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“I met a girl walking near the lagoon and asked her to go on a boat ride on my gaita (small boat with a sail). We didn't have motors back then, only the sail and the “floko” (a smaller sail at the front of the boat). A light northwestern wind was blowing and she sat on the stern and started singing with her beautiful voice. “On the magical sand a woman embraced with her beloved fisherman. He's drunk with joy, both of them are, in the scarlet sunset...” she sang.
He calls it a meadow
Markos Liakatas is a retired fisherman from Missolonghi. His whole life and every thought he has ever had revolves around the lagoon. That's where he first felt his heart flutter, that’s where he fished and made a living. He calls it “the meadow”. He desires it and is in love with it. He remembers how the tiny island in the middle of the lagoon, with the church of Trinity, used to look like: “There were about ten wooden huts on it, people used to eat in one of them, sleep in another and knit wattle (fences made of cane for entrapping fish) in an another one.
The island was full of canes, which were often cut. The strong ones were kept for knitting, while the rest of them were used for lighting fires and cooking. On the Day celebrating the Holy Spirit at least one hundred gaitas moved people to and from the island for 3 drachmas per ticket. I remember that the fishermen stood so close to each other that they often argued about who had caught the fish. Just when you would think they would fight and kill each other, they made up as if nothing had ever happened".
The old fisherman also recalled the stories his grandfather used to tell him of the lagoon back from the Greek Revolution against the Ottoman Turks in 1821. "During the years of the revolution, the lagoon was full of Turkish latsonia (long and narrow gaitas), which were about 10 meters long each. Neither a pasara (ship) nor a priari (big gaita) could fit to pass between them. The Greek revolutionaries placed gradous (sharp pegs) a few centimeters below the water surface, on which the Turkish latsonia fell and got caught on. The water filled with blood, a tragic but somehow glorious picture as well”.
What happened to the girl
Markos has been using the same Bismarck bicycle since 1936 and he’s never owned a car. “It’s like a dream to bike to Tourlida and look around as the sun is setting and the sky turns blood red. If you were driving a car and turned your head a bit, you would fall into the lagoon without even noticing it”.
Before we say goodbye to Markos, we asked him what happened to the girl he had taken for a boat ride, the one who sang beautifully. “She left for Athens. It’s been 55 years since then. Last year I learned that she passed away. May God have mercy on her soul”, he told us with a vacant look.TEXT-PHOTOS: GEORGE ZAFEIROPOULOS