It was the first time in three years we took a real holiday. We went to Greece, this being a relatively cheap option, also given where we live. I will give you a brief outline of the holiday complete with pictures taken with my (measly) mobile, as I had left my camera in the Outpost and only remembered on the plane.
We first went to Lefkas, an island in the west of Greece where you go by car (I think it is only 10 meters away from the mainland).
Lefkas is lush and green and its beaches have been voted among the best in the world. Some testimonials follow:
The photo below is from a beach called ‘Shore’, not much imagination here:
The two shots below are from a beach called ‘Saint John’, although we found no trace of the said saint. The locals snub this beach because it is too windy and crowded with outsiders. Hm.
Finally, this is a panoramic view of Lefkas Town, which is nothing to write home about, except that it is also set in the midst of lush greenness (or green lushness) and a general rip-off.
We then went to Athens, which was less rude and savage than usual, possibly due to its largely being empty of Greeks at this time of the year. Then eastwards to the Catholic Islands: Industry Island and Windy Island.
Industry Island stole my heart away. I plainly loved it. I mean, its capital (there is not much else on the island, actually) was the first major port of Greece and it shows: it is steeped in an all-pervasive urban grace and charm as well as potent civic pride you do not really expect to find in the middle of the Aegean. Where do I begin? From the amazing ice cream (remember: Dai Dadi)? From the humour and politeness of the people? From its oh-so-italianate theatre where we listened to a Swiss string quartet performing? From its town hall, larger and grander than that of Athens
overseeing a suitably grand square and containing a neat cafe?
Here are some pictures from the town:
The town has its own beaches, well, more like platforms to launch oneself from into the sea, fitted with pool-style stairs for the less adventurous. The waters were crystal clear and very very pleasant, not to mention the background: the rich ship owners’ neighbourhood:
Our hotel was great, too:
Outside the town, we went to a really peaceful beach, unassumingly named ‘Fabrika’, although there was not one in sight:
We left Industry Island behind, with its two hills where a Catholic and an Orthodox church are seemingly pitted against each other, each on the top of its respective hill, sailing to Windy Island.
Windy Island has a reputation for winds (true, they are of headache-giving strength), beautiful villages (we only visited two of them, they were beautiful all right — see below) and an Orthodox Marian shrine. I could also add good food and the grotesquely kitsch horrors that go part and parcel with hosting a Marian shrine, single-handedly ruining Windy Island’s capital — which, of course, hosts the shrine. From Virgin Mary-themed T-shirts and incandescent shrine-vista night lights to mass-produced icons and brazen icon touts (“three small ones for 5 euro”), from sermons approximating the effects of seriously abusing hallucinogenics to making money out of the faithful, as well as from vulnerable people’s pain and their suffering (too cruel to light joke about this one), it was all there, all the creepy moneychangers and their den of thieves.
Our hotel in Windy Island had an adjacent pool and a pretty spectacular view over a pretty beach:
We travelled north, first encountering the village of Cardiani. The bus drops you in the middle of a sun-scorched barren rocky landscape 2 km uphill from the village. The next bus was in three hours, so we thought that all these people fervently suggesting we should visit Cardiani played a very nasty joke on us. However, Cardiani is the lushest village on Windy Island (and beyond). When I say ‘lush’, I mean prototypically water-hungry plane trees, blueberry and raspberry bushes — conifers of course — ivy, oak trees and lots of assorted greenery:
From the village, looking down the hill, the landscape resumes the customary cycladic barrenness:
What was going on? Cardiani is built right below a number of sources and streams run through it. We counted three drinking fountains, one of which could fill a big water bottle in two seconds or so. One of the drinking fountains, by the Catholic church, had an image carved in marble of Virgin Mary spoon-feeding Baby Jesus:
A little further away, a painter was painting the barren landscape rolling into the sea.
We left Cardiani for Pyrgos, at the north end of Windy Island. This is a marble sculptors’ place and almost everything in it (including road signs and bus stops) is made of white marble. And poor KaaJ was so impressed when he saw the marble kitchen sink at my parents’ home, years ago…