Note: If you follow me on Tumblr (probably not, since I have a grand total of 5 followers), I posted a few of the pictures (plus one or two others) there previously.
You might remember me debating about some purchases on past Trailer Weeklies. In the end, I went for broke and bought this new toy: a Nikon D7100 (previously I was using a point-and-shoot only Lumix DMC-LX5, albeit with manual settings). It’s not my first SLR, I had a friend’s Pentax for a while and used to own a Canon 300, and still have a Nikon F80 and a precious Canon A-1 from the ’70s now as well, but all these are/were non-digital.
I had been wanting to buy a digital SLR for a while, and my recent trip abroad was the final push – which was also why I waited to take the first picture with the camera in Greece. It’s not the most striking picture perhaps, but retrospectively it is quite revealing. I flew into Mykonos, with about 45 minutes to catch the ferry to my actual destination, the nearby island of Syros. The port wasn’t far away – 10 minutes from the airport – but, well, there is only a handful of taxis on Mykonos and a total lack of any system, meaning that I missed the ferry and got stuck waiting at a port-of-nothing for six hours (coincidentally I ran into a family with three cute kids who turned out to be going to the same wedding, so the waiting was actually good fun).
Anyhow, because it was hot and because I had luggage, I never left the port during those hours and only on my way back, when I had to stay overnight on the island, I encountered the real Mykonos: which, essentially, is the Mykonos you see depicted above. Completely corrupted by tourism, full of expensive shops (a Louis Vuitton in the historical old town) and Italian/Chinese/Thai/everything-except-Greek food at exorbitant prices. Syros, on the other hand, was absolutely lovely. Small. Yes, with some tourists, but without anyone caring that they were tourists. Food – all Greek and traditional – one third the price. Everyone friendly and everything feeling completely authentic, even according to the Greek people I was with.
Markets, or a Lack Thereof
Being a food addict, I was hoping for some wonderful outdoor markets (like I found in Athens a few years back), but ended up disappointed. Apparently much of the food in Syros is imported and while you can get your hands on lovely stuff, there is no market per se – just small shops. The dried broad beans above were from one particularly nice place, which had assorted herbs and spices, olive oil soap, Greek coffee and other goodies.
Digging in the Sand
Being on an island in Greece of course means beach time.
I mostly stayed in Ermoupolis, the main town on the island (which extends only some 10 km at its longest point), but we also went up the hill to Ano Syros, where you can find this traditional windmill. It’s no longer used for milling, but comes with a tiny kitchen (ground floor), tiny bathroom (first floor) and a bedroom (top floor), the whole place available for rent for (usually) short-term stays. Note: The picture needs editing. In the darkroom I would know what to do, but I still have to play around with my digital photoediting programme more.
I found some dried flowers (middle image) by the mill. I picked them, thinking to bring them to my Mom and promptly forgot them of course. But I did over the course of the next few days go around taking pictures of more dried plants, thinking I might make my Mom a calendar with them.
The main purpose of my trip was to go for a dear friend’s wedding, so above is a glimpse of the bride and her sweet flower girl.
The wedding involved two ceremonies, one in a Catholic church, the other in a Greek-Orthodox one. This is not common in predominantly Orthodox Greece, but it was indeed why the wedding – involving a Catholic Brit and an atheist Greek – was in Syros at all: it is the one place in Greece where Catholics reside in significant numbers and, indeed, where most couples (so we were told by locals) are mixed.
The wedding reception was in a tavern in Ano Syros where Markos Vamvakaris, a pioneering bouzouki musician, played his instrument many, many years ago. The view from there was gorgeous, though of course by the time I got around to taking pictures it was dark. And when it’s dark (and you never use a flash, like me), the best you can do is this:
Well, actually, I did manage a better shot (below), but I liked the more painted feel of the above one.
When it came to food, I usually let my friend (the bride) order, because even though menus came in Greek and English, the translations didn’t always reveal much (“Greens”, “Herbs”, “Beans”) and she of course knew the most amazing things to get.
I didn’t take a lot of pictures of food, but above is some fava – yellow split pea puree (a side dish that’s on every menu). With lots of olive oil and lemon. And too many onions.
Django was a little icecream place in Ermoupolis. I’m not a big eater of ice-cream, but everyone was raving about the shop. I tried chocolate-chilli-cinnamon sorbet one day, which was intense but good. The next time, I was hoping for this supposedly amazing melon sorbet, but there was none (the place makes only a few and not always the same flavours every day). So I thought it would be more of the chocolate chilli – until I asked and the guy behind the counter pointed to some unremarkable pink stuff and told me that he also had fig sorbet (who even knew there was such a thing?). And it was absolutely and unexpectedly amazing.
Figs, and Memories
The figs the sorbet was made from might well have been local. At least I saw plenty of figs on the island. I posted this picture on Tumblr already, writing the following:
When I was living in Costa Rica a few years back, the sweet smell of rotting mangoes – having fallen, overripe and heavy, from trees, lying smashed on the pavement – overwhelmed me one day as I was walking back home from the feria (the Sunday market). It struck me how what is a costly imported good in one country, is so commonplace in another that it is left to waste, completely unnoticed except for the scent to etch itself into a person’s memory of childhood. In Greece, it would seem to be figs that are some of those fruit that simply rot away.
One friend had to get the 7 am morning ferry, so I accompanied her to take some photographs in the morning light. It was early, but I was glad to have a reason to get out of bed – even if I didn’t take that many pictures, just walking around with the sun rising was beautiful.
The Cats of Syros
Greece, and certainly Syros, comes with cats aplenty. They roam about everywhere. You’l find them on street corners, on chairs, by the seaside.
Wheel of colour
Came across one of these nostalgic things when wandering about the streets.
I prefer to take pictures of people rather than landscapes or other things, but found that Greek people didn’t really want to be photographed – not like in India, where everyone seemed to jump in front of my camera. Sadly that meant few people-pictures (other than those of friends at the wedding, which I won’t post here), but I did manage to snap this shot of two windblown ladies on the ferry back to Mykonos. I think they were German. Maybe. I’m not sure. They just seemed very hip.
And this is what happened when I did try to take pictures of locals:
These girls were watching the wedding procession (from one church to the other), but clearly were too shy to be photographed. Result: crappy picture, unfocused with no sense of composition at all. Oh well. Their sudden shrieking, giggling and running off did make me laugh…