Tag Archives: Aegiali Amorgos

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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Greek Islands, Amorgos

Amorgos

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 leather walking shoes with knotted laces and we had inadequate sandals with synthetic soles so we ignored the advice and stuck to the road instead.

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Greek Islands, Amorgos and a Walk Through History

Amorgos Chora

The plan today was to visit the nearby village of Tholária.

There was a bus due at a quarter to eleven but having inherited my dad’s aversion to paying unnecessary bus fares and as it was only ten o’clock, I gently persuaded Kim to walk the couple of miles by road and footpath instead.

In the past this might have been a problem but Kim now has pedometer and has been transformed into a walking fundamentalist zealot and we set off at a cracking pace towards the village several hundred feet above us down at sea level.

The road zigzagged all the way up and we could see it looping away from us in front so I was glad when we came across a stony donkey track that was a more direct route and we left the road and tackled the steps instead disturbing the stones and scattering the basking lizards as we went.  It was uneven and difficult in sandals even for someone like me who is in peak physical condition!

At every turn I hoped the village would get closer but around every turn was another expanse of steps and another receding view of the whitewashed houses and every plodding step seemed like a hundred.  I decided that when we got home I would write to the local rambling association and tell them to disregard my application for membership.

Tholária Old Ways Amorgos

As we climbed we passed through what might be loosely described as fields with rows of derelict terraces and dry stonewalls that separated the hillside into equally measured individual plots of land.  Amorgos is mostly inhospitable rock that has been baked hard in the sun for thousands of years but as recently as only fifty years ago people here were scraping away at the thin soil and removing the stones to try and make a living or to feed the family by growing fruit and vegetables.

Each islander had a personal plot and would attend every day to manage and tend the land.  They had to carry all of the water to the side of these plots and the only way to achieve this was by using a donkey. Then in the 1960s visitors started to arrive and the enterprising islanders realised that there was more money to be made renting out the back room and this was also a lot easier than a difficult twelve-hour day toiling under a hot sun.

The terraces are all abandoned now to thistles and what other few hardy plants can survive in a hostile environment and they are unlikely ever to be cultivated again.  There is no one to look after them or protect the heritage, each year parts of the walls collapse and disappear and soon they will be gone altogether and that will be a sad day.

This man seemed happy enough however…

Tholária Amorgos

Although no one will ever see it again I like to imagine what this hillside might have looked like fifty years ago with farmers scratching away at the ground, donkeys occasionally braying and patiently waiting to return to the town and fishing boats slipping in and out of the harbour below on the silver water.

This arrangement was a feature of Greek islands, a port at sea level where the fishermen work and then a village high in the mountains, medieval refuge from pirates and invaders and where farmers worked the terraces.  A good deal and as we sat and drank a cold beer I imagined the hard life and primitive economic arrangements of the past where farmers with calloused hands stained red from the colour of the earth exchanged fresh vegetables for sea food with the fishermen from the port, bronzed and salt streaked from time spent at open sea.

It sounds simplistically noble and idyllic, something Voltaire or Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall would approve of but my goodness I bet it was a hard life.

Another delivery of potatoes…

Tholária Door Amorgos

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 leather walking shoes with knotted laces and we had inadequate sandals with synthetic soles so we ignored the advice and stuck to the road instead.

There were a lot of walkers here on Amorgos and I couldn’t help thinking that if I was going on a walking holiday then I might choose somewhere like the Black Forest in Germany or Snowdonia in Wales not (as much as I like them of course) a barren rock in the Cyclades where the relentless sun would surely force me into a very early submission and a dash to the bar.

Back at the port we stopped for a drink and then after half an hour or so Kim got carried away and suggested another climb to the village of Potamas not far from Aegiali but up a tough and demanding road and set of steps which I think, after we had reached the church at the top, she was seriously regretting the suggestion.

Greek Taverna

Descending through the mazy streets and alleys there was time for a drink in the main square where elderly locals were beginning to gather for an end of day chat.  I wondered where all the young people were and I think I immediately answered my own question – Athens probably.

Back at 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 an obviously home-made red poured directly from a plastic bottle.

They declared it to be entirely acceptable so we agreed that if it was good enough for them then it would be perfect for us so based on this Gallic recommendation we purchased a bottle for ourselves and took it back to the room and sat on the balcony for a couple of hours and waited patiently for the next inevitable sunset.

Sunset Playtime on Greek Island of Amorgos

Greek Islands, Mykonos to Amorgos

Amorgos Church & Windmill

“The flavour of the place is pleasant and alert, as you gaze over the rail (of the ferry) you may have a Byronic twinge of nostalgia and decide that one day you might return to settle among those mazy streets and silent dusty squares.”  Lawrence Durrell

Being a nervous traveller, normally when travelling by ferry that requires a crucial connection I like to allow a couple of hours or so leeway so that I can be certain of making the transfer.

The journey to Amorgos required a change at Naxos with only forty minutes on the timetable.

I began to get nervous when the first ferry was over fifteen minutes late and when it docked I tried to use thought transference to will people to board quickly and then to get the captain to slip the moorings and leave and it must have worked because everything went smoothly and soon the Seajet was easing away from Mykonos and was soon at full throttle and heading efficiently south towards neighbouring Naxos.

Dash For The Ferry

Once disembarked Kim did her ‘Frenchman in a queue impression’ and pushed her way to the front  of the line for the connecting ferry to Amorgos.   It wasn’t very elegant but at least we were sure to get on board and that was important because if we had missed this connection then we would be stuck in Naxos for the night.

It wasn’t an especially memorable crossing, I always prefer the older traditional ferries but this was a high speed, expensive but efficient and it roared its way across the water to deliver us to the main port of Katapala.  This was a shame because we were staying at the opposite end of the island about fifteen miles away and there was no one to meet us as promised.

There wasn’t a scheduled bus for three hours so we found a taverna for a beer and a salad, phoned the hotel owner and he agreed to drive down and collect us.  Thirty minutes later he arrived and after another half an hour or so we were sitting on the balcony of our hotel room.

Amorgos cat

This was a place to chillax, tranquil and slow, perfect for recovering from a nervous breakdown or contemplating the meaning of life and other serious matters; why are British police vehicles called Panda Cars, how did the Trojans fall for that Wooden Horse Trick and just how did Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton become U.S. Presidential candidates?  Here, I thought, I might find the answer to something that has always troubled me – how can I be sure that the little light in the fridge has gone off when I shut the door?

Amorgos provided a huge contrast with Mykonos.  No sun-beds cluttering up the beach, just towels spread out and held down in the corners by stones, no pesky buzzing scooters, just pedestrians and no tattooed people but instead lots of ageing bearded hippies with pony-tails, wearing white linen and leather sandals, carrying sketch-pads and all that was missing was the joss sticks and the candles, the flowers and the guitars.

The prices too were much more to my liking and more suited to our budget and in the space of about three hours the cost of living had literally halved.

Amorgos Green Window

The beach was close to the port but there was no activity of any kind because there were no boats due today.  The whole place had settled down to late afternoon lethargy.  It is nice to see boats because it means there is still some connection with the rest of the world, or did I get that wrong and it is the other way round?

Not being dedicated beach people we stayed just long enough to dry off and then returned through the village and back to the hotel where we let the rest of the afternoon just slip through our fingers.

After four days it was time for a shave and I mention this not because anyone would be remotely interest in my ablutions but because I have noticed a curious thing about bathroom wash basins in Greek hotels.

In almost every bathroom there is a notice on the wall explaining how precious the water is and encouraging guests not to waste it – so curious then that there is hardly ever a basin plug and if there is then it more than likely will not fit and the water just pours away into the u-bend and beyond.  Surely if they are serious about being careful with water then it would be sensible to provide a simple piece of rubber on a chain to make sure that to wash your face you don’t have to keep the tap running continuously!

Folegandros Chora

Later we dined in a restaurant in the harbour where a full moon was decorating the inky sea with silver glitter that shifted constantly and broke and reassembled  a kaleidoscope image on the surface of the water that undulated with a gentle ebb and flow and that reassuring sound of tiny waves lapping the shore and percolating through the sandy gravel.

From the hotel balcony there was a good view of the night time harbour that was peaceful and serene with the lights of the buildings reflecting on the surface of the water and providing an idyllic image of the Cyclades.

In this moment I was reminded why I always say that Amorgos is one of my favourite Greek islands.

Amorgos sunset