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On with last summer’s Greek island cruise: Kos and Syros

June 2009

Dining out in Kos

After Bodrum Turkey, our Easy Life Cruise sailed to the Greek island of Kos , not far away, but I believe t he ship just sat out on the sea over night to give us the idea that we were sailing far, much like the overnight train to Toronto does.

We walked into the old part of the town and then along the beach for two kilometres until we turned inland and found a mom-and-pop place for lunch. Hidden in a nondescript alley, it served up the best Greek food we ate that week. The couple – and their parrot – were friendly, serving us, their only customers, on the terrace.

This friendly couple and their parrot served us our best meal of the week

We loved our Kos coffee shop, not far from the port, and spent hours that day playing chess and making use of their free outdoor Wi-Fi to e-mail our children.

Forgive me for not mentioning the sights; my knee doesn’t do sightseeing. That is perhaps why I have been accused of writing about little else than food in my travel pieces. And to prove my point:

Syros: our beautiful, welcoming and all-around favourite Greek island Click image to view larger version.

That evening we dined on the seashore watching children and parents playing on the rocks. We met a lone Canadian tourist and exchanged stories about our travels. And then we slowly walked back to our coffee shop for more Wi-Fi and half attended an outdoor concert of musicians playing on the plaza.

Some time in the middle of the night our ship sailed to Syros, which again wasn’t far, and turned out to be our favourite island.

Mykonos, the stop after Syros, was our ‘unfavourite’ island. The two are polar opposites. Syros is real; Mykonos is unreal. Syros is authentic; Mykonos is plastic. Syros is friendly; Mykonos is unfriendly, especially when you ask them why it costs $5 for a cup of coffee. “This is Mykonos,” they answer. “What did you expect?” I’ll probably give in to Mykonos next issue with a picture gallery of the superficially beautiful but off-putting island where we were relegated to eating outside a grocery store a kind native led us to.

The women of the co-op cafeteria

Our first view of Syros was of the gentlemen chatting and reading the morning paper along the port in little cafés. They had left their wives at home, as older generation Greeks and Italians are wont to do.

We and our cruise mates seemed to be the only tourists. There is a reason for this: Syros is the administrative centre of the Cyclade islands, so the economy is doing just fine without us. In an effort to do a better job on Syros than I did on Kos, let me enlighten you on some history. Syros has been inhabited since the stone age. Homer called it Siriin. Legend has it that the first inhabitant, Keraunus (Lightning), went to the island riding on the back of a dolphin after his ship had sunk. On Syros, the oldest acropolis in the Cyclades has been found. Its architecture has been strongly influenced by the Venetians, who settled there at the beginning of the 13th century until the Turks took over in the 16th century.

We spent most of the day in the capital, Ermoupolis, or Queen of the Cyclades. We toured the Apollo Theatre, a mini copy of Milan’s La Scala, then meandered around the lanes behind the port and found a café with tables outside, playing Greek music. We bought the CD, but this music never sounds the same when you take away the warm sea breeze, the painted white and blue shops and houses, the cobblestone lanes and the sounds of Greek emanating from the surrounding venues.

Children playing on the rocks in Kos

We found a delightful women’s cooperative cafeteria for lunch, one of two on a lane that runs parallel to the sea. You pay per portion and it’s all home cooked, literally.

We took a bus ride to a nearby beach and bathed ourselves in the clean beauty of the bay.

For those with more time and better knees, there is an archaeological museum and a medieval village, Ano Syros. From there you can visit the Catholic Cathedral of St. George and the monasteries of the Jesuits and Capucins from the 18th and 17th centuries. Ano Syros holds music festivals every summer.

We returned to the ship after our beach excursion and ate on board – always a disappointment. If we ever find another Easy Life Cruise going to islands we haven’t yet visited we’ll know not to take the half board. Unfortunately, all the cruises seem to go to Mykonos.

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1 Comments:

At August 31, 2009 at 12:10 PM , Anonymous Amber said...

Hello. Great post!!

Do you have any idea how to find the cafe with the parrot?

Best Regards,
Dan Milward & Amber Baldock
(travel buddies)

 

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