My wonderful two weeks in Ikaria

I am a huge fan of Greek islands. Five years ago I finally started learning Modern Greek. After completing the two excellent Pimsleur’s audio courses I took several consecutive Modern Greeek courses at the Ljubljana University. I am very grateful to my Greek teacher Mrs. Vasso Varsamakidou who taught me so much about Greek language and culture.

Although I learned a lot and I visit Greece as often as possible I desperately needed an opportunity to spend some time in an authentic environment where I’d be forced to use Greek only. In August 2012 I took a two-week intensive course in Chania. I loved the experience and I was surprised how much my Greek improved.

After spending three perfect weeks at the beaches of southern Crete and Gavdos I traveled to Ikaria to spend two weeks in August 2014 at Michalis’ centre. It is impossible to describe in words how perfect experience it was.

Each day I spent five hours learning Greek: 2.5 hours discussing very interesting articles with Michalis and 2.5 hours learning grammar with Tonia. My group consisted of only two students, me and Irene, a very intelligent and warm professor of political sciences from Spain who spoke Greek almost perfectly. I am a teacher myself and I cannot praise highly enough the very simple yet very effective methods which were used during the course.

In my spare time I studied a lot and I tried to prepare myself for the lessons which followed.

The centre is very well equipped. I lived in a comfortable double room with a small kitchen. There is also a large open kitchen with a washing machine and a nice open space where you can socialize with other students. All of them were very interesting and very friendly. Another bonus was Michalis’ mum Anna who was always willing to talk to you. A few times we spent several hours chatting.

The centre is far from everything. It takes about an hour to walk to Karavostamo and about 20 minutes to get to Arethousa. In Arethousa there is a mini market and a very simple tavern. There is an excellent tavern in Pera Arethousa about 15 minutes from the village. You do need a car or a motorbike to visit the nearby beaches.

The area around the centre is beautiful. The island is unusually green. You are surrounded by fig, chestnut and almond trees. I started my days jogging for more than an hour. I was rewarded by the intense smell of the Mediterranean herbs and by the wonderful views of the nearby mountains and the sea.

My main goal was to learn Greek as much as possible, but I was also able to see some interesting parts of Ikaria. Michalis is a very warm and friendly person. Several times he took us to the beach, we went hiking in the hills behind Armenistis and on one of the nights he cooked a tasty traditional Greek dinner. I also joined my fellow students on their trips to the nearby beaches and villages.

My experience was so positive that I decided to visit Michalis’ centre again in August 2015. The lessons and the dormitory will be moved to the village which is probably a very good idea. Although I liked the centre in the middle of nowhere, it gradually became a chore to walk to the nearest store in Arethousa.