WPC: Life imitates art

A tough photo challenge this week for me.  I was kind of stuck until my son reminded me of this wonderful photo that was taken when he was 14.  The lighthouse peninsular on Spetses hosts about a dozen metal sculptures hidden among the pines trees or out on the rocks.  Interacting with the art is a given.  You want to pose with the mermaid or crawl on top of the chain mail sheep. Here’s my entry this week:

latham mermaid

And a few more just to show off the uniqueness of the place:


Beach Life

The other kind of beach life that is… I thought this would be the best way to close all the stories from Greece this Summer: a short glimpse at one of our favourite beaches, Kounoupi. There’s plenty of other kinds of beach life going on with beer and friends and food. But if you step away and find a quiet spot, here are a few portraits of life on a beach… Bye Spetses…see you next year!









Hike to Zogaria


The peaceful wide trail at the start of the hike

The trail to Zogeria is one of the longest on the island and has been on my hiking to-do list for years. Zogeria is on the northern tip of Spetses and starts with the usual hike up to the ridge road, and then takes a right-hand turn towards the Church of Agias Ilias, the highest point on the island.   Latham and I stopped there for a small breakfast and enjoyed the views from the row of red chairs that look out to the sparkling early morning sea.  From the sterna of Agias Ilias you can see out to both sides of the island (reminding you how small the island really is), but our peace was broken by the bees were up early too, so we grabbed the map and figured out the start of the new northbound trail that we hadn’t taken before.

The first part was easy to follow but finding the turn off was harder.  When we found it, it looked very narrow and rarely used.  Pricker bushes grew over the path or threatened to catapult across your legs, armed with thorns that looked like they could pierce leather.  It was easy to believe that we had taken a wrong turn, but we moved carefully onward and it brought us to the right place, an obscure point on the main ring road which I had never noticed  before as a trail head.  Had we been on a motorbike, we would have turned right and taken the wide dirt trail directly down to the sea and followed the path a bumpy 1-2km to the beach at Zogeria.  Our pedestrian map told us to turn left and walk a short way along the concrete road, turning right on to a long narrow trail that paralleled the lower coast road.  It kept us high up forever, winding back and forth. Now three hours into the hike,  the sun was getting higher and hotter in the sky.  I was starting to wilt and the most challenging part of the walk was upon us: spiders!  Lots of them.   Strung out across the path from tree-to-tree.  You couldn’t see the threat of their invisible webs until they were upon you. If your attention waned for just a few moments, suddenly there would be the caress of an elastic web string pulling across your face, a pregnant pause, and the veil of the web would land in your hair with the promise of a very large spider in the middle of it!   We tried to tread waringly.

Latham grabbed a stick to serve as the Spidermaster 1000, and waving it ahead of us Harry Potter-style, he caught almost all of the invisible webs before they caught us.  A few slipped through the wand’s magic powers and we batted our heads and waved our arms, screaming the spiders out of our hair.   After forty five minutes of this, I was exhausted and wobbly,  but happily the path started to descend towards the sea.  All I could think of was how I was going to  throw myself in the ocean headfirst.

We cooled off in the sea for a blissful 20 minutes, then started the final, easy hike along the coast road to Zogeria Beach.  It had been a 4.5 hour hike with the swim stop.  I’d do it again, but next time I’ll be turning right!


One of the terrible spider beasties – out to get us!


Wielding the Spidermaster 1000 against the evil spider army


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These people arrived by boat on Zogeria beach.  No spider-battling stories for them!


The reward of a greek salad at the end of the hike.

Greek August Nights


I love sitting at night and look out to sea from our home. On a hot August night its hard to imagine why we don’t do it every night of the year.


This night we were waiting for the harvest moon to rise and it took a few glasses of wine to accompany the wait..


…and finally it rose and shone so brightly that it casts moonshadows in our garden. Beautiful!

For more stories of the night see: http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_photo_challenge/nighttime/

The Church of the Panagia Daskalakis


Panayia Daskalakis is one of our favourite hiking destinations. We’ve been hiking up to it from our house for the best part of the last twenty years. We have carried Latham up in a baby backpack, explored as a group of moms and toddlers and, once school started, we’ve continued to visited each summer when we return. Every year we take family or friends up to enjoy a morning breakfast picnic of still warm croissants or tiropetas from the bakery.  We  sit at the church a while to take in the view before we continue on our hike. This year it was just the three of us.


The property belonged to the Greek industrialist, Dimitris Daskalakis. The church is kept in excellent condition and painted every year before an annual festival.


Its built in seating is the best picnic spot, with beautiful views across the harbour.


Daskalakis built a large waterfront textile factory on the island in the 1920s, which created jobs for the Spetsiots until it closed after the second world war.  Daskalakis died in 1939 just as war broke out again and is buried here at the church.


Dimitrios Daskalakis, Industrialist 29-9-1939


Unlike the church, his adjacent home is in ruins. When we first visited about 18 years ago, the roof was still in place, covering the kitchen, and kitchen tiles were still on the floor.  The living/sleeping area had half a roof.  Now both are long collapsed.



This year, after a very long time, I was finally able to step inside the ruin. For a long time the floor has been too precarious to walk on,  but now the beams and tiles have rotten down and the ground is solid again.  A pine tree inside stands as testament to how much time has passed without a roof.


There’s still a communal bench strung between two trees, but it has gotten very rickety with time.  The kids would always climb on top of it and have their photos taken.  I think its much too frail now to take their weight.



A little reminder of earlier visits


This was the kitchen.


….and an upstairs closet

I’m sure the church will continue to be preserved and the house will continue to crumble. We plan on continuing to keep track of its progress ;o)

Kaiki Trip to Kounoupi

Every summer for the past 15 years or so, we have been lucky enough to return to Spetses.  And every year we have been able to take a least one late afternoon boat trip out with friends to enjoy a beach a short ride away.  Sometimes the trip has been around the island, stopping at 3-4 different places to swim along the way.  Other times we gone to beaches on the mainland or just around to the other side of the island.  Mostly its the weather that dictates where we go.  But, weather permitting, the first choice with most is to go to Kounoupi, a little island about 20-30 minutes away by boat.  Kounoupi means mosquitoin Greek, but the island’s name doesn’t refer to the amount of bugs, just its small size, which is tiny really, small enough to swim around if you are so inclined.  But most friends aren’t.  We just laze around on the small beach, taking frequent dips in the water and sharing food from the dozens of bags that get unloaded like a 747 on to the beach.  Usually it around 5pm when we arrive and the sun is still warm but not scalding and its a much more comfortable time to be at the beach.

The communal pig out

Ten years ago, most of the kids were little, bobbing around in the shallow water with water wings while we watched from the shore.  When they got older, jumping off the Kaiki roof became the main activity.  Hours of entertainment!  I never was brave enough to do it too, nor did my stomach ever quite stop doing a flip every time a child jumped.  We still couldn’t take our eyes off them for fear of a bad fall or somebody landing on another’s head, but no accidents thank goodness.

These days the kids are almost all seniors or college age and the years are numbered that everyone can converge altogether.  They mostly lounge around on the beach like the adults or take 10 zillion photos of one another. Kaiki roof jumping is still cool, just not as all-consuming as before.

This year we celebrated Latham’s birthday on the beach with 10 year old sparklers that I pulled out of the back of the cupboard somewhere.  Amazingly they still lit.  We ate a crumble birthday cake — this year it was peach or rhubarb — and sang happy birthday just as the almost full moon was making an appearance behind.

“Happy Birthday dear Latham…..”

The best part though, for me, is the last part of the day.  The sun starts to go down and the water and sky turn a nowhere-else-on-earth purple for a magical 20 minutes.

As it starts to get dark and the chain of bag loaders have done their job, you realise that there is no choice but to get back in the water and swim to the boat.  The water seems cold and the idea of getting wet and staying wet for the journey back seem so uninviting.  But in you go — because you must — and the sea is warmer than you thought, the moon is shining on the water and suddenly swimming all night seems like a really good idea.

For the trip back, the kids traditionally all climb to the roof where they all get the best view (why is that? and when do we get a turn?) and we take a moonlit ride home.

Teenage roof hang out

This year Lucy, Linda and I hung off the bow and dangled our feet in its warm wake.  Aaaah….. ‘Til next year, ladies…

Linda and I being Greek goddesses of the night

Revisiting Profitias Ilias

The church of Profitias Ilias (Prophet Elias/Elijah) is always the highest point in a given area in Greece, referencing Elias’s mountaintop Biblical stories. On Spetses, the church is at 245 meters, which is predictably the highest point on the island.  Not such a great height I know, but it’s high enough to give significant views out to both sides of the island.

We hadn’t visited in a really long while. Its a small detour from the Anagiri hiking path and most of the time our hiking party is just eager to get down to the beach. But I remembered going there when Latham and his friends were small (about four years old) and we hadn’t been back since. When we used to live in Spetses year round, it was best to go outside the summer months, especially with little kids. Here’s a few “then and now pictures” as contrast, both taken from the sterna (cistern) in front of the church. Happy days!

Latham and girl friends in front of Profitias Ilias, Spring 1999 I think.

Same spot July 2012. Unfortunately not the same group (except for Latham of course). But still a very rare “mothers and sons” pic.

The front of the church has a large working cistern. Here’s some more pictures from beside the well:

Clear Spring day 1999

Hot and hazy, July 2012

Hike to Anagiri

We have hiked over to the beach on the other side of Spetses for several years now. It takes 1.5-2 hours at a leisurely pace and I think most family and friends know the route now by themselves. About 15 years ago someone painted discreet red dots on the rocks to indicate the route. The dots have mostly faded or become covered in moss, but its not too difficult to remember without them.

Early morning start at Agios Vassilis

We usually get going early, around 7-7.30 am to avoid the sun on the ascent up to the ridge behind Agios Vassilis church. Its a steepish climb for about 20 minutes through the pine forest, and then a gentle climb up to Panagia Daskalaki, an abandoned monastery/church set among the trees. There are really pretty views from up there and we usually take a breakfast break as a reward for the climb.

Following the trail up to Panagia Daskalaki

The church itself is kept in pristine condition and visited on its saint day each year and there’s even still a functioning cistern full of fresh water. However the living quarters have long fallen into ruin. When we first visited about 15 years ago, the kitchen area still had a roof, and the sleeping quarters had a dangerously caved in roof still in place. Now the sleeping quarters are just a roofless shell.

Breakfast break

Ruined walls

After Panagia Daskalaki the trail leads to the wide ridge road that runs like a spine down the centre of the island.  From there onwards its a mostly gentle, winding descent to Anagiri beach.  The trail used to be well shaded with pine trees, but about 12 years ago a major fire ravaged the back side of the island and now its just an open and dusty trail.  A shame, of course, because the trees were so pretty, but also unfortunate because it means that the hike back is only for crazy people who can handle 100 degree plus direct sun beating down on a slow, dusty ascent.  We take the bus back!

Taking the trail down to Anagiri

Destination Anagiri – reached! Now for a swim….