Tag Archives: Ios

Weekly Photo Challenge: Warmth – Greek A to Ω – Ξ (Xi) is for Xεnία or Hospitality

Antonia and Vangelis – Homer’s Inn Hotel

The theme of hospitality is very important and prevalent in the Greek culture and Philoxenia is an important point of pride for Greeks and is something rooted in ancient times and in mythology.  In a famous story Zeus was said to have disguised himself as a poor man, dressing himself in rags, so that he could visit the homes of Greeks and see how they treated strangers, revealing himself at a certain point as the god he really was, the point of the story being that it’s a good idea to treat strangers or foreigners well, because they could turn out to be gods.

We have always enjoyed exceptional warmth and hospitality in Greece and I suppose this is one of the reasons for continually going back.  Everywhere we have been Greek people have been welcoming and friendly and I would gladly return to every place I have been or stayed but one place that deserves a special effort to return to is Homer’s Inn on the island of Ios and the home of Vangelis and Antonia and their son Panos where there is always a special welcome.

We visited Ios several times between 2006 and 2012 (missing only 2010 when we went to the Dodecanese islands instead) but that is no achievement at all compared with Martin, Lisa and Robin who have been returning to Homer’s Inn every year for nearly a quarter of a century.  Robin, being a solo traveller, is not surprisingly more adventurous than most and one morning he entertained us with his tales of his various ways of getting himself to the island. Ferries of course from mainland or nearby islands and flying, but by a variety of alternative routes and different carriers including on one occasion, a seaplane into the harbour; by train and part way on the Orient Express via Sarajevo, and bravest (or maybe daftest) of all by car, driving through central Europe and the Balkans, through Serbia, Kosovo and Bulgaria.

Philoxenia consists of three basic elements:

  1. The respect from host to guest. The host must be hospitable to the guest and provide them with food and drink and a bath, if required.
  2. The respect from guest to host. The guest must be courteous to their host and not be a burden.
  3. The parting gift (xenion, ξεινήιον) from host to guest. The parting gift is to show the host’s honor at receiving the guest.

In 2008 when we left at the end of our five days there Vangelis presented us with a tea mug each, which represented our acceptance as Homer’s special guests.  How nice was that?  I look forward to going back again soon.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Texture

Greek Fishing Tackle

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 nights 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 they will eat a much greater variety of sea food.

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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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Weekly Photo Challenge: Selfie

Greek Taverna and a Mythos Beer

Greek Taverna with a Mythos Beer:

I like Greece and I like Greek tavernas, they are almost always friendly inviting places and the food is inexpensive and good value and it rarely disappoints.

I like the carefree ambiance and the complete lack of formality, outside wooden tables and rattan chairs, check tablecloths, extensive menus and unhurried waiters. I like the cheap paper table covers so you can spill food and drink without worrying about disapproving looks or the laundry bill, I like the certain company of scrounging cats and I especially like those with live bouzouki players running through the familiar catalogue of traditional Greek music and always starting and finishing with the obligatory ‘Zorba’.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Renewal

Hotel Laundry – Ios, Greece

 

My Personal Greek A to Ω – Ψ (Psi) is for Ψιλή or Psili (Ammos)

I like almost everything about Greece so I suppose I should mention the beaches.  After Spain (511), Greece (387) has the second most Blue Flag Beaches, but to put that into perspective it does have almost three times as much coastline so has only one award winning beach every thirty-five kilometres compared with Spain at approximately ten (Portugal, by the way, is the best with a blue flag beach every six and a half kilometres).  Personally I don’t think Greek beaches are anywhere near the best so lucky for me then that I am not really a beach person.

Psili Ammos, Serifos

The plan was to walk out of Livadi and visit Psili Ammos beach just a short way out of town, which in Serifos they claim to be one of the top twenty beaches in the Mediterranean.  Our guidebook said allow an hour and don’t do it in the middle of the day but we paid no attention to that and set off anyway even without a map.

This turned out to be a really mad thing to do especially because there was a perfectly good beach right next to the hotel and if we waited an hour or so there was a bus that went there anyway.  It turned out to be much further than we estimated and a couple of wrong turns didn’t help.  There was no proper road, just a rough unmade track that meant that hiking boots would have been more appropriate than our sandals and when we came to a sign for Agios Sostis beach we abandoned the attempt to reach Psili Ammos and settled for the alternative instead.

It was pleasant enough, a rough sandy beach and a sheltered rocky cove but it wouldn’t have made the top one hundred let alone the top twenty beaches but there were only a few people there and crucially there were some trees for shade.  Kim collapsed from exhaustion almost immediately and being restless I went for a snorkel where I came across a seabed littered with dead fish which was a bit off-putting and then went for a walk along the shoreline and came across some monstrous washed up jelly fish struggling to return to the sea.  They were a beautiful translucent blue but I didn’t fancy swimming with them so that was the last time I went in the sea this morning.

Myrtos Beach, Kefalonia

The road took us towards the narrow northern peninsula and as it did so began to rise up and down and twist first one way and then the other as it clung to the side of a mountain that tumbled precipitously into the sea whilst looking down on beautiful beaches and azure blue sea.

Eventually we arrived at Myrtos, which is the most famous of these beaches, a major tourist attraction and an automatic inclusion in any top ten beaches of Greece list.  I don’t know about that but it has won several awards including ‘Best beach in Greece’ for several years running and third ‘Best beach in Mediterranean’.  Myrtos is the beach all the brochures boast about and the island’s postcard pinup and from the roadside high above the scene was nothing short of breathtaking.  A seductive crescent of delicious white pebble beach, gentle surf and brilliant blue water and nothing was going to stop us making a perilous descent down an incredibly steep road to the long ribbon of gleaming stones backed by pale yellow, vertical cliffs.

Although it was hot it was very pleasant this morning but in the high season there can be days of crippling heat as the bleached west facing stones, pale cliffs and turquoise sea combine to turn the entire beach into something resembling a slow roast oven.  Actually once at the bottom it didn’t feel as special as it should have when compared with the view from the top.  The pebble beach dropped very sharply into the sea, the stones were rough and there was a lot of tar about.  We walked along the length of the beach to the naturist end in search of amusement but there was nothing remarkable to see so we returned to the car and made the tortuous return journey back up the stupendously steep hill.

Valmas Beach, Ios

And this is my favourite beach in the Greek Islands:

Valmas doesn’t look very much it has to be said, just a small quiet bay with a shingle beach and a sea bed littered with rocks that makes access to the sea quite difficult.  As I have said, I am not much of a beach person but this is very nice indeed, not a tourist beach at all and most of the other people there were local people and those who clearly just happened to know about it.  I know about it now as well so that is why we go back every year.

Lying on the rocks about a hundred metres away were three naked women all enjoying the sun on their bodies and manoeuvring themselves into precarious positions to maximise the tanning effects of the solar rays.  Having what I consider to be a healthy interest in naked ladies this naturally intrigued me a great deal and on a sort of Jacques Cousteau pretence of snorkelling and looking for rare species of fish and other marine life I swam closer and closer until I could achieve a better view.  Now, let this be a lesson to all men with deteriorating vision, because believe me on closer examination this was not a pretty sight at all and in the quest for a voyeuristic opportunity I have to confess a hugely bitter disappointment.  On closer inspection this was really not worth all of the effort and it left me lamenting once again that super models never seem to be the ones who go naked sunbathing.

My Personal Greek A to Ω – Ξ (Xi) is for Xεnία or Hospitality

Antonia and Vangelis – Homer’s Inn Hotel

The theme of hospitality is very important and prevalent in the Greek culture and Philoxenia is an important point of pride for Greeks and is something rooted in ancient times and in mythology.  In a famous story Zeus was said to have disguised himself as a poor man, dressing himself in rags, so that he could visit the homes of Greeks and see how they treated strangers, revealing himself at a certain point as the god he really was, the point of the story being that it’s a good idea to treat strangers or foreigners well, because they could turn out to be gods.

We have always enjoyed exceptional hospitality in Greece and I suppose this is one of the reasons for continually going back.  Everywhere we have been Greek people have been welcoming and friendly and I would gladly return to every place I have been or stayed but one place that deserves a special effort to return to is Homer’s Inn on the island of Ios and the home of Vangelis and Antonia and their son Panos where there is always a special welcome.

Robin, Panos (Homer’s Inn Boss), Martin and Lisa

We have been visiting Ios since 2006 (missing only 2010 when we went to the Dodecanese islands instead) but that is no achievement at all compared with Martin, Lisa and Robin who have been returning to Homer’s Inn every year for nearly a quarter of a century.  Robin, being a solo traveller, is not surprisingly more adventurous than most and one morning he entertained us with his tales of his various ways of getting himself to the island. Ferries of course from mainland or nearby islands and flying, but by a variety of alternative routes and different carriers including on one occasion, a seaplane into the harbour; by train and part way on the Orient Express via Sarajevo, and bravest (or maybe daftest) of all by car, driving through central Europe and the Balkans, through Serbia, Kosovo and Bulgaria.

Antonia, Andrew, Kim, Lisa and Robin (photography by Martin)

Philoxenia consists of three basic elements:

  1. The respect from host to guest. The host must be hospitable to the guest and provide them with food and drink and a bath, if required.
  2. The respect from guest to host. The guest must be courteous to their host and not be a burden.
  3. The parting gift (xenion, ξεινήιον) from host to guest. The parting gift is to show the host’s honor at receiving the guest.

In 2008 when we left at the end of our five days there Vangelis presented us with a tea mug each, which represented our acceptance as Homer’s special guests.  How nice was that?  I look forward to going back again soon.

My Favourite Pictures of the Greek Islands – 13

Baptism Decorations on the Island of Ios

Later we returned to the church to see the baptism ceremony of the little girl into the Christian Orthodox Church, which is a major event in the life of any Greek family because of the numerous rites, which accompany it, many of which go back to the earliest centuries of Christianity.  A Greek baptism is a sacred and religious rite that is performed on a baby 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.

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My Favourite Pictures of the Greek Islands – 12

Fisherman on the Island of Ios

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 nights work and the trading was brisk.

Read the full story…

My Personal Greek A to Ω – I (Iota) is for Iος or Ios

In my last blog I included Ios in my top five Greek islands and this might be surprising because the island has a reputation for night clubs, dancing, music and high spirits and we do none of these things.

It is true that Ios is more lively and noisy than my other favourite islands but this doesn’t really matter because the clubbers live in a parallel dimension where they sleep all day and don’t go out until after midnight by which time we are usually enjoying a final drink of the day on the balcony of the apartment.

On a visit in 2009 we walked as usual to our favourite beach about a kilometre and a half from the village and over and around a rocky headland.  The road out of the port runs past the business end of the harbour and there were some brightly painted fishing 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 they will eat a much greater variety of sea food.

We like to buy our fish in little blue polystyrene trays without heads, tails or entrails and ready for the frying pan but here the trays were brimming with fish so fresh that it was still alive and flapping about and winking at the prospective purchasers who were examining it.  The colours were amazing, sparkling silver, gleaming green and radiant red and I looked forward to being reacquainted with one later on my dinner plate.

The little beach at Valmas is delightful where a shabby taverna with a shaded terrace overlooks the shore and the little bay and it is run by an old lady who probably should have retired years ago and who has a limited but interesting menu with the sort of prices that suit my budget.   Going to the beach and the taverna is part of the Ios routine and every day we do the same things as the day before, walk along the same path, go for a swim, then to the taverna and sit at the same table and stare out to sea.  Ios is where we choose to take a break from the hectic island hopping schedule and unwind for a few days.

The walk there and back to Valmas is interesting because of the derelict terraces and dry stone walls that separate the hillside into individual plots of land.  Ios is just one large inhospitable rock that has been baked into submission by the sun but as recently as only fifty years ago people here were scraping away at the thin soil and the stones to try and make a living or to feed the family by growing fruit and vegetables.

There is very little useful land on Ios so this must have been almost unimaginatively difficult.  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 twelve-hour day toiling under a hot sun.  The terraces are all abandoned now to thistles and what other few 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 now and soon they will be gone altogether and that will be a sad day.

The path passes by an immaculate blue domed white church where there were preparations 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 where 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 when they served the fish I am certain one of them winked at me in recognition.

Homer's Inn Ios Greece