Saturday, January 23, 2010

Agiasos: The place to be (?)

I realised I have written about my job as a village doctor before, but I have yet to describe the village itself. So... it's time for that too.

The place where I am now working is called Agiasos. It is a traditional and pictoresque village, with approximately 3,000 inhabitants. It is built at the slopes of Mount Olympus (not the famous one, which was supposedly where the Greek Gods resided - this one is in Central Greece), at an altitude of 500 metres.

If you are a fan of nature and you love long walks on steep slopes, enjoying the magnificent view and passing through olive groves and chestnut forests, Agiasos really is the place to be. But also if you choose to stick to the housing itself, you can wander at its cobbled streets and photograph its preserved buildings.

Agiasos took its name from the image of "Saint Sion" or "Agia-Sion" in Greek. This was a picture of Holy Mary, painted by Saint Lucas. It was brought here at 802 AD from Jerusalem. A church dedicated to Virgin Mary was built 2 centuries later, and the settlement gradually developed around it. The picture is considered miraculous even to this day, and hundreds of people rush to worship it on 15th August, where the Orthodox honour the Mother of Jesus. A great festival takes place here, and some people even come from Mytilene (22 kms away) on foot. (Yes, a crazy doctor you may know attempted this last summer, she might have scratched her knees in the process, but she finally made it to the village in one piece!)

But this is the info on Agiasos that you can easily find online. I guess you expected more from me - and you are gonna get it. One cannot begin to know Agiasos, if he/she doesn't become aquainted with its people and their mentality.

The people from Agiasos... now that's a long story! Before I came here, I had heard a lot on this matter. The people from Mytilene accused them often - they were "tight on the money the spent", "rude", "they disliked foreigners", "overly proud of themselves", "they fed on fights and arguments" and so on. Literally everybody on this island seemed to dislike them, and I have to admit I was a little prejudistic when I first arrived here.

And now? Well, after spending 5 months here, I have come to know them a little better. Setting the fact that I am in love with one of them aside (major LOL), they are not so bad after all. It all depends on how you behave when you first meet them - if you start with contempt, you are sure to get some back.

Ok, they are not the most sociable people on the island. They are not the ones who smile idiotically at tourists, and rushing to meet their every need, only to curse them under their teeth later. Having lived at a mildly isolated environment, and depending on anything but tourism to earn a living (they turned to farming and wood carving instead), they have grown to be mildly suspicious of new faces. But once they like somebody, they become really open-hearted and friendly to him/her.

Tight on money? No, not really. As all Greeks, every night you go out and have some ouzo or wine, you are most likely to have somebody buy one more bottle for you. Also, I experienced their generosity as their doctor - when you make a home visit, you simply cannot leave without a "tip" (I personally try to avoid them as much as possible), some fresh eggs, sweets or other goodies.

Proud of themselves? Well yes, they are. They definitely are. But they might have some reason to be. It is impossible to be on the island, and not find someone from Agiasos at key places like the area of health, education or the government. Also, they have managed to preserve their specific characteristics through the centuries, such as their traditions or their dialect. If you are not from around here, you are unlikely to understand what they are saying to you. They have their own festivals, their Carnival, they defend their arts and customs with great passion - and sincerely, I wish we all did the same thing at our own villages.

So, is Agiasos the Paradise on Earth? Of course not. There are days where I cannot stand the mist and the cold, and I crave for some sunshine instead. Sometimes, I get tired of trees and mountains, and I want to enjoy some amazing sea views to relax. And of course, being blunt and speaking your mind out loud can occasionaly be quite tiring - some old fashioned savoir vivre and politiness wouldn't be bad.

But overall, I feel lucky to have come here. Learning some dialect, enjoying some new customs and getting in touch with my true self. Dealing with difficult situations and discovering that, surprisingly, I can make it.

And yes, falling in love does add to the positive points a little bit... :P


  1. That sounds like it could be such a relaxing place. My parents are from a small town in Mexico and it is indeed very relaxing.

    I can imagine, though, the trees and scenery there in Agiasos can be very beautiful.

    I suppose you've discovered your own bit of scenery as well :)

  2. How could you not fall in love in a place like that!?!

  3. Okay Gracey...Now that I've toured the village and met the people, I want to know a little more about this love of yours! Don't keep us hanging.

  4. I agree with Polly, I really like learning about the village and the people, but I want the scoop on your new boyfriend!

  5. Sounds great--thanks for sharing :D

  6. What a fantastic post! I love the sound of you village, and you described it all so honestly.
    Although I am also waiting for the deal with the new boyfriend. Come on - your older more settled readers need some facts to spice up their lives a little!!

  7. It actually sounds like a wonderful place to me. And, yes, falling in love has plenty to do with it, I'm sure!

  8. ooh, what an adventure you are having!!!

  9. It looks so amazing. I have always wanted to go to Greece and hope to one day soon.

    Holly @ 504 Main

  10. It's easy to see why you fell in love with it!! I've always wanted to go to's on my bucket list!

  11. What great pictures!
    It looks and sounds like a beautiful place to be :)

  12. I am so thrilled that you are in love and happy. Sounds like the right place for you:)

  13. What a beautiful place! Glad you sound so happy. I have a request, though. Will you do a post about some regional food with a recipe or two? Cheers :)

  14. I really enjoyed this post. I enjoyed reading about Agiasos. I know that to understand a culture you must experience it -And after the experience realize that many of our prejudices are unfounded.

    Like Robin and Grant a post about the regional food would be awesome.

  15. Thanks for every single comment, guys. You asked for a food post, and of course you're gonna get it! Maybe today at noon I'll do it... unless they call me with an emergency, that is. :(