Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Day 66, Skopelos, the Sporades, Greece

Ok, Amit where you want to go is actually Skopelos.....
The largest of the Sporades chain with an area of around 60 square miles
Wow, this is certainly a pretty island of the Sporades..........and Feroz has just burst out into song...Mama we go again.....
The buildings are old and white, with huge bougainvillea and flowerpots, it's full of churches and it is completely covered with forest.
The landscape is dramatic, with high mountains and deep valleys.
Sadly, most beaches on the island are pebble beaches.
Skopelos means "rocky" which is a good description for this mountainous island.
The name has changed through history, for example it was called Peparithos in ancient times.

We do not know who where the first inhabitants of the island, but tradition has it that the island was first occupied by Cretans in Minoan times. According to mythology, prince Stafylos was the son of Ariadne and Theseus or the god Dionysus and supposedly came to Skopelos and settled with his people. His name means "grape", and the island has been known since ancient times as a great wine producer. An ancient tomb in the Staphylos area is believed by many to have belonged to the king. Just like the neighbouring islands, Skopelos was to fall both under Athenian, Spartan and Macedonian rule, as well as Roman.

When the Romans were approaching in the 2nd century BC, the Macedonian king Philip III destroyed much of the island so the Romans wouldn't get anything. Even so, the Romans invaded, but left Skopelos pretty much alone as long as it paid its taxes.|

In the 13th century the Sporadic islands were conquered by the Venetians and in the 16th century the Turks invaded and ruled it. There were also many pirate attacks and the people tried to seek refuge in the many churches they built.
The island has 360 churches.

According to local legend, when the catastrophe of Asia Minor happened in 1921, the Greek population of Turkey threw their icons into the sea to save them from the oppressors. The icons floated across the Aegean sea to Skopelos, and for each icon found a church was built.

Another theory has to do with the many pirate raids and Turkish attacks that the island suffered. The enemies were usually Moslem, but even though they were considered harsh barbarians, they respected the holy ground of the Christians. Therefore many churches were built so the people would have a hideout whenever the island was attacked.

Walking to monasteries is one of the more popular pursuits on Skopelos.

We climbed to the 16th century Metamorphosis, which stands aloft in a clutch of pines. It was been empty for around 20 years but is undergoing a revamp with just one monk in residence now. It has a small chapel set in a flower strewn courtyard and hosts one of the island's biggest festivals on August 6...aaaw...we have just missed it.

Prodoromus can be seen from Metamorphosis just over the next hill. Built in the 18th century it is dedicated to St John the Baptist and inhabited by nuns.
WOW....look at that monastery perched so high up ......

The island was at its most prosperous in the 18th and 19th centuries when merchants traded throughout the region. Between 1821 and 1826, local boats helped in the struggle for Greek independence against the Turks. It was during this time that the island population soared as it became a refuge for those fleeing from the mainland with a reported 70,000 refugees at one time. Skopelos joined the new Greek state in 1830.

Amit and Feroz have decided to indulge in some watersports on the beach whilst the rest of us are taking a guided walk ...........we see old farmhouses, little churches and wells......little shops where we buy some jewellery and beautiful ceramics....... this is such a peaceful place.

We have now stopped for a special cheese pie....(which was quite big and rich, absolutely fresh).The local walnut pie is another specialty, and is usually taken with ice-cream.
Amit and Feroz have returned from their trip...and they are so excited!!! Oh wow, they saw dolphins and seals......

Ok, Amit , are you happy that you have seen the Mama Mia we are going to its neighbour......

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