Category Archives: Cyclades

Thursday Doors, Syros in the Greek Islands

Syros 08

As we walked we passed one hundred year old villas and mansions in various states of disrepair that are too expensive to renovate because restrictive planning laws insist on exact restoration due to their historical and cultural importance.  Instead it is cheaper to build new properties so these neglected fine buildings steadily decay and collapse.  One day they will be gone and that will be a real shame.

As the day continued to get hotter, shutters were thrown back like butterfly wings basking in the sunshine, washing hung steaming from open windows and every doorstep had a sleeping cat for decoration.

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Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favourite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments’ on Norm’s site, anytime between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American Eastern Time).

 

Thursday Doors, Amorgos in the Greek Islands

Amorgos 09

After walking around the village we set off back to Aegiali and came across a group of walkers who enthusiastically showed us a short cut but it was down a tricky path and they had stout walking shoes with leather non-slip soles and knotted laces and we had inadequate synthetic sandals with dodgy Velcro so we ignored the advice and stuck to the road instead.

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Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favourite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments’ on Norm’s site, anytime between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American Eastern Time).

Thursday Doors, The Greek Islands (2008)

Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favourite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments’ on Norm’s site, anytime between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American Eastern Time).

Thursday Doors – Blue Doors of Greece

Man Painting Blue Door Mykonos Greece

My favourite doors are in the Cyclades where, next to the white that we all associate with the islands, the prevailing colour is blue and this colour combination has become a trademark of the islands.

It turns out that this isn’t just because it is a favourite of the people who live there or that the local hardware store simply overstocked and sold it off cheap in a clearance sale, the widespread use emanates from an ancient belief that the sky-blue shade of turquoise has the power to keep evil away.  It is believed that the radiation of the colour composes a sort of invisible shield, which prevents the approach of bad spirits.

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Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favourite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments’ on Norm’s site, anytime between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American Eastern Time).

Entrance Tickets – The Askelepieion at Kos

Asklepieion Kos 1

Next to pointless cruising and boring city tour buses the third holiday form of holiday transport that I dislike most of all are those annoying tourist trains which are now an irritating feature of almost everywhere you go.

I have vowed never to go on one so was horrified to discover that the bus to the site was not a regular vehicle at all but one of these gaudily painted eye-sores which look so out of place (except perhaps at Disneyland).  Unfortunately it was the only sensible way to get to the Askelepieion because walking was out of the question and I wasn’t even going to consider paying for a taxi so I had to climb down off my snooty pedestal, abandon my lofty principles and jump aboard the train.

Asklepieion Kos 2

It took about twenty minutes to reach the site and we paid the modest entry fee and went inside to see the ruins of the once grand hospital where modern methods of medicine were developed and where treatment was a three stage process of incubation and diagnosis, treatment and recovery and then convalescence.

Rather like the Ancient Agoras in the town there wasn’t a great deal standing and what there was certainly not original because once again it had been dismantled and recycled and try as hard as I could to imagine what it may have looked like it was hopeless because all I could see were toppled columns, ruined temples and fractured and splintered stones.

I used to lament such destruction but here I realised that if I wanted to see it I could always go again to the Knights Castle because they used the very stones that are now missing at this place to construct the fortress.  My view now is that this really doesn’t matter, it is like a child playing with building bricks, it builds, dismantles and builds again using the same bricks but in a different architectural style.

As is often the case the important thing about being there was being there and not what we were going to see.

Kos Askelepieon 03

Temporarily this form of recycling is mostly at an end now thanks to UNESCO and a greater shared global appreciation of World Heritage and for the time being never again will a historically or culturally valuable site suffer the indignity of being wilfully dismantled to build something new and eventually therefore the World will be cluttered up with wholly new construction.

I had visited the Askelepieion several years before in 1984 and little seemed to have changed in thirty years except for fashion (no improvement) and waistline (several more inches).

Then and now…

Kos 1984Kos Askelepieion 02

To make the site make more sense for visitors the Italians, when they excavated the site, thoughtfully restored some of the steps and the columns in the same way that they had rebuilt the Acropolis at Lindos and the Street of the Knights in Rhodes.

I used to think this was rather a shame as well but I am now persuaded by Henry Miller who wrote of the the reconstruction and interpretation of the Minoan Palace at Knossos on Crete: “There has been much controversy about the aesthetics of Sir Arthur Evans’s work of restoration.  I find myself unable to come to any conclusion about it; I accepted it as a fact.  However Knossos may have looked in the past, however it may look in the future, this one which Evans has created is the only one I shall ever know.  I am grateful to him for what he did…” 

Substitute Italians for Arthur Evans and he could easily have been talking about the Askelepieion on Kos.

An hour was quite long enough to examine the site in a superficial tourist sort of way (after all we are not archaeologists) and after we had walked around all three levels and through the ruined temples and buildings we returned to the car park and waited to be taken back to Kos on the pretend train.

Kos Askelepieon Train

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Travels in Spain, The Colours of Villajoyosa

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The Costa Blanca is a stretch of coastline in the south east of Spain which is famous for attracting millions of visitors every year from Northern Europe.

The Spanish don’t mind that most of these visitors go to resorts like Benidorm or Torrevieja because there are others that they seem to keep exclusively for themselves.

One of these is Villajoyosa in between Benidorm and Alicante and after we had left the holiday hot-spot of Benidorm, all glass and steel and gleaming in the sunshine like a giant pin-cushion, we quickly passed from turismo to tradicional and called in on its nearby neighbour, just twelve miles or so away to the south from the Bling of Benidorm for a quiet afternoon stroll.

Villajoyosa is a wonderful place, an ex-fishing town, now a Spanish holiday resort of coloured houses with twisted rusting balconies, rattan blinds and decorated with washing lines and pot plants looking longingly out to sea and which reminded me of Burano in Venice, Cinque Terre on the Italian Riviera and of Milos in the Greek Islands.

Gaily coloured houses that rub shoulders with each other and jostle for colour bragging rights that can be seen from way out at sea and which carefully guide fishermen home after a night working at sea, or so the story goes.

After finding a parking spot we walked along the side of Rio Amadorio, the water barely a trickle today, robbed on its way down from the mountains for irrigation, then through the narrow streets of pastel coloured houses decorated with pots of shrubs and Mediterranean flowers and on to the sweeping beach arching like a Saracen’s sword and a long walk along a fine promenade flanked on one side by the houses and the other by the crisp sandy shore.

It was a delightful place, close to Benidorm but a million miles away.  The combination of quaint old buildings with multi-coloured facades crowded into a labyrinth of narrow streets, a lively fish market selling off the daily catch and its pretty location on the mouth of a river by a sweeping caramel beach were all enough to further convince me that the east coast of Spain has a lot more to offer than I had ever previously realised.

The name Villajoyosa means city of joy and I can understand why – it is impossible not to feel happy here!

I realised that this was the Spain I am always hoping to find but don’t dare count on. Old men sat in the street playing drinking wine, women hanging out their washing on their balconies and keeping an eye on the menfolk below, children and dogs played in the squares and cats wandered aimlessly around.  I have been searching for real Spain in Castile and Andalucia and Extremadura and I found a slice of it here in Valencia which was most unexpected.

A bright yellow house leaned against a blue house with a bright green neighbour, across the street was a a red house and made the colour palette complete. A stroll through Villajoyosa old town in the sunshine certainly requires sunglasses.

Anyone care to take a guess what this is all about…

Or this…

And just how do they manage to paint these houses?

Greek Islands, Doors of Santorini

Santorini Blue DoorSantorini Red DoorSantorini Blue Door 2

Greek Islands, Doors of Naxos

Naxos Door 02Naxos Door 03Naxos Blue Door

Greek Islands – Tinos, St Pelagia and Pilgrimage

tinos-pilgrim-statue

“Tinos, where the little hanging offerings of crutches, bandages and paintings, testify to the miracle having taken place, and remind one once again that here, as in the ruined and forsaken shrines to Aesculapius, healing and divination are one.” – Lawrence Durrell – ‘Reflections on a Marine Venus’

The ferry from Syros took us to the intriguing island of nearby Tinos which is a secretive place that doesn’t feature very often on holiday itineraries.  As we approached the port we could see that not being a holiday island it wasn’t going to any special effort to become one and the harbour front was rather functional and utilitarian and without the ribbon of colourful bars and tavernas to which we had become accustomed.

Actually, although it didn’t seem a tourist hot spot to us as we approached the harbour, it turns out that Tinos, a large island just northwest of Mykonos, is in fact the most visited of all Greek Islands.  Not by overseas visitors however because 90% are Greek and since Greeks come looking for an authentic experience even the most tourist friendly places retain a feeling of originality and visiting the island is a more genuine and unique experience than say Mykonos or Santorini.

Greek Doors 2016 (3)

One of the reasons so many Greeks visit Tinos is that it is an intensely religious island famous most of all for the Church of Panagia Evangelistria which holds a reputedly miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary and is the venue for an annual pilgrimage that is perhaps the most notable religious pilgrimage in all of the eastern Mediterranean.

Many pilgrims make their way half a mile or so from the ferry wharf to the church on their hands and knees as an extreme sign of devotion.  It was extremely hot and it was hard enough work just walking up the long hill to the church so I imagine that you would have to be seriously determined to do it on all fours, although to be fair there is a ragged strip of dusty red carpet at the edge of the pavement to stop pilgrims ripping their hands and knees to shreds or getting stuck in the melting tarmac.

On the way to the church there were old fashioned stores selling various sizes of candles to take to the church and instead of postcards there were racks of cards each with a picture of a part of the body.

The shopkeepers could speak little English so couldn’t explain what these were but we eventually worked it out for ourselves.  If you have a bad limp then you buy a leg picture, a poorly arm an elbow picture, a hangover a brain picture.

It occurred to me that if you are going to crawl to the church you will probably need a knee picture and so on and then you take this to the Church and ask for a cure and secure it to an icon and when you leave just to be certain so that God doesn’t just simply forget about it shortly after you have gone light a candle to remind him.  The bigger the candle the better and some of these monsters, without exaggeration, were easily four feet tall and a real fire hazard I can tell you!

pelagia-of-tinos

We reached the brilliant white Renaissance style Church, gleaming like a fresh fall of snow and went inside to see the miraculous icon which according to tradition was conveniently found after the Virgin appeared to the nun, St. Pelagia, and revealed to her the place where the icon was buried.

By suspicious coincidence the icon was found on the very first days after the creation of the modern Greek State and henceforth Our Lady of Tinos was declared the patron saint of the Greek nation.  Inside the church it was hard to find because in contrast to the bright sunshine outside it was dark and oppressive with the sickly aroma of incense exaggerated by the heat of the burning candles.  Eventually we found it, almost completely encased in silver, gold, and jewels, and with a line of people waiting their turn to admire it and place a gentle kiss upon its base.

All of this icon kissing means quite a lot of unwanted spit and saliva of course so to deal with this cleaning ladies armed with spray cleaners and dusters circulated constantly to deal with the slobber and the germs on a continuous and never ending polishing circuit of the church.

After we had seen the church and wandered around the gardens for a while we walked back down the long hill and back to the harbour where we walked rather aimlessly until we came across the best of the bars that we could find and stopped for a drink while we waited for the ferry to Mykonos.

Greek Islands, Old Doors of Syros

Syros Mansion WindowsSyros delapedated windowsSyros Greece Old DoorSyros Greece Old Door