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Article on Skyros 2011

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    Posted: 29 Jul 2011 at 23:28

Also see http://www.ekathimerini.com/4dcgi/_w_articles_wsite8_4269_29/07/2011_400410

Skyros: Keeping tradition alive

 Retaining its authenticity, this Sporades island is perfect for a taste of days gone by
 

By Haris Argyropoulos

The southernmost and largest of the Sporades group of islands in the western Aegean, Skyros boasts a long history, a strong folk tradition and art, hospitable people and an infinitely jagged coastline with hidden coves and sandy beaches but also windswept places ideal for surfing. It is known for the Equus caballus skyriano breed of horses, its unique style of ornately carved furniture and its Carnival celebrations, with roots in antiquity, which draw large numbers of visitors.

Around the year, it is not rare to see men dressed in the traditional pantaloons going about their daily business, also wearing “trohadia,” handmade shoes of which the leather soles have in recent decades been replaced by car-tire rubber. Another plus is that the island, somewhat isolated geographically, is not among the most touristically developed and the greater part of it is completely unspoiled. Hora, the head village, located 10 kilometers from Linaria port, is built in a semi-circle around a rock with a Byzantine castle, itself built on the ruins of an ancient acropolis, and the AD 963 monastery of Aghios Georgios on top. Ascending through the alleyways with the Cycladic-style square white houses, where cars are out of bounds, one discovers lush gardens with mauve bougainvilleas, vines and herbs, verandas with ornate woodwork and patios with pebbled mosaics as well as little shops tucked in between the houses. The view from the top is stunning, giving the sensation that you are suspended above the village and the sea. Unfortunately, the castle and monastery are closed due to damage from a recent earthquake. A small terrace with benches just below, however, is ideal for watching the sunrise or catching your breath.

The descent leads to an area known as Brooke, a plateau with a superb view of the villages of Magazia and Molos at the foot of Hora, where the bronze statue of Eternal Poetry stands, dedicated to British poet Rupert Brooke. Brooke was buried on Skyros according to his wishes, after falling in the Gallipoli Campaign in 1915.

Skyros is really two islands in one, connected by a narrow neck in the middle. Since the southern part has a barren Cycladic landscape, it is the northern, lush part where the life of the island is concentrated.

Heading northeast from Hora one reaches Katounes, an area named after the plentiful stone pens/shelters for the goats and sheep that abound on the island. The road soon affords a view of a green valley and then a turn before the airport leads to Palamari, one of the Aegean’s most important fortified prehistoric settlements -- today standing in absolute tranquillity and with a view of the blue sea stretching as far as the eye can see.

The northwestern part is covered&?nbsp; right down to the sea with thick pine forest, partly burned in last year’s fire. Kyra Panaghia is a great, pine-clad beach popular with free campers. Just south of there is Atsitsa, a small settlement in a scenic cove dominated by an old mansion that now houses a meditation and yoga holiday center. A walk back to Hora through the pine forest via Aghios Dimitrios takes about two hours and is recommended.

In the southern half of Skyros, it is worth visiting Treis Boukes -- a large natural harbor sheltered by two islets. It is here that Brooke has been laid to rest. It is also worth exploring Ari, a small lush plateau with a tiny lake in the midst of the barren landscape, where groups of the local breed of horses roam free.

Getting there & basic info

Local phone code: 22220. Olympic Airlines (www.olympicairlines.com, tel 210.966.6666) flies from Athens (three times weekly) and Thessaloniki but availability is limited. Going by ferry from Kymi (Port Authority: 22220.22020) on the island of Evia makes the entire journey from Athens about four hours (www.sne.gr). Local buses operate the main routes and travel agencies offer excursions (Skyros Travel & Tourism, tel 91600, www.skyrostravel.com). Local outlets rent bikes, boats and cars. Police: 91275, health center: 92222.

Where to stay

Nefeli, with jacuzzis, in Hora (91964, www.skyros-nefeli.gr); Ydroussa in Magazia (91209, www.hydroussahotel.gr) and Hotel Vina in Pouria (93111) with sea views. In Aspous: Ktima Lionas (92870, www.ktimalionas.gr) and Dioni, 17 apartments, among the best options (92199, www.dioni-skyros.gr). In Linaria: King Likomides, rented rooms with port views (93249); in Molos, Anemonisia, equipped apartments (91935, www.anemonisia.com);
Lithari, fully equipped maisonettes accommodating 4-6 guests (93177).

Where/what to eat

Specialties: baked fava (yellow split-pea puree), goat’s meat, cheeses and lobster spaghetti. In Hora: Anatolikos Anemos (92822), in Brooke, a discreet and romantic must, excellent views; O Pappous Ki Ego (also in Kalikri, 92200), excellent fare. In Pouria: Anemomylos (93373), impressive setting in a restored windmill by the beach. In Aghios Fokas, go to Kyra Kalis taverna (92020) -- all homemade, 60s and 70s setting. In Aspous: Lambros (91388); Mavrikos in Aghios Petros and Stefanos in Magazia.

What to see

The excellent Faltaits Museum of folk history and art (91232, www.faltaits.gr); the Archaeological Museum (91327); the traditional ceramic workshops in Magazia; the wood-carving exhibition of Stamatis Andreou (91252); the Katsarelia-Simpson farm of Skyrian horses; the otherworldly setting of Pouria -- an ancient limestone quarry by the sea, the tiny chapel carved out of the rock, the church on the islet and the so-called “stone mushroom,” a Skyros trademark. Skyros Diving Center (92314).

Beaches

Gialos has the only organized beach and includes water sport facilities. Before Magazia, in the shadow of the huge rock of the castle, a steep descent will bring you to a nudist-friendly beach, Tou Papa to Houma. South of Atsitsa are two fine beaches, Aghios Fokas and Pefkos -- a good anchorage with magnificent views from atop. These are best for those with a car. Aherounes, Aspous and Kalamitsa are preferred by families. The sandy beach of Glyfada at Sarakiniko is a must. Agalipa is ideal for those who enjoy a good walk.

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