Travel: My Rough Guide - Marc Dubin: I stupidly listened to what the port police told me
Sunday 24 May 1998
The bare, one-village islet of Anafi, rising almost pyramidally from the south Aegean, would not immediately strike one as a happy hunting ground for beaches. So it came as a pleasant surprise to find not one or two but nearly a half-dozen sheltered, sandy ones on the protected south shore, all linked by a delightful trail system (though the islanders constantly agitate for a road). The furthest is only two hours from the Hora or hill village, and even in August you need only keep walking until you shed crowds at the first two. Take food and water - only the first (Klissidhi) and the second (Roukounas) have any sort of taverna.
The modern, C-class Alkyon, on a quieter part of the waterfront at Limenas, Thassos, might not immediately strike you as a find, but the welcoming Anglo-Greek family running it make a home from home for independent British travellers. Persephone does full breakfasts and English teas on request. The C-class Afendoulis in Kos Town is similarly recent and slightly off the beaten track, and again the managing Zikas family makes the place, with Dionysia doing breakfasts to order, and Alexis acting as a one-man tour-leader and taverna-safari-organiser, so that lone travellers are never at a loss. If you prefer to be left to your own devices, but in style, look no further than the several restored, 19th-century houses of Elysian Holidays at the very top of Volissos, Hios.
Despite its touristed status, Kos has a number of excellent tavernas; one of the better ones, in the inland village of Zia, is Olympiada - because, almost uniquely of the dozen or so here, it has no sunset view, the cooking has to be better - and so it is, with lots of stews and good wines. Syros attracts a more sophisticated crowd, with restaurants to match; one of the longest-running, tucked away up in Vrondadho and catering as much to locals as tourists, is Iy Folia, with such delicacies as pigeon and rabbit. And amidst the fleshpots of Ydhra is a startling find: an old-fashioned mayerio or traditional casserole taverna, Toh Yeitoniko, better known as Manolis and Christina's (Oikonomou) after the extremely welcoming proprietors.
After years away from the sport, I came to Rhodes with my scuba certification, prepared to sample local delights. Unlike in the Ionian islands, the archaeologists' lobby here is far more powerful than the tourism/recreation faction. Result: precisely one legal area for beginners - Thermes Kallitheas - and very little scope for more advanced dives. The day out was billed as a two- dive one, but after the highlight of a single rock tunnel, we'd pretty much exhausted the potential of the bay.
Believing the notoriously slack Santorini port police about the whereabouts of a critical ferry link - the Syros-based Paros Express - between there and Sikinos. Telephoned from Anafi on the morning of its supposed appearance, I was assured by these supposedly impartial sages that there was no connection that day, and elected to stay an extra day on Anafi, and miss the mail caique to Thira. Arising at dawn the next day to catch another main-line ferry I was not put in a good humour to discover that the Paros Express had in fact sailed from Thira to Sikinos, an hour after the mail caique would have deposited me on the dock at Athinios port. Desperate, I took a ferry to Ios, my least favourite island, to catch the supposedly reliable shuttle to Sikinos - no dice: too early in the year. After a rip-off lunch, and an unsuccessful attempt to persuade some fishermen to take me Sikinos (illegal, and they wanted equivalent of pounds 60), it was back to Thira, then, to catch the next-day boat to Folegandhros, having wasted a day on boats of various descriptions and missed out on an island I'd wanted to revisit after 10 years.
Elysian Holidays UK (01850 766599), Sunvil (0181 568 4499), Direct Greece (0181 785 4000), Greek Sun (01732 740317), Simply Ionian/Simply Crete (0181 995 9323) and Laskarina Holidays (01629 822203) offer high-quality packages. Argo Holidays (0171 331 7070) is the main bucket shop for flag carrier Olympic Airways.
Accommodation and food
Hotels Listed: Hotel Alkyon, Limenas, Thassos (0593 22 148) Hotel Afendoulis, Evripilou 1, Kos Town (0242 25 321) Elysian Holidays Hios, Volissos (0274 21 128)
Toh Yeitoniko: better known as Manolis and Christina's (Oikonomou) after the extremely welcoming proprietors.
Ydra: inland on Spilou Harmi Street Open year round, roof-terrace in summer. Inexpensive.
Iy Folia: Athanasiou Dhiakou 1, Vrondadho, Syros. Open all year. Moderate.
Olympiada: Zia village, Kos. Open all year, though possibly weekends only in winter. Inexpensive.
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