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Three sides of Syros. So many with so few words.

Three sides of Syros


When the ship is approaching and you see before you its lunar landscape, you don't think much about it. And you start to question your decision to come in this dry and steep rock instead of going to Naxos for a swim in Mykonos for clubbing or in Santorini to meet new people.

But as the ship passes St Dimitris honking your arrival, you face "Vaporia" and you start to see an unexpected sight of a city with hills and the mansions, with lanterns and churches, with arches and shops. A city that appeared in the middle of the sea, almost mysteriously. As if they opened the waves and emerged from nowhere.

The first time I saw her, I was six to seven years old. And because of my size then, I remember her big and fancy and colorful. She had nothing in common with the other Cycladic islands with their white houses and blue windows.

I remember running up and down in Miaoulis Square, along with other kids of my age. Look, here under this statue and to ask for a Lucky-Cap icecream, these which had surprise-gift-cars and we liked so much.

All of these were early in the afternoon. Because later on we started visiting the relatives. I haven't told you yet but a part of me comes from this place. My grandmother was from Syros, I have Aegean seawater flowing through my veins.

Since then I have been several times here in Syra. Sometimes with friends. Other times by myself. I walk around, staring buildings, peeking inside homes. But no matter how much I try, no matter how much I continue to discover, this city remains for me a mystery.

Because it is made with unusual materials for this place: elegance and cosmopolitan, urban culture and industry, european ways and habits. I remember from that time, how much impression this made me.

As I visited every relative's home. Which had painted ceilings and ornate cornices. And angels at the corners. And nymphs and flowers on the internal stairs. Silverware and glass. That as you walked the wooden floors were rattling together.

But there is another detail that made me a strong impression: the articulation of speech. The purity of words. The purl of syllables. I do not know how to explain it, but here Greek, are pronounced in a very special way.

I have met Syra (this is how the old locals call it even though "Syros" is its official name) in three versions. In my early childhood version in my adult version and a third more -dream like- version through the stories of my father.

At 1942 while hunger was all around Athens, my grandmother married there took my father to Pireaus.

She put him in a boat and sent him here to her relatives in Syra. To save the child from starvation and hardship. Once the boat entered Cavo Doro, huge waves came at it. And the winds were shaking the hull of.

All the passengers were praying to St. Nicolas. All together crying and shouting.

To St. Nicolas with the brilliant church. Kingly dome, marble Ionic columns and lintels with floral motifs. With its eye catching interior. With the sophisticated painting and the marble temple, sculpted by George Vitalis. Made up of Penteli marble and inlaid Italian marble at its base.

The boat miraculously arrived in the midst of a storm at Akrotiri trimeso, the northernmost tip of the island. And then turned slowly to Sykaminia. And then to bay Koraki. For one last wave, the passengers, hooded with whatever they had and damp until their bones, finally saw Hermoupolis.

To the pier, aunt Fofo was waiting anxious. And as she saw the child, fell on him and huged and kissed him for hours. When she finally was over, she made two steps back and clenched her teeth. The child was very thin. And you could see the bones of the spine. She took it by the hand and started running. Streaming both. Going up the stairs two at a time. And as they approached the house, to the hill of Resurrection, shouted from afar to her cousins: "Fill quickly a plate of food for the child. And bring a loaf of bread! A little later and he will die from starvation.

In my walks, I stand in front of the 1st Gymnasium. The school where my father studied for the remainder of that year. In the spring of 1944. When he returned after months in Athens, he had taken nearly seven kilos! He was still slim. But his cheeks had some red colour and his eyes gleamed.

Seventy years later, I wander the narrow streets of Hermoupolis. And I'm looking for the fragments of my own identity. In this city of shadows. A past that falls heavily on her. I pass by old houses and with the corner of my eye I see old ladies sitting at old couches. Grandparents looking out of elaborate and frayed shutters. People who lived all their lives in a monumental and immersive setting.

I stand for a moment in front of the Apollon Theater. Miniature of the Scala di Milano, my father was telling me as a kid. I didn't even know where "this" Milan was. And neither could imagine that once I would be there, in this Scala watching performances.

I'm going into the City Hall. Perhaps the most iconic building of Hermoupolis.

A work of art by Ziller. A very important building. Here starts and ends every stroll in Hermoupolis.

Because the City Hall is the soul of the city.

In this dry and steep island, Greece experimented and tested how far can go. she put her most European clothes, cultivated her urban habits, propped companies and praised her neoclassical narrative. In the middle of the sea.

Even if Hermoupolis looks almost like museum today, I love her. And I'm proud of her as my reference. Because it's not a city, but a Greek idea. A very bright idea about the direction this place could take. For the opportunity it had. For the possibilities it had its mind.

I put the three versions of Syros on my canvas. And I recognize pieces of me. In my identity. In my thinking. And each time the ship passes St. Dimitris honking, I feel that I return to a homeland.
Αρθρο απο το blogspot pigkouinos
09 May 2015
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