What can I say about this, the biggest of the Cycladic Greek island chain? As my ferry was pulling into port and I saw the main town of Churo hugging the side of the hills with The Temple of Apollo standing watch over it’s inhabitants, I fell in love. It’s a walking town!
This island has tall mountains and beautiful beaches. They get snow and ice in the winter and warm northern breezes in the summer to keep the temperatures moderate. You can still find many of the old ways still in existence, especially in the small villages, though the young are fast taking over with cafes and bars and shops of all kind.
Since arriving on Saturday, I have stayed at the small, very friendly and extremely reasonable Hotel Poseidon just a few steps from the beautiful St. Georges beach. I have my own little balcony where I can watch the world walk by. It even comes with a clothesline so I can hang out hand washings – a much needed necessity when access to washers and dryers are few-and-far-between. Breakfast is included daily as well as transport to and from the port the days of arrival and departure. How much you might ask as does one pay for such a place? €25 per night!
The food is traditional, plentiful and good. A huge pita stuffed with gyros (here you have a choice of pork or chicken) with a good dollop of tazaki sauce, fresh tomatoes, red onions, and french fries, yep french fries, make a great lunch. Add a soft drink or even a local beer and the cost is between €2-4.
Dinner of yummy, fried fresh calamari, Greek salad and fries (Naxos is famous for it’s potatoes) plus a glass of wine is €8.50.
Naxos is also the home of one of largest pure white marble quarries. This is easily seen in the statues that adorn the island and the steps you climb and the walkways you stroll along (which are very slippery when wet) They also are home of large emery mines. I really couldn’t figure out what they were talking about until it hit me and realized it was a mineral I had never considered mined – think emery boards to file your fingernails!
I attended a bouzouki and guitar concert of Greek folk music in the lower-level of a 16th century Venetian castle Monday evening. The musicians were outstanding and played for over 3 hours. Local dancers performed – whirling and kicking in this tiny space – and unlimited glasses of the local wines and ouzo were served. Unfortunately the lower-levels of castles are dark!
I met two wonderful women that night who were from Ashland, OR. They not only encouraged me to take the day-long island bus tour the next day, but also told me all about a wonderful program called Village to Village which they have in Ashland. It’s is a community program that allows seniors to remain in their homes, eliminating the need for moving into long-term care facilities. I’ve done just a bit of Internet snooping but it sounds perfect. There are many such communities springing up all over the US. This is something I will certainly look into when I return.
The island tour was so entertaining and educational. Our guide, Reena, spoke 6 languages, and would answer questions in one-to-another in quick order! We traveled far, far up and over the mountains (7,000 ft) and stopped at a pottery, a distillery, a olive oil press, several beaches and photo ops through-out the day, while learning about the history of the people that occupy these small mountain villages, some no larger than 50 inhabitants. And when it does snow, everything stops as the road is much too winding and weaving to try and travel on. These are worse than any North Carolina mountain road I was ever on! Here are just a few a the many photos I shot that day….
The Ya Ya’s chatting and I am sure, laughing at the foreign tourists!
Glass jars storing a rather wonderful citrone-based liquor.
A local gentleman with his ‘working’ donkey that was hauling bricks up the steep village streets.
The magnificent view of the sea and a few of the smaller, nearby islands.
Tasting all the delicious products made by the olive grove owner – a young woman!! I want to pack everything I could in my suitcase (not!) or send packages home as gifts (also not – they don’t ship!)
A fabulous spice shop that also sold whips made from bull penis skins…..hmmmm.
And what moved me the most was a statue of Kronos. It was lying in an old marble quarry. It is 1000’s of years old and they do not know why it was never raised or moved to it’s planned location. So he lies in state on a mountain top which you must climb 56 steps to reach. He has been open to the elements of wind, rain, snow and ice for all these years, yet he still exudes such dignity. You wonder about the artisans who carved him and how sad they must have been when he did not rise to his full glory.
I learned yesterday afternoon that my new passport is ready for pickup – YEAH. So this is my last day on Naxos. I will be sorry to leave, but happy to once again have a ‘real’ US passport in my possession. I ferry to Athens in the morning ( a 7 hour ride) and will spend the night once again at the Athenstyle Hostel. I know, I said never again, but it’s cheap and really close to the Embassy. I can only pick up my passport between 12 Noon and 1:00 PM so will do that on Friday. And then…..
I felt it time for some Italian history so I have booked the ferry to Venice, Italy!! It departs the port at 12 Midnight on Friday and I arrive in Venice at 7:00 a.m. on Sunday. I have booked a great little BnB just outside the island city of Venice and will bus in and back for €1.20 each way.
My plan is to ‘get lost’ for a few days wandering the winding narrow streets, crossing the bridges, mingling with the tourists in St. Marks Square, sipping a glass or two of good red wine, maybe a boat ride to Murano to see the glassblowers….the options abound.
Unti next time….