On Amorgos the route to the Stavro (the Cross) starts from Loza, Langada’s attractive square. At some point, the path narrows to a threadlike trail with room for only one person at a time as it climbs up Lithakies’ steep hillside. (Luckily the path ascends gently.) High above, the sheer rock face seems to stretch up to the clouds and down an abyss more than 500 m deep. The sound of the sea can scarcely be heard from this height.
It’s true there is no more inaccessible area in Amorgos. A would-be pilgrim must marshall every ounce of strength and keep constantly on the alert, for the slightest misstep could be fatal. The only sound to disturb the uncanny hush is the cry of seagulls and shrill screech of the various birds of prey, hawks and eagles, that nest in the crevices and keep an eye on anyone who ventures into their realm.
A three-hour trek brings you to the dazzling white chapel of the Stavro, built in the plain and simple architectural style of the island, with a domed roof. It stands next to the only well in the area, with an annex where preparations are made for the celebratory feast on the chapel’s name day (panegyri), and the smoke-stained cook-house, for, following the service, food is distributed among the faithful. Near it are another domed space furnished with cement tables for the diners, a labyrinthine complex of open-roofed stalls for the flocks, and empty store rooms, still in use by the island’s shepherds.
If you arrive the evening before, at dawn there is a chance to see a sight, unequalled in the Aegean, of a spectacular sunrise, the sun peeking over the horizon to an endless seascape covered by the morning mist.
I wanted to, hey you! I wanted to…
I wish I were, I wish I were an eagle!
I wish I were an eagle, just for a moment..
(Just standing there makes you wish that, even for a moment, you could be an eagle. It’s an experience that alone is worth the entire journey.)
When the religious service is over, the crowd settles around the cook-house in anticipation of the feast. There is little space and they must queue to be served the succulent kid with potatoes and the rice from the cauldron, followed by the local dessert, small honey cakes (melomakarona) with orange and walnuts, provided by the housewives of Tholaria.
Insatiable revellers continue the song and dance in the coffee-shops of Langada and Tholaria (once they’ve made their way down that treacherous path).
- AddressKrikello, Amorgos