So off we set for our second island of our trip, the very Greek sounding Naxos. I knew little about Naxos before our trip but I could say the same for all the islands of the cyclades. Once we had decided on our route I was keen to see what we were letting ourselves in for, and by all accounts it was all good! Naxos is the largest of the islands in this region, and having the highest peak to trap more of the very occasional rainfall, its also the most fertile. There are vineyards and farmland aplenty, and Naxos is as such considered the only truly self sufficient island among its neighbours. There are also some notable ruins to explore, and the local food, like much of Greece, is described by most as excellent, so all and all it sounded a worthwhile trip.
The ferry was going to take us 4 hours, and while this didn't faze us while planning our trip, when we found the ferry terminal absolutely crammed with travellers, it started to seem a little more taxing. As it was the ferry taking us was a large one, part of the massive Blue Star fleet, and so there was plenty of seats which were all luxurious and air conditioned. The only down side was as we boarded, the wind as your stepped off the pier was deceptively strong, and as John turned his head to avoid it's force, his sunglasses were whipped from his face and into the perfect blue water below. Smooth as ever! That upset over (he did have a spare pair), we gorged on delicious chocolate cake from the boat's cafe as a multitude of European and American accents wandered past, and the 4 hours flew by.
Our first sight of Naxos was a hurried one, as the boat was quick at docking and we were slow to realise this was our stop. We pushed our way past the multitude of people on the pier, many holding signs for accommodation and offering rooms at high summer prices. We knew that our accommodation was a short walk, as described by the hotels website, but we also knew that a short walk meant very different things to different people. And usually when someone is hoping you'll spend some money with them, a short walk can be a mini-marathon. As it was the walk took a mere 15 minutes, and we were soon relieving ourselves of our weighty bags and taking in our really nice accommodation, a large en suite with cool white tiles all around the room that offered respite from the scorching sun.
There was still time left that day to do some exploring, and we set off for the cathedral, a likely spot for some photo opportunities, and we weren't disappointed as the walk afforded some nice sea views and also some interesting insights into local life, as residents sat about chatting on side streets and teens played football in a dusty concrete park. We headed for the central part of the town, where we had seen many restaurants as we made our way to our hotel, and we took the scenic route down a stone beach that was sadly littered and unkempt, but did have great views of the sun setting behind the entrance to the temple of Apollo, the most visited ruins on the island. The huge doorway is all that stands bar a few columns, but you get an idea for the impressive size it must have been.
We went to a local restaurant where noone spoke clear English, which is always nice really as it makes your feel your really away, and so polite smiling and pointing was the order of the day. We enjoyed a tasty meal before having an early night, ready for the first of two full days in Naxos.
We spent the early part of our first day on the beach, enjoying the endless sunshine and perfect deep blue, and it was late afternoon before our stomachs began to rumble and we went for our first substantial meal of the day. Greek salads and steak or fish were again the call of the day, and after another hearty meal we decided to see a bit more of the town and the temple of Apollo. The walk out to the temple was a nice one, being surrounded on all sides by water, and we enjoyed a few hours walking around the fallen pillars and imposing gate.
After a few cheesy pics we headed for town, and the next few hours it has to be said were a bit special! We just wandered generally, working our way through the old town wall and deep up into the oldest quarter of the island. The houses are all tightly packed, and as they climb up considerable hills they create dominating façades, with beautiful windows and interesting roofs all hinting at the Ventian influence for which the island is famous. It seemed that every turn brought a new pathway to walk, up steps, down again, a rare flat, and all along the only sound the gentle chatter of a tv, barely audible behind doors left slightly ajar. A local would occasional be sitting on their doorstep and would offer us a soft, welcoming smile, as the pace of life seemed to disappear and the air felt heavy with history.
Two hours flew by before we finally emerged again from the old town, back into the rumble of traffic and pedestrians, and our little escape from the real world was over. But the experience wasn't lost on us, and we enjoyed a late night meal content that we had experienced a little of what makes so many people rave about the pleasures of Greece.
Day two was more of the same really, just enjoying the sunshine and wandering the mesmerising old town before ending the day with more Greek delicacies. We didn't venture into the centre of the island, which i've heard is excellent, but on our time scales would probably just exhaust us too much to enjoy the rest of the trip. And so we settled with the excellent Naxos town, its great ruins, great food, nice views and amazing, peaceful, car free old town.
That'll do nicely, onto our next island, Paros. Hold that ferry...