The bustle of the port is exhilarating: deliver’s horns booming, sailors shouting, swarms of taxis on the quaysides. If a shot of adrenaline is needed before any island-hopping journey, Piraeus affords. I park myself in a kafeneio for an hour and drink in – with some bitter Greek espresso – the sheer pleasure of travel in a place where millions of odysseys have began.
When it comes to Greek island hopping, I clearly notion I’d ignored the boat. “You must’ve seen it 30 years ago: it’s no longer the identical now,” humans have been telling me, at the side of testimonies of ferry chaos, rip-off charges and the blight of mass tourism. But now I’m in Piraeus, 10km south-west of significant Athens, and it feels proper. I’m going to what I hope are out-of-the-way islands – Ikaria, Kalymnos, Amorgos, Folegandros, Milos and Sifnos – every with a completely unique man or woman. A splendid loop of seafaring will, over the next few weeks, take me throughout the Aegean Sea and returned here.
But first I actually have a night time inside the port. I wander up to my lodge, The Alex, and discover that it has opened that very day. I am its first-ever visitor. Konstantinos, the excited owner, is bent on proving that Piraeus is a worth stopover and takes me on a whirlwind excursion. Through him I see the magic of the region and the unbroken seafaring traditions that still pull the strings. We end at sunset in his rooftop eating place, with a lovely view throughout the port and all of the manner to the Parthenon, lit up on its distant hill.
Next morning I am at gate at the quayside, in which boarding is quick, efficient and by no means chaotic. Most people on the boat are going to Mykonos, but I am staying directly to a lesser-regarded island: Ikaria, which has a reputation for its inhabitants living to fabulous antique age. It became also, I study at the ferry deck, an area of exile for sixteen,000 communists after the second international warfare. Maybe I can weave those themes together? As I tuck into a spinach and cheese pie, this foreknowledge offers me a sense of alleviation: the primary chapter of my own odyssey is already shaping up.
Seven hours later I am sitting in a restaurant in considered one of Ikaria’s ports. Evdilos is a well painted village on a steep mountain slope included in very well and plumes of purple oleanders. My guide is Urania, nearby artist and tour agent, who walks me up through the village’s shady lanes after which returned to a restaurant through the ocean.
“Ask me something,” she says, ordering iced coffees and neighborhood cakes, “except – please – not anything approximately longevity.” It transpires that a couple of newspaper articles on the Ikarian age phenomenon induced a deadly deluge of outsiders, all pestering anybody with 1/2 a wrinkle to cough up the name of the game of lengthy existence.
“At first we were all very polite,” Urania says. “I even arranged for one American channel to film a ninety seven-12 months-antique having breakfast, but when he rolled a cigarette, the director went crazy, shouting that it became all incorrect. Now the antique humans refuse to tell their age.”
“I’m no longer inquisitive about sturdiness,” I guarantee her, inwardly cursing.
“Good,” she says, slicing up the desserts for us to share. “The other concern to avoid is the communist stuff, but that wouldn’t hobby you, would it?”
“Not in any respect.”
“We devour lots of vegetables,” he tells me. “Soufiko is definitely just a mixture of what you have got inside the garden.” Nikos provides twists to such simple traditions, making beautifully tasty dishes. His lengthy-time period ambition, but, belies this sophistication: he plans to retire to a smallholding up at the mountain. “I’ll keep chickens, grow vegetables and make cheese.”
Next day Urania and I pressure up into the hills, and into the bushes. Ikaria is a green island, and for hundreds of years maximum of the populace lived far from the coast. The vintage stone homes, some nevertheless inhabited, all face faraway from the ocean, a relic of the time whilst pirates would roam the Aegean, looking for settlements to raid. In Christos Raches, the population went one step further, operating their fields by night time to avoid piratical attention. It nevertheless keeps some of that nocturnal habit: its beautiful shady square is surrounded by tavernas, and at its liveliest after midnight. All round are o.K.Forests and deep gorges dotted with waterfalls.
On a nearby hillside, local pharmacist Nikos Afianes is developing a winery and winery that still harks again to Ikaria’s beyond. “When I started out, human beings informed me that the soil became acidic, completely improper for vines,” he says, “but I knew that in historical times the island was well-known for its wine.”