Sunday, 11 May 2014

Finally - Kithira!

Sorry for the long silence - but now, at last, I can sit down and write about Greece, where I had a brilliant time!

I went to two places there; the capital, Athens, and the island. And, well,  I can't keep the island's name a secret forever  .... so it's called Kithira. Or Kythera, or Kythira ... it doesn't really matter.  It's off the southern part of the Peloponnese, and you can get there by ferry, or else by plane from Athens, which is what we did.

It was definitely my kind of airport. No stink of fuel, no network of grim roads, just a friendly little place that was surrounded, when we arrived, by acres of spring flowers.


My trip to Athens was paid for by the tourist board of Attika.  I paid my own expenses on Kithira, and I'd chosen a place called Xenonas Fos Ke Choros, a few quiet kilometres from the airport. Set on a hillside, it looks almost minimalist, like something out of a design magazine, but it was warm and snug despite the sometimes-cloudy and windy Spring weather.  It was created by a Dutch couple called Albert and Anita, who left Amsterdam behind, learned Greek and began to live their dream.

We quickly found that they do wonderful breakfasts.


And there were wildly glowing sunsets from our living room towards the sea.


There really isn't much tourism, which was one of the things that made Kithira feel like such a find.   The view below, taken from the 16th century castle in the capital town (which was actually more like a village) shows one of the main "tourist areas." As you see, there are no ugly hotels or big roads. It's all small and low key.


We took a drink at nearby Aghia Pelagia, one of the other "big" tourist areas. Again, one row of charming well kept cafes and bars with nice people.  The owner of this one, called "Sempreviva" after the flowers that grow by the beach



gave us that plate of cookies for nothing because it was Easter. He offered us a free glass of brandy, too.


Milopotamos is another equally low key tourist attraction.   The Venetians left Kithira in 1797, but this Lion of St. Mark has been preserved by the river there - a river which leads into the hills to a series of 24 watermills, all of them abandoned and overgrown now except one.  


That one is called "Philip's Mill" and I was told it had been in the owner's family for three hundred years. It can be reached by an overgrown track


 which weaves to and fro either side of the river


and then follows a narrow culvert along a hillside which eventually arrives at the mill.  The owner doesn't seem to mind people walking around his large garden, which overlooks a valley. The mill itself was shut, and the entire place was deserted, although well maintained.  It felt just a little bit like discovering you'd wandered into "Beauty and the Beast."


My last post mentioned Paleochora, the old capital of Kithira, which was sacked by the pirate Barbarossa in the 16th century.  Its ruins overlook a towering gorge 


and you reach it by walking along a narrow track up and down fairly steep hills.  We didn't see anyone the whole time, but it was interesting scrambling round the old castle and many abandoned churches and chapels. 


Very much at your own risk, although someone had done a bit of elementary stabilisation of the ruins. 


To me, Kithira seemed a traditional sort of island in many ways, but I thought this old lady in nearby Potamos market stood out as being exceptionally old fashioned. I wondered if she might be a nun. 


And I really enjoyed the market. It was just local people selling things they had made, and things from their gardens - the sort of stuff I always hope to get in markets, but rarely do!  Just look at those lettuces ....


I was pretty frustrated to have to leave Kithera, because there was a lot more than I could see in just a few days.    I understand that the island's open spaces are managed in a different way from elsewhere in Greece, which has partly helped to preserve its remote and unspoiled character, so long may it remain that way. 

Because (anyone reading this from a tourist office I wonder?) we don't all like noisy bars, shops and endless restaurants, nor do we necessarily want fancy expensive boring luxury hotels pricing out everyone but the unimaginative rich.   Many of us would like to be in somewhere that is quiet, unpretentious, beautiful, interesting and friendly. I hope there are enough of us to make it worthwhile to keep offering it in places like Kithira.   

So I will be going back -  it's too great not to revisit.   And I'll do a post about Athens next time!

By the way here are a couple of the other reasons I haven't been writing.  One is CLUTTER.



We're keeping a lot of stuff for our kids at the moment, for various reasons. This is a typical corner of our home. Yuk. I'm feeling an irresistible desire to get rid of anything we can, which includes OUR stuff - anything not to feel swamped!   Anyway, we didn't need a Columbia costume from The Rocky Horror Show


or a wind-up 78 rpm gramophone.


In fact, why did we ever have these things in the first place????

Plus there is the lure of the twins. They are becoming so different. He looks to have a fine future as a Sumo wrestler. She's a tiny, pale little elf..I do love being with them!
  






48 comments:

  1. Wonderful pictures! Happy Mother's Day!
    Kithera sounds like the place to be, quiet and beautiful. I always imagine the country side in Greece will be that way.

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  2. Kithera looks like a place I would fall in love with and never want to leave. Thank you for sharing it.
    And those babies- oh my goodness.
    And honey- if you call THAT clutter, you would die in my house.

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  3. Three hurrahs for this wonderful review, and I feel charmed and relaxed just reading it. Beautiful photos. Makes we want to hop on a plane right now and visit Kithira. I hope it remains like that for a very long time. Your twins are precious . . .

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  4. Yes, I feel a bit like hopping on a plane again and going back! I did fall in love with it, and the countryside is, I think, naturally like that, although in some areas they've started using weedkiller and chemicals. Slightly shocking how much it can cut down on the beautiful variety, although I suppose it helps the farmers.

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  5. Hello Jenny,

    This all reads as if Kithira has captured your heart and, we are certain that if we were to visit, we should fall under the same spell. What a glorious place. Time does seem to have stood still there and the way of life is probably not so very different from how it was 100 years ago. Perfect.

    We have never visited Greece and very much wish to do so. Dear friends of ours lived there for several years and their tales have always entranced us. So, we too must seek out your paradise island.

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  6. I have waited for your Greece post for a long time, Jenny, and it doesn't disappoint. Every single spot looks beautiful, fascinating and so delicious! The food, the market, the flowers, the scenery, the sunsets. Oh, what a have Kithera is. A spot I'd never heard of and now can't forget.

    I can relate to the clutter, having been cleaning for company (and beyond). Spent this morning at Rick's helping him clean after a tenant more or less trashed her place and left it filled with her stuff. We waited a week for her to get it and today it went to the curb. Within an HOUR almost all of it was gone. The power of the FREE sign!

    Love the pix of the twins! They are different -- and glorious!

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  7. K-whatever-way-it-is-spelled is my kind of place. I love low-key ...natural, unspoiled and beautiful. I prefer places like that to ones with all the bells and whistles, marble and gold-plated taps (as you may have gathered from some of my posts on my blog about my time spent on a couple of islands "resorts").

    It looks like the twins are flourishing...beautiful little bubs. :)

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  8. I think it's very true that many of us would prefer a small, unpretentious holiday spot to one that's overrun with towering hotels and third-rate, artificial "tourist attractions". I hope Kithira stays the way it is and doesn't turn into another fashionable, overcrowded mass-market destination.

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  9. Greecy and Kythira look just wonderful, Jenny! You've made me want to go there for one, and I'm very glad you had a lovely relaxing time there!!

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  10. Oh, it sounds beautiful - just the sort of place I should like to go on holiday. No 'touristy' places, no noisy bars, no Irish pubs....just lovely scenery, normal people, and some quiet to relax. And good food, obviously!

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  11. Your pictures of your Greek island vacation are absolutely wonderful! Oh...the food! The sunset! I can almost imagine your walks and hikes around the island.

    Clutter...yes...it can become so very annoying. I'm going through a spurt of decluttering myself. I'm convinced that every few years you should pretend you will be moving - that seems to help keep the clutter down.

    Lovely pictures of the twins!

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  12. Hi, Jenny. Kithira sounds and looks wonderful and what a breakfast in Athens! The babies are so cute! Thank you for letting me know you were having problems accessing my blog - I think it's OK now. x

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  13. Beautiful island, and beautiful babies! You are right about sometimes just wanting a nice, quiet retreat that doesn't look like everyplace else.

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  14. Greecy and kythira, they are wonderful places!! Yes, visiting local markets is the most exciting thing for tourists.Your twins are so sweet!

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  15. What a superb place to visit...as you say, for longer than you had at your disposal.
    I wish tourist offices would realise that it is not ALL about filling hotel rooms....

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  16. Your pictures are amazing. The light is nearly tangible. And the Dutch are famous for their big breakfasts, if I remember my trip to the Netherlands properly. I hope to see more pictures from your trip.

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  17. I just don't know why I have lost you from my reader ?
    Love this post and I adore the Sumo Wrestler and Tiny Elf.
    When in Japan I love watching Sumo... not kidding, it is very interesting.
    Happy to have caught up a bit.

    cheers, parsnip

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  18. As usual, you've taken me to a place I've never been before and persuaded me to fall in love with it. Kithira sounds wonderful and I really enjoyed the photos - tempting food, great scenery, and a spectacular sunset! Not to mention a blissful absence of annoying tourism.
    The twins are cute!

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  19. You "got" me, of course, by mentioning the series of abandoned mills. That would be paradise for me, following the trails along the river, discovering one overgrown mill after the other.
    Like you, I hope Kythira is allowed to stay the way it is for many more years.

    Your "cluttered" room still looks remarkably neat and tidy - I know people whose homes are so full of STUFF (and they want it that way) that I feel claustrophic ten minutes after coming in.

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  20. Kithira looks both beautiful and fascinating in equal measure, Jenny. We have never been to Greece and I'm sure we'd love it too. Kithira looks like a real walk into the past - love that lion's head, and the picture of the old lady is stunning. Sympathy re family possessions coming into your house, an experience we have had on and off too. Then we collected two more lots on the passing of our mothers. Like you, I found myself wanting to toss my own stuff, simply to make more room. And they tell us to downsize!!! Little twinnies are gorgeous - happy times :)

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  21. Dear Jenny - why oh why do we clutter up our lives with so much stuff, I bet the people of Kithera have a more simplistic uncluttered life.
    The island looks delightful, no tourists, wild flowers, local food, wonderful pathways to explore, what could be better?
    The twins are changing so much - love the way you have illustrated their little differences.

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  22. Wonderful place by the look of it. Kithera would be a must visit place if I was still travelling. Sadly, we never made it to Greece. Looking forward to more pictures of Athens

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  23. Hi Jenny, first of all - that header pic is really nice.
    Loved your post - what a great place... everywhere you went there were beautiful shrubberies and flowers. Gorgeous spots to explore and that food!!
    So true too what you said about a lot of folk just want to be in a place that is quiet beautiful and relaxing.
    Oh those babies are so sweet and cuddly - it's such a delight isn't it :D)

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  24. Welcome back. We love Greece too. Many years ago, before it became a tourist mecca, we spent Easter on Mykonnos and loved it. Also rented and apartment Nafali one summer, pure heaven. Ate a lot at a restaurant run by a man who'd lived in Chicago and was a huge John Belushi fan.

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  25. Like you, I love little islands that have somehow escaped international tourist attention - places that could be anywhere in the world with sunshine. It feels as if such corners are being squeezed out by all the big players - of course we want to write about them, and it would be selfish to keep such treasures to ourselves, but sometimes I wish there were a way to keep them secret!

    And your twins ... mine are nearly three. What fun they are!

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  26. Oh, sweet, precious, beautiful babies! And now I have a huge longing to visit Greece again...lovely post!

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  27. Adorable babies!!! But you know this!!!
    I feel smarted and cultured cuz of you. I threw the "cuz" in there because I'm still white trash. LOL
    Thank you for sharing, I love your posts and I look forward to sharing your travels with you.

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  28. Good post.
    You made me want to go to that lovely island. I think you've described the wishes of many, with us desiring small, quiet, interesting and unpretentious. (You forgot to add cheap)
    I had a holiday in Crete many years ago, and at that time it was mostly undeveloped, and a bit similar to Kithera. Loved it.

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  29. That sounds like my kind of vacation! I hate the noise and bustle of tourist traps.
    The twins are a better reason to be busy than clutter--LOL! ;)

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  30. Dear Jenny, how wonderful tribute to Kithera! You know I have never been there and scrolling down through the beauty of your photos and narrows I thought that the time has arrived to visit this little corner of Greece which has much to offer... Your twins are simply adorable!
    Olympia

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  31. That all sounds just wonderful, Jenny. Kithira reminded me of an Easter Break in Aegina many moons ago, especially all those spring flowers. I love all your baby pics too. And wish my clutter looked as tidy as yours.

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  32. Now you’ve torn it, you know.
    This place is just to precious to become a tourist Mecca. Anything unspoilt cries out to be spoilt, at least that’s what tour operators think.

    Perhaps Kethera is just too small to be of monetary value?

    It is certainly a gorgeous gem.

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  33. Pah! You call that clutter?
    That's it, you have made me, and all the rest, wish to fly out to Kythera immediately. What a great find. Such a lot of history has passed through there. You might be right in thinking the old wife looks like a nun, there might be a Greek place nearby, but they tend to go in for monks mostly didn't they?
    Anyway I'm hiding the camera as I canny take pictures as good as yours!

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  34. Kithera sounds like an ideal place to celebrate by 70th birthday next year! It sounds an ideal place for combining relaxation with exploration! Many thanks for such a splendid review. And those twins are gorgeous!

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  35. A delightful piece about a delightful place!

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  36. Hi human, Jenny,

    Apawlogies for my delay in getting to your blog pawst. Now Kithera is just the place I should take my human to. I shall have a word with BlogAir and see if they might go to that airport.

    Your words and pictures, an absolute marvel, my dear human friend.

    Pawsitive wishes,

    Penny

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  37. That sunset is wonderful.

    Thank you for this tour of Kithira. I agree with your comment in the 3rd para from the end. Quiet, unpretentious, beautiful, interesting and friendly are top of my list for holidays destinations as well. It looks a delightful place.

    And welcome to the joyful world of decluttering. I'm a bit evangelical about it - it's made an awful lot of difference, for the better, to me and my home.

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  38. Kithira looks very calm, so I will have to try. I have been to Rhodes, Crete, Kos and they are terrible. Last year we tried Zakhyntos which was much better. I explained that (in Spanish, sorry) here:
    http://diriodeunaburrido.blogspot.be/2012/09/las-islas-jonicas-zakynthos.html
    But definitely I will have to try Kithira
    Cheers

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  39. That brought back good memories. Wasn't the food amazing?

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  40. What a magnificent visual feast you have given us! :-) And to finish with those two beautiful open eyes looking out at you is the perfect way to wrap up a travel column. I enjoyed your write-up a lot. Thanks.

    Greetings from London.

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  41. I love the sweet little pudgers of the babies' legs!

    Thanks for the trip to Greece; I'd love to read more about the food you had (to compare it to Turkish foods that I became familiar with)!

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  42. I just left a message but am worried now that it disappeared into the ether. At any rate: HI!

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  43. I'm so envious of your travels! I can barely afford to walk across the street, lol! Thanks for sharing, I feel like I was right there with you.

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  44. Wow, it sounds like paradise Jenny and your photos are fabulous. I am completely in agreement with you: I look for the quiet, the unpretentious, the beautiful, interesting and friendly when I travel.

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  45. I very much liked your post. So glad you enjoyed this island. Sounds like the kind of vacations we like, far away from all the touristy stuff. Hope you get to go back.

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  46. What cute babies! And that large silver ball is intriguing...

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  47. Thanks so much for so many comments, I'm sorry that I haven't been visiting or responding much, but hope that will soon improve! I am so pleased that so many people agree about not ruining places where we like to go on holiday. It certainly is a fragile balance between building prosperity and keeping the uniqueness that makes a place stand out, and I hope they can do this on Kythira.

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