Saturday, June 30, 2007

My Travel to the Greek Islands

I have been traveling in the Greek Islands for more than 50 years. In fact my very first journey was when I was only three years old. The main reason for this was because I come from a background of seafaring people and my family are from the Cyclades on my father's side and the Dodecanese on my mother's. This factor put me in the privileged position of being able to spend all my childhood summers on these beautiful islands

I was also fortunate in that my father was a chief engineer of the first ferries that went from the Greek mainland to the island of Crete. This was back in the 1960s when Efthymiadis Lines made the first Greek ferries, transforming the old tankers into ferry boats and becoming the main ferry connection between Athens and Crete, Chania and Heraklion, and Patras to Brindisi and Ancona in Italy.

I particularly remember when he was with the F/B Phaestos. Every weekend, after school finished on Saturday I would go down to the port of Piraeus and meet my mother, and we would board my father's ship to spend the weekend in Chania. The boat left Piraeus at 7pm and by 7 o'clock the next morning we were in Chania, the whole day was spent traveling through the countryside and filling the boot of our car with oranges picked straight from the trees and long lazy lunches in local tavernas ,stil remember the famous tavern of Keratas with a small pont with ducks and his great dolmadakia.

We would leave Chania that night for the 12 hour journey back to Piraeus and would arrive in time for me to go straight from the port in to school on Monday morning. The journey itself was a great experience. Being the son of the Chief Engineer I was given special treatment by the crew, who would bring me special meals of souvlaki and ice-cream to eat in my cabin, taking me up to the bridge and down to the engine rooms to see how the ship worked.

These early experiences led me to later on, during the 1970s, go travel and backpacking around the Greek islands, sometimes alone and sometimes with my old gang of friends from my neighborhood in Athens, whom I have mentioned in another blog about my best holidays on Ios in 1977. During these backpacking years there weren't any fast Greek ferries or hydrofoils and the journey took much longer to the Greek islands then today ,but the enjoyment was always found in the traveling as well as the arriving. I found in those days that fellow passengers seemed to be more open and friendly than they seem today and, if like me and my friends, you carried your guitar this was always enough to gather around you a company of Greeks and tourists to sing along with you. Before you knew it a long journey of around 7-8 hours had passed and you had arrived at your destination.

One particular island that I remember clearly back then was Mykonos which was, in the seventies, completely and utterly different to the Mykonos of today. The beaches of Mykonos like Paradise ,Super Paradise, Elia ,Ornos or Agios Stefanos were not commercialized or super organized as they are now. We used to sleep on the beaches in our sleeping bags and sometimes even in the town in the small beach between the port police and Remezzo club.

One such night I remember was when we had arrived at Mykonos late at night and decided to make our way to Paradise beach to sleep under the stars. We made our way through the sleepy town and out the other side, stumbling over rocks and leaping over the stone walls of farms. The night was moonless and pitch black. Our only source of light was from cigarette lighters and one intermittent torch. Climbing up a hill close to Platys Gialos we were met by a pack of wild dogs, barking and snarling at us for disturbing their peace. However, luckily, we were much wilder than they were and picking up rocks and yelling at the tops of our voices we drove them off in the opposite direction.

With renewed energy and a sense of urgency we hurried on, eyes and ears sharpened to any other night time predators. We finally reached Paradise beach at around three in the morning and fell into a deep and dreamless sleep. The next morning we awoke early with the sun on our faces ready to start the big fun of our adventure. First thing I show opening my eyes was a blond Venus from Scandinavia ready to jumb in the sea wearing only her birthday suit ...the next really funny stuff was with Alekos ,one from our gung with long curly hair half red and half blond and I am talking about hair like a bush ,he was screaming like mad,when we asked why he was screaming he told us that he just found a lizard in his hair (LOL) well what else could you expect if you have a bush on your head!! Not having eaten since the boat journey our first thought was to get some breakfast - in Greece that is coffee and smoking. Further down the beach from where we had been sleeping was a small kind of canteen, really no more than a hut constructed from some dry palm leaves and run by an old hippie guy. The cool thing to drink for young Athenians in those days but today as well was 'frappe' (iced coffee made from instant coffee). However, the 'sophistication' of Athens hadn't reached the Paradise beach of Mykonos in those days and our host had never heard of it. What we ended up with was a cup of hot instant coffee made with water that half of it was sea water....

Mykonos back then was worlds apart from what you can see there today, but in that simplicity and peacefulness we had lots of fun. Mykonos Town was much prettier and more cosmopolitan and sophisticated than today, with great music, wonderful people, cheaper prices and great nights to be had in Pierro's bar, Vengera, Remezo ,the Nine Muses and Anchor bar. Close to Paraportiani Church (one of the main landmarks of Mykonos) used to be a breakfast cafe with no name where you could order a breakfast feast of bacon, sausages and a three or four egg omelet followed by a huge tin of pineapple juice and all of that for a few drachmas. Such a huge breakfast saw you straight through to the night time feast of a couple of souvlakis with pita and tsatsiki at the souvlaki bar near to the taxi station and next to Yannis Galatis Design and Fashion shop. With this inside you could easily cope with a tour of the Mykonos bars step by step round the Matogianni street (the most famous street of Myknos town) all through the night. Yes, Mykonos island was at its best back then.
Another Greek island I loved was Paros. I used to go there from the early 1970s until around 1976... but this is something I will tell you about in the next post...to be continued........

2 Comments:

Blogger Paros Shepherd said...

Wow! A great post.
I am going to link to your blog on mine.

Cheers,
Michael

July 03, 2007  
Blogger muzz said...

Loved reading your article. I have been travelling to Greece & the islands since 1973 when I was a student and used to sleep on the beach. In those 1970s I went to Paros, Naxos, Ios, Syros, Mykonos, Poros, Skiathos, Skopelos (& Athens of course). I feel really priviledged to have known it all as it was back then in the 70s. I still love it, but cannot recapture the magic of how it used to be. Hardly any tourists, the slow smelly ferries, kind gentle people, the old peeling paintwork, rickety chairs, GREEK music! making myself understood, being led out into the kitchens to choose our near-cold food, the luke-warm chips (slices of boiled potatoes dripping in oil), drinking chocolate Carnation milk, listening to AFRTN on the radio, looking up and seeing all those stars and, of course, that unique fresh smell everywhere. Maybe I'll do my own website one day. Please do your Paros stuff soon ~ the first place I went to ~ still has a huge place in my heart. Deryck xx

July 30, 2007  

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