After checking weather forecasts and ‘The Lonely Planet’ and conversations with Mike and Claire we agreed that we’d spend Easter at Naousa on Nisos Paros. Easter is a massive party throughout Greece. We’d read about the traditions and the party that took place on Easter Sunday, with spit roast lamb forming the centrepiece.
We left Despotiko on the 27th April for the short motor between the islands of Paros and Antiparos.
At it’s narrowest point the passage is pretty narrow and only 4m deep which is quite disconcerting. There are also a lot of rocks well offshore around the main port of Parikia and we had to change course on numerous occasions to avoid them. We initially anchored in a bay to the west of the harbour at Naousa. Mike and Claire anchored off the beach next to the harbour and called up on the VHF to say there was lots of room so we raised our anchor and went over to join them.
We went ashore in the dinghies for a walk through the town and around the picturesque harbour. Naousa is a very popular and chic (expensive) tourist resort and one of the top destinations for the in crowd at Easter.
The area around the harbour was getting ready for the evening meal trade, there was hardly anywhere to get passed. We chose our restaurant for a meal later on. We didn’t order the speciality though.
The meal was so good that we decided to reserve a table for the Easter meal.
At the end of the breakwater there is an old fort.
The fort was built in the 13th century on a flat reef.
We also walked up to the church at the top of the village.
That night we joined hundreds of people at the midnight service. This was Saturday night before Easter Sunday. The service started at 11pm with one of the priests bringing a lit candle out from the church. Almost everyone had brought a candle and the glow spread as firstly people lit their candles from the priests candle and then other people lit theirs candles from them.
The service continued until midnight when the priest call out ‘Christos Anesti’ (Christ has arisen) which everyone replied ‘Alithos Anesti’ (Truly He has arisen)
This prompted a firework display and everyone headed to the bars to celebrate, the 4 of us included.
We went ashore on Easter Sunday to enjoy the meal and we were greeted with the delicious smell of roasting lamb.
We took our table at about 1:30pm and were served delicious lamb and potatoes with Greek salad and various other appetisers. We also had the first of several ‘misó kiló krasí’ (half kilo of wine) of the red and white varieties. Pretty soon the music started and Gill and Claire joined in the dancing.
Gill resplendent in the commemorative t-shirt that she’d blagged for us all from the neighbouring restaurant.
By now the party was in full swing with dancing on the tables. In Greece when you book a table it’s yours for the day / evening. There’s no expectation that you will leave and so it was for us with us staying into the night.
On Easter Monday we took the bus to the capital of Paros – Parikia. it was a busy town with huge ferries returning partying Athenians and other holiday makers back home after the festivities. We walked up through the old town to the church…
…and the Frankish castle which was built in 1260AD incorporating pieces of the temple of Athena and other ancient buildings on the site, talk about re-use!
Walking back through the streets lined with designer shops I came across a stand with shoes with my name on them – unfortunately the prices were a little more than I’d usually pay.
We then wandered through town to the church (yes another one) named Panagia Ekatontapiliani (literally the church with 100 doors).
It is a complex of several churches in an ornate courtyard with doors lying off all the way round. It’s easy to see how it got it’s name, even though it isn’t accurate.
This was our last day here on this visit to Naousa, we had intended to sail to the neighbouring island of Naxos but on reaching the channel we were met with strong winds and rough seas so we returned and anchored in a delightful bay on the north of Paros.
From that bay we sailed north 17 miles to the island of Rineia so that we could visit the amazing island of Delos.
It is possible to anchor off Delos through the day but it is forbidden to anchor overnight. The Rineia anchorage is beautiful and large. We anchored with Owl and Pussycat in a bay to ourselves in 10m of crystal clear water. The charts aren’t overly accurate for this bay as according to the chart we were in 1m. We had a walk ashore and a dinghy ride to some of the other anchorages before joining Mike and Claire for sundowners.
The next morning we took the dinghies over to Delos, arriving around 10:00am. We’d just timed it wrong as the tripper boats from nearby Mykonos had just discharged their passengers. We took our place at the back of the queue. To be fair it only took around 30 minutes to get in.
As we’d approached the dock in the dinghies we’d seen this statue which looked familiar.
And as we approached the payment kiosk it became apparent why we recognised it.
Sir Antony Gormley is famous for ‘The Angel of the North’ and ‘Another Place’ which is the sculpture that the figure standing in the water reminded us of.
We paid the entrance fee and walked towards the famous archaeological site, passing one of the many sculptures that had been erected amongst the ancient ruins of Delos.
This was an incredible bonus. I’d have been very happy to pay the entry fee to see an installation of his sculptures but in this setting it was outstanding.
Delos was originally a holy sanctuary, having been inhabited since at least 3000 BC and peaking between 900 BC and 100 AD . In Greek mythology it was the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis, the twin offspring of Zeus by Leto. When Leto was discovered to be pregnant, Zeus’ jealous wife Hera banished her from the earth, but Poseidon took pity on her and provided Delos as a place for her to give birth in peace.
Much later it was ordered that no one should be allowed to either die or give birth on the island due to its sacred importance and to preserve its neutrality in commerce, since no one could then claim ownership through inheritance.
In 166 BC the Romans declared Delos to be a free port and it then became the most important trading post in the Mediterranean. This is amazing when you consider that the island is pretty small at only 1.3 square miles. The less savoury fact is that the most traded ‘item’ was slaves.
The site is one of the largest and most extensively excavated in Greece. The scale of it is such that the visitors are lost in it. At its’ height around 100 BC the city had a population of some 30,000. A far cry from the current population of 14.
Our route around the site started at the Agora and Temple of the Delians
And then to the Lions of the Naxians. There is some argument over whether there were 9 or 19 lions originally. They were placed on a natural embankment on the route between the port and the sanctuary. It is said that they were incredible to the pilgrims as most had never seen a lion.
These are replicas, the originals are in the museum.
From here we made our way over to the gymnasium with its views over to Mykonos.
We retraced our steps and visited the small museum.
and then headed through the ruins to the temple of Zeus and Athena on the top of Kinthos hill.
As we approached the temple we saw a film crew interviewing someone. We assumed that it was a Greek reporter filming the opening of the exhibition. They finished filming and walked down passed us. The person who they had been interviewing said ‘hello’ in an English accent as he passed. We didn’t think much of it until 5 minutes later (and a quick google search) we realised that it was Sir Antony Gormley who was being interviewed, a fantastic autograph opportunity missed.
As thousands of visitors had done over the millenniums, we climbed the stairway up to the temple.
We were greeted at the top of the stairs by probably my favourite sculpture from the site – In can’t help but think of the film I Robot when I see it.
There isn’t a lot left of the temple on the hill but we sat down to a picnic taking in the fantastic views.
After our lunch we made our way back towards the port, passing the theatre.
And on through the theatre district. This was where the rich lived. The houses had columns at the entrances and mosaic floors.
We walked back down passed the Stoibadeion, a temple to Dionysos. with its’ ‘interesting’ statues
From here it was time to return to the dinghies and make our way back to the yachts. Anyone in the area must visit Delos.
Our next sail was quite a short one across to an anchorage just south of Mykonos town.
We went ashore and crossed over to the beach where the film Shirley Valentine was set. Claire will probably never forgive me as the ‘shortest’ route according to google ended up taking us through fields of sharp thorns.
The film was shot at Agios Ioannis. In the film there was one hotel at the bottom of a dirt track and a taverna on the beach.
The hotel and taverna are still there but have changed beyond all recognition. They are completely surrounded by very upmarket hotels and villas.
We only stayed the one night on Mykonos because the wind was forecast to increase substantially in the next couple of days. We decided to head back to the very secure anchorage at Naousa on Paros.
Here we joined several other boats also taking shelter.
Coriander was completely unscathed and the anchor held fine as the wind gusted over 50 kts. The same couldn’t be said for our Greek courtesy flag though. Luckily there is a chandler in Naousa where we could get a replacement (we actually bought 2 just in case).
Once the wind and seas eased we had a great sail between Naxos and Paros to the island of Schinousa. Our first choice of anchorage wasn’t tenable due to the swell rolling in so we anchored instead in a gorgeous bay called Spiaggia di Livadi
Mike and Claire had intended going to Iraklia but again the swell would have made that anchorage uncomfortable so they came over and anchored beside us.
From here we motored all of 2.4 miles to Livadi on Iraklia.
We anchored well to the south of the bay because the chart had underwater electric cables in the centre of the bay. We went ashore and walked over the hill to the main town of Ag Georgios and had a superb meal at Submarine restaurant. The walk back offered great views of the boats anchored and Schinousa in the background.
The taverna at the beach had yet to open for the season but that didn’t stop us getting supplied from the boats for sundowners on the beach.
From Iraklia we sailed to the anchorage between the small island of Nikouria and Amorgas.
This was a beautiful and very sheltered anchorage, apart from when the ferry between the main towns set up a huge roll caused by the wash. The beach was deserted and we all decided to head ashore for a fantatsic sunset BBQ.
We enjoyed a delicious meal while we watching the sun set over our boats at anchor.
Our final ‘Cyclades’ town was Katapola on Amorgas
The anchorage here appears huge, however a ferry comes in most nights at 2am in the morning and leaves at around 6am. The ferry is huge and it stern moors to the quay. In order to do this it drops an anchor just off the beach and reverses to the quay. This restricts anchoring to a thin strip roughly one boat wide along the beach. We anchored in around 3m of water with as little chain out as we dared so that if we swung towards the beach we would still be in 2m of water (Coriander draws 1.8m). When the ferry comes in the noise of the anchor dropping just a few metres away is terrifying.
The town is typical of the towns we’d seen in many of the islands. Very picturesque but built way before motorised transport. While ashore we saw building materials being delivered by mule.
There was a nice walk along the shore to a church on the headland with great views back to the town.
We returned to Coriander and had a final drink in the Cyclades.
Next stop the Dodecanese.