West to Potámi
The church known as the Panaghia tou Potamou or, more correctly, of the Metamorphosis tou Sotiros (‘Transfigiration of the Saviour’), in Potami Bay, is one of the oldest and most unusual churches on Samos (1.5km west of Karlovasi Port). A track which leads inland from Potami village up the valley of a stream, passes first the ruins of the early, apsed church of Aghios Nikolaos; after 150m, it reaches the church of the Metamorphosis, whose high bulk of un-rendered stone stands to the left in a beautiful setting among trees. The church has no deco ration outside or paintings inside, but is remarkable for its unusual proportions: the floor-plan of the interior is approximately 5m x 5m, while the (inside) height to the ‘shoulders’ of the building is about 7m , and to the crown of the minuscule cupola, 9m. Four monolithic columns in Samian marble, surmounted by finely carved, 5th century capitals support the arches of the crossing; but these do not dictate the height of the building, since they are only a little over one third of its total height.
The church was once the catholicon of a small monastery complex whose ruined buildings extended to north and south; the vestiges of a baptistery, with an immersion font, can be seen outside the southeast corner, once communicating with the sanctuary through a (now blocked) door in the south wall; the narthex on the front has also gone, exposing the block of the threshold, which is a piece of ancient stylobate that once supported a column. There are Early Christian spolia lying nearby, and the columns, capitals, and a fragment of decorated frieze in the church’s masonry templon, all must come from an important 5th century basilica that stood on or near this site: this may have been destroyed around the 7th century, during the period of Saracen invasions, and the present church built later on its site, in the 13th century.
Further into the shaded valley, the path leads to a series of cascades and natural pools; another path, climbing steeply up the east slope beyond the church, leads to a small castle with a cistern, contemporary with the church below, for which it must have functioned as a vital look out post.
The roads and tracks all end 2km west of Potami, beyond which there is 10km stretch of wild coastline where vehicles cannot go, punctuated by the two bays of Mikro and *Megalo Seitani, although there is an intermittent service to the latter by cai―que from the port of Karlovasi during July and August. It is a particularly attractive 90 minute walk from Potami to Megalo Sei―tani; but it is re warded by a bay of exceptional tranquility and beauty, of ten completely deserted outside of the high season. Chios lies 70 km to the northwest; the shoulder of Mt. Kerketeus rises 1200 m directly behind. The area was designated as a refuge for the endangered Mediterranean monk seal over 20 years ago, but discouragingly few have been sighted in this part of the island in recent years.
Samos Island is part of the Northern Aegean Island Group, Greece.