Temple of Demeter: Travel Inside Naxos

Demeter, Greek goddess of earth and harvest, beckons Las Chicas to her temple in the middle of Naxos. The “Templo  Dimitira” as it’s called in Greek, requires a bus ride from the town of Chora, where Las Chicas stay in a seaside studio. Fortified by extra Greek pastries, we board the public bus at the port with senior citizens who had come to Chora for morning shopping.  People disembark at various points with their plastic shopping bags of cushions, pots, produce, baked goods, as we climb into the hills of central Naxos.  We see olive groves and vegetable gardens, sheep and goats.  We see very old stone houses and very new villas. Mary notes that every time we passed a church or a stone cross, the woman across the aisle crosses herself in the Greek Orthodox style.

At last, we come to our town Alga Sangri, where we think the trail to the Temple begins. Two older women get off and assure us, in Greek and with pointing, that we should go with them. So we do, then they point uphill through the white-washed town, we go, find a sign and head down a walking path.

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The Sangri street which ends in our decision point: path or road?

But Las Chicas aren’t confident that 1) this is the correct path and 2) that barking loose dogs in nearby field will not attack us.  One of the same women, head covered in dark shawl, comes to our rescue. She set her plastic bags on the stone wall so she can properly communicate with us using her hands and her words. She points to the path, and points to the road. Finally we realize that we can take the road (“asfalta”–asphalt for cars, pointing to a vehicle) to Demeter’s Temple, or we can walk on the path “podo”–Mary points to her feet, woman nods enthusiastically).  We choose the road.

We passed chickens, goats, sheep, vineyards. After all, Naxos is the birthplace of Dionysus, god of wine.

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Adults graze, baby goats munch at the feed buckets on the right.

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Rooster warily eyes us.

After about 30 minutes of walking, we see the temple ruins, white against the green fields. Mount Zeus, highest in the Cyclades Islands, is the peak on the right.

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Agave plants decorate the stone path up to the Temple of Demeter.

The temple was “discovered” by a Greek archeologist in the 20th century and reconstructed only in the last ten years. They found pieces of the ancient Greek temple from 530 BC, and a Catholic basilica from a thousand or so years later. Some marble and granite pieces were lying about on the ground, and some were used as parts of farmhouses, barns, or terrace walls.

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Massive granite blocks form the back wall, with marble door frame and pillars.

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The curved wall in the foreground is part of the Christian basilica.

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Agave (invasive from America?) is along a wall, with native olive tree in the background.

It is such a peaceful place, with only another Canadian couple viewing the ruins with us. The mountains and fields and sky provide spaciousness in our hearts and souls. Flowers bloom, and birds sing, a perfect day for visiting Demeter! Alas, we must walk back to town and the bus stop.

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In the town of Sangri, we see familiar desert plants like yucca next to the white-washed buildings with blue trim.

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Old windmills.

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Sangri church from when Venetians ruled Naxos, 1200s A.D.

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House painted in typical Cycladic style.

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Yucca on the fence.

We wait and wait and wait some more for our return bus. When it arrives, we see the hiking Canadians; they returned to the road via a different path. We also see that we are on a school bus! Later, the Canadians tell us that they told the driver to pick us up, and that he had to call to make sure it was OK for him to pick up all these tourists. On the way back to Chora, we stop suddenly for a chicken crossing the road,  meanwhile, the driver talks on his cell phone and smokes his vapor cigarette and has conversations with drivers in other vehicles. The kids get off  at various points along the way.

We stop, well before the port, and a young girl says, “This is the end of the line, good Easter!” Fortunately, we can follow signs to the port, and after another 15-20 minute walk, we are back at our studio by the sea!

© 2015 by Lisa Howells and Mary Reynolds. All rights reserved.

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