Oct 23 2007
Hello from the island of Naxos, our final Greek island destination! We’ve actually been here since Friday, but it turns out that getting reliable internet access is difficult on this island. It seems like we just got to Naxos, but we will be hopping our next ferry tomorrow morning (Wednesday) for our return trip to Athens. But that’s for later… there is much to say about Naxos!
Naxos is the largest of the Cycladic islands, and like all the rest, it is basically a giant mountain rising up out of the sea. We have been staying in the main town (chora), known simply as Naxos Town. There’s no longer any doubt that we’re in the low tourist season. Many restaurants and shops are now closed for the winter, and the rest seem to only open after 6pm.
We’re also finally starting to get hit by wind and rain, after almost two months of not seeing a drop. The upside is that, for the first time, we’re able to walk along a Greek island waterfront without being harassed by restaurant greeters! Unless you count the mysterious old man at the port yesterday, who called to us from the distance: “Hello, my friends, yes!” But I don’t think you do.
Upon arriving by ferry in Naxos Town, the first thing you see is the island’s most famous monument: the Temple of Apollo. All that stands today is its doorway – a giant arch known locally as the Portara. According to Greek mythology, this is the spot where Theseus abandoned Ariadne, and I suppose this is why every third hotel you come across in Naxos Town is creatively called “The Ariadne.” The Temple may be little more than a door today, but it’s a really big door!
Sunday afternoon, we decided to explore an Old Venetian castle in town. While clambering around its inner walls, we saw a sign advertising “traditional Greek night” at a local museum. It promised live Greek music and dancing, a proposition that quickly sold Brittany. So, we put on some of our “nice clothes” and hit the town in style (“nice clothes” = shirt that’s been worn the least number of times since the last time I did laundry + Febreeze).
I’m happy to report on two pieces of good news:
1. I was not denied entry to the museum based on my concept of nice clothes.
2. Traditional Greek night did not disappoint!
The small band consisted of a lute, a fiddle (we don’t have violins in Virginia), a drum, and an instrument that’s a lot like a bagpipe, but made out of an inside-out goat. We listened to songs about sailing, fishing, and love that go back in the island’s history as far as 4000 years. Of course, it’s difficult to fully appreciate the songs’ lyrics when you don’t speak Greek, but that’s where the open bar came in! All songs were accompanied by Naxos-produced wine, raki, and a Naxian specialty, kitron.
Kitron is a liqueur made by distilling raki with the leaves of a fruit known as the citron. I’d never heard of a citron before coming to Naxos, but think of a cross between a lemon and grapefruit. Now multiply its size by 5, and its ugliness by 400. The citron isn’t much to look at, and everyone says that its raw fruit is so nasty as to be inedible, but somewhere in history, a resourceful wino figured out that it makes for some fine drinkin’. The human spirit always perseveres!
We even got to join in the Greek dancing toward the end of the show, and I showed my enthusiasm by shouting out the only lyric in the chorus that I could understand: “Opa!”
In other news, we’ve been trying to unravel the hidden island location of a giant statue of a stone man (pictures to come if we succeed!), and it’s become indisputable that I really need a haircut. Opa!