Our sailing blog has been greatly neglected this past winter and spring. Life got in the way – more precisely, land life in a very cold land. It was hard to find inspiration for writing about adventures along the sunny Mediterranean while wading about in deep snow. Now that the new sailing season has already begun, perhaps it’s time to draw a quick summary of the places we visited from our winter base – in no particular order. Next time, I might tell you more about which way the winds are blowing this summer.
From Otranto, we headed north along the Apulian coast towards Brindisi. It was a pleasant, sunny day, with just a hint of cool autumn. The passage of 40 nautical miles was uneventful. The wind was good all day, but it was already dark by the time we reached the shelter of the breakwater of Brindisi harbour.
Slowly the Greek coast disappeared behind us. Finally, it was time to sail to a new land – Italy! We had hopped along the Sicilian coast in 2019 on our way east along the Mediterranean, but so far, we had never made landfall in mainland Italy.
We had left Crete on the 8th of May and were sailing towards the Ionian Sea. 24 hours later Crete was still looming on our port side as if we’d gotten nowhere. It is a big island, but our progress was very slow indeed. We were sailing close-hauled, and a lot of the time the wind was so light we had to motor.
Winter 2021-2022 was unusually cold and stormy in Crete. Our boat Aina seemed to think it was the most uncomfortable winter along our journey so far, with frequent rain showers, hail storms and constant swell. The writer of this story, Inka, spent the winter back in the snowy homeland while the boat and the rest of the crew stayed in the marina at Agios Nikolaos.
The island of Naxos has a lot to see – you could easily spend several fully packed weeks here. This time we only had a day to tour the island on a rental car, but we managed to get a very nice glimpse of the island. We headed east, over the hills, from Naxos town. The further we got from the rugged coastline, the greener and lusher the landscape became.
Paxos and Antipaxos, together called Paxoi, are the smallest island group in the Ionian, just south of Corfu. On September the 7th we sailed to Lakka, a small village on the northern end of Paxos. We knew Lakka is a popular anchorage, so we wanted to be there early in the afternoon in order to secure a place. We had some mayhem along the way, however, so we didn’t arrive until 7 pm – the bay looked absolutely packed as I was looking through my binoculars, but we sailed closer to have a look. After all, there’s always room for an optimist – and there was! In fact, more than ten boats came after us, and somehow they all managed to squeeze in.
During the first days of our mountain holiday in Zagori, we visited the mountains and the spectacular gorge that I wrote about in a previous post. In earlier brief history, I mentioned that there are also 46 old villages built of stone – now it’s time to visit some of them! These days there are less than 4000 inhabitants in the area. In the heyday, the number was many times that. Fortunately, travellers interested in nature, hiking, biking, horse riding, canoeing, climbing and other outdoor activities are beginning to find their way here, as well as those who are into history, architecture and stone construction. And for people who just love rocks – we happen to have those among our friends – it’s an endless goldmine.
If you travel to a mountainous area, the first thing you naturally want to see there are the mountains! We found the Zagori area in northwestern Greece to be a true treasure trove of many other things as well – such as distinctive culture, history, stone villages and bridges, rich flora and fauna and all sorts of strange and wonderful things – but the mountains would be a good starting point. And those gorges and mountains are really the reason why the history and culture of Zagori turned out the way it did. Also, you can see very far from high places and easily form a general idea of the area.
As we approached the Sicilian coast on August the 10th, we chose – quite at random, as the sun would go down soon – to stop at the Trapani harbour. We knew nothing about the place, except that there was a free anchorage within the port. But the next morning’s googling revealed an ancient town by the name of Erice on top of a hill close by, and that definitely got us interested! The easiest way to get there would be by a cableway.
Santiago de Compostela with its cathedral in the north-western corner of Galicia is the major tourist attraction of the area, and of Spain. While in the vicinity, we naturally had to make a small pilgrimage there, even if it was only on wheels, as our Finnish visitor just happened to be in possession of a rental car.
A Coruña turned out to be a good place to enjoy city life for a few days. A successful crossing of the Bay of Biscay was reason enough to celebrate, and the friendly prices of the tapas restaurants were another good reason.
The spring in Brittany turned out to be long. Because of the blooming flowers and warm days we had experienced in February we had expected to be on our way much earlier, but it seems the phenomenon called the “second winter” is not entirely unknown beyond Scandinavia. April came and went before we felt ready to leave.
After our visit to the island of Bréhat we finally began to understand, that to see extraordinary sights in Brittany, you don’t have to travel far. You can find yourself in amazing places just by getting lost in the narrow alleys of your “home town”. But if that’s not quite enough, find a camera symbol on Google Maps, that marks an interesting viewpoint, and go check it out. That’s what we decided to do one morning, having already visited some of the more popular touristic sights of our area. We got in the car and headed for the northern tip of Brittany again. We chose to visit a peninsula north of Plougrescant and a small town called Tréguier, a little further west from Ile de Bréhat.
Our friends from Finland spent a couple of unforgettable spring weeks with us in Brittany. March was the perfect time to do a little roadtripping, as it was nice to see some of the most popular attractions outside the busy tourist season, and enjoy the wonderful, historical places in somewhat more peace and quiet. Last time I wrote about our visit to the island monastery of Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy. Now we will continue our trip to a delightful medieval town of Dinan.
Our last destination in the Åland archipelago was the small island of Sottunga. It was a brief overnight stay, but we had time to visit another church very close to the harbour, and this one was especially pretty. It was built of wood and you could tell it’s age by the thick coat of red iron oxide paint on the cladding boards and roof shingles.