The island where people forget to die (Eirini Bakoula)
For most Greeks, myself included, summer plays an important role in our lives. Every summer, there is always a new destination to be discovered and cherished. This past summer that destination for me was an island in the northeastern Aegean Sea called Ikaria. My best friend has roots from this island so it was part of the reason we visited it. This place is actually known as “the island where people forget to die”. Another strange characteristic of the island is that no one uses watches, because they simply don’t care about time. As a girl born and raised in a city it was very difficult for me to picture something like that in real life and it was until I stepped my foot on the island that it truly hit me.
I felt the energy of the island and its people right away. Everyone is so happy and enjoying life carefree, with minimum stress. Since I grew up in Athens where everyone runs like crazy with a watch in their hand, and stress about all the things they have to do in one day, it took me a while to get used to the daily rhythms of Ikaria. Another big contradiction from my city life, was the fact that there was almost no public transportation and that most roads were usually steep and next to cliffs making them very dangerous. We actually barely made it to the only one bus that took us from the boat to my friend’s village on the mountain. All my life I had been in and out of subways and buses, and in Ikaria my only two options were either walking or hitchhiking. Turns out that hitchhiking is actually one of the most common forms of transportation in Ikaria for tourists and especially younger people, like college students.
Hitchhiking our way around the island of Ikaria was definitely one of the highlights of that trip. We met so many interesting people through that and became friends with some of them. This whole situation actually felt familiar to me after having taken place in the Utopia project last year. Another very important observation worth mentioning is the social life and “nightlife” of the island. For most young people in Athens nightlife means clubs. There are no such places in Ikaria. Instead they have what is called “Panigiria” which are traditional feast days that celebrate the Saint’s name days and other religious holidays. People of all ages get together and celebrate like there is no tomorrow. There is live traditional music, plenty of Ikarian wine and food and of course dancing. Unlike in clubs where there is usually a dress code and if you are not meeting the standards you can’t go in, in the Panigiria you can wear anything your soul desires as long as you bring a good mood and a lot of appetite for dancing.
When I say a lot, I mean you will definitely see the sunrise. It is considered very normal for a festival to end at 10 in the morning. By the last week of my stay in Ikaria I had fully immersed in the Ikarian living and I was so excited and hopeful about changing my habits once I was back in Athens. So much, that in my head it became the new normal and I believed that once I returned, I would be able to live even a little bit like the Ikarians. However, when I was back to reality it hit me pretty hard that it doesn’t work like that with city life…