Sometimes being organized is a good thing, and sometimes just winging it is king. I was traveling in Greece with my friend Deb, and we’d tried to get in on an organised bus tour to see the smaller inland towns of Naxos but they were completely sold out by the time we tried to book. All’s well that ends well though because we went to the bus station and they told us how to get from town to town by public bus. We wound up saving ourselves 20 euro each (see, winging is can also save you money!)
On an organised bus tour, we never would have seen as much local colour as you do on the regional bus that is used by the people who call the island home. The ticket taker on the bus was a scream. He was this old guy who was yelling his face off at people if they tried to come on the bus at the wrong door, and was hollering at this little old lady dressed all in black who was struggling to get up the steps of the bus with her parcels. Finally he decided to give her a hand. I’ve determined that people just yell in Greece. A lot. And they push and shove and it all seems to not be a problem to anyone… but us. I’m more used to rude people since traveling, but Greece is a whole different ball game. This is rudeness on crack. But it’s all part of the experience, right?
Our first stop was Halki, a very small village about ½ an hour away from Naxos Town. The lure of this place was the Kipron Naeoy Distillery, where you can take a (very short) tour of the distillery and taste the regional Naxos liqueur made from the Citron fruit, also known as median apples (but they aren’t really apples, they’re a citrus fruit.) Actually, the liqueur is made from the leaves of the fruit, and not the fruit itself. Do not, I repeat DO NOT compare it to Limoncello. I got the impression they don’t like the comparison, and they really aren’t at all the same. Limoncello is made from the fruit and fermented, and Kipron is made from the leaves and distilled. We tried the green one (30 proof) which was the lowest alcohol (it was 10:00 in the morning) and yes, it tasted like pure alcohol! It had a nice flavour, but I’m not really a big fan of hard liquor.
The entrance to the distillery.
The tasting area with the Citron fruit on the table.
They make the liqueurs different colours so that they can easily identify the alcohol content. The green is 30%, the white is 33% and the yellow 36%.
Right next door there was a shop that sold handmade textiles. I wasn’t going to go in, because textiles are one of my weaknesses, along with all handmade things, but I was somehow drawn in anyways and met the woman who owned the shop. She weaves everything by hand on her loom, and has a couple of looms at home as well. It’s all made using Greek silk and cotton, and her prices were really, really good. I bought a couple of small things and had a nice chat with the owner Maria, who also gave us a demonstration of how she works the loom.
We got on the bus and it took us to the next village called Filoti. It was only a few minutes away by bus and there wasn’t really very much to it. We were there in the heat of mid-day, and I have to say it’s really hard to be motivated when you’re that hot, so we just decided to have a nice long lunch in town under the shade of a 100 year old tree. The service was god awful, we had to wait 20 minutes just to give them our order! But we were in no real hurry, as we had 2 hours to wait until our next bus came to take us to Apiranthos. The cafe was super busy with old men playing cards and their wives enjoying their gelato in the shade of the tree, with the odd tourist thrown in. In Greece one of the first things you’ll notice is the clacking of beads. It seems the men especially carry around these strands of beads called worry beads.
The drive on the way up to Apiranthos.
The drive to Apiranthos took about 25 minutes and was a winding steep road through the mountains. The terrain was barren with lots of rock walls and terraced land. I wasn’t expecting the island to be as hilly as it was, and Apiranthos was nestled right in the heart of the mountains. This was another small village, but so very charming. The streets here are paved with marble, and it’s one of those villages that you can just wander around and poke your head down different alleyways and stairwells. The town was very quiet today because there was a funeral. Well, quiet apart from the wailing. My mom had lived in Turkey and had told me of the emotional expression of the people when they were grieving, and I have to say, it’s a pretty chilling sound. In North America we’re so reserved, so to witness someones grief so openly was eye opening.
Apiranthos is a very small town, so the majority of its people were at the funeral. What this essentially meant was that we had the town to ourselves.
We met a couple of interesting old men in the town who weren’t attending the funeral. The first guy was sitting outside his home at the highest point of town and when he saw us coming he held out his hand like he wanted to shake it. OK, so I went over to shake his hand and he wouldn’t let it go. He had these watery blue eyes and he was talking in Greek and was maybe 98 years old? Finally I got out of his death grip and he grabbed onto Deb. He wasn’t just happy with her hand either, he wanted her leg too! Oh my god, it was funny. Finally I kind of grabbed her hand and pulled her away from his clutches.
That’s old guy # 1 sitting on his doorstep and a beautiful view of Apiranthos from the highest point.
Then we met this other salty old guy a little closer to the centre of the village. He really wanted to talk to us so he asked us a question in Greek. We don’t speak Greek so it made for an interesting “non conversation.” He kept talking and we kept nodding. I think we discussed his shoes, the weather and that he must be hot wearing pants. I had just read that making the gesture for OK (index finger and thumb making a circle) is considered obscene in Greece, and I accidentally did it to him to say OK, then was horrified by what I might have just indicated to him with my hand! He didn’t seem offended though, so I just let it go. As we left he too wanted to shake our hand, and again… didn’t want to let go. No matter their age, men never change, do they?
(See, he has his worry beads!)
Back in Naxos town for the sunset.