In September 1537, a devastating event marked Kythera forever. The fabled capital of the island, Agios Dimitrios, which is also known as Paliochora, was besieged and looted by the admiral of the ottoman fleet, the corsair Hayreddin Barbarossa. The surviving inhabitants were sold as slaves at the slave markets of Algiers and Tunis. Ever since, Paliochora is abandoned and, according to locals, it is still haunted as the “fousata”, the pirates’ shadows, patrol the area and the women’s cries echo from the time of the disaster. Today, the ruined citadel still stands in a unique location, between sheer gorges, well-hidden by the surrounding hills.
The best way to discover Paliochora is by walking the trails of route M31, which were probably also used by the pirates in order to invade the city. Starting from the square of Potamos, with the open market every Sunday and the distinctive British stone bridge, one leg of the route follows the old trail, which connects the fertile meadows of Trifillianika to Paliochora, while passing through ravines, hills and abandoned olive groves. Until recently, at Vrochantarika, the verdant ravine with the ever-flowing stream, a big feast was taking place for the celebration of Panagia of Phoros after the liturgy. Further on, one can see Agia Varvara, an exceptional monument of Monemvasian architecture, as well as the rock of Paliochora, just as how people were beholding it for centuries.
A long part of the other leg of the route follows a fordable ravine, covered with evergreen Cretan maple trees in a mystical landscape with rock shelters and dry-stone constructions, such as walls and ramps, which reveal past human presence in that space. The ravine ends at the Fountain of Trifillianika, among gardens and fields, and then ascends to a forest with pine, eucalyptus and strawberry trees, where the theatre of Potamos lies.
Nearby, the “Tree of Joy and Sorrow” stands, a place where families said farewell with tears of sorrow
to those emigrating or welcomed back with tears of joy those who were returning. Coming back to Potamos, the trail passes by “Astikon”, one of the schools built by the British.