Sadly we had to leave on Monday 20th July, which marks Tim being over on his visa for 2 months, so the pressure is on to get to Turkey. The weather looked really mild and we set sail for our next island destination Amorgos. We waved goodbye to the nice german couple and their dog Emma and sailed away from this beautiful bay way too soon as far as we all where concerned. It was a 4.5 hour trip and we had to motor a part of it, because it was so calm we weren’t actually moving.
This Monday was also marking the end of the kids school holidays, which luckily just started when we left Athens, so they could fully enjoy our first 2 weeks of sailing and exploring. So now we have to find a schooling rhythm for the first time with all the sailing action happening at the same time.
We tied up to the port quay in Katapola in Amorgos right by the little shops and taverna’s on our “back door”. The wind was blowing still and we were glad to be anchored safely and tied up. It feels quite special to be able to just pop into a little town with your boat. For us its extra convenient, because we don’t need to get the dinghy ready each time to take Lucy to the toilet and the kids can roam more freely.
They both went straight off excitedly – Luca to find free wifi, as usual and Nina to check out the neighborhood and the little shops. She made friends straight away with a woman in a little book/arts shop that reminded us of our favorite shop in Hastings, New Zealand, called Humanity books. Luca found a sketchbook there that we had been looking for online and in all stationary shops we were coming by. He doesn’t like the spiral bound ones and this lady had the ones he longed for.
We bought a fresh bread from the bakery just across the road and I made us a lunch platter to snack on. It feels so indulgent to eat good food on our floating little home, so close to this beautiful little town and watch life and people go by. I could do this for weeks.
We all felt right away at home and happy here.Tim as usual made friends with the neighbors and met a young couple on a 30 foot old wooden sailboat. While I had a shower a big catamaran tried to squish in between the monohulls and pushed and prodded us all dangerously to get into a space way to too small. The italian boat next to us made no secret of their disliking of the parking manouvre and the catamaran soon gave up and moved on elsewhere. The boats that had been prodded around had a “debrief”. Katarina is a German and her husband Italian – they just got married and where on their honeymoon. They where such nice people Tim invited them over for breakfast the next morning.
As I already learned from our friend Dots blog Amorgos means “Love” and Amorgos certainly felt lovely. Having the blogs from Dot and Jonathan, feels like having our own tour guides as they explored the same places just a few weeks prior on their way to Turkey. As they are much more experienced sailors than we we are, we basically follow in their footsteps. They recommended we get a rental car and explore the island and so we did.
Our day started with crepes with our neighbors and then we picked up our rental car and made our way to the most incredible monastery built right on a steep cliff 300 meters above sea level. I still don’t understand why anyone would decide to built anything in this place. The monastery is called the monastery of Panagia Hozoviotissa. Its regarded as one of the finest and most impressive monasteries in Christendom. It was constructed originally in the 9th century (812-813 AD) by the locals and refurbished in the late 11th century (1088 AD) by the Byzantine Emperor Alexius 1 Comnenus. The monastery was constructed to hold the icon of Panagia, which monks rescued from the Palestine region after a plundering.
The monastery is only 5 meters wide at most, 40 meters long and in places 8 stories high. You can’t see it from the road and have to climb up a path of many stairs to get to it. There was a good stream of visitors, but not crowded, which was again lucky, as covid still prevents the usual tourism numbers. Around the monastery on the cliffs was even a little chicken coop and a tiny garden with a few trees and some roaming cats. The monastery has quarters for 15 monks, but there are only 3 resident monks now.
I had prepared the family to be all covered up with long legs and sleeves and we all got changed before we walked up to the monastery, but on arrival it said on the sign that woman can’t wear pants and both Nina and I had pants on. So we adorned ourselves with scarves that where provided by the monks and where allowed to go up the stairs to the little church area. There was enough space for 3 monks, but I can’t imagine how they would have fitted all in there if there where 15 of them. The room was tiny with a few wooden seats, a little book cabinet and some pictures and the candle lighting place. Once further set of stairs up was the place where the icon of Panagia was kept. It was surrounded by offerings that people left there and more holy images, books and a few wooden seats. From this room a terrace gave us a good view to the ocean and cliffs outside.
On our way down we where led into a kind of a living room, where we were asked to sit and where served a cold glass of water and glass of the spirit the monks brew. It was so yummy and is made with honey and spices. Tim and I think it must be cloves. Its called Raki. Because the room was so small and there was a steady stream of sweaty, new arrivals we soon moved on to make space for others. The monks quarters and the rest of the monastery can only be viewed and visited by the Pilgrims. The most amazing thing is that the whole visit was entirely free and the monks where very welcoming and kind to serve every visitor a refreshment.
The monastery looked so white against the cliffs and the first thing Tim and I said is imagine to have the job to whitewash 8 stories of this building right on this steep cliff! Apparently there are regular rockfalls and the monastery is still as pristine as one could imagine. Tim disappeared most of the time, handling all his different cameras – this scenery is certainly a photographers dream.
Nina and I walked the steps down slowly looking out for beautiful crystals, that seem to fall from the rocks. We found a few beautiful stones. There was a little shop at the entrance where the parking space was and we decided to purchase a bottle of the raki that the monks are brewing.
We had a look at a nearby picturesque beach and then drove on to find an ancient tower, which was unfortunately closed. By then I was low on blood sugar and really needed some food, so we stopped at a little taverna to have a small lunch. We where the only visitors there and the food was simple but oh so delicious. We had a greek salad and some homemade spinach pies with fresh bread and olive oil. After that we went back to the boat to give Lucy a walk and some hugs and then we set back off to see the chora of Amorgos, which was a 10 minute drive from where our boat was. I think this was my favorite chora so far.
The layout, the charm, the little centre of town with the trees and cafes and tables and then the small paths lined with more plants, shops, cafes. The atmosphere is so special – it just feels right home and opens my heart. I could be there forever. The buildings are so charming and the feel of the town so welcoming. We had a look in some of the many shops and had a little tasting of the offerings of the Amorgion distillery. Their famous Rakomelo and Psimeni are well known through Greece and Europe. But I liked the cactus schnapps best. Their recipes are all patented, so no one else can brew them and they have now built their own distillery and winery on Amorgos. We didn’t buy any of their yummy liquors though, as we had already bought the monks brew.
The kids wanted to try the Loukoumi, though, which is like Turkish Delight. Funnily enough on this package its called “Greek Delight”. I had never heard that before and it made us smile. It seems like the Greeks and Turks don’t really like each other very much, so I guess they claim each others delicacies and specialties. I little bit like whetever the Pavlova came from New Zealand or Australia perhaps.
After that we drove to the other end of the island. The hills felt really high and looked bare and rocky. I just can’t get over the view when the next beautiful white village comes in sight. The beach we went to was clearly laid out for tourism with lots of pensions, small hotels, cafe’s and restaurants with fancy lounge chairs right by the beach etc. There was good wave action going on with the wind, so the kids had a blast, while Tim and I watched and then made our way back to the boat for dinner. On the drive we had the most stunning views down to the ocean and to to nearby islands just as the sun went down.
The next morning we still had the car until 11 am, so we got up early and went up to the Chora again, because we loved it so much and I really wanted to sit in one of the beautiful cafe’s and take the feeling in a bit more of being there. Luca preferred to stay on the boat and enjoy the free wify, so Tim, Nina and I set off for a coffee and yummy bread with marmalade at the most romantic cafe anyone could wish for. A cat dreaming on the chair, hibiscus, herbs and flowers in pots, outdoor chairs, the pretty white houses and pleasant music. Unfortunately everything is quite costly, so even having a coffee out is a special treat for us and always leaves me feeling slightly guilty.
After our special day being “normal” tourists for a change I started to tackle our schooling projects with both kids, while we where still here stationary waiting the wind out. Tim worked on creating some more videos for our youtube channel, so the next 2 days where “work days”. I stocked up on some fresh and missing groceries, but the prices are so high on these little islands that I keep everything to a minimum and am glad that we stocked up on the basics in Athens for several weeks.I contacted an agent in Turkey that was recommended to us, to ask about the procedures coming into Turkey to get the ball rolling. Tomorrow we will set sail for Levitha, a small island bringing us a little closer to Turkey.