A short holiday on Alonissos Island

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With a car and two friends, we take the ferry from Skiathos to Alonissos Island for a three day holiday. The ferry trip takes just over two hours including a stop on Skopelos Island.
Alonissos is the third largest of the main Northern Sporades islands, after Skopelos and Skiathos, and the one that is least frequented by tourists. The name Alonissos is a fairly new name. To the ancient Greeks, the island was known as Ikos.

We approach the island and enter the picturesque harbour of Patitini, the capital village of Alonissos. Sailing boats and fishing boats are anchored in the harbour, the water is crystal clear. Tavernas and coffee shops line the harbour drive with a backdrop of white houses climbing the hills of the island.

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Distances are short on Alonissos and you can cover most of the island within half an hour’s drive from Patitini. It takes us five minutes to find our hotel in the next little bay away from this village.

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We are lucky with the hotel. It is small, simple and clean and located next to a beach with a few tavernas within a minute’s walk. This beach like most beaches on Alonissos consists of a combination of sand and pebbles. The first thing we do is to go for a long stay in the warm water. The water feels soft like silk. You swim, you float, you want to stay forever…

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In the evening, we drive up to Chora, the town on the top of the mountain, also called The Old Village. The views are stunning. Cars cannot go all the way up. We have to walk. Donkeys carry goods to the upper parts. Many artists have moved into the village, creating an artist enclave, sometimes with the paintings for sale hanging outside on the house walls. We find a taverna with a great view of the island, enjoying fresh seafood. Because this is what you should eat on Alonissos, seafood is fresh, straight from the sea off the island, and very reasonably priced.

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The next day, we take a drive around the island. The views of the rugged mountains, covered by pine forests and olive groves, are spectacular. Everything is quiet. It is an island of peace and serenity. We find a beach for a swim. There are only a few people on the beaches. We enjoy the warm, crystal clear water.

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Then we drive to the small bay of Steni Valla. Some sailing boats have anchored in front of the tavernas. We have yet another seafood meal. Back to the hotel, we cannot resist going down to the beach for yet another swim.

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Alonissos is a beautiful island. Sun and sea. Mountains and beaches. For us, it has been a time of viewing, eating, drinking, swimming, sleeping, all in good company. You cannot have a better three day holiday…

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When nudists stopped me from taking pictures of the mountain goats

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Skiathos is called “The Pearl of the Aegean Sea”. The island and its 70 beaches, surrounded by the cleanest waters of the Mediterranean, is a paradise of its own. Some of the beaches sometimes appear on lists of the ten most beautiful beaches in the world.

After the winter storms, the beaches are particularly interesting. Beautiful stones can be found partly hidden in the sand, shells have been washed ashore and artistic driftwood have drifted up on the beaches. Today, we go to the wild Xanemos Beach to search for driftwood, a week before the tourists start to occupy the beaches.

It is a beautiful day. Sunny, one of the first real summer days. We walk along the beach. The beach is totally empty. Everything is quiet except for the sound of soft waves hitting the shore. Totally relaxing. A world of its own.

Then we see them. Mountain goats. The cliffs falling into the sea are steep. We admire the goats, climbing and jumping with such ease and balance on the rocks. Jumping with gracious movements.

“Why don’t you take a picture for your blog”, says my wife. I answer that the goats are too far away. The pictures will not be good. “Go closer”, she encourages me.

I start to move along the beach. The goats are beautiful. I take pictures. Camera high. I must get closer. More pictures, are they good enough?

Then, suddenly, I see movement. Below the cliffs with the goats, a middle aged couple lie in the sand, sun bathing. I did not notice them before. They are totally naked. Nudists. The woman pulls up a towel to cover herself. The naked man stares at me.

Then I quickly realize. They don’t see the goats above them. They are lying peacefully in the sand, enjoying the warm early summer sun shine, on the totally empty Xanemos Beach when they suddenly see a strange man walking towards them, holding his camera high, taking pictures of them.

I quickly turn around and focus on the sea. If there is ever the right time to take meaningless pictures of the sea, this is it. I hold my camera close to my face, taking pictures of the Aegean. I walk slowly away. I glance casually at the couple. They are still staring at me, saying nothing. I take more pictures of the sea.

With a sigh of relief, I reach the car. My wife is already there with a beautiful piece of driftwood. “Let’s go”, I say. “I will explain later”.

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Tomorrow I will go shopping at Asteras Supermarket in town. Perhaps I should wear my baseball cap. And my darkest sun glasses….

Signs of the approaching summer

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A slow walk along an empty beach. A few persons looking for driftwood. Screaming seagulls floating elegantly in the wind. Blue skies, sun warming up the land. Only seagulls and waves make sounds, the sounds of the approaching summer.

In the next couple of weeks, the beaches will be cleaned from all rubbish that has been floating ashore during the winter storms. Only the sand will remain, then the beaches will be dressed with sun beds and sun umbrellas. The tourist invasion can start.

Skiathos, this little island of 50 square kilometers, has got 70 beaches. The cleanest and clearest water in the Mediterranean. A sun worshipper’s paradise.

We shake the sand off our shoes before we get back into the car. Driving into town. The traffic is picking up ahead of Greek Easter. Skiathians living in Athens and other places on the mainland come back to the island to celebrate the Easter, the biggest holiday of the year in Greece.

In the harbor, the first sailing boats have arrived. In the coffee shops, the islanders sit and talk, drink frappe and watch the cars entering the island from the ferries.

All the signs of the approaching summer are here…

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