In trying to locate ‘The Garden of Fiorenza’, I worked on the premise that VC would not have travelled far from Chora while waiting for the steamer, so I assumed he spied the ‘garden’ from Chora. From this vista, there’s only one likely site for the garden, due north of Chora in a ravine that descends from the bare hilltop and falls away to the sea on the south coast at Aspra Petradia.
From Chora, the cemetery appears to be part of it, but that’s just an illusion. A dirt road just uphill from the cemetery leads around a fenced sports centre before it starts descending. The existence of the seasonal water course is highlighted by the lush vegetation.
Looking uphill at the point where the track crosses the ravine, VC’s description of terraces, palm trees etc seems to fit. However, it covers a large area and you have to take the dirt track going down the ravine to come to the garden of fruit trees, a date palm, pomegranates and well-maintained terraces more fitting to VC’s description. Concrete steps take you down to almost stream level. Today, it’s irrigated by plastic pipes from the mains water supply but the stream clearly flows in season.
Maybe Fiorenza spent time here mulling over the hardships of power. I’m inclined to give VC the benefit of the doubt – if only because it makes for a good story.
As we left Santorini behind us, the sun was already beginning its descent toward the mountain of Mesa Vouno. The wind picked up. Ninety minutes later, the sea-spray was reaching the passenger deck of the Aqua Jewel as she cleared the harbour mole of Anafi and made her first attempt at docking. It seemed, I thought, that she was reversing more slowly than is usual, coming in at a strange angle for docking. The few passengers onboard made their way to the car deck. It seemed an age before the ramp went down and we could see the expectant crowd waiting on the dockside.
A blonde girl with tattooed arms blew tattooed kisses to her waiting boyfriend. Others waved to friends in the dockside gathering. The ramp was within millimetres of kissing the familiar concrete. But, up it went, then down again, then up again, countless times as the captain determined the wind shear was too strong to safely plant the ramp on the dock. A priest crossed himself. The time seemed right. Hawsers, descending from above the open ramp door, were thrown ashore and hooked around stout capstans.
But no! The vessel ‘crabbed’ again and urgent shouts instructed the dock crew to loose the hawsers as the ship’s powerful engines went into overdrive to avoid collision with the dock. The hawsers, dripping sea water, were winched back onboard as the deck crew pushed everyone back, away from the danger of the open door and the swinging hawsers. The ramp door closed tight, shutting out the last of the evening sunlight. The ship was secured for sea and its engines continued under power.
Strangers became friends, united by a shared unease. After ten minutes or so, I climbed the stairs back onto the upper deck to find the ship some good distance from the port. “Safer on deck”, I thought, “than down below on the car deck”. I spoke to the purser – “This ship not good in the wind” he said, with a shaking of his outstretched hand. Maria, a Greek girl from Athens, on holiday from her job as a lecturer at the University of Bedfordshire in the UK, came back to tell us that the Captain had hoped to attempt docking on the other side of the harbour mole but had aborted that too – we were going back round to try again at the original dock.
The second attempt was barely more successful. The ramp performed its now familiar choreography. When it was at one point half a metre from the concrete of the dock, love could wait no longer – the tattooed girl, with an Olympian sprint, ran up the incline of the ramp leaping onto Terra Firma and into the arms of her waiting boyfriend. Sensing freedom, a man followed her. A third, encumbered by the weight of his backpack, was too slow and ended up being bear-hugged by a crew member. For fear of ensuing rebellion, the crew pushed us remaining passengers back away from the ramp door. Finally, after an interminable wait, we disembarked amid signs of relief after an hour and a half being tossed around at the mercy of the Aegean winds.
Anafi is one of the least accessible of the Cyclades with epithets such as: the island the Gods forgot and the island of the Rising Sun. In the 1920s and 1930s it was a place of exile for political dissenters. I can understand why now, it’s not easy of access – nor of egress.
Katalyma was the name of the harbour for the ancient city of Anafi and was directly beneath the mountain-top city of Kastelli at present-day Katalimatsa Bay. It would appear to have been a significant size but little remains today where the harbour settlement was actually located, although, parts of its original marble structures are spread around the local area, and maybe other parts of the island, incorporated into other structures.
The Terrain Editions map shows two locations in the area where there are archaeological remains. One is located on the headland between Katalimatsa Beach and Megalos Roukounas beach; the other is in the river valley at the back of Megalos Roukounas Beach.
I drove to the junction of the main Chora-Monastery road where an unmade road goes down to Agios Ioannis Beach, and left the car parked off the main road. At the first hairpin bend on the unmade road, a walking track continues onwards downhill and meets with the hiking track number 1. Following track 1 going west, the route to Chora goes to the right but the Katalyma track goes straight on (to the left).
Shortly after, I passed by the threshing floor marked on the map, which is part of a now-abandoned ‘katikia’, a farmhouse ‘complex’ said to be unique to Anafi. The house itself is a single-roomed ‘monospito’ structure with the roof sagging, but still in place. The stone doorway looks to comprise ancient marble blocks. One missing feature is the outside oven, or ‘fournospito’ common in Anafi.
The threshing floor, although overgrown, is a perfect example and has two lakkoi described by Theodore Bent as being used to store the grain: “‘These are called lakkoi,’ said Barba Manthos, ‘in which our farmers, who have no granaries, store their grain. The holes are dug near a threshing floor, and when the grain is ready they put it in, having first been careful to cover the inside with straw. When sufficient grain has been piled up to form a sort of cone-shaped mound they cover the whole with straw, and put on the top of this some of the stiff native brushwood, and then they cover their mound with earth. Rain never penetrates these storehouses, and if it does it is sucked up by the brushwood and the straw before reaching the grain. This is, of course, a very ancient method of storing grain . . . by the side of every threshing floor, we saw two or three lakkoi which the ancient husbandmen of Greece called siroí”.
Parts of the perimeter wall of the threshing floor look to have come from the ancient buildings of Katalyma, one in particluar, which appears to be part of an intricately-carved marble frieze, used purely as a piece of convenient building material with no consideration for its beauty or workmanship.
There is an interesting structure which looks as though it’s a well, just by the threshing floor, with an engraved stone cemented in an almost ‘headstone-like’ manner. The inscription on the stone is quite worn and difficult to determine. Given the nature of the ground, it would seem likely that it’s a well rather than a cistern – the age-old boy scout trick of throwing a stone down a gap in it rusted cover proved nothing.
Rising behind the katikia on a mound, there appears to be another former dwelling. On the opposite side of this mound, there are some ancient marble blocks which have been involved in a collapse.
The katikia is complemented by the nearby terraces where the grain for the threshing floor woud have been grown and harvested.
Further on, past the katikia, is a small chapel having ancient blocks of marble built into its walls and a boundary wall composed almost entirely of ancient blocks.
The remains of Katalyma
Walking on further from the chapel, I came to an area with random blocks of marble spread over a large area. There are no discernible buildings and one wonders whether anything would have remained given the plundering of the town for building material over the centuries. Walkers, and possibly those searching for the ancient harbour town, have raised many stone cairns in the area to mark the significance of the spot.
VC writes “We came away from it down the hill-sides, covered with brushwood and wild thyme, and coloured with wild flowers; each footstep carrying us nearer to the sea and its ancient harbour, with the stairs that went down to its waiting ships.” However, I could find no trace of any steps leading down to the sea and had to scramble down the rocks to get to Roukounas Beach.
The Terrain Editions map shows another antiquity further up the river bed from the beach but I could find no trace of those remains, although I’m sure there must be something there if such a recent map has included it.
Maybe some other follower of VC might have more success in finding the steps to the sea and the other antiquity shown on the map.