Another sunshiny day, another ferry, this time from Paros to Naxos. As the ferry pulled in, we were treated to a wonderful view of the ancient Temple of Apollo, (536 BCE) as well as the Venetian Kastro (13th C. AD).
Arriving at 1:00, I was met by the Hotel Soula where I had a reservation, which I had made on Hostelbookers, a very worthwhile enterprise, I think. It was in a perfect location, just feet from the beach as well as very near to the main square. It also was close to the BEST restaurant, Meltemi, where I had a sumptuous lunch/dinner. The dish was kalogiros, which was pieces of veal stewed with eggplant in an eggplant shell, topped with Bechamel and then Naxos Gruyere cheese. I LOVE THIS RESTAURANT. The centerpieces on all the tables are pots of either live basil or oregano. I had noticed that all the restaurants use beef for their moussaka, when all my Greek recipes call for ground lamb, which is a royal pain to get. I discussed this with the son of the owner of Meltemi, and he said that nobody uses lamb in their moussaka, but only beef! OK, from now on, it’s ground beef!
The next day I set about exploring in earnest. My first stop was the wonderful Archeological Museum. They had an outstanding collection of early Cycladic marble figurines from 2800-2300 BCE. There is a life-sized one of these in the Archeological Museum in Athens, which I photographed two years ago—the picture now hangs in my bathroom! And then this summer I found a tiny (real) one at the Minneapolis Art Institute. There was a great collection of old pottery from the Mycenean Period, 1200-1100 BCE. By the way, I learned that ‘Cycladic’ means to encircle; the reference is to ancient times when Delos was the epicenter of power and all these islands ‘encircled’ it.
The Venetians were here too, and constructed my next destination (house) in 1207 AD, during the 4th Crusade. It was also located in the Kastro and had a wonderful view of the harbor. It had been owned by the Della Rocca –Barozzi family since then and the present owners are their direct descendents!
While there I bought a ticket for a musical evening with local music, songs, dances, and drinks! It took place in the Kastro in connection with the Della Rocca Museum, so finding it was quite a puzzle but luckily I ran into a large group (with a tour guide) that was going there.The evening turned out to be fairly interesting with folk dances accompanied by a violin, singer and lutenist.
A more interesting performance was a man playing a shepherd’s bagpipe made of a goatskin, as they have for 5,000 years. We were furnished tastes and then glasses of several kinds of Naxos wine plus raki, rakimoni (lots of cinnamon) and Citron, which I had wanted to taste. It was quite good, but is a ‘digestif’ and sweet so a little taste was plenty.
The Temple of Apollo on the Islet of Palatia next to the Naxos Harbor deserved a walk over the causeway and a climb up the hill to see it up close. It was built in 536 BCE so nothing much remains standing now except the ‘Portara’ (doorway). That is truly massive!
The next day I took a bus tour of the island. It was a small bus with only 14 tourists so it was quite pleasant. As we left Naxos town, we had a lovely look at the Kastro. We stopped in the village of Damalas (population 18) to watch Manolis throwing pots. He finished one just in the couple of minutes that our tour guide was explaining what he was doing! This little village also had an old but operational olive oil press.
Apiranthos was a most interesting village. In the 16th C. prisoners from Crete were let go, as long as they left the island of Crete. They settled here in Naxos, creating the village of Apiranthos, that has all its streets paved in marble!
Our tour guide said that the people here still speak a Cretan dialect that cannot be understood by anyone else in Naxos. Here we visited a Folklore Museum, showing a house as it was inhabited in times past.
Our last stop was Apolonas where we had a late lunch. The tavernas were directly on the beach, and some of our party went swimming. Later we visited an unfinished 32-foot long Kouros statue, still intact in the quarry. Apparently it had developed a big crack across the face and so was abandoned. This would have been in about the 7th C. BCE! I’ll have to say it really was a nice tour.
On to Ios by ferry! While Ios’ harbor is beautiful, the island was pretty much asleep. After I got checked into my hotel, I went looking for ‘linner.’ Everything seemed closed at 2:30 PM! I finally found a little restaurant selling gyros, which I had for my main meal. My landlady said it was ‘nice and quiet’ at this time of year, and she wasn’t kidding! Getting settled in the Avanti hotel and viewing the beautiful village from my balcony was about it for that day!
The next day I set out on a walking excursion, first encountering the ruins of ancient walls, as I walked out of town. I was headed for Skarkos, a recently excavated archeological site (‘80s), which I thought I could see from the road that wound down to the port. Skarkos means ‘snail’—you can see why as it curls around and around. The good news was that it was all downhill. The bad news was that everything like this is always much further away than it looks!
Arriving at the site (finally!) I was in luck as not only was it open, but a young woman accompanied me and pointed out the things of interest, which gave her a chance to practice her English. When buying my ticket, for the third time I was asked my age—in these three situations, over-65 meant half price! She pointed out a way to walk back to the village, which, she said, would only take a few minutes. Following her pointing, I could see that it was grossly uphill all the way, and then it seemed to me I would arrive in an unknown place. I elected to walk further, but DOWNHILL to the port where I got a bus back up the hill to the village.
Interestingly on this island there is no bus service to other villages or destinations. There is only bus service between the port and the village and then to a nearby beach. I did inquire about a little private tour but there didn’t seem to be much of interest except the supposed grave of Homer, which the LP felt was very unlikely to be true. Walking around the port gave views of holiday sailors as well as fishermen. I ate my favorite—yoghurt and honey with Greek coffee while I watched the comings and goings.
After three rather restful days and one more look at the evening view from my balcony, my stay here is over and I shall ferry on to Santorini tomorrow.