Tales from the Island of Andros

I truly believe that the island of Andros is a little bit magical. I’m a rational person, but the way myth mingles with history in Greece is absolutely enchanting. We no longer live in a world where Greek gods and goddesses rule over our lives, but on Andros their influence lingers in the earth and the air.

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We arrived after a sunrise ferry ride from Athens. We were lucky to be accompanied by Leda, a Modern Greek teacher at CYA married to a man from Andros. In typical Greek fashion, Leda knows everyone and their cousins. She opened doors for us on the trip I would have never thought to even peek behind.

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Andros has some of the clearest and calmest water I have ever seen. The beach was our first stop after disembarking the ferry and stopping for a breakfast of cheese pies and spinach pies (τυρόπιτα and σπανακόπιτα). I watched fish swim around my feet and enjoyed the feeling of smooth rocks and soft sand.IMG_8947

I felt like a siren luring sailors out of the Aegean to the rocks.Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset The hidden beaches Leda took us to were absolutely stunning. Andros is different from other islands in the Kyklades in that it has lush vegetation and natural springs. One side of the island is barren and dry, and then suddenly we drove over a mountain and everything was green. The water was warm enough to wade right in, but cool enough to be refreshing after a long walk.IMG_8848You can’t look at that sea and tell me mermaids don’t exist.

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The natural springs are apparently a source of neighborhood arguments about what belongs to who, but we enjoyed taking a long drink of water after hiking and climbing many, many stairs. (I have a feeling I’ll never escape the stairs in this country). We ate at a taverna that used this spring to chill a watermelon for our dessert. The feta we ate came from local goats–we probably saw the very goats that helped produce it as we walked through the mountains. Halfway through our meal, while the sun was still shining, a raincloud burst over our heads and soaked our tablecloths and napkins. Luckily, most of the food was covered in olive oil, so the rain rolled right off of it and landed in little pools on our plates. It was surreal to be sitting in a friendly little restaurant in the mountains, in the midst of a sunshower with a view of the sea. We poured a libation of white wine to Zeus and the rain soon stopped.

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Our hotel, run of course by a friend of Leda’s, doubled as a farm with olive orchards, chickens, and goats. IMG_8933 2

Ducks and swans float in the waters all over the island. Also cats are everywhere, but somehow I didn’t get any good pictures of them. They’re very friendly and add to the feeling that the flora and fauna are just as integral to the character of the island as the people.

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In fact, we learned the myth of the cypress tree while wandering the archaeological museum in Chora. A young beautiful boy named Cyparissus lived on the island of Chios. The god Apollo loved this boy very much, and as a gift, gave him an equally beautiful stag. The boy and stag hunted together, and one day the boy accidentally killed the stag. He was so overwhelmed by grief that as he stood weeping over the body of his companion, Apollo took pity on him and turned him into the cypress tree, promising that he would be a symbol of grief forever. To this day in Greece, cypress trees are always planted next to cemeteries.
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The natural wonders of Andros aren’t all above the surface–we spent an evening exploring Cave Foros. I had to look away when our guide pointed out the large, six-legged, spider-like creatures that live underground. My love for animals does not extend to the realm of Hades, I guess. Other than that, it was a beautiful cave with huge stalagmites and stalactites and natural pools.

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A highlight of the trip for me was visiting a monastery high up in the mountains overlooking Chora and the sea.  This monastery was built around 900 c.e. and used to house 200-300 monks. It now houses one monk, but he’s very friendly. He offers food to anyone who visits, and is apparently well known around the whole island for his spaghetti with tomato sauce. We tasted his almond cookies, which were also excellent.

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If you visit Greece, take the time to visit a monastery. Coming from a non-religious person, it was one of the most beautiful parts of the trip, and the monk treated us very kindly on our visit.

IMG_8953Another highlight was the Olive Museum of the Cyclades. The owner is a delightful old man who lives in a centuries-old, restored village house with authentic olive-oil producing tools to show us how it was done. His wife also cooked us olive-related things from local olive orchards. In return, we taught him how to take a selfie.

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Sardines from about 100 yards away from the restaurant we were sitting at.

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Ice cream in Korthio. This was described by Leda as the best ice cream she’d had in her life. It did not disappoint.

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Saying goodbye to the hotel and Chora and coming back to hectic Athens was difficult, but as I write (actually, as I wait for the pictures in this post to upload) I’m packing to leave for Crete in about an hour. I’ll be back with plenty more stories (hopefully involving the Minotaur) in about a week! Meanwhile check out this video a friend of mine made of the trip.

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