Antiparos, the Cyclades – A travelogue [part III]

DSC_2543iThe settlement of Agios Georgios at the SW tip of Antiparos, is where the main road ends. From here on, just like through most of the island, run dirt roads of variable quality (degrees of bumpiness). Agios Georgios sits directly opposite the uninhabited islets of Tsimintiri and Despotiko. The three together form a protected natural bay, perfect for small sailing ships; a picture of beauty and tranquillity – nothing to betray that during WWII it was used as a secret submarine base!

From here boats cross over to the archaeological site of Despotiko where recent excavations have uncovered a previously unknown sanctuary, possibly of Apollo, and a great variety of archaeological finds, including marble sculptures, gold and bronze jewellery, faïence scarabs and statuettes, and other artefacts.

A number of boats and trip schedules are available; we boarded this one:

DSC_2613The guy on the right with the bandana, was our Captain. His name is George Marianos but everyone calls him Capt Sargos from the name of his boat. Sargos means seabream. The fellow on the left was his Bosun.

DSC_2615We skipped the archeological site because it is not sun-proof and, as we are lazy bones enjoyed taking long breakfasts on our cool terrace, it was mid-day when we reached Agios Georgios. We opted for a trip to that huge, deserted beach in Despotiko I mentioned in part I, and a tour to the sea caves; Capt Sargos dropped anchor next to one of them and let us swim. The water is turquoise and teaming with life… I saw shoals of seabream and all kinds of small fry; colonies of sea urchins under ”heavy” camouflage of tiny stones; waves of lush underwater flora following the current.

DSC_2560After a long afternoon of swimming, boating and swimming some more, the bosun treated us to some sweet watermelon and a shot of homemade red wine from the Captain’s ”bar”. Notably, we learned that almost every family in Antiparos produces its own wine. The islanders, apart from tourism, fishing and farming, grow their own vineyards in the plains of Kampos, a landlocked area right at the heart of the island. Once the wine making is under way, they use the leftovers to produce Tsipouro, a strong spirit, the same that Cretans call ”tsikoudia” or ”raki”. The only discernible difference is in the distillation process although -between us- after a shot or three of 45% alcohol liquid fire, there is no difference, is there? The families used to have their own private cauldrons or ‘kazania’, but nowadays only four big ones remain in use, courtesy of EU regulations and directives on food safety. Nevertheless, both wine and tsipouro flow in abundance; in restaurants, extra tsipouro shots are served together with the bill, as a treat -on the house- for its digestive qualities. DSC_2565 DSC_2569i DSC_2577 DSC_2605 A day trip with Capt Sargos costs 20 euros. You can choose times of departure and return, depending how long you want to stay on the beach in Despotiko where there is no natural shade apart from three umbrellas placed by the Capt Sargos himself and no facilities whatsoever (please ensure provisions). There is a timetable, more or less respected, but off high season there may be fluctuations depending on demand. Capt Sargos’ mobile number is written on the table right in front on the small dock or you can ask around. Everyone knows him.

At this point it is worth mentioning that the wi-fi network was surprisingly fast, available in all accommodation and catering services; no registration or charge, just ask for the code. And the mobile phone signal was perfect everywhere in Antiparos and surrounding islets. Unfortunately, behind this great service, there is much resentment and controversy due to the installation of an antenna by Cosmote, the mobile telephony provider – subsidiary of the Hellenic Telecom Organization (OTE). The antenna had to be placed high enough to ensure good signal reception everywhere. The highest point in Antiparos is a hill called Profitis Ilias (Prophet Elias), but, on top of the hill people had already built a pretty little church which up until then, had served as a place of pilgrimage or contemplation (or plain admiration of the 360° view). For the obvious health reasons, people have been arguing against its placement right next to the church:

DSC_2493i DSC_2491DSC_2506The bone of contention. It triggered titles like ‘‘Direct connection with God” or ”Holy signal” in Greek blogs; at least they haven’t lost their sense of humour! DSC_2501

Photos by Konstantinos Implikian

Antiparos, 07-19 June 2013