Hi, Bye

It’s absurd to write, and it must seem silly to read, but we can’t quite wrap our heads around how quickly 10 weeks have passed.  Two and a half months should be long enough to make one feel as if it’s been a complete trip.  Not quite sure why we’re so surprised to find ourselves trying to figure out what to bring back.

On October 24, we celebrated the 10th anniversary of the day we moved in.  Again, it seems as if it could only have been half that long.  Time collapse aside, it’s been a wonderful decade of getting to know this place and these people. And like most decades, it was a mix of the memorable and the forgettable; the happy and the sad; forward steps, backward steps, sideways steps, and even a few dance steps.  But what keeps us yearning to come back even before we’ve left remains undisturbed and pulls at us just as urgently today as it did in 2007. Our family, our friends, the sea, the mountains on the other side, the sky like a dome over all, the dry crystalline air, local ingredients in season at even the simplest eateries, wines like magic, orange blossoms in the spring air, scent of dried thyme wafting up underfoot in the summer, spring wildflowers along the roads, seas of cobalt turquoise and cerulean, mountains marching to the horizon, islands floating on the sea like boats, boats floating as if on air, the chance to walk in the footsteps of Plato, Aristotle, Pericles and Paul, the stones and towers of Mani, the piercing light.  Those things and many more we will miss until next year when we once again catch our first glimpse of this very special place.

P1080859The port of Piraeus, August 30, 2017


P1080937It was a great time to be here.  The water was warm, the air temp was pleasant…

P1080879…the water was clear…

P1080914and the crowds were gone.


P1080893_editedWe took lots of walks in the pefkias.



P1090024It seemed to be a good year for pomegranates.


P1090052_editedThe wind can really get up in the Fall…

P1080903_editedbut it only makes the place more beautiful. 




Of course, we went to Mani.

P1090122Ag. Kyprianos at moonrise.


IMG_20170919_191200Antares hotel, in the traditional settlement of Omales, at sunset.


P1090094The mountaintop village of Profitis Ilias. From ancient times until the 1970’s, the quarries of this village provided the red marble for elaborate decoration in places such as St. Peter’s basilica and the palace at Versailles.  Some of that marble is visible in the church and the tower behind it.

P1090091The ruins of an oven in the same village.

P1090088A threshing circle in Profitis Ilias.


P1090100_ed_edited.jpgLooking down at the villages of Dimiristika (left) and Spira.


P1090058Abelos, near Ag. Kyprianos.  A beach, a church, three houses.


P1090069Abelos moonrise.


P1090113The village of Nifi, looking up at Ag. Dimitrios church.



P1090035Katronas.  Suffered a bad fire this summer.

IMG_20170922_133506Katronas.  The fire came down the mountain so quickly that the villagers had to be evacuated by sea.


P1080984_editedThe village of old Kardamyli.

P1080985_editedSame view but from a window of the just-restored war tower.

P1080993A very nice restoration.

P1080998St. Spiridon in old Kardamyli.  I’ve never caught it open.





P1090006_editedRuins of a monastery and its church (Panagia Vreti) at Limeni.  I’ve climbed into that church in years past, and there are still faint frescoes on the dome.  The complex is now surrounded by a fence. 


We visited several churches in Mani.

P1090107This church, Ag. Nicholaos, between Lagia and Dimiristika, is said to be the oldest church in Mani.  10th c.  The Maniates were late converts.

P1080956This one, in Ochia, consisted of two separate churches,  Ag. Petros and Panagitsa, presumably built at different times.  

P1080952_editedInside the smaller, older of the two churches. The frescoes awed and humbled us.

P1080955_editedThe larger church. The columns and cut stones were obviously mined from an ancient or Byzantine structure, possibly at Tigani.

P1080973These walls look like terraces but they’re the remains of an ancient city, Kenipolis. We were there looking for the ruins of a church.

P1080974_editedI don’t think this is the church we were looking for but we were happy to find it.

P1080977_editedThe exterior of the church at Kenipolis.  It was a scramble getting inside.


P1080980_editedClouds collecting in the mountains near Areopolis.

IMG_20171007_183959Back to Sykia.  The beach stones will be scrubbed and tumbled until next Spring when folks begin to venture out on them again but the skies will not be lovelier than they were this Fall.  












Αντίο, Sikya!

Our bags are (almost) packed and we’re counting down the last few hours of our season in Sikya.  Since we returned from Italy on August 22, the weather has been spectacular, beginning with lows in the low 70s and highs in the high 80s.  Now we’re at lows in the mid 60s and highs in the mid 70s.  We’ve enjoyed every minute of it, including early morning walks when it was warmer, and sunset walks the last couple of weeks.  Of course, I take the camera when we walk, and a few of the photos begin the capture the beauty of this place.  They are mostly photos of the mountains across the Gulf from us, Mt. Gerania and Mt. Ellikon, but I never tire of them, and I hope you enjoy these images of a few of their infinite aspects.

Kαλό χειμώνα, Sikya!  Have a good winter. See you next year.


















Yesterday afternoon, for the first time since the end of June, we were treated to full cloud cover.  There was even an interval of rolling thunder but the rain failed except for a few pathetic drops.  This accompanies ever-so-slightly easing temps — we had lows in the high 70s twice this week, and on two afternoons the mercury stopped just short of 90. It’s cloudy again today, with a less-than-even chance of rain but the wind, which came up yesterday, has stalled once more.

Still, the edge is off of the searing heat we were experiencing when I wrote the last post, and we’re breathing sighs of relief.

Holiday-making continues at not-quite full intensity as well. A couple of folks have returned to work but 6 of the 8 units in this building are still full, as well as the rental unit in the next building, and last night was the loudest we’ve experienced this summer.  Apparently a couple of the girls in the complex have discovered they can scream, and they find it hilarious to shriek at the tops of their lungs at any opportunity. Things quieted down about 11 (as opposed to midnight or later a couple of weeks ago) but it was a long 3 or 4 hours.

The considerable mass of this building has stored enough heat that it remains a constant 84 degrees in the apartment.  That felt stifling when it was near 100 outside but being able to move to cooler temps outdoors makes all the difference.

It’s downhill and shady from here, and the tension that results from being constantly stressed is abating.  We’re looking forward to the next month.

Around and About in Sikya

This is just a photo post — I’ll try to keep the verbiage to a minimum.


I don’t see many sunrises but the night before I shot this the wind was blowing so hard it kept waking me. When I rolled up the front shutters in the morning and saw the sea and sky, I grabbed the camera and hustled down to the beach.



A couple of weeks ago, I had the chance to do a photo hike through the Pefkias (pine forest).  Unfortunately, there was a very thick haze over the water, so conditions were pretty tough for photography.  I was lucky that an almost full moon was rising over the Gulf.



I wrapped it up taking photos of the Aleppo pines along the beach.




This is one of the traditional houses of Sikya.  The small, second-floor balcony, the red roof tiles, wooden shutters, and on-the-road siting are very typical of this area.



The main trail through the Pefkias (forgive me if I’ve posted something like this previously):



The little church in the Pefkias. A popular site for weddings.



Trees along the shore in the Pefkias:



The seaside walk in Xylokastro:



Finally, a couple of photos of a wild weather day.  Despite the threatening appearance, I don’t think we got a single drop of rain from that system.




I hope you enjoy these.  The weather continues to be wonderful.  Highs between 68 and 75 most days, and lows are usually about 62.  Twice we’ve had a few drops of rain — not enough to wet the pavement, just enough to make a mess of the windshield.  We’ve had some high winds, though.  The roaring woke us again one night this week.  The snow is virtually gone from the face of Mt. Parnassos that I see from here — the south face.  It seems early for the mountains to be snowfree, and I worry about drought and fire this summer.

State of the vines


One of the great pleasures of our time in Greece is watching Spring arrive, and nowhere is that more evident than in the vineyards.  Taken today, this photo of a vine in lowland Nemea shows the growth stage we’re used to seeing when we arrive; carefully pruned back, dormant, and ready for the return of Spring.  In just a few weeks, vines here and all over Korinthia will be showing long green shoots and, just a few weeks after that, leaves over the entire vine.  While we focus on wine, Korinthia is also famous in Greece for its table grapes and raisins.  The region is checked with vineyards, producing fruit we enjoy, in one form or another, year round.

Our trip today took us to the Skouras Estate, a fine winery in a beautiful setting.  Just as a level-set, climate-wise, here’s a shot of a lovely magnolia in front of the winery.  Back in wilds of Maryland, our magnolia won’t show like this for another 6 weeks.



Snow on the mountains and oranges on the trees


Ah, winter in southern Greece. In addition to the half-dozen wind surfers in wet suits at the nearby Beach Connection bar (alas, closed for the season), we saw a couple of ladies out for a swim today here on the Sikya beach as well. “Winter Swimmers” are a thing here, and while New Englanders might think the conditions perfectly reasonable for swimming — air and water both about 60 degrees– it’s a bit chilly for the two of us.  Nearly perfect for everything else, though.  And, after that miserable February in DC, our delight borders on ecstasy.


Every year, I’m amazed again by the crazy hyper-abundance of oranges and lemons in Korinthia this time of year.  The trees are groaning with fruit, and everyone seems to have several, so these sidewalk trees in Xylokastro go unpicked.  An overloaded truck (or two) invariably spills a few bushels negotiating a sharp turn here in Sikya, and as a result each year I’m treated again to the heretofore un-thought-of experience of driving over lemons.  It’s hard to resist the temptation to stop the car and shovel a few dozen into the back seat.

The wind was fresh and from the west today when we walked the Pefkias (pine forest), and our jackets felt good on the way out to Xylokastro.  Turning for home was a different story, though, and we soon peeled off the jackets and rolled up our sleeves for the hike back.  Winter here is winter as it should be — restricted to the ski slopes.


A New Record


We established a new record for laundry today — 5 loads, all line-dried at the back of our apartment.* The previous record was 3 loads but dire need caused us to up our game on this occasion. Five loads is way too many, by the way; I don’t think we’ve ever done that many with a dryer at our disposal. But it was a perfect clothes-drying day here in Sikia — warm air, low humidity, light breeze, strong sun.

Those of you who know the apartment will marvel that we found so much stuff to wash. The truth is we’ve done a load on each of the three previous days as well. All the clothes I keep here could be washed in 2 loads, so you’ll have to look elsewhere for an explanation as to the other 6 loads.

We’ll consider the matter this evening as we celebrate our feat with a bottle of wine, of course.**

* Alright, alright, the last load isn’t quite dry as I write this but it will be, by God, it will be.

** The same way we would have consoled ourselves if we’d gone down in ignominious defeat.

Santorini Sunset


I can’t leave the subject of Santorini without mentioning the sunset.  People come from all over the globe to see it, couples spend a fortune to be married with a Santorini sunset backdrop, tourists stand shoulder-to-shoulder in Oia to view it from that picturesque point, and, at every good sunset of the summer, multitudes come from all parts of the island, virtually lining every open space on Santorini’s cliff-edge to see (and photograph) the glorious, ever-altering spectrum washed across the seascape.  It must be one of the most photographed sunsets on the globe.  I’ve certainly never experienced anything like it.  Here are a few of my photos — I wish they were better.


IMG_3235That’s the southern-most point of Therasia out there, with Nea Kameni, the active part of the volcano, in the middle of the caldera.

Santorini: The Wine

IMG_5308A tasting at the Sigalas winery

Since it was the wine of Santorini that caused us to revisit the island, it seems only right that we give it its own blog post. Santorini wine is remarkable because the vines are cultivated in conditions that more or less preclude the growth of vegetative matter of any sort.  The vineyards are hills and slopes of volcanic pumice.  Any rain that might fall would drain through this stuff in about a second.  In any event, though, it doesn’t rain. One winery rep this summer told us that the last rain had been in May and the next one would be in November.  And, on top on the annual summer drought, there’s the matter of the sun.  It’s a merciless, desiccating, searing physical force that feels  like a giant broiler overhead.

One might add wind to this recipe for desertification but in the case of Santorini’s vineyards, light and moderate winds are a blessing because they carry moisture from the sea up the slopes to the vines.  And Santorini’s winemakers long ago developed a unique method of capturing that moisture.  Unlike vineyards elsewhere that grow grape vines supported on trellises, here the vines are trained in a circle, one branch on top of another, until a “basket” of living vine is created.  The grapes grow inside this basket, providing protection from strong winds, and the leaves overhead shade the grapes and help collect moisture.

IMG_5257A vineyard near the Argyros winery.  Not sure if it belongs to Argyros.

IMG_5258A single vine, about a month before harvest in mid-August.  A few grape clusters are visible on the left.

IMG_5267Here, you can see a few rows of the vine forming the base of the “basket.”

And, as it turns out, the arid climate and the soilless vineyards also provide some benefits to the vines.  First, the phylloxera virus that ravaged european vineyards and required they all be replanted with vines grafted to American rootstock never affected Santorini’s vines because the virus cannot survive in the pumice fields.  As a result, some of the vines on this island are thought to be 500 years old — the oldest in the world. Second, the grapes can be left laying on the ground without worry about rot or mildew.

IMG_4890A wine-aging cave dug into the pumice at the Art Space winery.

The king grape of Santorini is called Assyrtiko, and in the island’s volcanic soil it produces a white wine of stunning power and elegance.  Sharp minerality, citrus, and nose of the island’s wild herbs  make it not only ideal for sipping on warm evenings but also a marvelous partner to lamb and grilled seafood.  Other parts of Greece produce some assyrtiko but the examples from Santorini are singular and sensational.   Even more intriguing, these wines can be aged 5 years and more, although I’ve never been able to leave a bottle unopened for more than 2 years.

IMG_5212The tasting room at the Gaia winery.  Spectacular wine, too.