Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Greek Islands

It was only a 3 hour sail from Bodrum, Turkey to Kos, Greece. The landscape and architecture didn’t change much except that the mosques we had seen over the last 6 months in the Muslim countries had been replaced by Greek Orthodox churches and we noticed considerably more women out and about and working in the shops. We also found far more people who could speak a little bit of English which sure makes it a lot easier for us when we are looking for anything. Although most of the city had been rebuilt, there remained some ancient ruins and the tree under which Hippocrates is said to have taught his pupils.

Our next stop was on Levitha which is in the Cyclades group of Greek Islands. Here the landscape transformed into incredibly rocky terrain where it is difficult to imagine any life surviving.
Only one family has lived on this island for over 300 years. At this time, it consists of 2 aged parents and 3 adult boys. They farmed a small portion of land that they had cleared of rocks (over the hundreds of years) and they raised sheep and had a small fishing boat. Their main source of income though was a small taverna with only 6 tables where they served cruisers and charter boats traditional Greek Cuisine. We could chose either (you guessed it), lamb or fish. The delicious meal, including an appetizer, entrée and nice bottle of wine was only 30 Euros ($47 Canadian) which is WAY more than we would normally pay for a meal out but the experience was worth every penny.

After a stop on Amorgos, we continued on to Naxos which looked like picture-perfect islands we have seen in so many photos of the Greek Islands. Naxos is rugged and rocky topped with boxy white washed buildings and blue-domed Byzantine churches overlooking the dark blue Mediterranean under the clear blue sky. (I know it sounds corny but it really is amazing). We anchored off the city of Chora where the stone alleyways wove back and forth between the buildings all the way up the hill to the castle on the top.

Our friends Mary and Steve from Kitchener arrived in Naxos by ferry from Athens. They brought with them our much needed fix of Canadian Maple Syrup and other items we have not been able to replenish along the way. We headed off to the island of Paros to do a little snorkeling and visit the cute little town of Naoussa. Fisherman pulled their brightly painted boats right up to the wall where the restaurateurs bought their catch and tourists sat in the little tavernas overlooking the tiny stone fort that used to protect the harbour.

After two days on Paros, we returned to Naxos where we anchored at the base of a tiny island on top of which the remains of an ancient temple created a spectacular sight at sunset. The next day, Mary and Steve hopped on another ferry and continued south to the Island of Santorini where they had booked a suite overlooking the Caldera for 3 days before returning to Kitchener.

Steve and I rented a car and drove around the island to see some of the historic sites. The roads were very windy and the signs impossible to read (mostly in Greek) so we had difficulty finding the ancient ruins we were looking for but it was good because we stumbled over some fabulous old churches set in the rugged country side.

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