Picture the Barcelona of the early seventies – four persons in one of the many 50 m2 apartments built in a concrete jungle for working classes – a place a little hard for this little seven years old girl to amuse herself. Sick of the adventures of the Happy Hollisters gang, and lacking the tools used by kids these days to kill time (Internet, computers, mobile technology, movies, TV, PSPs, etc, etc..) I had to dig elsewhere for entertainment.
A big fat red encyclopedia bought by dear grandfather on my lap and away I went. Page after page, black and white image after black and white image, fancy phonetic sounding names, super powers, one-eyed monsters, gorgeous goddesses, labyrinths, oracles and epic journeys. That was it. Happy as Larry.
Such an impression those stories made on me that I swore to name my future child Ariadna (yes, at the tender age of 7!) after the Cretan princess rescued from the Minotaur by Theseus. And so I did.:)
The cyclops´hideout – Serifos
If you are a Greek mythology aficionado like myself, Serifos is your next destination. After all, not many places can claim to have been home to the horrifying one-eyed cyclops, children of Poseidon. This pleasant island in the Aegean sea is also known to have been home to young Perseus, son of Zeus and Danae, who later in life slayed the equally imposing snake-headed Medusa. Even Odysseus, the great hero and traveller of Greek mythology, is said to have set foot in Serifos on his journey home to Ithaca, having fought, blinded and triumphed over Polyphemus the cyclops.
The 1000 odd locals will have you believe that the Cyclops were indeed the earlier inhabitants of the island (and some will even go as far as to say that today these creatures are still hiding in the now impenetrable Cyclops cave). Whether you choose to believe it or not, it´s entirely up to you, but it will certainly make for the most interesting topic of conversation over some red wine and kalamata olives, that I guarantee. And even if you are sceptical, I bet you´ll have to question your better judgement when presented with the 2m high cyclop´s throne (or Kanapes, couch) at Koutalas Bay (from where Polyphemus is said to have thrown the rock to Odysseus during his escape from the island) or when faced by the huge walls found all over the island, also constructions attributed to these giants.
A few good reasons to hide out in Serifos
Apart from being an excellent location where to give free rain to your imagination, Serifos is also the ideal destination for culture and wellbeing enthusiasts.
Getting there is simple and it´s a pleasure on its own – there are regular ferry and speed boat rides from Athen´s Piraeus harbour that will replicate many of the old epic journeys of Greek literature, circumnavigating the islands of Kithnos, Kea and other minor archipelagos in just about 2.5 to 4 hours.
On arrival at Serifo´s port Livádi, the local buses will take you to Chóra, the island´s main village perched on the hill. But if you feel sufficiently energised (by that we mean with enough fuel for a 40 minute walk) a flight of steps and some meandering paths will bring you straight to some of the most stunning views in the island over the Aegean Sea and the islands around Serifos (Sifnos, Kythnos, Milos and Kimolos).
Chóra is a white, picturesque settlement dotted with windmills linked by very well-preserved stone-paved passages. A petite beauty, extremely rich in treasures, Chóra features the ruins of a 1434 Venetian castle, the church of Agios Constantinos, and the church of Agios Giannis Theologos, built on the ruins of the ancient temple of Athene.
But you know what´s one of the main highlights of this cutie? That there is no vehicle access through the village. So you either walk, or you jump on a poor little donkey´s back to drift through Chora´s narrow paths, archways and squares. But make sure to park your travelling companion and enjoy a drink in one of the bars found in the white paved alleys or in the town´s main square, Saint Athanasios’ Square where you´ll savour the vibrant blue hues of the blue domed church and the island´s notorious almond sweets (amigdalota), bread, wines, honey and cheeses.
Tracing Perseus´ steps
Ok, perhaps not literally,but close enough. There are so many walking trails in Serifos that you are bound to step on the same piece of land he did thousands of years ago (:)). These are some of the more relatively well-marked hiking trails (although a good hiking map or a local or knowledgeable companion is always recommended):
Whether you take any of these recommended trails or some of the least touristy routes in Serifos, one thing is guaranteed – your chance to enjoy the inextricable elements of the Greek landscape – neat white churches and monasteries, ancient ruins, quaint villages and stunning beaches.
If you prefer to hold a local´s hand to get informative and valuable commentary as you explore the island, you need to knock on Serifos Mε3´s doors. Run by Brigitte Smetschka, an Austrian teacher who has known and lived in the island for over 20 years, Serifos Mε3 offers general hikes as well as walks for families with children, historical walking tours, tours designed to collect herbs and vegetables, and even the option to learn Greek as you explore the island on foot.
Brigitte also works with a group of talented therapists from around the world to provide a range of workshops that use the beauty of Serifos to help visitors recharge and have a seriously good and peaceful time – from yoga, to reiki, to Greek dance and bodywork . Highly recommended if your aim is to spend a few days looking after mind and body and disconnecting from your worries outside this mystical paradise.
Just imagine, waking up in one of the many lovely hotels in Serifos to a view similar to this:
then enjoying a sumptuous breakfast in the town square taverna in company of the locals
to dive into the crystalline waters of the Aegean sea
and hike along the islands many trails only to complete a perfect day with a yoga session and a well-deserved rest enjoying the night lights and the breeze of the Aegean sea.
Truly mystical… and almost mythological.