The last couple of days the Sun in Syros has been quite strong, and I’ve not really done much other than go to the beach.
I had a small breakfast in the apartment this morning – the café down below opens properly tomorrow (June 1st).
Then I was straight on to the beach at Galissas – For most of the morning and the early part of the afternoon I had one whole end of the beach to myself; with the exception of one couple who came down to the beach with their 3 dogs. It was quite entertaining watching the dogs getting excited as they played and swam in the water.
I left the beach at about 2 (siesta time) and went indoors for some lunch and to get out of the Sun for a couple of hours.
During the late afternoon for a change of scene I got in the car and went to Κόμητο / Komito beach. Despite the fact it was now overcast it was still quite warm and the beach still relatively busy.
I say busy compared to the beaches in Thassos which I more or less had to myself – but compared to how they are in August, this is quiet. At least I can still find a decent spot away from other beach-goers at this time of year!
I was quite hungry so went out for dinner a little earlier than normal tonight; My normal rule is that I won’t think about dinner until after the Sun has set (usually around 20:30 or maybe even later). I prefer eating my meal when the temperature has come down a little.
I ate at the Ηλιοβασίλεμα / Sunset restaurant in the village; I’d seen them writing up their daily specials board earlier and was interested in on of the dishes they had on offer. I had the Κριθαρότο με μοσχάρι – beef with orzo pasta – a bit like a giouvetsi but not quite. I wasn’t quite sure what sauce it came in, it wasn’t tomato, it almost tasted slightly sweet.
Tomorrow a bit of housekeeping; I’ve got to go in to Ermoupoli to pick up my ferry tickets for Sunday. I booked them online several months ago but the Greek system means I have to get to the local ticket office to collect them. Then I will probably head in the direction of Κίνι / Kini and go to the beach there.
I’m going to read for a bit on the balcony, and then head off to bed for the night.
My short time on Tinos has come to an end. It has been interesting visiting the island in low season; The last (and first time) I came it was the middle of August when the tourist season was at its peak.
In Tinos, most things are yet to open – but the painters arrived at the apartment today, and there has been activity at some of the tavernas near the beach. I think perhaps they’re going for a 1st June opening!?
After breakfast I had a last couple of hours at the beach (they’ve put up those wooden sun shelter things now – not quite umbrellas but close to them). It was slightly cloudy this morning, but still warm enough enjoy the beach.
I drove in to town to grab a few bits too; parking wasn’t terribly easy. I had to drive round the car park several times while I waited for someone to leave. Annoyingly I forgot to get some Tinos postcards. I always like to get some postcards to stick my bedroom wall (and I do need to update what I’ve got at the moment); but I’ve got plenty of photos at least. Perhaps I’ll get them printed properly in place of postcards.
I arrived at the port a little early for the ferry, but no problem – It’s not like the airport where once you’ve checked-in and gone through security you can’t go back out again. I simply abandoned the car in the queue for the ferry and wandered back in to town to get an ice cream.
While at the port I got chatting to some of the locals. One was a truck driver in the queue for a different ferry who saw my numberplate and wanted to practice his English, proudly announcing «I went to primary school in England for 11 months».
His ferry came in so he had work to do. Although he wasn’t travelling, he had to load up all the trailers which would be travelling unaccompanied (a different truck driver would pick them up at the other end).
In the queue behind me were 2 Albanians, both Greek-speaking, who now live and work in Greece and they were making their way back to the mainland.
It is only in Greece that people come up and talk to me just because of where my car is from. I imagine, because British cars don’t come this far in big numbers, they are interested to know what brings me here.
Out here, people stick their thumbs up at me on the motorway (Greeks as well as other British cars); I get a friendly wave from total strangers as I drive through towns. I had been worried that by arriving in an English car people would speak to me in English instead of Greek. Generally, this is not the case. Even when they see I’m in a GB-registered car they still speak to me in Greek.
When my ferry arrived it was time to board. It was a little busier than boarding at Rafina, where I got on about an hour or so before departure; Here, the ferry had just 10 minutes turnaround. Having been a foot passenger on these ferries on numerous occasions, I’ve always seen total chaos. In reality, from a car driver’s perspective, it seemed quite ordered – it just looks chaotic to the untrained eye.
First, the ferry comes in, passengers & cars get off. Then loading beings, first with trucks reversing on one at a time (unaccompanied trailers first before the ones where the truck is travelling too). Then the gates open and loads of foot passengers start to board. Once they have boarded they let the cars drive on. Cars drive on to these ferries forwards but have to do a 3-point turn while inside the ship’s garage so that at the destination port, you just drive off.
There can’t have been more about 5 or 6 cars boarding at Tinos (including me). Most were bound for Syros but one or two were going on to the next (final) stop in Piraeus. I’ll be travelling through Piraeus on Sunday and I am expecting that to be significantly busier than anywhere I’ve driven yet.
The crossing to Syros from Tinos is only a short one – 30 minutes. By the time I got out the car we were already half way out the port and they call drivers down to the garages a few minutes before arrival too. It’s a strange sensation driving a car through the garage while the ship is doing what looks like a handbrake turn at sea before reversing in to the port while at the same time a loud blast of the ship’s horn deafens everyone on deck (not like Dover/Calais where the boat won’t go until everyone is out the garage and the garages don’t open until you’re in port).
Perhaps a sign I’ve come to Greece too many times, but I can recite the pre-recorded tannoy announcement from memory now (in Greek as well as English):
«Σε λίγα λεπτά φτάμε στο λιμάνι της Σύρου. Οι επιβάτες με προορισμό της Σύρου παρακαλούνται να είναι έτοιμοι για την αποβίβαση, και οι οδηγοί οχημάτων να κατεβαίνουν έγκυρα στα γκαράζ. Βεβαιωθείτε ότι δεν αφήνετε τα προσωπικά σας αντικείμενα στις καμπίνες σας ή στης θέσεις σας. Σας Ευχαριστούμε. «
«In a few minutes we will arrive at the Port of Syros. Passengers whose final destination is Syros are kindly requested to be ready for disembarkation; Drivers should proceed to the garages. Please make sure that you have not left any of your personal belongings behind. Thank-you».
On arrival in Syros it was straight in to the traffic of Ερμούπολη / Ermoupoli; the capital of both the Cyclades group of islands, and of the wider the South Aegean region – it has the feel of a proper capital city (not just a sleepy main village on a Greek island). A university city, Ermoupoli is busy all year round; the University of the Aegean has its Engineering courses based here.
It was a short drive from Ermoupoli to the village where I’m staying: Γαλησσάς / Galissas – This is now my fourth visit to Syros, and the second staying in this particular accommodation – a small apartment above the village shop & café. I last stayed in this apartment during a similar short visit to Syros in the Summer of 2014, when I spent 6 weeks travelling solo around all 4 corners of Greece. The difference this time is that I have the car.
It was a very hot afternoon; Syros might only be a few miles across the water from Tinos but the weather always seems so different. Tinos had a light breeze (and in the Summer the Meltemi wind gets up) – Syros has none of this. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky as I lay at the beach this afternoon. I think temperatures at the moment are hovering just below 30. It has definitely warmed up in Greece since I was on Thassos.
Galissas is busier than Tinos was – It’s also the first time I’ve heard English spoken by native English speakers since Thassos (as opposed to English spoken by foreigners or Americans). I still managed to find a quiet spot at one end of the beach. The water at Galissas is noticably warmer than any other beach I’ve been to over the last week. It’s a bit like having a bath.
I had time to watch the Sunset also; something I didn’t do in Tinos – I was staying on the wrong side of the island for Sunsets and I had no intention of getting up early to watch the Sunrise instead!
For dinner – a few changes in Galissas since the last time I was here. The meze restaurant has closed. Or rather it has moved…. to Athens! In its place on Syros is a new grill restaurant specialising in gyros, souvlaki, etc. That’s where I ate today.
I also note that, in place of the ‘Garden’ taverna which was here in 2013 (and had closed by my visits in 2014 & 2015), is a new meze taverna with what looks like a pizzeria next to it. So a few new places to try out over the next few days.
Rochari isn’t somewhere I went last time we were on the island in 2015, but when I was searching the Internet last night for places to go to Rochari came up as one which I thought would be interesting.
It is quite a drive from where I’m staying – Slightly under 20 miles but on Tinos’ roads, which generally don’t allow me to go much above 50km/h (30mph) apart from in a couple of spots, it took almost an hour to get there and another hour to get back.
Being quite far out of town there weren’t a massive amount of people on the beach, those that were there had cars as the beach is not in a village/town. There is a small beach bar there but the beach is big enough that you can sit away from it and not be able to hear it.
The Sun was quite strong this morning so I picked a spot underneath a tree; on the radio this morning (I’ve got a radio station from neighbouring Andros in the car, and a radio station from Mykonos in the apartment) they were talking about temperatures getting up to 29 during the day, which is the warmest I’ve had since I’ve been in Greece. In Thassos last week it was 25 during the day. Night time temperatures have been around the 20-21 mark.
For lunch I stopped in Pyrgos / Πύργος, a small village which we stopped in briefly on a coach tour of Tinos 4 years ago. I just had a lunch light – a cheese & ham toastie – and a short walk around the village, before I got back in the car to return to the apartment for a late siesta.
Although it had clouded over by the afternoon, the Sun did reappear in time to spend another hour or so on the beach this evening, before I returned to the apartment before dinner.
I drove in to town again tonight, and ate in one of the tavernas in a narrow side street away from the sea front. I had Μοσχάρι Στάμνας (beef Stamna) – which is essentially beef in a clay pot in a tomato sauce with cheese on top. While I waited for my meal I was served bread from the local bakery with a home made tomato sauce to dip it in to.
An excellent meal for my final night in Tinos!
Tomorrow I’m travelling again but not far – I’m getting the ferry to Syros, just next door. It’s only a 30 minute ferry; It doesn’t leave until the afternoon (3pm which is 1pm UK time) so I might have a last morning at the beach on Tinos.
I had a very good breakfast provided at the apartment this morning – bread with home made jam, a cheese & ham toastie, chocolate croissants, chocolate cake, and some cheese pies. A massive feast!
Last time we were on Tinos 4 years ago we did a coach tour of the island, and I wanted to re-vist a couple of the places we went to; Today – going via Chora to get to the travel agent to pick up my ferry tickets for Thursday – I went to Kollimpithra Beach.
There are two beaches at Kolimpithra, I went to the one with the taverna at the top (more space to park there); It was a little busier than the beach where I am staying – Not heaving – maybe about 10-15 cars had arrived by lunchtime, making it the busiest beach I’ve been to yet. Still plenty of space for me to put the mat and my chair out.
I spent the early part of the afternoon at the beach and went back to the apartment; on the way back in to Chora I found the road which cuts across the back of town which saved having to go in through the centre and then out the other side. I’ll remember that tomorrow. The bus never went that way so I never knew it existed.
I had a late lunch and a short siesta at the apartment then went out to the local beach in Porto for a couple of hours this evening.
For dinner I had seen some activity in one of the nearby taverna so instead of driving in to town I ate locally. I had a chicken souvlaki for dinner.
As I finished a cat appeared and was very persistant in trying to jump on to my lap. I’d normally let it but didn’t think it should be encouraged in a taverna. I’m used to eating in Greek restaurants and tavernas with an audience of cats, but very rarely do they seem so keen to jump up and demand attention.
I’m going to try and explore some of the villages on the island tomorrow, I remember visiting Pyrgos last time we were here and thinking it would be a good place to stop for lunch – so I might have lunch out tomorrow.
I’m now on my second Greek island this holiday and for the next 6 days I’m in the Cyclades. I’ve got 3 nights on Τήνος/Tinos, followed by 3 nights on Σύρος/Syros.
I got up at dawn this morning, with a ferry to catch from Ραφήνα/Rafina I didn’t have time to hang around. There was no traffic the whole way to the port – surprising given that I was only a few minutes away from the suburbs of the Greek capital. At times it felt like I was driving on island roads!
When I got to Rafina getting on the ferry was not as difficult or as stressful as I had expected for a Greek port.
It is a little bit different to Dover though; In Dover you enter the port and go through the Passport Control lanes, then you check-in (different lanes for different ferry companies), before being given a lane number from which to board your boat.
In Rafina all traffic enters the port, at which point there are 4 or 5 ferries in front of you. You just identify your ferry, drive up to the back of the boat, hand over your tickets and drive on. They attach a sticker to the windscreen with your destination to assist the staff in the garage so that you are appropriately parked – Not blocking anyone getting off before you, and not blocked in by anyone getting off after you.
The above is no problem really, until you realise there are 2 identical boats from the same ferry operator in port, and I couldn’t remember which one I was meant to be on!
My ferry – Golden Star Ferries «Superferry» was one which you drive on forwards, a guide will get you to turn round in the garage and reverse you in to a space, so you can drive off forwards. In Rafina I got to the port early enough that this was a fairly simple process, with a whole hour and a half before departure it wasn’t the mad rush I thought it would be.
I am expecting it to be a bit mad when I get when I get the ferry to Σύρος/Syros in a few days and then when I get the ferry to Πειραιάς/Piraeus from Syros at the weekend; the ferries only stop for as long as is necessary to unload disembarking passengers and for new passengers to board – Maybe 15-20 minutes max?
The crossing itself wasn’t too bad. It took around 3 and a half hours to get to Tinos, with a quick stop in Γαύριο/Gavrio, one of the ports on Άνδρος/Andros, on the way for passengers to disembark and new passengers to board.
On the way out of Andros another encounter with Greek wildlife – I had snakes in the road on Thassos, and now the ship was being followed by a pod of dolphins, riding the waves behind the ship. They were too far away to get a photo unfortunately, but good to watch.
I believe after I left the ferry at Tinos it was continuing on to other Cyclades islands including Mykonos, and then going on to Crete.
Disembarkation in Tinos was simple, straight off the ferry, on to the main road in to Χώρα (Tinos Town, known locally as Chora which is the Greek word for ‘village’).
Chora was quite busy (busier than eg. Thassos Town) but once out of town I was surprised that a lot of Tinos is almost deserted at this time of year. There are people about, but not many. I am the only guest in my accomodation tonight!
In some ways this is not surprising. Tinos doesn’t feature in many British holiday brochures. It isn’t a terribly touristy island. Brits tend to head for Mykonos (I can see Mykonos town from my room). Greeks do come here for their holidays, but that is concentrated around a few weeks in late July/early August, and increasingly in some places in to early September too.
After I’d settled in to my room, I had a couple of hours on the beach – Last time we were here we got sand blasted because the Summer wind – the Meltemi – was up. Today, there was just a gentle breeze.
I drove in to Chora to get to a supermarket so I could top up my sipplies of bread and cheese so I could make myself some lunch – Even though it is low season parking is still a bit of a struggle in Chora; I had to drive along the front once or twice to find a suitable spot.
Lunch was followed by a short siesta (probably not necessary in May when the Sun isn’t so strong, but I did start early this morning). Then I had a couple more hours at the beach before I returned to my room to get ready to go out.
I drove in to Chora for dinner tonight; most of the nearby places are shut until the holiday season picks up. On the way I had to spend some money on the car – Coming off the ferry this morning I noticed my passenger side dipped headlamp was out. Given that I fitted both headlamps at the same time, it wouldn’t be long before the other one went. It had gone by lunchtime.
Lukily for me I found a mechanic on the way in to Chora this evening who had the right type of bulbs in stock and as it was starting to get dark, light fading fast, he fitted them for me on the spot. He checked my full beam lamps too – but they were working fine. The look of confusion on his face when he went to put the full beam on and activated the windscreen wipers instead was comical!
Clearly he was not used to cars with the steering wheel on the wrong side – we are on an island where the number of foreign cars altogether, let alone British cars, can be counted on one hand. (A big difference to Thassos where Bulgarian, Romanian, Serbian, North Macedonian and Turkish cars were fairly common).
I needn’t have worried about driving with no lights on – The local cops were themselves driving with bulbs at both ends of the car not working! But given that I’ve not driven at night in Greece before today, I thought better to be safe than sorry. I drive in the dark fairly frequently in France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany, but Greece is a different style of driving to Western Europe.
I continued in to Chora for my dinner, and settled for a pizza (not very Greek but it was easy) in one of the tavernas along the front then returned to the apartment for a drink on the balcony before going to bed.
I’m going to try and explore the island more tomorrow, perhaps get to a couple of the places we went to in 2015; I’ll also need to go in to Chora to pick up my tickets for the ferry to Syros.