Tag Archives: Katapola

Greek Islands, Amorgos – Aegiali to Katapola

Shady Relief in Amorgos Greece

Armed with the pedometer Kim had got her really serious walking legs working now so the day after the demanding climb to Tholária we were at it again early and tackling the walk to another nearby village of Lagkada.

Lagkada was about the same distance (two miles or so) but had the benefit of a footpath cut directly through the terraces which did away with the need to slavishly follow the tarmac and we dragged ourselves up the crumbling and uneven steps towards the bottom of the village.

Amorgos donkey

On the way we passed an islander on a mule and it was obvious that he was going about his day and his work on his chosen form of transport.  I got to thinking about how infrequently you see this now, much less even than when I first started to visit the Greek islands over thirty years ago and I realised that soon this will be a thing of the past.

This makes me a little sad!  When this generation has gone it is probable that no one will continue to use donkeys for anything other than equine amusement.  I felt glad that I had been there in time to see this and felt disappointed for those who will come after me and won’t.  Soon, I suspect seeing a Greek man riding a mule will be consigned to the dustbin of nostalgia. They will be gone and Europe will be the poorer for it.

Once inside the whitewashed walls we quickly found a  bar where we could rest a while.  A nice feature in the bars and cafés in Amorgos is the hospitable habit of providing customers with a glass of cold water.  I was unsure of this at first because I was brought up with a paranoia of drinking water abroad, so bad that I used to wash my teeth in bottled water in case I inadvertently swallowed a millilitre or two.

In fact the first time that I went to Greece, to Kos in 1983, I had to have typhoid injections and a certificate to prove it!   Well, how things change and now, thanks to desalination, if you can tolerate the odd taste, it appears to be safe to drink the water across the whole of the Greek Islands without suffering ill effects or an upset stomach.

Lagkada Amorgos Greece

We returned to the rustic narrow streets with decorated paving and adjacent buildings all whitewashed and blue.  All whitewashed and blue because since 1974 in a law passed by the military government of the time all houses have had to be painted white and church domes blue. Recently a debate has been re-opened between the Ministry of Culture and other authorities about allowing the use of alternative colours but as yet the law remains in place.

Amorgos Village Shop

In the middle of the village we came across a curious shop with an interesting window display and when I peaked inside the gloomy interior an old man illuminated by a shaft of dusty sun light invited us in.  It was what I would describe as a sort of workshop and he explained to us that he was the village carpenter, the village hardware store, the village liquor supplier and the village barber!  He obligingly showed us around and explained the family pictures hanging on the walls and invited me to have a haircut but I respectfully declined when I saw the age and condition of the clippers!

Lagkada is a pretty little village but it doesn’t take too long to see all of it (twice) so satisfied that we hadn’t missed anything we made our way down the path to Aegiali for our final afternoon and evening because the next day we were moving to the other end of the island to Katapola.

Amorgos table chairs pot and cat

The bus fare to Katapola was good value at only €2.80 each and after we paid the driver started the engine and left exactly on time.  We sat close to the front of the bus and in the seat directly behind the driver there was an old woman in widow’s weeds who was determined to talk constantly in some sort of quest to distract him and thoroughly test his driving ability as he eased the vehicle out of the village and began the ascent to the top of the mountain that separates the two ends of the island.  Before 1991 when this road was built the only effective way to travel from one end of Amorgos to the other was by ferry.

As the bus climbed higher into the interior and the engine began to complain and the gearbox groan the sides of the mountain became surprisingly greener with rugged plants clinging stubbornly to the desperately thin soil and then we reached the top of the mountainous spine of the island and we could see all the way down across the Chora and into the port of Katapola and still the woman in the seat behind the driver kept talking.

I’d have backed that woman in a talk-off against my mum!

The bus stopped briefly at the Chora to pick up more passengers and then the driver set off down the hairpin bends of the mountain road and down to the port.  I think he liked this part of the journey most of all because he made especially extravagant manoeuvres with increasingly theatrical turns of the steering wheel and he was confident too, even at one stage of the precipitous descent taking time out to make a telephone call while still listening all the time to the woman behind him jabbering away.

Amorgos Wall Decoration

After only a few minutes we arrived at the final bus stop in the port of Katapola, got off and met the driver from the apartments, the Hotel Amorgion and were driven quite some distance away from the town until we reached our destination.

To be honest, this was rather further out than we really wanted to be along an unmade road without any lighting and it was immediately clear that we were going to need some form of transport and with a very infrequent bus service and taxi fares beyond my skin-flint budget it was agreed that we would hire a car for our two-day stay in Katapola.

We negotiated a price of €50 and thirty minutes later it was delivered, a brand new Chevrolet Spark already with several areas of damage on the paintwork.  The hiring procedure was a refreshingly casual affair, there was no insurance hard sell, the man didn’t even want my credit card details and he said that it didn’t even matter if I didn’t return it with any fuel.  Anemos Car Rentals must surely be the most laid back in all of Europe!

Amorgos Sunset

Weekly Photo Challenge: Beginning

Koufinisia Greece Ferry Terminal

Greek Ferry Artemis in Paros

Beginning a Journey…

Soon after we arrived at what is euphemistically described as the departure gate our boat, the Anek Lines, Artemis, arrived on time and we made our way with the handful of fellow passengers to the top deck in the sunshine and as soon as everyone was on board it set off and slipped out of port.

The Artemis, named after the Greek Goddess of the wilderness, the hunt, wild animals and fertility (so quite a spread of responsibility), is a slow boat with a reassuring rhythmic throb of a reliable old engine and we sat in the middle of the boat and took comfort from that.

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Greece 2011, Amorgos to Koufonisia

The Corner Taverna Amorgos Greece

After breakfast I walked again to the ferry booking office but there was still no real news about the Express Skopelitis so we reprised our debate about the itinerary.  We could skip Koufinisia altogether and go directly to Ios or we could spend an extra night on the small island, reschedule our dates at Homer’s Inn and reduce the stay in Antiparos from three nights to two.  We went through the various combinations but it became too difficult and in an indecisive way confirmed that we would just go to Koufonissia as planned.

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Greece 2011, The Express Skopelitis and Greek Ferries

Amorgos Taverna Table Decoration

After the visit to the monastery and the gentle walk around the Chora we planned a lazy sort of afternoon doing nothing at all so after a drink in the main square we took the bus back down to Katapola where we stopped first at the mini-market for drinks and snack food.

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Greece 2011, Katapola and the Monastery of Panagia Hozoviotissa

Monastery of Panagia Hozoviotissa

The plan today was to visit the Byzantine monastery of Panagia Hozoviotissa on the other side of the island which we had almost visited on our previous stay in Katapola.  I say almost because although we made the bus ride and climbed a mountain of steps to get there we fell foul of the strict dress code and weren’t allowed in on account of the fact that we were wearing shorts.  This time we were taking no chances so packed extra long sleeved shirts, shawls and trousers and after breakfast on the terrace set off for the bus stop.

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Greece 2011, Katapola and the Chora (Amorgos)

Amorgos Windmills Chora Greece

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, mobile phones and air conditioning this place probably hasn’t changed a great deal in a thousand years.

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Greece 2011, Amorgos – Egiali to Katapola

Amorgos Chora

After a second breakfast on the terrace and several cups of tea we packed our bags and went for a last walk into the pretty village of Egiali and rechecked the bus timetable just to be sure that there wasn’t an alternative schedule on a Sunday.  There wasn’t and I knew that already but I checked anyway, it’s a bit like that thing that English people do when they get on a bus or a train and even though they know the answer they ask the destination several times of different people just to be absolutely certain.

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Greece 2011, Paros to Amorgos

Greek Ferry Artemis in Paros

“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

We had to set the alarm today because there was an early ferry at half past nine so we woke, packed and went downstairs to be the first on the breakfast terrace.  After several cups of tea and an above average continental breakfast we paid up, said goodbye and rejecting the offer of transport walked to the port.  Turning down the lift was something we quickly regretted because the pavement was uneven, our bags were heavy and even though it was early it was already quite hot.

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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