Islands of Industry part 2: Milos

 

You will have definitely seen Milos, it perhaps exists in people’s imaginations long before they visit it. Its images infiltrated your vision when you think about that Cycladic Greek paradise with azure blue seas and white sand, the contrasting colours of fisherman’s houses right at the sea and boats bobbing in the harbour. Milos has all of this and a whole lot more, which is why it’s having a bit of a moment. This is a good thing for the Miliots haven’t been reliant on tourism – so it’s a supplementary activity. It has been a steady industrial island, with a history of mining and mineral extraction plants since the turn of the Century. In fact the mines here contribute about 5% of Greece’s national GDP.

Milos

 

I had ‘ummed and ahh’ed about Milos – for the reason that it’s getting lots of coverage in tourism press, so is building a following, not yet on the Santorini / Mykonos scale, but on its way as tourists add in Milos to an island hopping route. It has a ton of high speed connections too. That’s why we went in June before it got too busy. I was finding it tricky to secure somewhere relatively good value quite last minute. There is a lot of ‘boutique’ places which 10 years ago I suspect had meaning, now is a tired trend in hotels that often means double the price for some white painted furniture (sorry!).

As we’d just stayed in Kimolos, being blissful and low key, the inter-island hop to stay on Pollonia for 4 nights on Milos was super simple. The Panagia Fanomerini boat actually runs all year round and the mine workers use it to commute to work between the two islands. Although the timetable had just that day changed, hence a ‘will it / won’t it’ panic about whether there would be a 12 midday service or wait until 5pm. The café waitress offered to help us and a few conversations later soon established it was on at midday as promised. Like everything in Greece, having ‘travel-faith’ always helps (taxi’s turn up on time, boats run, people offer lifts).

Arriving in Pollonia was certainly a contrast to sleepy Psathi. Pollonia is a little harbour and swathe of sandy beach fringed by tamarisk trees, it has about a dozen café’s and restaurants on the front, from souvlaki houses to higher-end cocktail bars. Kind of traditional but feels well established for tourism as most of the buildings have sprung up in the past 10 years or so. But the traffic was a little crazy, lots of ATV, quads and mopeds buzzing around! When we rocked up at the travel office to check in to the apartments, the sales girl spent too long trying to tell me how I definitely needed a vehicle to see the island properly. Pah, we have legs! It’s not that I don’t trust us as drivers, its more I don’t trust other drivers – especially younger kids who maybe don’t drive mopeds normally.

We stayed in the Eleni, which was clean and quiet and just a short walk from the seafront at Pollonia. And more importantly close to breakfast at Kivotos ton Gefseos (the ark of taste!) which did amazing homemade honey, cakes and ice creams. We even ate breakfast there one day; eggs and bacon in the gorgeous paradise garden.

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So Pollonia is right next to this huge benzonite mine, which I think most people don’t even realise as they sip cocktails on the seafront and work on their tan. The island has been well mapped into 6 routes with descriptions here. As it was too windy to head to the beach, G decided on route 4 as it sounded like one of the most interesting and different hikes you can take. It covers a vast area still in use mines along the cost and interior sites.

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It starts in Polllonia, heading out the back of the village on a well –marked road. For the majority you are on unfinished roads with mining traffic. We did this on a Sunday and given everything else is closed in Greece, it was astonishing that trucks worked tirelessly up and down this road. The mine and processing plants form a vast area belonging to S&B Industrial Minerals whose main product in bentonite, used in clay and concrete manufacturing. The truck drivers have painted personalised trucks (like ‘the yellow dragon’) and given the strangeness of people wandering around a dangerous site, they were friendly too.  Waving at us, not to scare us away which is what I feared!

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This isn’t an ideal hike for everyone, the only other walkers we saw were a French couple, the lady was not having a good time and hated walking on the roads with the trucks. They stopped twice and asked us a few questions, eventually abandoning the hike before reaching its real highlight.

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The view from the massive mine makes it all worth it. They have even made a viewing point shelter where you can sit and enjoy the view. And it is quite an amazing view which really reminds you of the sheer scale of mines like this.

Milos

After this stop the trail returns to the rural farming fields and olive groves that one gets used to in the Cyclades. It heads out to the coast in a loop so we extended the walk through to the beaches at Pachena, where we ate a picnic lunch on the lunar landscape and tried to swim in the huge waves crashing on the shore. We contined the walk to Kambos and the caves at Papafragos- where we saw a few people idly ignore the crumbling rocks and warning signs to take slightly eye-watering photos leaning over ledges! Heading back into Pollonia, we passed an abandoned looking garden Nursery owned by the mining company – where apparently they grow plants to help stabilise the rock shelves and re-green the land.

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Milos is a unique place, its geology and coastline are unique. That’s why going out on a boat trip seems to be one of the definitive experiences on the islands .But when I found a day trip offered on kayak this seemed like a much better experience than being trapped on a crowded boat for 6 hours!  Rod who runs Kayaking Milos, a geologist and Australian ex-pat knows the islands coastline like an expert having lived on Milos for over 20 years. The day trips are 9.30-4pm, with snacks and lunch, tons of help and guidance for new and novice kayakers. He plans routes based on the winds and currents each day, so our small group went out at Aghia Kiriaki on the south coast and kayaked about 13k on the water – which sounds like a lot but it is entertaining and informative, so you don’t notice the exercise! (well not much, but my arms were tired the next day!) The route took us past Tsigrado beach, which can only be reached by climbing down the rcks on a rope ladder. Yikes, I was much happier seeing it from the safetly of our double kayak. We explored the coast, team work all the way, paddling through caves and sulphur springs. Stopping for swim breaks along the way, firstly at Firaplaka and then lunch at Gerakas beach. All breathtraking views and a really interesting way to see the island up close.

Milos

Milos

Although it is a relatively small island it has a lot to do. Not just admiring the interesting industrial landscape and geology – of which there is plenty. But there are also stunning beaches and traditional tavernas. Like the one very close to our apartment in Polloonia, called Liofyto – a fab open air terrace set in a lovely garden. We fed our holiday bellies with a local speciality of lasagne with veal, tiganes pork bites and green salad with mustard dressing. The place was full of Greeks and locals celebrating a babies christening late into the evening.

Other nights we found some great seafood at Enalion on the sea-front– a sun-dried octopus with tangy fresh lemon and chickpea salad. I’d also recommend the souvlaki place on the main road, so cheap and so tasty. Luckily we balanced exercise and eating on this trip!

Even if you have a week on Milos there is probably a lot to see and do, contrary to belief you need a car or moped, or ATV, the islands bus service is frequent so you can get by without.

Here is my top 5 things to see and do:

1.Go hiking
Choose one of the 6 mapped routes to experience the island on foot. With 75 beaches to explore by foot, boat or vehicle, it is still possible to find your paradise. Despite the popular ones being Sarkoniko with its white lunar landscape and the caves at Kleftiko, there are dozens more to see off the tourist trail.

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2. Walk down to see the restored fisherman’s houses at Klima
Most are painted in colourful hues and used as holiday homes. This would have been the islands original port for the ancient city of Melos.

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3. Visit the Catacombs just outside Trypiti
Here outside the smaller settlement of Trypiti is a wonderfully preserved catacombs – the best in all of Greece apparently. Only 4 euros entry and you get a guided walk through, where the roots of plants hang spookily from the ceilings of the two open chambers. It’s well maintained and shows an interesting explanation of the islands shift to organised religion as orthodox buriels were established. There is a ton of interesting graffiti there too from as early as the 1920s

Milos

Milos

4. Explore the site of the ancient city of Melos and see the amphitheatre
The area is well signposted and explained. On the way you’ll see the marked spot where the famed statue of the Venus di Milo was found in the 1820s. Now in the Louvre in Paris, she is an interesting claim to fame from the islands past glory in the ancient world.

Milos

Milos

5. Wander around the streets of Plaka
Although I didn’t find it the most atmospheric of Chora settlements you can see in the islands, it is undeniably pretty, well maintained and has lots of interesting shops, bars and café’s.

Milos

 

It’s not often I have regrets about Greek Islands, but I do with Milos. I wish we had had just maybe one more day there so we could have visited the Milos Mining Museum in the capital Adamas as I understand it wonderfully weaves together the islands history and industry. Next time, there definitely has to be a next time!

Islands and lands of industry Part 1

I am writing this on the Blue Star Patmos as it weaves its way in the blinding July heat to Syros. It’s not as if the days in the UK weren’t the same temperature but I am adamant it’s a different type of heat. The fields across the SE and parks in London have yellowed, looking more like the end of summer rather than midsummer which is normally lush, green and bursting into flower. On the journey from the Airport down to Piraeus the suburban train it passes through some of Athens most industrial areas– I find them mesmerizing. Not just the trains warehoused and rusting near Lefkas Station, but the miles and miles of factories and even the crossings are still man powered rather than automated.

The train extension down to the port of Piraeus only opened in March so the track and stations are brand new. I can’t deny it’s a great service connecting the airport and port in under an hour – much less fuss than the Metro, which involves changing trains and less risk of traffic than the X96 bus.

As it rolls into the outskirts of the city, the brand new trains whoosh past the old rusting trains in the warehouses with falling in roofs and open battened down doors and windows. Hammered plywood and road signs for makeshift barriers. The train windows smashed, metal bent graffiti tagged and name of the brave scrawled over doors – I have no idea about this yards history or why they look so forlornly abandoned. The trees have grown in between the carriages and through the gaps in the rusting tracks, even sidings have been overtaken by creeping weeds. Nature is reclaiming it slowly season after season. The yellowed grasses and palm trees raggedly losing old brown branches and drying out in the sun. Trains seats gather dust in their graffitied tombs. As the train speeds by I see the breeze flapping patterned sheets on balconies that sit side by side in buildings that don’t match, thrown up in a rush next to older more palatial houses, now in a state of decay. The alleys are strewn with bike parts and toys, this is another Greece. Perhaps like a country within a country. This isn’t the world people come to see – it’s a gap between the past and the future. Its uncharted territory – a filament of light trapped in time, a glint, a door to what was and will never be again. A small act of reminding, like a tug on a thread to unravel.

The hand drawn railway barriers, loaded with weighted bricks are wound down and up to stop traffic. Otherwise it’s a free for all pedestrians, cars and bikes crossing over the tracks. The man stands next to hut or a brick house and whoever is on duty operates this all day and night – I imagine people don’t notice this much. This is probably the same in every big city, the areas left to their own fate once the businesses close up, sites for sale or rent.

The light in Greece is phenomenal – as soon as the boat races out of Piraeus and out of the bay of Salamina. The haze gives the coast line an ethereal glow. Cranes and processing plants look like oblique structures of beauty. The tankers and tug boats lined out at seas even look full of adventure, like a fleet ready to take battle. Why doesn’t the coast in Kent look like this? It is the Aegean light, basking an incandescent veil over industrial ugliness.

I wanted to tell you about Kimolos and there I was distracted with one thought colliding with the next. Easily done.

So Milos and Kimolos sit next to each other like two very different colleagues in the Cyclades. Some islands are sisters I think, but these two have their differences. Both in outlook and beauty. The Artemis on her faithful inter-cyclades loop was our steed to Kimolos first. Its beauty as an island isn’t right there on display, it needs discovering – it isn’t showy as you arrive, it’s a typical Greek island with a port, a strip of beach and flat low rise buildings painted white. We got whisked up to where we were staying by a friendly local who gave us the keys and a warm welcome to the island. The village is known as the Chorio – it’s the only real town settlement on Kimolos and turned out to be the best option to base ourselves for 4 days. The village has a sleepy ordinary feel, like everyone is going about their business –especially wandering through it at 1pm when small groups of elders sat chatting in the café that lined the square and children played in the shade. What I found lovely was the sense that despite it being June the island was just waking up and getting ready to open for summer tourism. There were 3 of 4 café/bars were painting and laying chairs out in the nights we were there. Many of the houses in the village are inhabited rather than tarted up for tourism and rentals or second homes. But that’s nice, why rush if most people only visit in August anyway. Which is a good thing to keep things smaller and more off the beaten track. The ‘tourist’ roads have only recently been built – given that the island still has active quarries and perlite mines, industry has always been the driver for infrastructure.

20180622_20143920180620_17214420180620_17183620180622_105735It is sparsely populated – less than 600 islanders live their year round. There are a few small apartments and rooms to rent and so tourism is increasing. But no major hotels, or complexes. Plenty of people also day-trip there from Milos, via the small ferry that connects the two islands at Pollonia. Now an island bus connects the beaches with the Chorio and does a loop a few times a day. We eschewed the formal travel options and got our hiking boots on to explore.

20180620_142732On the first afternoon we found what ended up being our favourite swimming spots at Kara and Groupa. Both these places are less beaches and more pretty places for swimming from the rocks. At Kara there are beautiful boat huts carved into the rocks by fisherman. Framed by a natural pool for swimming It was late afternoon when we swam here on the first day and after a family packed up their picnic we were the only ones there. Nothing but little fish to keep you company in the deep blue reflected in the white sand and stone, and the fisherman sitting to repair their nets.

20180621_14060120180621_11432220180622_094210Walking to Skiadi Rock the next day was a great hike, it takes you out the back of the village, passing farms and out into the wild landscape. It was a beautiful trail, well-marked and also passes the remains of the Kastro settlement high on the hill and through old paved mule trails. We didn’t see another walker at all which was surprising given that the route is so well signposted and fairly manageable for all abilities. There is more detailed route maps to be found here: https://www.kimolos.gr/en/tourism-at-kimolos/walking-routes/detailed-outlines-of-hiking-routes-in-kimolos-island

The rock at Skiadi has been formed through two types of rocks. The softer rock is been eroded by the wind and the harder rock is more resilient and remains as canopy over the top – hence its mushroom shape. We picnicked here on traditional pastries and then climbed down to the deserted beach at Mavrospillia for a swim. Then on to Ellinkia where the remains of a submerged ancient city lie near the shore. Our untrained eyes didn’t see much. But it’s never the less a pretty and remote beach with only a few sunbathers and swimmers.

The beaches on Kimolos are all quiet different, some shingle, some stone and some white sand. A few have nice traditional tavernas on like Kalamatsi and Aliki beaches, which we also walked through as part of the Skiadi hike. It ended up being a full days hiking, 14k but with plenty of stop offs and swims. An evening spent feasting on goat stew and local cheese in the To Kala Kardia (the good heart) was a perfect way to refuel and recuperate.

Kimolos has a strong mining industry, like Milos and to this day still has active mines, including the perlite mine at Prassa. We walked there from Choria along the coastal road, passing the small harbour and bay at Agia Minas which we couldn’t find much about but looks like a man made boat landing cut into the rocks. It has much older stone buildings and the remains of stepped rocks, which look like there have been quarried and build up in walls and terraces to prevent the land from slipping. (if anyone can tell me what went on here, I’d love to know)

Before we reached Prassa we took a nosy around the Therma Loutra (thermal baths) – which were just two concrete covers over natural thermal springs that go into sea. One had very hot water and the other cold. Apparently you take buckets from each and make a bath in the thermal spring water in the bathhouse, which looked closed up from what we could see. Interesting to see anyway!

At is at the stage in the road after Loutra that the industry and working life of Kimolos meets tourism head on. Cars and ATV’s jostle for space on the unfinished road, while trucks from the perlite mine trundle up and down all day. Perlite is a natural mineral rock that is heated at high temps to increase absorbency and is a key ingredient in growing media like compost. The beach at Prassa is made of Perlite – small white shingle / sand which makes the sea take on a magic turquoise colour. It was much busier here with day trippers from Milos and boats parked in the bay.

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It is easy to see why people visit this beach – it stands out for its clean water and perfect blue colours, it has loungers and a beach bar so suits everyone. It is just really intriguing to be so close to an active mine and be lounging about while this all goes on. Given that Milos and Kimolos have hardly any unemployment at all compared with the mainland and mining contributes around 40% of the economy here, and 50% coming from tourism (mainly in Milos). Mining and tourism are strange but vital bedfellows.

Next stop… Part 2: Mining in Milos

The small cyclades – Donoussa

The small cyclades (Μικρές Κυκλάδες) are a set of satellite islands out from Naxos that are some of the smallest inhabited islands of the Aegean. The islands of  Iraklia, Schinoussa, Koufounissi (or Ano Koufonissi) and Donoussa make up the motley crew. They might be less well- known to tourists, but are certainly not undiscovered. Their charms are simple; beaches, relaxation and peace.  But their popularity is growing every year.

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We started the near day-long journey on the Aqua Jewel from Syros at 7am, (the replacement for the Aqua Spirit) this route gave us a 3 hour break for a long lunch in Naxos before hopping on the Express Skopelitis. To say this boat is a bit of legend might be an understatement; it’s been ran by three generations of the same family for 30 years bringing thousands of tourists every season. The historic ferry runs a loop connecting these ‘barren islands’ every few days, a life-line to bring tourists, food supplies and is certainly a big event when the small cyclades ferry enters each port.

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Given how ferocious the meltemi wind has been in recent weeks we were lucky with the weather as it was relatively calm and sunny. Koufonissi was the first stop on the 4 hour long trip, this being the most ‘popular’  island and from what I could ascertain attracts the bigger crowds, with more restaurants and places to stay – it is also better connected with a couple of regular high speed ferries each week. Schinoussa felt even less busy, as much of the island is out of view from where the ferry docked at Mersini with the inhabited Chora 1km further  uphill. On the ‘tour’ route of the Skopeltis we might not have experienced the other islands but it was impossible to miss the deep aquamarine of the sea and the pale sand – making these islands appear at first glance more like the caribbean than the rocky barren Greek Islands they are. Iraklia also similar approach – blue seas and beaches – only a couple of buildings visible at the port but has the largest land mass of the group at 19 sq KM.

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The 13 sq KMs Donoussa seemed like a dry-land paradise by the time the boat docked. What started off as calm waters was shattered after we sailed into a choppy stretch of sea out of the sheltered waters of Naxos and out to the wild open stretch of sea with Amorgos island in the distance . The tiny port Chora of Stavros is the main settlement of the island with a permanent year round population of around 200. It has just one handful of taverna’s and one supermarket – it’s as big of a slice of civilization as you’ll ever need. It being the first week in September we had booked ahead, apparently in August it’s impossible to get a room to rent without advance planning. The garden facing studio at Firoa Rooms was a good call (well done G, you do like booking trips!). The island might not be famous for sunsets of high-end cuisine, but what it does have in droves is peace and charm. The To Kyma Taverna sits over the harbour as an eatery, kafenion and general store,  it’s a family affair with mama in the kitchen and daughter waiting tables, serving as the heart of the village as locals play backgammon and wistful cats wander between the tables. We went here for a quick drink to acclimatise ourselves, but went back several times to eat – great food, no menu’s just whatever the ladies in the kitchen have cooked up that afternoon. We gorged on artichokes, stuffed tomatoes and rooster in wine. Delicious and incredible value.  

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In the blissful 5 days we enjoyed great traditional local food at Illiovasilema and Meltemi  as well as visiting Captain Georgios for seafood – sampling delicious stuffed Calamari and deep fried shrimps. There was probably 2 more places we could have tried in Stavros, but there’s enough variety to keep your palate satisfied if you were here a week or even two.  Although tranquil and free from mass-tourism, the thing I appreciated were the lack of cars. It was heaven just wandering about and never being passed by more than one or two cars.

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Walking on the island was great – well signposted and decent trails that make up the network of Paths of Cultural Interest. Most of them used to be part of the old mule roads that covered the island and united its four villages, Stavros, Mersini, Messaria and Kalotaritissa. We managed to do the three main hiking trails – the first day we went up over to the beaches of Kalotaritissa which you can do a nice detour up to the highest point of the Island at the peak of Mount Pappas – yes, we managed to time that badly with a particularly hot day and I actually thought I would die at one point on the climb up! But the views were well worth the pain!

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The walk takes you  over some spectacular scenery to the tiny settlement of Kalotaritissa which has one taverna and 5 occupied houses. The beaches were clear and clean and we rested a while to enjoy a swim, before exploring further beaches and the cape. Then we walked back which the climb was steep again, but the sun was lower in the sky and behind us. We also had a chance to have a look at the old mines on the hillside, these were once a huge industry for the island swelling its population into the thousands but closing in the late 1930s . What remains of the mine Spooky and full of goat bones, forcing me to wonder if old goats take themselves off to die quietly in caves?

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The second full hiking day we did the route that connects Stavros to Mersini to then onto Massaria. This is a varied route taking inland hillsides across to the Spring at Massaria.

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Then on to the amazing beaches at Livadia, and the hidden bay of Fikio. The swimming was perfect, so clear and blue.

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We agreed that this might have been one of the best beaches we’d swam on for sheer out-there-photogenic-ness-in-real-life!

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We had some map issues where we couldn’t locate paths but eventually found our way back on the trail to see explore the old windmill and then down to Kedros beach. We swam in the wreck of the Orion, an old WW2 German boat which was sunk by allied forces – just the hull remains decaying in the bay but still a fascinating place to snorkel.

 

Donoussa isn’t quite the land that time forgot, it has enough facilities to keep the more peaceful travellers occupied. It thankfully doesn’t have any big hotels or music clubs and retains a small-island atmosphere is reminiscent of a by-gone time.  As tourists we only get to see a small part of an island and experience it in a moment in time, Donoussa has bags of charm and lIke many islands it has suffered from dwindling industry and opportunity, and now turns its hand to tourism to boost its island economy. Over time it has attracted new generations of islanders, returning to set up apartments and businesses. While we were there a village wedding took place on a Saturday, everyone came out to wish the couple well. It seemed like most of the locals attended or were involved in some way, a reminder of what a close-knit community the island still has and one that I hope remains.

 

What also makes the island unique is a tolerance to that hippie-vibe that tolerates naturism on (most) beaches, there is also a blind-eye turned to free-camping with a surprising amount of tents on the areas behind Kedros and Livadi beaches. This all seems friendly enough, but my only criticism to this is the outward appearance of the tents on the landscape. I know it sounds mean as free-camping trumps an organised beach-bar pumping out music and paid for sunloungers, but it would be better if it was confined to one area like Kedros beach, but we more than once we came across tiny coves with 2 tents taking up the whole beach space. Fair enough, like the first one on the beach rule you can set up wherever you want  – but if some people are there for weeks. This little aspect jarred with me – especially when we went on walks and found little piles of rubbish left over from camping and those intolerable wetwipes left in bushes (no they never biodegrade). Free-camping is great for tourism and the island and environment, if you are responsible and leave no trace.   

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On our last full day we walked out to Aspro Cavo – the cape of the island which stretches out with some amazing rock formations. It is a very barren lunar landscape, with rocky little pools of water forming salt crystals in the sun and driftwood dotting the landscape . That evening the wind was started to whip up a storm which turned our farewell to the island the next morning into a rather eventful mission.

 

To say the journey back to Syros was a little rough might be the understatement of the year. The Express ran 2 hours late as it made its way from Amorgos, once onboard we hunkered down below deck while it was battered by waves and Beaufort scale 7 winds for a long 3 hours back to Naxos. Main thing is we survived and weren’t sick (thank you miracle travel tablets and tuc crackers) – I cannot imagine how the hardy crew keep going in all weathers!.

 

Now, back on Syros and into the September slow-down of the season, I am keen to just realx and enjoy life on dry-land.

Serifos: a trip report

It is a funny thing that we have replaced weekends on long train journeys across the UK with long journeys on ferries for weekends away. It’s a nice shift and also wonderful to be able to have lots of different islands so close, but I do miss the reliability of a train service from A to B, taking a required amount of time. Ferries here can be frustrating, islands are close but yet SOOO FAR as they take quite a bit of figuring out when you can get there and crucially, get back. Syros isn’t on many of the same routes as the fast boats which connect the most popular islands like Santorini and as we wanted to do a couple of more trips before the end of summer (*wails*) we finally chose Serifos and then Donoussa for the following weekend.

I’ll admit my tardiness to writing these blog posts – life has a habit of getting in the way, even here when everything is stripped back to simplicity, work got a bit complicated and poured over into non-work time. I take full responsibility for letting this happen. Saying no and switching off is hard. But I’m happy to say my notebooks are stuffed with ideas and words, so not letting that go was a good priority.

On 27th August we had a late ferry booked for Serifos, taking the Artemis is always a gentle exercise in expectation management. It was 2 hours late in to Syros but we filled the time with a delicious pizza at Amvix opposite the ferry terminal. Arriving into Serifos post close to 11pm wasn’t so bad, the harbourside restaurants were full and lively, which given the serene aspects of the island this was a nice surprise. We stayed in the Medusa Apartments – really spacious and modern place near Livadaki beach with a wonderful view from our terrace.

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Serifos is quite haphazard and scrappy, I mean that in a genuinely affectionate way. The old town, Chora sits up on the hill and you can tell that development in Livadia, the port’s expansion into having more tourist facilities has been quite recent and unplanned – by this I don’t mean they are all shiny and new – they are just cobbled together nicely, in a way I find comforting and natural rather than imposing. On an evening this all comes alive with restaurants and tavernas  all along the front.

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There are few but not many older buildings, the town hall and high school in the middle. But the area is dominated by the newer low-rise accommodation blocks, like the one we stayed in have been built outwards on plots behind Livadakia beach. It’s compact and all walkable, and isn’t over developed at all. There is 3 or so decent supermarkets and a couple of bakeries – which I visited for croissants and pastries for breakfast.

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After breakfast on the terrace we decided to venture up to the Chora on the well marked path that connects Livadia. It was so windy, the Meltemi was at full gust and whipped around us as we walked up the 4.8k old cobbled path that starts at the back of Livadia. The climb was a bit gruelling, and we were warned by the man who ran our apartments who said most people got the bus up there and walked back down the path! Not one to follow convention we decided to walk there and back!

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It is a perfect example of a Chora settlement, perhaps not as picturesque as others I have visited – but did feel more historic and authentic. As you climb the path, you pass churches and monuments, as well as the old school house and  the folk museum (which was closed as it was a Monday) but they have a mini amphitheatre area out the back for performances and such. There are lots of varieties of architecture, ranging from very ornate venetian in style, like the beautiful Town Hall to many of the traditional single story whitewashed dwellings. The Kastro area at the top is well preserved 15th Century example of a medieval settlement – the views were incredible, right out to Sifnos and Kythnos. But the wind was howling through the streets and sounded very eerie even in the middle of the day.

The Chora does not appear to have any obvious places to stay, but looks like some of the houses have been renovated for tourists. It does have a few good restaurants and bars tucked away, where we sipped greek coffee and gorged ourselves on pancakes. Graeme enjoyed his first ever savoury crepe and I went sweet with the most nutella and banana ever stuffed into one pancake… all calories were needed for the journey downhill!

A few days on Serifos were restorative – after the day walking we rested on the beaches, swam in clear blue sea and sheltered from the ferocious wind. There is plenty to choose from across the compact island, all with soft pale sand and safe waters for swimming. 

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We sipped ‘happy hour’ gin and tonics at the people-watching heaven of the Yacht Club and enjoyed some great food in Livadia. One worth noting was Metallio (named after the mines which used to be the island’s main industry) – this place is tucked away from the harbour, in an older building with tables on a raised terrace. The menu is stripped back just a few dishes on offer for starter and mains, but well thought out local food with a more gastro feel. We managed to sneak in early without reservations (they are always full so we were lucky), enjoying a range of excellent meat dishes, liver and onions (yes, just like my grandma used to make), mini chicken souvlaki, veal steak,  local goat with aubergine mash and a really decent organic retsina. Highly recommended as something a step up from traditional taverna fare.

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Our last day saw the wind bring clouds over the island and some very rough seas for the return leg back to Syros – we spent the hour before getting on board the Artemis  necking travel sickness tablets and eating crackers!. Glad to say we survived this one – but it was nothing compared the the adventure the following week on the Express Skopelitis in beaufort scale 7 winds!

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It was a relief to back on dry land in Kini this week. It has been nice getting back to work and tidying up the garden, making plans and enjoying the time.  All the signs of change are coming into view; sun loungers are being piled up on the beach for next year and two of the seaside cafes have closed already. The busyness of summer is starting to be replaced with cooler temperatures and less people, not only have schools gone back in the UK but schools here went back yesterday too. I woke early this morning to see that dew had formed in the trees overnight, this level of damp humidity overnight meant that towels stayed wet on the line.

All these signs are pointing to Autumn and with that a change in the air…