It seems like every island has its little niche, the thing they use to (hopefully) distinguish themselves from all the other islands and convince enough tourists to drop in long enough to spend a few fistfuls of euros before moving on to the next. On Milos it’s the beaches. They have over 70, I’m told, ranging from traditional sandy crescents with warm shallow water to blinding white-rock lunarscapes to tiny slivers of gravel demurely nestled between picturesque cliffs. Another one even has a tree. So you just never know. Of course, despite all its great beaches and the most sheltered port in all of the Aegean (meaning in terms of protective land mass, I think, not just a whole shitload of beach umbrellas), and like any Greek island worth its salt, Milos also has some pretty cool little villages. As a result of rather sporadic ferry schedules this time of year we actually ended up making two stops in Milos with a trip to Sifnos sandwiched in between. The first time around we stayed up in the hillside village of Trypiti, with terrace views and relatively close proximity (i.e. 20 minutes of steep hills) to Milos’ version of the “idyllic Grecian old town” in Plaka, with it’s, once again, crowded whitewashed buildings, narrow alleys and fantastically located hilltop church and castle.
We also happened to be about as close as you could get to the mesmerizingly colourful little seafront cluster of “syrmata” of Klima, where fisherfolk live on the top level and the bottom is where they store their little boats (along with all the rest of their typical fishing gear – nets, paddles, anchors, bottles of ouzo and, I assume, a few old pornographic sculptures they leave lying around when it’s just the boys). Of course, “as close as you could get” still meant a kilometre and 300 metres of elevation down and, naturally, back up. One thing never in short supply in the Greek islands are hills. Hills, and unsightly sweat stains. Luckily it is only going up to 22 or 23 during the day in October, rather than the 30+ numbers that must feel awfully disgusting at times in the summer. The bonus of this undertaking, though, was that the trail also passed by some catacombs (which kind of seemed like just a bunch of small caves but are nonetheless quite important and ancient, or so I’m told), the remains of a 4,000-year old Roman theatre overlooking Klima and the harbour, and the site where the famous statue of Greek goddess Aphrodite, known as the Venus de Milo by the Romans, was sculpted back around 100 BC and was eventually discovered, or re-discovered, I suppose, in 1820 by “a peasant”. All the different accounts are very specific on the peasant thing, as though it were somehow shocking that such a large piece of stone could actually be spotted by non-aristocratic eyes. Regardless, it was then promptly whisked away for the enjoyment of various foreign rulers before eventually settling in to a life of leisure and long wine-drinking in lunches at the Louvre in Paris.
Katie came from Folegandros to Milos with us and spent a couple nights before heading off on her own to continue the last few weeks of her trip in Santorini and various places in Spain. And, wouldn’t you know it, the very day she left heralded the arrival of Laynni’s parents, fresh off their Oktoberfest adventure, and who have been joining us on trips all over the world just about anywhere that doesn’t involve multiple days of high altitude hiking or people inexplicably drinking fermented mare’s milk just for fun.
Anyway, back to the beaches. During our first stop Laynni and I hiked a few kilometres to a beach called Firopotamos, which looked amazing from the road above, a little gravelly up close, but had almost fluorescent aquamarine water and some ancient ruins scenically located at the end of a small headland. A pair of dogs (one plain brown and average enough to be found in the dictionary under “mongrel”, the other a fuzzy short-legged follower who was clearly someone’s pet slumming it with the local bad boy) followed us all the way from our hotel to the beach, which was several kilometres, like they were either loyal guards or persistent beggars, then just when it seemed like we’d never get rid of them they simply ditched us for some cute little short-haired number who came prancing along. We never did see them again. Feeling unwisely energetic, we decided to continue on in search of another beach in the same general part of the island and, naturally, got promptly lost. In fairness, we had obediently followed several “To the Beach” signs thinking, logically we assumed, that they would lead us to the quite popular Plathiena Beach nearby. Nope. Instead we ended up at a deserted pile of rocks next to a mining site that more than stretched the definition of “beach”, then in our annoyance further compounded our error by choosing to try to improvise a shortcut rather than backtrack. And, in fairness, we did eventually arrive at our desired destination. Unfortunately, though, the route quickly turned into a long, circuitous and difficult scramble over shale hills and through prickly shrubs before arriving at a final arduous, slippery descent to a house adjacent to the beach. After eventually negotiating this rough slope, we finally emerged relieved and exhausted only to encounter an angry old man standing confrontationally on his driveway who responded to my forced cheeriness “Kalimera!” (Good morning!) with the angry reply of “What you want doing on my property?”, to which we explained that we had gotten lost, leading him to rather aggressively wonder whether or not we had seen his house, which we assured him we had, so he mentioned trespassing, we laughed briefly, and then when he inexplicably uttered the word “police” we couldn’t suppress our inadvertent snorts of laughter but did hold ourselves in check enough to simply walk away rather than offer further details about just how little interest we had in a close-up look at his ragged underwear drying on the line, or the illegal brush fire he was very loosely tending, or whatever horrible things he does to that tied-up goat when no one is looking that presumably are the reasons he is so paranoid and defensive.
On our second stop in Milos, however, all four of us rented a car to do our beach-hopping and things went much more smoothly. We started with the stunning white moonscapes of Sarakiniko Beach, which isn’t really a beach at all, but really just a lot of really fascinating, chalky rock formations surrounded by incredible blue water. Then there were the sheer cliffs and rocky desolation of Papafragas Beach, then the cute little fishing village of Pollonia, before making our way to the south side of the island to Tsigrado and Fyriplaka beaches. Fyriplaka was a nice, long sandy crescent (by Greek standards) with a tiny little thatch-roofed beach bar, a few of its own interesting rock formations, multi-coloured cliffs towering above, and a few scattered nudists discreetly hiding out behind some rocks toward the end of the beach, lurking unbeknownst to unwary photographers looking for just the right angle of that especially colourful ridge, regrettably unprepared to have their vision ambushed by such a prominent, and shockingly large, vagina. The beach next door, Tsigrado, was apparently also appealing to nudists, but since it was so difficult to reach – via steep and slippery slot canyon, rickety wooden ladder and a frayed rappelling rope broken and re-tied in several places that obviously enjoyed its best days well before the days of civil injury lawsuits – the couple who had been presumably enjoying a private moment or two had plenty of warning that we were coming and, after offering Laynni only the briefest penile glimpse, discreetly chose to cover up during our short visit (their bottom halves, at least). Well worth the risk and effort to get to this beautifully hidden little cove with its crystal clear water, spectacular cliffs and evenly tanned breasts. In my opinion.
Next time: Sifnos, and hiking and pigs and little to no visible nudity.