Growing up I would often page through my mom’s old photo albums of her travels and listen to her stories of this time in her life when I didn’t exist and she was a carefree young backpacker visiting Paris, barging through France, sleeping on the beach in Greece for a month…
In particular it was that last story that stuck with me. Mostly because it seemed so unlike my mom. My responsible mother-of-three, grocery buying, church going, library visiting mom. It was crazy for to think that she had been a wild child hippy with a whole other life BEFORE me.
But she was! There are photos to prove it.
So a dream was formed in my own mind – a far off, out-of-reach idyll of one day visiting Greece. But there were so many other places on my dream list too…
Greece would have to wait!
And then, last year, the opportunity of a lifetime. A chance to finally visit Greece with a few friends taking a sailing boat around the Cyclades. Dreams do come true!
I began pondering – what if we might just be visiting the island my mom had made her home all those decades ago? I set to work writing down all the islands that might make it on to our flexible itinerary, researching what each island was well known for. The list was long, despite the fact that our sailing would be restricted to a small area of the Aegean Sea, proof of just how many islands there are in Greece!
Showing the list to my mom she was finally able to recall the name of the island where she’d stayed for a month in her early 20s – Sifnos – this was the first time she’d mentioned it’s name to me, recalling her stay in a hippy beach shack on the beach that was left abandoned for the next set of travelling hippies to take up residence, the reed mat she slept on and the old Greek man who ensured she had food everyday with his delivery of fresh fruit.
But there was no way of knowing if the wind would take us to Sifnos – I just had to hope!
We set sail from Athens with the view to visit a new island every day for the duration of a week (we had kids to get back to!) Our first stop was Aegina with it’s ancient temple ruins and dramatic boat motor escapade, then Poros where we enjoyed arriving by boat to the magnificent peach tinted town followed by a walk around the peninsula the next morning. The next port we visited was Hydra where donkeys are the only mode of transport and we enjoyed a festive evening on board the boat in the middle of the harbour surrounded by the festivities of sailing life. A long day of sailing took us across the Aegean Sea towards the Cyclades where we explored Kythnos by scooter, indulging in some (boiling) hot springs on the side of the sea. This was followed by Serifos where our boat was the only one anchored in the bay overnight making us the only tourists watching the sunset from beneath the Tamarisk trees that evening.
And then finally, escorted by a few dolphins, we found ourselves making our way to Sifnos… (Click here to read my first post about Sifnos)
I was thrilled to be following in the footsteps of my mom – but unsure I’d even find the exact beach she’d called home. Nevertheless, we were here!
Kamares, Sifnos Island
After mooring in the port and walking the gangplank ashore, we set off to explore the island… catching the bus from Kamares up to the hilltop town of Apollonia from which we then walked to Artemonas and then 5km back down the hill to Kamares (having missed the bus back by a minute!!)
The town of Kamares is everything you’d expect from a Greek seaside village.
Whitewashed homes tumble down the hills to the main street where daily life takes place – kids ride bikes in the road, waiters rush across delivering orders to the tables overlooking the bay, scooters whizz by, ceramicists dry their wares in the sunshine while stray cats meander about looking for a snack…. and down at the harbour the fishermen ply their daily catch.
Of all the villages we visited Kamares felt like the one I could call home…
After a delicious seafood meal and a restful night’s sleep on board our rocking bed, I woke early, aware that the best photographs often happen in the “Golden Hour” which I am prone to sleep through. Not here though. No sleeping in for me on this holiday! I wanted to capture every moment…
The sky was a brilliant blue, the light bright and the sun hot – it was before 7am but already the harbour was alive.
Greek fishermen head out to sea at night and return in the morning with their haul, displaying their catch on the harbour wall for the residents and restauranteurs to make their daily selection.
This wasn’t a display put on for the tourists – there were hardly any around – this was local life and I loved catching a glimpse of the real Greece…
On the dock of Kamares town I met up with my fellow sailor and photographer friend, Raisa, and together we decided to walk into the village to find a freshly baked breakfast snack. We followed our noses and found ourselves at the local bakery being served by Katerina!
(The beauty of my name is such that around the world I seem to encounter women who share my name in their own language. In Mozambique she was a local woman digging in the marsh for shellfish, in Greece she was the baker’s wife selling me a traditional cheese pie.)
Sifnos has a long heritage as a foodie island with the very first Greek recipe book having been written by a local man by the name of Nicholas Tselementes in 1910!
The island is also well known for it’s ceramics and pottery and what I loved about exploring this town was seeing this age-old tradition still has a home here – the local potter even placing out all his latest creations to cure on trestle tables bordering the main road just outside his shop!
As this was our last town with access to genuine Greek souvenirs (and not the cheap Chinese stuff you find in tacky touristy shops) I made sure I stocked up on sweet little bowls and jugs for myself and my family.
After enjoying breakfast with this view we decided a morning swim was in order – the clear turquoise water just too inviting to resist!
Not 10 steps from our breakfast spot were the steps down to the beach. Lined with thatched beach umbrellas and dotted with sun loungers, we found a spot to leave our stuff and stripped down to our swimsuits.
The water was crisp and fresh, clear and smooth – just what was needed to wake us for the day! Surrounded by mountains dotted with white cottages and with not one other person in sight, this bay felt like it was made for us at that moment!
And if I’m honest I think it was…
On returning home about a week later I once again asked my mom if I could look at her photo albums, and there it was! A photo of from the beach where she stayed all those many years ago. And yes it was Kamares! The town is more developed and has extended further up the hillside, but the distinct slope of the mountain behind the seaside town remained unchanged from the one in my own photos from the very same spot where I’d enjoyed my memorable morning dip! Now if only I’d been able to stay for a month! I can certainly see why Kamares, and Sifnos island, is a hard place to leave…
Follow the rest of my Going Greek adventures by reading the other posts in this series…
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Images: Kathryn Rossiter