Archive | hiking in the Cyclades

Kythnos and a change of plan…

–There is a lot to see and do on Kythnos and by the time I leave on Friday I will have seen and done most of it.  Superb hiking, archaeological sites (mesolithic, Byzantium, 19th century mining…), good eats, friendly folks…The weather was so-so for the first two days but then the sun came out, the winds shifted and there was fine weather for getting lost on the donkey trails and photographing more stone walls than I knew what to do with.  I am pretty much saturated with walls at the moment.  I have a feeling I will finish up the roll I have in my camera today and be done with this island for the time being.  I have one more long hike to do tomorrow (12 km) so perhaps I will try to use one more roll.  Maybe I will, maybe I won’t.

–I found an excellent little taverna on the port of Merichas.  Typical family-run, spitiko, without all the frippish tom-foolery of frankish cuisine.  I ate roasted goat in lemon sauce last night; grilled fresh sardines the night before…local, mild feta on my salads.  I’ll go there again tonight.  Funny thing…when Kostas, the owner’s son, heard I was from Paros, he told me that his cousin Giorgos worked in a fish taverna in Paroikia…Hmmm…I know Giorgos well!  We had a good time and then Kostas called Giorgos and he and I had a quick chat.  I love these alliances.  So Yalos Byzantio is my spot.  I dine there again tonight.

–My lodging has been excellent.  My small studio overlooks the harbour of Merichas.  The ferries dock just a few hundred meters away and the ins-and-outs of tourist sailors in their small rented sailboats make for interesting comedy-drama.  Only some seem to be good sailors.  The rest look like they are trying too park their cars.  Oh well…I wish them all the fun in the world.  The Aegean is a lovely place to sail.

–I am tired.  I am tired of living out of my luggage.  I will have a lot more of that this summer so I suppose I should get used to it, but for the moment…

I left Paros on May 10th, after a four-day general strike which threw all my plans into the air.  As a result of this strike, I was forced to use one of the High-Speed ferries that runs around the Aegean.  I hate these things for many reasons.  The only other time I was on one was in 2006 and I picked up a terrible respiratory bug just by being shut inside the interior for several hours with no fresh air.  True to form, by the time I reached Evia on Thursday the 12th, my throat was scratchy.  By Saturday I was on antibiotics, decongestants…sick.  11 days later I am finally off the meds.  I need to go home.  I feel great, but it is time to sit on my own terrace, sleep in my own bed…

As luck would have it, the same ferry that would have brought me to Syros, continues on home to Paros.  So I will leave Kythnos Friday morning and be home in time for tea…

Pezoules, walls and and Agios Anathasios, Kythnos, 2016

Pezoules, walls and and Agios Anathasios, Kythnos, 2016




Travel notes, May 2016…Kea…

–The short ferry ride from Lavrio to Kea is, despite its single hour, quite remarkable.  As a student of 20th century Balkan History I had heard of, and read about, the concentration camp island of Makronisos, but I had not realized it lay so close to the mainland.  As we slowly sailed past I could see the ruins of buildings and structures…political prisoners, social dissidents and members of the military suspected of being “infected” with dangerous ideas were sent to Makronisos during the Greek Civil War (1946-49).  For a more detailed and moving account of this time, read Kevin Andrews’ The Flight of Ikaros: a journey into Greece.  Ironically, I re-read this book only a few weeks ago…

–Kea is a rugged place.  Smaller than Paros, yet it feels bigger.  The Port of Korissia is small and around the port are a number of meadows heading inland, but only for a short distance.  After that it is a long climb to the chora, Loulida, perched along the ravine.  The streets in the chora are steep and car-free.  It is pretty little town and the archeological museum is supposed to be one of the best in Greece.  It is, however, only open on Friday from 08:00-15:00 and so I will miss it.  Kea reminds me of a smaller and greener Naxos.

–The flora of Kea is very much the same as on Paros and many of the other islands with one lovely exception: the pedunculate oak.  For centuries, Kea supplied the tanners of Greece, Rome, Venice, etc… with acorn caps.  By the end of the 19th century this practice had been replaced with less expensive synthetic processes so the acorn was not needed and the thriving industry collapsed.  Thank God they didn’t cut down the trees!  You know what…go here instead.  These folks know more about it than I do and are a big part of the new sustainable Kea.

–Kea is still a thriving agricultural island and this is evident when one hikes along the well used donkey paths and other by-ways.  Pommes de terre are numerous!   The xcero-lithia that crisscross the island are lovely, beautiful, crafted…some are so old that the moss and lichen that cover them are dissolving them, turning their hard edges round and soft.  New wall construction is in the old fashion, so the technique is being preserved.

–I will have shot three rolls of 35mm film when I leave on Friday as well as  fair amount of digital.  I have been hiking a lot although I did rent a car.  It is a good idea so at least get up and out of town into the interior before setting out walking to a cove or mountain top.  This time of year it is quite empty outside the port, so it has been rare to see anyone else but the occasional goat.  Most of the others I have seen are, I think, French and English.  I cannot be sure.  Athenian day sailors like Kea too.

–If I had brought my mountain bike, I would have rented a car anyway for the same reasons as above.  Mountain biking on pavement is a drag and bad for the tires.  Best to load the bike into a car and drive inland, park, and bike on the dirt roads.  For road biking, anyone who wants constant interval training on hills, come to Kea.  The fun never ends.


Kea walls and oaks                  Kea walls 2

Easter, biking, work…

Many years ago, when I was writing and playing my own music, I conceived a piece entitled “God; Family; Work.” The premise was that all of us (i.e. human beings) were influenced by these three aspects of modern life.  It was to be a rock ‘n’ roll symphony in five movements.  I never finished it.

I have been googling the term ‘artist’ and have come up with nothing relevant beyond a definition that everyone has heard before.  The jist is that someone has achieved this status after years of labor perfecting their skills and craft.  I know some artists here on Paros, people of curiosity and brightness.  I have been working with some other young photographers as of late, perfecting our technical skills.  If someone wants to call what we are doing ‘art’ then that is their business.  I would rather call it ‘work’.  I get up in the morning, go to work, have some leisure time away from work, etc…

Of course, there are some who hear the term ‘work’ and run for the hills.  I, on the other hand, find great satisfaction “in a job well done.”  I share this joy with family and friends.

Greek Easter was splendid and filled with the aroma of roasting lamb.  We paid homage to the spirit of the lamb and honored its sacrifice.  Our food had a face.  We connected the source with our bellies.

Here is an interesting link regarding Francis Bacon

Slow Art Day at the Paros Archeological Museum was wonderful.  About 12 people showed up and we viewed three different works each for ten minutes a piece.  The kouros below is a small statue that I enjoyed a great deal.

This weekend I will jump back into the darkroom and, I hope, print at least 6 new pieces.  I also have 4-6 rolls of film to develop.  Next week I am off to the nearby island of Naxos for a couple of days.  There is a 75km mountain bike ride I wish to take.

roasting lamb, Easter 2015

roasting lamb, Easter 2015

5th cent. BCE kouros

5th cent. BCE kouros




Spring in the Aegean…2015

It has been the wettest and coolest spring that many can remember.  Since March there have been more clouds than sun, more rain than not.  Yes, this may seem acceptable to friends in more northern climes, but around here it makes people nervous.  Paros is, for the most part, an arid climate and our primary agricultural gifts (olives, grapes, figs, tomatoes, etc…) demand that the soil be dry and the water stop falling  from April to October.  I am hoping that by the middle of the month the rains will cease.

I have been printing a lot and I have 30 pieces so far for my exhibit next fall.  Another 20 and I can begin editing, then selenium toning, then off to the framers they go.  I will most likely use a local company here in Paroikia, but I must demand a better frame quality.  The most recent batch were inexpensive, lightweight and thinly lacquered stock and some people have brought this to my attention.  I will be a little more struct with this next exhibit.  What have I been printing?  Old stuff, new stuff, 35mm, medium format.  A little bit of everything.

I am going to invest in some archival storage for my collection of portraits that are still in their frames, in a box, in my bedroom, in my flat.  I should get them out of this situation and into something more manageable.  Plus, it will free a cubic meter of living space.

I have been biking a lot lately, which I need to do.  I have been working on my hills, getting advice, pumping the pedals.  There is an 18km mountain bike race in a couple of weeks that winds its way from Marpissa, through Piso Livadi, along Molos, through the valley to Glyfada and back to Marpissa.  I rode it yesterday with some very fit pro-am folks and we rode it in 1:16.  This included taking two wrong turns and not really going too fast.  I hope to ride it in an hour.  It is a solid goal.  Other than that, I have been out on the road bike and digging that, getting ready for the Circle of Paros road race on June 6th.

Orthodox Easter is next Sunday.  I will view the proceedings at Panagia Ekatontapiliani for Friday and Saturday nights, then at midnight on Saturday will break the fast with some friends at a local taverna!  Paidakia, kokoretsi, patates, salates…Yum!  Then the next day there will be a big feast at a friends home with whole lamb on the spit, chicken, sausages, pork chops…Yum again…

Two days later I hope to be swimming in the very chilly Aegean for my first swim of the season.  I feel a need to be anointed in wine dark sea


Milos, day 6…

–I had forgotten how posh Milos can be.  It is easy to avoid if one so chooses.

–From the top of Prophitas Ilias (748 m) the view is spectacular.  Even on a hazy day like today, the archipelago was in full view.  Kimolos, Polyagios, Santorini, Sifnos, Serifos, Folegandros, Paros.  This was all around me.  Far to the south I could make out a faint, long shape:  Crete.

–The FIAT Panda is, perhaps, the finest car in its class ever made.  A real gaidaros…a real donkey.  I have mentioned this in other posts already.  A big ‘thank you’ to Niko’s Rental in Adamas for allowing me to change my rental agreement not once, but twice.

–I have purchased my ferry ticket back to Paros on the ‘Aqua Jewel’, leaving Sunday evening at 18:00 hrs.  This leaves me with almost three full days left for my biking, hiking, swimming and photography.  Not always in that order.

–Yesterday I had just finished up an arduous 10km hike, ending up at a lovely beach on the west coast.  As I lay on the sand I suddenly realized I did not know what day of the week it was.  I had to laugh.

–The last time I was here ( June 2012) I only spent 3 days.  Being here so long has allowed me to really get into Milos.  I have discovered that despite the heavy mining and cosmopolitan aspects, it is as rugged and wild as they come.   Wild goats still scamper up and down the rocky crags.

–Tomorrow is a photography day.  My goal is to finish one roll of AGFA in my Voigtlander and start another.  Easy-peasy.   Rocks and wood.


On holiday…

So here are the bullet points…

–I was supposed to travel to Milos last Tuesday but the high winds cancelled my boat.  Then my laptop died before I left Paros.  I left it behind.   I took the next available ferry from Paros to Naxos.  Enroute I bumped into some folks I knew (Orfeas, Bjornante) so the gods put me there for a good reason.  I continued from Naxos to the small island of Iraklia, one of the Minor Cyclades.  I spent the next 3 days hiking and biking that very quiet place.  While there my “smartphone” decided I wasn’t smart enough, so it locked me out.   I’ll  get some reading done instead.

–Yesterday morning I began my odyssey to Milos.  3 boats, 16.5 hours.  Iraklia back to Naxos; Naxos to Ios; Ios to Milos.  I arrived at 24:30 last night, checked into my hotel, unpacked and had a solid night’s sleep.

–So I am here for the next week.  Lots of biking, hiking, swimming and sun.  I hope to visit nearby Kimolos next week for  a day trip.  It is a short ride on a slipper ferry from Pollonia to the Port of Kimolos and the boat goes every two hours or so.

–I cannot upload any pictures or change the header  so that will have to wait until I get back to Paros, fix my laptop, etc….


Looking for spring…

–It is February, the Longest Month and Winter seems to want to hold a bit longer here on Paros.  Her hand clutches with grey fingers, wrinkled and damp, thin from the cold.

–Meanwhile, Persephone is in a downstairs apothiki, packing her bags and checking her visa in anticipation of her departure from Hades.  She will arrive soon, skipping through the green fields, wild blossoms in her dark hair, her backpack resting by the side of the road.

–I popped a spoke on my bike the other day up in the hills.  Check my Flickr site to see where I was…

–It is not wise to ride with a single spoke missing.  It puts uneven strain on the others, then they pop and then your wheel “tacos” mid-spin.  That is a good image, and one I do not wish to experience.  So I am having it re-spoked at the local bike shop.  I am getting rid of the stock spokes that are currently on the wheel  and adding stainless steel units.  The old ones were pretty rusty.  I am also having stainless control cables installed and new chain.  This should get me ready for spring.

I feel like boycotting everything having to do with Russia.  Just my political 2 cents.   


The weather turns towards autumn…

I woke up this morning to blustery, grey clouds and very cool temperatures.  Last night, before laying my head on my pillow, I switched on my electric mattress pad for the first time since March.  Yesterday’s Aegean Center for the Fine Arts Friday hike was sunny, brisk and invigorating, yet not the stuff of late spring or summer.  Cries of “Wow!” and “This is amazing!”  punctuated our oregano, sage and thyme-scented walk above the hill town of Lefkes.  The air was so clear that looking north, I counted the houses on Syros and the already narrow channel between Paros and Naxos seemed a mere stone’s throw.  In New England or northern Europe the leaves are currently a brilliance of fiery tones.  It is autumn in the Kyklades so we inhaled the blue skies, dark evergreens, golden underbrush and brilliant light spilling around us.

Tomorrow I compete with a team in the Paros Autumn Triathlon.  I will be bicycling 15km while my two teammates will be swimming and running, respectively.  It is not a competition so much as a community event.  The only race will be against myself.  I am looking forward to this event and am very excited.  It is important for me to realize that here on Paros I am more than just a man with a camera, or an ex-pat American in Greece.  I am more than a summation of my parts, and that whole grows exponentially if I allow myself to be drawn to the larger, communal rings that ripple through my parochial nucleus.  There was a time when I craved a closed system for necessary self-preservation. This attitude is self-defeating and limiting.  I have been increasing my orbit over the past couple of years and this event will signal a shift in my personal trajectory.  Excited, nervous and looking forward to it.

Lefkes, Paros, October 4, 2013.  Leica M8, Voigtlander 28mm, 1/125, f22, ISO 320

Lefkes, Paros, October 4, 2013. Leica M8, Voigtlander 28mm, 1/125, f22, ISO 320



Bike-hiking and new gear…

I have been exploring the island these sunny, warm days.  I have found a couple of small, very rocky and rough beaches on the north side of the bay, facing Syros, north along the coast from the cave of Archilochos.  They are all but inaccessible unless one rides a bike, hikes or has 4-wheel drive.  A few days ago I went back to one of them with the goal of not returning the way I arrived.  From a decent height I could see smaller paths and a narrow road.  I knew I couldn’t bike it, and that I would have to push/carry the bike a certain way uphill, over rocks and walls, before I reached the road.  According to the map, the road wound about until it reached the Delion of Apollo, one of the higher points on the island and an ancient temple site.

So that’s what I did.  I biked down to the beach area, went for a swim, then packed up my panniers (more about them) and pushed the bike up the hill.  There was some real problem solving involving a small gorge, some backtracking, plenty of thorns (shades of Sikinos!) but I eventually made it to the road.  It was a pretty easy ride to the Delion after that and then a downhill ride back to town.  It was only about 8 km but with all the uphill struggle and 15 kilos of bike and gear, I’ll add another few km to that count.  A nice day, and fun.

I bought panniers for the bike.  Now I don’t have to wear a day-pack anymore.  This was making me top-heavy.  The center of gravity has been lowered and I am finding them convenient and efficient.  Below are four incarnations of my current mode of transport.  There is enough room for all kinds of gear.

Beach Bike

Beach Bike

Mountain bike

Mountain bike










Hiking bike

Hiking bike

Shopping bike

Shopping bike











Return to Paros…

As the ferry rounded the northern tip of the island, opposite Naoussa, and I saw the lighthouse atop Cape Korakas, I knew that I was home.  I leaned against the port gunwales, waiting until we had passed the Cave of Archilochus, and then I went back inside the old ship and gathered my things.  I was the first person downstairs in the garage bay.   I walked off the NEL Lines Aqua Jewel with a feeling of deep relief and happiness.  I was home, back on Paros.  I allowed the noises and smells of a busy Greek island port to fill my senses as I walked back to my flat.

That was two days ago and since then I have taken care of essential business, mostly laundry.  I have come back to my favorite cafes and eaten in my favorite restaurants.  All is well with the world.  In other words, life continues and changes in small and big ways and I find myself, as usual, listening more than talking during intense discussions with friends.  My grandmother always said that was a character trait that would serve me well.  We’ll see…

I do have a lot to say, but verbally it seems that many others say it so much better than I, so why paraphrase?  Many years ago I was an avid musician.  I wrote music, songs, lyrics, played in bands.  I did this for many years-decades.  I had a lot to say then, or I thought so.  In the end the words became dark, sinister and negative.  The bands moved on without me and I dropped the music, along with a few other pastimes.   I can still play the instrument, but the desire to express with sound has left me.  Just part of the Great Circle, I suppose.  These days I have a quieter way to explain the world.  I find it much more calming, and good deal lighter in actual weight.  It lets me stop, look and breathe.  The shutter clicks.  I feel that this is where I should have been all along.

The island has become the color of worn brass and oxidized aluminum. The craggy, yellow-brown contours are set off by the blue sky and the deeper, indigo sea.  White buildings dot the arid landscape,  like so many chunks of salt-lick.  The tomatoes are rich and sweet and there is fish to savor in a nearby taverna.  In two days I leave Paros again, this time for America.  I will visit with friends and family, eat American food and have my senses bombarded with different sights, most of them very green and wet.  It will be humid and there will be rain.

En route I will stop in Athens.  While I am there I will visit the Benaki Museum and see a large photography exhibit by Constantine Manos.

Now I am rambling.  It is hot and I need to add some images to this post.  These are from my recent island hop.