Sifnos, hiking and going home…

I left Serifos almost three days ago.  It was sunny and warm and the northern wind was Force 7.  The ferry arrived shortly after 12:00 to take me to Sifnos and off I went, rolling a bit in the sea, but enjoying being back on the road, so to speak.  How do I describe Sifnos?  If Serifos is the rugged, rough and rocky island then Sifnos is its more quiet, calm and well-preserved cousin.  It is not as if either are not developed, but Sifnos has been developed in a more thoughtful way while Serifos will always bear the scars of 19th and 20th century industrial manhandling. In short, Sifnos is lovely.  The towns are small, the island running roughly north-south and the ambient charm all Greek, all Cyclades, all the time.  Sifnos is the ‘Island of Potters’ and the number of ceramic workshops dotted across the landscape speak to that, but this was not always the case.  At one time Sifnos was an island of gold and other metals which made it very wealthy.  Each year the inhabitants gave a golden egg to the Temple of Apollo at Delphi.  The end came around 500BC when, as legend has it, the Sifnains gave a gilt egg instead of a solid one and so brought on the wrath of the god who flooded the mines thus ending their prosperity.  Just a warning from history about taking shortcuts!  In any case, the island was eventually part of the Duchy of Naxos, then suffered under the Turks and then finally liberated in 1830 along with the rest of Greece.  The history is more complex than what I have just written and you can read a bit more here.

My stay so far has been relaxed yet very active.  I have been taking pictures and have only a single roll of Plus-X 120 to shoot.  If I don’t manage it I won’t kick myself because I know I will be back here soon but I would like to finish up the pack.  The quality of the walls here on the island is magnificent and I have been documenting them extensively.  Like most of the islands there are stone walls everywhere but the level of preservation here is well above the others.  I imagine this has more to do with the importance of agriculture when compared to other islands.  More agriculture means infrastructural relevance which translates to a pragmatic upkeep of existing bulwarks and boundaries.  There are olive groves covering open areas and along myriad terrace farms while fields of barley grow wherever flat ground can be tilled.  One striking short journey is from the port of Kamares to the primary town of Apolonia.  Through the long winding uphill valley the olive groves line the road, hugging the steep hillsides, their silvery green-grey leaves standing out in stark contrast to the dried golden hue of the surrounding flora.  The Port of Kamares is small. I like port towns and it is quiet when one compares it to Adamas or Paroikia. There is something about being so close to the hub of travel that excites me.  Once again I am reminded of the millennia preceding me and the countless footsteps that have traveled the path I now tread.  Not much has changed, I think.   Not really.

I have been staying at Simeon’s Rooms and Apartments. It is clean, neat, the terrace of my double room looks out over the bay and I have a lovely view of the sunset.  The owner and his family have been very helpful during my stay and I highly recommend the place.  They also seem to run a small taverna about 100 meters from the dock where I have been happily eating for the past two nights.  I tend to stay away from overly-complex new-wave Greek cuisine in favor of local home cooking and I have found it here.  The kolokithokeftedes I had two nights ago were fluffy on the inside and crisp on the outside.  They were a perfect match to the garlicky tzatziki. I could spend a week here and really explore the restaurants but in the end I am a creature of habit and when I find a place I like, I stick with it.  I’ll be there again tonight, this time for imam baldi, salad and something else to be decided upon later.

Sifnos is also noted for its hiking.  There are many well-marked trails running throughout the island and all of them well maintained.  I have been on two jaunts so far, the same one really, but tough enough to make the second time as challenging as the first especially in hot weather.  My choice has had more to do with the high northern wind and my search for a quiet beach away from whatever crowds are here.  I chose the path that runs on the southern tip of the island from the small seaside village of Vathi to Fykiada Bay.  The hike to the bay was mostly downhill and I covered the 3km in about 25 minutes.  The return trip took 40 minutes.  I brought 1.5L of water, some fruit, sunblock and other beach necessities.  The fine, sandy beach is nestled in a quiet cove and I saw no other humans the entire time, including during the hike.  The only other souls were a few goats running around the scrubby, rocky hillsides and the beach.  There is an abandoned farm behind the beach and an olive grove stretches another half kilometer to the NE.  I loved walking through the grove, feeling very much like I had discovered this place for the first time.  In the middle sat the old farmhouse, crumbling stone barns and other outbuildings.  I wandered around the place for a while today, snapping pictures.

This is my last evening of my island hopping adventure.  I have been away from Paros for less than a fortnight  yet it feels like a month since I have sat at Mikro Cafe for coffee or watched the sunset from the terrace of Pebbles.  My friends at the Aegean Center have been busy with their watercolor workshop and their digital photography boot camp.  I have been working as well, but at a different pace.  Tomorrow afternoon I board the Aqua Jewel for the three hour voyage to Paroikia, a place I hope is becoming my home.  I have loved my break and there have been moments when I have lost track of time.  This has been a cure for my restless mind.  I have met some very interesting people and I hope to see them again in the future but as I write this my thinking is already beginning to shift. After over a week of being off-island I need to clean my apartment and air it out;  I need to finalize some details with my mentors regarding the fall; preparations need to be made for my trip back to the USA in two weeks;  I have to develop 15 rolls of Plus-X…the list could go on, but you get the drift.  Reality seeps back in to the fantasy of life on the road and reminds me where I need to be standing.  I can have my head in the clouds all I want but my feet need to be firmly attached to the earth in order to properly fix my position with the wandering stars.



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