Category Archives: Greece

Island hopping revisited

As my work has it, I’m currently preparing a travel guide for a few of Greece’s best and lesser known islands. Mykonos, Santorini, Paros, Naxos, Antiparos, Amorgos, Skiathos, Ios and Aegina. Yes, it’s not a bad project to be involved in, considering alternative options would involve stories related to the current recession. While doing the research and writing, I looked up some pictures I’d taken on holidays which inevitably and brought back memories and  led to some realizations. First, I’ve really been around. I saw pictures of a younger me standing under a whitewashed archway, smiling and holding my dress so that the wind would not reveal too much. Others of friends seated around a table, feasting on seafood, faces slightly burned from spending the day at the beach, eyes revealing a generous consumption of wine.  I even found pictures of a tiny me attempting to feed a donkey somewhere in Paros, taken at a time when you had to develop the film before you could see if the exposure was any good. 

The project has been keeping me busy for weeks and will continue to do so for a few more. It is by no means a complete guide, it will just feature what I consider to be the highlights, a first acquaintance to allow one to discover even more. More importantly, I’m hoping to convey, even to a smallest degree, a sense of their uniqueness, a feeling of the atmosphere and the reason why people keep coming back. 

Last year's holiday: Paxi islands in Western Greece

Last year’s holiday: Paxi islands in Western Greece

Second, people make their preferences crystal clear. I haven’t yet met a person who didn’t include Santorini in their bucket list. I see it all the time in Pinterest’s boards. Especially those who consider tying the knot and want to find the perfect romantic getaway. Cheesy, but true. Party animals want to know about Mykonos and Ios and so on. If you ask me, I crave peace, quiet, clear waters and a good meal, so I go for the more obscure islands, the ones where you’re least likely to come across the package-holidaymakers. Avoid travelling during peak season also improves dramatically my travel experience. Don’t be fooled by my eclecticism though. I’ve done the mainstream island tour in my twenties and enjoyed it thoroughly.

Last year, I went to Paxi and Antipaxi, a small cluster of islands in the Ionian sea, right below Corfu, in western Greece. These islands are not exactly obscure. They are very popular with new skippers who want to take their sail boats for a spin, but they have managed to escape mass tourism. If you visit early in the season you will be rewarded with low winds, emerald waters, countless little coves and beaches, captivating scenery and truly amazing food, especially in Logos village. I highly recommend it. 

Do you have a favorite Greek island? Interested in visiting one?


Living on the ridge

I woke up at 04: 57 this morning. Not because of a bad dream, or anxiety – though I have plenty – but because of an earthquake. It wasn’t a big one, just 4.4 on the Richter scale, but we really felt it because the epicenter was near Athens and it’s depth quite shallow – just 5 km.

According to the Greek Institute of Geodynamics, we’ve had 30 small earthquakes in the country since this morning (local time is now 19:35).

This is not really news. The wider Mediterranean area has seen many earthquakes and people have learned to live with them. The African plate is subducting under the Eurasian and Anatolian plates and Greece is sitting right on the ridge – and a trench. It was only news because we hadn’t felt one for quite some time, so last night’s tremble was actually welcomed. Geologists say it’s better to have many small-scale earthquakes  which allow energy to be released on a regular basis. 

That’s little Greece with it’s ridge and volcanoes (yes, we also have volcanoes):

Location of the ridge and the volcanic zone / picture from Wikipedia

Location of the ridge and the volcanic zone / picture from Wikipedia

What scares me most about tremors is the sound. I know those of you who live in similarly seismic regions of the world know exactly what I mean. The sound caused by an earthquake is like no other. First, there’s a  deep roaring sound which seems to come from everywhere and surrounds you completely. Then you hear metal objects clanging and rattling, the light fixtures swing left and right making a clicky noise, some pens roll over the edge of the table and after a few seconds (if you’re lucky), it’s over.

In my lifetime, I remember two big earthquakes in or close to Athens – in 1981 and in 1999. In the first one, I remember distinctly waking up because my bed was shaking so much I thought my sister was playing a practical joke. She wasn’t. I think we then left the house for a while.  The second one in 1999, I was in a taxi and we had just stopped at a traffic light in northern Athens when the car started swinging back and forth and I turned my head to see who was doing it. It lasted for quite a while and I knew then and there thee would be many damages.

We are always waiting for the “big one” and at the same time we know there will be more than one. It’s not that people live in fear. Earthquakes are so common they have become a banality. But you do get a clear sense of nature’s immense power and our fleeting, minuscule existence. I keep a small flashlight in my bed side drawer, just in case. You’re also supposed to keep a whistle nearby, but I never seem to  get round to it.

Here’s to those who live with earthquakes and other natural disasters. Chin, chin!