Category Archives: Greece

Postcard from a Greek Island #3 – Nature in her element

... golden air and mute blue distances ...
… golden air and mute blue distances …
“The sea and mountains floated in the steady evening sunshine. It was all peace, elements and void, golden air and mute blue distances…” John Fowles, The Magus

These words from Fowles’s fantastic novel resonate, make absolute sense in this place. The joy of nature here is also a joy in the elements, and especially water and air: the light that drenches the land, the Meltemi that blows, the plumbago-blue sea.

... peace, elements and void ...
… peace, elements and void …
Apart from rest, regeneration and hopefully even rejuvenation, we are also in Sigri to do some windsurfing. This sport has been my challenge over the past five summers or so: at times arduous, often frustrating and then, occasionally – just to ensure I don’t give up – exhilarating and uplifting.

Every time I go out on the water the experience is different – from day to day, from hour to hour. When the wind is strong but constant, everything I’m trying to learn (planing, footstraps – going fast!) starts to come together and I surf until my legs shake. Two hours later, fired up for another attempt, the conditions have changed: now it’s gusty, moments where the sail jerks and pulls and tries to launch you into the dreaded catapult, then moments when all is calm and the sail grows heavy on your arms as you drift upwind back to the beach. The emotions change with each attempt, and in a day can range from fearful to content, then childishly excited followed by furious, resigned and sometimes very much at peace with the world.

Getting it together - a good day on the water
Getting it together – a good day on the water
And this is the attraction of a sport that relies on the elements, on Nature and all her caprices. It teases you, goads you on, gives you a reward and then smacks you round the back of the head once again. Like any activity worth doing, it’s not easy and there is always the next step, the next objective, like climbing one mountain only to see a vista of larger peaks stretching out to the horizon. But for now, I’ll keep trying.

The experts show how it should be done:

Michele's chop-hop
Michele’s chop-hop

Martina's inimitable style
Martina’s inimitable style

Synchronised surfing
Synchronised surfing

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360

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Postcard from a Greek island #1 – Arrival

For a second year we are spending August in Sigri, Lesvos. This small and sleepy fishing village lies at the end of a long road that snakes over the spine of the island away from the port and its ferries and cars and lorries and cargo and tourists waiting for boats in harbourside bars and restaurants. The trip takes you through hillsides of olive trees, some areas scarred black from scrub fires, past salt pan waters dotted with prawn-pink flamingoes. On past the town at the crossroads that swelters in its basin and up into the central heights where the air is cooler and rugged stone monasteries look down like monks in prayer from skeletal, vertiginous outcrops. The road continues its switchback course, down over the ridge, passing a scattering of white houses and terracotta tiled roofs. The land grows in breadth as it opens up beyond the pass and the light reflects back from umber rocks and the harsh ochre of dried grass and bush, inducing a mild case of photo-sensitivity, even behind a pair of sunglasses. A new road is being hewn into the side of the hill and the shapes of ancient, petrified trees rise out of the dust and rubble, protected for now by a utilitarian coating of plaster – the bones of ancient monsters exposed by modern machinery.

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Approaching Sigri

The road descends further and round a corner – finally – the bay sweeps into view,  its glittering water, inlets and coves all watched over by the lazy, feline mound of the isle of Nissiopi opposite. At the southern edge of the coast, on a jutting peninsula, a cluster of buildings fall down the final slope to the small fishing harbour. The ruins of an old Ottoman fort are sketched in carbon against a vesperal sky. A restaurant on the sea-front is festooned with garlands of octopus tentacles which sway in the wind above the heads of the nut-brown, sea-weathered men who sit with a glass of ouzo in one hand and a clicking loop of kombolói – worry beads – in the other. The Meltemi is late this year, but here, at the edge of the village, standing in front of a handful of tiny carmine, white and indigo boats moored in the harbour, a breeze is kicking up heads of sea foam out towards the horizon.

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Fishing boat in the harbour
The Kastro at sunset
The Kastro at sunset

It all feels a wonderfully long way from home.