Up to Panagia Church and Down to Katergo Beach, Folegandros

The alarm clock wakes us up at 6.00am.  This morning we’re going to walk up to Panagia Church that sits one kilometre up on the ridge above the chora.  We think that we may go to Ano Meria after breakfast at Molidiri.  First we are going to build up our appetite!

If you turn right out of Evgenia Rooms and walk towards the town hall you will see a small road that leads up behind Evgenia and past attractive looking houses, a few small hotels and little whitewashed church.

Within minutes you will find yourself on the path that snakes up to the Panagia Church. We imagine we are going to be the only people up there at this time in the morning but walking along one of the upper walls is an elderly man emptying buckets of grain for a donkey and a small herd of goats.

It is quite a strenuous walk (I’m so unfit) but it’s made a little easier as the mountain is still in the shade – the sun is only beginning to rise over the mountain behind us and there is a delicious cool breeze.
It is so tranquil up here and the view looking down on the chora is amazing. Over the coastline neighbouring islands surrounded by the early morning haze seem to levitate above the sea.  As the sun begins to cast its glow over the mountain on the other side of the chora, the ridges of the terraces appear more defined.  From here we have a really good view of the Venetian kastro, built in 1210 and now which seems to overhang the cliffs rather precariously.  This is a scene from ancient history that remains untouched.
We reach the final stretch of the path and walk through a small gate into the grounds of the church.  Panagia is built on the grounds of an ancient temple – in fact you can see the remnants of marble columns in and around the church.  According to Greeka.com:
[“This church is dedicated to the Assumption of Virgin Mary and was possible constructed on the ruins of an ancient temple. In fact, marble parts of this temple were used as building material for the church and visitors can see ancient inscriptions and bases of statues in the interior and the courtyard of the church. The exact year of the construction of the church is not known. However, a marble sign says that it was renovated in 1687 and it took its present form in 1821.

The architecture of the church is traditional Cycladic and the exterior is whitewashed. This is a one-aisle basilica with many domes and a tall bell-tower. The interior has fine frescoes, a marble throne for the archbishop and a marble icon screen. In the past, the church was the katholikon of a female monastery.

The silver icon of Virgin Mary inside the church is believed the be miracle-working. The legend says that in 1790, 18 boats of Algerian pirates were about to get ashore. The desperate residents of Folegandros went to the church to pray for their lives to Virgin Mary, when a strong northern wind blew and sank all the boats of the pirates, of whom all got drown. Since then, the locals consider Virgin Mary the protector of their island.”]
The sun begins to peel back the shadows from the landscape below.  The breeze has dropped and the temperature is beginning to rise.  It’s time to head back down to the chora, this time admiring the views from a different perspective.

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It took about half an hour to walk up to the church and about 20 minutes to walk down – this includes time to stop and admire the views, catch my breath and to try and temper my vertigo. I notice afterwards that some of my photographs are a bit wonky – I shall blame that on vertigo!
When we reach the chora it is almost deserted, but no better time to explore the picturesque streets again.
  After wandering around the streets and alleyways, we walk over to Molidiri for breakfast.  We receive a lovely warm welcome from Eleftheria and she tells us that her boyfriend is baking pies and recommends that we wait to have the pies as they are their speciality. In the meantime we have a cup of tea and chat to Eleftheria.
Eleftheria tells us that they both used to work in Oiea on Santorini – he was the manager of a restaurant and she was a waitress.  They used to work very hard for very little reward so they decided to make the move and open up their own place on Folegandros.  Because they are what the locals on Folegandros call ‘strangers’ to the islands (she laughs and says “we are all Greek!”) they have had to work 10 times harder to be accepted by the community.  They also wanted to have the best quality of everything so they source the best ice cream they could find (Kayak) which is made from real milk and not milk powder like other ice creams.  Eleftheria tells us that they have some new flavours in and she dashes into the cafe to brings use some sample sized ice cream to try.  The pistachio is fantastic!
Eleftheria tells us that she is from Piraeus and her boyfriend is from Thessaloniki.  She says that people imagine that Piraeus is a big city because they just think of the port however, the place where she was born is like a small village.
We told her about our trip up to Panagia church.  She says that she had never been up to the big church but if her boyfriend asked her to marry him then she would run all the way up to it! I hope your wish comes true Eleftheria!
Eleftheria tells us that the salamander has been incorporated into their logo for the business because it is good luck. She also tells us the story of how the Aegean Sea got it’s name.  We like a bit of Greek mythology so we listen intently as gives a very animated and entertaining version of the story.  Here is a version from Google:
[“According to Greek Mythology, the Aegean Sea owes its name to the King of Athens, Aigeas (Aegeas). 

The story goes this way……. King Minos of Crete in order to punish the Athenians who had killed his son Androgeo, declared war on Athens and won. The Athenians subsequently became subjects of the Minoan Empire. King Minos then demanded that a tribute of honour be paid. At nine year intervals, seven Athenian boys and seven Athenian girls were to be sacrificed. They were to be sent to Crete and devoured by the mythical Minotaur, a monster with the body of a man and the head of a bull, who lived in the Labyrinth.

Thiseas, the son of Aigeas and Aithra, decided that he would slaughter the Minotaur and end the shameful bloody sacrifices. He took the place of one of the seven young men and set sail for Crete. Before he left, it was agreed with his father Aigeas that they would hoist black sails as a ‘show’ of mourning, but that if they were successful and slayed the monster, they would hoist white sails on the journey home.

On his journey he met and fell in love with Ariadne, daughter of King Minoas. She gave him a ball of string, ‘Ariadne’s Clue’. The idea was to unravel the string in the Labyrinth, so that after Thiseas slayed the Minotaur, he would find his way back to the entrance. The mission was successful and the Minotaur was killed. 

Under the cloak of night, Thiseas, Ariadne and the others escaped to the port and embarked on the ship for the return journey. On the way they stopped at the island of Naxos. Story tells us that Thiseas abandoned Ariadne while she was sleeping and continued on his journey home, but forgot to raise the white sails as he had promised to Aigeas (some say that Ariadne laid a curse on Thiseas). 

Aigias waited for his son to return. As he stood on the Akrotiri of Sounio, he spied the ship as it rounded the cape – it had black sails. Believing that his son was dead, the king despaired. He jumped off the cliffs into the sea from the temple of Poseidon and killed himself.”]

By now the freshly baked pies are ready.  I’ve ordered a cream pie and Peter has ordered a cheese and tomato pie made with local cheese.  Nothing can beat this straight from the oven.  Ten out of 10 for Molidiri’s pies!
Eleftheria, it’s been a pleasure meeting you and we wish you and your partner the very best of luck for your new business, Molidiri!
This is our last full day on the island.  We had planned to go to Ano Meria but had just missed a bus so we decide to catch the next bus down to the port (Karavostasis) and then decide what to do from there.
Once at the port we take a look at the port beach (called Port Beach).  There are a couple of taverna’s in the port and also one or two on the beach itself.  Although a small beach and not particularly busy, it is quite stony and we can’t find anyway that would be comfortable enough to sit for any length of time.
There are a couple of tourist boats in the port so we go to see if there are any trips to other beaches.  The 5 beach trip only runs on a Monday, Wednesday andn Saturday however, we do see that there are daily boat trips to Katergo Beach, supposedly one of the best beaches on Folegandros due to its crystal clear, emerald waters.
We are told by the captain that the beach is quite isolated and there is nowhere to buy water so we nip to the supermarket to get a few supplies.
We set off from the port, out past rocky outcrops until we make a short stop at a little cave.  The boats pushes it’s nose into the cave and after a minute or two reverses out and resumes the journey to Katergo.

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Soon after, we arrive at a small bay.  Katergo is a long strip of rocky beach – it can be reached by a bit of a trek from Agali (the opposite direction to the one we took yesterday).  The boat seems by far the best way to get here as we see later on when a we are startled by rocks bouncing past our heads caused by a couple who have been adventurous enough to go via the coastal path – just a minor avalanche!  They do apologise to us – I just hope their journey back is less precarious!
The beach is barren and rocky – very beautiful and has very little shade or shelter.  The midday sun is already upon us so we attempt to construct a makeshift shelter from a sarong and a Tshirt draped over a rock and anchored by big stones.
The beach itself shelves steeply as seems to be the nature of the beaches on this island but it certainly lives up to it’s reputation – the sea is absolutely crystal clear!
The heat is now too much to bare, even Peter is struggling a bit.  Further down the beach we see so many people lying out in the sun with no shade absolutely frying their skin (and for the nudists even more!) – I just don’t know how they do it!
We decide to catch the boat that returns at 14.15 rather than stay the whole day.  The boat we arrived on has remained anchored
a short distance from the beach all this time.  Another boat arrived sometime later and we return on the boat we came on.  I’m assuming this is for health and safety purposes in case someone is taken ill and needed to get back to the port quickly.  Back in the day I remember being dropped off on remote beaches and the boats usually didn’t stay – only returning for the pick up.
Back at Karavostasis we have lunch in one of the tavernas overlooking the small harbour.  Peter has fish and I have sausage accompanied by Greek salad, tzatziki and of course – retsina.  I think the retsina was a mistake as the sun has really made me feel a little lacklustre. It is ages before the next bus comes and we find ourselves changing tables twice to keep in the shade.
When we arrive back at Evgenia, I collapse on the bed feeling dehydrated and weary.  As much as I love the sun I’m not very good in strong heat.  Anyway, I soon get my second wind after a little nap.  We wander around the chora and then go to the viewing point looking over the terraces.  For the last time we watch the sun set on Folegandros.

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If you visit Folegandros I promise you, you will never tire of walking around the chora.  It really is picture perfect and I’ve found the local people some of the friendliest I have come across.  Neither Peter or I are hungry but we do find a quiet little taverna where we sit and drink tea before returning back to Evgenia to pack.

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