Searching for Stefanos’ house in Ios

Approaching Chora, on his return from visiting Homer’s tomb in the North East of the island, VC passed by the home of an elderly man who was sitting on his doorstep.

On my return in the cool of the evening from Homeros, and as I neared the town of Ios, I saw an elderly man seated alone upon the doorstep of his house, with something about him that was almost English — or at least not Greek. He looked a little wistfully upon the world, regarding the passers-by, and this led me to stop my mule and wish him the time of day. He rose at once to his feet, and I observed that he was lame. On learning my nationality his face lit up, and he urged me to enter his house

The man turned out to be Stefanos Lorenziades, the younger brother of the three sisters who’d looked after and entertained Theodore Bent over 40 years before. From Theodore’s and VC’s accounts, and from my research in Ios, we have been able build an outline history of the Lorentziadis family from that time to the present day.

VC describes in some detail Stefanos’ house and garden and gives us a clue to its location.

Stefano’s garden lay upon the slope of a narrow ravine; a jet of water trickled through it into a reservoir under a vine, thence creating freshness and verdure wherever it went from terrace to terrace, till it reached the bottom of his ravine. Upon the far side rose the Acropolis of Ios, the remains of its Hellenic walls and its mediaeval tower; and these as we sat on his terrace glowed rose in the twilight through the solemn frieze of his darkening cypresses.

In studying a contour map, I identified a location which would fit VC’s description i.e. facing the Chora on the opposite side of a ravine. It was on the centuries-old monopáti (track) leading from Chora past the site of ancient Skarkos. This seemed the most likely track that VC would have followed back from his journey in the North of the island.

Shortly after leaving Chora, the track descends and immediately to the left is the likely ravine with green vegetation at its base indicating the path of a seasonal water course. Standing immediately above the low point of the ravine, the ravine side rose to my left up to the walls of the town. To the right, on the opposing ravine side, was a house with its garden laid out in well-maintained terraces planted with lemon, orange and olive trees.

The ravine with Chora on the left and the house on the right
The ravine
The house and terraces
The house and terraces
The front of the house with the stone seat
The front of the house with the stone seat

This was looking good. I continued on until I reached the front of the house. Like many in Greece, it’s difficult to put an age on them, but, as I got to the front door, the stone ledge to the right of the door just had to be of another period in time. Could this have been where Stefanos was sitting as VC passed? I was beginning to feel that I’d found it!

The tomb at the end of terrace
The tomb at the end of terrace

Wandering on, peering over the wall, everything looked as VC described: the terraces, the ravine, the Chora opposite. Then, at the very end of one of the terraces, I saw another piece of the jigsaw so eloquently described by VC – a white tomb, surmounted by a cross, protected within a black wrought iron fence.

The tomb at the end of the terraces
The tomb at the end of the orange groves

Through the dim orange groves there gleamed the white marble of his brother’s tomb.

“Were it not for that,” he said sadly, “I would give up this place. I have no friends in los.”

Stefanos told VC that the garden had been left to him after his brother had died. VC may have just assumed the tomb contained the remains of Spyridon, however, the graveyard in Chora contains a headstone which also bears Spryidon’s name and tells that he’d been killed in Thessaloniki in the war, possibly on the Macedonian Front, tragically just weeks before the end of the war. If Spyridon’s remains were in the churchyard, it begs the question – “Whose is the tomb in the garden?”. Could it have been his wife? It’s unusual in Greece, as in many countries, for tombs to be placed outside of consecrated church land or cemeteries. Surely this must be the tomb described by VC! There just couldn’t possibly be more than one in the surrounding area.

I could view the tomb only from the track and, try as I may, there was no easy access to this garden so that I could get a close look at the inscription. I stopped a couple of passers-by – “did they know the inhabitant of the tomb?” – no luck there.

Hearing the sound of a mother and her children coming from a house on the opposite side of the track, I approached and knocked on the wooden door. A second knock brought a woman and a young boy to the door. “I am from England” I said in Greek. “Do you know whose tomb is in the garden here?” “I don’t understand” she replied. I thought the young boy might be learning English at school – but, alas, no!

From the bottom of the ravine with the house on the left and Chora on the right
From the bottom of the ravine with the house on the left and Chora on the right

At the bottom of his ravine a spring of clear water is enclosed in a stone monument with Turkish emblems inscribed upon it, and to this the women of Ios come to replenish their jars.

I continued toward Skarkos. From the map, it seemed that I could follow a track to a road that passed by the ravine further down where I hoped to find the ‘Turkish’ fountain that would provide yet more conclusive proof that I’d found Stefano’s house.

Unfortunately, no sign of it, however, from VC’s description, it sounds to be further up the ravine in the dense undergrowth. “Not a job for today” I thought.

I was unable to find any other likely-looking location for Stefanos’ house and will continue to research further to finally ascertain whether this house is the one.

The GPS location of the house is 36.72483, 25.28509.

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