Tag Archives: Folegandros

Postcard From The Greek Island of Thassos

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“Thassos is a handsome, romantic little island, named after a grandson of Poseidon, with an atmosphere of calm beatitude which makes one’s sleep most deep and refreshing, the nights being blanket-cool, though windless, not too hot…. In the calm vernal glades of Thassos you feel that the ancients had a simpler, better way of living…” –                  Lawrence Durrell

I am by no means sure how we managed to choose the island of Thassos for a holiday.  Not being one of the most popular holiday islands it was not somewhere that I was especially aware of or had any mad desire to go to so I can only assume that it was the end of season bargain price that settled the selection decision.

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Thassos 16

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).

Greek Islands, Ferry Ride from Ios to Syros

Greek Ferry

From Ios we were travelling now to the island of Syros and I had found a reasonably priced ferry ride for just €16 each.  This was a seven hour journey (I suggested to Kim that she thought of it as a sort of cruise) stopping off at Sikinos, Folegandros, Naxos and Paros along the way.

I have been visiting the Greek islands on and off for over thirty years and island hopping for the last ten and I have noticed that things are beginning to change, and not always for the better either.

There are new roads being constructed on the islands and EU funded improvements to ports, traditional mini-markets are becoming supermarkets, bus services are being privatised and updated and the ferries are beginning to change.  New roads are fine and improved port facilities are good, personally I prefer the dusty old shops with surprises in dark corners and the inefficient buses but I have to say that I am really disappointed by the ferry changes.

This year again there were new routes and unfamiliar boats and these were all high speed and modern and they are not nearly as much fun.  They are more expensive, have inside allocated airline style seats, in some cases no access to the outside deck and generally lack character or individuality.

I understand that these changes are welcomed by the people who live on the islands, who now have faster and more convenient transport options, but it is a sad day for back packers and island hoppers.  I prefer the uncertainty of missed schedules, the battle with the elements and the confusion and commotion associated with getting on and getting off in preference to the reliability, the smooth ride and the orderly airline style of boarding and departure.

In 2006 I travelled from Naxos to Ios on an old rust bucket called the Panagia Hozoviotisa (named after the monastery on Amorgos) and there was a real sense of adventure. It was two hours late and there was a force seven gale and the boat struggled through the heaving seas but it was an honest hard working boat and the journey was wonderful.

I used it again in 2007 but now it is laid up out of service in Piraeus.  So too the G&A ferries the Romilda and the Milena that used to run the western Cyclades but have now been replaced with charmless monsters called SpeedRunner, Highspeed or Seajet, boats named without thought or imagination and completely lacking any sense of romance.

Using the traditional old ferries was even more of an adventure because the island hopping guide advises that most of them should be avoided if possible.

This year only the Ventouris Sea Lines Agios Georgios was left and we used it twice, once between Serifos and Sifnos, and then from Sifnos to Milos and we really took pleasure from sitting on the open deck with a mythos, listening to the gentle ‘sha sha sha’ as the prow scythed through the water cutting an arrow head of foam into the blue, enjoying the sun and watching the islands slowly slipping by.

On the old boats it is possible to move freely from deck to deck, get close and see inside the bridge and watch the captain plotting a course and then at the other end watch the crew at work at the stern and a mad rush of activity when they came in to a port and then left again shortly afterwards.

It was noisy and fun with creaking ropes and rattling chains and the men looked like real sailors.  On the new boats there is only a monotonous hum from the modern engines and the crew, dressed in smart corporate uniforms, don’t really like you leaving your seat and wandering about unless you are going to the overpriced bar.

This regrettable change is driven by the desire to improve but is in part due also to stricter operating rules imposed on ferry operators after a disaster on 26thSeptember 2000 when the Express Samina Ferry sank off of Paros while the captain slept and the crew watched a football match on TV.  Several of the crew were convicted of manslaughter and sent to jail and the General Manager of the company committed suicide when he jumped from his sixth floor office window in Piraeus.

I am glad that I had a few years of travelling between the islands on the old boats and I suppose I will have to come to terms with the fact that these days have gone but the journey from Ios to Syros on the Aqua Spirit was a reminder of those good old days.

To be completely honest I enjoyed it a whole lot more than Kim because after five hours or so at open sea her patience tanks began to run dry and she certainly didn’t enjoy the last leg of the journey from Paros to our destination port of Syros.

I know this for certain because she reminded me several times!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Trio

Life in the Slow Lane…

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 coffee and ordered baklava and stayed a while until it was time to go back.

Folegandros is a dreamy timeless sort of place in a sort of 1960s time warp and all around there were were lots of ageing beardy hippies with ponytails, wearing white linen and flip-flops and carrying sketch pads.  All that was missing was the joss sticks and the candles, the flowers and the guitars.

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Wales, Rainy Days and Mondays

To be fair to Wales and to set the record straight, it isn’t the only place that we have visited where it has rained a lot…

Sigulda LatviaIceland Traditional HouseHaugesund Sailors NorwayFolegandros RainStreet Cleaners Alghero Sardinia

COMPETITION!

Ten points for each country that you can identify in the pictures!

1  S*******

2  L*****

3  I****

4  S****

5  I******

6  S****

7  M******

8  N*****

9  G*****

10 S*******

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Blur, An Evening in Folegandros

Folegandros Hora, Greek Cycladic Islands

What a fabulous island Folegandros is and completely safe in my top five list of personal favourites.

We first visited in 2007 and the village squares were colourful, vibrant and bursting with an eclectic energy that spilled into the streets from the balconies and terraces of the bars and restaurants.  It was an enchanting place with picturesque settings plucked straight from the pages of a travel book, pretty squares with restaurants under trees where visitors were struggling to make menu selections next to local people just sitting and talking and passing the evening away.

The streets were alive with friendly people and there was an unspoilt ambience that drew us down twisting side streets and through narrow alleys that led always to even more clusters of inviting tavernas that made choosing a dining venue very difficult indeed.  Eventually we selected a table at the side of the main square and we enjoyed excellent food and amused ourselves people watching as there was a constant stream of local people and holiday makers moving continuously through the pretty square.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Split-Second Story

Bar Life in Folegandros, Greece:

I like to imagine what these three are talking about – it looks as though someone has just delivered some bad news:

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Postcards From Thassos

Thassos Greece Postcard

I am by no means sure how we managed to choose the island of Thassos for a holiday in 1999.  Not being one of the most popular holiday islands it was not somewhere that I was especially aware of or had any mad desire to go to so I can only assume that it was the end of season bargain price that settled the selection decision.

Thassos Greece Postcard

Thassos Greece

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Spanish Islands – Menorca

Minorca Island Map Postcard

I am moving on now from the Canary Islands and back to the Mediterranean and specifically to the Balearic Islands off the eastern coast of the Spanish mainland.

These days the only one that I would really like to visit is Majorca and its capital Palma but although this is probably the most interesting of the island group I have never been there so will have to tell you about Menorca and Ibiza instead.

I first went to Menorca in 1987 and stayed in the whitewashed holiday village of Binibeca in the far south east close to the capital of Mahon.  It was a nice enough place with some coastal walks, a charming village centre with some nice bars and restaurants but not a really great deal of interest.  These were the days of holidays with small children so there were early starts, endless days around the swimming pool or on the beach, an early evening meal and then a night on the balcony drinking cold San Miguel waiting for the whole thing to be repeated again the next day.

Binibeca Minorca 1987

The trivial little thing that I remember most was that there was a noisy family of Scots in a nearby apartment who insisted on sitting around listening to an oversized ‘boom box’ with music belting out all day.  I hated that, but not as much as my dad (we were there with my parents) and one early morning before the irritating neighbours were up he stealthily approached their apartment and turned around the sprinkler valves so that they pointed towards the balcony instead of the gardens.

And then we waited.  We waited until mid afternoon and then the water came on and his water joke worked perfectly as the boozed up Caledonians were hit with an unexpected eruption of water and I have no idea how we all managed to keep a straight face.  Unfortunately the water didn’t damage the ‘boom box’ and it was returned to full volume soon after!

We did visit Mahon which was interesting but the previous capital of Ciudadela on the opposite western side of the island was even better and we hired a car and circumnavigated the island and visited the several excellent beaches set out around the perimeter at regular intervals.

Mahon Menorca Spain

We returned to Menorca a couple of years later to the resort of Santo Thomas on the south coast and there was absolutely nothing memorable about this holiday except that one day I was walking around the pool and someone shouted out to me – “hello Andrew”, which isn’t especially surprising of course because that is my name, but what was a shock was that it was my next door neighbour! Neither of us was aware that we were even going on holiday and certainly not to the same place!

This is not the only time that this has happened to me because in 1989 we met some people from our street in Disney World Florida but the best chance encounter of all was on the Greek island of Folegandros in 2009.

One September evening we were in the Chora at an outside table at our favourite restaurant when I glanced across to the party sitting next to us and instantly recognised someone I knew from work.

This was a real shock because Folegandos is a tiny lump of rock in an inaccessible place in the western Cyclades and pretty much the last place that you would expect to bump into someone you know.

It was the Chief Executive of the Lincolnshire County Council and he was with a small group of people.  He knew me, we had attended meetings together but although I flashed him a smile of recognition he looked blankly back because although I recognised him he didn’t recognise me disguised as I was in my holiday clothes and with my annual attempt to grow a beard.

I couldn’t help but overhear his conversation which was almost entirely work related and he punctuated this with mobile telephone calls to the Leader of the Council.  I found this intriguing because who talks continuously about work when on holiday?  Even though Kim and I worked at the same place we had a strict rule that work talk was off the list of things to talk about.

After an hour or we finished our meal, settled our bill and prepared to leave but I was not going to go without saying hello.  I wandered across to his table and said something like ‘Hello there, fancy seeing you here’. It took him only a couple of seconds for the penny to drop and I sensed his discomfort immediately. After the initial shock of being interrupted in a way that he couldn’t possibly imagine he regained his composure, said hello and introduced me to his press secretary!

There was no way that he was going to be able to explain what he was doing in Folegandros with his press secretary and although with the benefit of the consumption of several Mythos I was prepared to continue to chat Kim sensed that it was embarrassing for Tony and she led me away, back to the bus stop and to our hotel in the port.

Next time I am off to Ibiza.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Threshold

Early Morning Sunrise 

We woke early to the most stunning sunrise that was pouring like liquid amber through the open shutters and into the room.  The sun was only a few minutes old and was a ball of white light with a yellow halo rising through a fiery sky that was sizzling with anticipation for the new day.

A bright yellow slash of solar reflection sliced through the surface of water and the whole bay was so intensely bronze that it was as though the sky had ignited and poured its flames into the sea.  Slowly the orange sky retreated and was replaced by a reassuring blue and the sea turned from umber through purple to its more natural marine blue and everything was prepared and ready for another perfect day.

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