Saturday, 19 October 2013

Tales from Megalo Horio

The kantina is closed and locked up, moved off Eristos beach in preparation for winter storms; the weather is mild; the busy days of travelling and moving house are over. In the words of Italian yoga teacher Anna, who was kindly giving classes this month: 'Now relax the body, and breathe normally.' 

I've been somewhat distracted by the beautiful view from my new office - and particularly by the little church, the ekklisaki, just below my window. I've always rather liked it, and now I'm a little obsessed. Inside, there's an oil lamp burning, and frescoes covering much of the walls and ceiling.

The village of Megalo Horio is built into a hillside that's littered intriguingly with stones from many centuries of inhabitation. The house that we are renting, although the front additions are quite modern, has a stone archway on the main part of the house, with '1868' painted over, and the courtyard has a couple of old millstones lying about. Doorways down the alley have what look like early Christian crosses above them, while others have Turkish inscriptions.

I took Lisa for a walk up to the castle a couple of days ago. She was indulgent about my need to take photographs and inspect the fading frescoes of old chapels, now exposed to the elements, on the way up. She noted that I didn't need quite so many photo stops on the way down. It's surprising what a steep old path it is; it was clearly meant to make access by invaders as tough as possible. People used the fortress at the top to retreat to in times of danger, but lived lower down the slopes, between the castle and the current village.

From the clouds, it was clear that rain was coming, but there was enough bright sunlight to make for spectacular views, as always, from the medieval walls built over an ancient acropolis.

(They don't build things like they used to, it seemed on the way down...)

Yesterday, having finished my deadlines for the week, I thought I'd pop down to the museum to see if Vicky knew anything about the church. Of course she did. She confirmed that it is dedicated to Ayios Ioannis Theologos, St John the Theologian, whose monastery is in Patmos. 

As to its age, she said it was 'post-Byzantine', or medieval. I thought it must be old, I said, because it's built on top of one of the old walls made of massive stones. 'The wall is Hellenistic,' said Vicky, 'from the time of Alexander the Great.'

'All these little churches were privately owned,' she continued. 'That one was in the family of Stelios's father's uncle, Apostolis Logothetis. He was a teacher, and during the Italian occupation he was persecuted because he taught Greek secretly. It was against the law to teach Greek, or even to speak it on the main street here.' She gestured to the road through Megalo Horio, underneath the museum. 

'Because the Greek language was forbidden, and only Italian language was taught, gradually the parents took their children out of school. When I met my mother-in-law, she was illiterate.' 

Up the steps to where we were standing walked Polixeni Logothetou; in her late eighties or so, always dressed in black and with a few friendly words to offer, she was carrying her wooden walking stick in a jaunty fashion over her shoulder, a bag of vegetables hanging off it. Vicky told her I was asking about the little church, and she confirmed its connection to Apostolis Logothetis. 'Polixeni knows,' said Vicky, 'she is one of Stelios's father's godparents - one of seven.' 

'Ah, the old folks, they're all gone now!' said Polixeni with slightly misty eyes, then proceeded on her way to cook lunch.

So the little church continues, having seen much history. This morning just after eight, one of the village ladies stopped to say hello outside our house, crossing paths with Menelaos who was carrying bags of shopping and getting a morning welcome from Lisa the affectionate semi-Labrador. 'Where are you going, neighbour?' asked Stelios. 'Well, I'm going to Theologos, and then to do some jobs...' She disappeared inside the church.

Shortly after, I was pondering the strange things you hear shouted across the alleys and rooftops here from time to time ('The mulberries are at the house!' - surely some secret code...) when Vicky arrived to give me some decorations for the house, old embroidered cloths, handmade. As she left, she pointed to a stone by our gate, one I've been thinking looks like a carved chunk of old marble with a hole for a wooden gate-post. 'This is ancient,' she said, and continued in a hurry to go and open the museum.

Well, the sun is shining in a clear sky, so we must be off to enjoy the day...


NB: For those interested in houses to rent or buy in Megalo Horio, I'm gradually putting some information on the News page of the blog.


My Facebook photos of the walk we did today!


  1. Hi Jennifer!
    A lovely story. On the island there is no museum with an exhibition about the history of Tilos. What a pity!
    I read, siga, siga...
    Best wishes!

    1. A very good idea. Maybe one day, there will be.
      I hoped you would like this story - I'm glad!
      Sending warm wishes from a glorious day in Tilos, all the way to Moscow....

  2. Wonderful post. Love the ancient paths and stone buildings. When I lived in Cyprus, we rented an old (750 years old) Turkish hacienda built by a Turkish merchant. It was awesome to even imagine the history made there. But Alexander the Great. We're talking really ancient, like 356 BCE and still standing.
    Susan Joyce

    1. Thanks, Susan! Yes, my head is full of layers of history today... Old Turkish hacienda sounds fabulous. Wonder what it's like today?

  3. Each church and chapel has its own history... Interesting read! And your new house sounds lovely :)

    1. Thank you... It is lovely - I was just thinking how nice it was to enjoy a lazy Sunday lunchtime on the sunny terrace, but now we're off to plant vegetables in the field!

  4. Hi Jen,

    Just returned from a trip to Greece. We were actually deciding between Tilos and Milos in the Cyclades. Tilos, mainly, so that we could have a chat and take long walks absorbing the places you describe so beautifully. But ultimately flight connections and time decided in favour of Milos. Beautiful, low key island. Full of character and characters. Medieval villages. Lovely beaches. And great seafood. We had thought about doing a day trip to Santorini but laid back Milos didn't allow it. We also drove to Meteora - probably the most atmospheric/mystical place that I have been to - so far.

    Hopefully, sooner than later, we will land up in Tilos.

    Till then, your blog would do.


    1. Micky, that's amazing that you were thinking of coming here! I hope you come here next time :-) But Milos sounds wonderful - it's somewhere I'd love to go. And I know what you mean about the Meteora - somewhere I'd love to go back to.
      Thank you for following and for making contact.
      Warm wishes