Cool things to see in and around Andros Town

Andros Town

Red-roofed buildings on the northeast side of Andros Town


Eye & camera candy:  If you enjoy exploring Greek island towns, either simply to stroll around and just see what’s there, to learn more about the destination’s history, or to discover interesting subjects for photography, painting or other artistic hobbies, you won’t be disappointed with Andros Town. 

During our Andros visit this spring, we spent three days at Chora (the Greek name for the island’s main town) and wandered its streets, lanes, and seaside areas several times. The town has many familiar features and amenities we enjoy seeing and photographing on other Greek islands — outdoor bars and cafes, public squares, picturesque churches and chapels,  impressive local architecture, and cats aplenty — but it also boasts its own special landmarks and historic sites, plus distinctive natural surroundings of seasides, beaches, bays and mountains.

Unfortunately, jet lag kept us from exploring Andros Town as thoroughly as we would have liked. Though we did view a lot of interesting sights and scenery, when it came time to move to a beach resort area on the south side of the island, we realized there had been much, much more we didn’t get to see. But that just means there will be plenty of new things to experience the next time we visit Chora. 

Page 2 of this post features photo slideshows of some of the sights we saw during our various walkabouts. Click here or on the link below to access the photos.

You can view full-size versions of all of the pictures, along with hundreds more, in our Andros Town album on the mygreecetravelblog Flickr page.


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The allure of Astypalea

Astypalea is an inspiring short film by Eva Rodriguez and Ignasi Llobet 


Intriguing imagery: We have been to Astypalea just once, for an introductory 3-day visit back in 2009, but after watching the video posted above, I regret that we didn’t spend more time there.  We missed so many amazing sights!

Astypalea is a short video that was created by Eva Rodriguez and Ignasi Llobet. It’s only two minutes long, yet the film is packed with intriguing images and spectacular scenery from what the two filmmakers rightly describe as “one of the most beautiful and unspoiled Greek islands.”

Filmed by Ignasi with a handheld Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera, the video follows Eva as she tours the butterfly-shaped Dodecanese island, pausing to admire and contemplate Astypalea’s striking landscape, beach, coast and village scenery.  I recognized the spellbinding views from some of Eva’s vantage points, but felt a strong tinge of disappointment that I didn’t get to personally see many of the other sights while we were there.  

Happily, Eva and Ignasi have shown me plenty of good reasons to consider a return trip.


Filming is a challenge under the intense Greek sun

But it isn’t just their film that has rekindled memories of our own brief visit six years ago. In notes describing their film, Ignasi said “it was practically impossible to see what I was shooting, focusing, exposuring and framing… under the Greek sun it’s impossible to see anything on the screen.”

That is so true.  The sun is always incredibly brilliant in Greece, but in Astypalea I found it exceptionally intense.  Even though I wore sunglasses, I couldn’t stop squinting, and my eyes often watered uncontrollably because of the searing sunshine. Like Ignasi, I couldn’t see anything through my camera viewfinder or LCD screen, either, and most of my photos wound up blurred, overexposed, or poorly framed because I could only point and shoot and hope for the best. (It didn’t help that I was in a jetlag haze much of the time — Astypalea was our first stop on a four-island itinerary that year, and it had taken us well over 24 hours of travel to get there.) You can see the  photos that turned out okay in my Astypalea album on Flickr.

But do watch Eva and Ignasi’s film a few times — I think it’s remarkable for capturing the allure and charm of Astypalea, and making you feel like you’re actually there, experiencing the island yourself. If you can’t get to Astypalea, this film is the next best thing.

Many thanks to Eva for inviting me to publish the film on my blog. This is one of my favourite videos of Greece!

A Sifnos island icon: The Church of the 7 Martyrs

Chapel of the 7 Martyrs

Like hundreds of other picturesque chapels in the Cyclades, the Church of the 7 Martyrs on Sifnos has a traditional Cycladic design with whitewashed walls and a shiny blue dome


Chapel of the 7 Martyrs

but its startling location — perched atop a rocky peninsula pounded by powerful winds and waves — makes it one of the most memorable and impressive shrines in the region


Windswept wonder: We have seen hundreds if not thousands of blue-domed churches in Greece, but the Chapel of the 7 Martyrs on Sifnos easily ranks as one of the most memorable.

We got to see it during a four-day visit to Sifnos in late September 2007, and were practically blown away by the experience — and not just because the chapel is such an impressive sight. 

It was warm and sunny when we arrived at Sifnos on a Friday afternoon, but conditions changed abruptly. Within less than two hours, near gale-force winds began blowing, followed overnight by thick, dark stormclouds and periods of light rain. The gusts were so strong that rough seas forced the cancellation of ferry service for the next three days. But we didn’t let the unrelenting wind stop us from sightseeing. Occasional breaks in the cloudcover motivated us to get out and explore,  and we spent one day hiking to the villages of Artemonas, Apollonia, Kato Petali and Kastro.  


A breathtaking sight below Kastro village

We got our first glimpse of the Chapel of the 7 Martyrs while following a clifftop footpath that winds along the the east side of Kastro, about 90 meters above the sea. It was breathtaking to look down and suddenly see the whitewashed, blue-domed church far below, perched atop a rugged, rocky peninsula that juts into the Aegean. We saw a group of tourists making their way down a twisting, stone-paved path that leads to the church, and decided to make the trek as well.  But the blasting winds actually stopped us in our tracks a few times, and more than once nearly blew us off balance. When one particularly strong gust nearly knocked down a woman walking behind me, she and her companions turned back, saying they felt it was too dangerous to venture any further. But we plodded on, climbing down dozens of steps and then up a short hillside to reach the church.  

The wind was even worse here, but we couldn’t go inside the church to escape it because the door was locked (apparently the chapel is open only several times a year for special occasions and feast days.) It was almost impossible to hold our cameras steady to take photos, even on the south side of the building where the wind was partially blocked. In fact, the blustery conditions were so unpleasant we stayed only a couple of minutes to view the coastal scenery before making a hasty climb back to the sheltered lanes in Kastro.

Despite the inclement conditions, it was well worth braving the elements to briefly see the chapel. If anything, the wind and the surrounding whitecapped sea gave the Chapel of the 7 Martyrs even more of an exhilarating “wow” factor.

Below are several more of our own photos of the church. You can see full-size versions of them, along with 20 additional images, in my Chapel of the 7 Martyrs album on Flickr.  At the bottom of the post are two wonderful pictures of the chapel that were shot by photographers from France and Greece.


Chapel of the 7 Martyrs

Much of the chapel’s tremendous visual appeal stems from its location on such inhospitable coastal terrain


Chapel of the 7 Martyrs

Dozens of stone steps lead down the cliffside to the church


 Chapel of the 7 Martyrs

Here’s a view of the steps from a point far down the cliff 


Chapel of the 7 Martyrs

After descending dozens of steps, visitors face a short uphill climb to the chapel. A terrace that wraps around the church offers amazing views of the sea, the Sifnos coast and Kastro village, but we weren’t able to enjoy the scenery because of the high winds.


Chapel of the 7 Martyrs

Looking northwest along the rugged coast of Sifnos 


7 Martyrs Chapel on Sifnos photo by Giannis Kontos

A view of the Chapel of the 7 Martyrs in weather conditions even more severe than we experienced. This image, which has been widely circulated in social media, was captured by Sifnos photographer Giannis Kontos.


7 Martyrs Chapel on Sifnos photo by Charley Lataste

Another image that has been shared extensively on social media is this sunset view of the chapel, shot by photographer Charly Lataste.


Acropolis & Parthenon shine in print & social media spotlights

Trudeau family at the Acropolis

Pierre Elliot Trudeau was Prime Minister of Canada when he visited Athens with his three sons in 1983. His oldest son Justin (standing behind younger brothers Michel and Alexandre at the Parthenon) became Prime Minister after winning Canada’s federal election on October 19. This photo made the rounds on Greek social media following Justin Trudeau’s big election win.


Media marvels: I’ve been seeing a lot of the  Acropolis and the Parthenon in Athens this month — unfortunately not in person, but in print and social media.

Photos of the top two Athens attractions appear frequently on my Facebook and Twitter news feeds, but in the last several weeks there has been a noticeable spike in the number of picture, video and article links that have been posted about both monuments.

Most social media posts have been travel pictures that tourists shot during their autumn visits to the world-famous monuments, but some of the stand-out photos and articles have been published by international print and online publications.

Screenshot of a Boston Globe article about AthensOne widely shared link was for the travel article Glories, history live in the heart of Athens, published October 3 by The Boston Globe.  The story said the Acropolis is “the absolute must see” for visitors to Athens, and it featured a large picture of the Parthenon as its lead photo.

Another popular share on Facebook was the photo I posted above showing then Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and his three young sons during a visit to the Acropolis on August 30, 1983.

The picture, credited to Peter Bregg of the Canadian Press news organization,  was republished by The Pappas Post website as its Photo of the Day on October 22 — three days after the eldest Trudeau boy, Justin, was elected as the new Prime Minister of Canada. Now 43, Justin was just 11 years old when the family photograph was taken at the Parthenon.

Meanwhile, a trip to my local magazine retailer brought me face-to-face with pictures of the Parthenon and the caryatids at the Erechtheion monument on the Acropolis. 

Prominently displayed on an eye-level shelf was the October/November issue of National Geographic History magazine, which has an attention-grabbing cover photo of the Parthenon basking in a golden sunset glow. 

National Geographic History magazine cover October November 2015Inside is an informative and well-illustrated 12-page feature article describing noteworthy events during the Parthenon’s long history.

“It was built to celebrate the triumph of Athens over adversity,” the article begins, “but survival would be hard for this extraordinary building. Over 2,500 years it has been abused, plundered, neglected, and all but obliterated. Its remains now stand as a proud symbol of the endurance of Greek civilization.”

The feature includes “The day they blew up the Parthenon,” a two-page account of the September 21, 1687 artillery attack on the monument by Venetian forces.

On another shelf, the November/December issue of Archaeology magazine caught my eye. Its cover image is a photo showing three of the caryatid figures on the Erechtheion, one of the historic buildings on the Acropolis. An 8-page feature article about the Acropolis describes “the decades-long project to restore the site to its iconic past.” 

Archaeology magazine cover for November December 2015“After four decades of intensive work by hundreds of experts in archaeology, architecture, marble working, masonry, restoration, conservation and mechanical, chemical and structural engineering, much has been accomplished. Already the restoration of two of the major buildings, the Erechtheion and the Temple of Athena Nike, has been completed, as has much of the work on the Propylaia and on large sections of the Parthenon,” the article notes. 

In outlining “7 keys to restoring an icon,” the article illustrates and discusses several specific monuments and elements at the Acropolis, including the Circuit Walls, the Propylaia, the Temple of Athena Nike, the Erechtheion, the Arrephorion, “scattered architectural members,” and of course the Parthenon.

Both magazine features are fascinating reads, whether you’ve been to the Acropolis before or not. If you’re planning a trip to Athens for later this year or sometime during 2016, see if you can find copies of the publications at your neighbourhood news outlets. You will enjoy a more informed and educated visit to the Acropolis if you get to read the articles before your trip. 

And just today (October 31), I have seen the Parthenon and Acropolis getting even more attention in a news video being shared widely on Facebook.

Originally posted on the Facebook page for the Greek Gateway entertainment website, the clip shows the Greek Presidential Guard participating in a flag raising ceremony to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Oxi Day this past Wednesday. A national holiday, Oxi Day celebrates events on October 28, 1940, when Mussolini’s forces demanded they be allowed to enter and occupy Greece. In response, Greek leader Iannis Metaxas bluntly said “oxi” (“no”) and refused the Italian ultimatum. 


Oxi Day ceremony at the Acropolis

  A screenshot from the special Oxi Day video that Greek Gateway shared on its Facebook page. Click here to view the clip.


 My last visit to the Acropolis was in May 2014, but after seeing all these photos and stories about it in recent weeks, I wish I could get back soon for another look around.

A breathtaking video postcard from Mykonos

Postcard from Mykonos Greece is an inspiring 4-minute film by Pano Verino


Even if you haven’t been to Mykonos yet,  I’m sure you’ve heard about its beautiful beaches, the narrow cobblestone lanes and  whitewashed buildings in Mykonos Town, the luxurious hotels and villas perched on rugged rocky slopes, and the restaurants, bars and clubs at the charming Little Venice seaside. If you have been to Mykonos before, you’re undoubtedly familiar with those sights and many more — and you likely either love the island or could care less if you ever went back.

But whether you’re a regular Mykonos visitor, someone who’s been there in the past, or a prospective first-time visitor, I think you’ll very much enjoy this “video postcard” I just discovered on Vimeo.

Pano Verino’s 4-minute film Postcard from Mykonos features breathtaking aerial and ground-level views from various areas of Mykonos, including the labyrinth of lanes and alleys in Mykonos Town, the town’s Little Venice seafront, some of the island’s major beaches, off-the-tourist track coves and coastal areas, scenic hilltop chapels, and the 19-meter-tall Armenistis Lighthouse, which was built in 1891.

If you’re not a fan of Mykonos for whatever reason, don’t be surprised if the film gives you a new appreciation for the island’s beguiling sights and attractions — and makes you think it could well be time to pay Mykonos a repeat visit.

And if you’re among those who haven’t experienced a Mykonos vacation yet, don’t be surprised if Postcard from Mykonos inspires you to start planning one!

A purrfect place for a catnap

cat sleeping on a squash on Andros

A cat catches an early afternoon snooze on a giant butternut squash displayed on a table outside a house in Stenies village on Andros. We saw the cute kitty cozying up to the giant gourd while we were hiking around the Stenies area during our Andros visit in late May.

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