As if a chunk of the mainland has been snapped off and then not quite glued back together, Evia is only just an island. Those few hundred metres preserved customs and traditions far longer than mainland Greece.
Once desperate to become part of Europe, Evia, now proud of its ‘old ways’ and, fearful of mass tourism, is fighting hard not to become the second Athens airport.
An island where everyone knows everyone and strangers are still welcomed there is a mishmash of cultures with roots in invasions and infiltrations from both east and west, Muslim and Christian, Arabs and Infidels.
Food is fresh and local. Fishermen still bring in a daily catch, primary colours of their small boats filling the harbours.
Fruit and vegetables thrive in the kind climate with the unusual geology providing and abundance of spring water, ensuring there has never been a drought on Evia. Or so I was told. Bells of sheep and goats a constant back ground peel as they wander high into the hills.
In spring the fertile ground is a blanket of wild flowers and herbs. A rainbow of colour. Impossible to avoid walking on, chamomile, thyme and lavender release rich aromas.
Tourism only really arrives in the summer. In spring though you can have the place pretty much to yourself. A few cafes and bars are open for local people as the soft sunshine lures them back outside.
Typically, square concrete structures have appeared along the sea front but are interspersed with old houses and cottages. Take time to look closely and see the detail on tiles and windows. Occasionally an entire village will have red roofs, indicative of a Venetian invasion, or a few houses enclosed by high walls of Muslim past.
Scattered over the mountains, well away from the villages are tiny churches and shrines. Often in the most inaccessible places around a high cliff face or perched in a cave. Redolent of days when faith was hidden from the marauders of the time. To find the remnants of temples to the ancient gods of Greece, climb to the tops of the highest hills. An Acropolis with stone hewn in vast blocks, strategically placed to capture the sun setting over the distant mount Olympus.
High mountains and deep valleys led to the isolation of tiny communities. Until as recent as the 1920s coastal villages were only linked by mountain tracks or boat. Now there are roads or a sort but not for the faint hearted.
The old paths and mule trails are still used to access remote pastures and give access to olive clad mountains with views over to the mainland and its myriad of islands.
Deep gorges with cascading streams, sculptured rocks and smooth green pastures. Remote paths lead seaward to the deep blue Aegean sea. The southern side with its slopes and gentle harbours protecting the fishing boats. On the north the inhospitable cliffs are punctuated by the white sand of tiny coves.
Here, walking for a week, no two days are the same. The ups and downs of mountains and valleys are a sensorial feast with a vast variety of terrain on such a small land mass. A week which far exceeded my expectations.
I travelled to Evia with Exodus.