Tag 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

360
360

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Postcard from a Greek Island #2 – Nature in all her contrasts

The sun descends in a wash of fiery orange and pink while the sea turns violet and lavender, laying itself out in complement to its reflection above. A stillness falls over the bay, the air holding its breath for what is coming next. We have just finished dinner when a few spots of water darken the balcony floor. Looking up I see heavy clouds are covering the stars and then the sky flashes white. The wind picks up and thunder grumbles to the north. The spots become more frequent and there’s barely time to bring in the drying beach towels before the storm is upon us. Bolt after bolt of lightning thrown down from sky to sea, Zeus and Hephaestus battling it out, animating the scene like the flickering images of an old ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­ zoetrope. The noise is terrifying, explosions that force the ear drum inwards while the rain rages on. Now the bay is obscured, just a grey sheet of water, a curtain pulled across . I know there are several sailing boats anchored out there, somewhere: half an hour ago there’d been champagne corks and music. I am very glad to be on land, even if the rain is now creeping under the balcony doors and pooling in various and unexpected areas of the apartment. The roads have turned to rivers, pouring down the slope past our window and still there is no diminishment. Occasionally the clouds swirl apart to reveal a pallid, gibbous moon, but she is not invited tonight, rapidly extinguished by their dark bat wings.

Sunset from the balcony earlier in the evening
Sunset from the balcony earlier in the evening
Lightning splits the sky in two
Then lightning splits the sky in two

Finally, after longer than was diverting, the storm retreats. Rolls of thunder continue and skittering sheets of lightning still illuminate the cloud masses, but they are being pulled apart now, and one by one the stars return.

The next morning, the air is fresh and through the village echoes the sound of water being swept away and neighbours comparing notes on damage and flooding. Some hazy clouds have lingered and at the beach the sea licks contritely at my calves as I wade along the shore.

as if the storm never happened. View from Sigri surf centre
As if the storm never happened. View from Sigri surf centre the next morning.

Later we cycle north up the coast, taking the road that leads inland before turning east back to the sea. Here there are isolated villas with gardens irrigated to a bright verdant green, incongruous against the island’s otherwise terra-cotta landscape.

The Black-eared Wheatear is a common sight in Sigri
The Black-eared Wheatear is a common sight in Sigri

Wheatears perch on rocks and low electricity lines. Swallows careen across an emerald field of clover, purple flowers just coming into bloom. I stop to investigate but am distracted by a large green stick that hops off the sprig I have plucked. I look closer and see orange eyes and alien forked head, body designed to mimic exactly a large blade of grass. I watch as this small, incredible creature finally tires of my gaze and jumps back into the mass of plants: an instantly invisible phasmid.

The disguise works better in a field of grass
The disguise works better in a field of grass

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.

JBblogbay1
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.

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

It all feels a wonderfully long way from home.