Tag Archives: French Cinema

Greece 2011, Koufonisia and Beaches and Silent Relationships

Koufonisia Greece Cyclades

Each time we travel to Greece for the island hopping holiday we have to make room in the itinerary for a day or two of beaches and by the second day in Koufonisia it was clear that this year this was it.

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Amorgos, a Monastery, a Chora and a Sunset

Amorgos cat

We arrived at the port of Katapola in late afternoon and what a delightful island Amorgos turned out to be.  It was a place of contrasts, there were expensive modern yachts in the harbour and people with plenty of money to spend but the town was completely unspoilt with a couple of old fashioned mini-markets, a shop with products from Amorgos and a good selection of tavernas all along the harbour front.

 We had a good room that was small and reminiscent of Sikinos the previous year and there was a roof terrace with a good view of the harbour, the boats and other peoples washing.  It was a lovely room with a generous balcony and a good view over the tree filled garden.  The hotel had blue stairs and terraces and decorations of seashells and sun bleached sticks.  After we had settled in and spent some time on the roof terrace we walked to the back of the horseshoe shaped bay and watched the sunset as the evening swept in and we turned our thoughts to dining arrangements.

There was a lot of choice but we choose really well and at the Corner Taverna (it was on a corner obviously) we enjoyed a tasty meal of local lamb and as we finished our jug of wine we made a decision to stay here for an extra night and immediately made the necessary arrangements.  The place 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, mobile phones and air conditioning this place probably hasn’t changed a great deal in a thousand years.

Amorgos Windmill

The next morning after breakfast at a harbour side café we walked to the coach station for the scheduled ten o’clock bus across to the other side of the island to the Byzantine Monastery of the Virgin Mary Chozoviotissa, but the driver was working to GMT, that’s Greek Maybe Time, and the confused crowd that began to build up all had to wait until a little after ten-thirty when he finally arrived for work.   It was about a half an hour journey across the island and then another half an hour slog on foot up a rocky path on a very sharp incline to reach the entrance to the monastery.

Once there it became immediately obvious that we were going to have some difficulty visiting the interior because we were deemed to be inappropriately dressed.  We had shorts on and apparently Monks don’t like shorts.  They don’t mind short dresses, denims or cropped trousers but they don’t like shorts.  We attempted deception but that didn’t fool them so after a humiliating rejection we had to make our way all the way back down.  I was a bit cross about this I was sure that God wouldn’t turn people away like that and was reminded of the story of ‘suffer the little children’ and was left wondering what makes monks so picky?

There was a long wait for the bus back we decided to walk along the road to the beach at Aggi Anna where the bus turns around to go back to the port.  Based on the earlier delays to the schedule I calculated that we had plenty of time to achieve this and we set off down the twisty road.  To our horror we were only about three quarters of the way to the bottom when the bus appeared, bang on time, and we had to get a bit of a rush on to make the connection.  Actually we had to do a bit more than just hurry up and the last two hundred metres turned into a full sprint under the full midday sun.

On the way back we stopped off at the Chora, which was a really good decision.  From the outside it didn’t look especially promising but once inside the walls of the town it was a different matter altogether.  The town turns in 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 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.  Descending through the mazy streets and alleys there was time for a beer with tasty canapés where we agreed to come back the following day before getting the bus back to Katapola and an excellent lunch at the Corner Taverna.

In the afternoon we took a walk out of town along a track surrounded by vines with grapes fresh for picking and where local men rode along on mules as their preferred form of transport.  On the way back we were turned away from another Orthodox church (because we were still wearing shorts) so we gave up on sightseeing, purchased some local wine from the Katapola mini-market and spent the rest of the day on the sun terrace.  In the evening we walked along the south side of the harbour chasing the sunset and later we chose an alternative taverna and regretted it even though we had another good meal to end the day.

Amorgos donkey

The next day we woke early and after breakfast took the bus all the way to Aggi Anna and spent an excellent morning on a lovely beach with crystal clear water and excellent snorkelling.  There were a lot of French people on Amorgos because this beach was one of the locations for the film ‘Le Grande Bleu’ which they all raved about but which turns out to be one of those hard to understand surrealist French non-event movies that they are so good at.

After a couple of hours we were ready for a second visit to the Chora where this time we planned to have lunch.  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.

On the final day on Amorgos we took a long walk around the north side of the harbour past blue doors and blue domed churches and across pleasant secluded beaches and finally arrived at a hard to reach bay where normal access is by boat from the harbour but our route was over the cliffs that required the sure-footedness of a mountain goat because one false move and there was a fifty metre drop into the sea via the rocks.

It was a bit untidy and it was unlikely to achieve blue flag status (there are none on Amorgos) but there was a fantastic sea with a gentle gradient to the deep clear blue water with an abundance of fish for snorkelling amusement.  But early afternoon the beach was getting rather full as more and more boats pulled in and disgorged their passengers and there was a stiff breeze beginning to stir so we walked back, had a drink in a bar next to some resting fishing boats and then simply let the rest of the day slip through our fingers as we sat on the sun terrace and were buffeted by the wind that continued to get stronger and we started to worry about the ferries again.

After a final meal at the Corner Taverna it was time for an early night because tomorrow there was a scheduled early start and a ferry back to Naxos and a short day on that island before going on to Ios.

Amorgos Sunset