Greece is a country with the sea at its heart. The big blue surrounds thousands of volcanic landmasses, some that only just peak out through its clear waters and others that rise in towering cliffs from the sea and seem to stretch all the way to the clouds.
On the hillside of a 10 square kilometre island called Thimena in the east Aegean near Ikaria there is a clear, cool, delicious freshwater spring. Once upon a time this spring quenched the thirst of not only the island’s flora, but much of it’s fauna too. The spring of Baghia (pronounced “vay-ya”) watered plants, trees, goats, and even the island’s human inhabitants. It was an oasis of shady fruit trees where locals could come to relax and watch the sea, or shepherds could bring their goats for a sip of fresh spring water.
During recent decades the story of Baghia is unfortunately echoed across many small islands and rural parts of Greece. As the younger generations left the island to try their luck in Athens or abroad, the population of Thimena has dwindled to only about 100 inhabitants and Baghia fell into disrepair, its pond drying up and once-grand trees dying off, replaced only by the natural hearty hillside plants native to the island.
On March 17, 2018 a team of volunteers organised and led by the Thimena Cultural Association assembled on the four freshly-tilled terraces built on the site of old Baghia using the traditional Thimenian rock walls and construction techniques. Along with the volunteers (aged 5 to 75!) came 18 saplings including fig trees, olive trees and oranges.
Over 5 hours the team planted the hillside, laughing, working together and bringing the spirit of community back to the spring of Baghia. Once the work was done everyone enjoyed an ice-cold beer and BBQ of local fish and souvlaki.
The old ways are so important. In a world where everything new seems better, exciting and enticing, it’s days spent digging in the dirt and planting trees on an island in the middle of the sea that feed the soul so much more than any new gadget or fancy toy ever could. These are the times we remember, the photographs of kids next to saplings which will become traditions and retaken in 5, 10, 20 and 50 years. A bit of hard work and some vision can breathe new life into a forgotten land and write a new chapter in history.
Thank you to the Thimena Cultural Association for their vision and hard work that made the planting of Baghia possible. This team of young people from Thimena are bringing back the traditions of an island and proving how important it is to keep culture and heritage alive.
For more, visit www.thimena.gr
PS. For those who don’t speak Greek, the beginning of the video tells the story you just read above about the history of the spring in Baghia and it’s next chapter which has only just begun.