Our journey continued onward from Sofia to Skiathos, Greece. Located in the Sporades Islands, this was one "sweet" find. The town is situated on a pine covered hill, overlooking a pretty little harbor. Restaurants and colorful bar/lounges ring the waterfront and climb up the hillsides. Winding streets snake up the hill through the traditional white houses and numerous churches. The entire island is covered in pine forest and there are 65 beautiful sandy beaches.
The ferry crossing from Volos, Greece, was quick and uneventful. Arriving at 4:30 pm we started searching out our previously booked accommodation. In 27 years of travel, this has never been a difficult task. Not so - this time!! The apartments weren't labeled nor were they located where the map indicated. Thus, began our interaction with the famed Greek hospitality. Several local women on the street, tried to help; looking up the phone number (which was incorrectly listed) and trying to find the apartment name (which didn't exist). One woman went as far as calling friends for information on her cell and walking us to what she thought was the correct establisment.
There we found a new phone number which she called. The owners had
no record of our reservation and weren't affiliated with the web site we had used. However, Eleni (the owner of the pension where we were) offered to walk down to meet us and help us solve our accommodation mystery. She offered to take us back to her house where her husband, Christos, could help with the use of their Internet and their phone.
She put our luggage in one of the pension's room and we hiked up the hill to her house. We spent the next 3 hours talking, phoning, and using the Internet to track down the owner of our studio apartment. In the process we shared life stories, travel adventures, and became friends. The Greek hospitality never ceases to amaze us.
A few days later we returned to Christos and Eleni's with wine to thank them for their kindness. We spent another lovely evening talking and laughing on their balcony overlooking the island. Two days later they took us on a tour of the island. We visited a monastery, saw some lovely views of the island from the high mountain roads, spent the afternoon at Mandraki Beach (a secluded locals' beach), and enjoyed dinner at a
seaside taverna. They are true gems of the island and we hope to see them again.
One of the coolest events of our day together was running into Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell. Christos and Eleni had told us that they had a house on the island and both of them had seen them in town the day before. As we were driving to the beach, Christos started honking his horn at a passing jeep. The jeep stopped, and Christos told Goldie and Kurt that he had just been telling his new American friends that they were on Skiathos. They both smiled with Kurt saying, "Hi" and Goldie giving us a typical little Goldie wave. They were both very friendly and most gracious. It was a very cool encounter.
Christos and Eleni have a pension on Skiathos called Elenis House. For rental information they can be reached at: www.elenishouse.gr I can't recommend them enough. They are wonderful people and have very nice accommodations.
While on Skiathos, we took a day cruise to the islands of Skopelos (the "Mamma Mia" island) and Alonnisos. As the boat left the harbor, we were escorted out to sea by the local
Our Jet Star ferry
This boat really moves on the water.
dolphins. They are a shorter and chubbier variety and they put on quite a show, jumping and racing along the side of the boat.
Skopelos is a very traditional Greek island which has not changed much in the last century. The filming of "Mamma Mia" must have been a big event for the locals. We were only able to see the town, which was quite charming.
Alonnisos was a very small pine covered island with a a National Marine Park dedicated to the preservation of the monk seal. This is one of earth's rarest mammals with only 400 seals in existence. We were able to see 3 in the distance sunning themselves on a rock. The island is considered to have the cleanest water of all the Aegean islands.
When we left Skiathos we flew to Santorini. Since I have written about Santorini several times in the past, I took a camera moratorium. It was very hot! We spent our time at the pool or on the beach in the town of Kamari. Of course there was one visit to Thira and to Oia to gaze at the caldera. It's such a splendid place.
The typical BIG ferry
The busy process of loading and unloading
we took the ferry to Paros. One of our first stops there was to our favorite bakery for their awesome spanikopita. Another morning we took the ferry to the little island of Antiparos. We didn't see Tom Hanks (he has a house there), but did watch the fishermen hauling in their nets, and checked out the octopi drying on boards along the waterfront. It's a quiet island village with little traffic and few people.
Mykonos was our last island stop. We were only there for one evening. It breaks our hearts to see what Mykonos has become. The commercialization and cruise ship hordes have destroyed the Mykonos that we once knew. From Mykonos we flew to Milan and spent the night there before making our way to Switzerland by train.
We are now 14 days into our 3 Swiss weeks. The weather has been incredible and the hiking couldn't be better. Every night we are tired and happy having dinner on our chalet balcony overlooking the Jungfrau. Soon our friends from Sarasota will arrive to join us in the fun. Lynne and I are doing a paragliding jump and we are both sooooooooo excited! More details later😉
A colorful Skiathos lounge
These "pillow lounges" line the hillside along the waterfront.
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