Archive for the ‘english’ Category

Octopus Press is PLATO’s publishing house, which expands the exhibition cycle “Oh and Hah, Beauty, Ruin and Slack”.

Anna Václavíková, Jakub Černý

Translation: Tomáš Pivoda

To contemporary humanoids from big cities, thousands of deserted Aegean islands offer the opportunity to break out of the primitivism of the big cave, to overcome their fear of being alone in nature and to be fascinated by it again. And while they roam around, admiring the landscape, a plethora of thoughts and desires are born in the mind, and unfulfilled dreams call for realization… (Teos Romvos, Follow Them)

While in Athens people and cultural artifacts were at the forefront of our attention, Syros brings a change of perspective. The human element recedes into the background. Syros, at least the autumnal one, is the antidote to the hurried capital reeling in the aftermath of the economic crisis, revolutionary enthusiasm and the tourist onslaught on ancient monuments. In Athens, we encountered the ruination of urban communities and their renewing by the post-autonomous underground; in Syros, everything is less condensed, but also less defined by the human element, its urban ecology and perception of time. Natural elements in the form of sea, wind, land and non-human living nature come to the fore, but also different layers of history in which the ways these elements have interacted or layered upon each other over time are revealed.

We are able to see glimpses of the different relationships formed in this rich ecosystem. Some of them also become the subject of interviews with Teos Romvos and Chara Pelekana, activists, anarchists, and above all world citizens with big hearts, who were at the origin of the first anarchist publishing house in post-revolutionary Greece, called Octopus Press, and later decided to spend the rest of their lives on the island.

The encounter with Teos and Chara, who become our guides, and their insight into the island, gradually confronts us with a different perception of time than we are used to from the “big cave,” whether in the form of Athens or Ostrava. Together with Joanna Macy, deep ecologist and philosopher, we define it as “deep time,” an alternative to the more common “accelerated time.” Accelerated time, typically oriented towards shorter time cycles, creates a conceivable horizon for our world. The preference for accelerated time inevitably leads to crises, because the negative consequences of our actions, beyond the horizon of short time cycles, are not taken into account, creating unexpected pitfalls for the future. The most typical example is the climate crisis, the consequences of which still extend beyond the short time cycles in which we have become accustomed to operating in modern history. On a personal level, accelerated time manifests itself in burnout, which is the result of long-term functioning in debt to oneself. Macy says that if the cause of contemporary crises is a distortion in our temporal perspective, then a different perception of time can lead to recovery. As an alternative, she offers deep time, which can be imagined, for example, as decision-making based on the perspective of the seven generations that preceded us and will succeed us. How might people living in the mid-twenty-second century perceive our desire for quick profit, devastating native ecosystems? Will they still mourn what is getting lost today? What would our world look like if we got used to taking their future voice into account?

As an alternative, she offers deep time, which can be imagined, for example, as decision-making based on the perspective of the seven generations that preceded us and will succeed us. How might people living in the mid-twenty-second century perceive our desire for quick profit, devastating native ecosystems? Will they still mourn what is getting lost today? What would our world look like if we got used to taking their future voice into account?

But is seven generations enough? Some cycles go beyond seven generations. The excess greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will certainly not disappear after seven generations, nor will most of the non-biological waste we produce today probably decompose. Imagining the horizon of some of these processes runs up against the limits of our imagination. Yet, according to Timothy Morton, for example, in order to overcome today’s crises, it is important to take into account the existence of “hyperobjects” (climate change, the planet, the total amount of microplastics on the planet, etc) that enter our everyday life from another temporal dimension, the perception of which escapes the untrained mind. Learning to perceive hyperobjects, their proportions and rhythm, helps to orient oneself in the present. It helps us to orient ourselves in what we should strive for and how to act. Perceiving deep time is a guide to activism, the long-term goal of which we can sometimes lose sight of. The island system is one such hyperobject that is complex, but at the same time, in a way, isolated from the rest of the world, and therefore provides an opportunity to rise above the froth of the days. It offers a chance to break out of civilization’s fast pace and reconnect with a deeper sense of time, to find a place in the larger story of evolution.

Join us for a moment to tune into this island system and its tensions, and meet Teos and Chara, who have been absorbed by the island life outside the great cave and who made us long for a stronger sense of deep time.

Notes from the cruise

The day of the cruise begins dramatically. During the metro ride to the port of Piraeus we realize that we will miss the check-in for the ferry. It’s 6:30 in the morning, and the thought of being stuck in a chaotic port district for the day waiting for the next boat is not comforting at all. Miraculously, however, we manage to pick up our ticket and catch the ferry just as the last passengers are boarding and a shipping company employee is about to give the order to retract the boarding platform connecting the vessel to the shore. A feeling of relief sets in. We set sail just as the sun is rising.

The transition from the morning run through the city to the static position of observers on the ship’s deck brings a sudden change of perspective. The stress of the city’s hectic pace drains away from us as the nautical miles accumulate on the Blue Star ship regularly connecting Athens with the Cyclades islands. Perhaps it is the vastness of the seas and the shrinking image of Athens in the distance, which is reminiscent of a picturesque model of the city in a museum. It also has something to do with our being ensconced on an open deck, buffeted by wind and water, from which people are gradually disappearing; the water salinates every fold of clothing and body, and everything is sticky wet. Along with a brave (i.e. smoking) few, we stay on deck and try to withstand all weather hazards, soak up the vastness that comes with the feeling of freedom, and pay attention to where we are going. As the scale changes, so does the degree of absorption in urban themes.

We pass the uninhabited island of Agios Georgios, which currently serves primarily as a giant wind farm. While in our country wind farms are a symbol of the green revolution, in the Cyclades they have become a symbol of wanton plundering against which a growing wave of resistance is rising. Teos is also involved in Pan-Cyclades groups, and regularly publishes articles in Eyploia magazine in support of these initiatives (especially the Aegean Network of Environmental Organizations). Together, they are trying to limit or completely prevent this type of development, which, in their view, has no beginning or end and only serves to enrich investors.

Already in Athens, environmental activists have drawn our attention to the fact that, under the guise of green energy production, an ecological disaster is taking place here that is destroying the islands’ ecosystems. The wild expansion of wind farms is having an impact on fragile habitats, bird sanctuaries, and the overall landscape of the islands. Dilapidated power stations are rusting away in pristine nature as a memento of the reckless drive to cash in on the green energy subsidy boom. Looking at the ruins of dysfunctional wind turbines that have not been repaired or cleaned up creates a mysterious sense of existential distress: we are witnessing a kind of accelerated history that could very well be our own, although we do not recognize our own ideas about the future of this renewable resource in it.


Wind farms in the Cyclades. Source: BR/Stelios Efstathopoulos

Navigating in the Aegean Sea also reveals bits and pieces of the recent history of the fascist dictatorship. One of them is the island of Gyaros, with the ruins of a military fortress, later a camp for political prisoners. It was set up by the military junta to indoctrinate the dissent of the time into the nationalist project through ancient symbolism. As we read in Simon Murray’s book Performing Ruins, the so-called re-education was based on the forced exposure of prisoners to stories but also to physical images of ancient monuments. Prisoners had to write and recite Greek poetry or perform plays adoring the spirit of Hellenism. Patriotic music was played in the camp, and overall the system tried to get dissidents to sign a declaration of loyalty, denying their political beliefs and denigrating their friends.

The following islands do not arouse as much curiosity in us, and so we again become absorbed in the texts of Teos and Chara’s magazine Trypa. We’re a little nervous that we don’t know enough about them, that we don’t really know what we want them to do. We are already beginning to learn to deal with this feeling and not be ashamed of it.

After three and a half hours, battered by the salty wind and a little tired, we arrive in Ermoupoli, the capital of both Syros and the Cyclades archipelago and, for a time, the main commercial centre of the whole of Greece. A pretty, would-be nineteenth-century colonial town with an industrial past surprises us with its post-seasonal provincialism.

 (Non)-place for the realization of utopia

In a way, everything points to the fact that the paradise in which Adam and Eve lived was one such desert island. Because here the non-place, the utopia, is revealed… (Teos Romvos, Follow Them)

We meet Teos and Chara later that evening. The meeting takes place in the restaurant of the harbour hotel Hermes, where we probably couldn’t afford to stay. It’s after the tourist season, and the tables, set with clean white tablecloths, are empty. Our hosts greet us warmly and immediately persuade us to join them for chocolate and rum—a drink that Teos himself is said to have popularized in local restaurants on Syros.

We have left bustling Athens with the impression that we would meet Teos and Chara for a few fleeting meetings in cafés, during which we would briefly get to know each other and discuss the Greek underground. We are surprised when they come up with a schedule of the places they plan to take us in the next few days to show us a “different” island. The axis of the places is made up of the island’s treasures, the remains of engravings left by the original inhabitants of the Cyclades, ancient burial sites, hidden beaches, geological rarities or inhabited caves, and the ambitious project of Yannis, an American who has created a green oasis on an arid part of the island.

Teos and Chara, whom we meet on the island, are different from the people we associate with the post-revolutionary urban backdrops of Exarchia, in which they created the magazine Trypa and which were referred to in the exhibition of the same name, The Hole. They are people of the islands, not people of the city, although their current situation is hard to understand without the path they have travelled in their lives:

I was born and raised in a big city. I have spent the better part of my life leading an alienated, disjointed existence in various European cities. When I moved to Syros, it was a decision driven by a desire to “live permanently on an island.” I was mad with the desire to live on a piece of land separated from the other mainland by a huge sea chasm, especially in winter when the coast is buffeted by a fierce north wind. (Teos Romvos, blog)

When we say that these are island people, we mean a kind of vastness and continuity, but also perhaps a determination with which they strive to realize something much larger than themselves. It is difficult to say exactly what this is, but we associate it with the idea of a pan-island utopia 1, evoking the very reality of living on scattered pieces of land separated by a sea chasm. A freedom, a union with nature that has an almost psychedelic effect, but also a link to the adventures and lively interaction of cultures in the days before nation-states, when the Aegean islands were places of freedom, self-reliance, but also cultural exchange.

These uninhabited islands (the Cyclades) belong to all wandering creatures who want to sunbathe, explore and discover, but above all to understand how life begins, because everything points to the fact that these uninhabited islands belong to plants, migratory birds and free creatures without nationality who want to live there for a while or forever… (Teos Romvos, blog)

Meeting Teos and Chara also allowed us to get to know their circle of friends. On the very first night we meet Sotiris, a local bohemian who runs the bar La Bohème and drinks a bit. He maintains his student-bohemian style, even though he is in his late forties. He is already enrolled in a third school. So far he has studied physical education in Belgrade (where everyone drank a lot) and literature in South America. When he learns that Jakub works with drug users, he teases him that he would like to go to rehab.

I smile, but I cry inside

The next morning Teos and Chara pick us up at the corner of the main square of Ermoupoli. Teos hits the accelerator briskly and takes us through the steep and narrow one-way streets, so that we can go back down to the shipyards, where the boats are only being repaired. We pass an industrial museum and an old infirmary on the hill behind the town, but the real destination is the seemingly ordinary coastline of the southern tip of the island. A place Teos and Chara have come to love.

There’s a nice pebble beach here, but it’s also where the almost daily feeding of the feline friends who are eagerly awaiting Teos and Chara takes place. We sit for a while at a small abandoned house—except that it is on the terrace of the house that the regular feeding ritual takes place, so we have no shortage of company after all. We look around and listen to the wind leaning against a few small trees, reeds and bushes, and hear the rough sea in the background. We walk onto a rocky shoreline full of pointed cliffs with waves crashing violently against them. We follow a path between low thorny bushes. The ground is dry. Teos tells stories of the landscape and its changes. He points to the rooftops of newly built residences peeking out from behind the hills and smiles as he talks about the uncontrolled development on the islands that tends to swallow up the remnants of the original landscape. “I smile, but I cry inside,” he laments. Later we run across the unmanaged and wilful construction and encroachment on the island’s open landscape several more times.


Syros. Authors’ archive.

Chara gradually makes us smell all the herbs and tells us about their use in the island’s economy. Sage, thyme, fennel, St. John’s wort, and other various scents are carried on by the island breeze, which on the higher cliffs is replaced by a strong north wind that is salty and dizzying. We pass a well, but there isn’t much water in it; someone has painted a frowning face on it. Spring water is scarce on Syros, so most of our drinking water supply is covered by desalination plants, and a slight saltiness is ever-present, even when brushing your teeth.


Syros. Authors’ archive.

We walk back to the car and pass a cute snake on the dirt road. By some chance, our conversation gets around to how shoes fall apart on hikes in the midday heat. Then the following revelation becomes very impressive: the Greek word for shoe is papuč in Czech (το παπούτσι, which means “slipper” in English). Be warned, we Czechs share the word slipper with the Greeks!

The island’s social network

I chose Syros because I felt that its landscape reveals the essential elements of the islands here; it is stark, almost ascetic. On one side, there is a vibrant town with a rich community, but on the other—the northern part of the island—there is a nature reserve; a harmonious natural unity with the native island flora. It is places like this that gave rise to the Aegean civilization, which archaeologists consider to be the dawn of European civilization. (Teos Romvos, blog)

We keep going and climb to the higher, much wilder parts of the island. Along the way, Teos tells us about the mysterious carvings, thousands of years old, that appear in various places on the island, on stones and rocks. We park on a small hilltop plain. There aren’t enough comparatives and superlatives to describe the force of the wind that’s just blowing. We descend the dry rocky terrain and head towards a huge rounded piece of rock that dominates the landscape before us with its size. Syros is characterized by its geodiversity. It is largely made up of metamorphic schist rocks. In the mid-nineteenth century, glaucophane, a dark bluish mineral, was discovered and described here, and we see plenty of it. Looking closely, it’s clear that other creatures have been coming to the rock for many centuries before us, perhaps millennia, and groping as we do now when we observe the ancient carvings, remarkably clear considering their age, and search for their possible meanings.

According to Teos, the engravings may be messages, important information for visitors to the islands, a kind of social network of the indigenous inhabitants of the Cyclades. The islands were not distant worlds. From time immemorial, they were a living network in which dynamic communication and exchange, influenced by the element of the sea, took place. The mass of water, while limiting travel, also encouraged people to explore and overcome challenges, motivating them to leave messages to themselves and their gods on the islands.


Engravings, Syros. Authors’ archive.

The drawings record shapes reminiscent of stars, snails, rhombi, but also ancient measurement systems, human figures, or the shapes of ships of the time. They were the first groping form of preserving or recording and transmitting a piece of meaning, and they foreshadow later writing. In his examination of these engravings, which he published under the title Traces, Teos witnessed a record of thousands of years of Greek culture, language and architectural development, something that no one at Syros before him had been particularly concerned with. It is scarcely credible that in Europe you can find the remains of an ancient history hitherto undescribed and uninterpreted.


Engravings, Syros. Authors’ archive.

On the way back, we pass through an area built up with typical family houses that we know from Ermoupoli, as well as much larger and more spectacular settlements than what we have seen on the island so far. Today, if sumptuousness were still indicative of the sacredness of the place, we as foreigners would have little chance of identifying the spiritual sanctuaries; we might as well mistake a church for a rich man’s villa. This is one aspect of the beginningless development described by Teos, which knows no boundaries other than those imposed by the lucrativeness of the investment opportunity and the despotism of (private) capital. In the end, we are the only guests having a beer in a restaurant by Azolimnos beach, which dwells in the autumn emptiness of a Mediterranean resort. The openness and warmth of Teos and Chara draw us into the island’s comfort, the day seems slower than previous ones, there is more space to think between words. The horizon of the sea allows us to put aside thoughts for a while, to let them sway on the waves and sink deeper into the spiral of the moment.

In the early evening of the same day, we head to the town of Ano Syros, where our two friends live in a traditional house of island folk architecture painted bright pink. The dwelling and the way it is inhabited induce an impression of modesty in us, but also of liberty linked to creative freedom and independence. Various plants weave through the house, and cats can walk in and out without restriction. We take our seats in a cosy living room, which serves as a meeting place as well as a place of creative process, as evidenced by the piles of various files stacked on top of each other. The scent of the homemade pizza that will be served for dinner wafts from the stone oven. In the meantime we sip rosé and browse the library, where we occasionally stumble across Teos’s books and originals of the legendary Trypa magazine, linked to Teos and Chara’s life before they settled on the island. The pizza comes with a delicious sauce made with herbs that Chara collects on her trips around the island. After dinner we chat until we slowly start to fall asleep; then we walk to Ermoupoli.

The slower island concept of time has finally released the tension of the fast-paced city and untangled the knots in our minds that we’ve been unable to untie for the past few days. The evening languor after good food and wine accompanies satisfied bodies through the narrow quiet streets to the port town.


Unlike other island towns, Ermoupoli is not just a tourist resort. Founded at the time of the Greek Revolution in the first half of the nineteenth century by people fleeing the war from other Greek islands, the town was at one time an industrial centre and for a long time also Greece’s largest port (today it is Piraeus in Athens). A technical college still operates here today. Ermoupoli is also the administrative centre for the Cyclades islands. It is a cultural centre and has a stable community of people. Especially in the off-season, it has a civilian feel to it and, apart from the seaside promenade and a few shopping streets, looks quite ordinary, creating a sense of a stable base to which we like to return from our travels to remote parts of the island. The town’s industrial history hides a few curiosities, which we encounter in the museum. Among the most bizarre is the Enfield 8000 electric car, which was produced here in the early 1970s and, according to a local witness, was one of the first mass-produced electric cars in the world. The battery weighed around 140 kg and took six hours to charge. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any of them in use in Syros.


The first mass-produced electric car in Greece—and possibly in the world. Authors’ archive.

The second, slightly more tragic curiosity was a paddlewheel boat designed for sea travel. Its uniqueness lay in the fact that it was a steam paddlewheel boat, used exclusively for river navigation. Unfortunately, it was only a matter of time before it would succumb to the harsh weather conditions in the Aegean Sea. A ship called the Patris, which provided regular large-scale transport of people and goods between Syros and Athens, sank off the coast of the island of Kea in February 1868. Thanks to the efforts of people and the memories of a few divers, it was found and partially recovered. It is a flagship story of the local industrial history that the local people pride themselves on. It is interesting to see which history is being restored and which remains rather in the background. A ship emerging from oblivion has been put back into the story of the island’s history and its place in modern industrial history.2


Museum of Technology and paddlewheel of the wrecked Patris. (Authors’ archive)

Apano Meria

Come closer, friends, and experience the wild nature of the island, enjoy Apano Meria, the last landscape Homer dreamed of when he was homeless and wandering among the islands of this archipelago. Come and walk in the sand dunes, discover the beauty, the virgin nature with terraces and walls, paths and trails, small settlements and farms that have become part of the landscape. (Teos, Pages of Apano Meria)

On the second day of our joint excursion, Teos and Chara guide us through the northern part of the island, called Apano Meria. They have a warm affection for this area, and its look is a frequent subject of Teos’s texts. Apano Meria embodies the story of the Cyclades as the cradle of European civilization. In purely descriptive terms, it is the part of Syros separated by an imaginary line stretching from the northern edge of Ermoupoli across the island, covering roughly the area that falls under the protection of the Natura 2000 network of nature reserves. It is here, in the northern part, where you can find rare metamorphic stones formed by high pressure and relatively low temperatures deep in the earth. Among them are the so-called eclogites, strikingly dark and peculiarly protruding from the ground, which can be noticed even by a cursory glance at the landscape. The largest of the metamorphic monolithic stones on Syros, which came from a depth of 80 kilometres, is known locally as aerolithos (the stone that fell from the sky).

The northern area is characterized by much thinner settlement and is also drier. The steep rocky slopes are covered with thyme, gentian and sage bushes. Access to the sea from the rocky coast is often difficult, but there are sandy beaches hidden among the cliffs that you wouldn‘t find elsewhere on Syros. We also noticed many ruins of abandoned farms and shepherds’ dwellings, blending into the dry landscape. Seen through the lens of a tourist, this is a declining part of the island.

Lacking commercial tourist infrastructure, the area has been spared (at least until now) from the onslaught of tourism affecting other Greek islands. The captivating nature of the place is therefore to be found in the mystery of the natural phenomena and in the unmarked archaeological sites, which are often unknown even to the locals. It is no coincidence that Teos depicts Syros in his latest publication, Follow Them, as a treasure island, evoking the captivation of pirate adventures.


Treasure Island, map by Nicholas Liber. Source: Eyploia magazine

Teos and Chara’s attitude towards Apano Meria is based on a thorough exploration and slow acculturation to the island, which we sense from the mundanity and ordinariness of their dedicated efforts. It took them three years to walk the island and study it in detail. Part of the process involved learning about the various elements of this ecosystem: people, animals, plants, rocks and engravings, climate, the morphology of the island and its processes:

I wandered the dry mountain slopes among the bushes and sparse trees. The buzzing of bees following nectar routes, chicory plants swaying under gusts of wind from the sea, small springs with aquatic plants, steep rocky shores, limestone and volcanic geological layers, cliffs, sea caves that are home to seals and sea turtles, gravel slopes, small ravines, sand dunes. While searching for ancient stones, I discovered a number of prehistoric engravings. (Teos Romvos, “Inscriptions,” blog)

Also because of the language barrier that sometimes prevents us from communicating about more complex topics, it is more about a way of being, a connection to the island, that is the main message for us.

In proximity to Teos and Chara we feel that we are also growing into it, that we are connecting to the layers of the island, and we feel that it is a unity that is very fragile, but also robust and full of diverse human worlds and relationships that transcend civilizational history. Teos and Chara point to something very important with their lives—and they don’t even need many words to do it.

Soon, tendrils sprouted from my body and my fingers intertwined with shoots that began to bear fruit, while stem cells turned into neurons and I began to feel part of an entire ecosystem, an organism that coexists in the coexisting. I forgot to speak, I forgot that I was a rational being, I was there, without memory, without purpose and without a past, lying on the green grass, listening to the quiet voices and whispers coming from the ground, aware of the songs of the grass, the whispers of the plants growing before my eyes, the conversations of the mosses and lichens all around reaching my ears. Slowly, slowly, I recalled the forgotten language of plants, precious words were emerging from the depths of my mind, forgotten words, names of places, poetic names that people have used for centuries, which vary from country to country, from region to region, sometimes even from valley to valley or village to village. My consciousness was changing, I was no longer feeling unique. I perceived that I was no longer an individual, I had become a multiplicity, a subsidiary breath, a root, a branch, a capillary process. I ceased to feel that life began with my birth and would end with my death. I have become “the other,” I have finally understood that I am “the other.” There is no real time, no objective time, all these were mere subjective projections of the human intellect. I am entering the cosmic time, infinite and circular time, in folds and discontinuities, in timelessness. I was born and raised here on Earth. (Teos Romvos, blog)


Chalandriani and Kastri. The north wind is blowing. Teos curls up in a ball by a tomb at the site of the discovery of a prehistoric settlement and burial site. The dead were placed in graves in foetal positions here. Authors’ archive.

Apano Meria thus takes on two levels in our investigation: the experiential and the political. The place confronts us with its rawness and its strange beauty, which we can touch, which we can walk in. But it is also the terrain of a political struggle with the processes of ruination that arise from the desire to commodify everything that can be commodified on the islands: the land, the wind, the sea and the culture. These two levels are intertwined. Without a relationship with the island ecosystem, there would be no effort to save it—and without the politicization of that relationship, the islanders would soon have little left.

Thus, a broader community of island “lovers” has formed around Apano Meria, seeking to prevent overdevelopment without beginning or end, and supporting activities with little impact on the local ecosystem. The group started as an open symposium of island citizens and formalized itself in 2017. Its activities include promoting geo-tourism (as an alternative to tourism without sensitivity to the site and local ecosystem) and preserving and enhancing the protected status of the natural site. They try to promote site restoration (cleaning, trail clearing) and organize educational workshops or walks promoting awareness of alternative geo-tourism options that contribute to the conservation of (native) ecosystems.

In our encounters with Teos and Chara, as well as with Syros, we also become the kind of tourists who gradually adopt a different approach to exploring the island. It can be described as a gradually built relationship with the landscape, shaped not by preconceived interpretations but by feelings, fragments, impressions. These are more personal, and so create a mosaic that can be viewed a little differently each time, that can get under the skin as a kind of embodied experience.

With Chara, Teos and their friends, we also see a specific form of activism that is rooted in the local community and coalesces with its place of impact. It does not enclose itself in subcultural retreats, because it cannot, and it also makes use of various formal formations or practices (for example the establishment of a geo-park). It aims for a long-term vision of coexistence on islands, celebrating life in its diversity and the seemingly invisible connections and relationships within island ecosystems that have enormous value and history. In contrast to urban activism, we note that the collaboration also involves representatives of the “establishment” and local citizens without clear ideological or political lines. In this way, everyone can connect and define themselves together as residents who care about a sustainable way of life on the islands. The perceived threat that unites them comes more from the outside. It is the developers coming in with large investments, to which the corruptible central government often gives in.

Our island excursion among the Apano Meria protectors was too brief to reflect critically on this form of activism in more depth, let alone think of it as a kind of underground. We were particularly impressed by Teos and Chara’s strong relationship with the island and their sincere efforts to make it a free place again, free of all kinds of exploitation. The inclination to use various formal institutions to protect the islands reminded us of a remark by our Athenian guide Nadja. She was pointing out that activists today need to be clever and strategic in their use of different forms of struggle which previously might have looked like blending too much into the system.

However, it is impossible not to notice the risks that this tendency can bring. In the case of Syros, this concerns, for example, efforts to include the island’s geological heritage on the UNESCO list of sites, which, in the eyes of the inhabitants, will prevent the island from being exploited. On the other hand, UNESCO, which officially promotes “sustainable tourism,” does not only mean protection, but also brings with itself a new type of ruination linked to the increase in sightseeing tourism. Treasure Island, whose charm lies precisely in its slight decrepitude and thus its harder readability, could lose its charm for good.

Trip to Cape Grammata

On our third day on Syros, we rent motorbikes on the recommendation of Teos and Chara and head north to one of the few green spots on the island. At Cape Grammata we want to explore the messages carved in stone.

For the last few kilometres we ride along empty dirt roads in the upper parts of the island. Then we have to put the machines away and follow a sporadically marked trail. It leads through arid hillsides, over goat and sheep pastures, and geological formations, past the American’s preserve and sandy beaches, to the small bays at the northernmost tip of the island, Cape Grammata. We pass a marble quarry and stumble into a valley, expecting the shade of pine trees planted there in the past by a man the locals called none other than “Yannis, the American.”

Yannis may have grown up elsewhere and in a different linguistic culture, but he received a classical education. When he visited the Cyclades for the first time in the 1960s, he was enchanted but struck by the difference between the landscape he knew from reading Plato and Homer and the real one he encountered, desolate and desertified (an ancient ruin of that landscape, one might say). He bought a plot of land in Apano Meria, some 200 acres of arid land, dug wells to access water, fenced the land to keep the wild goats out, and set about restoring the land. He learned from the local people how to cultivate the land without irrigation, planted trees in places protected from strong winds—especially the Halep pine, which is hardy and undemanding—and dug holes at the roots to allow moisture and precious rainwater to reach them. The once-arid rocky landscape is now a grove of pine trees that reaches down to the sandy beach. The ecosystem that has been created or started is now capable of renewing itself and no longer needs the supportive human intervention it once did.

The story of this American is interesting to us because it is almost paradigmatic of the island situation (we draw here mainly from the conversations with Nadja, from her perspective on the arrival of the virus that will save us). The foreigner, the antithesis of the autochthon, a man bred by classical reading and the study of the great ancient past, who lives in an alienated society, arrives in the Cyclades, where an indeterminate encounter occurs. The American is captivated, enchanted and saddened by the place, falls in love and, according to the image in his mind, gives himself over, supported by the force of love, to the idea of revitalizing a landscape which, in his perspective, is actually a ruin.

The place called “At the American’s” is a popular destination for residents and visitors to the island. We move on and meet young people camping on the beach and enjoying the summer romance. We bathe in the bay and continue along arid rocks, scented with thyme and sage, and sharp cliffs with stray goats, to the northernmost part of the island, Cape Grammata. The place where we are told that there are signs of the ancient cultures that Teos and Chara told us about on our wanderings around the island. The lack of marked paths adds to the mystery. We pass a small beach covered with drifting garbage and plastic bottles from boats, and reach the edge of the island, which is a huge pyramid-shaped cliff. From here you can see the vastness of the Aegean Sea, with only the outline of Gyaros rising out of it. It is only on the way back and thanks to a more careful examination of the coastal rocks that we gradually begin to notice the different types of messages carved into the flat stone terraces. We also come across a flaking sign with the inscription GRAMMATA, ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITE, which will probably soon be blown away by the wind.

It is certain that if we had spent more time here, examining the various inscriptions carefully, we would have come across some truly ancient messages; however, our untrained eyes were offered rather more distinctive inscriptions of a younger date, roughly from the last two centuries. Here and there we could see almost obliterated inscriptions that were probably much older, but their dating and meaning remained a mystery to us. We had expected to find carefully marked evidence of ancient cultures that inhabited the islands before the advent of modern civilization. Instead, we encountered a still-living stone chronicle that never ceased to serve the human desire to leave a mark, to communicate, to express oneself. The old mixes with the modern, and the absence of clear markings telling the visitor where to look and what is truly valuable gives the impression of a kind of layered continuity. A continuity that can be seen in remote places that have not yet succumbed to the attempt to preserve themselves by removing or preventing the emergence of anything new. How would UNESCO approach this still-living chronicle? Would it not consider the message engraved by our contemporaries as vandalism?

In Teos’s later texts we find a deeper insight into the changing shape of this place, and a certain amount of adventure that is linked to history and rarely experienced by the modern traveller:

Those who had been beaten by the sea voyage headed for the quiet refuge of the bay. Once over the headland, they entered the safety of calmer waters. People who had gone through good and bad on their voyage etched their thanks into the rocks to the Gods who had guided them to safety. They came so close to drowning, to death, but they managed to survive. They had witnessed the wrath of the seas and now celebrated the impermanence of their existence…. By carving the name of their ship in stone, pilgrims sailing the seas of ancient antiquity, Roman times and Byzantium gained divine protection from the fierce north winds of the Aegean for centuries.



Grammata. Authors’ archive.

Today’s pilgrims get here on foot or on much safer and better-equipped vessels and yachts, so their messages are directed elsewhere than to the Gods and serve more as a guest book in a mountain hut. But ancient mariners paid homage here to the Gods (Asclepius, the Dioscuri, Helios, and later Christian saints such as St. Phocas and others), asking them to protect the travellers and ensure good weather and protection from storms. The inscriptions on Cape Grammata thus testify, among other things, to the importance of the Mediterranean, where merchant ships, pirate ships and warships from many parts of the then-known world—Thrace, Asia Minor, Egypt and elsewhere—met. What a contrast with today’s world, where for many Syrian men and women, sailing from Turkey to the nearby Greek islands is a life-threatening venture (also due to the “pushbacks” by the Greek navy), with an endless stay in a detention camp awaiting them at their destination.

Longing for deep time

In the big city, a cave of individualism, alienated labour and ostentatious consumption with a good dose of anomie, we get lost a little in the overlapping voices of pluralism. Sometimes it seems impossible to decide which way to go. After the chaos of the big city, Syros, Teos and Chara welcomed us like old friends. They embraced us with love, hospitality, and the opportunity to observe and listen intently to the island’s living and non-living nature.

Syros, Teos and Chara have grown so close to our hearts that we are thinking of returning here as soon as possible (at least for the holidays). Not because it is an exceptionally beautiful island. The landscape here is quite dry and inhospitable, and the few beaches are difficult to get to. Ermoupoli’s industrial glory days are now history, as is evident after just one walk through the centre: the once opulent houses are now often abandoned and dilapidated. It’s more about the nature of the experience that Teos and Chara have prepared for us, the long story of the island and our short one that have intersected here.

The work of Teos, Chara and their friends is going on daily and is almost ant-like. It does not bear fruit immediately. It requires patience and humility, and is characterized by the originality of its motives and the veracity of its stories, without any war narratives or heroic pathos. It is a model of how to live and how to do activism; it is a fusion with the place, a specific connection between life values and the way to achieve them. It is a model of activism—and let it be a model for activism.

What we take away from their kindly guided tour of the island is the joy of exploring and listening to nature, as well as the experience of awakening a longing for a different perception and experience of time than that defined by the great cave. It is a time that flows differently, based on different scales than the hustle of the city. It is closer to geological processes. A deep time that transcends us.


Teos, Chara and us. Authors’ archive.

1. However, both the expansion of the power plants on Agios Georgios and the island of Gyaros are proof that islands can serve not only to realize utopias, which Teos often writes about, but also perfect dystopias. Moreover, in the dystopia of Gyaros, the ancient ruins play an important role in creating and supporting a specific cultural narrative that serves to support a nationalist regime and ignore or neglect contexts that might lead to other meanings. The Gyaros island encampment thus reveals the multifaceted role of ancient ruins used by various rulers, not only in Greece, to culturally frame their political project, which we have already pointed out in relation to the Acropolis. ↩

2.As a ruin pointing to the past, the wreck of the Patris is an artefact that makes history, but it is still part of the underwater ecosystem today and thus participates in the continuation of history. Based on this and other examples of decay and decomposition, it could be said that ruins in a new arrangement are often constitutive elements of a new ecosystem, conditions for something new. Like a ship that sinks forever and becomes a reef teeming with life. ↩

Jakub Černý (*1984) studied psychology, social work, and psychotherapy. In his research he focuses on resistance in the field of urban and housing rights, burnout in activism, political aspects of mental health, and related support for people with lived experience. He is a member of Narativ, an association dedicated to spreading collaborative and dialogical practices in the Czech Republic.

Anna Václavíková (*1997) studied social anthropology and sociology and is currently studying sustainable systems engineering in Freiburg. Her research focuses on (post )industrial cities, possibilities for using abandoned industrial structures, and strategies for sustainable urban development.

Τρύπα, μια έκθεση στην Τσεχία

Αρχές Δεκέμβρη του 2020 οργανώθηκε στην Όστραβα της Τσεχίας μια έκθεση αφιερωμένη στον Τέο και τη Χαρά. Ως γνωστόν, όπου εμφανίζονται αυτοί οι δυο κατεβάζουν τα ρολά. ‘Ετσι η έκθεση λόγω covid 19 δεν λειτουργεί κανονικά, αλλά ανοιγοκλείνει.

Ευχαριστούμε θερμά τη Νάντια Αργυροπούλου για «τα πάντα όλα» και τις Τσέχες συναδέλφισσές της, επιμελήτριες τέχνης Daniela and Linda Dostálková. Η ταινία της Εύης Καλογηροπούλου που έγινε για την έκθεση θα προβληθεί εν καιρώ.

The story of the writer, artist and activist Teos Romvos…

Posted: 18 Σεπτεμβρίου, 2020 in english

The story of the writer, artist and activist Teos Romvos, from the start until today’s vision of the Geopark of Syros & Cyclades.

By Crystalia Patouli

I once was an untamed and rebellious kid.

Lived in vagrancy with everything that this entails.

I was sleeping in any place I could find, I ate very little or nothing at all and enjoyed this personal feeling of freedom that I felt I had conquered.

My father, a sculptor, and my brother as well, filled our house with thousands of designs; both of them being special individuals, always had creation on their mind even when everything was going from bad to worse.

1950s, clinics, mental hospitals, electroshocks. When my mother and I visited them I remember them looking haggard and me standing tiny as a mouse next to a woman that had to rise to the occasion.

Mimis, my brother, in the room we shared, used to listen to the radio at nights, the 3rd programme, jazz or classical music and that is how we fell asleep.

I also vaguely remember, being in an old car of a train surrounded by cigarette smoke somewhere close to flisos, crawling on the wooden floor while my mum was listening to the fortune teller telling her what she could see at the bottom of her cup of coffee and if my father was cheating on her. That was the same woman that burnt down the police station of Plaka, joined by other furious women, a night of the big slaughters in December 1944.

While researching in the Historical Archive of Cyclades, I discovered some of my ancestors: Marina Romvos from the island of Tinos, who back in 1937, awakened female workers in Mykonos to demand better work condi-tions and a girl, little Angeliki Romvos, who used to work in the brothels of Ermoupoli in 1878 and was hospitalized for a month receiving gonorrhea therapy.

In a 1936 newspaper I also dug out my father’s award for his sculptures «Poverty» and «Pain» in the First Pancycladic Exhibition.

As an adolescent, I travelled everywhere for 2 years, I saw, lived and I admired life in the world. Love in the West and the East, the simplicity and complexity of life from country to country. When I got 18 I came back and found myself serving in the army. This was the utter dehumanization so I disserted, got imprisoned and after 3 years I was dismissed and went abroad right away, never wanting to return back here.

My years in France (Paris), were nice but tough; I was enjoying my youth and carelessness. I was taught by the texts of some free thinkers, Marcuse, Kastoriadis, who developed his ideas on Autonomy, a source of inspiration for young people like us who realized that revolution could start from universities not from factories.

In 1968, young people marched through the streets, comprehending the need of deep changes in education and social rupture.

A number of Greek students and cinematographers occupied the Fondation Hellenique building, as a protest against the dictatorship in Greece.

It was during those years that I had the chance to live in free zones that functioned in a spirit of collectivity and it was then that I comprehended what co-existence means and started perceiving other people as individual personalities not as specific genders or nationalities. Later, I hitchhiked around Europe or travelled with the Magic Bus. I lived in Germany, accompanied by writers of the Beat generation and started making films that were never completed.

Finally, in 1974, when democracy was restored, disappointed by love and friendships, I returned to Greece.

I opened Octopus Press in Exarcheia, a bookstore that functioned as a space for multiple expressions, communication and happenings. It was burnt down in March 1975 by the fascists of the New Order.

In the spring of 1976, some friends of mine and me created the commune of Benaki street, the place where I met my Hara. During those days I published my first book «Tele-Tuberculosis». That summer was created the support committee to Rolf Pole who was arrested in Athens, with the participation of a lot of people. My bookstore no longer exists so I work in the cinema industry, which has always been my job.

Next year, my friend Nikos Alevras starts filming «A Hail of Bullets», a film in which Hara, me and many other friends participate. During the next years we find ourselves moving frequently because the police visits our and our friend’s houses, claiming to be investigating for armor and explosives.

Hara, me and our group of friends start the adventure of publishing «Trypa» (The Hole»), a magazine against contracts and decorum with a thunderous subtitle: OUR HOLE IS OPEN TO EVERYONE.

Unbelievable yet real, we ended up having dozens collaborations with talented friends who all worked for free; our magazine was finally out and exploded as a big success.

In 1981 we move to Kranidi, the place where I dedicate myself to writing and start my inner search. Writing becomes a journey of self-awareness and at the same time a game of questions and answers. I investigate everything that I have experienced and look towards the future more clearly than ever. The life of a man who steps towards self-awareness with critical thought. My relationship with Hara gets better and better.

She is pleased to see me dedicated to writing; she becomes my reader. I dig up memories, I become my own autobiographer, I describe my experiences, my personal search, my agonies, the unresolved issues, the blurry answers; I introspect thinking about philosophy, sociology, history; some-thing similar to the personal testimony of a person on death row waiting for that moment and I fill more and more papers with words.

We never had children by choice. We felt that having children would be a big commitment, we would have to deny our manifest sociability and sink in the family micro-universe. Besides, we would stop being in love with each other.

We participated in the cultural events of the village. Film club, theatrical group, creation of lending libraries, puppet theatre for the kids, cycling races.

Two years after, we left for Congo. We lived in Kinshasa, wondered in the city, took a big trip to the wild side of the country. I documented all of my experiences in my book «Planos Dromos». Leaving Africa, we enriched the Greek community with the school newspaper and the puppet theatre.

Our next stop was Berlin, a place where we spent some great years and then ended up in Syros out of pure love for the island.

Our dream was to taste the uniqueness of island life, the quietness of the Medieval settlement of Ano Syros close the elements of nature, the north wind raging, the wild storms, the simple yet majestic way of living that follows the seasons of the year with the few but meaningful human relations…

But while witnessing the everyday catastrophe of the landscape we realized that islands are victims of a kind of development that has no beginning or end.

We came into contact with sensitive citizens of the near islands and a group of people, the Union of Citizens of Tinos, the Union of Citizens of Syros and the Movement of Citizens of Mykonos and proceeded to the creation of the Aegean Network. At the same time, we started making contact and collaborating with similar groups and movements across the Aegean and soon the Network was expanded with the participation of teams and people from 22 Aegean islands. Our common goal was to oppose the «fierce and uncontrollable development» and to tackle the severe environmental problems that were created because of the lack of central planning in the Polynesia of the Aegean.

A little later, we presented the online magazine «Eyploia», a magazine that became a valuable «data base» for the residents of the islands and a guide about how individuals or teams could face the increased problems of the islands.

We stopped countless completely unneeded projects (ports, airports, resorts with thousands of buildings, wind farms with hundreds of wind turbines and anything else that the sick human mind can think of), projects that were only meant to be completed so that some entrepreneurs can increase their saving accounts.

These things happened 20 years ago. Now we’re working for the vision of the Geopark of Syros and the Cyclades.

For the first time, we gathered four and a half years ago in an Open Assembly, just a few dozens of citizens, residents of Syros, to discuss the problems our island was facing. It was then that came up the idea that in order for our island not to be destroyed by a kind of «development» that has no beginning or end, we should follow a way of subtle development that can be combined with an alternative kind of tourism, respecting the insularity, the landscape and history. We reached the idea of a Geopark the moment we realized the geological significance of Syros and the rest of the Cycladic islands, which compose a geological museum on active duty.

A Geopark according to UNESCO, is an area that gathers interesting geological, archaeological, natural and cultural characteristics. A consequence of this declaration is the increase of the alternative, geological, archaeological, hiking tourism and by extension the quality upgrading of tourism combined with the protection of the landscape and nature and the revitalization of the local economy. The local community embraced our vision so in collaboration with the local authorities we move on to the implementation of our plan. An archetype project aiming at the protection and maintenance of Ano Meria in Syros and in expansion the whole island and the protected area of the Marine Park of Giaros and the subtle utilization and promotion of the natural environment and the monuments and cultural elements that are connected to it as well.


(*) Of the islands that accede to the project… This vision has already started to be materialized with the collaboration of the Municipality of Syros — Ermoupolis and the Social Cooperative Enterprise Ano Meria. This way, on our own initiative and in collaboration with the Kapodistrian University of Athens, the Municipality of Syros submitted a motion for the approval of the program — that has already being approved (€367,000) — aiming at the restoration of 3 paths that lead to positions of great geological interest and the creation, in an existing municipal room, of a Geological Museum that provides the necessary equipment so that the academic researchers can proceed their work. We already collaborate with the Body of Administration of Protected Areas Natura 2000, the University of the Aegean (creation of a data base for virtual tours with the use of GPS, etc.), the Department of Forests of the Cyclades about the issue of the paths, the Developmental Society of the Cyclades, the Chamber of Commerce, the bodies of primary and secondary Education, the Archaeological Service, WWF, MOm and other organizations that are involved in the creation of the Marine Park of Giaros (directly connected with the island of Syros), the Hellenic Society of Environment and Culture, Nature Friends and Geological Departments of Universities in Greece and abroad (professors and students) who visit the island frequently in order to geologically study the land.

3 years have passed since the beginning of the project and 2 from the establishment of the Social Cooperative Enterprise and so far we have achieved: 1. the mobilization of a big part of the local population with open assemblies taking place in the amphitheatre of the University. 2. the formation of working groups focusing on matters concerning the declaration of the Geopark, the maintenance of the paths, contributing to the public awareness and the realization that alternative tourism and the production of organic agricultural products is the new sustainable model of development. 3. the organization of a scientific seminar (5/17) and an art exhibition about the im-portance of the protection and maintenance of Ano Meria. 4. the organization of informative and artistic events (5/17). 5. publishing the magazine «Syriana Grammata» (320 p.) focusing on the geological and archaeological treasures of the island, biodiversity, paths etc. (4/17) and a special issue (500 p.) dedicated to the history of Giaros and the Marine Park of Giaros (’18). 6. the organization of seminars for farmers (5/18).

Our goals are: • Declaration of Syros as a Geopark by UNESCO. • Strengthening and stimulation of traditional modes of farming (unhydrous), beekeeping, viticulture, agritourism. • Development of the hiking routes network. • Creation of a space where the Social Co-operative Enterprise can organize guided tours, sell local products, provide maps, organize educational programmes etc.

Who we are: The Open Assembly of Syros, the Working Groups as well as the approximately 400 people that are electronically informed by the secretariat about the process of the project and all the new matters that come up (discussions, suggestions, decisions). Together we can do something global and unique!,

WHO IS WHO Teos Romvos (1945-) is a writer, translator and activist, characterized by liberal and inspired ideas. He was born in Koukaki neighbourhood in Athens. Night school classes, fights with power brokers, various jobs, vagrancy. He shipped out in 1961, lived periodically in Latin America, Japan, the United States and elsewhere. His most permanent stays were in France (1966-1969), Germany (1969-1974 and 1987-1991), Athens (1974-1981), Kranidi Peloponnese (1981-1984), Africa (1984-1985) and within all these periods in Athens. Since 1993 he has been living in Apano Chora Syros. In France he takes some cinematography courses and produces his first experimental films. Later, in Germany, he joins German writers and produces films he never completes; he works in German TV; he writes scenarios and literature tapes. In Athens, after the democratic transition, he opens his bookstore «Octopus» and works as a publisher. He is the publisher of «Trypa» magazine. Many of his works are published in magazines and newspapers. He published the books «3 Moons at the Square», «Passion Text», «Georgios Negros: The Tiger of the Aegean», «Plotinos Rodokanakis: a Greek Anarchist», «Beguiling Road», «Tele-Tuberculosis», «Secret Journeys», «Assassins of the North, Drosoulites of the South», «Traces» and «Georgios Kipiotis: a Friend of Children». He has also translated a number of books like «Anthology of the Bad Americans», «African Tales», which he collected during his stay in Congo, «New Era Underground», «Ask the Dust» by John Fante, «Notes of a Dirty Old Man» by Bukowski etc. During the last 25 years, while living in Syros, in collaboration with many people from the islands, they create the Aegean Network of Environmental Organizations that includes trips, meetings, discussions about the problems that occur, ecological activism, documentaries about the unique island universe and updating by the online magazine «Eyploia» ( about the uncontrollable destruction of the islands and the Aegean Sea by a shortsighted «development» that does not take into consideration the future.





TRACES – The Stone Chronicle of the Island of Syros …

Thalassea Magazine / Issue 5 / Summer 2020 by …

Hip with a View

Posted: 7 Μαρτίου, 2020 in english, Αρχική σελίδα



Hip with a View

I came to Teos Romvos’s books immediately attracted to their sprawling vivid tales of Exarcheia in the 70s, 80s, vagabonding characters round the globe, through today; free discoveries found in translation, fresh understandings of solidarity imaginings.

Windings of super fruitful everyday, spectra of intimacy ideas pushing back against oppression, discrimination; entertainment as education. Teo’s writings manifest as accessible queer elixirs of humble and lyric, banal beauty adventure erotics, do it yourself together love letters in motion; expressive existence as coaxing exchange.

I wrote to Teo and he replied, inviting me anytime, suggesting I meet a friend I was already in touch with pictorially online and we travel together in the spirit, string-type constellations. Happenings. And there’s Τρύπα, the zine periodical Teo and his friends including partner Hara created from an independent publishing house Octopus Press, apparently suggestive of life ways too boundless: (politically) vital, risqué comics of biting, blurred poetics prompting gut reactions, signs of timeless.

I met with Teo and Hara at their treehouse place on Ano Syros with a visiting friend, where we shared amongst languages all mixed up, postcards and views, cats, spanakopita and salad, crossing all over contentedly earthed from the lusty day (steps, sea, speedy coast to inland drives with honey, fishes, ice cream, topless rocks, grandmother castles, coffee, friends artworks in olive groves, ancient graffiti, stone thrones, enfant terribles, muse murals, prickly pears, non-existent galleries, critics, coolness, muscles, pogo dancing: surreal nature zones,) freedom flourishes.

Teo and Hara involve themselves in sustainable permaculture too and most recently, an eco-culture preservation project across the cycladic islands to halt the effects of mega tourism, taking it to the state. Creative, researched diplomacy embracing endangered collaboration; street stories, nature magnetism, pragmatic romance, wild community.


Danielle Zorbas


Γερμανία 1971-72, μεταξύ Φρανκφούρτης – Αμβούργου



The girl hooked on
one morning
at the beginning of the year,
at the canal…
She was wearing on her left ear
two earrings,
metallic turquoise wings
and cobalt blue.
Her hair bobbed,
silver dyed,
with black roots.
Two police officers were slowly rowing
and approached the sailing body,
they pulled her with a gaff
from the collar of the beige fur men’s jacket
and led her to the shore
were the bums gather and drink.
At the time they were quarreling,
next to them many emptied bottles of Schultheiss beer,
for an old story apparently,
bells from bikes were hearable
passing on the dirty path.
Some others helped too
and pulled outside the water the drowned girl
and then the bums who quarreled went silent
and gathered with the beer bottles in their hands
and watched speechless.
The cops put the the corpse into a nylon bag
and closed the zipper.
The girl’s still eyes
the expanded pupil,
the wide-open eyelids,
the agony of drowning imprinted
to the blurry cornea
looking beneath the translucent plastic,
the lines of the face
squashed deformed
the hair stuck,
an elf
a mask who voicelessly was chuckling to death.

Berlin 1989

(Το ποίημα περιλαμβάνεται στην ποιητική συλλογή ¨Ποιήματα Ανεμοδαρμένα¨ εκδ. Provocateur, 2019)

The lovers of Apano Meria

Posted: 6 Οκτωβρίου, 2019 in english

The lovers of Apano Meria

by Teos Romvos


Within me storm, fog and sorrow. From my fingers flow rows of words, discourses spring out, entwined with passion and rage, sentences grow imbued with the destruction of landscapes, threats take aim from all sides, trials, cries and howls for respect towards the planet which hosts us, struggles for this group of Aegean islands to keep existing without being obliterated by the myriad enemies which have besieged them relentlessly over the centuries.

Come on, my friends, I’m inviting you along on a great journey in the Aegean. From the agitated sea and its foaming waves to the depths, where ancient shipwrecks rest, with fishes of undeterminate age, pearls and black coral.

Come to the surface and see the flying fish hunting, look at how they flutter, skimming on the undulations and wrinkles of the water, see how the cetaceans and the sea turtles sail beside us, slow like small islands. See how the cormorants forget themselves in their dives. Come and enter the unexplored marine caves and listen out for the erotic gasps and breaths of the seals. Behold the play of the Mediterranean bream which run aground on the shore to fertilise each other by dropping on their sides, and while they twitch, one can see their scales turn golden and scintillate in the hot rays of the sun. After fertilisation, the males will open up in the sea to die there, and their corpses, whirling down to the bottom, will touch the anemones where they’ll become food for male octopuses and cuttlefish who will die in their turn as the orgasm subsides.

Come on my friends, let’s get out on the north shore of Syros, at Diapori, on the small beach of Skrofas, in Glysoura or in Psycha, and carefully climb the sharp rocks, scattering surprised crabs, starfishes, snails and sea lice while this little terrified kingfisher flits far away from the nest, like a small rainbow above the foam of the waves. Over the lava’s wild protuberances, over the limestone and the beach’s volcanic rocks where the splashes of the waves and their ebbing are calming down some hermaphrodite barnacles, which, tightly stuck together, are copulating with their two erotic tentacles undulating like snakes. The male extremity slides inside the shell and leaves its sperm to fertilise the eggs, while the female receives the male in the double dizziness of love.

Come closer, my friends, to get a taste of wild island nature, to contemplate the Northern Part, the last landscape in Syros surviving as Homer dreamt it in antiquity, he who had no roof and wandered through the islands of this archipelago. Come walk in the dunes to discover their beauty, a pastoral landscape of terraces and stonewalls, minimalist roads and narrow paths, with small hamlets at Chartiana, Finika, Mitaka, Papouri, Pichotos, Chalandriani, Ligeros and over there at San Michali, and, at Kiperousa and at Kambos, a few farms which become part of the landscape.

Orgas, the cultivated earth, contracts and dilates under the digging and sowing that continues to torture it now as it has for millennia past. Only a few people live here, who for centuries have harmoniously coexisted with nature, cultivating their arid lands. Humans, animals and plants, birds and insects, like an indivisible unity. Here Aegean civilisation was born.

You’ll see the soft chicory that shivers in the sea breeze and, around the chapel of Saint John the Baptist, the poisonous flowers of the colchicum. You’ll taste the oily scent of the sage leaves and you’ll get dizzy from the ethereal essences of the flowering thyme that melts under the sun, from the scent of the plants, of garrigue, myrrh, asphodel, the devjasila, the restharrow, and the the endemic crocus that Tournefort discovered in his botanical researches. Lastly, from their root networks that spread everywhere, you’ll hear the dull, langorous whispering between the hermaphrodite plants that reproduce underground, island cedars, mastic trees, chasteberries, myrtle, heather-bells, wild olives and carob trees.

In the darkening afternoon royal eagles fly, pilgrim falcons and crows hunt over prehistoric Kastri. In Ai Thanasi, one can hear the soft chirping of the chestnut-headed bee-eater calling its partner.

When the spring sun starts warming the ground again, vipers surface from their wintery slumber. They pull themselves out from under the earth and the rocks, crawl, undulate to celebrate their awakening with orgies on the hot stones, they tie up together on the scrubland and the calicotome, they hug, the males slide their forked penises into the females’ slits, and, clinging to each other, they move like Medusa’s hair in an erotic frenzy that lasts for the whole day.

The hedgehogs hidden in the vineyards, dazed by the sweetness of the raisins, dizzy from white Serifos grapes, from red grapes, from blood-purple grapes, make a bacchanal of all the divine juices and ride the female who awaits outstretched on the ground, having gathered all the spikes on her body.

Listen closely to the buzzing coming from the thousands of sterile bees who follow the path to the nectar, and who transfer the pollen from one plant to another, from the solitary flight of a few hornets trying to mate with the queen who flits with its large wings far from the hive, leaving in its trail an aphrodisiac scent. And those who follow her, bewildered, kill each other until one manages to ride her and to penetrate her. Immediately his penis doubles in size, he ejaculates and is paralysed. His genital organs sever inside the queen, and his death happens instantly. His first intercourse is his last, the queen’s erotic passion ends here.

The female lizard runs in circles, stops, raises its tail and flaunts its coveted genital opening. The male lizard catches her by the neck, raises one of its back legs, passes it above its crest, and trots over her. The male turtles ride the female ones and push heavily towards the ground to penetrate them.

Hear the male spider who drums the dry leaves to attract the female. The female spiders hidden in the flowers and tree branches answer ecstatically to the call. The male weaves a little silk hammock which he climbs up and down, from which he hangs and balances himself, and tickles the female. And when at last he manages to approach her, he fits his left mandible into the left slot of her genital system, and his right mandible in her right opening, the female feels the erotic vibrations and the male shakes his antennae which penetrate her and emit the sperm directly into the genital orifice. They mate on the web that the female uses to capture and eat its prey. The male will die immediately after their sexual encounter.

At the water source in Marmara, a male dragonfly buzzes and mates in the air with the female, having bent her and bitten her backside until they cling together and as they fly around in circles the female wraps herself artfully around him.

From Mavri Rachi and up to Siriggas mountain, filled with steep slopes, precipitous cliffs and small canyons all the way down to Aetos, in the heights of Ledinou and behind Chalara, at Agios Loukas and on the prehistoric tombs, one can hear croaks, clamouring, bellows, cackles, chirping, moans and purrs.

Male locusts climb on their partners’ backs. Dancing butterflies fly lightly from flower to flower as the male approaches them to mate. During the lengthy mating, his genital organs split and stay inside the female butterfly, who keeps flying lightly in the summer, from flower to flower, sucking out their nectar while he expires spasmodically on the ground. Beneath the stones, tiny thin worms indulge in orgies, hugged in erotic clusters. On the bark of cedar trees, male cicadas suck up the sap and grind their elytra to invite the females. Ants follow their trails. All around amourous sounds are being made, whistles, hummings, calls of the stink bugs. The male mantis, carried away by his sexual instinct, rides the female, and while they make love, the female, with a dextrous move of her forearms, cuts his head off and wolfs it down, while the rest of the male’s body resumes the erotic elegy.

At dusk, migrating birds fly down in flocks from their celestial paths, and after they’ve rested for a few short hours and copulated, they rise again in the air with the heron as a guide, and lose themselves like mobile circumflexes in the beginnings of the Aegean day.

The day dawns and the birds shine high in the milky white sky.


Yes, my friends. The creatures of Apano Meria live like all living beings on our planet. The flocks of birds, the schools of fish, the mammals, the herds of animals, the insects, fly, swim, gallop and are guided by the same mysterious force that calls them, alone, in couples or in groups, to reproduce and die. The orgasm is the supreme secret of sexual stimulation and fulfilment.

translated from the Greek by Ivan Thomi / edited by Rupert Smith

design: Evi Tsaknia

Syros – “At the American’s…”

Posted: 18 Μαΐου, 2018 in english

By Teos Romvos

As early as its dawn, human civilization identified with the tree and its fruit. Even before gatherer men learned to work the land, trees offered them easily accessible food, while later they provided wood for making tools, homes, ships and clothing fibers, and with roots for medicinal purposes.

In the stories that those first men told around the fire, the world had the form of a gigantic tree, which either touched the ground and reached the sky, or was upside down, its roots grazing the universe.

The tree’s fruit became a holy symbol, and songs and circle dances started around the tree itself. The tree was exalted, deified, became a symbol of birth and of the renewal of life, of the union between man and woman. It was considered to hold the secret to eternal life and in myths, a dragon appeared standing beside it, guarding its fruit: Hercules stole the apples from the Garden of the Hesperides right under the guardian-dragon’s nose, while Jason killed the snake that protected the tree where the Golden Fleece was kept.

In Greek tradition, the “holy” olive tree held a very important position. In 1973, one of the most ancient olive groves in the country, located in Pahi, Megara, in western Attica, was uprooted by the junta Colonels, who wished in this manner to cater to their American patrons by building an airport where the olive grove was, showing no mercy to the “holy trees” or to the uprisen farmers.

At that time, a book named “Island in Greece” was published in the USA; the book was about the life of a man living in the northern side of Syros, in the Cyclades. That man, who has since passed, was known to the locals as “Yiannis the American”, whose passion was to plant trees.

“Yiannis” first visited the Aegean in 1962, was enchanted by the islands but was also surprised when he saw the bareness of the landscape and the desertification in the islands of the Cyclades. Having received a classical education since a tender age, he recalled extracts from Homer:


[…] the island, about which is set as a crown the boundless deep.

The isle itself lies low, and in the midst of it

my eyes saw smoke through the thick brush and the wood.[1]


He also recalled as descriptions by other ancient writers who referred to the fertile soil of the islands:


And trees, high and leafy, let stream their fruits above his head,

pears, and pomegranates, and apple trees with their bright fruit

and sweet figs, and luxuriant olives.[2]

 “…the soil which has kept breaking away from the high lands during these ages and these disasters, forms no pile of sediment worth mentioning, as in other regions, but keeps sliding away ceaselessly and disappearing in the deep. And, just as happens in small islands, what now remains compared with what then existed is like the skeleton of a sick man, all the fat and soft earth having wasted away, and only the bare framework of the land being left. But at that epoch the country was unimpaired, and for its mountains it had high arable hills, and in place of the “moorlands,” as they are now called, it contained plains full of rich soil; and it had much forestland in its mountains, of which there are visible signs even to this day; for there are some mountains which now have nothing but food for bees, but they had trees no very long time ago, and the rafters from those felled there to roof the largest buildings are still sound. And besides, there were many lofty trees of cultivated species; and it produced boundless pasturage for flocks. Moreover, it was enriched by the yearly rains from Zeus, which were not lost to it, as now, by flowing from the bare land into the sea; but the soil it had was deep, and therein it received the water, storing it up in the retentive loamy soil and by drawing off into the hollows from the heights the water that was there absorbed, it provided all the various districts with abundant supplies of springwaters and streams, whereof the shrines which still remain even now, at the spots where the fountains formerly existed, are signs which testify that our present description of the land is true.”[3]

I presume that something wondrous happened during that journey, something that made “Yiannis” think about what made life worth living, and dedicate the rest of his days to planting the trees. Then again, maybe he only wished to prove that forests could revive in the desertified islands of the Aegean. For this reason, in 1964 he returned to Greece with his son, John Jr., and bought some 200 acres (800 “stremma”) of land in ApanoMeria, Northern Syros, near the cove of Grammata. He put up a fence all around the land to keep the goats away, labored hard to dig two wells in the rocky ground, and at first created a plant nursery where he would start the long process of restoring the soil of the island by planting trees. With great determination and patience, he planted tenths, hundredths, thousandths of seeds and waited for his vision to become true: to give back life to the bared area.

For the people living in ApanoMeria, “Yiannis” became a local, whom they watched coming and going until Kampos, the settlement where the road stops, and then walk for about an hour in the path, under the rain or in the cold, until he reached the far end of the island and his beloved trees, which the locals considered “useless old wood”.

Each year, “Yiannis” would spend many months there, tending to the trees or overseeing the care they received. He started learning from the farmers in ApanoMeria the manner of dryland farming, and after digging ditches on hillsides sheltered from the wind, he planted rows of saplings, mainly Aleppo pines. He would dig a hole around the root of every tree to gather rainwater and moisture, while constantly tilling the soil, which remained soft and water evaporation decreased. He regularly enriched the soil with the required micronutrients, such as nitrogen, which is rare in the Grammata area.

In those first years, he planted more than 10,000 trees. Some 5,000 of those survived, some just a little larger than a bonsai tree because of the strong winds, some others however reaching up to 6 meters. Even though in the area the soil is infertile, rain is rare, the summer sun is ruthless, the winds constant and strong and the salinity of the sea burns the plants, the trees flourished. And today, thanks to Yianiss’ labors, the area of Grammata, which had been a safe harbor for windswept seafarers since very ancient years, has become a heavenly anchorage for modern vessels, while the tall trees abounding in the Old Cave -or GriaSpilia- beach, more commonly known today as “the American’s” beach, have become a favorite destination for the occupants and the visitors of the island.

“Yiannis” recorded those first years, filled by pure altruism and by the passion to restore the natural beauty of the forest in a piece of land so that it would become as it was a few hundred years ago, in his book, “Island in Greece”.

His toil, a toil that in older times would have looked like old Santiago’s battle with the sharks and Captain Ahab’s fight with Moby Dick, of all those idealized characters of American literature, filled with man’s passion to dominate over nature, now took a different form, because “Yiannis” realized that there is a vital need to repair the destruction that man has caused nature in the meantime. “It was man and the voracious goat that reduced the islands to mountains full of rocks and spiny brooms, not the lack of rain”, he used to say. “The rain probably stopped falling because vegetation disappeared, this is why we must learn how to restore the forests”.

“Yiannis” (John Pearson), a US Government and UN economist, who became famous in the USA for the trees he planted in Grammata, passed away on September 14, 2001, in Massachusetts, USA, at the age of 95; as per his last wishes, his ashes were scattered in his favorite forest, at “the American’s”.



“Yiannis the American” (John H. Pearson), who found joy in reforestation, spent many years of his life in Old Cave, planting trees. He passed away on September 14, 2001, and as per his wishes, his ashes were scattered in his favorite place.



An island in Greece, by John Pearson!acVnUTKZ!p3wQ5T-FyEOBuYHb80pTST_WnvdfSQntspOZw1xrp-4



[1]Homer, The Odyssey, Book 10, lines 195-197. English Translation by A.T. Murray. Cambridge, MA., Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann, Ltd. 1919.

[2]Homer, The Odyssey, Book 11, lines 588-591. English Translation by A.T. Murray. Cambridge, MA., Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann, Ltd. 1919.

[3] Plato, Critias, 111(b)-111(d). Plato in Twelve Volumes, Vol. 9 translated by W.R.M. Lamb. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1925.


Posted: 18 Μαΐου, 2018 in english

(The Stone Chronicle of the Island of Syros)

I was born and raised in the big city. I had spent the greater part of my life leading an estranged, alienated, incoherent existence in various European cities. In the summer I would head south to the Aegean islands. My inmost longing was to live permanently on an island. To savour this unique experience of life on a stretch of land, borne by an incessant and furious northern wind over the abyss of the sea. It drove me almost insane with desire to think of the wintry uniqueness of an island cut off by the tempestuous sea. I chose the Landscape of Syros because I felt it was substantial, hard, almost ascetic and so I became an inhabitant of Syros. On the one hand, a lively small town with an ample community, on the other a natural reserve on the northern part of the island, a harmonious natural unity, a pristine society of flora. It is these isles that gave birth to the Aegean civilization, regarded by archaeologists as the dawn of human civilization. [Cycladic; Keros-Syros culture].

It took me over 3 years to hike over the entire island of Syros and to photograph all manner of carving by human hand on its slabs and rocks. I photographed and archived this ‘chronicle of inscriptions’ that is part of the history of an island of the Archipelagos and gave it book form. I would wander on mountain slopes with sparse trees, among the shrubs and its minimal flowing water. The hum of bees that follow the itineraries of nectar, the Cichoriumspinosum that shivers under the wind’s breath next to the sea, small springs with aquatic plants, steep and rocky coasts, limestone and volcanic geologic layers, cliffs, sea caves that are homes to seals and sea turtles, gravel slopes, small ravines, sand dunes. In the course of this ramble on ancient stones I discovered a multitude of prehistoric carvings, drawings that were a groping first form of writing, representing symbols such as stars, cochleae, rhombuses, but also human figures and some form of measurement system, as well as impressions of the sea vessels of that time. I stood in awe before this thousand-year-old ‘testimony in stone’ laid out at my feet, narrating everyday stories of the island’s inhabitants and of travellers in transit.

Carved on the island’s rocks was the continuity of the Greek language. I walked on millennia-old messages and faded inscriptions. I stood on faint rock carvings of nebulous equivocation, in hypothetical courtyards of ancient temples and Byzantine churches. I suspected just a few traces, perhaps only the steps leading to the temple of Asclepios, the future site of the temple of Isis and of the twin temple of Serapis. These were the protector Gods of seafarers and saviours of seamen that were tossed by the waves in their walnut-shell vessels, rowing in the same spot for hours on end in their efforts to hang on to dear life. This is where seamen – pilgrims, travellers, merchants, pirates- found safe harbour for water or food, lay in wait or sought refuge from the northern gusts, terrified and weakened as they faced the fury of nature and the elements of the sea. During storms, and among thunderbolts that pierced the roiling surface of the sea, in the lightening and deafening thunder, in the fierce wind that howled like an enraged beast, under the icy hail, the torrential rain, the ferocious waves that engulfed the vessel, the furious sea and the air that gave birth to whirlwinds and whirlpools and sea monsters, in the deep and treacherous currents that dragged the ships off course, in straits that thrust them onto the rocks and underwater reefs that waited patiently for the mind to wander.

Those battered by the sea would head for the bay’s calm haven. They would be safe as soon as they negotiated the cape and entered calmer waters. And then the same people, who had been through thick and thin, would engrave on the rocks their thanks to the gods who steered them to safety. They had come so close to drowning, to death, but had come through alive. They had witnessed the sea’s wrath and ferment and were now celebrating the gift of transient existence. Within human consciousness, the terror of drowning awoke ancient legends. The story of the God who, in his wrath, decides to wipe out humanity by drowning the Earth in water has been known since the Gilgamesh saga, as Assyrian-Babylonian, from the Old Testament, as Judaic, from Pindar, as Greek, and is has spread throughout the rest of the world, among the peoples of India, Korea, Indonesia, Australia, and North American Indians. This is the primeval terror of the wrathful God that these passing sailors felt as they dropped anchor in the bay of Grammata (Letters), and by carving the name of their ship on the stone, would set her under the God’s protection. Clearly, the small bay of Grammata, on the north-western coast of Syros, owes its name to the hundreds of inscriptions on the rocks dating back to distant antiquity, Roman times and Byzantium. This bay never ceased to provide refuge from the fierce northern winds of the Aegean to weather-beaten seamen and travellers throughout the centuries.

Most of the carved inscriptions are wishes. They contain supplications to the Gods so that they may grant fair weather or thanks for rescuing them from the storms. To Helios, Asclepios, the Dioskouroi, a precursor in antiquity of St. Nicholas, Isis, who stretched out her dress like a sail and steered the ship to safety, to Serapis, a deity of Egyptian origin who in Hellenistic times succeeded the Greek deities. Serapis was worshipped up until the 4th century AD and there was probably a temple to him at Grammata.

At the time, the ships that crossed the Aegean came from the coast of Thrace, the Dardanelles, the Black Sea, the islands and the coast of Asia Minor and the entire Archipelagos. But there were also ships from Syria, Cylicia, Egypt and the rest of the known world, and each traveller would pray to his own god, asking him to calm the rage of the stormy seas and to guide them to their destination. The inscriptions bear witness to the dangers encountered by the travellers who sought refuge at the bay of Grammata, when the elements made the Aegean furious and snakes sprung out of cape Cavo Doro.

Today, there are about one hundred inscriptions preserved in the Grammata area. In the past there were more, but with time many have vanished –the writing faded as the rocks became weathered by wind and water. Some of the inscriptions are no longer legible. The archaeologist KlonStefanos was the first one to notice them. He camped out there in the mid-nineteenth century and proceeded to record and study them under adverse conditions. Stefanos claims that the inscriptions span an entire millennium,that is to say from the Hellenistic period to the beginning of the second millennium. On one of the inscriptions one reads the date (ς)φά, (993 B.C.), while on others there are indications of dates, though the absence of a uniform chronological system make them difficult to understand.

In the western part there is rocky promontory that looks out to the sea. It is precipitous and indicates that part of the island must have sunk during one of the cosmogonies of the past. The inhabitants of Syros call it ‘GriaPounta’ and on its tip there are Hellenistic and Roman inscriptions. At the foot of the slope that descends incrementally towards the head of the bay there was a quarry during ancient times. At the rocks nearest to the sea and on the surface of the stones rendered smooth by extraction there are Christian inscriptions, etched out in sophisticated calligraphy, from the time of the Byzantine empire.

The top of the promontory on which the ancient inscriptions were carved may have been used as a ‘crow’s nest’ by anxious sailors eager to spot the onset of calm weather. The sea stretches out in all its breadth from this spot. It is also possible that this spot was used as a beacon, so as to make the bay visible during stormy nights. Or even as an observatory for pirates lying in wait in the bay, staking out unsuspecting ships.

Some of the inscriptions mention the names of men, captains, sailors or passengers forced by storms at Gioura straits to seek refuge at Grammata bay and to await fair weather to continue their journey.

The majority of the inscriptions on the abandoned ancient quarry on the side of the promontory that looks onto the bay are Christian. They provide additional information on the people and the vessels that sought refuge there. After it became dominant, Christianity stamped out Asclepios, Serapis and all the other deities of antiquity, and their place was taken by Saint Fokas. Near the few remains of his church there are quite a few inscriptions with invocations for help. Most begin with “Lord, help us”, or with “Lord, save us”, and continue with supplications towards the Almighty to save the vessel and its passengers. A number of these include the name of the author, his father and his homeland, while in others one finds the name of the ship, its captain, as well as the month and year that the ship was forced to seek refuge in the hospitable Grammata bay. Most of the inscriptions of that period are written in a corrupted Romanising alphabet riddled with erratic spelling that conveys a picture of public education in the Byzantine state. Also, the spelling errors in the inscriptions of the Hellenistic and Roman era can be explained by the loss of ancient prosody, that is to say the pronunciation of the ancient Greek language during Hellenistic times. Many of the inscriptions differ in their formal aspects: some invoke God, Saint Fokas, and the Aghioi Pantes(All Saints). Others express gratitude to God for having saved those at sea. In yet others there are wishes for fair winds and following seas, while another refers the inauguration of a small temple in the area, now lost.

Many of the Christian inscriptions are set within square frames imitating tablets with handles (tabula ansata). Some have a cross at the beginning, while another is decorated with a menorah, indicating that it was carved by a Jewish traveller. There are carved symbols near these inscriptions: pentagrams, pomegranates, or a capital letter Φ. Also a plumed helmet, a cross within a circle, an A and an Ω.

The inscribed names are mostly ancient Greek, such as Eulimenios, Leontios, Diotima, Eunomios, Aster, Makrobios, Synetos, Chloe, Megalonemon, Metrodoros, Sophronios, Isidoros, Philaletheios, Euplastos, Herakles, Apollonios, Oinoe. Philalethios appears as the owner of a vessel that dropped anchor in the bay and was from the island of Andros. The homelands recorded for those who carved the inscriptions are Andros, Paros, Ephessos, Melos, Pinara, Pelousio and Miletos, while their professions or offices are indicated as sailors, quartermasters, soldiers, monks, a kentarchos (centurion) named Dometios, a chiliarch (commander of a thousand) from Ephesus named Eulimenios, a hypatos (consul) named Stephanos. It is nevertheless unclear if this is the same person who is mentioned in a seal found in Calabria with the inscription “Κύριε, βοήθει τω σω δούλω Στεφάνω υπάτω και βασιλικώ σπαθαρίω” (Lord, help your servant Stephanos, hypatos and royal spatharios) or someone else, as Klon Stefanos observes.

Of all the ships that sought refuge in the bay, only the names of eight are mentioned. Oddly, four of these have the same name: Maria. In fact, through the centuries, vessels propelled by sail or oar carrying people from all parts of the Mediterranean world passed from this small and isolated bay in Syros. Sailors, merchants, travellers, pirates, people from the Cyclades, Asia Minor, the Black Sea, Syrians, Egyptians, Romans, Carthaginians and Byzantines moved passengers or merchandise from one Mediterranean port to another and left their inscriptions or signatures on the rocks of Grammata. Today, the inscriptions are entangled with the signatures and graffiti of tourists from Larissa, Brahami, New York, Denmark, Germany, and Japan.


Even today people continue to use penknives or spray-paint to engrave and to write, to paint and to imprint, out there in the street, moments from their lives or chronicle the innermost desires of their hearts. They are illustrated or merely in words. They are laid out in a variety of ways -profane, pretentious and unpretentious. They use stylized recipes, imitate other styles and/or copy others. Others, who are gifted, use their own personal forms of expression. Yet all are different manifestations of the same need, the need to express oneself and to communicate. Which is the main purpose of the inscriber-draughtsman-writer, who craves exposure and confirmation, who wants to stand out, to be noticed, to be accepted. This is what millions of people want when they make art – naive, folk art, primitive art, unprocessed art – or the ‘criminal art of wall vandals’, and the art of ecstasy. What springs forth are subconscious works and frenzied creativity that seek to trace the lost innocence of civilization and reverberate with the voices of the past.

Teos  Romvos

November 2013







by Teos Romvos

This is the personal story of Teos Romvos on his return to Greece after the fall of the dictatorship in 1974.

Romvos was among the founders of the Greek underground scene in Greece.

Travel and the Greek migrant youth residing in West Germany in the 1960s-1970s

Nikolaos Papadogiannis

Interview with Teos Romvos, 17 October 2013.


A case in point is Teos Romvos.

He studied cinema in Paris from 1966 to 1969 and subsequently moved to Frankfurt and Munich, where he also attended a school and became a camera operator. He participated in the 1968 protests and continues to subscribe to antiauthoritarianism.

Influenced by literary works promoting ‘freedom from work ethics’, such as the books of Jorg Fauser, who was a friend of his, he wandered around the world for many years. He construed hitchhiking as a core element of his lifestyle.

Drawing on this experience, he wrote articles and compilations of short stories, such as Tria Feggaria stin plateia [Three moons in the square], first published in 1985. An article, which he co-authored in 1980, provides hints on how to spend less on tickets and accommodation by being hosted by anarchists and feminists as well as on how to finance trips by playing music or writing on a piece of paper that ‘I have run out of money’.

Indeed, some Greek anti-authoritarian students in West Germany, such as Romvos, shared no particular desire to return or visit their place of birth in Greece. As already mentioned, he travelled around various countries, such as Zaire and India, for many years.

Interview with Teos Romvos, 17 October 2013. In contrast with the oral testimonies I have harvested and the publications of Greek associations in West Germany at that point, the article he co-authored in Trypa contains the only reference to the metaphor ‘opening up’ through travel, which resembles the term ‘Weltoffenheit’ used by left-wing locals. See: T. Romvos, ‘Open Up’, Trypa, June 1980, pp. 18–20; Max, ‘To na taxideyeis einai anthropino, to na taxideyeis tsampa theio’, Trypa, June 1980, pp. 24–25.

The latter was based on data provided by Romvos as well.