..The Abandoned Island…
2nd/3rd June 2016
In the far edges of the Dodecanese, there lay a small and isolated island with a perfect anchoring bay on the south. In this bay, there is a castle quite conspicuously placed on the top of the hill, and on entering you see an abandoned chapel, an abandoned village on the coast and camouflaged into the rustic ground and lime green bushes, are the bullet scared barracks. The island is called Alimia, and is the closest island in the Dodecanese to the bustling and cosmopolitan island of Rhodes, but even though it’s close, this peaceful and quite island is uninhabited.
So we are told, this barren and rocky island was once home to 50 people, farmers and fishermen that lived in the South part of the bay, the people here were all told to leave by the Germans when they took occupation in 1941, the distraught families were sent to Symi or Rhodos. What remains of their village are the Sagging houses which have long since lost there mortar, whose stones were only held there by forces of gravity and habit, ( paraphrased; captain Correlis Mandolin ) and goats. The village has a more recent addition of barbed wire and various different kinds of underwater netting defences which are left abandoned on the bay’s small beaches. Debris from wartime mixed with an extinct village. Somewhat eerie in this beautifully peaceful place.
On the low side of the bay we explored ashore and found two large concrete buildings, painted in the ochre and sand colours of desert camouflage. Bullet holes and damage ran all the way along one of the long exterior walls. Also at this part of the island is one of the few churches on the island, you can enter, but please tie up the door again as you leave. It’s strange to enter a place of worship where amongst all the carnage of destruction and abandonment there are intact frescoes screens, chandeliers and holy icons. A candle even flickered in homage in one of the freshly whitewashed buildings.
What is left by the war, however, has scarred this tranquil island. In the north of the island, two barracks stand, and it is here the bullet holes in some of the buildings and the graffiti which has been left by some of those soldiers posted here all those years ago remain as evidence of the war.
The soldiers who drew these pictures and wrote the words of some of their battle songs to accompany their illustrations would have perhaps wondered what life could be like on this beautiful deserted island if here under different circumstances.
“Wovon Kann Der Landser De Schon Träumann Er” is what surrounds one of the paintings, which shows a soldier hugging a Mermaid. The words translate as “What can a soldier (still) dream”, and they are the lyrics to an old German March song.
In some of the other rooms, there are more wall paintings which depict what looked like a scene from Bavaria or even the Alps drawn by the soldiers who came from there to remind them of their villages at home, transcribed beneath the illustrations are traditional Bavarian toasting words. When I stood and examined these pictures, I was surprised at how well preserved they were and felt saddened at the sheer weight of the history they held.
When we were back on the boat, I did some fishing and after two minutes with the rod in, I caught a medium sized Dorada and another minute later, I had a much slimmer and flatter fish, both would be fried later that day. After doing some fishing, I sat on the front of the yacht, and I saw a large osprey. The osprey wheeled effortlessly, high above the mountain, it was keenly guarded by a smaller hawk, valiantly trying to protect its young from the mighty, nonchalant sea eagle swooping over the sharp, jagged land waiting for its chance to strike.
Later on this year, a group of 11 Belgian people will be left on this island for 10 days fending for themselves and taking part in activities to win points on a game show, a bit of a cross between the Bear Grylls show,”The Island” and,”I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here!”
When We first sailed past the island, I thought it would be impossible to live off. However, now that I am on the island, it does seem possible. For instance, there are edible wild greens, there are many fish swimming about and if they wanted some type of meat, they could catch the ragged band of bedraggled goats in this deserted wilderness. ” they eat anything” we were told, ” one of them ate his tent” he said pointing at his friend “, and they drink sea water… That’s what makes them the tastiest goats in Greece…..”