of a local feel than this and at last I feel like I’m beginning to ‘feel’ what Psara is about.

On almost every corner there is an old water well complete with metal winding handle – now mainly used as a place for cats to sunbathe. During my little stroll around the village I hear someone shout my name. It’s Diana emptying out a bag of cat food for the gang of cats. They seem to dart over to her within seconds – clearly recognising the sound of cat biscuits hitting concrete.

Although the lifestyle here seems simple where fishermen make up the main employment market here, I get the sense that there is a bit of wealth here too. As I passed one of the taverna’s one morning, I noticed that it was full of people dressed ‘up to the nines’ as we’d say. Ladies in high heeled shoes and a full face of makeup and men in trousers and shirts – all looking quite well heeled. It wasn’t a party or a celebration as it was still mid morning. From what I glanced (I tried not to stare) it looked like it could have been some kind of meeting. Anyway, I guess I’ll never know.

Honey is also a domestic industry here. Not that I’ve seen the beehives up in the hills yet but I’ve seen the hives piled high in someone’s garden and also in the back of trucks. I need to make sure I get some honey before I leave.

I daresay that although I appear to be the only ‘non Greek’ here at the moment, I may not be the only tourist. I think that there is a percentage of people here that maybe live elsewhere in Greece but may have a holiday home here. Again I can’t be certain but it’s just something that I sense.

The village certainly isn’t dull. At anytime during the day or evening, the harbour front is a hive of activity. Apart from the people eating and drinking in the taverna’s, the harbour front is the place to ‘promenade’. A sociable activity done by people of all ages. Young boys of about 8 ride their bikes dangerously close to the harbour wall. It does amaze me how these children have no fear near water. A group of girls about a similar age, run and chase each other around the square. A group of older girls who are much too cool for school, walk together, each with a phone in their hand, never looking up or acknowledging anyone. Social media keeping their attention the whole time. This really is a people watcher’s paradise.

I can say hand on heart that I haven’t had one moment where I feel that there isn’t enough to keep me here. I think that this is a place that I could quite easily stay for a while. As I’ve said before, I tell my grandchildren if you say that you’re bored it means that you’re boring! Anyway, 6 days it is for little Psara and I know that the next two days will go very fast.

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