As you set out for Ithaka
hope the voyage is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
From Ithaka by C.P. Cavafy (See the entire poem here)
I can’t help myself–I return to Greece again and again. We thoroughly explored the Peloponnese and much of the mainland before we took to the sea. Finally, we assembled six friends, rented a boat through a guy I had met on line and in person in Washington D.C. (we met on a Prodigy travel board, to show you how long I’ve known the guy. Ever hear of Prodigy?)
We plotted a cruise through several Cycladic islands (the circle of islands in the center of the Greek Mediterranean.)
A note to those who might want to follow in our wake–my friend Robert no longer owns this boat. And although there are other sailboats available, sailing does not suit everyone. You might find Mediterranean Cruises more to your liking with less spartan quarters and more help from crew.
Our captain helped us with a little grocery shopping in Athens before we left, and disabused us of the notion that we were in control of the itinerary. The wind and weather would determine much of where we would go. As it turned out, that meant striking Mykonos and adding Santorini to our trip.
We had a captain, but no crew and we were invited to help sail if we wished. (I’ll show life on the boat in a future post).
The islands in the Cyclades are so close together that you sail from one to the other in the morning, explore in the afternoon, and sleep on the boat in the harbor before starting for another island in the morning. We divided up chores among the eight of us–go on shore to a bakery to get bread for breakfast; or if we ate on board, somebody to cook and to clean up. We would eat lunch at the next island, on board or at a little restaurant near the shore, then split up and explore whatever lured us. When we reassembled in the evening, someone had set up cocktail hour on board and we munched on olives and tyropita and sipped an ouzo before going ashore to find a restaurant for dinner.
Here are some highlights from that memorable ten days when we visited seven islands and glimpsed two more from a ferry.
Our first port of call, Kithnos, is small but beautiful. I remember a lady coming out of her house and giving us a sprig of basil for luck.
At the next stop, Serifos, we did what became a routine, had lunch near the port.
After lunch we headed out to climb to the highest point of the island. Every Cyclades island seems to have an Acropolis (hill of the people) with a Chora (town). And white-washed houses, narrow streets and cats.
The view from the top made the very windy climb worthwhile.
Then we sailed out of Serifos on our way to Siphnos (Sifnos). We hated to leave each island, but at that point did not yet know that Siphnos was destined to be our favorite island. So precious to us, that Ken and I returned many years later.
Hiking trails that once served as roads, crisscross Siphnos (like the one in the foreground here) . We walked from the capital Apollonia to Artemonas to Kastro, the ancient fortified town on the coast, sometimes following the road and sometimes heading off across fields on shepherd’s paths.
We had arranged to meet back in Artemonas after the hike for dinner at what one guidebook told us was “the best restaurant in the Cyclades.” We laughed at that superlative, but after our meal at Liotrivi, decided it lived up to the description. (And when Ken and I went back a few years ago we found it is still a WONDERFUL restaurant for regional Siphnos dishes.)
Next stop, the island of Paros.
They “shell” things to the tourists in Paros:
The weather had kicked up meaning the boat would have to stay in port in Paros for at least two days. Since some of our group had never been to the volcano island of Santorini, and our little sailboat could not sail into the caldera at Santorini, we took a 3:00 a.m. ferry from Paros to Santorini. If you go to Santorini, be sure to enter the caldera by ship for the most spectacular views in the world.
I have so many pictures of the photogenic Santorini, that I’ll devote a future post or two just to that island, but now we took the ferry back to Paros, and passed by a couple of favorite tourist islands without stopping.
Since the sea had calmed, we set sail once more, heading for the island of Syros, the capital of the Cyclades district. The modern main town, Ermoupoli, looks entirely different from most Cyclades towns, but the old town (Ano Syros) seemed more familiar.
After Exploring the lovely island of Syros, we headed for our last stop before Athens, the island of Kea, where we found lots of summer home of Athens residents, and some friendly kids on the beach eager to teach us Greek numbers in exchange for learning to say something in English.
And as the travelogues say, as the sun sinks slowly in the West, we sail off from Kea toward our home port of Athens.
This has been my weekly contribution to Travel Photo Thursday, sponsored by Budget Traveler’s Sandbox. Drop by that site to see more photos from around the world.
I’ve written about Greece many times before. Click here for my 3 Best Travel Secrets About Greece.
Now if you want to see Greece as shot by a REAL photographer, check out this site of James Maher. Look for Folegandros and Santorini as well as Athens.
All these photos are my property. Some are not great quality because they are scans from old print photos. Nevertheless, I request that you respect my copyright.
Your turn to talk: Have you ever done a sailboat charter? Bareboat where you sail it yourself? Or do you prefer regular cruises? Let’s talk about getting around on water.