Greece

Memories of the Greek Islands – Part 2 (Milos)

Typical Cycladic architecture in the Plaka district, Milos

Typical Cycladic architecture, colors and winding paths in the Plaka district, Milos

Unlike its famous neighbor Santorini, Milos is much quieter yet shares the same  whitewashed, Cycladic architecture, framed by cerulean skies and turquoise waters. After collecting our rental car at the port, we drove to our home for the week, Nefeli Sunset Studios in Pollonia,  at the northwest tip of the small island.

Our view every evening

Our view every evening

This was as picture-perfect as one could wish for. A large private terrace off our contemporary studio apartment from which to watch the sun go down over the ocean each evening, a delightful small town within easy walking distance where the store owners came to know us and greet us each day with a hug, sandy beaches and warm water for lazy afternoons, plenty of tavernas offering delicious local delicacies and a variety of historical places of interest to explore in the cooler hours.

Renovated Roman ampitheater

The renovated Roman theater  overlooks the port and offers wonderful views and acoustics. The original theater seated 7000 – the renovated one today can seat 700.

One special highlight was visiting the ancient Roman theater as the sun set, listening to a wonderful concert featuring traditional Greek instruments and several talented signers including Roula, our hostess at Nefeli.

Who sat here before us???

By the time the concert began at dusk, every seat was taken

The acoustics were perfect and it was impossible not to feel caught up by the history of such a venue, wondering who else had sat on these marble benches in centuries past?

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The winding, paved streets were said to be originally designed as protection against pirates.

Many of the roads on Milos are unsuitable for anything less maneuverable than  a jeep, with narrow, winding, alleyways considered a major thoroughfare!

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Weathered shutters set in an old stone wall

Definitely not for the fainthearted.

We did venture out a few times, however, and explored the capital – the Plaka district, even managing to hike to the very top of the steep hill to enjoy the 360′ view it afforded, as well as a view of the traditional church (perhaps placed there for those who wished to pray for safety on the return trip?).

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View of the Panagia Thalassitra (or  The Ypapanti of Christ) from the top of the hill

 

In fact cars are not allowed in the heart of the Plaka – but that doesn’t mean they don’t try!

Our hosts also suggested visiting some of the picturesque fishing village, including  Mandrakia and Klima.

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These were interesting in that they were created not so much to be a commercial fishing center, but rather a protected location for boat storage, the colorful garage-style buildings and overhead rooms now a popular place for photographers and artists.

The beaches of course are stunning – and the geology varied, Milos being known for its rich mineral deposits. We were able to explore more of these by joining a yacht trip for a day, circumnavigating the entire island, with time to stop off at a few otherwise inaccessible coves for swimming in the crystal clear, warm waters.

Th essence of Milos

The essence of Milos

Will we ever return? Maybe not, but only because it is so far away from Seattle! Every moment was a gift which we will store in our memory bank, to share occasionally or simply to reflect upon quietly.

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Our love and thanks to our daughter Katie, who kept the barn cats fed and the garden watered while we were away, making this trip of a lifetime possible.

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I guess it’s time for me to get back to writing my book – and taking care of the garden!

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Memories of the Greek Islands – Part 1

VIne-clad cottages in Assos, Kefalonia

Vine-clad cottages in Assos, Kefalonia

Thirty years ago Andy proposed to me while we were on vacation in Kefalonia (the Ionian island made famous by the book and movie Captain Correlli’s Mandolin) and we were married three weeks later! (Well he had been asking me – weekly – for quite some time!) So we decided that would be the perfect place to start the celebrations for our 30th wedding anniversary. A splurge for sure, and significantly harder to reach from the USA where we now live, than it was from England, but oh so worth it.

So rather than a typical garden-related post, this is something of a mini travelogue, a glimpse into our summer so far. I’m splitting it into two parts, because our second stop, Milos, deserves a post all of its own.

Grab your sunglasses ….. and welcome to Kefalonia

Olivemare was our home for the first week, a delightful contemporary, boutique hotel set in olive groves

Olivemare was our home for the first week, a delightful contemporary, boutique hotel set amid olive groves

We stayed at the most beautiful boutique hotel in Katelios, a small fishing village at the southern tip of the island. Olivemare only has five guest rooms, each one with a private patio festooned with bougainvillea. Furnishings are kept simple but contemporary, but the food………………

Our breakfast room, fragrant with lavender and rosemary

Our breakfast room, fragrant with lavender and rosemary

Breakfast was our favorite meal of the day, prepared buffet style and eaten in the garden. From orange juice squeezed from the nearby trees just moments before, to traditional savory pastries, tempting freshly made cakes, Greek yogurt, local honey and fresh fruit  you could feast like a King – or try to watch calories as you wished. Everything was locally grown and home-made…..sigh.

The clouds eventually lifted to afford us a glimpse of the distant views from Mt. Aenos

The clouds eventually lifted to afford us a glimpse of the distant views from Mt. Aenos

Of course when you are re-visiting a place that was special after such a long time you do run the risk of being disappointed. Certainly Kefalonia has changed in 30 years, but we found the local people just as friendly and enjoyed re-visiting old haunts such as the underground lake at Melissani Caves and hiking on Mt. Aenos.

Road Trip to Fiscardo

As they say, the journey is half the adventure. So it is when traveling to Fiscardo at the northernmost tip of the island. Along the way one passes the most photographed beach in Kefalonia – Myrtos Beach.

Myrtos Beach - now accessible by road

Myrtos Beach – now accessible by road

Thirty years ago there were no roads to this beach  – and no people unless you arrived by boat. Now there is a winding, switchback road all the way to the bottom of the cliff. Progress? I’m not sure. I rather liked the mystery of it before.

Continuing on, Assos can be seen as a peninsula jutting into the sea.

Assos is one of the most picturesque, secluded villages on Kefalonia - and well worth the drive

Assos is one of the most picturesque, secluded villages on Kefalonia – and well worth the drive

Assos is still a stunningly beautiful place to visit and we spent a few hours meandering through the streets and catching glimpses of what this island looked like before the devastating earthquake of 1953.

Shuttered windows, broken doors and overgrown gardens tell a story

Shuttered windows, broken doors and overgrown gardens tell a story – yet some homes are being renovated in sleepy Assos

Bougainvillea is no resepcter of history, scrambling at will over and through old buildings - Assos

Bougainvillea is no respecter of history, scrambling at will, over and through old buildings – Assos

Of course I'm always interested to see how folks use containers! Assos

Of course I’m always interested to see how folks use containers! Assos.

From here it is a short drive to Fiscardo. We remembered this as an upmarket fishing village, still quaint, but catering to the yachting crowd. Today the number of tavernas and bars seems to have quadrupled, with waves of tourists arriving by cruise ship, yacht and car.

One of the upscale hotels that can now be found in Fiscardo

One of the upscale hotels that can now be found in Fiscardo (Love those urns!)

Thankfully if you look hard enough, there are still fascinating alleyways to explore – and gardens.

Home from home - a bounty of container spilling onto the road and sidewalk

Home from home – a bounty of containers spilling onto the road and sidewalk

Perhaps our only disappointment in Kefalonia was the typical taverna food, which sadly seemed to cater to the extremely large influx of British travelers now that there are direct flights here from at least three UK airports. A “full English breakfast” or a tuna salad – with canned tuna, just don’t do it for me!  More of a reason to enjoy breakfast at Olivemare.

It was still a wonderful start to our vacation, however, and we have no regrets returning there.

We flew from Kefalonia to Athens for one night, staying in the old, historic district at Central Athens Hotel. It was something of an eye-opening walk from the nearest metro station (Syntagma Square) with police on every street corner, graffiti on many of the buildings and folks just perched on the sidewalk stripping an old bicycle for parts. Not to be recommended after dark.

We had something much better planned for the twilight hours, however. We headed up to the rooftop terrace of the hotel where we enjoyed cocktails and a leisurely meal, watching the sun set over the Acropolis. An unforgettable experience and a perfect transition to our second island.

Acropolis at sunset

Acropolis at sunset

 

Early the next morning a taxi took us to the port of Piraeus where we boarded a SeaJet (hydrofoil) bound for the island of Milos. I’ll tell you more about that next time!

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