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Karpathos

This oblong island, third largest in the Dodecanese, possesses incomparable natural beauties and traditions jealously guarded by its inhabitants. The area of Northern Karpathos, which includes the islet of Saria, is comprised of the districts of the Community of Olympus with 104.8 square kms, the former Communities of Mesochorio with 34.8 square kms and Spoa with 17.0 square kms.

The area is mountainous and covered with pine forests and bushes. Between the peaks are rich valleys planted with olive trees and wells, which are found in many places. Pebbled beaches with clear water hug the rocky coastline and are to be found both along the eastern and western coasts. It is an ideal place for hiking as many Europeans have discovered, coming every year to walk along its exhilarating paths.

Findings show that the area of Northern Karpathos has been inhabited from very early times, at least from the 15th cen­tury BC. Two small churches with aniconic frescoes were probably built in the middle of the 8th century. Likewise aniconic scenes, which were revealed after the removal of later painted decorations on the western dome of the central church of Olympus, indicate that the church was built during the iconoclastic disputes of the 9th century. In other words it has a history dating twelve whole centuries.

In the 1991 census Mesochori was found to have 406 residents, Spoa had 254 and Olympus had 575. Today Mesochori and Spoa belong to the municipality of Karpathos although Olympus is an exception and constitutes a separate community.
Mesochori is built on the foot of the mountain named St. Epiphany and has an incredible view of the sea. it has pic­turesque narrow lanes, plenty of water, hospitable locals and beautiful folk traditions. The small settlement of Lefko is situated by the sea and boasts fine sandy beaches as well as a landscape of rare beauty, which is being developed for tourism.

Visitors may approach from the village of Aperi or by sea along the pic­turesque bay of St. Nicholas.
Rich folk traditions are also preserved here, especially the custom of 'enjoyment'. Olympus is the northernmost village of the island and it has the highest altitude. It is situated on the northernmost foothills of Mount. Prophet Elias (718 m.). It seems that the mountain had the name of Olympus from the pre-Christian era, due to its magnificent and haughty grandeur, from which the village received its' name. The settlement spreads out along both sides of the mountain line where the series of graphic pedal-shaped windmills are to be found.
On the western side, sudden cliff faces race down until they end up on the rocky shores and into the usually choppy sea. Alternately, on the eastern side a picturesque valley, which earlier was even more beautiful covered as it was with rich vegetation and running water, is to be found. The traditional housing of Olympus are single leveled one-roomed houses with only one additional room serving as a kitchen.

The central church of the village, dedicated to the Dormition of Our Lady, is indeed impressive. It is built according to Byzantine architecture with interesting frescoes of the Ottoman rule period covering the entire interior and a wooden iconostasis carved masterfully.

In addition, the whole settlement and surrounds are dotted with numerous colorful chapels.
Along the eastern coast Diafani spreads out amphitheatrically in an idyllic position. After the last world war it saw rapid change and today serves as Olympus' port and tourism centre. In recent years a harbor was constructed at Diafani, promising an increased development of tourism for the area.
The agricultural settlement of Avlona is situated to the north of Olympus. It has approximately 300 'stables' (farm build­ings with threshing floors) built on the eastern face of a fer­tile valley and is subject to the winds only from the north. Up until the post war years it was the agricultural centre of the area, although today only very few people live there. Further north still is the bay of Broukountas, the exceptional natural harbor of Tristomos and the islet of Saria which is separated from the island of Karpathos by the Steno-'Strait', 100 meters wide approximately.
Olympus preserves even today a rich folk tradition. The local dialect preserves impressive remnants of ancient and Medieval Greek. The custom of 'enjoyment' which is still observed to a great degree and the traditional costumes worn still by the older women as well as the young during festivals, make Olympus an oasis of traditional culture in our times.

The biggest festivals of Northern Karpathos are held during August and September. They are the 'Dekapentavgoustou'-Dormition of Our Lady (15th of August) and the feast of St. John the Forerunner (29th of August), which are held at Olympus and the feast of the Virgin Vrisianis (8th of September), which is held in Mesochori.

Foods: various kinds of bread and barley donuts which accompany the local salt cheese or the meriari (made from full cream milk), the small pastries, kouloumbotes olives, sesame, egg and thin 'kouloures'-bisquits, makarounes, vegetable pies, drilla, mezithra, ofto (goats meat stuffed with rice), kavroumas, sitaka and others. Sweets: xilikopites, baklava (made very differently from the usual baklava), sweet mezithra cheese pies, sweet sesame and sitakopita etc.



Reviews & comments

Karpathos, Wow get to see it befor its to late Olympus is outstanding, and ok so it may seem a little staged but so is Whitby its all they have.

Commented by eunice fenney February 20, 2007

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