We Can’t Help but #LoveIOS

#LoveCYCLADES 

First Impressions from the “Flower of the Aegean Sea”

Whenever we told somebody in Paros that we were planning to visit other islands of the Cyclades as part of our trip, he or she would invariably inform us that all islands were different, that they all had their unique character and that there were plenty of reasons to love each one of them. This is something that we have since been able to confirm on the basis of our own experience.

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Or let me rephrase that: we cannot, of course, pass judgment on all of the Cyclades islands – there are more than 200 of them – but the two that we have visited are indeed rather different: where the landscape of Paros builds up from the maritime lowlands to the climax of a central peak, Ios (the Greek word for “small flower” as the mayor kindly informed us) is hilly throughout. While Paros is an island of many sprawly settlements, Ios by contrast feels more compact, more focused and more concentrated. It is livelier, but at the same time more quiet.

The island has only one town, called Chora or “The Village”, which is connected to “The Port” by a footpath. Ios can get away with this generic style of labeling, because there are no other larger settlements or harbours that could cause confusion: neither “the village” nor “the port” have any competitors in Ios.

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In northern Europe, some towns – including towns that are much larger than Ios – use the same linguistic economy to simply refer to “the church”. This is something that would not work in Ios, because the island, famously, has so many of them, 365 it is said: one for every day of the year. This estimate is questioned by guesthouse owner Antzela Fakou – she thinks that the actual figure is higher still. “One for every day of the year, and one extra for every Sunday and public holiday”, she laughs.

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Ios is blessed with almost as many beautiful beaches. The beach of Milopotas, the one which is closest to Chora, is also the liveliest and busiest on the island – it is this beach to which Ios owes its reputation as a party town.

Antzela, who was born in Sydney Australia, famously the home of one of the largest Greek communities in the world (it is said that there are more Greeks in Sydney than in Greece), told us that her niece from “down under” commented after her first journey to Milopotas that Milopotas featured “more Aussies than there are in Sydney”.

We cannot possibly comment on that, of course, but we have spotted an Australian shop on the beachfront. Ios may be a small place, but has room enough for visitors from all over the world during the summer months.

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Ios’s party life, too, is concentrated: most of the partying happens on one (the southern) side of Milopotas, while the rest of the beach is relatively quiet and mainly frequented by families. Milopotas is long enough (altogether 1 km) and wide enough to accommodate different tastes and preferences. (It also features the island’s only restaurant which has been built directly by the seafront.

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Up to a point, one might even say that the coast of Ios is simply one long beach. Perhaps the most famous  part of this coast is Manganari on the southern tip of the island. Many scenes for Luc Besson’s cult movie The Big Blue were shot here, and when the film crew returned to France, they left their trained dolphin behind.

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Not being able to survive on her own, the dolphin – no doubt searching for human company – eventually found her way into the harbour (“The Port”) where many locals still remember having thrown her some fish into the water and seeing their children play with her by the quayside.

But all this changed the day a wild male dolphin found his way into the harbour – “It was love at first sight”, remembers Mayor Michalis Petropoulos, “one day, we saw them swimming together through the harbour, and the next, they had already left” – for their own version of the “big blue”, presumably, and an unequivocally happy end which is denied to the protagonists of the movie. (Come to think of it, the love story of the dolphins would probably have made a better film.)

The nightlife in Chora, too, is concentrated along the same lines: all the discos and bars are located in one street, leaving the remaining lanes in the picturesque maze of Chora’s old town to old-style Greek cafés, charming little shops and wonderful tavernas such as The Nest, run as a family enterprise by two brothers while Mum does all the cooking – at home! (The results are truly stunning.)

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Oh yes, there are plenty of hiking trails on Ios, too. More about that in our next post.

We thank the warm hospitality of Mr Thomas Theos of Hotel Avanti in IosFollow our discoveries of things to see and do in Ios as guests of the Municipality of Ios (under the wings of the town Mayor Mr Michalis Petropoulos and Mrs Antzela Fakou) as we explore and enjoy the Cyclades Islands.

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Holy Week in the Cyclades

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#LovePAROS Good Friday Celebrated with a Series of Byzantine Tableaux Vivants There are many reasons to love the holiday of Easter. Here is mine: while Christmas nowadays is more or less the same everywhere – a truly globalized event, celebrated from Alaska to Zimbabwe with decorated pine trees, Silent Night and a jolly fat man in red pyjamas – Easter has managed to preserve its diversity, its many ancient faces and flavours.

The Philippines have their flagellants, Seville has its local chapel of the Ku-Klux Clan, while the Brits merrily roll Easter eggs down the hill, and there is only a small risk that you could mistake one country’s tradition for the others’. On Easter, you always know where you are.

We are currently in Greece to do some easy hiking on the beautiful island of Paros in the Cyclades, where we had the privilege of

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You Gotta #LoveCYCLADES

#LovePAROS Three Easy Pieces for Hikers on Paros

Yes, you guessed it : We are in Greece!

On the beautiful island of Paros, to be precise, the pearl of the Aegean Sea. And just to prove to you that we are not simply taking it easy – although the temptation to just have a good time and let writing duties go hang may sometimes be hard to resist …

… here are the results of the first few days on our Cyclades tour and a few suggestions for pleasant, short and not overly taxing walks.

We are based in the north of Paros, near the town of Naoussa, so our first brief excursions have naturally centered on this part of the island. First up, a trip up Vigla mountain north of Kolympithres, which takes you around the

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Exploring the Cyclades

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Hiking through History in Ios, Milos and Paros Hiking is a wonderful way of exploring and experiencing your immediate neighbourhood. If you have never wondered what the world looks like beyond that distant little strip of green that you can see from your bedroom window, chances are you will not get much out of excursions to Antarctica and the Amazon either (curiosity not being something you can selectively switch on or off.)

As wonderful as exploring your own backyard is, however, sometimes it is as wonderful to go to a place that you have never seen before and where you don’t really know what to expect. Which is why we are so excited packing our stuff for a ten-day hiking holiday on the Greek islands, exploring the Cyclades, which we hope to start in a few days.

The islands we are going to visit are Ios,

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A Neanderthal Hike

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Following in the footsteps of our distant ancestor – and meeting some of his four-legged friends

Why Neanderthal Man? Why is he the star in that collection of human ancestors, more famous than Peking man* and Heidelberg man, never mind the even less snappily named Homo Habilis and Australopithecus?

There may be sound scientific reasons for this, but I suspect that the  onomatopoeic qualities of his name have a lot to do with it.

Neanderthal Man: the combination of lilting rhythm and dark vowels can easily make you believe that you hear the distant echo of heavy footsteps, the swing of a club and the mighty thud of its impact. In fact, the name sounds as though it had been made up to suit its rather squat bearer with his thick eyebrows and muscular physique.

Most of you will know

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