By Tiffany Donnelly
Malcolm (Mac) and Carol Ostermeyer have spent their summer holidays on Andros almost every year since discovering the island in the mid 1990s. The couple, who live in Lancaster, UK, first came on an organised walking tour of the island and heard about Zagora from a local tour guide. They continue to stay in Batsi every summer, attracted by the lovely beach and the fact that it’s a little off the beaten tourist track. The Kantouni, home base for the Zagora dig team, is their favourite local haunt, and although the Ostermeyers have never been in Batsi during the dig season, they heard about the excavations and were immediately interested in knowing more. Encountering archaeologist Dr Paul Donnelly on a family holiday at Kantouni recently has further piqued their interest.
Both Carol and Mac have a great interest in the historical background of Andros. They have explored the island extensively and have been conscious of the history of the place since they first visited. A former civil servant, Mac has nurtured a love of Greek history since he was a small child. The couple have explored the local Byzantine church and the mainly classical site of Paleopolis, with its submerged jetty a place of particular interest. They knew Zagora was a Geometric period site which had only been occupied for a short time, but until encountering the Zagora website and blog they knew little else. “Learning more about Zagora through the blog has helped us understand other sites on the island and how they fit into the history of the place,” says Mac. “Andros is quite important; there was a flourishing school and at least one of the emperors was educated here. And the influence of the Phoenicians is significant.”
The couple have engaged actively with the blog since first hearing about it, and Mac even sports his own Zagora T-shirt. “The technical information and the little clips on the site are fantastic,” says Mac, “and we love all the photos of the social events.”
For Carol, a former special needs teacher, learning more about Zagora from the excavation website has brought the site to life for her. “You can’t understand anything about the present and the future unless you understand the past,” she says. “Up to now Andros has been a place for us to go and collapse on the beach, and the dig has opened my eyes to so much more. I now see ghostly figures from the past toiling up and down the slope. I’ve wondered a lot about the people and what their lives were like. Why they built just there. What happened and why they left it. I was absolutely blown away by the information that’s now available.”
Carol and Mac haven’t yet been down to the site but after talking to Paul over a frappe at Kantouni they say they will one day make the difficult trek. For now though they content themselves with the blog, and with standing at the railing of the ferry and looking out as they pass the historic headland.