To lose a work of art is unfortunate but to lose three is careless and the island of Milos has the distinction of being famous for just that. The statue of the Greek God Asclepius has been taken away to the British Museum (not by Lord Elgin this time), Poseidon is in Athens but the most famous of all is the statue of Aphrodite, or the Venus de Milo, which has been taken away to the Louvre in Paris. All over the island archaeologists continue to search for the missing arms but even if they exist it is unlikely that they will ever be found.
We woke early because we had plans for a very full day and we thought we might hire a bike and join the search for the missing appendages. After breakfast on the terrace with a persistent black cat that seemed to think I was his temporary Merlin and the wind still rushing in and agitating the sea we walked to Pollonia to catch the ten o’clock bus to Adamas.
Our first job was to find a bike shop where we hired a death machine (quadbike) from a man who had clearly forgotten to take his early morning happy pill. He wasn’t very talkative and saved what conversation he had to give instructions on not to drive to the forbidden zone on the west of the island. He made it sound almost supernatural but the simple truth is that this is a National Park called Natura 2000 where there are a lot of wildlife experiments that could easily be spoilt by the careless use of a quad bike.
After leaving the port we arrived at the main town of Plaka, which overlooks the port of Adamas below and we parked the bike and walked into the little streets of the busy town. We walked around the town and couldn’t help noticing that there were three distinctive smells. Proctor and Gamble Tide detergent (no longer popular in the United Kingdom) which clung to the fresh linen hanging on the washing lines outside the houses, incense, leaking out under the doors of the churches and the divine aroma of fresh moussaka and other Greek specialities being prepared for lunchtime in the tavernas. As it happened, it was lunchtime now so we stopped and had a leisurely lunch of salad and moussaka (what else), wine and beer and then we reluctantly moved on.
First we stopped at the seafront village of Klima, a little fishing community with gaily-painted boat garages cut directly into the rocks. The season was finished now and the village was strangely quiet but I imagine this place would be busy in summer with lots of activity, busy bars and cafés and the aromatic smell of fish cooking on the grills at the sides of the streets.
We drove east back towards Pollonia and on the way stopped at Sarakiniko beach, which is one of the famous picture postcard sites on Milos. The island, like Santorini, is volcanic in origin but there the similarity ends because it is completely different in character and in appearance and here the cliffs are so brilliant white that from a distance they seem to be covered in snow and there are great swirling formations of sea chiselled rocks in the most spectacular and attractive formations.
The Aegean was rough this afternoon with a stiff north breeze and the wind was whipping up the sea into waves, uncharacteristic of the Mediterranean, and they were crashing with some considerable force over the rocks. Milos is rich in minerals and is the main source of the island’s wealth to the extent that tourism hasn’t always been very important here and at the back of the beach there was an extensive labyrinth of old abandoned mines that penetrated deep into the pumice cliffs where once people mined for sulphur. This was one of the most interesting and spectacular beaches that I have ever visited but because it was overcast and cloudy we decided we would leave now and return tomorrow.
In the late afternoon we arrived back at the Nefeli Sunset Apartments and we sat on the balcony with a beer and wondered if there would be a sunset. This had been an unusual day of weather contrasts, quite unlike anything we had experienced in Greece before – high winds, blue sky, grey sky, black clouds and even rain and as we waited for the sunset we crossed our fingers and hoped it would improve tomorrow.
As the sun began to drop over the horizon there was a raging wind and a wild sky, black, orange and angry in a biblical fire and brimstone sort of way so we prepared for a second evening out with two layers of clothes and walked once again back to the village where we had a good meal at a harbour side taverna.
Later we sat on the balcony with a glass of ouzo and were encouraged to see the clouds clearing away and the stars beginning to appear. Only shyly at first but by the time we called it a day there was a clear velvet mantle encouragingly punctuated with the distinctive pin pricks of night sky activity as one by one the stars became more confident and began to shine ever more brightly.