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BS: Postcard from Koufonissia etc

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Roger the Skiffler 23 Sep 16 - 09:23 AM
DaveRo 23 Sep 16 - 02:30 PM
Steve Shaw 23 Sep 16 - 06:55 PM
ChanteyLass 23 Sep 16 - 08:32 PM
leeneia 24 Sep 16 - 09:23 AM
Roger the Skiffler 24 Sep 16 - 12:00 PM
DaveRo 24 Sep 16 - 04:46 PM
Roger the Skiffler 25 Sep 16 - 03:07 AM
DaveRo 25 Sep 16 - 11:56 AM

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Subject: BS: Postcard from Koufonissia etc
From: Roger the Skiffler
Date: 23 Sep 16 - 09:23 AM

Our journey to Koufonisia, one of the Lesser Cyclades,was complicated by the non-synchronisation of flight and ferry times. We flew to Santorini and had time for a leisurely lunch in the port before our ferry. There were the usual crowds of Chinese and Japanese tourists from cruise liners, including the usual Japanese brides in wedding dress being photographed everywhere. In every port there seems to be one petite Coastguard/Port police woman with dyed red hair in a ponytail, blowing a whistle which might mean "Don't park there" or " Hurry up and get on board" or "Keep out of the way of traffic". Smooth jetferry ride to Naxos for an overnight stay. Our taximinubus was dropping off other clients so we had a short wait while he decided the order to load the luggage. Off we set for an "interesting" drive to our hotel ( we could have walked to it in the time, we could see it from the ferry dock) which took a roundabout route including going the wrong way down a one-way street and waving startled approaching motorists to back up and let us through!
        Time for an evening meal in Naxos town and then the same taxi driver took us to the ferry to Koufonisia ( a more direct route this time). Another smooth ride on a jet ferry but, why is the luggage storage up a flight of stairs and, although there was an up escalator, why wasn't there a down one for embarkation?
        Stavroula from our studios met us at the ferry and pointed out essentials (bakery, minimarket) on the way to the studios which she ran with her father Stefanos. There were just seven studios in two single story blocks in a large dry stony plot of land. Stefanos spent most of his time landscaping the plot with interesting rocks and plants suitable to such a dry climate.
        The island is in fact two islands Ano or Pano (upper) Koufonisia which has a permanent population of 400 (and an equal number of sheep and goats) and beds for 2,500 holidaymakers in peak season and Kato (lower) Koufonissia which has some beaches and a tavern but no winter population. Our accommodation was up a slight but steep hill so we had views over intervening properties across the sea to Keros, population one shepherd but a lot of archaeological sites. Koufonisia was historically a base for pirates and then fishermen, there were still 40 working fishing boats so fish was the speciality in most tavernas. There were low hills but the highest was just over 100m. Apart from the aforementioned sheep and goats and chickens we saw little agriculture though some fields had clearly had an earlier plot of corn or fodder. There was the occasional superyacht offshore. One we looked up accommodated 12 guests with 20 crew and cost £400,000 a week! Later we saw more in Mykonos, including two with helicopters.
        There were three main beaches, the furthest less than an hour's gentle stroll away. It was alleged to be "nudist" but there seemed no real distinction. Unclothed Italians (most of the other holiday makers were Italian) were present on all the beaches.   There seemed to have been a conscious decision not to allow sunbeds or umbrellas for hire on any of the beaches, or pedalos or jetskis. Greeks and Italians who came by car ferry, of course had their own, plus windbreaks, changing tents and inflatable water toys. In theory, we applauded the decision but at my age I find getting up from a recumbent posture on a beach towel or mat is a bit of a struggle these days!
        There was one drone flown by someone off a yacht which disturbed the quiet.   There were none of the annoying strolling hawkers that have become common these days.   Based on a malodorous "informal" (ie illegal) campsite on one beach were a group of New Age types offering home made bead jewelry and massage but they were passive, not importunate. The sand was suitable for sculpture and fathers competed to make the best castles or sculpture for their kiddies or the wash from passing ferries to destroy. One splendid castle lasted three days. The wash often caught sunbathers by surprise - we learned quickly to stay above this "highwater" mark. Beneath the sand were stratas of clay which children used for modelling. We also saw a couple who used it as an allover sun protection body paint, though judging from the handprints, it was also recreational!
        Although we walked to beaches (nearest only about 5 minutes) there were also water taxis and an hourly minibus. There were three main beaches and a lot of coves, some of them stony and some filled up when the ferry wash came ashore. Food was excellent and portions were enormous. It met my criteria for variety and novelty (never having the same evening meal twice and having some new dishes). There were enough different places to eat that we could have tried a different one each night. We visited one establishment twice and another three times, as we were turned away from one place 3 times as it was fully booked by a tour group. The one we went to most often served a small bottle of raki with an amuse-bouche to start and a free sweet of fruit and yogurt with a small bottle of rakomello as afters. Rakomello is too sweet for me but we enjoyed the rest.
        Our owners supplied us with free home-made cake and biscuits on several occasions and gave us a plaque of local stone when we left.   Our favourite beach cafe for morning coffee and lunches was presided over a friendly tattooed man with beard and Mohican haircut, dressed in muscle Tees and camo cargo shorts His name was Telemachus. Privately we called him Mr T., but if tactfully didn't ask him what the rest of the A-Team were up to these days. He told us the cafe would close for the season on the week after we left and he would return to Athens to run his florists business.
        Our view included the rear of a tavern which had 2 containers alongside. When these were opened it looked as though there was a hanged man inside.   Actually it was a full body wetsuit as the storage belonged to the nextdoor Dive Centre.
        The place we went to three times advertised occasional live music but not while we were there. There was a bouzouki busker, sometimes with a friend in the main shopping street. There were a couple of Bob Dylan wannabees in Mykonos with guitar, harmonica kazoo combos.
        There were a couple of cloudy days so we walked to the highest point of the island where the rediscovered church of Profitis Ilias had been partially restored. We had views across to Amorgos and the other Lesser Cyclades (Schinoussa and Donousa and Iraklia). The walk was only about 3 miles but part was along a poorly defined goat track and with stops for photographs and admiring the views took us about two and a half hours, back into town for a welcome beer.   On the day we went to the furthest Pori beach we went by road and came back via the coastal path, passing some minor beaches such as "Piscina" like a real swimming pool and saw many interesting strata revealed by sea erosion, the clay layers clearly visible. We also saw a few cows and horses.
        It was a very quiet island, few motorbikes, rather more cars than the length of sealed road would justify but none for hire, only bicycles. No donkeys that we saw and the cockerels were far enough from our property not to disturb us. A flashing light display from nearby power lines presaged a few short outages, but nothing to bother us.   Among the birds we saw were the usual hooded crows, olive green jobs , wheatears, larks and what i am confident was a Sardinian Warbler.
        ...and so to Mykonos for our flight home. We had arranged an extra night's stay so we could visit Delos.   Mykonos was once known for its beaches and sophisticated night life and for being gay-friendly. Now on the cruise ship circuit it is over-run by large groups and most of the shops sell jewelry or designer goods as well as the usual tourist tat. There was one of the fake clipper cruise liners and many superyachts in.   We were surprised to see a group of about 20 Brits dressed as Greek gods wandering round the town, presumably off a yacht. There was also a stilt walker and people carrying trophies and medal- we had just missed the annual Fun Run. We also saw a Greek man resplendent in chain,waistcoat,cap and staff. Possibly a church beadle? The famous Mykonos pelican visited us while we were having lunch in a quiet back street after visiting Delos.
        Last time we stayed in the Hotel Madalena (up a hill from the town, lots of internal steps) we never quite worked out the complicated shower controls, this time we cracked it!   Either the hill had got steeper and the steps increased since last time or I'm getting older!
        Our trip to Delos (2-way boat, entrance, English-speaking guide for 2 hours, museum and map) was Eu 50 each which we thought was good value. Our guide was Ephigenia, a graduate in History and Archaeology with a Masters in Museology who had been one of the onsite archaeologists, so she really knew her stuff. It is such a large site, we must go back some time and wander on our own to some of the further flung areas. It was interesting to learn it was not just a place of pilgrimage to the shrine of Apollo but a thriving Free Trade port and slave market. We learned that 50 archaeologists and 8 guards live there in the summer and only 3 guards remain in the winter. We saw the famous lions (the real ones in the museum, the replicas in position outside) and mosaics and statues unearthed on site. Some of the houses and shops were really well preserved.
        Regular readers of these ramblings will know I've given up my annual swimsuit survey: the sample of "Dendros" is too small and on Koufonissia, it was clear that most Italians are too poor to afford a swimsuit!


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Subject: RE: BS: Postcard from Koufonissia etc
From: DaveRo
Date: 23 Sep 16 - 02:30 PM

We were observed by a drone on holiday here in Portugal. Amazingly manouverable - but I think it was a professional model, photographing a wedding in a nearby hotel. As a sailor I think it might be useful to send a drone inshore to check whether there is room in a harbour or anchorage. You could see rocks and shoals fron above, as you can on Google Earth. Irritating for everyone around though, that whining noise.

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Subject: RE: BS: Postcard from Koufonissia etc
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 23 Sep 16 - 06:55 PM

Look out for me waving at you across the Ionian Sea tomorrow from Ortigia, Roger. I'll be the one holding Mrs Steve's pale blue swimming costume bag...

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Subject: RE: BS: Postcard from Koufonissia etc
From: ChanteyLass
Date: 23 Sep 16 - 08:32 PM

Sigh. It all sounds wonderful.

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Subject: RE: BS: Postcard from Koufonissia etc
From: leeneia
Date: 24 Sep 16 - 09:23 AM

Thanks for your report, Roger. You write so vividly, I can picture everything.

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Subject: RE: BS: Postcard from Koufonissia etc
From: Roger the Skiffler
Date: 24 Sep 16 - 12:00 PM

We're home now, Steve or I'd have waved back!

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Subject: RE: BS: Postcard from Koufonissia etc
From: DaveRo
Date: 24 Sep 16 - 04:46 PM

Where next? Do you only do islands? Some friends of ours enjoyed Afissos on the Pelion peninsula, which is uncommercial yet easy to get to. I hear Ikaria is joining the 20th Century (sic). A few years back is was populated by communusts who only came out at night and shunned visitors. They've apparantly opened a marina!

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Subject: RE: BS: Postcard from Koufonissia etc
From: Roger the Skiffler
Date: 25 Sep 16 - 03:07 AM

We've stayed on 33 islands, Dave, (and Athens) and visited another dozen or so long enough for a meal (transfers, day trips). We've "done" the Ionian, Sporades and most of the Dodecanese and are now concentrating on the Cyclades as well as revisiting the island I call "Dendros" where we have local friends and have been going for 20 years on and off. Next year? Possibly Sifnos, maybe Amorgos. As we get older we are fussier about journeys and acommodation, but as long as we are fit enough we'll keep on going and as long as Mudcatters like these notes I'll keep on with them.

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Subject: RE: BS: Postcard from Koufonissia etc
From: DaveRo
Date: 25 Sep 16 - 11:56 AM

We found music in Amorgos.

Do keep the postcards coming!

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Mudcat time: 17 May 1:32 AM EDT

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