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We stay for a week on the island Andros


Home -> Europe -> Greece -> Travelogue Greece -> 11 to 17 June 2019

Tuesday 11 June, we stay for a week on the island Andros

We say goodbye to the hotel owner and his Bulgarian help on time and within 20 minutes we are back on the mainland of the Peloponnese where we drive through the majestic mountain landscape to the north. Near Megara, opposite Salamina, we look for a bar to drink coffee and then on to Rafina from where we take the boat to Andros. The websites where you can book tickets for ferries in Greece are rather unclear so we enter the ticket office on good luck and ask for tickets for the 3 o'clock boat. Because that is the fast boat that takes about an hour and a half while the normal ferry takes 2 hours. About 10 euros more expensive but the crossing is already expensive, anyway. But that is not possible according to the woman behind the counter, it will be the 5 o'clock ferry. Oh no, there is no place for cars anymore on that ferry, so I will book you onto the ferry that leaves at 3 o'clock. Apparently, suddenly, within half a minute something has changed so we can now take the boat we originally wanted. We have to pay € 88 for a single ticket.
But then we still have to figure out where the boat is leaving and we are sent to different locations a couple of times. In the end we are in line for the right boat, but because the ferry goes to several islands, the order in which the cars go on board is important and we have go first on it so that we also can be the first to leave. Andros is the first island where the ferry stops, after which it continues to Tinos, Mykonos and Naxos.
We sail from Rafina to Andros On the upper deck of the ferry to AndrosWhen we get out of the car we are taken to a place with a fixed place number, as if we are on an airplane. As soon as the safety regulations have been announced by the speakers, we can freely walk through the boat that is not yet half full. Why did the woman at the ticket office first say there was no place? We settle in the sun on the small outside deck.
In Gavrio, the port of Andros, we enter a large bay and as soon as the boat stops we can get out, together with 1 other car and a few foot passengers. And apparently there are not many people boarding because within 5 minutes the boat is gone again.
Our room at Valsamia Studios on Andros View from our balcony on Andros on the Phellos bayWe park the car in the port area and first look for a terrace to have a look around us. At first glance it looks like a quiet and not too touristy island, but we are still early, before the tourist season really starts. We have booked an apartment in Valsamia studios, just north of Gavrio. When we arrive, we are warmly welcomed by Antonis, the owner, and we get a great room with a large balcony and a beautiful view of Fellos bay. If we ask if we can book a few more days when we would like to stay longer, he says that could be a problem because there is some sort of holy day in the weekend and his apartments are fully booked. Well, we'll see at that tomorrow after our first exploration of the island.
Antonis likes to speak Greek with me so I can practice again. He helps us carry our luggage upstairs and promises me to call around and see if he can find a place somewhere else for the weekend in case we want to stay longer on the island. There is only no internet at the moment, he says, it will be fixed some time in the next coming days. But we don't mind that, we have our own dongle and internet with us.
Elisabeth has meanwhile tested the bed and says that this is the nicest bed she has ever experienced in Greece. Because of her bad back that is worth quite something.

Wednesday 12 June 2019, a tour around the island

Not just the internet but all electricity is out when we wake up. We slept well, the beds are indeed very fine. Now that we have made a list of what we all want to do on the island, we decide that we do indeed want to stay a few nights longer, we will not be back here that soon. With Antonis I drive to the beach where Maria, a friend of his, also has rooms for rent and she still has a place left for 3 extra nights. When that has been arranged, Antonis shows me the beach at Fellos bay, a beautiful long bowl-shaped beach at the bay. When we get back I also show Elisabeth the beach and we no longer have to look for a nice sandy beach.
The port of Andros in GavrioBecause we have no electricity, we cannot make coffee and tea, so we drive to Gavrio for breakfast. I order everything in Greek but the waitress keeps talking English. I ask her why and explain that I want to practice my language skills. Well, because she always speaks English to tourists ... But luckily for me she then continues in Greek. We have a good view of the harbor where a ferry boat regularly sails, when they enter the bay and get to the quay of the small village they really look immense.
Andros is the northernmost island of the Cyclades, known for its typical white houses with blue doors and window frames, the white dome churches and typical Greek windmills. The most famous and well-known from photos and postcards is of course Santorini, one of the southernmost islands of the Cyclades. Some 140 islands belong to the Cyclades and 24 of them are inhabited. Because they are not very far apart, this is a great island group for island hopping.
Gavrio is the port of the island of Andros and all tourists arrive here. This side of the island is therefore the most touristy.
View of Batsi on the island of Andros Beach at BatsiA little more to the south is Batsi, the tourist center of the island and in the summer months it is particularly busy here. Even now there are plenty of tourists on the beautiful beaches that are all organized, so with sun loungers and parasols. The village is built like an amphitheater on the slopes of a hill and also lies on a large bay, just like Gavrio. Dozens of hotels, apartments, restaurants and bars can be found along the boulevard.
Everywhere we see stone walls in the landscape on the island of Andros In the distance lies the town of Andros with the lighthouse slightly off the coastAs we drive further south on winding mountain roads, we increasingly see more beautiful views of the mountains and the rugged coastline. The road gradually rises higher and higher above the sea and at Palaiopolis, where a city once stood, we go inland. We notice that there are many stone walls in the landscape, probably to border plots. Tourism and shipping are the main sources of income, but a lot of fruit is also grown in the valleys and in the north there is cattle breeding.
In the distance, Rozos beach in a bay The green mountain landscape in the east of AndrosThe capital of Andros is also called Andros but is also called Chora. That literally means country or place, but it is also the name used for the capital of any island. So there are quite a few 'Chora's' in Greece. We drive through the narrow streets of the capital and take the northern road back over the island. We pass all places that we will visit more extensively later, today we want to get a first impression of the island.
And those first impressions are fine: Andros is a beautiful island with steep mountains (the highest peak is about a kilometer), lots of vegetation and beautiful beaches. The villages are glued to the slopes and apart from some places along the coast it is nowhere flat. On the northern road through the interior I turn on the dashcam because according to the map it is a very narrow road. But to our surprise, this road is much better than the one we took on the way coming nthere, while that one is indicated as the main road. So no scary and exciting images. Until now, all roads were reasonable although very winding. But we have placed a short video on Youtube:

The beach at Phellos bayIn the afternoon we are back at Gavrio and after a short break we drive to the beach at the bay of Fellos. It is a beautiful elongated sandy beach with small pebbles and shallow clear water. There are a few people but the beach is at least 400 meters long. Here and there are some trees where you can hide from the sunshine. Due to the combination of tranquility and beautiful nature, we find this the most pleasant beach we have seen today, great that we are so close to it. We will have no problems enjoying ourselves here for a week.

Thursday 13 June 2019, we never arrive at Zorkos bay

There is a strong wind today, the meltemi. It is a dry wind that often blows over the Aegean Sea in the summer and brings coolness. Usually it has a force of 4 to 5 Beaufort, but sometimes, like now, it can be windy for days with wind force 7 or 8. Our stuff is almost blowing off the balcony.
Cemetery at Phellos on AndrosWe are going to the northeast today because we would like to see the Bay of Zorkos and its beach, which should be one of the most beautiful places on the island. The roads here are a little less good than yesterday and although there are fewer villages, there are churches and chapels everywhere. The inhabitants of Andros seem to be very pious and there are more than 600 churches on the 380 km² big island. The many chapels are probably not even included.
The roads are getting narrower and eventually unpaved. There are many loose pebbles on the road and you can easily slip away, at least with our car. If the slopes also become considerably steeper and there are of course no crash barriers, we decide to search for another way. But everywhere it is the same, narrow winding roads that we do not dare to drive with our own car. There is a resort next to the beach, so there must be a fairly passable road somewhere, but we don't find that and the navigation doesn't really help. Our navigation is often mistaken in Greece and does not recognize some asphalted roads, but also takes many sandy and gravel paths for asphalted roads. This part of the island is more suitable for a 4wheel drive than our car. Check here a video of a part of the trip:

After driving around for a while we finally go back to Gavrio for a drink and then to our own beach where it is a bit busier today. The strong wind is also noticeable here even though we are in a fairly sheltered bay.
In the evening we eat in a nearby restaurant, To steki toy Andrea (Andreas's pub) that Antonis recommended to us. Apparently he has already announced that we are coming because we are taken in as long-lost friends. When we come out of the shelter of the garden of the restaurant later, the wind is blowing even harder but also not longer cooling and the sun is shining scorching on our balcony.
When we look at photos on the internet later, the bay of Zorkos does indeed look nice, but the Fellos bay where we are nearby is just as nicely situated with a niver beach.
We read the news on the internet and see that there has been another earthquake of 1.9 on the Richter scale in Groningen, our home provence. Greece is one of the most active earthquake zones in Europe, so I look into it whether there have been any earthquakes here, today. On a website from the University of Athens I find an overview and it turns out: today alone there have been 25 earthquakes, 6 of which have a magnitude of more than 2.0! Not that we don't feel sorry for the people of Groningen. And they will probably not agree with this sentence that we found on the Wikipedia: Richter scale 1 to 1.9: "Not felt by humans, but registered by seismographs. Will never cause damage."

Friday 14 June 2019, to Andros town, also called Chora

After breakfast we get tons of advice from Antonis about what we still have to see and do but we have already made a plan. We go to the capital Chora, but first we visit the monastery of the life-giving source, the Moni Zoodochos Pigis. It is the largest on the island and is at least 1200 years old. The building itself is not worth the effort, but inside you can see a number of old icons. But I think the best part is the way to get there, although Elisabeth does not agree with that at all. When we drive back I suddenly realize that I really have to turn on the dashcam and we have already mounted it and it is now on our Youtube channel or view it below.

The old cemetery of Andros Children's grave in the old cemetery of AndrosThen we drive to Chora or Andros city. Just before we enter the city we turn to the old cemetery because it seems to be special. The cemetery is cascading up the hill and every layer is full of monuments, statues and grave decorations, it looks more like a sculpture museum than a resting place for the dead. Until 2006, the deceased were not allowed to be cremated in Greece, and after that only if you were not Greek Orthodox, but 99% of the population is. Nowadays, everyone can indicate what happens after his/her death, but only since 2017 are there plans to build a crematorium. Until now, Greeks who want to be cremated have to go to Bulgaria where they pay twice as much for a cremation than Bulgarians themselves.
Angel on the old cemetery of AndrosEveryone is therefore more or less obliged to be buried and that is why there are many cemeteries with monuments of white limestone everywhere. But here we find real gems of statues, decorations and sayings, especially the children's graves are impressive and moving while the more important people have had pompous grave monuments erected. Art and kitsch are mixed together. Most of the graves have fresh flowers on them and gardeners are busy maintaining the cemetery. It is indeed a special place.
The center of Chora is located on a hill on a peninsula and is car-free. There are only a limited number of parking spaces outside the center, they clearly have a parking problem here. Eventually we find a spot a few hundred meters away and walk in the heat to the center.
You can leave babies alone on the street in Andros The curbs in Andros are whitenedIt is more than 35 degrees, so we first look for a place to sit along the shopping street from where it is nice to look at the people passing by: a father walks into a store and just leaves his child in the pram on the street, it takes minutes before he comes back. And three municipal workers paint the curbs white. One supervises and gives instructions, another does the painting and the third has to carry all the equipment. The manageress of the terrace where we are sitting is protesting that her pavements are now being done: could they not do that when there are no customers around?
The beach at Andros town St. Barbara church in Andros citySandy beaches lie on either side of the center and alleys lead down to them. On the left photo you can clearly see that the painters have already whitened a lot. That way, those typical Cycladic villages remain white! Houses are not painted, by the way, but covered with a layer of plaster. That is cheap and easy to make and often the houses get a new layer every year in the week before Easter. A little bit of blue goes through the whitewash, otherwise the walls will be dazzling in the bright sun. I rarely wear sunglasses, but if a square is too white or all the walls of a street, I have to wear one, otherwise I get a headache.
Large amphora in the museum of AndrosThe archaeological museum in Chora is located on a beautiful square in the center. It is a small and well-organized museum with local finds. Here you can clearly see the geometric decorations on pots and vases that are mainly found in Palaiopolis and come from the socalled Geometric Period, from around 900 to 720 BC. That is the period that the first city-states started to form after which classical Greek antiquity begins. There is also a museum for modern art and a maritime museum, but we skip that, we don't have to see everything.
Monument to the unknown sailor in Andros city The arch bridge in Andros city to the Venetian fortThen we continue to the tip of the peninsula where we have a view of an old arched bridge that has a particularly steep slope. Nobody could walk over it, could they? The bridge leads to the ruins of a 13th century Venetian fortress. After Constantinople was overthrown during the 4th Crusade (1204 AD), many Venetian noblemen and knights founded their own kingdoms throughout Greece including the islands, so there are so many remains of castles from that time.
Taking a break in the shade on a terrace in Andros townIt is so hot that we sit down on the square near the museum under the large plane tree to recover. It is a very nice cool and quiet place until the alarm goes off at the bank. There is no robbery going on but some kind of malfunction. It is just a pity that nobody knows how to silence the alarm and it is an attack on our ears. Now and the deafening snarling sound stops for a while, only to start again, minutes on an end. We are not the only ones who now want to pay quickly to leave the square as soon as possible.
The arch bridge and the ruins of the Venetian fort in Andros The lighthouse off the coast of Andros cityWe drive along the beaches of Chora and then to the north. From here we have a good view of the old town on the peninsula and the arch bridge. A little further outside the bay there is a lighthouse on the small Tourlitis islet and it is unique for Greece in the sense that it is not on land. In a brochure we read that it is even the only lighthouse in the world that stands on a rock separated from the mainland, but we think we have seen something like that before on the English or Scottish coast. The inhabitants are certainly proud of it and it seems to be a tourist attraction.
Andros city from a distanceThe old center of Chora looks very authentic, but there is also a long boulevard along the sea. There are a few lost tourists there but it is not busy. While the views are beautiful, with a beautiful coastline and beaches. Andros is also one of the few inhabited islands where there is no airport (just like the slightly more southern Tinos). It seems that influential residents have prevented the construction of an airport because they did not want to disturb the peace on the island with mass tourism.
Sariza well in Apikia, AndrosAt the village of Apikia we walk through the woods to the Pithara waterfalls but there is virtually no water and therefore no waterfall. The area is very beautiful, though. In the center of the village I walk up the stairs to the Sariza hotel where the Sariza sources would come out of the ground. I arrive at a building with a sign with 'Sarzia well', so I assume this is it. That disappoints me, there is not much to see except some water that flows from the head of a stone lion. Later I read that I should have climbed the stairs even further and then would have arrived at the real sources. But the photos that accompany the info look very much like those of the Pithara waterfalls (when the water does flow).
Via Menites we drive back to our apartment and we come across many more churches, but we have seen so many of them alreay that we even don't stop anymore. It is still above 35 degrees, so it's time to cool down at the beach. You can notice that the weekend is coming because there are still many more people than yesterday and the day before yesterday. It will undoubtedly become even busier in the coming days, especially when there are festivities on the island.

Saturday 15 June 2019, to the south of Andros

Today we are moving to another apartment a little closer to the coast but before we leave we have a long conversation with the very nice wife of Antonis who we had not met before. At 10 o'clock we stand on the sidewalk at Maria's place who opens the electronic gate of the site for us. We put the stuff in our new apartment that is smaller than Antonis but has a sheltered balcony, so I don't have to burn away in the sun anymore. We are also a lot lower here and better protected against the strong wind that is still blowing.
Then we have breakfast in Gavrio and also buy tickets for the ferry back to Rafina, the 'slow' one that takes 2 hours instead of one and a half. This time we pay € 78, 10 cheaper than the journey to the island. From Gavrio we drive to the south where I have seen a museum near the old Palaiopolis. The neighbor allows us to use his parking lot because there is not much space along the road. In the small museum there are a number of interesting things to see such as a marble stele with a hymn to Isis, the Egyptian goddess who was also very popular with the Greeks and later with the Romans.
The coast from Zagianaris on Andros The west coast of AndrosOutside you can descend the slope to the remains of the old city (Palaiopolis) but that is quite a climb and we think we have seen enough ruins of old cities to skip it with a clear conscience. We are clearly getting older. But the views from this height are spectacular and we regularly see traces of buildings, but it is difficult for our untrained eye to determine whether it is something recent or something from classical antiquity.
The paved road ends, AndrosFurther south, the white Panachrantos monastery stands high on a mountain, but the roads to it are unpaved and full of thick boulders. They also become narrower and the gorges steeper as we get up a little higher and that combined with the fact that there are no guardrails anywher,e makes us decide to skip this attraction. Here too, the slopes of the mountains are littered with upright slates that divide the area into sections, while it is not really clear whether something is being cultivated. Maybe they are used for hives because the honey from this island seems to be famous.
Street in Ormos Korthiou on AndrosTo be honest, there are not many paved roads in the south of the island and soon we arrive at the east coast and stop at Ormos Korthiou, which lies on a large bay (the Greek ormos means bay). Not many tourists do come here and the 700 inhabitants mainly live from fishing and agriculture. Yet more and more people come to walk or windsurf because the winds seem to be ideal here. We are happy with a terrace and seaview. And the few tourists that we see are .... Dutch people, even a couple with their own car.
The village of Kochylos on Andros The Lydio beach on the east coast of AndrosVia bays with beautiful beaches such as Pidima tis Grias north of Ormos Korthiou, the Syneti and Lydio beach we drive back to Gavrio. Many bays on the island cannot be reached by car and some can only be reached by boat that you can rent in almost every port village. Here, too, our navigation is regularly confused and does not recognize roads or wants us to drive on goat paths. Fortunately I don't listen to the instructions too obediently.
In Gavrio we go shopping and then quickly go to the beach where it becomes clear that it is weekend, there are at least 50 people! Soon there will be no more room. Fortunately the beach is a few hundred meters long so we still have the space. Our new apartment is only 100 meters from the beach, which is completely ideal. We did get a neighbor who came especially for the Christian holy day of tomorrow. It is unclear to us what kind of panygiri it is, as such festivals are called here, but it obviously has something to do with a saint. Because we are not religious, we are less interested in it and we do not ask further. But we do talk about other things so that I can practice my Greek again.

Sunday 16 June 2019, to Batsi

After breakfast we first walk to the beach, so we hope to stay a bit ahead of the crowd. There is a lot of wind today and for some reason the water feels much colder than usual. Could that be because it is so hot outside or does the wind cause a kind of cold current? By the afternoon it gets busier on the beach and the sand starts to drift more and more so it is time for us to leave.
Batsi on the west coast of the island of AndrosWe have already driven around Batsi a few times, which is slightly below Gavrio, but this afternoon we park the car at the edge of the village and walk along the boulevard. This is clearly the most touristy village on the island and the beaches are fuller than we have seen so far. Because everyone is on the beach, the terraces are fairly empty and we are looking for a restaurant to have something to eat. Chicken with rice and fries this time and as usual in Greece it is very tasty.
Then we look for a number of things that could be seen in the neighborhood of Batsi and Gavrio, such as a medieval tower, but if there are any signs at al, we do not find them. We are therefore home quite early and enjoy a quiet evening.

Monday 17 June 2019, a relaxed day on Andros

An exciting road on AndrosFor our last day I have a few things on the list but a lot does not work out. The tower of Agios Petros introduces us to steep, and according to Elisabeth scary, roads but we don't get to see a tower. And the cave of Foros is closed, I would have liked to see it. Foros means opening in Italian but according to local folklore the name comes from the Greek word foros which means tax. Sheep and goats that fell into holes and disappeared were seen as a kind of tax the villagers paid to the evil spirits of the cave.
Characteristic dovecote in Menites on AndrosThis is a very beautiful area and walkers can really enjoy themselves here. We drive to Chora where we sit for some time at a pub and then we return via the interior. Along the way we see the necessary characteristic pigeon houses. The Venetians kept pigeons for eating, but also for the manure and the dovecotes were decorated with geometric figures. After the departure of the Venetians, the local population continued the tradition. On the island Tinos, a little further south, there seems to be much more than this type of dovecotes.
In the afternoon we are back at our apartment and walk to the beach. It is Monday but it is even busier than last weekend, certainly all partygoers (we haven't noticed anything at all from the festivities) that have lingered. The wind is still very strong so we stay not very long.
In Gavrio we visit the Masoutis, a supermarket where they offer a whole roast chicken for a few euros. at least, that was true all the past days, and we have promised ourselve to buy one today. We had been looking forward to it for days but of course they are sold out today! Funny that you can be quite disappointed from such a nuisance. And eating chicken at a restaurant is different than taking one home to chew on. We are still in the mood for chicken for days to come.
Back at our apartment we seem to have new neighbors: a family with a screaming child walks back and forth, the father carries suitcases, now into the apartment, then out again. Ladies, who apparently do not belong to the family, walk in and out a little later and I cannot follow what they all say to each other. The family disappears, the ladies bring their luggage inside but after half an hour they reappear outside. With all their stuff and they walk away, we have not seen them again. No idea what all that meant but we have peace again.

 


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