I am staying at the Myrtia Hotel which is well located for all of Pefki’s amenities. It is a cheap and cheerful option that includes a simple breakfast of ham, cheese, bread, cake, orange juice and tea or coffee. It is located on the front row of properties backing the beach. Like other accommodations along this stretch, it has its own cafe bar at the front and also manages a cluster of sunbeds on the beach.
I have a room on the second floor that has a small balcony and a sea view which is perfect. The hotel may be a little dated but it is spotlessly clean with crisp white cotton sheets, is spacious and has views over to Volos and Skiathos.
There is nothing like unpacking your case fully. I will be here for a week so take the opportunity to get my clothes onto some hangers and hope that the creases will drop. Not that I really care about creases. I’m not one of those people who carry a travel iron around with me. If they are crumpled so be it.
I spent my first evening in Pefki slowly acclimatising and also catching up on a few work-related emails. I still have clients travelling in Greece so I have to be available for anything that is required of me. The adverse weather conditions and last week’s ferry strike have been challenging to say the least. Thankfully, nothing that couldn’t be dealt with. What a wonderful sunset view from my balcony!
My first day in Pefki didn’t start off great. I don’t want to go on about my gallbladder situation because it’s boring but it’s all part of real-life events. Not all travel is full of sunshine and roses. Anyway, the pain was so severe after eating that I began to look at flights that would get me home quickly if needed. I also sought advice from Katerina who runs the reception desk, on the quickest way to get to Athens Airport and also where the nearest doctor was. I was beginning to feel quite disappointed that I may actually have to take one of these options and return home.
There was nothing for it but to throw back some painkillers until the spasms began to subside. I’m a rather stoic person by nature, a trait that I inherited from my mother, though if I continue getting pain after eating, only one option will be open to me.
There is no time to waste so I head out onto the main drag to do a little exploring. Pefki Beach is around 4km long and is a mixture of sand, large and small pebbles. It is backed unusually by patchy grass that is edged with a wide concrete walkway – perfect for evening promenading. The road that runs between the walkway and a row of hotels, shops and tavernas is separated by a large grassed central reservation which appears very elaborate for such a short stretch of road. It doesn’t seem to be busy, despite the number of visitors still here. The season is drawing to an end and yet the village still has life – lots of it.
The stretch of bars, tavernas and hotels are the main focal point of the village. There is a small cluster of modern residential houses behind the main drag laid out in a grid-like pattern but anything and everything that is happening is along the front.
Initially, I take a walk to the right of the Myrtia Hotel, which by the way is practically deserted. I get the sense that I am the only person staying here at the moment. If you want to find a beach where you can spread out and have your own space then you will definitely be able to find it in Pefki. Most hotels have sunbeds on the beach and are serviced by their cafe or bar. Just order a drink or two and the sunbeds are free.
There are also long swathes of beaches that are completely natural. After about 15 minutes of walking in this direction, the road comes to an end but it is still possible to continue walking. I had seen on Google Maps that there was an ancient olive tree to visit but it looked too far off the beaten track for my first foray around Pefki. I’d also read about some WW2 bunkers close by but I will leave this for another day.
I turn around and start walking in the opposite direction until I come to the statue of Zeus or Poseidon of Artemison. This is a very fine copper replica of the original that was found in the waters of Artemision in 1928 by fishermen. The original is in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.
The statue is upright and in stride with the left hand outstretched in front and the right one raised. There is some dispute as to who the statue is dedicated to, as the right hand could potentially have been holding a bolt of lightning (Zeus) or a trident (Poseidon). Whoever, it was created in the name of, a fine figure of a man he was!
A little further beyond the statue of Zeus/Poseidon is the small fishing port of Pefki. I stroll past a tiny church and along the harbour arm where I see a group of fishermen mending their nets and doing whatever it is fishermen do after returning from a successful trip. These fishing boats are big – almost industrial-sized and they sit alongside a cluster of brightly painted caiques. There must be some really good fishing waters around here!
In the distance I can hear a ‘thump, thump, thump’ of dance music and coming around the corner of the bay is a white tourist boat called the Pegasus. it moors up at the end of the quayside where a small group of people (mainly young people) board. The boat is going to Skiathos as part of a day trip from Glyfa on the mainland but also picking up tourists from Pefki too. As the boat pulls away from the quayside, the beat of the music starts again and off they go to Skiathos. It is many years since I have been to Skiathos so mentally make a note to do this whilst I am here – you’re never too old to get on board a party boat!
Before I continue my walk, I call into one of the many tour operators along the road – there must be at least four or five all offering similar excursions to Skiathos, the Edipsos Thermal Spa, Athens and Aegina. The one that I was really interested in was the trip to the little archipelago of islands called Lichadonissia. Because the season is coming to an end, the tours aren’t advertised too far in advance. I’m here for a week so there is plenty of time to book some of the trips.
As I reach the end of the drag, I stop off at Artemis Cafe bar for a cold drink. Beyond this point there is another beach which I have the vague intention to walk to. To get to it though, I have to take the main road that leads inland slightly – there is no coastal path. Back on the road I reach the outer village boundary of Pefki. Tall pine trees line the road and the smell from them is divine. Bright pink cyclamen with a deep purple centre grow in clusters, somehow managing to sprout up amongst the thick, dry bed of pine needles. It is always a pleasure to see such vibrancy at this time of year, just as everything else begins to fade.
I remember Alex asking me if I knew the meaning of the word Pefki. Being under the influence of Co-codemol and not having my wits about me I said no. But as soon as I walked amongst the trees of course I remembered that Pefki means pine/pine tree. It brought to mind the pine tree conversation I had with a young man up in the mountain village of Anovatos, convinced at the time that the Greek word for Pine was Pinus (I’d had a jar of pine honey with the label Meli Pinus). After saying “Pinus” a couple of times to the poor man I realised that I had been repeating the word for a man’s body part. Thankfully he was a gentleman and moved the conversation swiftly on!
Up along the hill that backs the village of Pefki, there is still evidence of the catastrophic fire that happened on Evia. Tall, blackened pine trees line the ridge and even further down in the residential area, there are signs of the fire with burned tree branches that are never likely to grow again.
I soon reach the boundary of the next village called Asmini. Although the bay that I’d wanted to walk to is quite close, the road down to it is quite steep. Getting to it wouldn’t be a challenge, but climbing the hill back up would. Before I call it quits and turn around I take a little detour down a side street. Beautiful villas are dotted around the landscape, very modern and I think signs of wealth. Maybe with Athens being a reasonably short drive away and also the town of Volos across the water, these are holiday homes rather than permanent residences. That’s the sense I get anyway. What a beautiful lush green landscape.
I mosey on back to the hotel to check my work emails but no sooner had I arrived I received a call from Peter and Alex inviting me to join them at a taverna along the waterfront called Ichthys, owned by their friend Antonia. Although conscious of my damned gallbladder, I accept the invitation gratefully. I hadn’t intended to eat, a little wary of ‘poking the bear’ but plates of sharing food had been ordered and it was only polite to participate.
Several hours of engaging conversation and plates of beautiful food later, I feel great. I think that Alex has worked some magic on me and for that, I’m truly grateful.
I must say at this juncture that the kindness shown to me by Peter and especially Alex was above and beyond. I was wholly aware of the big event that they had coming up along with the arrival of other guests. I wouldn’t have expected for one moment to take up any of their time. It has always been important to me to be self-sufficient and I’d never impose myself on anyone. I’m definitely what you’d call a low-maintenance woman – though try telling my husband that!
This was a wonderful start to my stay in Pefki. Tomorrow more guests arrive leading up to Friday’s book launch and I get the feeling that it is going to be a real success!