The Ancient Stones of Mt Ochi

At 1398m (4586ft) Mt Ochi on Evia is the island’s highest peak and is well worth a visit. There are no good trails from Karystos, where we were staying, but there are decent dirt roads leading up through the wind turbine areas just below the top. Our tour bus dropped us off at about 1000m so the ascent was relatively easy. On the drive up we had to pause to wait for a herd of goats to clear the road. Every shepherds horse I saw had a wooden saddle designed to be ridden side-saddle. I have no idea why that technique is favored over the more standard method used around the world.

In mid-May the wildflowers were out, including these orchids, adding welcome color to the otherwise arid and rocky landscape.

Just a few meters below the summit are several stone structures. There is very little information about them online. The best preserved is a small chapel associated with some separate rooms a number of stone walls.

Adjacent to that is a structure of very different design that may be much older. It is one of a number of so-called “Dragon Houses” (a silly name) in southern Evia. The Karystos Archaeological Museum exhibit states that there are 23 such structures in the region. Excavated artifacts found in the floors date this particular one to anywhere from the 6th to the 1st century BC. The roof design is of the corbel type; overlapping stone slabs converging from opposite sides of the building. This is distinct from a true arch, which may have been invented by the Sumerians in Mesopotamia as long ago as 6000 BC.

The purpose of the structures is unknown; perhaps they were shrines, guard houses, or quarry workers quarters. Whatever they were used for, raising the large roof slabs was a formidable challenge!

After exploring the structures, we descended back to the dirt road near where we were dropped off.

That was followed by a long, rather tedious descent down dirt roads to the small town of Myloi. The route did provide a view of the ruins of Costello Rosso, which since the 11th century AD has been variously occupied by the Franks, Venetian, Turks, and finally the Greeks. So much human conflict! The castle is visible below in the distance, beyond an impressive rock escarpment.

We did pause for some diverting entertainment; two dung beetles working together to roll a 2cm ball of goat dung to a destination that only they seemed to know but that they apparently agreed upon. After burying the dung they lay their eggs on it, and it will provide food for the larvae. Everything gets recycled in some way…

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