Naxos, Paxos, Paros, Poros… Antipaxos, Antiparos, but no Antinaxos or Antiporos. Did I get it right? Perhaps the Greeks could have used a little more imagination or at least syllables when naming their islands, don’t you think?
After sailing around the Saronic Gulf we paid a brief second visit to Poros, because we believed our anchor windlass to be broken (again). It was impossible to troubleshoot in the choppy anchorage in Aegina, but easy in calm and quiet Poros. Fortunately, this time it was only some oxidized electrical connections, so after a couple of days, we were ready to continue.
We sailed east from Poros, towards the Cyclades islands (Kykládes in Greek). Although it sounds like the Cyclops could have lived in the Cyclades, it was actually in Sicily where Odysseus encountered them. We were glad we didn’t, nor did we see any monsters in the Strait of Messina. It was about 90 nautical miles to our first Aegean island, Paros, where our friends on their boat s/y Relax were waiting for us. We started at noon on October the 10th, so we would make landfall during daylight on the following day.
As soon as we were out in the open sea, we put out a fishing line, and for the first time since leaving the Baltic, we caught a fish! It was a good-sized tuna, and when we put the line back out, we immediately caught another one! We were very tempted to try a third time, but superstition got the better of us: we mustn’t get greedy! The Greek gods are terrifying, we should never take their goodwill for granted, nor trespass on their hospitality. Who knows what sort of medicanes or port authorities they might throw upon us!
Paros, and the island of Naxos looming behind it, surrounded by the morning mist, were revealed as the sun rose. It was still morning as we dropped the anchor in Naoussa Bay, on the northern end of Paros. After a tuna sushi breakfast, it was time for a little nap.
There were various weather systems travelling across the Aegean, so it was a good idea to be anchored in a sheltered place. We ended up spending almost a week in the bay, in a couple of different anchorages as the winds shifted. One night there was a massive lightning spectacle on the eastern sky – far enough so there was no sound, but the cloudy sky kept flashing ceaselessly for hours. “So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish”, we signalled to Zeus & Co, hoping that the thunderstorm would not come anywhere near us.
Despite the gloomy, cool weather we enjoyed the company of our boat buddies, visiting each other and the village of Naoussa and its surroundings. Naoussa was the first “typical Greek white village” we had visited. We’ve spent more than two years in Greece now, and we know there are many different coloured villages and towns in Greece, just as traditional and typical as the white ones. Actually, these strictly white and blue villages are only typical to the Cycladic islands, and only since around the 1930s.
The summer climate in the Cyclades is very hot and arid. The white colour reflects light and helps cool the indoor temperatures. The houses also have window shutters that can be closed during the hottest hours of the day and opened as it cools down at night. Typically the shutters and doors are blue here, but the colour chart inspired by the Greek flag is a fairly new layer in history. Limewash, of course, is a very old way to paint the houses built of local stone, but the windows, doors and other details used to be painted with whatever colour was left over from painting the fishing boats. In 1974, the military government of Greece ordered the Cycladic houses to be painted white, with blue trimmings, to manifest patriotism. It does look good on tourist brochures and Instagram posts, I have to admit. But it’s also nice to see personal preferences making their way back to the colour palette nowadays.
Naoussa is a lovely little town, with a small 15th-century Venetian fort protecting it from intruders. The island has naturally been inhabited since the dawn of history. There are quarries that provided white marble for the statues and temples of the sacred Delos during ancient times. Perhaps in the future blog posts, we’ll get to visit the famous Delos, too…
The old fishing harbour is surrounded by beautiful houses – mostly restaurants and cafés these days.
Aegean Rebreath is a volunteer organisation that works to clean and recycle waste found in the sea. They had a weekend event in Naoussa, and the results were spread across the town quay. About time things like this are starting to happen, with so much plastic waste floating around the world’s oceans! In the Mediterranean, mass tourism can be blamed for a part of it, but what we could see in this exhibition consisted mostly of professional fishing gear: nets, lines and plastic floats, polystyrene boxes, and car tyres commonly used as boat fenders. Coming from a country where just about everything gets recycled, it’s sometimes frustrating to find no sorting for different kinds of waste. But the situation in Greece is far from the worst we’ve seen. In Palermo, Sicily, we literally waded through waste to get to the nearest supermarket. Little children were swimming among plastic trash on the beach, which didn’t seem to bother their parents at all.
From Paros our friends on s/y Relax continued to Antiparos. We headed towards Naxos – or was it Paxos? No, Paxos was an island we visited a year ago, on the Ionian. Our next destination was indeed Naxos. Right..?