On holiday on the island of Amorgos we went early one day to the Chora and when the bus arrived in the port it immediately turned round and struggled back up the hill to the top.
The Chora cannot be seen from the sea or from the harbour and this is where, in the past, Amorgans lived, safe from the sea and from hostile attack. From the outside it doesn’t look especially promising but once inside the walls of the town it is a different matter altogether. The town turns in on itself in an introspective sort of way and inside there were narrow shady streets and lots of traditional cafés and tavernas. It was a lazy place where time goes by only very slowly and no one is in a particular hurry about anything. If this was Naxos or Ios the Chora would have been teeming with shops and fast food places but this was a local town for local people and completely unspoilt by the retinue of tourist shops that can be found on more popular islands.
We explored the streets and climbed to the very top to the redundant windmills that overlook the town and the Venetian castle that is built on top of a rocky outcrop that soars above it and its mass of dazzling white buildings. There was a good view over most of the island and it was revealed as dusty, barren and devoid of vegetation with a desolate landscape that had been beaten relentlessly into total submission by the scorching summer sun.
Descending through the mazy streets and alleys there was time for a beer with tasty canapés and after that we ambled through the corkscrew streets returning several times to exactly the same place passing by several churches, the castle, blue doors, blue sky, shady vines and friendly cafés and I knew that this was my kind of town. In and around the tavernas there were lazy cats, which in between trying to look cute for diners with leftovers were concentrating on looking for a shady spot and simply snoozing the day away.
Through the Chora we passed by a charming collection of houses, some old, some new and most with dazzling blue doors. Some of the older houses had precarious balconies that I wouldn’t trust and it seemed to be sensible to pass by quickly lest they fall at that very moment. The crooked alleys took us around in circles past kittens playing in a garden and stone walls that looked as though they had been carelessly assembled but had a most pleasing appearance and everywhere vivid red geraniums growing in ad hoc containers of various sizes and descriptions in stoic defiance of the heat and the neglect.
There was a welcoming bar in a little square with rattan cane tables and chairs under leafy trees with books and backgammon available for customers to sit and enjoy and idle some of the day away. As we were getting accustomed to this pace of life we drank beer and ordered baklava and stayed a while until it was time to go back. Amorgos is a dreamy timeless sort of place in a sort of 1960s time warp and all around there were lots of aging beardy hippies with ponytails, wearing white linen and flip-flops and carrying sketchpads. All that was missing was the joss sticks and the candles, the flowers and the guitars.
Before we took the bus back to the village we found a dusty mini-market because we wanted to buy some wine. It was surprisingly expensive and the information on the labels hard to interpret but at the back of the shop a French couple were passing judgement on a home-made red poured from a plastic bottle. They declared it to be acceptable so we agreed that if it was good enough for them then it would be perfect for us so we purchased a bottle and took it back to the room and sat on the balcony for a couple of hours and like the island cats wasted the rest of the day away.