From Otzias to moni Kastriani

At Vourkari, just south of Aghia Irini, the main road turns inland, through a low-lying, alluvial area with groves of fruit-trees, towards the pleasant haven of Otzias (4.5km), grouped around a bay cutting deep into the north coast. A 4th century bc inscription indicates that there was a sanctuary of Artemis in this area: the places of worship of Artemis tend generally to be found in low-lying, fertile, marshy areas, as on Leros, Ikaria and at Ephesus. When Theodore Bent visited in March 1883 he observed the re mains of a mole and of ancient buildings at Otzias, which he connected with the important export trade of ‘miltos’. Miltos, or ruddle, is a naturally occurring red ochre (ironoxide), widely used for colouring and dyeing in Antiquity, and as anredient in the caulking of the hulls of boats. Rights for the extraction of miltos were the source of contention between Kea and Athens in the 4th century bc. The tunnels and galleries in the hillside used for the min of the ochre can be seen around Kalamos, some two to three kilometres southeast of here, in the area referred to still as ‘Trypospilies’—‘cave-holes’.
   Climbing east from the bay of Otzia, the road along the north coast reaches its terminus at the airy monastery of the Panaghia Kastriani­ (11km). The fine position, with views across the water to Euboea, Tinos, Andros, Gyaros and Syros, is a greater reward than the buildings of the monastery which date from 1912. The foundation, how ever, is said to be of the 18th century. The stone kalderimi, or mule-path, joining the monastery both to the bay be low and to the village above is still visible. From the village of Kastriani­ (reached by foot along the kalderimi, or by car from a junction 2km west of the monastery) a motorable * track of panoramic beauty climbs south and then heads west along the ridge of a deep valley—wide and well-formed as if by a glacier. The Mandoutorrent on its floor has in fact formed the valley; its eastern end where it flows out into Spathi­ Bay was mined in Antiquity for iron ore. These cool upland slopes are scattered with brilliant yellow Sternbergia (S. lutea and S. sicula) in the autumn, and bluey-white, primrose-like Mandragora (officinialis) flowers in the spring. Mandragora roots (according to Pliny) were chewed as an elementary anaesthetic in Antiquity. The road reaches Chora after 6km from Kastriani­.

Kea Island is part of the Cyclades Island Group, Greece.

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