Tag Archives: Cyclades

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.

Read the Full Story…

Click on an Image to scroll through the Gallery…

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 Island of Kimolos

Kimolos 05

Narrow cobbled streets, whitewashed houses with paintwork cracked and splintered by the sun.  With less than a thousand residents across the entire island there isn’t a great deal of local activity to observe. In the tight, sinuous streets paving stones have been edged in white and decorated with flowers, hearts, sailboats and slogans: “My Kimolos, my paradise”. Lovely.

At the top the tall cathedral seemed somehow too grand and too big and completely out of scale with the tiny streets and boxy houses. The streets are ramshackle and without order or planning as they wound their way to the centre and the sixteenth century Kastro, much of which isdilapidated and in ruins with heaps of rubble from collapsed and mostly abandoned houses.

Inside, some people were clinging on to occupation of houses with only very basic facilities that would certainly be declared unfit in the United Kingdom.

The Kastro is an important historical monument and there are plans to restore the buildings and some early work has begun but it is likely to take a very long time because current funding from the Greek Government and the European Union is totally inadequate which leaves the project financially beyond restorative reach.

As surely as a sunflower drops its head and dies if anyone wants to see these old doors they had better go soon because they will soon be replaced with plastic and will have gone the way of the old Greek ferries, the unreliable bus services and the dusty corner shops that sell things people no longer need.

Kimolos 04Kimolos 01Kimolos 02Kimolos 03

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.

Read the full story…

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 – Santorini in the Greek Islands

Santorini Greek Door

More doors from Santorini here.

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).

More Greek Doors…

Thursday Doors – Amorgos in the Greek Islands

Thursday Door Amorgos 1Thursday Door Amorgos 2Thursday Door Amorgos 3

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).

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.

Read the Full Story…

Postcard Maps of 2016

Morocco Postcard Map

January…

I really need to be careful about making bold statements because upon returning from Morocco in December 2011 I said that I would never go again.  This is what I said…

“I enjoyed the experience of Fez, the Riad was excellent, the food was good, the sightseeing was unexpected and we were treated with courtesy and respect by everyone associated with the Riad but I have seen Morocco now and I think it may be some time before I return to North Africa as we resume our travels through Europe.”

Well, now I have to eat my words because our first overseas trip in 2016 was to Essouria on the Atlantic coast of Morocco.  Why did I go back on my statement – return flights for less than £40 each are just too good to resist and nothing beats getting on a plane with temperatures hovering around zero and then getting off again three hours later into 20°, blue sky, sunshine and swaying palm trees.

April…

We like to visit Spain at least once a year but somehow managed to miss a trip in 2015 so after a two-year wait we were happy to be going back, this time to Andalucía in the far south, the second largest and most populous of all of the Regions.

After picking up the rental car we headed immediately to the Autopista del Sol,an ugly, charmless toll road which conveniently by-passes the congested coast road and moves traffic from east to west with brutal efficiency.  It reminded me of what Laurie Lee had to say about it: “The road to Malaga followed a beautiful but exhausted shore, seemingly forgotten by the world.  I remember the names, San Pedro, Estepona, Marbella and Fuengirola.  They were salt-fish villages, thin ribbed, sea hating, cursing their place in the sun.  At that time one could have bought the whole coast for a shilling.  Not Emperors could buy it now.”

June…

We travelled to Ireland in 2014 and went to the west coast and a year later we went to Northern Ireland and stayed in Belfast.  Despite Ireland’s reputation for Atlantic storms, dreary weather and lots of rain we enjoyed blue skies  on both occasions.  So good was the weather that Kim thinks it is permanently sunny in the Emerald Isle so we arranged to go again this year and this time chose the city of Cork, the county of West Cork and the south coast of the country as our destination.

north wales

Also in June…

I last stayed in a caravan in about 1970 and I said that I would never ever to do it again.  I have consistently maintained that I just do not understand caravanning at all or why people subject themselves to the misery of a holiday in a tin box with no running water, chemical toilets and fold away beds, there is no fun in it whatsoever.

I am pleased to be able to report that modern caravans are much improved and imagine my shock then when I tell you that I was so impressed with our holiday caravan accommodation in Borth because it had all of the facilities of a modern home with running water, a bathroom, electricity and a fully equipped kitchen and after preparing and enjoying a full English breakfast I walked out with a spring in my step on a voyage of rediscovery.

August…

At school holiday time there is always the threat of an extended visit from the grandchildren which can be a stressful experience as they spend a week dismantling the house and trashing the garden.

This year I decided to rent a holiday cottage elsewhere and let them destroy someone else’s place instead.  I chose a cottage in the village of Thornton Stewart in North Yorkshire and drove there one busy Friday afternoon along the A1 – The Great North Road, which many people claim is the only good thing that comes out of London.

cyclades-postcard

September…

We had not visited the Cyclades Islands in Greece since 2011 and so we were interested to see what changes there might be in five years.

We no longer choose to fly to Athens because there is always the risk of industrial action on the buses or the metro or the ferries, or getting caught up in a demonstration in the city centre as we did in 2011, so this year we flew instead to Mykonos, a popular tourist destination in the centre of the island group.

south-wales-map

October…

South Wales isn’t new to me of course, I studied history at Cardiff University between 1972 to 1975, worked a summer season at Butlin’s Holiday Camp at Barry Island and I have visited several times since but on this occasion I was travelling with my good friend who hails from the Rhondda Valley and he had promised to show me some things that I might not otherwise have expected to see.  A privileged insider’s view as it were!

Malta Map Postcard

Also in October…

I have heard it said that you either love Malta or you hate it, there are no half measures, there is no sitting on the fence.  I love it I went several times in the 1990s on family holidays and I returned for the first time since then in 2015.  I hoped that Kim would love it too and as it happened she liked the place so much that we returned for a second time in October 2016.

November…

My sister, Lindsay, more or less lives permanently in Spain now on the Costa Blanca so this provided a perfect opportunity to go and visit her and spend some time in a part of Spain that I haven’t visited for several years.  I have never considered it one of favourite parts of the country so I was interested to see what impression it would make this time!

Greek Islands, Doors of Santorini

Santorini Blue DoorSantorini Red DoorSantorini Blue Door 2

Greek Islands, Ios and Hospitality

Homer's Inn Ios Greece

After the furrowed grey wastes of the water surrounding our islands (The UK) the huge vivacity of the Mediterranean never ceased to astonish.  Here it was splashed all-over with plum-coloured stains of weed-beds among which bald rocks just below the surface were brilliant uncut emeralds (and) water thrashing in the deep coves rose and fell, uncovering and submerging great shining boulders…”  –   Norman Lewis, ‘Voices of the Old Sea’

When in Greece in September we always make space in the itinerary for Ios because this is where we meet old friends and return to the best hotel in the Cyclades– Homer’s Inn!

Homer's Inn Ios Greece

Our normal routine on Ios is to spend the day around the port and on the beach and then visit the Chora for the sunset and for evening meal.  This year to be different we decided to visit the main town in the morning to see what it was like during the day.

Actually it wasn’t so nice and whilst the evening darkness disguises all the evidence of clubbers and boozers it was all viciously exposed early in the morning.  Discarded bottles and cans in the corners and clubs and bars that look glittery and inviting in the gloom looking cheap and nasty in the cold light of day.

We walked to the top and admired the views of the port and on the way down stopped to talk to some fellow travellers.  As we exchanged stories I saw what I thought was a lizard but quickly realised that it was a snake.  Olive brown and about a metre long it slithered by and disappeared into a tiny crack in the steps.  Later I made enquiries and was told that a local naturist had reintroduced these serpents to the island and that they were poisonous.

I am all for preserving the natural environment but that is just plain daft, as daft as Eugene Schieffelin introducing the starling into the USA or Thomas Austin releasing rabbits into the Australian outback. Daft also because although there is a medical centre on Ios for anything serious the only treatment is on the mainland and a snake bite would mean airlifting by ambulance back to Athens.

Ios Church

We walked around the steep and narrow streets and arthritic crooked alleys as far as the abandoned windmills and through the shops that line the main street through the village and then back to Homer’s Inn down the dusty track and after a short sojourn went for another walk to the harbour and along the coast road to the little church on the headland.

The road out of the village runs past the business end of the harbour and there were some brightly painted boats that had just landed their overnight catch and were negotiating sales with local people and restaurant owners in a babble of animated activity.

It looked like a good night’s work and the trading was brisk.  The fish looked interesting and on closer examination of the produce it soon becomes clear why we have to put up with stock shortages whilst the most of the rest of Europe have such an abundance of choice; we are just far too fussy about what we will eat and our preference for fish is restricted to two or three species that we have fished into crisis and near extinction whilst in Greece, as elsewhere, they will eat a much greater variety of sea food.

Ios Greece Last Night's Catch

On top of the church there was a Greek flag that was flapping uncontrollably in the wind and trying desperately to separate itself from the pole that was hanging onto it.

The blue and white flag of Greece is called ‘Galanolefci’, which simply means ‘blue and white’.  Originally it was blue with a white diagonal cross but the cross has now been moved to the upper left corner, and is symbolic of the Christian faith.

Being a seafaring nation, the blue of the flag represents the colour of the sea.  White is the colour of freedom, which is something that is very important to the Greeks after years of enslavement under foreign domination.  The nine stripes of the flag each symbolise a syllable in the Greek motto of freedom: E-LEY-THE-RI-A-I-THA-NA-TOS, which translates literally into ‘Freedom or Death’.

Flag of Greece

There were preparations at the church for a wedding and a christening and later Kim returned to see the wedding and I joined her later for the baptism to see the ceremony of a little girl being accepted into the Christian Orthodox Church, which is a major event in the life of any Greek family.

A Greek baptism is a sacred and religious rite that is performed to cleanse the soul and renounce Satan. The baptism is a complex initiation that starts with an exorcism and officially ends forty days later when the baby is presented to the congregation to receive Holy Communion.

Unfortunately we weren’t able to stop for the full forty days and we began to feel a bit like intruders on a private family event so before it was all over we left the church and returned to the harbour and instead of going to the Chora, tonight we ate next to the fishing boats that were being prepared for another night at sea at a place called the Octopus where, at pavement tables next to the fishermen, we were served excellent food and fresh fish that we had seen being landed just a few hours earlier.

We stayed on Ios for four days and then prepared to move on to the island of Syros.

Ios Greece Port

Greek Islands, Amorgos – Katapola and the Chora

Amorgos Windmills Chora Greece

“I would stare out the window at these telephone wires and think, how civilisation had caught up with me and I wasn’t going to be able to escape after all. I wasn’t going to be able to live this eleventh-century life that I had thought I had found for myself.” – Leonard Cohen

Katapola was tranquil, peaceful and perfect and at this precise time might possibly have been the most wonderful place on earth and we looked forward to our three days of perfection because apart from concrete, the internet and air conditioning this place probably hasn’t changed a great deal in a thousand years.

Amorgians have a history of preserving the past and resisting progress.  There is a sense of collective defiance perhaps explained by the fact that during the dictatorship of Ioannis Metaxas (1936-41) the island was used as a remote place of exile for political prisoners.

Forty years ago the island didn’t have electricity, the tarmac roads that link the villages weren’t constructed until the 1990s and the modern ports which today welcome the large ferries are relatively recent additions.  The island has a desalination plant now to provide fresh water but up until 2015 fresh water was shipped in and delivered by tankers.

Amorgos Chora

We took the car to the Chora which cannot be seen from the sea or from the harbour but as we got closer we could see it above us like a fresh snow fall on top of a mountain.  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 where getting disorientated and lost is a certainty.

It was a lazy place where time goes by 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 in a very stiff breeze 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.

Amorgos Chora

On the way back we were ready for a second stroll through the Chora where we ambled through the corkscrew of twisting 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.

The Chora is rather like a hippie time-warp, slow, lazy, faded and bleached, pot plants struggling in the midday sun and appropriately slow mood music in the tavernas and bars – it reminded me of a favourite pair of old denim jeans and my battered blue t-shirt that I am reluctant to throw away. 

The ambience is compounded by  cultural traditions. Village life retains a centuries old pace thanks in large part to the absence of motorised vehicles. Old men while away the afternoons sitting in the summer shade chatting.  The labyrinthine, narrow lanes are the province of donkeys and wooden carts. Displays of ripe fruit – tomatoes, figs, golden apples – stand outside the little stores, the local catch is brought into the harbour daily, the wine and the raki is plentiful, good and cheap.

As we wandered around an old lady dressed all in black asked for help negotiating some difficult steps and we naturally obliged and in return for our assistance she treated us to her life story and tales of Amorgian life.  Her name was Limonique and she told us that after sixty-five years of marriage she was now a widow so I guessed her age to be somewhere around eighty-five or so.

Limonique Amorgos Chora

With the hire car at our disposal we decided now to drive around the south coast of the island.  I find that mostly it is good fun to drive a rental car but sometimes it is not.  This time it was not. Amorgos is extremely mountainous and the roads sway like a crazy roller coaster around the peaks and the valleys and the mountain passes and in some places only seem to hang on by crumbling asphalt fingernails to the fragmenting rock and loose shale.

The car, a Chevrolet City Spark with an inadequate 800cc engine was hopelessly under powered and totally unsuited to this type of motoring and it was hard work constantly twisting and turning and forever shifting gears – mostly between first and second!

I had put some petrol in the tank but with the continuous high revs the tiny engine was like a hungry sponge sucking the fuel tank dry at an alarming rate  and I became concerned as the needle started to sink like a stone towards the red zone.

And it was dangerous with precipitous drops with inadequate barriers to prevent a vehicle careering over the edge, oncoming vehicles driven by locals who consider it compulsory to text while driving and then unexpected livestock.

Amorgos Driving Hazard

After an hour or so I gave in.  I really wasn’t enjoying it and could go no further so after consulting with the navigator we turned around and headed straight back to Katapola where we parked the car and resumed walking.

There was a noticeable absence of English travellers but by contrast there were a lot of French people on Amorgos because this island was one of the locations for the Luc Besson film ‘Le Grande Bleu’ which self-opinionated film critics and French film-goers rave about but which turns out to be one of those hard to understand surrealist French non-event movies that goes around in ever decreasing self-indulgent circles until it finally disappears up its own aperture.

We waited now until nearly sunset time and then as the sun began to dip, the hills turn purple and the valleys flood with shadows we took a walk along the southern shore of the harbour, past an inevitable white church and an unnamed statue and as we sat and watched the sun fall into the sea and the sky turn purple through to black we looked back on our time in Amorgos and looked forward to moving on the next day to Naxos and then to Ios.

Amorgos Greece Sunset