Having just one day of doing not much at all was worth it. A day to myself was just enough to help me recoup from the frantic four days in Athens. I find myself always having to fight the temptation to be up early and explore everything within my capabilities – or rather the capabilities of public transport. Being and experiencing somewhere different can be enough.
I like a bit of solitude and from my little patio the only distractions were the sound of cockerel’s crowing, the clonk clonk of goat bells and the hourly chimes of the church bells. Breakfast was yoghurt and tinned peaches bought from the supermarket the day before. I’ve brought a supply of Rooibos teabags with me and the little briki heated on a table top cooker is enough to three quarters fill the mug. It takes about 15 minutes to boil so this I find, is all part and parcel of my attempts to slow down. The doggy bag from last nights meal was enough to sustain me throughout the day. This is the closest I’ll get to self catering on this holiday!
The following day I wake up refreshed and determine to get organised. The one place I really want to visit is Ano Syros so I decide to make this part of today’s schedule. It is possible to walk to Ano Syros from the apartment via a dirt track and Google maps says it will take about 30 minutes. Now I know it isn’t snake season but apart from not having the appropriate footwear with me, I don’t think it’s wise to go off the beaten track on my Jack Jones. I think the older you get the more conscious of your own immortality you become and if anything should happen be it a fall or a cardiac arrest I don’t want it to be days before my body is found. The rule of thumb when travelling on my own is to stay relatively close to civilisation. (sorry if the sarcasm doesn’t come through. I say this in jest – but not jest!)
After consulting the bus timetable I see that I’ll either have to wait until the 12.25 for the bus from Kini or I can catch the 10.00am bus from Ermoupolis, spend a bit of time in Kini and then catch the 12.25 bus to Ermoupolis. I decide on the latter.
The bus is on time and down the hill we go. I only have an hour or so in Kini but straight away I get the sense that this small seaside village has a friendly and intimate feel. The sand beaches are organised and backed by a number of bars and taverna’s. I think Kini would be a really good place to stay if I was to come to Syros again especially because of its good bus connections. I start with breakfast at Blue Harmony, a beach front hotel with restaurant.
The sand beach is backed by tamarisk trees offering shade if you don’t want to hire a sunbed. At this time of year it is perfectly possible to find a spot away from anyone else.
Oh that first time you step onto the beach to the sound of waves crashing violently onto the rocks. It’s invigorating!
There is a small queue at the bus stop including several people with suitcases heading over to the port. The KTEL buses on Syros are fully equipped with the luggage compartments to accommodate. I pay the 1.60€ fare which seems to be the standard fare no matter the destination. Everyone is wearing a mask on the bus which is reassuring.
Once in Ermoupolis I ask about the buses to Ano Syros. I’m told that they only run in the morning so I phone Zakis, the taxi driver. I’d heard Ano Syros described as the Kali Strata on steroids. For those that have been to Symi you’ll know that the several hundred steps up to Chora are not for the fainthearted. Zakis drops me by a windmill. The fare is only 4€ and Zakis tells me to take the path straight ahead as the one to the right will take me to the back of the church.
St George is a Catholic Church built on the highest point of Ano Syros and has an imposing presence on the skyline looking up from the harbour. The houses of the village spill out over the rocks below the church. Because the streets surrounding the church are so narrow it is almost impossible to photograph the exterior of the church but the interior is magnificent.
Now the fun begins. The descent back down takes you down narrow labyrinthine alleyways where it seems there is a small chapel at every turn. There are multiple pathways through the village and at this point the walk doesn’t bare any resemblance to the Kali Strata – the steps are too narrow and too steep. As you continue through the village you will stumble across a small cafe and occasionally you find a vantage point that offers a vista of Ermoupolis below. The further down you get, the wider and more shallow the steps get – and yes there is a vague resemblance to the Kali Strata in that sense, but Ano Syros definitely has it’s own unique character.
Once at the bottom the roads towards the port are rather ordinary. I find my way by just following the incline in the street and it seems to take forever before I feel I am close to the harbour front. Fearing for the longevity of my footwear, I decide to find somewhere to buy some trainers. My trusty Birkenstock style sandals of which I buy a new pair for every trip, already feel like they’ve been through the wars and we’re barely halfway through the trip. Just at the back of the bus station I stumble across a shop run by a young Chinese man who is eager to help. The training shoes are all in Chinese sizes and mean nothing to me so I tell him my European size and point to a shoe and he runs upstairs to find the right size for me. He grabs a stool and indicates for me to sit and try on the shoes. He doesn’t seem put off by me putting my now dust engrained feet into a pair of his new shoes. They’ll do. For 17 euros if they last a few weeks I’ll be happy. Whilst I’m there I have a little browse and also come away with a 7€ dress and a pair of capri leggings!
I catch the bus back up to the apartment and decide to go to O Mitsos for an early dinner. I shower and wash my hair and use natures hair dryer on the balcony rather than the electric one in the bathroom.
O Mitsos is a ten minute walk from the apartment. I think I’d imagined it to be a traditional taverna complete with checked table cloths and hand written menu’s but it couldn’t have been further from this. There is no signage outside to indicate that this is the place and I have to go inside to ask. It is indeed O Mitsos but it is a very modern looking restaurant with wide open views over Ermoupolis. As with some of the other taverna’s I’ve experienced you scan the QR code on the table to view the menu. I decide on Scordalia, Tzatziki and chicken souvlaki with of course – retsina!
I highly recommend O Mitsos taverna, and not just for the views which I can tell you are pretty spectacular! It was a short ten minute walk for me but definitely worth the visit if you are staying elsewhere on Syros. If you take the direct route over the mountain from Ermoupolis as you reach the last hair pin bend on the ascent, take the right fork for Alithini and you will see if 50 yards down on the left.
I’m even back in time for the sunset!
The bus journey from Kini up to Voulias didn’t seem very far when I did it yesterday, so today I decide to walk down to Kini and from there catch the bus on the circular route to Galassas.
I love how there are viewing points complete with picnic benches along the road from Ermopolis to Kini – and probably elsewhere on the island. The walk takes between 30 and 40 minutes and I am pushed along by the refreshing breeze which seems to have been a constant since I arrived here. I’m not complaining at all – the heat in Athens was quite oppressive so I relish every moment of this portable air conditioning. I note the trees bent at a 45 degee angle that stands testament to the wind here.
There is no pavement to walk on so you need to be careful on the corners, especially as some motorbike riders like to freewheel it down the slope – you don’t hear them coming! Overall there isn’t that much traffic on the road so it feels safe. I pass bee hives and small vineyards planted on the slopes and am accompanied by the sound of cockerels who’s internal clocks have gone a bit skewed.
As I get to the lower climbs of the hill I’m met with a crossroads. I’m not sure which one to take but I know the church is above the beach so take the path to the church. From there I take a set of narrow steps which does bring me out behind the beach.
I’ll give credit where it’s due, the buses are very punctual and true to the timetable. And let’s face it – this isn’t a bad bus stop to hang around at!
Once on board, the bus heads up another hill and not long after it arrives in Galassas. The stop is next to a car park through which you can take a path to the beach. Again Galassas is an organised beach and I was interested to see a disabled access facility on the beach. Well done Syros!
As I walk along the front a lady in swimming costume asks me if I know where the Blue Dolphin Hotel is. I explain that I’ve just arrived and don’t know it’s location. She asks me where I’m staying and I tell her on top of the hill. It seems that she is finding the water a bit too choppy here and was asking about other beaches. I was only able to tell her that at Kini beach the situation is the same, probably not just due to the wind but it could be this side of the island gets the choppy waters.
I hire a sunbed – 5€ for one person though I don’t stay on the beach for long. I suspect it is warmer in the sea than on the beach but I’m not in the mood for swimming. Just sitting and listening to the sea is enough.
After a while I get up and look for a taverna to eat at. Galassas has a lot of identical looking white washed hotels set onto the hillside so accommodation seems to be in abundance.
I find a little taverna called Savvas. The waiter brings a place mat and asks me to scan the QR code for the menu which now seems to be the accepted way of doing things.
I ask for Drunken Dakos and although it has fish on it I think that I would like to try it. Unfortunately it isn’t available today to I settle for Zuccinni fritters and pork cooked in honey and fennel. Oh my word I’m not disappointed! The pork is heavenly and the flavour of the fennel (which by the way grows in abundance along the roadside here) really comes through. This is all washed down with some retsina of course!
After the nice long lunch I catch the 2pm bus to Ermoupolis which also passes a number of the island’s other good beaches. I’m able to catch a few (not very good) pictures through the bus window but the one thing that I do notice is that the sea is much flatter and calmer the further towards the port you go. I have used the GPS facility to identify the location of the beach but this may not be accurate.
At Ermouolis Bus Station I’ve missed the bus up the hill so take the time to draw out cash, buy my ticket to Ikaria. It is very easy to buy your tickets on line but there is something nostalgic and satisfying about buying your ferry tickets in person.
I’ve got a hankering for galaktoboureko and walk to a delightful little patisserie called Melikraton where I have called in for ice cream several times during my stay already. The patisserie is located on the road that leads from the resistance monument (or the lady with wings as I describe her to the taxi driver) to the main square. It is just a few shops down on the left and highly recommended for all your ice cream and patisserie desires!
Back at the apartment I make a half hearted attempt at packing. Nothing gets put in the suitcase but belongings that have found there way across the various rooms are all brought together ready for organising. After a bit of hand washing I sit on the terrace with my galaktoboureko and a partially filled mug of tea to watch the rather hazy sunset. The neighbours dog called Lara comes to join me.
Tomorrow I leave for Ikaria.