The ferry journey in my view is always part of the travel experience – not just a process of getting from A to B. The ships become like old friends. Some you may have had an encounter with or maybe just even seen from afar. The Blue Star Patmos has been one of those friends you are likely to meet up with often when travelling around the Cyclades or Dodecanese. A good reliable ferry.
Syros is the first destination. After we pass between Kea and Kythnos, clouds begin to gather and the wind picks up. Not a problem on this ferry. I am going to be met at the port by my host Tony. He sent me a message to say that he would be waiting in a blue Cherokee jeep to the right side of the port. His place is called Voulias Apartments and is located on top of the mountain which apparently gives views on both sides of the island – one over to Ermoupolis and the other to Kini. My rationale for being up and away from it all is that I figured I could do with some peace and tranquillity after a hectic 4 days in Athens. To be honest the sunset views on their website swung it for me!
Passengers for Syros are given the call to get ready to disembark. It is a bit of scramble for the suitcases with many being dumped in front of the ones in the racks. I managed to pull mine out from behind pile of luggage and make my way to the barrier. This is the exciting bit!
How can you describe the feeling as the hatch to the back of the ship lowers and slowly begins to reveal a new destination. Not me – I’m not articulate enough. I will just say that you have to experience it for yourself!
Tony is indeed waiting for me. He is a member of the port police so I feel I am in safe hands and he is a good person to know. As we leave the port he points out a few places to me. I know that Voulias is out of the way so ask if we can stop at a minimarket so that I can get some supplies – primarily washing powder and water. I get the sense that Tony knows everyone and everyone knows Tony which I’m sure is going to be a good thing.
The car begins to climb the mountain around one hair pin bend after another. The port becomes a speck in the distance. Looking on Google Maps Voulias really doesn’t look that far from the port – as the crow flies it probably isn’t, but via road it is a trek. Well you wanted peace and tranquillity woman!
Tony shows me into the apartment and what key is for what door. There are some breakfast such as French toast, jam and honey and some water and Mythos in the fridge – what a nice welcome! Tony shows me the new bus timetable and gives me the phone numbers of two taxi drivers – Zakis who works in the morning and Stelio who works in the afternoon and night. Tony tells me whatever I need I just need to ask – his parents live above the apartments so help is always close by.
It is now getting quite late but after unpacking, my first job is to do some handwashing. I always like to do this as I go along but is almost impossible to do in an apartment in Athens. One thing is for sure, the hurricane that is now blowing outside has reached epic proportions. I’m not sure my clothes will still be on the line in the morning – but what the heck – they’ll sure be dry!
I’d like to say that I had a good night’s sleep but the wind was howling! No wonder there is a wind turbine next to the property – this part of the mountain will get it all!
On a positive note – the washing is dry and still in tact!
A little exploration of the garden confirms that the view over to Kini is wonderful. This is where the sun sets so I can’t wait to see it this evening – however, we have a bit of cloud and a substantial haze today so we will wait and see.
Today I’m going down to Ermoupolis to do a bit of exploration. I head to the bus stop which after walking down the gravel track from Voulias is a couple of minutes walk away, sitting at the top of one of the hair pin bends. I see it also serves as a postal service with a number of locked boxes inside, along with a small bench and 2 patio chairs.
It isn’t long before I realise that I’ve completely misread the timetable and will have to wait another 50 minutes for the bus. I don’t want to waste time so phone Zakis the morning guy. Whilst I await his arrival I take in the view over to the port and Neirion shipyard.
Zakis drops me along the harbour front by the National Resistance Monument which seems like a good starting point for my wanders! The monument leads down El. Venizelou straight into Miaouli Square and Ermoupolis City Hall.
The striking thing about Ermoupolis is the neo classical architecture. Unusually I haven’t done any research on the islands I’m going to visit (except the ones I’ve already been to) and I feel a bit unprepared. I decide to head into the streets above and behind City Hall just to see what I can see. I’m afraid a lot of aimless wandering, ice cream eating (it was hot!) and door knocker spotting went on. If you’re as fond of a door knocker as I am head over to our Facebook group – The Door Knockers of Europe
I felt a bit at sea not having a plan or a direction so I caught a taxi back to Vou Vou Voulias (sorry a certain song just jumped into my head!) to gather my thoughts. I think I was also feeling a bit overwhelmed at the amount of photographs and video’s I’d taken in Athens and Piraeus and it was slowing my ancient laptop down making writing up the blog very challenging. I spent the afternoon trying to get the photo’s and video’s organised and I did this for a couple of hours before giving up. I’ve really got to draw a line between getting out and enjoying the trip and becoming a slave to the blog.
It is getting dark and the wind is howling outside the apartment. I know there is a taverna within walking distance so think this is the best option for tonight’s dining. I set off down the gravel track, using my phone as a torch. As soon as I reach the main road the wind hits me like a tornado. I don’t feel it is very safe to be walking along a cliff edge in the pitch black with the prospect of getting blown around. I walk back to the apartment and phone Stelios, the afternoon guy to see if he can take me to O Mitsos. Stelios says it is too close to Voulias and it wouldn’t be worth him or me coming all the way up here to take me such a short distance. OK, take me to Ermoupolis I say!
I ask Stelios if he can recommend a nice restaurant, one that is quite quiet and close to the centre. He says he highly recommends Ithaki Tou An. It is down an alleyway under a bougainvillea covered pergola and I will like it very much. I’m dropped again close the monument and head to said taverna. It’s packed to the rafters without a spare table so I walk for a while looking for somewhere less frenetic. I find myself back on the harbour front and walk until I come to a restaurant called Armi that has plenty of spare tables. I look at the menu on the street but am waved in before I have chance to put on my specs. I’m brought the menu and it isn’t long before I realised that I’m in a seafood restaurant. I mean this is a pure seafood restaurant with no meat options on it at all. I have to deliberate whether to apologise and explain my dilemma to the waiter or just see what I can pick from the menu that I will like. I decide on the latter – I couldn’t face trying to seek out somewhere else.
I order fava, the house salad called Armi which consists of mixed vegetables, oranges, finokio and peppers and Codfish with skordalia as white fish I like – oh and retsina of course!
Out comes the fava – always a favourite – but there is lots of it. Out comes the Armi – a very large bowl of it. Then comes the Cod fish with skordalia -7 pieces of cod! Bloody hell there is enough food here for 4 people! As I tuck in a soon realise that another ingredient in the salad is marinated squid which I didn’t read on the menu. I know because there are some textures that are quite unique. I’m not saying I can’t eat squid but I just don’t get it – I don’t understand why chewing little bits of rubbery meat is a good option. However, eat it I did. It was so tasty and I could probably order it again even as an informed choice!
I made a good attempt at the food but even the waiter knew I was struggling so the food I couldn’t manage was put into foil containers for me to take back to the apartment. I phoned Stelios to pick me up and he was surprised to hear that I was at Armi and not Ithaki Tou An. I regaled him with my story and he told me that the man who owns Armi is the brother of the man that own Ithaki Tou An and he thinks I made a good choice.
Once back at Voulias I made a decision. I’m going to have one day doing nothing. I’m not going to stress about bus journey’s or getting taxi’s or where to eat. I’m going to get on top of the photo’s and the blog and then I’ll prepare to see a bit more of Syros but with more of a plan of action. I’m going to eat tonight’s leftovers and drink tea. I’m going to look out at the view and listen to the wind. Sometimes you just need to slow down and take a breath. To just be.
Here was tonight’s sun set from Voulias.