Getaway ride

… in Epidauros. The magic of theatre, but also mountains and sea. Goats and homeless dogs on the streets. Mycenaean mysteries, the green of the endless olive groves. Forests of pines and tractors from the 50’s in the fields… The village of Ligourio, the mountain called Arahnaio. Taverns with horiatiki and yosa, music by Haris Alexiou. An ongoing project to learn to love “the other” and “the measure”. A Finn, a scooter and an unpredictable destiny in Greece. Get along, get away! Figame!

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Text and pictures copyright: Margit Ticklén & Vassilis Petris, 2021. No reproduction allowed.

Coming to Epidauros – in english Epidaurus – is not a very special thing. The ancient theatre is one of Greece’s most popular tourist attractions.

Me, too, I packed my things in July to see some performances of The Athens – Epidaurus theatre festival. By chance I ended up to rent a house from someone with whom I became friends.

A friend is the best way to get attached to a landscape. To understand its history and people living in it. To love it – because you feel something extraordinary surrounded by it.

I had this chance. To discover the village of Ligourio, central place of the Epidaurus community, with someone who had her roots there.

She made me see the old, small roads on top of the central hill of the village. Roads where cats and dogs are more common passbyers than human beings. Not to talk anything about cars – many more people use tractors there.

Sitting at a cafeteria by the central road one might be astonished by a local stopping his tractor in front of the visitor and starting a discussion. Because, know this, not much happen in Ligourio… so people are curious about new faces.

Above: The ancient theatre of Epidauros in winter 2021. On the right the mountain Kynortion, birthplace of god Asklepios. In ancient times going to theatre was one part of a healing process as instructed by Asklepios, considered to be the first doctor ever.

Ascetic nature

Thanks to the closeness of the ancient theatre Ligourio used to be an important site until some 10 years ago. At that time a new, more straight forward national road was opened between the coastal towns of Palaia Epidauros (in the East) and Nafplio (in the West). That meant the travellers didin’t have to pass through the village of Ligourio – many shops and restaurants closed their doors.

For someone like me this has not been a negative development. The central road of Ligourio can be described as peaceful even at the time of home coming of the working class people in the afternoon. One can easily sit by the road and drink coffee – the noise level is within’ supportable.

I have fallen in love exactly with this: the ascetic nature of Ligourio. Nothing in it is either big, looks very expensive or very new. When walking on its streets you can forget about make-up and high heels. Take out, instead, an old papaki and a black dress. As the locals do.

You might also climb up the hill to see the tiny church of Taxiarchon. Always open, always welcoming it’s placement on top of the hill offers a beautiful view for both southern and northern sides of Ligourio.

And, with some luck, you can even hear a musician to practise on the site.

YLLÄ: The old part of Ligourio. That’s where I rented a house in the summer of 2021 – and fell in love with the area.

Have a walk!

Thanks to my friend (link) I also got to know the best beaches close to Ligourio: those of Nea Epidauros in the East, Kondili and Kantia in the West. Both “seasides” are about 20 minutes car drive from Ligourio. They are relatively calm, too. Only during summer weekends you might have to support other people within some meters of distance from yourself.

Without one’s own car or scooter it is not too easy to move around in the area. During the time of Covid19 pandemic the number of bus routes and their frequencies have been cut down significantly.

But why would we need the bus? We can walk! Palaia Epidauros is about 10 kilometres away from Ligourio. The road goes downwards all the way to the seashore… If it isn’t summer and too hot that’s the way to go.

On your way to the sea you can see mules, goats and turtles. All friendly animals, so no worries.

If you prefer a shorter trip on foot there are eight cultural paths around Ligourio. They are marked with clear signs. Maps showing the different paths can be found at the starting points of each route and in the internet. Download the app and you’ll be guided by your phone!

Above: Palaia Epidauros.

1,5 million olive trees

Epidauros is an agrarian community. Goats and sheep are to be seen everywhere. But even more present are the olive trees. It is said that there are in Epidaurus about 1,5 million olive trees.

This is natural: in ancient times the climate was mild and the ground had many springs. Nowadays the summers tend to be really hot but still most of the people in the area have at least some olive trees in their possession: 500 – 1000 – 4000…

The widespread ownership of olive groves tells a lot about the smartness of the people. It is not easy to make a living in Ligourio. So people try to have several feet on which to stand economically: own a small business in the village, have some olive trees, rent a house for the tourists.

The olives are picked from the trees from october until january. The actual picking down is not done by hands, has not been for the last 20 years. One requires an electrical rake for it.

It is quite easy at the end to get to know what does the best kind of an olive oil look, smell and taste alike. Just take a 45-minutes tour at a local olive oil factory like Melas.

Above: Picking the olives nearby the ancient theatre of Epidauros in December 2021. Panagiotis Kaloudis, Dimitris Tsolis and Tassos Smirlis.

Lifetime project

Then the crucial question: why to travel around Epidauros? One might question as well the reason for travelling in general.

Whereas many say travelling is a way to escape reality I put it in another way. Travel disrupts our daily routines. By doing so it forces our brain to acquire new informations about our neighborhoods, to get our thinking acquinted to new customs and new social rules.

Why should this be important? Because breaking the routine is the beginning of creativity.

It can be stressful and frustrating to make changes in one’s thinking but ultimately we benefit from it. When our brain is being put on its toes the new extreme situation helps the brain to stimulate its own neuroplasticity.

This, in turn, can help revive our creativity – innovative idea generation in everything we face and undertake.

So: let’s not stop travelling.

You can travel everywhere.

For me, through my classical archaeology studies at the university and love of greek language, music and food, it is normal to do it in Greece. And especially in Epidauros because I live from theatre and trees. Both of them are considered sacred in Epidauros.

If you feel curious don’t hesitate: get along for a ride. Gonzo posts will follow.

Above: I came to Epidauros because of theatre. I stayed because of people, history and food. (link) And a 35-year-old PIAGGIO -scooter.

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Text and pictures copyright: Margit Ticklén & Vassilis Petris, 2021. No reproduction allowed.



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