submitted by Helen Tzortzopoulos on 27.08.2005
Events on Kythera.
From the Kytheraismos Newspaper,
published, and distributed throughout the world monthly,
Main News, in English
By Helen Tzortzopoulos
A Fork in the Mediterranean
It so happened that some days ago I found myself in Sydney for another brief visit to see family and friends. I couldn’t have timed it better. The long awaited screening of FORK IN THE MEDITERRANEAN — the Australian T.V. production by Pria Viswalingam screened on SBS Channel was due to take place. Readers may recall that last May (2004) a camera crew spent 10 days filming all around the island and interviewing persons from all walks of life who have chosen to live on Kythcra.
Needless to say great excitement prevailed in Greek quarters in anticipation of the programme. The hot line really buzzed. Australians rang to alert their Kytherian friends of the forthcoming screening. My family in Sydney received excited phone calls from most capitals of Australia - Hobart, Adelaide, Melbourne and Brisbane. Anyone who had remotely heard of our island was on standby, anxious to get a feel for this island which exudes so much pathos from us alL Greek viewing must have soared the SBS T.V. ratings to unprecedented heights that Friday evening.
So with drinks in hand we all sat down to view this documentary on Kythera, I admittedly, a little apprehensive. Nevertheless, I felt confident that Kythera would shine — so much filming, so many exquisite locations, so many interviews, so many things of interest — overall, so much love and enthusiasm.
Well! The next day I was the recipient of irate phone calls from numerous Kytherians and disappointed Australian friends. What was this? Kythera an another Mykonos?! We had been portrayed as an island of gossip mongers and centre of lesbian orgies. The beautiful scenery in the background played second fiddle to the concentration on gossipy small communities — something which surely is an accepted part of micro societies such as ours. Pria Viswalingam, you betrayed us. We opened our hearts and homes and you betrayed us.
On a second viewing, I was not so shocked. I knew what to expect. How can I explain to everyone that “Aphrodite” writhing around naked on my grandmother’s bed and bathing in our waters is not my son’s girlfriend but a delightful Cypriot actress earning a crust — will it soften the blow? How can I explain that the Australian-Kytherian girls who featured did not (in their interviews) concentrate solely on the gossipy part of society? How can I explain that this episode of Fork in the Mediterranean was not meant to be purely the glowing travel documentary that we all expected it to be? All we saw went against the grain. We think of Kythera synonymous with perfection —Aphrodite was perfection of womanhood was she not? But we freaked out when we saw her dipping in and out of the crystal waters throughout the 26 minute film. We freaked out again when the younger people expressed frankly the problems they were up against. We all know they exist but then again we do not like exposing our dirty linen. Let’s face it, it is very difficult to survive in any small society. Either you ignore the innuendos and get on with your life or you get up and leave as so many have. These people have chosen to stay....
If I had written this article two weeks ago, straight after the screening on Australian television, you would all have received an angry torrent of words eclipsed with embarrassment. All I can say is that it’s all in the editing. I can only express my disappointment that an independent party visiting Kythera for the first time chose to concentrate on the negative side of our society and somehow failed to explore the mysticism that this island holds for us. Perhaps this is how Viswalingam delves into the lives of all such societies. Not having seen any of his other episodes in the Fork series I do not to know. The passage of time has mellowed my abhorrence and perhaps on a third viewing I may actually come to terms with the contents of the Kytherian episode.
Tying the knot...
Nevertheless, in European quarters, Kythera’s alluring image has been well projected and its magnetic qualities have swamped the island with tourists. Hotels and restaurants cannot complain of poor trade this season. The island is fast becoming voguish for romantic weddings and christenings and the antiquated little chapels dotting the island’s horizon are becoming a trendy and popular venue for such events.
Since transport to and from the island has picked up its summer momentum, of course it’s only natural that the island is suddenly inundated with people who have been deprived of easy weekend access to the island for the past nine months. The F/B MYRTIDIOTTISA is packed on its weekend voyages to and from Piraeus. As far as airline services are concerned, you will be lucky to get a seat on a plane at the earliest September but by that time there is talk that Olympic Airlines may close down!!
An AntiKytherian experience
Getting to AntiKythera for a day’s visit is not such an easy feat however. One would think that there would be daily excursions between Kythera and AntiKythera considering that the distance is minimal. This barren little island with its permanent population of about 60 people has become a focal point of interest for archaeological study once again with two teams working on separate sites.
One is the study being carried out by the Canadian School of Archaeology and the other excavation is headed by archaeologist Aris Tsaravopoulos whose team is studying the fortifications of AntiKythera known as Aigila — a Hellenistic period fortress enclosing an area of 30,000 sq. metres. During the excavations, a variety of ancient spear heads, arrows, catapult shots etc. have been found amongst various other artifacts, substantiating the claim that this stronghold of pirates was destroyed by human as opposed to physical forces in 67 B.C. In an interview with Mr.Tsavaropoulos which featured in KATHIMERINI (6/ 7/05) Tsavaropoulos pointed out that AntiKythera’s strongest point was its archaeology — and with this in mind he has proposed the idea of an organized Archaeological Park whereby volunteers could have the opportunity to work side by side with the professional team. Since funding for the excavations is minimal the benefit would be two fold and at the same time AntiKythera would benefit from the small flow of tourists focusing on archaeology. So all budding amateur archaeologists - get your spades ready!
A Game of Chess?
Kythera has become a checkerboad and someone is trying their hand at the game by moving our Bishops around. This has happened at a time when things in our ecclesiastical quarters have settled down and everyone feels comfortable with Bishop Kirillos Christakis who, since his appointment to the Metropolis of Kythera, has won the respect and affection of our complex community. Solely responsible for bringing peace and harmony to its members, he has suddenly been swooped up and moved back to his place of origins — Carditsa. Our new Bishop is Archimandrite Serafim Stergioulis who has been serving in the Metropolis of Hydra up until now, and is reputedly a man of strong convictions in regard to his clergy. Let us hope this is about substance and not appearance.
The spring of Portokalia could well be described as the sacred shrine of Karava. The verses of the well known song (Portokalia tou Karava) sing the praises of this historic and magical location. Residents and visitors often visit this spot to picnic and drink from the cool crystal water gurgling out of the mountain side. The gigantic orange tree which once stood adjacent to the spring bearing 30,000 oranges per season is now but a myth but the aura of the spot with its other ancient and majestic trees, its bubbling creek, the frogs and freshwater crabs and myriads of butterflies has always had a very special spot in the heart of those who go there.
This lush green tranquil area was our haven — until the bulldozer dozed its way down from the road above, into the gully, going upstream some 20 metres and turning 90 deg. up the side of the mountain shaving and exposing the roots of one of the ancient trees and carving a rough road through one of the most enchanting parts of our island —reeking havoc to the irrigation channels built by our forefathers decades and decades ago which transported water from garden to garden producing the orange groves of the valley. Environmental damage at its worst! An unimaginable sight! Someone wanted to get a road to their properties on the other side of the gully at all costs and cement over the creek bed! But fate works in mysterious ways. According to an old Thai legend, trees have spirits and the older the tree the stronger the spirit. If a tree is wilfully destroyed the spirit of the tree can create havoc. Believe it or not, one of the owners of the properties died two days later! So Karavites beware!!!
The truth of the matter is that very few people really care! There were other ways of reaching the property in question but these avenues were probably never explored. A handful of environmentally conscious locals and the Society of Portokalia have expressed their strong views and distress concerning the matter but it is doubtful that their demands for reparation will ever be heeded. It is unforgivable that a dissection of the landscape could be carried out without some sort of permission from the local authorities — who probably would have given it anyway in order to gain a vote or two!! Surely it should be a mandatory procedure that roadmaking and any other works within the vicinity of public places be approved by an environmental committee prior to work being carried out.
Do we have one? Mr Mayor, we have so many other committees why not form one
Local Societies speak out...
The implementation of the Kapodistria plan does have major drawbacks. Due to the amalgamation of Kythera’s 13 councils (under the plan) which once were responsible for each individual shire, the onus falls on many of the local societies to voice the town or village problems and complaints by addressing their protests to the various government channels e.g., Nomarhia of Piraeus, Eparhio and the Municipality of Kythera. The commercial centre of Potamos has for many years had problems with its sewage & waste systems and residents and businesses are most concerned at the situation in view of the forthcoming heavy tourist season and high summer temperatures. The Society of Potamos has sent a strongly worded protest to the government authorities requesting immediate action to remedy the long outstanding problem which could pose a health threat and cause irrevocable damage to its tourist and commercial industry. The Society of Portokalia, in addition to its immediate response to the ruination of the Portokalia locale, sent a letter of complaint to the Council for having excluded Karava and Platea Ammo from its summer bus schedules. (Does this mean there is a bus service on the island this year?) We understand that there was an immediate response and the matter has now been rectified. That proves the importance for the existence of local societies
The next couple of months on Kythera promise to be rich in social activities and cultural programmes and for those who wish to do something more than sit under an umbrella by the seashore all day there will be festivals, dances, concerts, and a variety of exhibitions by night and a host of excellent taverns serving good local food and wine. Kythera has come a long way in the last few years let’s hope it stays that way.
P.S. I just looked back into June 2004 Main News and found that I wrote:
Viswalingam's series are reputedly a different kind of travel documentary - hence the popularity of the series -and as such, it will be rather revealing (could be rather embarrassing)!
Teacher, journalist, poet and author, Sydney NSW Australia
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