So this blog is a virtual invitation to you, to sit down with me for a while and to listen to my stories from the two worlds I live in: Ikaria and the rest of the world.

Hi, I’m Birgit. I‘m German, I’ve been living and working in Brussels for the past 20 years. If you want to call me a European, then let it be because I like to get to know people, their different culture and their way of life. With that background, I always loved to travel and to sit down with people, listening to their stories. It is in those moments that the beauty of a place and its people is revealed to me.

As I am also an addicted photographer, the camera helps me to tell these stories mostly in black and white.

About

Some years ago, I landed on the shores of a small and rocky island called „Ikaria“, located in the Eastern Aegean sea. Although my arrival was less dramatic than that of Ikarus, since then I have stopped travelling to other places. It was not an active decision, it just happened somehow.

Here, the definition of „listening“ got another meaning. Even though I don‘t yet master the Greek language, the island and the Ikarians have sent me on a long and interesting journey. Whenever possible, you can now find me on this remote island, hiking, collecting stories and appreciating precious moments of intense talks and golden silence.

And as one day, taking pictures was no longer enough to tell the stories, the writing joined in . Finally I found the right tools to share my thoughts and my feelings.

Based on my experiences on Ikaria, I paid more attention to the stories around me. In times where our life is charactericed by restlessness, I treasure my chances to sit down with someone for a while. Talking and listening, giving full attention to each other is the most welcome present I can receive and give today.

Why Ikaria?

Ikaria is an island in the Eastern Aegean, near Samos. If you make a good Google search you’ll learn that this island has a very special reputation: the island of ‚ panigyria‘ (local fairs) and the famous dance, the „Ikariotiko“; the island of the communists, the ‚prison island‘, where Mikis Theodorakis, the famous Greek composer, was sent into exile; the island of the „lazy people“, who never care about time. But it is also described as an island where „people forget to die“, because here you can find a large number of very old people. Google may tell you many stories about this phenomenon called „longevity“, but this blog is not getting involved in these stories. This blog is mainly focusing on my personal experiences on this rocky island. I arrived on Ikaria without any knowledge about its history, culture or behaviour. So I got to know the very special features of this island just step by step. And over time I developed a particular interest in two subjects, which prompted me to write down my thoughts in this blog:

On the one hand I am interested in the generation of daughters and sons or even the grand-children of the old people Google is referring to. The reason for it is simple: Over the years I’ve observed that little by little different things are happening on Ikaria; new people are coming – may it be Ikarians, who were raised elsewhere and who are now coming back to their homeland. Or may it be non-Ikarians, who have chosen to settle on the island for good. They all have in common that they carry different experiences and knowledge in their luggage, which they want to put into the Ikarian soil, waiting for the seeds to grow.

I am glad that they‘re allowing me to accompany them on this journey. All the people you will get to know here, dedicated their time to me, sitting with me over many coffees, taking me to their favorite places on this island. I appreciate their openess with their thoughts and feelings, allowing me to take pictures of them and to share their stories with you.

On the other hand, my stays on Ikaria are filled with multiple activities, because I like to join the Ikarians in their everyday-life activities. By doing so, I am getting a lot of „food for thought“ – thoughts I‘d like to share here with you.

Maybe – while sitting here with you for a while and sharing my stories about Ikaria with you, I can help to give you a different picture of this island, a picture that has many different shades. And perhaps you will be motivated to discover Ikaria, too, in your way … because beyond Google there is so much more to know about this rugged island.

Thank you to …

This blog would not have happened without the support of so many others, because an idea can only be implemented well, when you are able to combine different aspects.
On that note, I am extremely happy and grateful that different people supported my „little project“ by giving me advice, helping with the translations and the technical aspects.

Here are my heroines and heros:

Cecile Scaros – Cecile is certainly a woman you will sooner or later read about on this blog. She has French origins, but you can easily call her a globetrotter. She lived and worked in France, the UK, the USA and in the Bahrain. She got married to an Ikarian, with whom she lived in the UK and in Bahrain before settling down in Faros on Ikaria. She works from home with international companies, which gives her a chance to balance her life between her remote home office and the Ikarian outdoors. You can‘t miss her in the early morning hours, when she takes her beloved dog „Milou“ out for a long walk at the seaside in Faros, and cleans the beach on a daily basis. As she dives deeper and deeper into the Ikarian lifestyle, they’re becoming more self-sufficient; her husband Stelios and her are cultivating a large garden, where they grow all sorts of fruit and vegetables, which also keeps Cecile busy with harvesting and cooking.
I owe Cecile a big „Thank you“ for her time and her passion in revising my English texts. Since I am not a native speaker, Cecile was able to give me some hints to make my texts easier to read.

Jane Hughes – Some years ago Jane became a very dear friend to me in the Brussels community. She is English, but she also worked in different European places, like Denmark and Italy, where she raised her family, before she settled down with her dog and her cat in Brussels to work as fulltime translator for an European instution. We share a common interest in politics in general and since the beginning of the financial and economic crisis in Greece in particular. Jane followed the very first beginnings of my writing with great attention and caring support, while revising my English drafts. She encouraged me to continue, and her caring and loving backing are indispensable for me.

Matta Koulouridi – Without Matta there would be no Greek version of this blog – so I owe her my sincere “thank you” for all the work and effort she is putting into the translation of the manifold texts to make this blog happen. Matta is a former French public-school teacher, who worked in a number of schools in Greece.
After her retirement she has more time and she is happy to help me with some translations whenever I need. She also likes crafting and taking photos and she is a dedicated traveller around the world.
Several years ago we met in Athens, when she became my city tour guide. Since then she is a patient “door opener” for me into the Greek culture, history, traditions and thinking. Whenever I am lost – and everything “is just Greek to me” – she becomes my pathfinder, putting me back on track.

Ikariamag – I owe a big Thank you  to ikariamag – the online magazine for Ikaria that closed its doors in 2018. By coincidence I got to know some of their writers and the owner, Konstantinos Vatougios . They liked my texts and offered me a chance to take my first steps in writing via ikariamag.gr. Their feedback was a tremendous encouragement and I am extremely grateful for their confidence in me.

On this blog you will find all the texts which were first published on ikariamag.gr.

Konstantinos Pavlidis and Achilleas Aggelidakis from IkarianMEDIA are the technical and graphical master minds behind this blog. Without them my texts would never be online. They gave professionalism, patience and dedication to this project and added fun, enthusiasm and an Ikarian touch to it. Both are Ikarians, with living and working experiences outside the island, but came back to their homeland, where they are part of IkarianMEDIA, a media enterprise that is creating and implementing various media projects (fixer services, webpages, videos, graphic designs). Thank you so much!

Angelos Kalokairinos – an Ikarian with a deep passion for the Ikarian mountains and nature. He became a patient and thorough adviser for me, who has not only guided me through deep valleys when I was at a loss with my texts and stories, but who also sensitively introduces me to the Ikarian history, way of thinking and the characteristics of the island.
https://www.flickr.com/people/angeloska/