Meet the res­i­dents of Ikaria, who en­joy longer lives than any­one else in Europe

Lonely Planet (UK) - - Great Escape Northeast Aegean -

IN THE VIL­LAGE OF RAHES, UN­DER THE BOUGHS OF a broad lime tree, an­other day is be­gin­ning.A wait­ress serves cus­tomers coffee and pas­tries.A rusty Jeep splut­ters past. Cats sun them­selves on the cob­bles, and a few ladies hud­dle on the square, swap­ping gos­sip with an­i­mated ges­tures and ex­pres­sive head­shakes. It could be any square, on any morning, in any Greek vil­lage – only there’s some­thing cu­ri­ous about Rahes.Apart from the wait­ress, none of the peo­ple in the scene are a day un­der seventy, and there isn’t a hair that isn’t the colour of steel or snow. They’re called the Blue Zones: a pe­cu­liar hand­ful of places on the globe whose in­hab­i­tants en­joy un­ex­pect­edly pro­tracted and pro­duc­tive lives. The term was coined by the +#0'! , 32&-0 , 3#22,#0Ơ 5&- '"#,2'̭#" ̭4# 13!& lo­ca­tions in his book of the same name: Ok­i­nawa in Ja­pan, Sar­dinia in Italy, Loma Linda in Cal­i­for­nia, Costa Rica’s Ni­coya Penin­sula and the Greek is­land of Ikaria. On av­er­age, peo­ple here live 10 years longer than the av­er­age for their

coun­tries, and re­port lower rates of heart dis­ease, can­cer, de­pres­sion and de­men­tia. Un­for­tu­nately, there’s a snag: ,-Ƥ-,# ! , ̭%30# -32 5&7Ɵ One clue might be found in the hills above Pigi, where bee­keeper An­toni Kari­malis is har­vest­ing one of Ikaria’s best-known ex­ports: wild honey. The hives are moved ev­ery sea­son to al­low the bees to for­age from dif­fer­ent habi­tats: .',# $-0#12Ơ &# 2&#0Ơ 5'*"̮-5#0 +# "-5Ɵ Ư !& *-! 2'-, %'4#1 2&# &-,#7 '21 -5, ̮ 4-30Ơư 1 71 ,2-,'Ɵ Ư ," "'$$#0#,2 medic­i­nal prop­er­ties. Our honey is strong in an­tiox­i­dants ," ,2'Ƥ',̮ ++ 2-0'#1Ɵ ,7 '1* ,"#01 2 )# 1.--,$3* ev­ery day to stay healthy.’ Later that morning, at An­toni’s workshop near Gialiskari vil­lage, he pro­cesses the honey he har­vested ear­lier, and tourists stop in to watch the op­er­a­tion be­fore stock­ing up on jars as sou­venirs, hop­ing per­haps to take some of the is­land’s longevity home with them. A good, prefer­ably or­ganic, diet is some­thing common to many of the Blue Zones. Prox­im­ity to na­ture, phys­i­cal labour and a tem­per­ate cli­mate also seem to have a role to play, as does a re­laxed ap­proach to time­keep­ing: open­ing hours on Ikaria are no­to­ri­ously er­ratic, and many shops take a lengthy 0# ) $-0 *3,!&Ơ #$-0# -.#,',% * 2# ',2- 2&# #4#,',%Ɵ ,7 is­lan­ders also credit Ikaria’s nat­u­ral hot-wa­ter springs for their longevity: warmed by vol­canic ac­tiv­ity and rich in min­er­als, they have been renowned for their heal­ing prop­er­ties since an­cient times.At the coastal vil­lage of Therma, bathers of all ages steam them­selves in mica-blue pools in the bath­house, while oth­ers re­lax in the su­per­heated sea­wa­ter out­side, un­der rocky cliffs. But there’s an­other fac­tor to con­sider: com­mu­nity. Ikaria’s iso­lated vil­lages have al­ways re­lied heav­ily on each other, co­op­er­at­ing and shar­ing re­sources, and they re­main close),'2Ɵ 4#07-,# ),-51 #4#07-,#Ƣ .#-.*# %0##2 # !& -2&#0 by name, hug­ging and en­quir­ing af­ter fam­ily and friends, ex­chang­ing news, and of­ten stop­ping for a shot of ouzo. And once a year, each moun­tain vil­lage holds a bac­cha­na­lian

party, known as pani­gyria, when the com­mu­nity comes to­gether to feast, drink and dance through the night. Like a good num­ber of the is­land’s older in­hab­i­tants, 0' 0 ,28#1)-3 '1 4#2#0 , -$ + ,7 . ,'%70' "30',% her many decades on the is­land. Now in her eight­ies, her hair frosted with sil­ver, she’s as spry as a woman half her age, with a mis­chievous wit sparkling be­hind her crin­kled eyes. 4#, ,-5Ơ 1&# 12'** *--)1 $-05 0" 2- 2&# '1* ,"ư1 ,,3 * cel­e­bra­tions – al­though for the rest of the year, she prefers the peace and quiet of the an­cient hill­top Monastery of Theok­tis­tis near Pigi, where she tends to her cot­tage gar­den and runs a café for vis­i­tors. Ư -0 +#Ơ 2&# +-12 '+.-02 ,2 2&',% '1 2- 0#+ ', !2'4#Ơư she says, brew­ing a pot of wild herb tea in her kitchen, which 1&# 1#04#1 5'2& &-+#Ƥ )#" '1!3'21Ɵ Ư %# '1 1'+.*7 12 2# of mind. If you live a good life, eat well and keep your mind ," -"7 12'+3* 2#"Ơ 2& 2 '1 #,-3%&Ɵ 4#072&',% #*1#Ʃ Well, that’s in the hands of the gods.’

An­toni vis­its his bee­hives twice a day - the lo­ca­tions are a fam­ily se­cret

Goats in the hills near Rahes in the west of Ikaria

Bathers in the sea-cave at­tached to the Spi­laio baths in Therma. RIGHT, FROM TOP Analipsi church in the fish­ing vil­lage of Gialiskari; pour­ing olive oil onto fava – a purée made from yel­low split peas

An­toni Kari­malis har­vests honey from Ikaria’s western hills. ABOVE, FROM LEFT Bees from one of An­toni Kari­malis’ hives; Erica ma­nip­uliflora, a va­ri­ety of heather, grow­ing around Pigi

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