Here on Sifnos I like to sit in the square of Apollonia or on the rocks at the end of the port in Kamares and watch the world (and cats) go by. The sights at the square seem to center on all things local. People running into the pharmacy, or grabbing a spanikopita at the bakery, or slowly sipping bitter Greek coffee under the grape arbor of Lakis, one of the oldest kafeneio on the island.
The port here on Sifnos is a bit more international. When the ferry ship booms its horn, people press against each other and things change. A cluster of taxis appear out of nowhere, gleeful greetings bellow out in more languages than I can identify. You can actually feel the rumble from the wheels of a hundred rolling bags. It’s the picture of the sheer exhilaration of travel.
I guess it wasn’t always like this. When it comes to the vibes of a Greek island I keep hearing the same phrase: “You should have seen it 30 years ago.”
But as I sit on my bench it’s hard to feel the blight of mass tourism here on Sifnos. Sure there’s the ferry chaos, but Sifnos still feels like an out-of-the-way island with its own unique character.
But, of course, things change. I’ve even noticed some changes since I’ve been here.
We arrived at the beginning of April. We were probably the only tourists here at the time. Not much was happening. Fortunately a small restaurant called Tselementes was open at the top of the “main drag” known as the Steno. The restaurant is named after the famous Greek Chef Nicholas Tselementes, the father of Greek cooking. I wrote about him previously and superficially here, but you can find out more about him here if you prefer a more academic reading. The family that runs this small but excellent restaurant claims some distant kinship to the famous chef. But that’s not the point of this post. Today I want to talk about change. The change I saw here on Sifnos and more generally the change that’s in the air.
We first came here when the flush of springtime was just beginning to warm the air. Wild flowers were everywhere. Yellow and white daisy-like blossoms danced in the breeze. Purple lupine crept over the walkways. Red poppies filled the fields. The lyrics from the poppy song in the Wizard of Oz kept popping in my head “You’re out of the woods. You’re out of the dark. You’re out of the night…”
The wildflowers were so plentiful and so colorful it’s no wonder I’m making Technicolor references. I recall during those first few wondrous hikes around the island shuffling through the dense and fragrant growth, friendly bees buzzing in my ears. In some places the waist-high blooms engulfed the trail and nearly forced this hiker to turn back. We also collected herbs on these trails: sage, rosemary, and thyme. Bringing yet another song from my youth to mind.
But things change and we were lucky enough to be here through the change as the wild flowers slowly gave way to tall green grass swaying with the wind. But even the green grass is subject to change. It’s now turned golden. By July much of the island will be brown and parched. I won’t be here for the winter rains, but surely that change will come too and the cycle will begin again.
We often sit outside on our terrace overlooking the sea before bed. There are a sprinkling of islands scattered along the horizon: Syros, Paros, Sikinos, Ios, Folegandros. When these island’s lights come on they form a kind of sparkling diamond necklace. Most nights the lights of the neighboring islands and the stars above twinkle together in their own light show. However, every third night or so we can see a cruise ship drift past making its rounds between Mykonos and Santorini. It doesn’t stop here on Sifnos, but I can imagine that someday it will and the simple light show I’m watching now will be forever changed. A change that seems as predictable as the cycle of wildflowers. Suddenly I understand, and I do wish I’d seen it 30 years ago. GREG
This all sounds so enchanting, Greg! Will you ever want to come home?
I can’t help but think that cat pic was for me. Thank you! It’s a true glamour shot, with his simmering smirk of feline fisherman bravado (all the other photos are stunning, too). It’s even better than a baby in a KFC bucket.
It’s really cool you have a chance to visit / stay for an extended period of time, so are able to enjoy all these little changes like seasonal flowers. Beautiful (as always) pictures and landscapes. But I’m particularly in love with this handsome cat 🙂
Being there for the changes is truly magical. I wish you could stay for the winter rains…
Your words and pictures bring Sifnos to life so beautifully and it sounds like you picked the perfect time to experience the island.
The beauty of travel is that it always forever changes you. Enjoy every moment.
Another beautiful post.
Sometimes change is happening so fast that you can’t feel the change. Which I think is one reason why people never learn from history. But watching the seasons change? Can’t think of a better way to experience it.
Not only would it be interesting to see Sifnos 30 years ago, but also 30 years in the future. I find time — and change — SO fascinating. Things are different, but still at least partially the same. Loving the pictures (and the writing!) as always. And I’m a sucker for cat pictures. 🙂
That was the question popping into our heads as we passed the eight cranes dotting the landscape: what was it like 30–40 years ago? My uncle would not recognize San José, in fact, I barely recognize it year to year. It was nice to be in San José in spring, the beautiful dessert flowers in full bloom, we usually come in February, when the landscape is dry and brown.