Kastro

Taking the trip to Kastro isn’t as difficult an adventure as it was before. Since the new road was finished last year, in 2016, many tourists visited the island’s oldest village.
Kastro sits in the middle of the island, 500 meters up. It is reachable by an asphalt road from Limenaria or a dirt road from Theologos. With the new road, even a bicycle became a convenient means of transportation to there.
The name stands for the fort, or castle built way back in 15th century, during the reign of the Gatilusio family over the island. The modern-day bone-house, where villagers store the remains of the deceased inhabitants, was built on the foundations of the old fortt, the Acropolis.
So far in the mountain, Kastro cannot be seen from the coast. It is surrounded by valleys and gullies which had for centuries protected the population from pirates.
In the late 19th century, people from mountain villages began creeping closer to the sea, forming good-weather fishing settlements and eventually moving there for good.
In Kastro, there is a small church dedicated to St. Athanasis, with a Gatilusio coat of arms on one of the outside walls. It was built with the permission of the Ottoman sultan within 40 days of 1804, with all villagers contributing to the construction effort. In 1980, as one of the oldest churches on Thassos, it was declared a historic monument.
People from all over the island converge at Kastro on January 18, for it patron St. Athanasis day. The place changes, adopting a festive appearance. The strets remain packed with celebrating people until late night for several days. The nature surrounding Kastro has shaped teh life of its inhabitants. Furnaces are blasting away, lamps light up the night. It is a differnet life there during that time.
The village Kastro has left a strong impression on me. It is mystical. Nop visitor remains immune to the preserved antiquity taking us a couple of centuries back. I visited twice in a month, enjoying both times and fretful that I may miss something.
The center is not much different from that of any other mountain village on Thassos. The first story about it I heard there, in the center. Kostas, the owner of a small restaurant that shares its terrace with the church yard, is the right man to talk to. He is actually a car mechanic who has lived long years in Bremen, Germany, but has recently been spending more and more time on the island,entertaining curious tourists in five languages he speaks, telling stories about the island alongside the modest repertoire of delicious dishes and beverages. He tends to his sheep and goats and enjoys life in the mountainous nature. Riddles are his specialty and with him hours in the restaurant seem like minutes.
Kastro has been changing in recent years. There are more new buildings, serving as holiday homes. The old construction style, using stone and wood, was retained to keep the architectural integrity of the place. Thassians obviously love Kastro and appreciate their past. Sometimes a single glance suffices for a mental picture of a town and its people. I was lucky when, without any planning or knowledge, I wandered bumped into a stone gate with a fence shielding a yard and a partially visible house behind. There was a bench in front. It is the setting of a family chronicle. A young married couple is renovating the house for their future vacations. They told ma all they knew about it and its long-deceased former owners, showing me even photographs they inherited with the building.
Sometimes, even if unwillingly, I compare different eras. I wouldn’t like to live in the past and be ruled by nostalgia. Sometimes, however, something irrefutably shows us that life can be beautiful without a phone, even electricity. For a while, at least.
It was dusk of an overcast day, sunless day. I set off back towards Limenaria. A herd of sheep returning from grazing stopped me for a while.  A grin was stuck on my face.