During May of 2006, the Australasian College of Health Sciences (ACHS) sponsored the second summer session on the island of Syros.
Syros is located in the center of the group of islands called the Cyclades. Syros is a lovely Greek island. The main city on Syros is Hermoupolis, it is the capitol of the Cyclades. Hermoupolis is a pleasant city and is active all year. Syros also has a very active sea port with shipyard and dry dock. You can sit along the water's edge in one of many cafes which line the port; enjoying a "frappe" while watching the ferries and yachts come and go. The architecture is quite interesting, with many building constructed in the Italian style. Beautiful marble is everywhere you look.
Classes and accommodations were at the Villa Abela and at the Abela Beach Taverna. Abela is about five miles from Hermoupolis. In Abela there is a small quiet beach and a Taverna, which serves delicious meals and is a great place to relax and watch the sea. The beach is only 300 feet from Villa Abela. There are many beaches on Syros as well as small villages by the sea. During free time, students enjoyed the beaches and shopping in the villages. Other free time activities included a visit to Ano Syros. Ano Syros was built during the middle ages. The village is located on top of a hill above Hermoupolis. There are no roads in Ano Syros, Food and goods are delivered to the shops and restaurants in the village by mule. There is also a museum and theatre (which is built as a copy of Milan's La Scala). You can also find an outdoor movie theatre. Films start after dark, which is quite late in the summer months. There are also many restaurants offering traditional meals which stay open late. After graduation, some students enjoyed a sail across the sea to Delos, a visit to the archaeological site and lunch on the beach of a nearby island. The 65 ft wooden, two masted Turkish barque was escorted by Dolphins for part of the journey.
Wild thyme, Rosemary and Rose Geranium were harvested and distilled. The yield from the wild thyme was higher than expected. The yield from the Rosemary was within the expected range, but the yield from the Rose Geranium was lower than expected.
Harvesting thyme on the hillsides. Thyme flowers are used for their honey on Syros. Harvesting thyme must be done with care. Far away from beekeepers' hives with permission of the landowner. Harvesting is a pleasant activity for the students. Students are first wrapped with sheets, which are used for gathering the Thyme that is cut.. After some instruction regarding the thoughtful harvesting of Thyme, we climbed the hill and began to cut the Thyme, in an area overlooking Barbarosa Bay. Harvesting took place near Delphini (Dolphin) Beach, where we stopped to enjoy our lunch. Plenty of cold water and iced tea, stuffed tomatoes and peppers with various salads.
After harvesting, the Thyme is brought back to Villa Abela, and made ready for distillation. First, the Thyme is cut in order to get the maximum amount of raw material into the distiller. After preparation, the Thyme is weighed so that we could calculate the percent yield of essential oil. The "onion" (Alembic Head) is packed with Thyme, as is the rotating column of the distiller. The "pot" (bottom of the distiller) is filled approximately 2/3 full with water. This insures that we will have plenty of water in our distiller and do not have to worry about running out during distillation. Once the distiller is fully packed with thyme, the joints in the distiller are covered with dough made from rye flour. The gas burner is fired up and distillation proceeds. After about 45 minutes, distillate begins to flow from the condenser. The distillate is captured in the Essencier, where oil and hydrosol (water) are then separated. Our Thyme oil is a beautiful red color. We obtained a yield slightly higher than was expected.
Sage (Salvia triloba) grows wild and prolifically on the hillsides of Syros. Sage was harvested in the hills above the village of Kini. We used the same wrappings for Sage as we did Thyme. Distillation was performed using the Alembic as a hydro distiller, with the column down. In hydrodistillation, the plant material is free floating in water, and the "onion" is also filled with raw material. The yield we obtained was as expected from the literature.
Rosemary was also harvested for distillation. During the previous year, we had Rosemary planted. Our plants were lost due to excessive ground water in the area that the Rosemary was planted. We did however manage to harvest enough Rosemary to distill. Distillation was performed in a 28.3 liter stainless steel distiller. The resulting oil was excellent and the yield was as expected from literature. In addition to Rosemary we also cut Rose Geranium. The yiled of oil from the geranium was disappointing. This was due to the manner which the Geranium was grown. We are working to correct this situation through proper cultivation methods.
Arja teaches the traditional method for making Greek Coffee.
Trudy teaches basic Greek language and history
Dorene Petersen of the American College of Healthcare Sciences has the attention of the class at Villa Abela
Hermoupolis, the main city on the island of Syros, sports some beautiful architecture.
Hermoupolis is a very active port city
A view overlooking the fishing village of Kini.
The table is set for dinner beside the water in the port city of Hermoupolis
Billie gathering flowers and preparing a Flower Remedy
We were entertained during dinner in Galissas by a group of dancers doing traditional island dances from the Greek Isles
Harvesting Rose Geranium in a field owned by Georges and Arja
Gia gia (Yaya) prepares rye flower to seal the Alembic distiller
Arja taught us traditional goat milk cheese making too!
Graduation ceremony at the beach front Taverna in Abela
We sailed to the island of Delos at the end of our session. Our boat was a double masted wooden Turkish barque. For part of the way, we were escorted by dolphins as we sailed across the Aegean Sea. Truly magical. Delos is the island where Apollo and Artemis were born. Delos is an incredible archaeological site not too far from Mykonos.