The Central uplands
(For distances in text, the Merovigli junction above Chora = 0.0km) main road splits at the principal road junction on the island at Merovigli: left continues to the east side, and eventually to the south of the island above Karthaia; right heads for the west coast and Koundouros. We first follow the latter.
The area between these two roads, which constitutes the upland heart of the island, is a landscape of great beauty and natural diversity, with many biotopes and mi cro-climates. A number of small varieties of acers grow on Kea which otherwise are only found in the southern Peloponnese: dwarf narcissi, mandragora and St John’s wort are all widely present; the upper slopes, especially on the eastern ridge, are covered with magnificent ‘royal’ or ‘Valonia oaks’ (see pp. 52–54).
The intensity of cultivation down the steeper slopes of these hills and deep valleys in past centuries is indicated by the ubiquitous retaining walls. It should be re called that Kea for its size was well inhabited, particularly in Antiquity and again in the 18th and 19th centuries, and for this reason its landscape has been considerably domesticated. Much of this activity is abandoned now, but the rectangular byres, like low stone bunkers in the fields, sometimes with flat partially corbelled roofs, called ‘stavloi’, remain. Together with the meticulously constructed stone boundary walls and the circular threshing floors, they are an unchanging and intrinsic part of the landscape. The dwellings, too, are low and flat-roofed. The rural churches are of similar design and distinguish themselves from the houses often only by a raised belfry: some—such as the Panaghia Loutriani, in a wild set ting 2km east of Sklavonikolas, or the double church of the Panaghia and Aghios Nikolaos at Vatoudi, south of Aghia Marina—are of considerable antiquity and incorporate interesting ancient spolia and vestiges of painting.
Kea Island is part of the Cyclades Island Group, Greece.