POSITION: 36°32’54″N 26°21’23″E
The Cyclades are the first set of islands you bump into once you leave the south end of the Peloponnese heading east. And Milos is the first island with a town large enough that it caters to tourists. After Nelly’s adventures on the high seas the day before (see here), I insisted we haul her up and stow her safely. The forecast didn’t look as lively as the past couple of days, but I wasn’t taking chances. Of course, there was no wind and we ended up puttering the 80 or so miles to Milos. Arriving in the dark, the broad empty bay and the flat calm gave us plenty of choices. We opted for an anchorage off the nude beach, knowing there was no way anyone would be embarrassed by our presence.
Morning broke bright and clear and we made our way across the natural harbour and backed smartly to the quayside at Adamantas. Brilliant, whitewashed buildings of hard right angles and blue tiled roofs plateau a few hundred feet before the water. The front is lined with hotels and restaurants. In summer the place is packed with any of a dozen nationalities. By mid-October there was plenty of room at the dock and in the pubs. Loading up with groceries, we thought about staying, but with heavy weather looming again, decided instead to press on for a little hurricane hole 30 miles away.
Meltemis, the strong northerlies common to this area, can hang around for a week or more in the summer. By autumn, their tenure is closer to 48 hours. Tucked into a little cove on Schoinoussa, winds hit 30 knots for a few hours. But the storm blew through quickly enough that we grabbed its tail for the crossing to Astypalaia – our last stop before the Dodecanese Islands. Our first visit to this bare, dun coloured rocky outcrop was on our honeymoon eight years ago to the day. Shaped a bit like a butterfly, it was one of the last stops on the Venetian’s tour of Greece. They liked it so much they left a castle and a few hundred people to look after it in the 15th century. We like it because both times we’ve stayed there it has been quiet and peaceful. And full of cats.
At the time the castle was founded in 1413, the island was completely deserted after years of piracy and Turkish plundering. Uncommonly, the Venetians built the castle as part of the town, thus fortifying the settlement. The design served the locals well. Pirates came and went over the next several hundred years, but the community held on. Today about 1,300 people live on the island catering to a growing number of tourists. Over the years, a fair amount of EU funds poured in to build things like the ferry terminal and the municipal dock.
You reach the castle and the old windmills by walking straight up narrow winding lanes from the quay. After a few days on the boat, there’s nothing like a good vertical climb to pump the blood back into your quadriceps. In October many of the pensions are closed, so even in the tightest corners there’s plenty of room. Kids are back in school and the tourist restaurants slowly closing down. By November the docks are free. Here are a few photos that help explain why we like the place so much.