Tag Archives: Mykonos

Greek Islands, Final Days and a Last Walk


“… but God’s magic is still at work and no matter what the race of man may do or try to do, Greece is still a sacred precinct – and my belief is it will remain so until the end of time.” – Henry Miller, ‘Collosus of Maroussi’

Leaving Tinos the Blue Star ferry made its way to neighbouring Mykonos where we would be spending the last two days of our trip before flying home.

Usually we choose to stay in traditional accommodation with average prices but for the last two days we had selected instead to stay at a more expensive boutique hotel just outside the Chora.  Actually, it wasn’t that expensive just a bit more than we like to pay and the result was that we were allocated a very nice room with a balcony and a Jacuzzi and a glorious view over the town and the bay.

Mykonos Street 1

By comparison the mini-bar and restaurant prices were ludicrously astronomical so it didn’t take us long to make a decision to take a walk back into the centre for an afternoon stroll, search for a sunset and then find a reasonably priced taverna for evening meal.

Now at the end of our holiday we challenged each other to record the highs and lows of the three week trip.  We didn’t agree entirely with each other but I think this list of highlights is safe enough to share…

  1. Amorgos was our favourite island
  2. Homer’s Inn on Ios was, as always our favourite hotel
  3. The gyros in Syros was our favourite meal
  4. Mountain tracks on Amorgos were our favourite walks
  5. The seven hour ferry journey from Ios to Syros (Andrew)

We struggled to make a list of low-lights but these were suggestions…

  1. Car hire in Amorgos
  2. Cruise ships in Mykonos
  3. The seven hour ferry journey from Ios to Syros (Kim)

The list complete we thought about our last day and agreed that it might be a good idea to try and break our walking record and see if we could crash through the ten mile barrier so we decided to start early and walk to Ornos where we had stayed two weeks previously and then on to Agios Ioannis and then return.

Walking in Mykonos

So, next day we did just that and immediately after a rather chaotic hotel breakfast we packed our rucksacks and set off.

It was late October now and the scorching summer weather was on the glorious tipping point into Autumn and there was a welcome breeze, well, wind actually, which made it a pleasant walk to the south of the island.  Once there we thought about a swim in the sea but the beach was still crowded with sun-worshippers cluttering up the beach so we passed straight through and on to Agios Ioannis where we stopped to swim for the last time this year and then to have a drink before retracing our steps stopping in Ornos on the way for a light lunch.

The taverna was next to the bus stop and there a middle-aged shabbily dressed American with grizzled grey hair and an extravagant pony tail was giving Greece travel advice to a younger woman who had admiring doe eyes and was hanging on to his every word as though he was Ernest Hemingway or Henry Miller or Rick Steves.  Some of the advice was quite useful as it turned out but it dried up when the bus arrived and they climbed aboard and left.

We left shortly after and walked the two miles back to the hotel where we sat in the sun, arranged our suitcases ready for the journey home and enjoyed some time in the Jacuzzi.


For evening meal we had chosen a beach side taverna a little way out of the town (we needed the steps) and we presented ourselves at the agreed time of eight o’clock.  It was a busy restaurant and we were obliged to share a table with a couple from France who arrived shortly after us and were both clearly very drunk.  They ordered several starter plates and a bottle of retsina and then nibbled at the food and got seriously stuck into the wine.  They were generous with their food and invited us to share but I noticed they didn’t offer any wine.  They ate almost nothing but very quickly ordered a second bottle.

As we ate the American and his adoring companion walked by and although I am certain they had only recently met they were now holding hands.

It was a good meal, perhaps the best of the holiday? I don’t know, I can’t really be sure, but we enjoyed the musicians who played traditional Greek music throughout the evening and the amusing company.  He danced, she chatted, they were clearly local celebrities and when it was time to go we said goodbye and as we left they ordered their third bottle of retsina!

Greek Dancing

We walked back and saw the American and his friend who were now walking arm-in-arm – the old man of the sea had clearly been hooked.  Back at the room we checked the pedometer – 10.35 miles, we had broken our record and we were self-congratulatory about that.

On the final morning I was surprised to see no cruise ships in the harbour or the bay so anticipating that this might make a difference I made a final visit to the town.  It was charming, empty, quiet, unhurried and delightful.  Without hordes of cruiser invaders the little streets of the town had a whole different ambience and improved quality.  I liked it so much I did at least two full circuits of the town and I was so happy to see it like this in the last few hours before returning back home.

We had enjoyed the Cyclades and agreed that we certainly wouldn’t leave it another five years before returning to one of our favourite places.

Ios Unique Restaurant


Greek Islands – Tinos, St Pelagia and Pilgrimage


“Tinos, where the little hanging offerings of crutches, bandages and paintings, testify to the miracle having taken place, and remind one once again that here, as in the ruined and forsaken shrines to Aesculapius, healing and divination are one.” – Lawrence Durrell – ‘Reflections on a Marine Venus’

The ferry from Syros took us first to the intriguing island of nearby Tinos which is a secretive place that doesn’t feature very often on holiday itineraries.  As we approached the port we could see that not being a holiday island it wasn’t going to any special effort to become one and the harbour front was rather functional and utilitarian and without the ribbon of colourful bars and tavernas to which we had become accustomed.

Actually, although it didn’t seem a tourist hot spot to us as we approached the harbour, it turns out that Tinos, a large island just northwest of Mykonos, is in fact the most visited of all Greek Islands.  Not with overseas visitors however because 90% are Greek and since Greeks come looking for an authentic experience even the most tourist friendly places retain a feeling of originality and visiting the island is a more genuine and unique experience than say Mykonos or Santorini.

Greek Doors 2016 (3)

One of the reasons so many Greeks visit Tinos is that it is an intensely religious island famous most of all for the Church of Panagia Evangelistria which holds a reputedly miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary and is the venue for an annual pilgrimage that is perhaps the most notable religious pilgrimage in the region of the eastern Mediterranean.

Many pilgrims make their way the eight hundred metres from the ferry wharf to the church on their hands and knees as an extreme sign of devotion.  It was extremely hot and it was hard enough work just walking up the long hill to the church so I imagine that you would have to be seriously determined to do it on all fours, although to be fair there is a ragged strip of dusty red carpet at the edge of the pavement to stop pilgrims ripping their hands and knees to shreds or getting stuck in the melting tarmac.

On the way to the church there were old fashioned stores selling various sizes of candles to take to the church and instead of postcards there were racks of cards each with a picture of a part of the body.

The shopkeepers could speak little English so couldn’t explain what these were but we eventually worked it out for ourselves.  If you have a bad limp then you buy a leg picture, a poorly arm an elbow picture, a hangover a brain picture, if you are going to crawl to the church you will probably need a knee picture and so on and then you take this to the Church and ask for a cure and secure it to an icon and when you leave just to be certain so that God doesn’t just simply forget about it shortly after you have gone light a candle to remind him.  The bigger the candle the better and some of these monsters, without exaggeration, were easily four feet tall and a real fire hazard I can tell you!


We reached the brilliant white Renaissance style Church, gleaming like a fresh fall of snow and went inside to see the miraculous icon which according to tradition was conveniently found after the Virgin appeared to the nun, St. Pelagia, and revealed to her the place where the icon was buried.

By suspicious coincidence the icon was found on the very first days after the creation of the modern Greek State and henceforth Our Lady of Tinos was declared the patron saint of the Greek nation.  Inside the church it was hard to find because in contrast to the bright sunshine outside it was dark and oppressive with the sickly aroma of incense exaggerated by the heat of the burning candles but eventually we found it, almost completely encased in silver, gold, and jewels, and with a line of people waiting their turn to admire it and place a gentle kiss upon its base.

All of this icon kissing means quite a lot of unwanted spit and saliva of course so to deal with this, cleaning ladies with spray cleaners and dusters circulated constantly to deal with the slobber and the germs on a continuous and never ending polishing circuit of the church.

After we had seen the church and wandered around the gardens for a while we walked back down the long hill and back to the harbour where we walked rather aimlessly until we came across the best of the bars that we could find and stopped for a drink while we waited for the ferry to Mykonos.


Greek Islands, Syros, Bus Ride and Gyros

Syros Helmet Greece

After the Herculean exertions of the day walking to the top of two high peaks and negotiating hundreds, maybe thousands, of steps we were in no mood to march a great deal further this evening and so rather than walk to the town or the harbour we stopped instead at a gyros restaurant (and I use the word restaurant in its loosest and most generous sense here) and ordered some fast food and some white wine served from a plastic bottle.

After two weeks we were ready for this and the really good thing about the Greek Islands is that there are no McDonald’s, Burger King or Kentucky Fried Chicken because fast food here is all about the gyros which is a Greek speciality (sold all over the World now of course) where the object is to cram an entire meal, meat, chips, vegetables and sauces into a pitta bread wrap and then try to tackle it without it falling apart and the contents dribbling down the front of your shirt or falling onto the floor.


Well, this was absolutely divine and I am not knocking all of the restaurants and tavernas that we had eaten in so far but it just might have been the best evening meal so far.  We drooled over it, we described it to each other in ever-increasing gastronomic superlatives and we mopped our plates clean.  Disappointingly of course this was fast food and it was all over in a flash and were back in the hotel sitting on the balcony and looking out over the lights of the town and the reflections on the water which spread and shifted like a kaleidoscopic diesel slick over the water.

The next morning over breakfast on account of the fact that we had completed two days intended walks in just one we had to make some alternative plans so we thought we might find the bus station and take a ride around the island.

Syros Street Decoration

Bus services in the Greek Islands used to be reliably unreliable but things have changed since our last visit and the entire bus service thing appears to have been privatised.  Gone is the inefficient fleet of state-run cream and green coaches with their tatty seats, worn out curtains for shade, belching engines and groaning gear boxes and they have been replaced with a fleet of modern Mercedes-Benz vehicles with engines that meet EU emissions standards and have air conditioning, recliners and seat belts.  The price to pay for this little bit of progress is that the new bus service is much less regular.

Those were the days – Serifos (2009)…

Old Greek Post Pre-Privatisation

So we took the ride to the nearby village of Vari on the south coast.  As we left the bus we instinctively knew that this wasn’t the sort of place where we would want to spend the entire day so we examined the bus time-table and noted that the next bus back was in forty minutes, which was too soon and after that an hour and ten minutes and we thought that we might be able to manage that.

To be fair there was a nice beach and we had a swim in the sea and then a drink in the water side taverna and then strolled back to the bus stop and waited, and waited, and waited and waited.  The bus did not come so after half an hour we gave up and started to walk back to the taverna.  Suddenly a bus appeared and we sprinted like Olympic athletes back to the bus stop only to have our hopes dashed and be told that this was a school bus and there was no way we would be allowed on that even though we had just given a whole new meaning to the term ‘school run’!

The driver told us that the next bus back to Ermoupolis was in about an hour so we wandered back to the taverna and ordered lunch and waited.

To be honest I wasn’t at all confident that there would be any sort of bus back at all but sure enough one eventually arrived and we thankfully got a ride back to the port.

Syros Church and Statue

It was our third and final night in Syros and because we had enjoyed the gyros so much the day before we just went back to the same place for our evening meal.

The following morning we had an early morning ferry to Tinos and then on to Mykonos so after settling our account we followed the steep path down to the ferry terminus and waited for the Blue Star to arrive.  It turned up dead on time and Kim immediately stood up and started pushing her way to the front of the line.

Kim is from the North-East of England where most people have a lot of Scandinavian heritage but I swear Kim is an exception and has French blood pulsing through her veins because she just cannot be in a queue without wanting to get to the front of it.

When the boarding gates opened she did her best Lionel Messi impression and swerved and weaved her way skilfully through the crowds of people, scattering children and elbowing people aside if anyone dared get in the way.  I have reminded her several times that it is all completely pointless because I am left way behind and eventually she will have to wait for me because I am the one with the tickets!

Anyway, we eventually got on board the Blue Star, made our way to the top external deck and watched as the pastel colours of Syros faded away behind us as the ferry made its determined way to nearby Tinos.

Tinos Greece Ferry

Greek Islands, Mykonos to Amorgos

Amorgos Church & Windmill

“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

Being a nervous traveller, normally when travelling by ferry that requires a crucial connection I like to allow a couple of hours or so leeway so that I can be certain of making the transfer.

The journey to Amorgos required a change at Naxos with only forty minutes on the timetable.

I began to get nervous when the first ferry was over fifteen minutes late and when it docked I tried to use thought transference to will people to board quickly and then to get the captain to slip the moorings and leave and it must have worked because everything went smoothly and soon the Seajet was easing away from Mykonos and was soon at full throttle and heading efficiently south towards neighbouring Naxos.

Dash For The Ferry

Once disembarked Kim did her ‘Frenchman in a queue impression’ and pushed her way to the front  of the line for the connecting ferry to Amorgos.   It wasn’t very elegant but at least we were sure to get on board and that was important because if we had missed this connection then we would be stuck in Naxos for the night.

It wasn’t an especially memorable crossing, I always prefer the older traditional ferries but this was a high speed, expensive but efficient and it roared its way across the water to deliver us to the main port of Katapala.  This was a shame because we were staying at the opposite end of the island about fifteen miles away and there was no one to meet us as promised.

There wasn’t a scheduled bus for three hours so we found a taverna for a beer and a salad, phoned the hotel owner and he agreed to drive down and collect us.  Thirty minutes later he arrived and after another half an hour or so we were sitting on the balcony of our hotel room.

Amorgos cat

This was a place to chillax, tranquil and slow, perfect for recovering from a nervous breakdown or contemplating the meaning of life and other serious matters; why are British police vehicles called Panda Cars, how did the Trojans fall for that Wooden Horse Trick and just how did Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton become U.S. Presidential candidates?  Here, I thought, I might find the answer to something that has always troubled me – how can I be sure that the little light in the fridge has gone off when I shut the door?

Amorgos provided a huge contrast with Mykonos.  No sun-beds cluttering up the beach, just towels spread out and held down in the corners by stones, no pesky buzzing scooters, just pedestrians and no tattooed people but instead lots of ageing bearded hippies with pony-tails, wearing white linen and leather sandals, carrying sketch-pads and all that was missing was the joss sticks and the candles, the flowers and the guitars.

The prices too were much more to my liking and more suited to our budget and in the space of about three hours the cost of living had literally halved.

Amorgos Green Window

The beach was close to the port but there was no activity of any kind because there were no boats due today.  The whole place had settled down to late afternoon lethargy.  It is nice to see boats because it means there is still some connection with the rest of the world, or did I get that wrong and it is the other way round?

Not being dedicated beach people we stayed just long enough to dry off and then returned through the village and back to the hotel where we let the rest of the afternoon just slip through our fingers.

After four days it was time for a shave and I mention this not because anyone would be remotely interest in my ablutions but because I have noticed a curious thing about bathroom wash basins in Greek hotels.

In almost every bathroom there is a notice on the wall explaining how precious the water is and encouraging guests not to waste it – so curious then that there is hardly ever a basin plug and if there is then it more than likely will not fit and the water just pours away into the u-bend and beyond.  Surely if they are serious about being careful with water then it would be sensible to provide a simple piece of rubber on a chain to make sure that to wash your face you don’t have to keep the tap running continuously!

Folegandros Chora

Later we dined in a restaurant in the harbour where a full moon was decorating the inky sea with silver glitter that shifted constantly and broke and reassembled  a kaleidoscope image on the surface of the water that undulated with a gentle ebb and flow and that reassuring sound of tiny waves lapping the shore and percolating through the sandy gravel.

From the hotel balcony there was a good view of the night time harbour that was peaceful and serene with the lights of the buildings reflecting on the surface of the water and providing an idyllic image of the Cyclades.

In this moment I was reminded why I always say that Amorgos is one of my favourite Greek islands.

Amorgos sunset

Greek Islands, Day Trip to Delos

Delos, one of the great classical archaeological sites of the Mediterranean, is a tiny island stretching only three miles north to south and barely one mile from east to west. It was here, that Apollo and his twin sister Artemis, son and daughter of Zeus and, like Delphi, is a major sanctuary dedicated to Apollo, the Titan god of gods and one of the most important in all of Ancient Greece.

It is the epicentre of the Cycladic ring and an uninhabited island six miles from its larger neighbour and is a vast archaeological site that together with Athens on the mainland and Knossos on Crete makes up the three most important archaeological sites in Greece.

Delos Greece Postcard

I imagine that the reason we are not so aware of it is because whereas a lot of the work in Athens and Crete was undertaken by British and American archaeologists Delos is predominantly a French excavation site and we prefer to concentrate on British rather than Gallic achievements.

The excavations on the island are among the most extensive in the Mediterranean; ongoing work takes place under the direction of the French School at Athens and many of the artefacts found are on display at the Archaeological Museum of Delos and the National Archaeological Museum of Athens.

In 1990, UNESCO inscribed Delos on the World Heritage List, citing it as the “exceptionally extensive and rich” archaeological site which“conveys the image of a great cosmopolitan Mediterranean port”.

Delos is just a short ferry ride from Mykonos.  We left the old port on a small ferry boat where we sat on the open deck and watched Mykonos slip away behind us and the approach to tiny Delos which took about half an hour or so.  It was already hot as we stepped off the boat and paid our admission charge to the island and took the pathway into the site.

There is no set route and visitors are allowed to wander in all directions along the rough paths and the dark grey stony earth overgrown with vegetation, strewn with ancient relics, ravaged by wind which moves across the embers of a past civilization and, if you listen to the warnings of the locals, home to poisonous snakes which will attack if disturbed so keeping an eye out for this danger we set off first to Mount Kythnos, the highest point and a stiff climb where, at the top, we were rewarded with sweeping 360º views of the Cyclades and beyond.

It was a lot easier going back down and once back in the main city which was once home to thirty-thousand people (compare that with a modern population of eight thousand in Mykonos) we walked through a succession of excavated buildings, some with ancient frescoes and colourful mosaic floors, dismembered statues, altars, sanctuaries, agoras and reconstructed temples and arches.

At the centre we stopped to see the Delian lions, one of the iconic images of the Greek islands.  These were only plaster copies however because they are now kept in the island museum and one is missing because it was stolen and taken to Venice to become a symbol of that city.

Walking through the centre of the ancient city we passed the sacred lake where Apollo and Artemis were born and then to the far north of the island and the site of the ancient stadium and a view back across the water to Mykonos.

We had been continuously walking now for about three hours in the blistering sun without any shade so we made our way back to the main site and to the museum where we hoped it might be a bit cooler.  There was no chance of that and although it was light and airy inside it was oppressively hot so we rushed through the exhibits rather too quickly to do them any real justice and were soon outside again looking for refreshments.

Delos is well worth a visit but here are three bits of advice, firstly don’t miss the last boat home or else you will be stuck on the rather remote island all night long with the spirits of Ancient Greece and the snakes.  There is a superstition that no one should stay on the island overnight. Secondly don’t die on the island, no one is supposed to pass away on Delos, it is considered to be bad luck.

Finally, take plenty of water and a snack because there is only one small shop on the island attached to the museum and it is explosively expensive and bearing these two earlier bits of advice in mind we finished our tour of Delos by wandering back to the jetty and taking the early afternoon ferry back to Mykonos.

Mykonos Town, The Curse of the Cruise Ships and Shirley Valentine

Little Venice Mykonos

“There is nothing quite like this extraordinary cubist village, with its flittering, dancing shadows and its flaring whiteness. It’s colonnades and curling streets, houses with extravagant balconies of painted wood, lead on and on, turning slowly inward upon themselves to form labyrinths, hazing-in all sense of direction until one surrenders to the knowledge that one is irremediably lost…. It is not cozy, it does not try to charm. It brands you like a hot iron.”  –  Lawrence Durrell

It was two mile stroll from Ornos to Mykonos town and as we approached the bay and the port we were confronted with three hideous cruise ships menacingly lolling about on the water like an invasion fleet.  These weren’t in Mykonos the last time I was there.

Unfortunately these floating hotels seem to be turning up everywhere – ugly, monstrous and completely incongruous, dwarfing the town and spoiling the view of the harbour and the sea front, one of them was an eleven-deck eyesore resembling a block of 1970s council flats, no style or charm, just a floating unattractive leviathan.

These loathsome giants spoil everywhere they visit; Santorini has become a crowded nightmare, Dubrovnik is overwhelmed, Venice is sinking under the weight of tens of thousands of people.  I hate these cruise ships not least because I immediately knew that it would unleash hoards of cruisers swarming from the ship for a quick culture break in between continuous gluttony at the all day, all you can eat on board troughs.

In the Colossus of Rhodes, Henry Miller wrote prophetically: “I began to get the feel of it, what Greece was, what it had been, what it will always be even with the misfortune of being overrun by tourists.”  Well, he would have shocked today because this was quite unlike the Greece that he knew in 1939 as all these people descended on the old town centre to ram-raid the jewellery shops and plunder the over-priced boutiques but to bring little benefit to the rest of the local economy by stopping for lunch or a beer.

Mykonos Street 1

Mykonos town is a lively place and one of the top tourist attractions in the Cyclades, not as spectacular as Santorini, as historical as Naxos or as dramatic as Ios, but with an enviable location facing west with the town rising up from a gentle shelving crescent shaped bay full of traditional fishing boats competing for moorings with the pleasure boats and yachts.

Once in the town it was clear the damage the cruise ships have done.  I had recollections of quiet mazy lanes, whitewashed walls with blue doors and windows but it has now been turned into a giant shopping mall with designer clothes and expensive boutiques and slow progress through the streets as thousands of people were dawdling through and walking at a pace as though crossing a ploughed field.

It has become a Walt Disney EPCOT World Showcase version of a Greek island town and that is a shame because just as in Florida where people visit  London, Paris and Rome and believe that they have actually been to England, France and Italy a lot of these visitors will come ashore at Mykonos town and think they have been to Greece and really, let me tell them, they haven’t.

Mykonos Pasta

And when I say thousands of people I am not exaggerating because throughout the summer the cruise ships deliver an average of six thousand invaders every day which literally doubles the population of the town.  To put that into perspective that is like half a million people visiting the Australian city of Melbourne every day or over one million descending on Calgary in Canada.

We walked and elbowed our way around the town and patiently waited for a gap in the crowds for our photo opportunities and then emerged at the old port which thankfully retains an element of character and charm on account of the fact that the cruise ships and the ferries use the new port about half a mile away and it has thankfully escaped redevelopment.

Mykonos Then and Now

By late afternoon the little town began to empty as there was a stampede for the shuttle boats as the mother ship gave a blast of its mighty horn to alert shore-goers that the troughs had been refilled in preparation for evening meal.

Mykonos once had a famous resident, a pelican called Pétros  who arrived injured one day and stayed waddling around the streets, going from one restaurant back door to another in anticipation of fishy scraps from the kitchens and stopping every now and then in a good-natured and obliging way to have a photograph taken with the holidaymakers.  When Pétros died the people of the town decided to replace him but the new Pétros  is not nearly so obliging he was nowhere to be seen to today.

My daughter with Pétros in 2005…

Pefkas Stork Mykonos

It is only a small town so after a while we began to recognise places as we ran out of new streets and so we strolled back to Ornos and back at the Anemos Apartments we wasted a couple of hours at the side of the pool.

The following day we tackled another long walk this time to the beach resort of Agios Ioannis  which is an unremarkable little place but is famous for being the location of the film ‘Shirley Valentine’, not that she would recognise it of course because thirty years of development has irreversibly changed the character of the secluded bay where Shirley had her holiday and met the owner of the taverna, Costas.  Costas wouldn’t recognise his taverna either because it is now called the Hippie Fish and the beach outside is decorated with rows of sunbeds.

Anyway, Shirley Valentine is one of my favourite films and I was glad of the opportunity to visit the filming location.

Over evening meal we declared the visit to Mykonos a great success and later we packed our bags ready for our next stage of the adventure and a ferry-boat ride to Naxos and then to Amorgos.

Walking in Mykonos

Greek Islands, Doors of Mykonos

Mykonos DoorMykonos Door 02Mykonos Door and Chair