A week of being a tourist

I’ve had a lovely week – that word lovely is so English isn’t it? Lovely, not just great, but something that sits straddling somewhere between ‘good’, ‘nice’ and ‘charming’. Anyway I don’t believe there is a Greek equivalent for lovely so we can just stick with ‘Poli oreas’ (very nice)! My parents visited Kini and it was great to show them around, especially to hear their take on observing the place we call home for the summer and the different things they noticed. They enjoyed eating in the local taverna’s and cafe’s, having a walk around the area and stopping for espresso freddo became a daily treat. I am now on cracker rations after eating so much delicious food and partaking in far too many rounds of ‘miso kilo aspro krasi, parakelo’ (that’s half a litre of local wine). But it was fun to visit Ermoupoli with them as well and not to be there on a vegetable shopping expedition as is usually the case when I pop into town.  Even through I had promised a direct bus there from Kini, it was okay once I had got over my mini-tantrum at the change of bus schedule from direct (15mins) to circular all-village loop which takes 50mins. After all it’s Greece and things change at the drop of a kolomboli bead, I hope they appreciated the scenic bus tour round the Island; like a freebie tour of all the villages thrown in! Once in Ermoupoli we had a quick wander round the shops for gifts, after all it is named after Hermes the God of Trade and Commerce. At my Dad’s impatient request a visit to Miaouli Square was called for, after watching it on the Webcam and waving at us more than a few times, my Dad was thrilled to have achieved his ‘dream’ of visiting the platiea in real life!

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It’s a great place to get a feel for how Syros was and grew as the centre of the shipping industry in the 19th Century with its impressive neoclassical buildings and town hall, which remains the administrative centre of the Cyclades Islands. We enjoyed a lovely lunch in the sunshine at Ελληνικό Καφενείο (Elliniko Kafenio) just on the square, an excellent chicken salad with figs and manouri cheese, some small bites of delicious olives and cheese. This was a perfect place for people watching on the square accompanied by another miso kilo of krasi. Afterwards we wandered past the Apollon Theatre to Vaporia, which is the area where many rich sea-captains and traders built neoclassical mansions in the 19th Century to demonstrate wealth and prowess; expanding the town as a vast trading centre and shipbuilding empire from its original Medieval and Frankish settlement of Ano Syros.

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Vaporia is a beautiful sight to behold and I loved showing my parents the place G and I sat when we arrived in back April, the place with the perfect view that made the journey, the suitcase incident and the stress of the months past just disappear. This view is framed by the blue domed roof of St Nicholas Church, the orange and pink hued buildings perched on the azure aegean sea.  In recent decades the area has been developing slowly since most of the mansions were left abandoned after shipping fortunes halted in the late 19th Century when Pireaus overtook as the major shipbuilding port. Recently some buildings have been restored into small hotels, some apartments are now inhabited, but others lay in waiting.

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But overall there is a sense that this is beauty yet to be discovered, not showy or flashy but just at its own pace, like the swimmers and sunbathers dotted on the bathing platforms relaxing in the late afternoon light, they were in no rush to be anywhere else. I understand that Vaporia is where locals swim at sunrise and sunset – I couldn’t imagine anything more wonderful to frame the day than diving in and seeing the grand architecture around them. My mum even said she’d love to spend a holiday in Ermoupoli wandering the streets and shops, a perfect city break. I think that’s why I love Syros, because it has the full contrast of wild barren trails in the north, pretty beaches and villages, as well as this enticing town full of cobbled streets to get lost in and cultural treasures to discover.

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While I was playing badly at being the tour guide this week, we also went to Ano Syros for the evening and enjoyed a little wander around the whitewashed , stopping for a drink in the Markos Vamvakaris square, next to the museum dedicated to the island’s most famous musician. Vamvakaris, simply known as ‘Markos’  was a Rembetiko musician made famous in the 1930s for incorporating the bouzouki instrument into this Greek underground music which speaks of lost love, rebellion and is called the ‘blues’ of Greece. He was born in Ano Syros and his most famous song ‘Frankosyriani’ in which he sings of a Catholic Girl from Syros. (Apparently most people on the island will know this song off by heart and sing along…I’ll let you know). After drinks that night, we headed to the only Taverna we could find open and ate a deliciously hearty meal of veal, pork and chicken dishes overlooking the town as the sunset and dusk turned into twinkling streetlights.

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This time last week we walked to Delfini beach in the drizzling rain and jumpers, luckily after the rain the weather started heating back up again in time to enjoy afternoons on the beach before they left!

As we took my parents to the port to say goodbye on Friday, we have been started feeling the heatwave that has hit Greece and I am pleased to say unlike most sun-worshipers I won’t be hitting the beach until late afternoon or evening. I sit here inside at 3pm in the cool luxury of air conditioning as the mercury soars outside to 31c in the shade. It’s so hot I only managed a walk this morning instead of a run (mainly to work of all the holiday-food and drink!) Even yoga on the ‘shaded’ terrace has become Bikram-like. So yesterday we had gardening and ‘crafternoon’ which was more like see-what-we-can-do-with-all-this-driftwood-we-keep-collecting. Rest assured, from yesterday’s results we won’t be opening an Etsy craft store anytime soon! But I am pleased to celebrate that today has seen the first ripe cucumber to be picked from the veg bed. Cooling cucumber salad is on our menu tonight and G has ‘invented’ chamomile iced-tea (it’s delicious!). With this I think we are ready to tackle the first summer heatwave!  

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