A Polynesia in the Aegean Sea! It is a cluster of about 20 islands, rocks and rocky islands east of Ikaria, reached in half an hour by boat.
The central island and capital of the cluster is Fourni, known for its fishing. An ideal destination for a day trip from Ikaria. With their incredible natural beauty the smaller islands, such as Thymena, Thyminaki, Chrysomilia, Kairia, Xera, Katergaria, Limenopetra, Alatsonissi, Kournashti, Strongylos, Plaka, Plakaki, Prasonisi, the Makronissi, the Great and the Small Anthropofas, Mikros and the Great Agios Minas, Petrokaravo and Streidi are ideal places for wandering, photographing and bathing.
The group’s varied coastline of secluded beaches and many bays is unique in the Aegean. This topography made it the base of Greek and foreign pirates from the early Byzantine era and throughout the Middle Ages. Because of this they were deserted and called the island of the Koursaros (corsairs). During Antiquity the Fourni were called Korasian islands.
In recent years many submerged shipwrecks in the cluster have attracted international interest. Archaeologists of the Era of Antiquities and the RPM Nautical Foundation, collaborating with local fishermen and free-divers located more than 45 shipwrecks in 22 days. They found mainly amphoras, dishes and various ceramic items.
Because many species of aromatic plants, such as thyme, throbbing, sage, heather, schinn, cumara, olives, fennel and mandrake grow on the Fourni islets, they are included in the European Union’s "Natura 2000" programme, the largest network of protected areas in the world. The Mediterranean Monk Seal (monachus monachus), the "number 1" European species threatened with extinction, as well as various species of dolphins live in the area. The group is also included in the important bird areas of Greece (SPPPE), being a breeding site for such birds as the Black Pepper, the Oyster Grass and the island partridge. It is also an area of particular importance for migratory species, especially herons.
Since before the European Middle Ages the Fourni islands supplied Asia Minor with marble. Ruins of a cemetery that existed in the Petrokopio site are preserved. On the hill of Agios Georgios, in the capital of the island and above the village, a huge, cyclopean wall of a prehistoric castle with chipped stones is saved. On the foundations of the ancient castle a classical castle was built that was the Acropolis of Fourni. The castle contained a temple, of which a stone staircase that probably led to the entrance to the castle was preserved; so were a rock that was the base for a statue, some inscriptions referring to the gods of Samothraki and the Acropolis founder, as well as a built stone dedicated to god Hermes.
Ikarian agencies organise day-long excursions to the islands to swim and enjoy fresh fish and seafood in local taverns, dominated by lobster and savoury souks (fish soups).
Some of the most beautiful beaches are Keramidou in Thymeana, Bali in Chrysomilia, the port of Fournoi, Kambi, Kamari, Psili Ammos, Petrokopio, Elidaki, Vitsilia, Vlychada, Koumara, Ambelos.
During the year, many events take place both in Thymeana and Fourni:
- In recent years a swimming marathon has been organised by the local cultural association, the 'Thymaena Tour'. Athletes from all over Greece swim about 18 kilometres, round the island, between sharp rocks and ancient shipwrecks.
- The feast of Thimina takes place every year during the first ten days of August, offering local special mezedes (a selection of small dishes served to accompany alcoholic drinks) to the attendees.
- On July 17 the feast of Agia Marina is celebrated in the square of Fourni, with live Greek music and traditional dishes cooked by members of the local cultural association; the main course is the reddish goat, the traditional food of Fourni.
- On the last weekend of July, the Fourni Youth Club, in cooperation with the Municipality of Fourni Korseon, organises the "Fish Feast" with plenty of wine, live music and fresh, local fish, offered free to the attendees.
- The biggest feast is on August 15th, at the island's harbour with traditional dances by the cultural association dance club, food and wine, going on until the morning.
- At the end of the summer, on August 28th, the feast of Agios Giannis of Thermatis or Decapherator is organised in the homonymous settlement of Fournoi, while the next day there is a feast of praise to the chapel there.
Before leaving the island don’t forget to buy pure thyme honey, olive oil, homemade desserts, cheeses, wild herbs, liqueurs and local soft drinks.
Photo credits: Milan Gonda