AEGEAN AND EASTERN MEDITERRANEAN
The Crossroads of History
March Through November 2017
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A yacht charter holiday or honeymoon sailing Aegean Greece. A Greek island hopping holiday aboard a proper yacht sailing from Samos in the eastern Sporades Islands of Greece or from Kusadasi in Turkey. A crewed yacht charter in Greece sailing west through the northern Cyclades as far as Syros and Sifnos before returning through the central and southern Cyclades to terminate at Kos, one of Greece's Dodecanese Islands opposite Bodrum, Turkey. Cyclades sailing. The word Cyclades, or Kiklades, derives from kiklos or ring, in this case a ring of sun-bleached sugar-cube encrusted islands encircling Paros and Antiparos.
Pythagorion, Samos. One hour by air from Athens. Beaches left and right. Motor-bike up into pine-covered hills for tavernas without tourists. Buy at artist-factories producing ceramics rarely equaled. See the Temple of Hera dedicated to the temperamental wife of philandering Zeus. Explore the Eupalinus Tunnel, a 2500 year old public water supply. Pythagorion, it might be noted, was named for Pythagoras the mathematician and philosopher born here in about 580 BC. You know, the square of the hypotenuse equals...., or was it the square of the hypothesis. Compounding the equation there was also a second Pythagoras born here later in the sixth century, the sculptor who with his Philoctetes introduced pain and passion to sculpture. Greek cuisine at Trata Taverna behind the swimming beach.
Nisis Samiopoula. Eight miles off the wind from Pythagorion to a much-ignored apostrophe beneath the south coast of Samos. Samiopoula is also a clear-water swim stop with a seafood taverna behind an idyllic beach.
Marathokambos, Samos. Nine miles on the wind from Samiopoula, Marathokambos and its small harbor offer a peaceful contrast with the more-visited eastern part of Samos. Sand beaches also contrast with shingle beaches to the east, particularly the sand beach at Psili Ammos three kilometers beyond Marathokambos, while isolated coves are numerous. Nick The Greek's Seafood Taverna has a justifiably superb reputation.
Evdilos, Icaria. Twenty-six miles on and off the wind from Marathokambos, this architecturally picturesqe village is at the center of the Icarian Sea into which Icarus fell after flying too close to the sun while fleeing*** Crete's Minos of Knossos on wings of bird-feather and wax. A pretty island with lots of green on this the north coast, thermal springs, secluded beaches, and ancient ruins from the Archaic, Classical, Hellenistic, and Roman periods. Fresh red mullet is the staple at most tavernas and ouzerias situated around the harbor.
Chora, Mykonos. A fast forty-five mile close-reach from Evdilos. Once the Cyclades destination of many of Europe's jet set and currently a hoi polloi favorite. Shirley Valentine's one-off. A Greek blue and white town with white-washed paving joints under French windows amid clusters of climbing bougainvillea. Innumerable beaches beneath grind-stone windmills. An island mostly bypassed by history perhaps because of its neighbor Delos. Its Venetian overlords nevertheless felt the wrath of an Ottoman flotilla under Kheir-ed-Din Barbarossa in 1537. The Ottomans in turn lost Mykonos three hundred years later to another flotilla led by Manto Mavrogenous, a local heroine.
Delos. Six nautical miles downwind of Mykonos, Delos is the mythological and historical center of the Cyclades. Birthplace of Apollo, the god of reason and light, and of Artemis, goddess of the hunt and virginity. Otherwise inhabited no later than the third millennium by Carians from Asia Minor, succeeded in the first millennium by Ionians from Attica, and de-populated by Mithridates of Pontus in 88 BC, the island is currently inhabited by ruins only. But the ruins are extensive, enlightening, and well worth visiting.
Panormos, Tinos. Twenty-eight miles up the lee of Tinos and through the Strait of Dhisvaton where in 407 BC Alcibiades took the wind of a Spartan squadron in one of the last Athenian victories of the Peloponnesian War. Just around the top of Tinos, Panormos (lighthouse at right) sits at the head of a lovely bay with palm trees shading several tavernas catering to a swarm of caique fishermen. Four kilometers up hill is Pyrgos, one of the more striking Cycladic towns, this one home to a community of painters and sculptors.
Finikas, Syros. Twenty-three miles down wind of Panormos. Its name reflecting the island's Phoenician heritage, Finikas and its neighbor Poseidonia scenically arc another lovely bay on the southwestern coast of Syros. While Finikas provides yacht shelter, it is Poseidonia that is the attraction, its neo-classical nineteenth century homes serving as a gracious backdrop to working ouzeria a short walk from the beach.
Naoussa, Paros. Twenty-five miles southeast and off the wind. Naoussa is the prototypical Cycladic town with blue-shuttered white sugar cubes, whitewashed grouting between paving stones, potted geraniums, clouds of bougainvillea, and up-scale restaurants. Its waterfront still harbors working caiques with nets piled in front of working ouzeria. Just outside of Naoussa at Koukounaries are the ruins of a fortified Mycenaean settlement circa 13th century BC in the process of excavation. While Naoussa has several fine tavernas, the best dining on Paros is at Halaris Ouzeria in Piso Livadhi a short taxi or bus ride distant.
Paroikia, Paros. Eight miles off the wind from Naoussa, Paroikia is the capital city of Paros and principal ferry port. Of many things to see in Paroikia perhaps the most interesting is the Katapoliani Cathedral or Church Of One Hundred Doors. It rests in part on the crepidome of a temple of Dionysus, and was founded by Helena, mother of the Emperor Constantine, following a trip to the Holy Land in AD 326. Later modified, the extant structure dates from the sixth century rule of the Emperor Justinian. South from the church along the seaside promenade is a hillock on which stands a Venetian castle built in 1260 in part with blocks from a temple of Demeter. While tavernas and ouzeria abound, idyllic garden dining may be found at To Tamarisko. Also recommended is Taverna Aligaria.
Vathi, Sifnos. A 26-mile off-the-wind sail southwest of Paroikia, Sifnos is described by Herodotus as the wealthiest of sixth century Greek islands with every citizen receiving each year a distribution from its gold and silver mines. Today the island's principal attribute stems from its position off the beaten tourist track. In Vathi (photo above) there is no ferry access and little road access. There is idyllic seclusion. There are also two tavernas with ambience and superior cuisine, as well as a significant cottage industry producing pottery from the island's renowned clay.
Karavostassis, Folegandros. Folegandros is one more remote island not yet overwhelmed by tourists. Twenty-three miles from Vathi, another Folegandros attribute is its dramatic sheer rise out of the deep blue sea. While Karavostassis has considerable charm, the soul of Folegandros may be found at Chora atop the island, a part of it within thirteenth century Venetian walls. Back in Karavostassis fine dining may be had at Kali Kardia, a seafood taverna on the waterfront.
Thira/Santorini. A thirty mile off-the-wind island hop from Karavostassis. What is there to say that has not already been said. This is where essentially all Greek tourist advertisements originate. Most posters inviting a holiday in Greece depict Santorini, as do most televised promotions. Santorini may be what's left of Atlantis. The Krakatoa of the Mediterranean. Santorini's eruption about 1645 BC marked the beginning of the end of Minoan civilization on Crete. It also marked the absolute end of its own capital city at Akrotiri, much of which has been unearthed within the past twenty years. Hundreds of years after Akrotiri's end a new city now termed ancient Thira was erected on one of the island's southern headlands. What remains today is mostly the work of Cleopatra's Ptolemy forebears, including theater, agora, temple foundations, and the Sanctuary of Artemidorus, the latter an Egyptian admiral. The volcanic rim encircling all of this rises starkly from the sea (photo at right), the perfect backdrop for Greek blue and white. The Sea Side Lounge at St. George Beach serves a superior grilled octopus.
Yialos, Ios. Most importantly when beating north from Santorini, this port twenty miles distant is a safe haven in almost any weather. While the port has its own beach there are many others dotting the island's circumference such as at nearby Kolitzani. Otherwise there is little to recommend Ios unless it is the Octopus Tree in the port where, again, a superior grilled octopus is served.
Ayios Yiorgos, Iraklia. This charming village an eighteen nautical mile island hop northeast of Yialos, initially on the wind then sailing in the lee of Naxos, is one of the "Small Cyclades" or "Lesser Cyclades" or "Back Islands" all of which may be found in the lee of Naxos. Like neighboring Skhinoussa, Iraklia's sheltered bay and beaches were during the last years of the 15th and early years of the 16th centuries a haven to the Barbarossa brothers' twin galliots. A decade later Sinan Reis of Smyrna used the same bay in his raids on Venetian merchant vessels. The village includes several seafood ouzeria.
Yialos, Amorgos. A scenic respite twenty-five miles across the wind from Iraklia near the northeastern tip of Amorgos, Yialos is the port for three villages painting surrounding hill tops white. Numerous sandy beaches as well as the wreck of The Big Blue's Olympia nearby. Nearby, too, are the remains of ancient Yialos (or Aigiali) dating from the Early Cycladic period, while paved roads now connect Yialos with the island's famed Hozoviotissa Monastery (adjacent photograph). Dining other than at Katerina's To Limani would be a disservice to any preferring wine from the barrel with an excellent dinner.
Nisis Levitha. A twenty-six mile island hop east of Yialos is the islet of Levitha featuring a sheltered bay on its south side formerly called Port Saint George and at least once a storm haven for oared galleys of the Knights of Rhodes. In addition to shelter Levitha features crystal clear seawater and a lone taverna, sort of. Some say Levitha is their favorite among all Greek islands large or small.
Pothia, Kalymnos. An exciting twenty-seven mile reach from outback to commercial indifference. Perhaps reflecting the danger both in its principal sponge fishing preoccupation and in its historic resistance to outside occupation, Pothia is remarkably uninfluenced by tourism. Rather, it represents a rare opportunity to experience Aegean island life as it was fifty years ago. In Pothia the visitor will find tinkers and tailors as well as sponge fishermen. And a plethora of everyday-caique fishermen, as well. From Pothia the castle of the Knights of Saint John of Jerusalem may be reached on foot; the reward a magnificent view. In Pothia the archaeological museum is worth a visit, not least because of the neo-classical residence in which it is housed. So, too, are the seafood restaurants on the waterfront of which Theo's Vrahos Fish Taverna at the far end is one of the better.
Kos Town, Kos. Sixteen miles off the wind from Pothia and one hour by air from Athens, Kos Town is remarkable both for its beaches and for its evidence of antiquity. Among the latter is the medieval fortress built (AD 1470) by the Knights of Saint John in part from Hellenistic blocks purloined from the Asklepeion (357 BC) four kilometers west of town. Both are worth a visit. Fine dining on one of the better beaches at Taverna Spitaki immediately east of Kos Island Marina.
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