Category: September 2007 (page 1 of 4)

A Sifnos island icon: The Church of the 7 Martyrs

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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.

 

Walls along a footpath on Sifnos

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footpath in Artemonas village Sifnos

A footpath winds between tall stone walls in Artemonas village on Sifnos.  We appreciated the walls while hiking because they offered some protection from the strong cool winds that buffeted the island for three full days during our visit in late September 2007. Sifnos has an extensive network of trails and footpaths that link villages and lead avid walkers and hikers to scores of scenic locations. Click here to access directions for nearly 50 different walk itineraries on Sifnos provided by the popular multilingual website Walking, hiking and trekking in Greece.

 

Folegandros … rediscovered

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Conde Nast Traveler

The December 2004 edition of Condé Nast Traveler magazine featured a profile of Folegandros with this cover photo and headline calling it “The best little island in Greece…getting there is half the fun.”

 

 

Hidden gem?: I always have a good chuckle when I read a travel article describing a “secret,” “hidden” or “undiscovered” Greek island that few people are supposed to know about. Usually the island is fairly well-known, both to Greeks and to seasoned island hoppers or anyone who has been to Greece even just once.

Nearly 10 years ago, in its December 2004 edition, Condé Nast Traveler magazine published an intriguing feature story about Folegandros. Written by Adam Sachs, it was entitled Greece’s best-kept secret (until now). We had taken our first-ever trip to Greece just six months earlier, and I bought the magazine because I was eagerly researching destinations to visit during a return trip to Greece in 2005. I had heard and read about Folegandros (in fact, it was already on my “must see someday” list), but at that point in time couldn’t resist buying any magazine that contained photos or information about Greece. The fascinating account of Adam Sachs’ visit to Folegandros made me yearn to see the island even more.

I clipped the Condé Nast article to save in my travel reference files, and re-read it before we went to Folegandros in September 2007. I have perused the article several times since, and have given the link to the online version of it to a number of people during the past six years.

 

The Panaghia (Church of Our Lady) is perched high above Chora village on Folegandros

The stunning Panaghia (Church of Our Lady) clings to the steep mountainside high above Chora village

 

 

Panaghia on Folegandros

A view of the Panaghia (Church of Our Lady) at sunset. The remarkable white church is one of many mesmerizing sights on Folegandros.

 

 

 

Folegandros photos popular online

I also gave many people the links to my Folegandros pictures on the Webshots.com photo-sharing website where my Greece travel photos had been viewed by more than 2.5 million people before public access to the site was discontinued at the end of 2012. Four separate albums of Folegandros images were among my Top 20 most-viewed albums, and each was seen by more than 20,000 people.

Meanwhile, between 2007 and 2011, I talked about Folegandros in more than three dozen posts on the TripAdvisor.com travel forums, where plenty of people appeared to be familiar with the island. In the three years since then, even more travellers have been talking about Folegandros on TripAdvisor, and one regular Folegandros visitor recently rued the surge in tourist traffic to his favourite island in recent years (he complained that the increase in visitors had led some restaurants to hike their dinner prices, while his beloved nude beach has begun to get too crowded).

 

Angali beach

Cliffs soar above Angali, one of the most popular beaches on Folegandros

 

 

Karavostassis Folegandros

Whitewashed buildings cling to a hillside at Karavostassis, the port village of Folegandros

 

 

 

Folegandros included on Fodor Travel list

So I was more than a little amused earlier this week when I logged into the MyGreeceTravelBlog Facebook page to catch up on news, and found numerous posts on other Facebook pages reporting that Folegandros has been ranked among the Top 15 “undiscovered destinations” in Europe. Each post provided a link to the Huffington Post website, where Folegandros was indeed ranked #12 on a list of 15 Undiscovered European Destinations.

 Huffington Post published the list on April 7, but that was just a reprint of a photo feature with the same title that originally had been published March 11 on Fodor’s Travel.

According to the Fodor ranking, Folegandros “proposes a welcomed escape from the hustle and bustle of more popular Greek islands. Perched on a towering seaside cliff, the island doesn’t offer much in the way of attractions—but makes up for it with local charm. Visitors can explore untouched beaches, sample traditional food, and spend quiet evenings contemplating the breathtaking, sun-touched cliffs.”

Most of that description is spot-on correct, but it’s actually just the main village, Chora, that is perched atop a seaside cliff — not the entire island! Grammatical errors aside, Folegandros does boast a spectacular coastline of precipitous and breathtaking sheer cliffs, as well as numerous small beaches that are popular with the thousands of people who visit the island each summer. It also has a pronounced local charm, a generous selection of excellent restaurants, and quiet evenings. But Folegandros is far from “undiscovered.”

 

Chora village Folegandros

Residents of the historic Kastro section of Chora live literally on the edge — their homes are built atop a sheer cliff that plunges hundreds of feet to the sea

 

 

north coast of Folegandros

Another view of buildings in the Kastro section of Chora (upper left) and the rugged landscape and coastline on the north side of Folegandros

 

 

 

Tourism surged after the magazine profile

When we finally got to the island in September 2007, staff we spoke to at our hotel and at some of the restaurants in Chora told us that tourism had been booming ever since Folegandros made the cover of Condé Nast Traveler. (Just what you’d expect for any place profiled in a travel magazine read by more than a million North Americans each month.)

One fellow told us that, during August, just one month before our visit, dozens of people with no hotel reservations stepped off a ferry, expecting it would be easy to find rooms — but every bed was sold out.  Locals scrambled to collect blankets and pillows and create makeshift sleeping quarters so the extra travellers would have a place to bed down for the night. Meanwhile, a mini construction boom was underway, with new hotels and private accommodations being built to cash in on the steadily growing traffic. A concrete frame for a new building was under construction right next to Fata Morgana Studios, where we were staying. And ferry companies had begun serving Folegandros with highspeed passenger catamarans to get more travellers to the island faster than the “milk run” car and truck ferries that stopped at multiple islands en route and took all day to get there.

So it clearly was Condé Nast, and not Fodor’s, that “discovered” Folegandros — and that was a full decade ago. But enough nitpicking about media hype. Ten years from now, some other publication or website will probably post a gushingly positive profile proclaiming that Folegandros is a “hidden gem” still waiting to be discovered.

 

Fata Morgana Studios

The Fata Morgana Studios swimming pool at sunset. The property has a view of several nearby islands, including Sifnos, which is faintly visible in the distance behind the umbrella.

 

 

Add this captivating island to your must-see list

If you haven’t been to Folegandros yet, consider giving it a visit. The island truly is as wonderful and captivating as the travel journalists claim. And chances are high that you, like us, will instantly fall in love with the place.

We have long been keen to pay Folegandros a return visit, but just haven’t been able to work it into any of our island hopping itineraries because of awkward ferry schedules and connections. Which is a good thing, because as long Folegandros remains off the main beaten path, it should retain its unique charm and character. And that’s what we want to experience again when we finally do make it back.

Below are links to two of my Folegandros photo album collections on the MyGreeceTravelBlog Flickr page. The main Folegandros album contains nearly 260 pictures of the island, while the second set features more than 70 photos of Fata Morgana Studios.

 

 Folegandros island

Rugged sheer cliffs on the coastline below Hora village provide some of the jaw-dropping natural scenery that delights visitors to Folegandros. Click here to view more than 250 more photos of the island in my Folegandros album on Flickr.

 

 

 Fata Morgana Studios

A view of the swimming pool and part of the rental apartment complex at Fata Morgana Studios, where we stayed during our trip to Folegandros. Click here to view my Flickr album with dozens more photos of the hotel.

 

A captivating view of Kastro village on Sifnos

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Approaching the medieval-era Kastro village on Sifnos island in Greece

One of the most memorable moments of our trip to Sifnos happened while we were hiking down the valley below Apollonia, and Kastro village suddenly came into view. The centuries-old settlement perched on a cliff high above the sea was one of the most exhilarating and breathtaking sights we have ever seen while walking in Greece. Built between the 14th and 18th Centuries, Kastro was the capital of Sifnos during the medieval period. It’s a must-see if you ever visit the island.

 

 

Our memorable meals at L’Osteria da Claudio and the Delfini Hotel restaurant on Sifnos

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Delfini Hotel on Sifnos

The outdoor dining terrace at the Delfini Hotel on Sifnos. The Delfini restaurant is open to the public as well as to guests of the hotel, and serves excellent home-cooked Greek cuisine and seafood dishes.

 

 

Dining terrace at the Delfini Hotel on Sifnos sunset view

Clear windscreens shelter Delfini restaurant guests on windy evenings, but still allow views of the sunset and Kamares Bay

 

 

Fond food memories: An online conversation about Sifnos restaurants a few days ago prompted me to pore through my travel journal and hundreds of photos we shot during our four-day visit to the island back in 2007.

Good food was the topic of our message exchange, and it also happens to be something for which Sifnos has long been famous.

While researching islands to visit on that trip seven years ago, I learned that Sifnos has been well-known for fine cuisine for hundreds of years, largely because the excellent pottery and ceramics produced on the island gave Sifnian cooks an early edge in developing culinary techniques and honing their kitchen skills. I also read that many of the top chefs in Athens and elsewhere in Greece got their training and started their careers on Sifnos.

I don’t know how accurate those stories are, but I can confirm that we did eat well on Sifnos; in fact, we still talk about the food we enjoyed there.

 

Two excellent dinners at Delfini Hotel

Two of those meals were in the restaurant of the Delfini Hotel where we were staying on the far side of Kamares Bay, directly across from the ferry port at Kamares. 

Our room was situated right above the Delfini’s seaview restaurant terrace, and the delightful food aromas that wafted from the kitchen through our open windows enticed us to have our first dinner there instead of walking into town for the evening. We had home-made spinach pies, stuffed aubergines, a hearty seafood soup that was chock full of fish and vegetables, wine, and a yummy cheesecake for dessert. The meal cost €42 and was wonderful.

We walked into Kamares for dinner on our second night, and saw a queue outside L’Osteria da Claudio. We recognized several of the people waiting in line for a table — they, too, were staying at Hotel Delfini. They told us they had eaten at da Claudio before (some had been there more than once) and thought the Italian cuisine was amazing. The waiting time for a table inside the small dining room would be about an hour, but they said it would be worth it.

 

L'osteria da Claudio on Sifnos

A sign at L’Osteria da Claudio, on the main street in Kamares. The popular Italian restaurant had many repeat visitors when we stayed on the island.

 

Please click on the link below to continue reading and to view more photos on page 2 of this post.

 

 

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