In April 2012 I spend a month in Samos, a Greek island one mile off the Turkish coast. At that time I participated in three excellent day-long experiences with Giorgos Matthaiou (Γιώργος Ματθαίου) and Samos Outdoors. Here is a link to a post on each of them: Central Mountains, Interior of Western Mountains, and Hike to Seitani Beaches. Now that I am back in Samos again, I reconnected with Giorgos and his new partner, Dimitris Dermanis (Δημήτρης Δερμάνης) for more outdoor experiences and to learn more about the island, its people, and culture. The first two were: Exploring Paleo Karlovasi and Potami, and Exploring Samos Mountain Villages and Woods.
For our third trip in 2013 we went for a ride into the central mountains in a four-wheel drive vehicle on winding dirt roads. First we met Girogos and Dimtris in the port of Karlovasi, Girogos drove the jeep up to the village of Yhhrousa where the pavement ends. For there we went up and over a large ridge with views back to Mount Kerkis (on the left below) the its mountain villages of Leka, Kosmadhei, Kastania and others (you see Leka on the left and Kastania on the right via my telephoto lens). You can also see down to the port of Karlovasi (on the right below). You can some of the many wind turbines on the island. These are on the shoulder of Mount Kerkis. The island generates about 40% of its electricity through wind power. The best grapes on the island grow in these higher elevations, producing the finer wine. On the right is one of the many remote vineyards we passed.
Once we reached the top of the ridge our views turned eastern. We drove through beautiful black pine forests that do well in the higher altitude of these interior mountains. While these forests are found on the mainland of Greece, Samos is the only island with them. We passed an area that was burned over in th eyear 2000 in a large fire that took days to put out. During the dry season this area is closely watched for forest fires, with even night patrols in the most extreme dry periods. We also passed storage tanks for water to be used by the mostly volunteer fire fighters who protect this area. Soon the summit of Mount Ampelos appeared, the second tallest mountain on the island.
There is a small church on the summit where festivals are held at certain times of the year. It is reached by the system of dirt roads built in the 1980s to provide more access to the area. The church is very old and was built with materials carried up on donkeys long before the roads existed. It contains many beautiful works of art, like most of these small isolated churches. From the top of the mountain you see in all directions. Below the church was an area with tables where festivals are held.
Looking to the east is Samos Town and the Turkish coast. Looking west is Mountain Kerkis and the woods, including that part taken out by the big fire. Zooming in with my telephoto lens I could see the area around Aghia Paraskevi north of Samos town where we went swimming a few days earlier. I could also see south to the entrance to the Straits of Milaki where we have gone swmming several times and enjoyed an excellent lunch in Posidhanio.
After leaving Mount Ampelos we drove along the southern part of the central forests arrive eventually at Platanos were we rejoined the paved roads. There were many nice views to the south including the area I described in my post: Exploring the South Central Samos Island, Greece. The first view shows the mountain village of Mavratzei where we had the lunch described in that post. At the start, there was also a view of Mytilini where we are living. We drove through pine forests and passed some more higher latitude vineyards. We could see back to Ydhroussa where we first entered the interior dirt roads. At the start we went right up and over the ridge to the right of town.
I had first visited Platanos with Giorgos last April on a cool day requiring jackets. The village square was almost empty then (on the left). There is a spring fed fountain and a very large shade tree with a huge trunk. Now it was full of tables and chairs with people enjoying the cool of the shade on a warm day (on the right).
From Platanos we drove along the ridge overlooking Karlovasi and the Mount Kerkus area. We went on to Kovtakaiiko where we had lunch at the Archodospito Restaurant over looking Karlovosi and Mount Kerkis. Archodospito means a rich man (lord) in Greek. Lunch included a named (vs. anonymous - another option) salad, feta cheese wrapped in phyllo and honey poured over it, stuffed onions with grated cheese, moussaka with mushroom rice and fries, lamb stew with fries, pork filet with a sweet mustard sauce and fresh green beans, along with fried potatoes. A woman sitting near us was peeling the beans, recently picked from a garden. In these interior villages we focused on meat and vegetarian dishes. We ate a large amount of fesh fish at the seaside towns. We also bought fresh fish in front of our house from a man in truck who went through town with a loud speaker annoucing his catch on the day. You can see our view, as well as what we ate at the Archodospito Restaurant below.
It was another great day with Samos Outdoors, learning much more about the land, people, food, and culture of Samos. Samos has visitors from northern Europe and Greeks from Athens who gather in the seaside towns. It seems laregly ignored by Americans, unless they have relatives here. You have chance to get closer to the people and culture here than the more famous tourist Greek islands. I highly recommend a visit to Samos Island and engaging Samos Outdoors when you go there.