If you do not understand the title it speaks for a pirate. Actually the most famous pirate of the Mediterranean sea. The fearful Barbarossa (barba rossa = red beard).
I was discovering his memories in Kythera island that April. What became of them? I was searching while heading at the most interesting but ruined and deserted settlement of the island. It is the remains of the old capital of Kythera, the legendary Paleochora.
I walked among the aromatic shrubs with the yellow flowers. It was spring time and the bees where buzzing around the surrounding hillsides with the aromatic thyme.
Paleochora had no visitors at that time. It was afternoon: sweet, fragrant, quiet. Time of reflections …
Two ravines were tearing the rocky hills and mingle in a huge stone pile. And on top of that pile was all what was left of Aghios Dimitrios, (or Paleochora), the Byzantine Kytherian capital, built by the Monemvasian family of Evdemonogiannis, once masters of the island. The legends say that the city was once very wealthy …
Today the once rich Paleochora is nothing but ruins of numerous byzantine churches, demolished houses and stone piles that rise like white teeth through the bushes and the wild fig trees. Paleochora was sacked in 1537 by the awesome and terrible pirate Hairendin Barbarossa, the Red Bearded monster who – at that time – fell on the Aegean islands like the curse of God.
The legends say that the Pirates of Barbarossa saw the chimneys of the houses of Paleochora, went ashore and going backwards the Kaki Lagada gorge they rushed to Paleochora. The people were massacred and the few survivors were sold as slaves. People never came to live here again. People rather not. But the area is still inhabited by hawks, snakes, lizards and quite a few legends…
I strolled among the rubbles of the old houses, and saw through the Byzantine churches of Santa Barbara, Virgin Mary of Foros, the remnants of Saint Anthony’s church. Once there were 70 churches here, but today only 21 have been identified. The remains of the houses reach the edges of the abysmal abyss. I was dizzy looking down …
The wind came whistling from the Kaki Langada gorge. I had heard that still somebody can hear the cries of the citizens of Paleochora when they jumped in the gorge to escape from the pirates’ swords.
Oops … I heard a sound… “Well, my boy …how it happened and you passed from here?”
An old lady with a kerchief and a bag full of wild asparagus came through the rubble. Not wanting photos. But she told me a few words. About the old village.
“And where did they go, all those who survived from Barbarossa?” I asked her.
“A.. they went beyond the villages .. The first one who arrived at the closest village wore a short of trousers with a three clothing layers. People called him Trifyllis (means “Three layered one”) . And still the village until today is called Trifyllianika. Ahhh… good night … “.
And she disappeared behind three semi-destroyed medieval arches …
Where am I?
Kythera island is located at the south of the Peloponnesus. The quickest way to get there (other than by aircraft) is to drive as far as Neapolis harbor, in Laconia region, and then take the ferry to Kythera.