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Much ado about Milos

Travel magazine articles about Milos

Two top travel magazines profiled Milos island this summer.  The article Milos’ Moment appeared in the May edition of the American Conde Nast Traveler, while Orange Crush was published in the UK’s Conde Nast Traveller in June.

 

Media darling: If you’re considering a visit to Milos in 2018, you might be wise to start making your holiday plans and hotel reservations ASAP — especially if you have your heart set on staying in any of the island’s upscale accommodations (which are in rather limited supply), or if you wish to spend time in the Skinopi village area, in particular.

The reason? Milos has been profiled numerous times this year by leading international publications and travel websites, some of which have hailed it as an “undiscovered” and “secret” Greek island “paradise.” With all the positive publicity — boosted by scores of shared posts on social media — I suspect there could be a surge in tourist traffic to Milos next year, and likely for summers to follow.

As for Skinopi, its favourable mention in three highly influential publications could turn the little-known settlement into a trendy new Greek Island getaway destination for upmarket travellers seeking seclusion, style and scenery.

 

 

I can’t explain why so many media have developed such keen sudden interest in Milos, or why some of the magazines think they have just stumbled upon a fabulous place few people know about. I first read about Milos in Greek Islands travel guidebooks back in 2004, and my partner and I went there in 2007, the same year another major travel magazine, Islands, published Milos Rocks, a cover story heralding the so-called “undiscovered” isle in the western Cyclades. Has Milos remained a hidden hideaway for the 10 years since Islands “discovered” it? Hardly. 

We went back for a second visit in 2011, while numerous friends and acquaintances have also made one or more trips there during the last seven years.  I have seen Milos included in Greek Island travel guides published since at least 2009 by major British publications, including The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and even Conde Nast Traveller, which that year highlighted Milos in a two-page “Best Beaches” write-up. Meanwhile, I have noticed steadily increasing interest in Milos on TripAdvisor and other travel forum sites in the last few years and, for my own part, I have published half a dozen posts about Milos here on the blog since 2012.

Although I won’t further debate whether Milos is indeed “secret” or “untouched,” I do believe it’s a remarkable Greek Island in many respects, and well-deserving of greater attention from travellers.  I could explain why by repeating some of my previous blog posts, but instead will let some extremely well-travelled writers describe why you should visit Milos yourself. Please click on the link below to continue reading on page 2.

 

Kleftiko coast on Milos

Sailboats at Kleftiko, one of the most popular coastal stops for round-the-island tours of Milos

 

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Samarina: The beautiful Byzantine church in Messenia

Church of the Virgin Zoodochos Pigi Samarina

The Byzantine Church of Zoodochos Pigi Samarina cuts a striking figure set amidst a valley of rolling hills lush with olive trees

 

Lady of the valley:  There were lovely landscapes everywhere we looked while we drove through Messenia in late May. One of the most memorable and marvellous sights along the way was the Byzantine Church of Zoodochos Pigi Samarina, located between the villages of Ellinoekklisia and Kalogerorrachi. 

We first glimpsed the church from afar — from the top of an access road which winds down a wooded hillside to the clearing in which the 800-year-old shrine sits. From this vantage point, Samarina looks simply sublime: a beautiful Byzantine-style building surrounded by rolling hills and lush green groves of olive trees that extend for miles in all directions.  Although the distance offered a breathtaking panoramic perspective of the impressive monument and its pretty surroundings, we of course had to drive down to take a closer look.

Not surprisingly, the church was locked up as tight as a drum, and nobody else was around, so there was no chance of taking a peek inside. 

 

 

According to an information plaque on the grounds near the church, Samarina is considered to be one of the most beautiful Byzantine monuments in the Peloponnese. It was built in the 12th Century on what some sources claim was the site of an ancient temple that had been dedicated to the goddess Rhea. Originally, Samarina was a church operated by the nunnery of Osia Mary of Egypt. It later was renamed church of Zoodochos Pigi (Virgin Mary), but hundreds of years have passed since any nuns last occupied the building.

Amazingly, “Nothing is known about the monument’s history, while the silence of textual evidence in regard with such a monument is remarkable,” the plaque says.

 

Samarina church

A Messenian mystery: Historians say the church dates from the 12th Century, but they don’t know anything about its history.

 

The plaque describes Samarina as “a two-column, domed cross-in-square building whose careful cloisonné masonry next to the variety of decorative brickwork compose a highly artistic complex.”

Between late 2011 and the end of 2013, a rehabilitation and restoration project was carried out to recover the tiled roof, restore the decorative brickwork, and install new wooden doors. Inside, “the wall paintings were entirely restored and the marble templon screen was cleaned to retrieve its white colour and to preserve the traces of inlaid wax and mastic gum.” 

Nearby are ruins of other buildings, believed to have been monastic cells, along with a vaulted Byzantine cistern.

It would have been interesting to see the interior, with its freshly restored frescoes, but we had to make do with  viewing photos in a brochure I had picked up at Messana Hotel at Ancient Messini the day before.  Nevertheless, we enjoyed examining the building exterior, and exploring its serene surroundings. (I have tried to find the brochure and its images online, so I could post a link here, but so far haven’t had any success.)

If you’re passing through the area on your way to or from Ancient Messini, be sure to stop and take a look at Samarina. She’s a beauty.

Below are several more pictures of Samarina. You can view additional photos in my Samarina  church album on Flickr.

 

Samarina church

 

Samarina church

 

Samarina church

 

Samarina church

 

Samarina church

 

Samarina church

 

Captivated by Kavala

Gregory Liotakis published this aerial drone film of Kavala in April

 

Aerial appeal: Up until the end of 2016, I was completely clueless about Kavala.

I had heard of it, and I knew it was a place in mainland Greece. But I didn’t know exactly where, and I would not have been able to tell you for certain if was a mountain village, a big town or a seaside resort. So of course I had no idea what it looked like or what was there.

That changed over the Christmas holiday season when storms dumped snow on many parts of Greece and I found photos and videos of Kavala while putting together two blog posts that I published in January — Greece in white winter glory, and Amazing winter wonderland scenes from Greece Part 2

Suddenly I was intrigued. Kavala looked quite appealing and attractive (and not just because it was dusted with crisp white snow.)  With a few quick Google searches, I learned that Kavala is a bustling port city of 57,000 residents in the region of eastern Macedonia and Thrace, and is considered one of Greece’s “prettiest” and “most picturesque” cities. Some websites described Kavala as a “gem” and a “jewel” often overlooked by tourists or simply not on the radar for most people visiting Greece.

 

 

Since I had shared an aerial video of Kavala here on the blog, links to other Kavala films have appeared frequently in the “Up Next” sidebar when I have opened the YouTube webpage.  Most have been aerial videos showing the city in warm weather months, and I have been impressed by the scenes of seafront, beaches, city squares and historic sites — including a castle and aqueduct.  As you can probably expect, Kavala has now earned a spot on my travel bucket list.

In case you’re planning a trip to the area,  or just wondering if it’s a place you would like to visit yourself, here are several Kavala videos that will help get you acquainted with the city.

 

Scenes from Kavala in a 2.5-minute film by JL Aerial

 

This nearly 3-minute long video by Aerial View shows the city’s historic castle and the impressive scenery it overlooks. 

 

This “official” video by kavalaDimofelia shows top historic sites and attractions and near Kavala 

 

This is a Kavala time lapse video published by Theo Kavala

Where to eat and sleep well in Mavromati

Messana Hotel in Ancient Messini

Street view of Messana Hotel in Mavromati. The boutique-style hotel has seven rooms, and serves a wonderful breakfast featuring dishes made with products grown locally and in the Messenia region.

 

Ithomi restaurant in Mavromati

Ithomi Restaurant in Mavromati has an inside dining room and a large open-air terrace, both offering views of the countryside and the archaeological site of Ancient Messini.

 

Good eats, good sleep: As I related in my previous posts Moments in Mavromati and Admiring the Arcadian Gate, Day 1 of our 2017 spring holiday got off to a great start with visits to historic sites in Ancient Messini and some scenic walkabouts in Mavromati village.

Our busy afternoon of sightseeing and exploring wound down with a fabulous dinner at Ithomi Restaurant, followed by a very restful night of sleep in our comfy, quiet room at Messana Hotel.  

Thanks to a delicious breakfast at the hotel, our Day 2 got off to an excellent start as well.

Please turn to page 2 to read and see more of the hotel and restaurant.

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Moments in Mavromati

Mavromati village in Messenia

Houses in Mavromati, on the lower slopes of Mount Ithomi.

 

View from Mavromati village

The view from the main road in Mavromati

 

Verdant vistas: First stop on our spring holiday was Mavromati, a small mountain village that overlooks the historic archaeological site at Ancient Messini.

Although we spent less than 24 hours in the village and nearby area at the beginning of a road trip through the western Peloponnese, we were impressed with what we got to see and experience — as I described in my previous post, Admiring the Arcadian Gate.

Just as enjoyable and memorable were the beautiful views and landscape scenery at Mavromati.

 

 

From a variety of vantage points in the village as well as from our balcony at Messana Hotel, we loved looking at the verdant vistas that spread out below us. There was much to see: the sweeping views included tree-covered mountains and rolling hills, the historic ruins of Ancient Messini, and a valley extending all the way to the coastal city of Kalamata,  30 kilometers to the south. We could even glimpse the Messenian Sea.

 

Mavromati location on Google Maps

This Google map pinpoints the location of Mavromati and Ancient Messini in the western Peloponnese region of Greece

 

Please turn to page 2,  where I’ll show and tell you more about Mavromati.

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