Ioannina, Greece

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Ioannina city, the old and the new

During October I’ve had a really nice time on a long weekend at Ioannina city of Greece and finally I’ve made the time to make a post about it! It’s been a month (plus) now that I have so much work to do that I think my blue flamingo is feeling very lonely…however is always in my mind, I’m mentally preparing interesting posts to present them to you someday!

This one is about this marvelous city that I’m definitely proposing of visiting! It highlights the tradition in such a chic way, offering very nice strolls at the lake, at the old market, the traditional coffee and wine/tsipouro spots where you can warm yourself and your heart with the right company. And of course, starting from Ioannina you can explore the Zagoria villages and the mountain which is very very beautiful.

To better understand the culture and fully get in the mood of this place you should hear some traditional epirus music, I adore it! One of my favorites is this: Xechorismata by Petroloukas Chalkias.
Or a contemporary aspect of it, the Villager of Ioannina city band.
I really believe these 2 aspects of music is very characteristic of the city vibes you can’t catch by photos only. I propose to hear them while you read the post if you are into it! 🙂

Unfortunately, we had only 3 days for all, but I think we saw a lot to love the city. The first thing anyone thinks on hearing about Ioannina is the lake! Such a serene scenery and beauty of nature especially on this time of year where the tree leaves have all these hues of green-orange-yellow…They say that deeper on winter, the lake is covered by a mysterious mist and it can be even more beautiful! We enjoyed that stroll so much that definitely I could say people there are very lucky. It’s also a great place for photographers, we even saw a famous one(as we’ve been told) photo shooting his little daughter among fallen leaves, where she was doing the same at her dad with her phone! Cute, huh?

Along the shore – despite the birds and the people to look at – there are some sculptures to admire that I liked a lot. By local, famous or not (to me) artists contribute to the evolution of aesthetic level and criteria of the people. I think it’s very nice having pieces of art out in the open, for every people to get familiar with it.

As I told you another characteristic of this city you shouldn’t miss is cute cafes and small taverns where you drink local tsipouro (a very strong alcohol drink) with tasty food. In any food situation I am incapable of taking photos, it’s official! I had my mind though of capturing some moments/corners from a very cute vintage cafe where we had our morning coffee one day. It’s called “To diko mas waltz” which means “our waltz” and served coffee and more in a well preserved old house, with small rooms and old furniture. I liked the “love of books” touch at the entrance a lot.

Another highlight of the city is the Its Kale hill where the Turk commander, pasha, has his palace and facilities. From there you can have a really nice view of the lake and the city and of course learn about this era. We visited a new museum of silverware that had a huge development in the area. This museum was actually very interesting both for the exhibits and the displaying ways of them and for the renovation of such a building. I was looking at the exhibit boards and then at the lighting methods or the way they used the building structure. A must see for architects!

Also, an excursion nearby is a must! We went towards Aristi village and at its exit we stopped at the river. You can see by the photos that it was amazing! The colors of nature, the hearing of the water and the feeling of your footings at the moisty earth was very refreshing. There were also some people that were doing rafting etc it would’ve been awesome.

As you can imagine it was the joy of the photographer! A lot of desktop wallpaper choices!

Continuing from there towards Papigko villages we stopped at some water ponds called Ovires. It’s a magical place where mountain water passes by big stones, sculptured by it, creating small and larger water ponds. During summer people swim there, I don’t even imagine how cold the water must be!

The scenery there is very imposing: big mountains around you, small villages underneath them, Vikos gorge and the river whenever you can see it. Leaving Ovires we had this view in front of us! And at this mountain foot was the Small Papigko village where we stopped for lunch and exploration.

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Mountains at Vikos gorge, such a scenery!

The first thing we saw after we left our car was this scenery below…Like a fairy tale. This plane tree was like a magnet to us…we took several photos!

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This plane tree reminds my the ‘Big Fish’ movie, don’t you think?

Obviously…

And then we went to eat something because after all these our stomach was complaining clearly! Lamb ribs at a tavern’s yard compensated us! 😉

It was such a great 3days vacation yet very tiring because it’s very far from Athens. I definitely recommend to have more days there, to have a car and to explore the mountain and the magical nature/villages of the area. It’s really beautiful at any season!

 

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Folegandros | The Land

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The view of Panagia church on the cliff, the most classic photo of Folegandros!

I know, it’s not the best time to speak about greek summer – in Athens it’s deep Fall, we start to feel some cold weather expressions and a lot of us think about Christmas already! But not me! hehe…I’m gonna torture you a little more.
I think that greek islands are never off season! Especially now that a cousin of mine is planning to open her own shop at Folegandros (next summer the island will have a high quality stylish voice, keep in mind!).

I’ve already wrote about Folegandros’ beaches and clear blue waters here, now is the time to show you some of its land beauties!

Folegandros has 3 let’s say villages: Karavostasis (where the port is), Chora (its basic settlement) and Ano Meria. If you visit you should stay definitely at Chora, its where everything happens. The beauty there is impeccable! Laying at the edge of a cliff, having above you a high ridge with a traditional church, a traditional and very old settlement named “Kastro” on the inside and everything built with local architecture, all quite well preserved keeping a low and original profile offers you a very unique experience of living and memorable summer vacations!

Of course, we visited the island at early September where everything is quieter and less touristic. It’s said that is very popular on high season and maybe you won’t be able of feeling all the flavors of the island.
What I liked the most was that local people and owners have kept the local characteristics of the buildings and keep them simple so that you receive a quite original impression. Also, the existence of a lot of squares so that different kind of corners grow here and there depending on the use. I loved exploring new spaces as walking by, hidden shops and restaurants, as if life there is shown to you little by little.

Another characteristic is that people use the public area the most of it, like sitting on mantels and church’s precincts, tables are laying under a tree’s shadow and habitats hang their laundry on the streets adding their personal style!
Also, the whole Chora is very dense built because of the wind and that’s why all the houses are next to each other creating a very interesting organism all together. If you feel the wind there you’ll know what I’m talking about!!

And now some of how we were spending our time there!
We were starting our day with a nice breakfast every day at a different cafe. We wanted to try all of them and also to find where it wasn’t very windy! It wasn’t everywhere the best but we made some good choices eventually. One of my favorites was at the balcony of “Lontzia” cafe next to the entrance of Kastro. It was very peacefull, we had a nice view of the square on one hand and we had the Kastro on the other, we were sitting at built benches next to hibiscus, what else to ask for?!
My second favorite was strangely “Nicola’s place”. At the first glance I could hate it, very touristic, but we ate a very decent breakfast there (except coffee though, which was the reason for not going again) and it was so cult that you couldn’t not lough! However, the best thing there I think was the gaming options that you had. A lot of games, traditional, puzzles to solve, backgammon and of course …chess. We stayed there one morning for 3 hours playing chess with G. where fortunately I won!!! hooray!
Usually, after breakfast we were passing by the bakery to take some local cheese pies (yummy) to keep us for the day.

At the end of Chora is the Kastro settlement. Kastro means castle, citadel in greek and it was the first settlement of the island, where people were living on the old days. That’s why the houses are very close one to the other, the roads are very narrow so that they are mostly protected by the wind. It’s still inhabited, it has 2 entrances and it ends exactly at the edge of the cliff!! So scary to see that. The beauty of Kastro is incomparable, strolling around is a great walk, I loved imagining how life must have been there.

Night life was also limited for us because of the wind. Most of the days we were hanging out at Astarti bar, sitting at the church’s precinct next to it, drinking rakomelo (hot raki with honey and spices) to warm ourselves! It was the hit of Chora and we saw why. I loved that place for its intimacy and coolness.
One night that the wind wasn’t so bad we went to Beez bar for a summer cocktail and it was very nice also! One day there was a wedding on the island! And they had the party at a tavern on a square where all the passers by could stand for a while and watch. Quite special for a wedding party to happen on the open like that, it was really something.

Usually, at night we were dinning at a restaurant/tavern where unfortunately I have no photos because my mind was only at the food in front of me! I’ll make a list, from some places we liked for you at the end of the post, though.

One of Folegandros highlights is of course the sunset! But not from anywhere, you climb the zing-zag path towards the Panagia church (what you see from everywhere on Chora and on the cover photo of the post). From there the view is amazing!! It’s not so difficult to go there, but I was tired enough…there are some donkeys also to get you there if you want. So you pick a rock to sit and wait…and as you wait the sun to dive in the sea you enjoy the island changing in so many colors!! Very romantic 😉

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The first lights of the night that comes at Chora

We enjoyed the sunset at Ano Meria too, we were lucky enough to be at the right time there! This settlement had/has the rural facilities of people of Folegandros, creating at the end of it a very interesting scenery to enjoy the infinity! We were walking towards it that day just to get closer to the sunset and have a better view and we discovered this place like forgotten for many many years…until a pig tried to communicate with us! Then we saw also a cow standing among ruins and huge rocks so we kept them company for a while, admiring all together the sunset!
It’s also very interesting to see the rural facilities because you learn about how life could be the old times and how these people were working there. I was impressed by the “tree house” a built circle with a tree on the center, usually a lemon tree, to protect it by the wind so that they rescue the fruits, I saw some of them myself! Now there are mostly taverns and traditional restaurants there where you can try some local delicacies you shouldn’t miss!!

As you can imagine Folegandros is a very very beautiful island, very simple yet so interesting, with so many aspects and stories where you can find peace. Rough beauty but in a chic way, definitely a place to remember!

Places we ate and suggest:

Pitokamomata at Chora, for the most delicious street food!
Eva’s Garden at Chora, for a nice, romantic dinner
O Kritikos at Chora, grill tavern in a very picturesque square
Zefiros Anemos at Chora, for fresh seafood
To Zimaraki at Chora, for italian cuisine-yummy pizzas
I Sunantisi at Ano Meria, for local cuisine and the famous matchata!

Also, there is a very usefull app about everything of Folegandros, check it out if you ‘re about to visit: INFolegandros

Check out the previous post: Folegandros | The Sea for having the whole picture!

 

Folegandros | The Sea

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A tiny beach next to Agali, beautiful to look from above

As the temperature in Athens is still hot -despite the first days of October- I take the opportunity to post about my main summer vacations! And get some of the vibes that are so precious!!
The first days of September we went at the small&distant yet magical island of Cyclades, Folegandros! I’ll make 2 parts of it because there is such beauty that I simply can’t limit the photos. At this part we’ll have our jaws dropped by the clearest and tempting waters of the island! If I should distinguish one thing from Folegandros would definitely be the beaches. At least for my taste that I love pebbled beaches, blue and deep waters and calm and isolated-if nudist even better, this was a paradise. You should know though that you’ll have to get supplies with you definitely and an umbrella because usually there is nothing there.

However, we were unlucky with the weather. It was SO windy these days that couldn’t go at any beach whenever we wanted. And because of the cold wind I felt really chilly sometimes! Brrr… I’m not famous for my tolerance to cool water anyway!
So, to get an idea of what Folegandros was for us the first days you can take a look at the following pictures and see: The wild situation of the see! The dry and rocky land that dominates (with some goats here and there) and the Karavostasis where the port is. When we say port though don’t think of what you’re used to, check it out to understand!

One of the most accessible and easy beach was Agali, in the middle of the island. Its name means “hug” as the land subsides like one so that the weather isn’t such a problem. However because of that there is always crowd which I don’t love…It was very nice in general but I liked more to look at it from above!

 

As I told you all these days the wind was pitiless! After asking some local people we started exploring some more “secret” beaches that you had to walk through pathways. The first day we attempt exploring  Fira beach which is 10′ from Agali. Along the way we were very surprised sometimes by what people consider “pathway”!!! After all, we took the right way every time but I think it was only a matter of luck! I was of course fearless….
Besides the view from there was magnificent, so I was only impatient to reach the beach. And we were very well paid off as you can see!

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Happy swimmer

To find a quiet beach, with rough beauty, after all the wind and crowd was such a delight! All the beaches from that day on were amazing. I was swimming for hours, sunbathing after the cool water to get the right temperature, reading my book (‘The woodpecker’ by Tom Robins which I finished there and totally loved it!!) wearing my mask and seeing SO many fishes underwater that I enjoyed it a lot!!!! Also, as you’ll notice, I was very proud of my pedicure 😉

Some other beautiful beaches were St. Nicolas, Galyfos and Livadaki, on the south part of the island. Again by foot or by boat. Quite small all of them if you are used to large, endless beaches and I imagine if someone visits the island on high season they can be very very crowded.

On the following picture we can see some old guys trying to pull a boat out of the water with no good results…As I was waiting for G. to help them I was taking photos…

The best beach in my opinion was Katergo! It was our favorite by far and thankfully the wind stopped for one whole day (wow) so that we could see it. I mean, magnificent…We didn’t want to leave that beach. A high cliff behind us, a large beach so that all the people can spread out and clear, refreshing waters for swimming for hours. Beautiful scenery.

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Katergo beach – the best!!!

Another, rather quiet and small beach was Ambeli. Very rocky in general, wilder as an environment, but what I loved the most was the way until there. Not so the driving part-which was very atmospheric indeed- as the walking part till the beach. You have to pass through small paths under trees so that the beach is revealing itself at the end and you feel like you found a treasure!

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Heading to Ambeli beach, seems like we’re gonna find a treasure!

It’s also nice to catch a sunset there or on your way back and stop at Ano Meria, a small village, to see the sunset and eat local delicacies as matchata pasta with rooster…yummy!! The best closing for a day at this beach!

If you want more from greek summer/islands of Cyclades see my older posts:
Sikinos here and here 
Kimolos here , here and here

Long weekend in North Euboea

Euvoia001Last weekend of February I went for a small trip, as I told you. After a long time I was only working I spent 3 days in the country and it was very rejuvenating! Of course now it’s like it never happenned, I certainely need another one!

In Greece 40 days before Easter we celebrate one Monday as the start of the fasting. As so, we had a large weekend of 3days! Hooray! So, I took the opportunity and spent some days in a small village in north Euboea. It’s a big island close to mainland, where the mountain and the sea are blending together creating a beautiful scenery! Unfortunately, I didn’t had the mind to take a lot of photos and show you what I’m talking about. I chose my best ones for the blog.Euvoia 02_mbfEuvoia 03_mbfEuvoia 04_mbfThe only negative was the weather as it was dull and it was raining almost all the time. I think this is the real reason for not taking a lot of photos. But I rested a lot, “eat-drink-sleep” the main action and I charged my batteries as needed.

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These lovely cats were all day out of our door and wait for a treat! Wild enough to not let me caddle them but loyal to the family, true guards! Here they are like fluffy slippers!!

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On the countryard of the house. Traditional corners with the basics for the needs of the house.

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Another view of the countryard of the house

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Chickens welcoming us on the village! – Me, helping at the bakery store prepare the traditional bread!

The other characteristic of this long weekend was the traditional feast of that Monday! We use to eat a lot of seafood this day and as I were in a fishermen village we had a lot of treasures! I ate for the first time sea urchins and other delicacies that I don’t know the names in English as I may learned them in local dialect. I am so frustrated that I didn’t depict that table and the urchins on the skep just after they had been caught! I had all my mind on eating them I suppose… However, you can still have an idea of how these days passed and feel the atmosphere!

Fishermen boats at the seaport - Tiny mussels on the sand!!!

Fishermen boats at the seaport – Tiny mussels on the sand!!!

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Kimolos – Part 2

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This time I have some photos from our afternoon/night strolls on the island that I forgot to upload them the other day… (shy)
These photos show better the atmosphere that the village had this time of day. So beautiful, calming, nostalgic and real.. Oh how I miss my days there!
Enjoy 🙂

View of the port at dusk. This boat reminds me my when I was little and used to go to our summer house with grandparents :) Nostalgic

View of the port at dusk. This boat reminds me when I was little and used to go to our summer house with grandparents 🙂 Nostalgic

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The main market of the village, semi-closed, makes a beautiful night scene lighting indirectlry the street

Imagine plus 15 little kids running and playing around!

Imagine plus 15 little kids running and playing around!

Kafeneio at night! We also ate amazing food there..yum!

Kafeneio at night! We also ate amazing food there..yum! One night I ordered a traditional (delicious) dish and 3 tables around me asked me (really impressed) what was this!

 

Kimolos – Part 1

"Kimolos, my paradise"

“My Kimolos, my paradise”

At last I found some time to write about my summer vacation in Kimolos island!! I’ve returned two days now and I feel like it was a hole in time. I had such a wonderful time I can’t describe it! I fully charged my batteries, if only I had more time. Though you can never have enough time I think, right? That’s what comforts me.

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Welcome in Kimolos

Kimolos is a small island in Cyclades offered for quiet holidays. So if you want to party all the time maybe you shouldn’t go…but for me it was perfect. I needed to relax and that’s what happened! I only wanted to be all day at the beach, then go eat somewhere 5 steps near that and then go for a drink/stroll other 5 steps from there!

Kimolos horio_mbfKimolos has a raw beauty sometimes because it’s like it’s been forgotten from the 21st century. You leave behind the hectic life for good. There is only one village-town, that is a characteristic of small islands in Cyclades. Normally cars aren’t allowed to get in the village and a lot of roads are just dirt roads. Unfortunately, that makes it difficult to go to the north side of the island where the wildest beaches are.
In the village you can find traditional cafes and restaurants where native people are hanging out near you. You can hear the stories they say to each other, where usually you’re trying not to laugh! There aren’t a lot of tourists in a massive way. So you can really relax and let yourself free, connect to the environment and the people. I love that when it happens.

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“Kafenia” the traditional cafes

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Laundry on the street

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Kimolos donkey_mbf An example of the dirt, rocky roads – Except church bells that were ringing all the time we had donkey brayings and rooster crowings as well!

Also, there are a lot (a lot!!) of churches that are ringing every half an hour to remind the time!! At first I was terrified that I would never sleep but eventually I had no problem! Instead I found it quite funny. Even in 4am for example the bell rings four times, crazy!

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One of the many churches of Kimolos. 17th century

The beaches are just dreamy! Deep blue see and white sand, nothing more to say…Chalk is mined in Kimolos, that’s why the rocks and sand are almost white. Besides, that’s where it had its name, “kimolia” in greek means chalk. We also went during an off-season period so the beaches were almost private! In another part of Kimolos dedicaded posts I will show you some places that we swam and I still can’t believe it. Blue lagoon without exaggeration!

Another cute characteristic was that all the paved streets were painted by locals or kids (i suppose…) where they also write how much they love their island. “My Kimolos, my paradise” is like a moto there.. And in some entrances on the traditional town you are welcome by words on the street, like the 2nd picture of the post. Such a warm welcome 🙂

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Navy style!

PS. If you click on the photos you can see them in large size!

 

 

Summer Vacation Vol.1

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I was absent all these days, I know…but it was worth it! I had some days in Crete, in a very small village, Papadiana. I didn’t have the extreme vacations, partying all the time etc. I needed some rest in a peaceful environment and this is what it was. Amazing, endless beach where you can be as alone as you need with the clearest blue waters. The village where we stayed that had a row beauty and a lot of crazy people that gave a spicy tone in our days!

A small corner of Papadiana, the village where I stayed.

A small corner of Papadiana, the village where I stayed. Click on the photo to see it in large size!

Also, a lot of food (I gained 2 kilos in one week!) and raki! Raki is a traditional alcohol drink really strong…but with the right traditional tapas food and the right music is a paradise! Of course with the right company as well. You can stay all night long in a place like this, drinking and eating and maybe singing afterwards…

a small cafe/restaurant with the nicest decoration!

a small cafe/restaurant with the nicest decoration!

traditional tapas food that help the raki go down really easily!

traditional tapas food that help the raki go down really easily!

We went also in a Cretan fiesta where we danced a lot! So that we couldn’t walk for two days after… But the place was magical. As you can see from the photos it was in a big square of some village, under big trees, where a lot of young people were dancing and had fun. These fiestas are my favorite moment of summer vacations every time!fiesta crf3 sm

Family and friends 🙂

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Empty seats but the party doesn't ever end early...

Empty seats but the party doesn’t ever end early…