Seriphos and Siphnos

The beautiful square in the Chora, zoom in……

We had a good nine hour crossing from the tiny island of Spathi to the west coast of Seriphos;   sailing most of the 47 nautical miles in a friendly force 4.  My step count is 16!

We anchored first in a small bay, Megalo Livadi on the west coast.  It was mined intensively for iron during the 19th and early part of the 20th centuries.  The old workings and buildings are still in evidence.  A coast guard boat swung by to check us out.  The whole conversation was conducted in Greek!  They wanted to know where we’d come from, where we were going and how many people were on board.  The next day we sailed along the south coast. So much of the terrain reminds me of the west of Scotland, mountains and valleys, crags and pockets of cultivation and a few scattered crofts but here, white Cycladic cubes.  While in Livadi, the main port, strong northerlies blew most of the time and we were glad to be tied securely alongside.  Only two of us in the harbour on arrival, confirming our thoughts that Seriphos is generally quiet and peaceful Oh! Oh!  Wednesday afternoon saw a steady stream of large boats and ever larger catamarans – monsters;  one of them parked their backside so close to ours it seemed they were almost part of us, very intimidating and not very private.  However the next day saw the port return to the sleepy place we know and love.

We made the stiff walk up to the Chora and revisited Tou Stratou for lunch and wine.

Enjoying the local wine
The most beautiful square in the Cyclades
Interior with the little niches called Θιδυρα common in these tiny houses
Colourful flowers, new paper hat

The view from the Chora
my kind of garden
Kalderimi track from Chora back to the port

The following day we had breakfast with our feet in the sand before calling one of the two local taxis. 

Breakfast with warm feet in the sand

Eirini agreed to meet us by the bus stop and take us to the Monastery of the Taxiarches, we had to hurry though, as she needed to be back to meet the ferry.  A few yards down the road and we picked up Spiro, an old gentleman I had engaged with earlier in the day.  After we had dropped him at his house which was along the route I talked to Eirini saying that I could understand what she was saying but hopelessly lost listening to Spiro.  She confessed she didn’t always understand him either and what made it more difficult was that he didn’t have any teeth!

Do you know what Taxiarches means? I didn’t but Wikipedia has enlightened me

Taxiarch, equivalent to brigadier in ancient and modern Greek military terminology.

Archangels Michael and Gabriel are called the Taxiarchs in Greek Orthodoxy because they lead the heavenly host”

The monastery looks like a fortress and would have been one to protect it from pirates.  There are stairs now where there would only have been a ladder. 

Stark exterior
Stairs not a ladder

Once through the strong fortified door we come into the most beautiful, calm space.  A space filled with the square building of the Catholicon, surrounded by brilliant white walls, tiny brown doors that give onto the monk’s cells and on every wall pots of geraniums, marigolds and other plants.  Stately old trees shaded and protected the courtyard below.  There is one monk and luckily he was there, so he opened the church, dark with icons, a soaring dome and a musty smell of incense.  What a gem of a place.

Strong pirate proof door
Looking in
Looking out
Catholicon and shady pine tree
So well kept

Although graded ‘easy’, this walk was far from the well maintained mule track we had anticipated.  It varied from river bed to asphalt road and scarcely marked track where the prickliest of prickly bushes were set to ensnare you.  However the views, the smells and sights were just heavenly and outweighed any discomfort and bare bleeding legs.  The waysides were stunning; wild flowers in abundance, there must have been at list 50 different varieties.  There was a woman out on the hill, calling her sheep. In places frogs made a huge din.  When Perseus lived here, he couldn’t sleep for the noise they were making so he got his Dad, Zeus, to render them mute. The ‘silent frogs of Seriphos’ became proverbial but obviously they have found their voices again. 

Flowers and monastery
wild flowers and where’s Wally
Doocotes in the valley

There were doocotes in the valleys, a very sleek looking donkey and comfortable cows. Despite the frogs, most of the time, high up, the utter silence and peace was bliss. The occasional buzzing of a bee, a tardy cockerel crowing in the distance or a faint goat bell just added to my joy.  Joy, bliss and heaven are words associated with Seriphos!

That evening the wind completely vanished and the harbour was uncannily still, boats were sitting on a mirror image of themselves on glassy water and a crescent moon hung in the dark night sky and the Chora above seemed like so many fireflies glowing down the hillside – stunning

So still

Seriphos has always been one of my favourite islands and staying here longer, getting to know the island better has really nudged it up the list.

Siphnos is not far away, only about 10 nautical miles and we sailed the whole way.  We had a nasty moment when the ferry, Jet 2, seemed not to have seen us and to be coming straight at us – we got our flares ready and altered our course slightly (we shouldn’t have had to as we were sailing, but the sea state was such that he may well not have seen us)

Kamares, port for Siphonos

We dropped our anchor at Kamares and went stern to the quay. There was one other yacht.  A cross wind, lack of mooring rings and the height of the quay all added to our difficulty.  Then an old guy pitched up on a motor bike and started berating us, he didn’t seem to have much English and he didn’t acknowledge any of my attempts at Greek.  In fact he ignored most of what I said and only addressed himself to Andy.  So I have him, not Andy, down as a rude and awkward person.  So what with him and the wind that blew constantly and the ropes that squeaked all night long, I didn’t feel much at ease.  At supper that night the rude person was there too, sitting at a table with the German couple from the next boat.  I think it was their payment to him for ‘helping’, she thought he was a ‘sweetheart’ – er…… I beg to differ.  We had a really excellent pizza.

We got into conversation with a couple next to us, he thought he knew me from somewhere – I simply have a common face!  He described ‘lock down’ on the island which sounded awful.  Nobody could go anywhere for two years and the police patrolled all this time in what he described as a sinister and dystopian manner.  Bureaucracy taken too far, on a small island, total population two and a half thousand you would not think this necessary.  He was a bit of a cynic describing Greece as ‘The Africa of Europe’, in reference to corruption. Also Siphnos was losing its former ‘eco’ halo; the locals were selling up land to French people in the main.  A bit gloomy but maybe that was his nature. 

The following day we took the bus to Apollonia, the capital.  The bus made a slow and royal progress along the narrow sea front, the driver calling out, tooting his horn, bestowing gracious waves, blessings and jokes to all his mates along the way.

We wandered in the town, going totally up the wrong street but found good coffee with a view.  We found the top of the main, narrow winding street that descended to the north flanked by brilliant white houses with colourful shutters and punctuated at frequent intervals by blue domed churches.  Most were shut but the 17th Century Church of the Taxiarches (another one) was open and it was really very nice; the iconostasis depicting the usual reminder of what might happen if we live a sinful life.

Church of the Taxiarches Apollonia
Detail of the amazing floor
Oh dear………………

Most of Apollonia was not open for business yet but was busy sprucing the place up with fresh coats of paints as we have observed in other places, preparing for summer.  But there were pretty glimpses into courtyards, pops of yellow and nice wall details.

Pops of yellow
‘It’s weird with dreams…to see them you have to sleep and to live them you have to wake up!’

We started our intended walk back down a mule track to the port but about two miles into it, Andy hollered for me to stop.  He did not have his mobile phone; he had left it on a wall by the car park.  What a heart stopping moment, we carry everything in these tiny devices.  We turned and retraced our steps; I get there first and find it.  Luckily its cover is white and so it was not obvious on the stone wall.  We got a taxi back.  So all in all a frustrating time and we must return.   

The only photo of the aborted walk

On the bright side, we found a lovely ring for my birthday present, made by, in English translation, George Goldsmile – loved the name, loved his green glasses and wide smile and really liked his jewellery. In Greek Χρυσόγελος Γιώργος…….he said maybe his ancestors had gold teeth and a wide smile.

We decided to leave so in a lull between scary ferries coming in to dock we loosened our lines, lifted our anchor and left heaving a sigh of relief.  What a great decision.  We found ourselves about eight miles south in a beautiful deserted inlet called Ormos Fykiada.  At least it would have been deserted had it not been for the 60 or so people crowded into the little white chapel.  There was singing and music, the bored kids played along the rocks and the adults clapped and sang on.  It was not a wedding or christening, no fancy clothes, they were simply having a get together on some, unknown to us, occasion – Andy suggested it was digging up Grandma’s bones!  They all left by various boats and were gone, in convoys and relays by about 8pm and we settled into the silence.  In the morning we were treated to a great grey heron, walking imperiously, cautiously along the rocks, hunkering down from time to time to watch for fish – at a noise from afar his long neck shot up as if it was elastic then slowly retracted.  There were three goats high up on the rocks, two the sandy colour of the stone and another – the apparent aggressor, a bigger dark brown chap.  These two were rearing up and locking horns.  I think one was protecting and keeping for himself his lady friend.  Eventually the dark brown one was successfully seen off and the two remaining goats nestled into a cave which made them almost indistinguishable in the rock face

Looking west from Ormos Fykiada
The chapel Ormos Fykiada
Oh Yes we do!!!
Latest favourite portrait of the captain, pity he’s never ever learned to rub the sun cream in effectively but I still love him!

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