Travel broadens the mind and also gives you perspective on life. Stepping out of your life periodically helps you see the world through fresh eyes and is certainly good for the soul!
I am not a writer but I believe that everybody can write, especially if there is something you are passionate about. My 'writing' may not be particularly poetic but I enjoy the reflective process and I believe that any creative pursuit should be encouraged. My blogs are more like a photograph albums with words.
My most recent passion is Egypt. My husband Peter is Egyptian and I have been truly privileged to have seen Egypt in ways that most tourists may not get the opportunity to. I will never tire of visiting Egypt. Every trip reveals something new and amazing. The blog 1001 Nights has also been the catalyst for the book we are writing about the village of Garagos - the place where Peter's ancestors have lived for generations.
My first passion is for Greece. I have been visiting Greece and the Islands for over 20 years and never tire of discovering new places - sometimes revisiting the very special places. I've decided to try and document my trips to the Greek islands in the blog - a Greek Oddity. This is a mammoth task that will involve routing out hundreds if not thousands of photographs from the loft followed by sifting and scanning - oh to have had a digital camera then! I guess I've visited around 50 islands now and I'm really excited about revisiting them through the blog. I do this mainly for posterity and also hope that one day it may be of interest to my children and grandchildren.
What's wrong with me - this our second beach day in a row! Today we decide to go to Plaka - lets see if it's the same as I remember it from 20 odd years ago!
The bus takes us past the airport which is surrounded by salt flats. Not sure I fancy landing on that runway!
We get off at Plaka but decide to walk further along the coast, passing the high sand dunes that screen off the nudist beach.
After a nice day doing nothing we catch the bus back to the port and have a wander around the streets in the chora.
This evening we have a delicious meal in Apostilles. Greek salad, roast lamband lamb ragout with a nice white wine finished off with some delicious psimeni raki. A bouzouki player adds extra atmosphere.
This evening Marco has ordered us some tickets for the piano concern in the Kastro with Viktorya Belskaya. We are able to get the front row seats for the price of 15 euros each.
This is an amazing location for the concert - a low wall lined with basil plants overlooks the portara and the evening sky.
The concert is introduced by a handsome moustachioed gentleman who starts by rustling the basil plants sending wafts of scent across the room. The wind has picked up, and he tells us that the god of the winds either angry or drunk. He tells us that in the intermission there will be complimentary drinks and we are not restricted to one drink and that if anyone is driving not to worry - he is a very good friend of the police!
The concert is wonderful. Victorya is a very talented pianist and composer and set against the backdrop of the Kastro makes it extra special. A truly memorable evening.
We head out for the 10.00am bus to Apollonia again. For the last couple of days there has been the same crowd of people waiting at the stop - two Dutch couples who are on a walking holiday, a middle aged American couple who tell us the snow is still thick on the ground back home and an elderly Greek couple who don't speak English but always greet everyone when they arrive at the stop.
My first mission is to find a shop in Apollonia that can save the photographs on my memory card to a CD as I've already used 8gb's of memory on my SLR. Maria from Morfeus tell us that we are more likely to find somewhere in Apollonia than Kamares. Kostas tells us that there is a shop near to the second petrol station - not the first petrol station but the second one!
Using our powers of deduction we work out which is the second petrol station and we come across a photography studio which seems to have a machine where you can download and print your photos. Unfortunately it doesn't take flash cards. The lady tells us in broken English to wait whilst she phones her son who is at home. Within 5 minutes her son arrive on a moped. His English is good and he tells us that he will take it home and download it for us and it will only cost 4 euros. It cost us 8 euros in Athens last year and I'm sure his petrol would cost that too. Whilst we wait we go to the bakery next door for breakfast. This is a busy old bakery and clearly popular with the locals.
I have my memory card and cd of photographs back in 20 minutes which is excellent! (I will buy more memory cards for our next trip!)
We have a little while before the bus to Kastro arrives so we take the opportunity to walk around Apollonia again and in particular some of the churches that we didn't have time to explore previously.
There are lots of trendy cafe bars and little boutiques amongst the more traditional buildings.
We catch the bus which drops us at the entrance to the Kastro which sits up on top of the cliff overlooking the famous Seven Martyrs church.
We enter the Kastro by climbing whitewashed steps. We pass Cafe bars that can only be described as 'boutique'.
The view from the Kastro inland is as stunning as the views out to the sea
We walk around the Kastro perimeter until we reach the coastal side. Peter walks down to the Seven Martyrs Church whilst I stay at the top to take photographs.
Peter seemed to take ages coming back up to the Kastro. When he did come back he looked a bit flustered and then proceeded to tell me about his encounter with a snake. When he was walking back up the path to the Kastro, he must have disturbed a snake who didn't take too kindly to it's sunbathing being disrupted. It reacted by striking a threatening pose and rasping it's forked tongue at him. Peter says his only reaction was to throw himself backwards out of its way but he wanted to make sure that it had moved away before continuing up the stone steps.
I am now being extra EXTRA vigilent about wherever I walk!
We have about 2 hours to wait before the next bus arrives to take us back to Apollonia so we walk around the pretty streets of the Kastro.
Cafe Konaki had caught our eye when we first arrived and not only does it have spectacular views over the landscape is has a good vantage point to see approaching buses. We have tea and ice cream and then more tea. We are the only customers apart from one other couple during the hour or so we were there.
Back in Apollonia we walk to the village of Exambela. It is late afternoon and light on the whitewashed buildings is perfect.
We walk back to the centre of Apollonia and think it would be nice to eat in a restaurant there. We find a restaurant with a lovely (and deserted) courtyard where we are able to watch the sunset on the mountains whilst we eat under a vine covered pergola. Their garlic sauce is fantastic - one of my favourites. Peter has the pork and I have lamb washed down with some lovely red wine.
We catch a taxi back to Kamares where we catch the tail end of the sunset. The moon is full and lights up the town below.
Today we are going to visit Kimolos - the tiny island just a short boat ride away from Milos. We're going to catch the 10.30am ferry but get there a little earlier to eat some breakfast and to walk around the little harbour.
At the port Peter engages in conversation with an elderly Greek lady. She speaks to him in Greek and he speaks to her in English. She lives on Kimolos and is going home - that's as much as I can make out though Peter seems to be having a much more detailed conversation with her with the use of lots of gesticulation.
Along the pier wall, fishermen are weighing in their morning catch.
We are fascinated as we watch one of the fishermen debone a monkfish which involves smashing their jawbones with a wooden mallet and cutting the flesh away with a knife. These are truly ugly fish!
The small car ferry the Pagania Faneromeni arrives and as soon as the cars, bikes and pedestrians disembark we board, pay for our tickets and go up to the deck. The cost of the ticket is 1.90 euros each, one way.
From the ferry we can see the church on the port of Pollonia and as we sail further out of the harbour we see the Seajet 2 appearing from around the corner from Adamas. It sails slowly past the huge sharks fin rock jutting out of the water.
According to the official website of Kimolos, the island covers an area 36 square kilometres and has around 600 permanent residents. The name Kimolos comes from kimolia meaning chalk which has been mined here since ancient times. It now has large resources of fullers earth which is used in the production of porcelain. There are a number of opencast mines to the North of the island and there you will also find a sulpher spa however, it is the South of the island where you will find the good beaches and the sleepy little villages that have hardly changed over the years. There are no natural springs on the island so water is a precious commodity.
The port is really quiet apart from some repair works being undertaken to the harbour wall. There is hardly anyone about. We don't have time to visit any of the beaches here today which is a shame becuase I had read that there are some exceptional ones on Kimolos. However, we are going to explore the chora and start by following the main road up from the port. We reach a sign that tells us that the chora is 300 metres ahead - the walk up is about two kilometres in total. It is quite a steep climb and very hot but the advantage of stopping to drink water is that it's also an opportunity to take in the view of the bay. The higher we go, the better it is. We keep the large church in our vision so that we know we are going in the right direction.
It isn't long before we see signs of the kastro with stockade type stones walls lining the narrow labyrinthine streets - originally built to keep out marauding pirates around 500 years ago.
The streets are virtually deserted on the way up to the chora - the only other people we see are a group of workmen carrying out refurbishment on an old stone house. The kastro is really attractive - so unspoilt.
Thomas Cooks Greek Island Hopping Guide says of the kastro:
"The Kimolos stockade type kastro is a younger brother of the better known example on Antiparos. The basic concept is the same with both buildings: a strong rectangular fortification wall lined with apartments that face into a central courtyard area each with its own external staircase. There are however, significant differences between the two. Instead of a large courtyard area and a central tower, the Kimolos kastro has a second inner ring of houses within which stands a church complete with gateways. It is known as the inner kastro. It also has a second gate in its outer wall and is built on the side of a hill so each two storey unit is at a different height to its neighbour. There are dated stones over the gateways - one saying 1650 and the other 1647 however these are believed to commemorate refurbishment or building works after major pirate attacks. It is likely that the Venetiain kastro was built between 1485 and 1537. Today the kastro is an odd mix of good preservation and total ruin." You will see examples of this everywhere - decayed stone buildings and the development of trendy bars sitting together in complete harmony. Unfortunately the Folk and Maritime Museum of Kimolos doesn't appear to be open - it is highly recommended in my guide book and is made up of some of the kastro houses.
It's lunchtime. There are quite a lot of little tavernas dotted about but we decide to eat in a taverna just behind the large church called Panorama, which as you can imagine, offers fantastic views over the island and right down to the bay.
We order Greek salad, horta, local cheese and tzatziki. The cheese is a heavily salted cheese that I can't eat. It is very similar to mish - a type of cheese that Peter's mother makes with milk from their water buffalo - Peter loves it and eats it all!
The remaining time we have is spent walking around the delightful little chora. We pass through narrow alleyways where the local residents sit outside their back door in the shade surrounded by pots of brightly coloured flowers . It feels a little intrusive and as though we are walking through their garden but we are always met with warm, friendly smiles and "Kalimera". I wish we had more time to spend here - I'm sure there is a completely different feel to the place in the evening.
We have twenty minutes to walk back down to the port to catch the ferry back to Milos - we can see that it is in the port already. We walk past an old windmill that has been converted into holiday accommodation. According to the website it was known as the Doctors Windmill. It looks like an amazing place to stay on the website:
The journey back to Milos seems to pass too quickly. Tomorrow we're leaving the islands for Athens on the Speedrunner 3 which has fixed seating inside. We take the time to enjoy our last moments on the deck of a boat. We are mesmerised by the landscape that passes us by - islands that appear to have nothing but a solitary church on its peak and tiny islets jutting out of the sea, defiant and threatening to all ships that dare to venture!
We pass one small island that looks completely uninhabited except for a large monastery surrounded by high concrete walls. I know we pass three uninhabited island between Kimolos and Milos - Polyaigos, Agios Efstathios and Agios Georgios. I can't find any reference to the monastery with any of them so I can't give more information on the monastery at this point.
Back at Pollonia we spend the rest of the day on the beach relaxing, squeezing every last minute out of the beach that we can.
After the lunch we had on Kimolos we have no appetite so we go to Rifaki Cafe bar for ice cream. We sit and watch the sea roll in and out until late. Tomorrow we leave for Athens. No more beaches - but certainly plenty to look forward to!
By the time we went to bed last night we still hadn't decided how to spend our last day on Antiparos, so this morning what do we do? We decide to go to Paros! I remember how pretty the little fishing village of Naoussa was so I'm keen to see if it lives up to my memory of it.
[There are two boats you can take between Paros and Antiparos:
Parikia - Antiparos. It takes about 30 minutes. Parikia (Paroikia) is the main port. The timetable may change throughout the season so this is only a guide.
Pounda - Antiparos. This little car ferry shuttles back and forth across the short stretch between the two islands and takes 8 minutes. However, you will need to take the bus between Parikia-Pounda - a 10-15 minute journey. Both bus stops are literally a stones throw from the ports. The advantage of the car ferry is that it runs until late at night - especially handy if you are arriving on a late ferry!!]
As much as I enjoyed the journey over on the little car ferry (and eternally grateful to it for Friday!) we decide to catch the direct boat. We take our place on the upper deck and take in the wonderful view of the port. Over to the left are the port landmarks - the windmill and and the blue domed church and over to the right the short stretch of whitewashed hotels and tavernas. This view puts the size of the port, and indeed the island into context. From the port there is one main street that leads up into the Chora and then further up into the Kastro - all a few minutes walk.
The short trip over to Paros allows us to take in some wonderful views of both islands and also the tiny, privately owned island of Revmatonisi. A substantial whitewashed villa owned I believe by a shipping magnate, sits hidden behind a barrier of mature palm trees (jealous!).
The narrow straight between the two islands is very shallow and requires precise navigation. It was an earthquake in around 550 BC that caused a piece of land to separate from Paros and this became the little island of Antiparos. Signs of this volcanic activity is more evident as you pass the Northern tip of Antiparos where you can see a scattering of little islets spilling out into the sea. The sea between Antiparos and the uninhabited islands of Kato Fira (Diplo) is so shallow you can wade from one to the other. Beyond Diplo is Pano Fira and even further lies a rocky outcrop of small islets jutting out from the sea. Perched on top of one of the larger islets we can see a whitewashed church. As much as I've tried to Google, I can 't find anything that gives me the name of these islets or the name of the church - there is a reference on Google maps to Agios Spyridon but nothing else.
After 30 minutes, we arrive at Parikia which seems quieter at this time of day than it did in the early hours of the morning. It is the case that within minutes of a large ferry coming into view, a port will suddenly burst into a hive of activity and then as quick as it came, the calm returns.
As we disembark from the boat (and this is the same on any boat or ferry arriving here) we see the little windmill/tourist office in the middle of the main road and to our right, the port cattle shed/waiting room. We turn right and about 100 yards down is the small bus station.
[This video shows you where the bus station is in relation to the port. The video starts just as we leave the port on the boat and just before the video ends you will see a stationery bus - this is the bus station.]
The bus to Naoussa is about to leave. Peter purchases the tickets from the little office and we hop on board. We pass stretches of agricultural land that spill out from beneath low lying hills. As the bus winds down towards the village of Naoussa I begin to remember exactly where we are. The bus terminates adjacent to a row of shops behind which sits the marina. However, first we are desperately in need of refreshment and stumble into a nearby cafe bar (who's name I unfortunately forget) for a tall glass of fresh lemon juice over crushed ice, garnished with a sprig of mint.
After a short respite from the heat we walk down to the small harbour, home to brightly painted fishing caiques that look resplendent against the whitewashed Venetian houses, many of which are now pretty little tavernas. The remains of a small kastro and a short harbour wall encompass a number of bobbing fishing boats, a haven from the open sea beyond. The church of the Assumption of the Virgin sits high on the hill dominating the skyline above the harbour.
The stone harbour wall invited us to walk down its length into the ruin of the partially sunken kastro. A series of arches built into the thick defensive walls offer us framed vistas in which to appreciate this picture perfect scenery.
Peter climbs through one of the arches and walks out across a chain of rocks and takes a photograph looking back into the kastro.
We walked back along the harbour wall past fishermen preparing for the next day - some sitting on their boats, others sitting with their backs against a wall mending their nets. Washing is strung across a line on one of the boats. The marina is absolutely teaming with fish. We stroll amongst the pretty Venetian dwellings that have been reinvented as rather trendy eating establishments amongst which are highly rated seafood restaurants.
Before making our way back to the bus stop we stop to look at Agios Nikolaos in the harbour which also enables me to seek 10 minutes respite from the sun. This small church is believed to be the protector of all fishing boats - and protector of the fair skinned!
Time is running fast. This has been just a short whistle stop tour of Naoussa as Peter is keen to visit the monastery in Parikia so we walk slowly back to the bus stop. A copy of the timetable is by the bus stop and we realise that we will have to wait nearly an hour for the next bus.
[When we arrived back at the bus stop we realised that for the return journey we need to walk about 200 yards towards a small bus station - continue walking in the direction of the bus when it arrives in Naoussa - the bus station is at the end of the street.]
We walk past another impressive looking church and Peter goes inside whilst I rebind a sore blister with a bandage.
Just before we arrive at the bus station we pass a small place called Restaurant Pervolaria which advertises 'A Taverna in the Garden'. A large pergola covered in hessian drapes and bougainvillea branches provide much needed shade. We have decided to eat at T'Ageri back on Antiparos tonight so decide to opt for cheese and spinach pies and a cup of tea just to tide us over. This is a nice family run taverna - the owners were very friendly and welcoming. It's a little walk up from the centre of Naoussa and has very clean toilets. A wonderful place to rest a while when you have time to kill.
The bus soon arrives and we return back the journey back to the port of Parikia.
Before we go to the monastery we decide to walk to the kastro through the winding streets of the chora - this is Cycladic architecture at its best - very typical and very pretty.
The Venitian kastro sits amongst the whitewashed cubist houses - an add looking structure at first glance but the reason becomes clear from our guide book which says:
[The Venetian Kastro (1260 AD) was largely constructed from the remains of the archaic Temples of Demeter and Apollo, remnants of which can be see in the form of the circular column drums now embedded in the kastro wall.]
A little further around the corner we pass the church Agios Konstantinos - I say Agios Konstantinos - I've tried to research what the name of this church is and trying to match photographs of this church with references to it being next to the kastro brings up three option - St Konstantinos, Holy Mary Septemvriani and St Eleni. Information on the internet and my guide books are confused so my best guess is that it is St Konstantinos!
Regardless of name, this church is so picturesque, adorned with the famous Parian marble and overlooking the harbour - it's the things that postcards are made of (except if I'm in the picture of course!).
Now it's time to go to the Byzantine monastery that Peter wants to see - Panagia Ekatontapyliani - try saying that when you've had a few ouzo's!
Also called Katapoliani, it is said to be one of the most important early Christian monuments in Greece and also known as Our Lady of the 100 Doors. According to www.hotels.line.gr:
["The temple owes its name to its 100 gates, 99 of which are visible and the hundredth will be revealed when the Greeks will recapture Constantinople, as it is said.
The Katapoliani, probably derived from the term "Katapola" meaning "in town", probably indicating the location of the ancient city of Paros.
Its construction, according to tradition, must be started in the 4th century by St Helena, the mother of Saint Constantine, who made a vow that if she found the Holy Cross, she would build a church at the location of a small temple she had found when she stopped in Paros throughout her journey to find the cross. Then, after she carried out the purpose of her trip, she fulfilled her promise."]
We walk into a large paved courtyard. To our left is a shaded area with a metal framed pergola and a tree bursting with ripe lemons. Towering above this is a tall tree with spreading boughs on which hang two church bells.
The large wooden doors of the church invite us in. We are almost alone - only another couple and a cleaning lady when we enter. We all stand in awe, taking in the magnificence of this church, except the cleaning lady who is vigorously polishing each icon. Before moving onto the next icon she kisses the cleansed (and sterilised) icon and crosses herself three times - a well deserved perk of the job!
Peter also visits the icons, showing his respect to God in a much more covert way. I would describe myself as an Athiest with Agnostic tendencies - I don't really believe in God but at the same time if I was given a conclusive sign that he/she existed might be convinced. Maybe that's a sign of getting older and the realisation of my own mortality! When I consider the magnificent world we live in - the sheer miracle of nature - I do become a little more tempted to believe. I love churches and the absolute feeling of tranquillity and peace that washes over you - a haven from the outside world - saying that, my local garden centre has the same effect on me too!
Within the monastery complex, housed in some of the cells is the Byzantine Museum - we are not allowed to take photographs inside but this web link gives an overview of some of the exhibits. There is an amazing wooden, carved model of the monastery and also one handmade from wire - very intricate and quite exquisite.
It is now time to make our way back to the harbour for the boat back to Antiparos. There is so much to see and do on Paros that I feel as though we have only just dipped our toes into what the island has to offer. I would love to have visited Butterfly Valley - especially as it was the right time of year. Also the Ancient Salt Mines and maybe have walked the Byzantine Trail. However, this is one of the few downsides to island hopping - sometimes you only get a snapshot of the island - but then again - it does leave you wanting for more!
When we arrive back at the port the boat Antiparos is coming down the straight. Tourists who have probably visited Antiparos for the day disembark, then we board. There are only a handful of us on board for the return journey. We sail along the shores of Paros until we turn out into the middle of the straight, passing cormorants on rocks jutting out from the sea.
Before we end our day on Paros - just a little bit of Greek Mythology
We arrive back at the port of Antiparos. As much
as my body is crying out to throw itself into the sea to refresh itself, we
decide to go straight back to the room to shower and get ready to go out.
Before we go for our last meal on the island at Restaurant T'ageri, we
want to visit the kastro which is just a short walk from Villa Harmonia.
this is the beginning of high season, the kastro is virtually deserted. The early evening
sun casts a warm glow over the stone dwellings. Once newly whitewashed
and painted with brightly coloured windows, doors and balconies, wind, sun and
age has added to its visual appeal, by adorning it with the patina of time.
so hungry after having refrained from eating anything substantial at lunch time -
we are more than ready to eat now. We head straight
for T'ageri. It isn't very busy tonight but this we don't mind. As
soon as I walk in, a lady in a bright pink dress, pink sandals and a pink
flower in her hair, points to my camera and tells me that it is going to be a
good moon tonight. After taking our seats at a table overlooking the harbour,
the lady asks me questions about my camera and also shows me photographs of the
moon that she took the night before.
continue to talk she tells us that her daughter works for the diving school
next door and that she is staying with her on Antiparos for three months. The
lady also tells us that she is French but lives in Derbyshire. She bought
her husband the camera for his birthday - though I'm not sure how much he has
been able to use it yet!
us a lot about hereself - through her fathers job she had travelled extensively
around the world as a child. Her husband works for an airline and they
had at one time lived in Nigeria. In between conversations about
photography (at times it turns into a photography lesson) we order our
meal. I don't think Peter wants to spend so much time wrestling with his
food tonight and also we are spoilt for choice on the menu. We decide to order a mixture of things including octopus, zucchini fritters, aubergine salad,
local cheese and a Greek salad - there may have been more but we were somewhat distracted - though not unpleasantly so.
Giorgios comes from the kitchen to ask as how we have enjoyed our meal and explains to us the meaning of the word T'ageri. "It is like the feeling of the wind on your face" he tells us. Giorgios brings us out desert which is absolutely amazing. Choux pastries filled with a banana cream (they were much more than this and my description doesn't do them justice at all) - Giorgios tells us how he makes them and I really admire his passion for good food. Take a look at their menu and you will see that this is no ordinary Greek Taverna!
Maria and the owners, the French lady, Peter and I chat convivially into the evening. So far there is no sign of this perfect moon - we are waiting in anticipation with our cameras on standby. I'm sure this time last night the moon was already shining over the harbour. We wonder if it is hidden by clouds we can't see in the night sky - not the case because we can see the stars.
"Look!" the French lady shouts, pointing in the direction of Paros. As we turn, we see the moon beginning to peak out over the top of a low mountain across the sea. Everyone makes a grab for their cameras. A crowd has already begun to gather along the harbour wall to witness this magnificent spectacle.
I had left my travel tripod in Egypt so in the absence of a tripod we take turns in balancing our cameras on top of upturned ice buckets. Photos are still a little blurry (Note to myself - buy another lightweight tripod before our next trip) - I don't want to mess up another photo opportunity like this again!
This is a great end to our stay on Antiparos. We give our thanks to Giorgios and Maria and say goodbye to Mr and Mrs Eugenidis and the French lady. We walk past the marina, the moon illuminating the small boats moored up to the harbour wall. I think of the meaning of T'ageri and the line written inside the menu:
‘’Take us far away, take us away to distant places, blow open sea, blow sea breeze…!’’