Oct 25 2007

Naxos, our Greek Islands Finale

Published by at 12:01 pm under Greece,Naxos

Monday morning in Naxos brought more bad weather — frequent downpours, gusty winds and cool temperatures. Being the hard-headedest people you’ll ever meet, Ben and I decided not to postpone our visit to Naxian villages, so we started our day by trudging through the mud to the bus station.

Our first stop was Halki, a small village notable for containing the oldest kitron distillery on Naxos and one of the oldest Byzantine churches. Our efforts to visit the church were thwarted when what I can only assume used to be a road leading to the church had become a raging river. Our spirits were lightened when we discovered a small bakery, where we found decent donuts! (The Greeks typically do not do donuts well.) At this same bakery, we were unable to resist buying cookies made from grape juice.

Our next destination was the legendary cave of Mt. Zas. The operator of the distillery was reluctant to give us directions, and warned us that it would be extremely unwise to attempt to climb the mountain in such weather. But our stubborn streak preserved and we set off towards Filoti, the small village at the base of Mt. Zas. We were determined to see what we’d come to see, even if it meant walking three kilometers in the rain to see it!

According to mythology, Zeus, great ruler of the gods, grew up in a cave of a particular mountain on Naxos. Zeus was hidden in this cave from his father, Kronos, who had the annoying habit of eating all of his children. It was also supposedly atop this mountain that Zeus received the gift of thunder from an eagle.

Not actually Mt. Zas (which we were unable to
photograph thanks to the pouring rain), but
captures the effect.

As we slowly approached the village, a dark, craggy mountain began to emerge out of the mist ahead of us. Sheets of rain ricocheted off the jagged cliffs, spraying in all directions; gusts of wind grew stronger, making walking uphill increasingly difficult. Black, stormy clouds swirled furiously around the peak. It seemed as if the mighty hand of Zeus himself would reach out of the storm and squash any feeble backpacker who foolishly attempted to climb the God of Thunder’s mountain.

We may be stubborn, but we don’t have death wishes, so we reluctantly abandoned our quest, went home and partook in our favorite Greek tradition: the siesta.

Ben goes full throttleThe next day began with an equally foolhardy idea: let’s rent a scooter! We decided that in order to fully immerse ourselves in Greek culture, we had to experience driving around an island on scooter. Scooters are the preferred form of transportation for many Greeks, who drive them on any flat surface they are able to reach, even if that surface is definitely NOT a road — for instance, the aisle of a supermarket. Since neither of us had ever driven any sort of motorbike before, and apparently it requires some sort of “balancing” skill, Tony of Tony’s Bikes recommended we rent a four-wheeler instead. Although not quite as ubiquitous as the scooter (since it’s unable to squeeze through ridiculously tight spaces that no motor vehicle should ever attempt to pass through), the 4×4 is also a prevalent mode of transport on the islands.

So we shakily set off with no idea where to go, Ben at the helm of a machine he’d never operated before, me clutching desperately to his waist and both of us wearing ridiculous mushroom-like helmets. After navigating Naxos Town, figuring out how to fill the thing up with petrol, and getting honked at a lot, we started to strive inland.

We decided to locate the island’s abandoned kouros. Kouroi are ancient Greek statues of young men. Many were carved out of Naxian marble – the sculptor would begin to carve the statue in the marble quarries before it would be transported to its final destination for the detailed carving. During the moving process, many statues would break and be abandoned on the spot. So, centuries later, island locals discovered 3,000 year old unfinished statues in their olive groves.

While Ben likes to call our hunt for the kouros an Epic Quest, I call it Hey Dummy Follow the Signs. He shot videos:
(We upload in four parts for quicker download. Part 1 is included below. Follow the links for more!)

Quest for the Kouros, part 1 on Vimeo & YouTube
Quest for the Kouros, part 2 on Vimeo & YouTube
Quest for the Kouros, part 3 on Vimeo & YouTube
Quest for the Kouros, part 4 on Vimeo & YouTube

We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring marble quarries and citron groves and enjoying our rental – that is, until we started heading home. As we descended the mountains, Zeus decided to have one last laugh by sending a monster thunderstorm our way. Pretty much the only thing that could’ve made the image of us riding a four-wheeler any more hilarious was doing so through the pouring rain, getting completely drenched.

And thus ends our Greek islands adventures and phase one of our trip! We have arrived in Athens, where we will stay for about a week to recoup before heading on to Italy.

NEXT: Our Savior, Mudfish »



3 responses so far

3 Responses to “Naxos, our Greek Islands Finale”

  1. Peggyon 25 Oct 2007 at 12:45 pm

    I was anxiously following the quest for the kouros thru your videos. After viewing the first 3, I couldn’t get the 4th because it was marked “private”. Don’t leave us hanging. Did you find it???

    Aunt Peggy

  2. Peggyon 25 Oct 2007 at 3:11 pm

    OK. Problem solved. I got to the 4th video. Can’t wait for more adventures from Athens.


  3. Stellaon 25 Oct 2007 at 10:22 pm

    Oh, Nanna.

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