Another year, another post. It’s not that I’m trying to win the World’s Slowest Blogger award. I’d love to get back to Greece more often but the hamster wheel of London living seems to make it harder these days.
But suffice it to say I’m back, if only for a couple of weeks. The trip is divided into 2 parts; hanging out with the in-laws in Mani, followed by a road trip to the just-off-the-Peloponnese island of Kythera (or Kythira, Kithera, Cythera Cithera depending on your choice of transliteration)
A bucket-list choice of destination of T’s, Kythera (Κύθηρα in Greek) is a sparsely poulated 30km long island located off the south-eastern tip of the Peloponnese. By all accounts Kythera is not your average Greek holiday island. For one, it’s not really on the package holiday trail – thank god. Tourists tend to be mostly Greeks, plus, oddly, a disproportionate contingent of Aussies, descendants of Kytherians who migrated down under in the early 20th century and who return to visit each summer.
So although there’s an airport with daily flights to Athens, the island feels unspoilt and dare I say it – authentic? Hence, no booming nightclubs, no restaurants with multi-lingual laminated menus, and a surprisingly rich and well preserved mix of historic architecture.
Our first road trip with young Mikroulis (at nearly 4 years old now, he shall henceforth be known as Mikros), I got to experience first-hand how much the Greeks love kids. Unlike in London, children are welcome and celebrated everywhere we go in Kythera.
There’s little concept of ‘stranger-danger’. The whole community celebrates the young ones here. Like a puppy-dog, Mikros is continually being patted on the head or engaged in kiddie conversation by passers-by, shopkeepers, waiters, or just randoms on the beach.
And the kids are left to roam free. There are no toddlers strapped to mum by harness. Instead 5 and 6 year olds are left snorkelling in the harbour while parents watch from the cafe above.
Clumsily segue-ing into the topic of food, as always the Greek fare is a delight to savour. Already a couple of kilos heavier than my match-fit London weight, meat and fish consumption is, predictably, considerable.
Following the local’s recommendations we head for Skandeia restaurant where we struggle to consume monstrous portions of baby goat, moussaka and aubergine salad whilst coffee grinds smoke away in an incense burner to ward off flying insects. The night after it’s Platanos taverna in the strangely picturesque town of Mylopotomas where Kytherean salad accompanies an equally gargantuan carniverous feast, as we’re serenaded by deafening crickets, overlooking a slightly incongruous duck pond.
Throw into the mix nightly souvlaki jaunts, fish just off the boat, way-too-regular ice-cream pitstops – all washed down with Kaiser beer – and you’ve got a recipe for post-holiday waistline regret.
Determined to counter the expanding girth, I vow to make up for it by practising my wayward front crawl technique at everyone of Kythera’s beaches we stop at. There are a lot to choose from on this small island – from the stunning rocky outcrop of Kaladi with pebbles that pummel your feet, to the crystal clear azure lagoon at Diakofti.
We visited about eight of Kythera’s thirty beaches and drove past many more on our travels. One of the most enjoyable – the swimming platforms at Avlemonas harbour – was hardly a beach at all. An unexpected find during one of your ice-cream stops, you can freely access the waters via a walkway surrounding the harbour interspersed with rocky steps, ladders and jumping rocks for the brave. Swimming the whole width of the harbour with my not-yet 4 year old made me very proud.
All in all, Kythera comes highly recommended. The pace is slow, but the tempo is perfect.