Kastro in February
During their vacation on Thasos, tourists visit the village of Kastro. I don't find that necessary since the only time village is full of life is during the winter. During the summer it resembles a nice weekend getaway on the top of the mountain and there is no reason to spend one of the 10 days you have on Kastro.
What is Kastro for the islanders? Kastro is a medieval village, located in the center of the island, 650 m above sea level. It got its name after a fort (fort, in greek "kastro") that used to stand there. Kastro is the oldest place on Thasos. It was founded by islanders who settled further from the shore, running away from pirates.
Reconstruction of old houses is truly a nice way for the islanders to prevent Kastro, the place which gave their forefathers shelter from the pirates, from being forgotten. Building cottages or big houses in Kastro is respect-worthy, taking into consideration the fact that on Thasos itself, and even outside it, there are much more attractive and prettier places to build your cottage on. However, group trips for Kastro and staying there for a couple of weeks brings you back to your roots.
So, it’s January. The hard picking of olives in November has passed, as well as the holidays in December. Somewhere around New Year and Orthodox Christmas, people of Thasos prepare to leave for Kastro (especially the south part of the island). There is always special euphoria about leaving… it is literally a short term move of the islanders from the south to Kastro… during those days the piece and quiet in Limenaria and Potos is amazing although a bit eery. However, in Kastro it is as lively as it once was, even livelier. Actually, each little house takes in up to a couple of families. During those days you sleep even on the floor… Many people drink and do not sleep for days.
Let me start over…
Not all of the islanders have their own houses in Kastro, but everyone has at least a friend who owns a house there… That way all of the houses are full of children and adults… young people often organize and leave in groups, so it happens there is up to twenty of them in one house… During those days even the people who don’t know each other pay visits to one another… anyone can knock on the door and come in for a cup of coffee… the atmosphere in the houses and the village itself is very warm and welcoming… Nights are spent celebrating… people drink a lot, sing a lot, dance a lot… you can hear buzuki from every house – live, belly dancers go door to door, and Greeks welcome them with open arms… and they do it till sunrise… and then tomorrow they do it all over again.
During the day people go for a stroll. The elders, grandmas and grandpas sit on their terraces and watch.
A day before St. Atanasie, a priest sets off to visit the villagers and break bread with them. It’s really interesting to see it, an old priest with long, white hair, knocking from door to door and being greeted with awe everywhere. On Thasos, priests still have a lot of authority, so the housewives try hard to do everything proper before the priest comes, so as not to be reprimanded later. Children in Greece are close to church and priests from an early age, so they view a priest as someone to hug and sit on their lap. On the day of St. Atanasie, the church is full of godly people… At the end of the village, where the fort was, is a small chapel on a cliff, where candles are lit for the souls of ancestors, and right by the chapel is a small room where small coffins with their bones are being kept.
The houses in Kastro are mostly made of stone, and there is a law which says that all of the objects in the village have to be built in a traditional style. The interior is also done in an ethno style. Each house has a fireplace, and that is how it is heated, but it is also good for barbecuing… There is no electricity in the village, so the evenings are spent by the oil lamps, which is very romantic… During the night, lanterns are lit in every window and above the front door of every house, and they are the only light in the village covered by darkness.
In the center of Kastro is the village tavern which is full of people and smoke, like it was in the good old days… the tavern and the church share the same yard, so the priest will often join his parish for a drink. There is a small park by the church, which is where young people gather. All in all, it is very romantic and original…Young people of Thasos love this holiday, because that is the time when all the young people, from almost all places on the island, gather in one small place, and that way closely connected. It is a great opportunity for making new friendships, new relationships, and strengthening the ones already made… Children love going to Kastro, because each house is full of them, which is ideal for their escapades. The grown ups have a chance to take a break and rest from the everyday life, as well as recharge their energy for the upcoming season.
In the photos below you can see the small chapel on the cliff, the atmosphere in front of the village tavern, "reconstruction" of unusable houses done by young people in an effort to separate from the elders, and finally the sunrise after a night without sleep.