Over the last months, I followed with great sadness what was happening to Greece. Ripped to pieces in the press, this beautiful country has had a tough time this year in Europe. For me however, Greece is what paradise on earth would look like – a beautiful country, with beautiful people and culture, and a culinary cuisine to die for. As Thucydides put it so nicely many many years ago – “We are lovers of the beautiful yet simple in our tastes, and we cultivate the mind without loss of manliness.” Hence I decided to take him up on that and pay Greece a long over-due visit.
Again, following my rule of thumb, we are staying away from a) tourism b) where everyone else goes to tick a box and c) party islands. Our choice this time is Syros, a small island just in front of Mykonos in the Cyclades, 75 nautical miles from Athens. Syros is a special place and the pulse of the Cyclades. Although the island is only 83.6 km² small, it has a rich history of industrial power in the 19th century and a waste historical background. No wonder Ermoupoli is the capital of the Cyclades and one of the most architecturally fascinating ports in the Mediterranean.
I have to admit, the Blue Star Ferries boat ride of 4 hours took it out of us after our flight arrived at 1am the same morning, but there is nothing more beautiful than watching the sun rise above Athens while you are slowly heading into the deep blue of the Aegean Sea.
Syros loses much of its tourism to Mykonos, which is only half an hour away by boat and 5x more expensive and over-run. You are after the Greek stereotype we all know so well of white-washed houses against blue sky and harbour promenades to flaunt your legs/money/boat? You can have all of that in Syros, on a much smaller and nicer scale and with a lot more local heart and love.
When walking through the streets of Ermoupoli, which has been build on a naturally amphitheatrical site, you can feel the pride of the locals over their little island with its Roman and Venetian architecture, and you hardly hear a foreign word. Tourism isn’t big here, Syros is a pit-stop for most before Mykonos and I am so grateful for that, as it leaves us here for a week to enjoy the beauty and calmness of this island all to ourselves (plus a few French tourists, who seem to have somehow got the same memo as us, but you can count them on one hand so no harm done!)
Where to Stay
We were umming and ahhing about where to stay – the south coast is known for its beautiful beaches, and Ermoupolis for its relaxed city feel. But we wanted small – REALLY small. And ended up in Finikas, a tiny fishing village on the western shore of the island. Sporting a tiny harbour with an even smaller promenade, it has everything you can wish for: tavernas overlooking the sea, 98% filled with locals, Finikas beach if you are after sand between your toes, small local bars just by the beach and a number of holiday studios scattered over the hills overlooking the bay.
Our residence of choice was Sea View Studios. Owned by the most adorable Greek couple Daizy and Mano, 5 white washed little studio apartments are tucked on the hills just above Finikas harbour, looking over to Posidonia. The name of the B&B says it all and I kid you not, they have not over-promised. Our balcony opens up to a 360 view of the Aegean Sea and over the very well maintained garden of the property. Blue is the colour of the day, for the next 8 days actually. And you don’t have to venture far if you want to escape the sweltering heat of the Island, the property has its very own private beach with the clearest water you can think of. Want a holiday off the grid? Here you are, no kids, no noise, no music, no annoying neighbours – just the sounds of the tide breaking on the cliffs and Daizy telling the gardener to sweep the leafs properly. Couldn’t get better than that – but it can! As for breakfast, courtesy of Daizy and Mano’s never ending fig tree, it’s pretty much an Eat-All-You-Can fruit buffet. I am already on my 2nd bowl on day 3.