Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis landed in hot water on the Greek island of Astypalaia on Wednesday during his visit to mark the turning of the island into an environmentally green one devoted to stewardship of its resources as well as the construction of electric vehicles.
It was not immediately known what the two elderly ladies are expressing to Mitsotakis, but their gestures suggest that an animated discussion was under way. Maybe it was an outpouring of news or gossip after being shut up in their homes for too long, or possibly an expression of anger about the prolonged coronavirus lockdown.
Yet again, the two yiayias may be telling the Prime Minister that Athens only occasionally remembers Astypalaia, the beautiful Dodecanese island that for most of the winter months is sparsely connected with the mainland.
They may be telling Mitsotakis that governments must do even more to create incentives and jobs for young people to stay on the island. After all, Greek “yiayias”, in all their accumulated wisdom and vast experience, always offer advice. They think they know how to best run things.
And if they have run an extended family for decades, they are indeed perhaps best placed to judge how the country is run.
Astypalaia had a rare opportunity to host the Prime Minister and other dignitaries as the island is being turned into a model island for climate-neutral mobility by the central government and the Volkswagen Group.
A memorandum between the company and Greece to establish a groundbreaking mobility system on the island was signed in November 2020. The project is expected to initially run for six years, with energy primarily generated from local green power sources (solar and wind).
Mitsotakis, who went on a walking tour around the capital of Astypalaia, had many great photo opportunities while talking to the locals about the great transformation that the island is about to experience.
Mitsotakis spoke to the regulars of the local kafeneion, met youngsters returning from school and even spoke to people who were watching from their terraces.
History of Astypalaia
Along with a number of smaller uninhabited offshore islets (the largest of which are Sýrna and Ofidoussa), the island of Astypalaia forms the Municipality of Astypalaia, which is part of the Kalymnos regional unit.
The capital and the previous main harbor of the island is variously referred to as Astypalaia or Chora, as it is usually called by the locals.
In Greek mythology, Astypalaia was a woman abducted by Poseidon in the form of a winged fish-tailed leopard.
The island was colonized by Megara or possibly Epidaurus, and its governing system and buildings are known from numerous historic inscriptions. Pliny the Elder records that Rome accorded Astypalaia the status of a free state within its Empire.
During the Middle Ages Astypalaia belonged to the Byzantines until 1207, when — in the aftermath of the Fourth Crusade — it became a fief of the Querini, a noble Venetian family, until 1522. The Querini built a castle that is still in place there.
Astypalaia was conquered by the Ottoman Empire in 1522, and remained under Ottoman control until 1912, with two interruptions: from 1648 until 1668, during the Cretan War, it was occupied by Venice, and from 1821 to 1828, during the Greek War of Independence.
On April 12, 1912, during the Italo-Turkish War, a detachment of the Regia Marina landed on Astypalaia, which thus became the first island of the Dodecanese to be occupied by Italy. It was from that base on Astypalaia that the Italians, on the night between the 3rd and 4th of May, invaded the island of Rhodes.
The island remained under Italian governance until World War II. In a September 1943 naval battle near Astypalea, the Greek destroyer “Vasilissa Olga,” together with the British destroyers “HMS Faulknor” and “Eclipse,” sank a German convoy, consisting of the transports “Pluto,” weighing 2,000 tons, and “Paolo,” a vessel of 4,000 tons.
In 1947, through the Treaty of Paris, Astypalaia finally became part of modern Greece, along with the rest of the Dodecanese archipelago.