Schinoussa along with the other Smaller Cyclades don’t come up in conversations about the Greek islands much – maybe with the exception of Koufonisi . With their close proximity to the popular islands of Naxos and Paros, I’m not quite sure why. They each have everything you could wish for in the perfect Greek island – maybe with the exception of being a place to party – and that in itself is a blessing!
They have the added advantage of being in close proximity to each other so less time travelling between islands and also being connected to larger islands with airports and not that far away from Piraeus. Although they were probably all part of the same piece of land before the tectonic plates sprung into action, they do have their own individual characteristics which makes each one of them worth exploring.
Today exploring is what we do, beginning with a walk up to Chora or Panagia as it is also sometimes known. This small village is a mixture of old and new building all whitewashed and built in the Cycladic style. There are signs of a traditional rural lifestyle combined with modern taverna’s and restaurants – something to suit everyone.
The main church of Panagia Akathi sits in the heart of the village. The church is named after the rare icon of Panagia of Akathistos and serves as protector of the island. The icon is an image of Virgin Mary, in which, instead of Jesus sitting on her lap, he is standing besides her. Many women on Schinoussa have been named Akathi to honour their protector.
The port of Mersini sits about 1.5 kilometres from Chora. A concrete stepped path leads from one to the other, past some quirky buildings – one with fantastic Cycladic style chimney pots. Down at the port there is a very narrow stretch of pebbles which you can just about call a beach but apart from that it is just a place where you disembark or catch a ferry. Further around the bay you will find a small sand beach with tamerisk trees for shade. In the port there is a very nice taverna called Taverna O Nikolas where we had a lovely breakfast.
Back in Chora later that evening we eat at Deli Restaurant and Cafe Bar. It has lovely views over the rural landscape and down towards Tsigouri Beach. The food is delicious and beautifully presented – traditional Greek food with a modern twist. We have Dakos, the very famous Schinoussa yellow fava beans, veal stifado and seafood stew washed down with white wine. Tonight that is a big, fat, orange full moon!
BTW Over 200 of Schinoussa’s residents are involved in Fava cultivation and around 20 involved in its processing and packaging. Every year the island holds the Schinoussa Fava Bean Festival which takes place in the first week of July.
The following day we check out a good walking trail from Chora to the beach of Psila Amos via Messaria. Messaria is the second and only other village of the island and is about 2 kilometres North East of Chora. The road is good and well signposted and takes you through an agricultural landscape dotted with windmills. You get the same sense of abundance as you do on Iraklia and Naxos where the islanders are able to grow and rear a lot of their own produce.
You will pass a petrol station along the way – though I don’t think a car is necessary if you are visiting Schinoussa. You could probably walk the whole island in a day as it is quite flat. We follow the road around to the right where we come across another petrol station – strangely.
Just beyond the petrol station is the pretty stone church of Evangelistria which sits in the heart of Messaria – though don’t expect a it to feel like village as it is more of a small hamlet made up of smallholdings and one taverna. We stop off at Taverna To Petrino for breakfast. We order omelettes, tea and orange juice. When they are brought to the table the owner who doesn’t speak English, points to the omelettes and then over to his small holding with a hutch full of chickens. These are probably the freshest omelettes we will eat on this trip!
We leave Taverna Petrino and follow the road which now becomes a dirt track to the beach of Psili Amos. The beach is deserted and feels a little desolate and wild. It is a sand beach in a small horseshoe shaped bay. There a strong breeze that comes in from the side of the island which makes it refreshing on such a hot day albeit the water a little choppy. A single hammock is swinging in the wind from a large tamerisk tree. Someone has taken the time to create a small ‘art installation’ out of rocks from the beach. This is a lovely beach which is still very secluded even in early July.
Walking away from Psili Amos we see a water well that looks as though it is still in use. Further up the road we meet the lady from the taverna who is carrying an arm full of green beans. She smiles and gives us a bean each as she says “fasoli”. She says “Chora?” to us and as we nod she points out a short cut to us that takes us alongside a field instead of along the main road.
Our last evening on Schinoussa is spent at the hotel taverna again as you really can’t beat the views and the hospitality. Georgios tells us he will take us to the port when it’s time tomorrow when we head of to Koufonissi. Where did those three nights go?