Sunday, 11 October 2009
Greece 2009 - Day 6 Sifnos, Apollonia
The first job of the day was to take the short walk down to the village to buy some breakfast items. Even at eight o’clock in the morning the place was busy and the mini-market and the bakery were doing brisk early trade. Kamares has the feel of a strong community and the residents were chatting and being sociable in a way that we rarely see at home.
After breakfast on the balcony we caught the ten o’clock bus at the stop just outside the hotel for the short trip to the capital of Sifnos, Apollonia. The trip took about fifteen minutes and the bus dropped us off in the busy main square. Apollonia is in the middle of the island and all of the roads pass through this hectic spot and all around there was snarling traffic in a crazy traffic dominated street where it was important to keep our wits about us if we weren’t to smeared into the road and become permanent residents of Sifnos.
We disappeared as quickly as we could into the back streets of the town where the peace and tranquillity of the narrow shady lanes was in complete contrast to the main road. It was already very hot and there was a long steep climb ahead of us as we made our way towards the blue domed cathedral at the top of the hill. Stopping regularly to poke into hidden corners and side streets we met an Italian who was resting half way up the hill and he explained how he had set out with the objective of walking right across the island but at this half way point he was thinking of changing his plans and finishing the journey by bus.
At the top there was a panoramic view of most of the island and we could see the sea in the east but mountains blocked the view to the west. We could see all of the capital, which is in fact made up of four separate villages that as they have grown have simply merged into one big town. There were a lot of blue domes scattered along the streets and I counted twenty-five churches, which seems rather a lot for a town that only has a population of about a thousand permanent residents and by my calculation that is one church for every forty people. There was no alternative but to walk back the way we came and once back at the main road we stopped at a trendy taverna and had an expensive mythos (€4), you know, one of those that is served in a posh glass and with an unnecessary bowl of peanuts.
There was no wind at all anymore and with a cloudless sky it was really very hot. After returning to the room and an hour on the balcony we walked down to Kamara and explored some of the back streets that are tucked away behind the busy main road from where steps rise steeply with a giddy speed that quickened the pulse rate and brought us out in a sweat so we were glad of the air conditioned shops where we searching for take home souvenirs amongst the pottery for which Sifnos is famous.
We skipped lunch today and after Kim had made her selections that she would return to buy later we went to the beach for a couple of hours to enjoy a swim in the shallow water of the bay, which was a perfect temperature for just standing around with the water gently lapping around our legs. It was Saturday and at a taverna just at the edge of the beach there was a party where local people were celebrating some sort of event with passion and gusto. Everyone was having a really good time and on the way back to the hotel I watched for a while to pick up some tips on how to party in Greece in preparation for my planned birthday celebrations somewhere in Greece in 2014.
It was a lazy finish to the day as we sat on the balcony, read our books, drank wine and chatted to the nice couple in the next apartment. When the sun went down there was an excellent sunset and after it went dark we retuned to the little port for evening meal at one of the little tavernas by the water.
I like Greek tavernas, they are almost always friendly inviting places and the food is inexpensive and good value and it rarely disappoints. I like the carefree ambiance and the complete lack of formality, outside wooden tables and rattan chairs, check tablecloths, extensive menus and unhurried waiters. I like the cheap paper table covers so you can spill food and drink without worrying about the laundry bill, I like the certain company of scrounging cats and I especially liked these in Kamares because they had the most perfect setting by the sea.
Greece has a culinary tradition dating back thousands of years and over the centuries Greek cuisine has evolved and absorbed numerous influences. Typical dishes include souvlaki, fried meatballs, squash balls, octopus, shrimp, squid, feta cheese, olives, stuffed vine leaves, tzatziki eggplant dip, small sausages and giant beans. For evening meal, Greek tavernas serve such specialties as moussaka, kebabs, pastitsio, stifado, braised beef with onions and paidakia, which is delicious grilled lamb or goat chops. My personal favourite is Kleftiko, which is a knuckle of lamb, cooked slowly and served with vegetables and rice. In Greek, kleftiko means stolen meat and according to legend, this dish would be made with a lamb stolen from a flock as it grazed on a hillside. The thief would cook the meat over many hours in a hole in the ground, sealed with mud so that no steam could escape to give him away. It was on the menu tonight so we had that and a chicken souvlaki and shared a bit of both. We had a final drink and the friendly lady owner gave us a clean paper tablecloth as a souvenir.
It was a lovely clear night with a bright full moon and as we finished the day on the balcony we both wished that we had planned to stay longer here in this perfect place.