Sunday, August 18, 2013

on the island

 Skyros like all Greek holiday venues needs visitors to survive and thrive, so it's impossible to resent sharing the beach or streets with other lovers of this magical island, which this year appears to include half of Athens as well as us holistic seekers. There’s always been a Greek city vibe in the town ~  frappé and cocktails easier to find than filter coffee ~  a bit like a vast family wedding every night, but it's overwhelming this week, perhaps because of the festival of the Assumption that has church bells sounding down the cobbles daily. And the beach, where Juicy Bar’s grass sunshades were once the only place for ilio therapia ~ sun therapy ~ is now just one of a long row at the rim of the sea, swarming with bronze bodies either flopped on loungers or leaping athletically to the rhythm of beach bat-and-ball. Walking the rim of the ocean is no longer a quiet meditation, more like skirting rush-hour traffic. It’s a beautiful scene of enjoyment and vigour and I love it that the island is thriving, but a bit of me feels like a cow in Worthy Farm must do at the end of June when their placid fields become Glastonbury Festival.
There is much that hasn't changed, of course. The southern rocks, mysteriously morphing from grey to violet each evening and edging closer just before sunset, are still untouched by the threatened wind farm.  The marble streets are still sluiced down each morning by householders clearing the debris of a windy night. Kalimera... Kalinichta...  Figs, ripening and falling along the paths. Dimitri's ouzo bar above the beach,  dawn over the sea from Brooke Square. And at the Skyros Centre, Vasso's amazing meals, yoga on the terrace, and a fascinating range of voices in my writing group. Fifteen of them. Well, that's a bit of a change in terms of size, but an exciting challenge for all of us.
Skyros is 
~ a wild wind symphony, with soothing bass notes of waves on sand, wafts of Greek voices, percussion squeals from the beach, smattering of dub from rhythmic bat and ball along the shore, goat bells on the piney paths.
~ a feast of herb-rich dishes: tangy salads, creamy dips with crusty bread, squid stew on a bucking yacht, splitting jam-sweet figs, acrid black coffee (hot in tin pots or ice-chill) and wine
~ a warm embrace, sensuous cling of salt water, soft touch  of sand, swaying hammock, warm breeze fingering. 
~ a landscape of white sugar-cube houses, trees and vivid blossomed bushes, stony paths where tiny bronze geckos dart, with a backdrop of champagne sand, azure and indigo sea against a cerulean sky all photoshopped to impossible intensity, except they're not. Skyros is real. 

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