Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Pyrgos.

Exploring the narrow streets of Pyrgos.

After spending the morning visiting Ancient Thera, we headed inland to Pyrgos, a small village that was, until the early 1800's, the capital of the island.  The small village is located on the highest point in Santorini and offers panoramic views of the whole island....all the way to Oia.  We kept seeing signs to Pyrgos on our ride to Fira and on our drive to Akrotiri.  I had read that it was a good example of a traditional Greek village so off we went.


I Googled for a church in Pyrgos and then set that as our destination point for Ms. Google Maps to guide us to.  For most of the drive, we were on the road leading to Akrotiri.  Once we got off the main road, it was a very short drive before we arrived into what looked like the commercial hub of the village.  A very small center - barely a handful of commercial establishments.  I noticed the town map posted up on a large sign.  As far as I was concerned, we had arrived.  Bro spotted some tour buses and we found a parking lot across the street from them.

The *center* of the village.  On the hillside, you can see two of the village's iconic landmarks -
Agia Theodossia Church on the left and Agios Nikolaos Church on the right.

On foot, we found a path and just took it - small village, you can't get lost.  Pyrgos is composed of traditional houses built around the Kasteli Castle and the small streets follow the shape of the hill.  The cobblestone streets were really very narrow and wound this way and that way.  It was eerily quiet though, especially in the neighborhood area - I don't recall seeing a single person outside any of the buildings.  I had  expected to at least hear the sounds of children playing but maybe they were all still in school. 


There were quite mustard colored buildings in Pyrgos. A nice change of pace from
the typical white washed buildings.

We just kept following the signs pointing to Kasteli and as long as we were going uphill, I figured we were going in the right direction.

 Directions were often just painted on the walkway.  
Very efficient.

If you're a donkey, you need to turn right here.....

The village is not as touristy as I had expected it to be but nonetheless, there were plenty of opportunities to do souvenir shopping.



There are some 33 churches and I don't know how many chapels in this little village.  It seemed like every turn we took, there was a dome with a cross on the top or a bell tower.   The chapel, in the photo below, was open.

A small tour group had congregated in the courtyard out front so we figured it was something worth seeing.  We headed inside.


Interior of the small chapel.

Pyrgos is a fortified village and our walks often pass alongside one. Once, we had to take a passage to pass through the walls.


Eventually, you make it to what looks like the top of the hill.  I had no idea whether or not we had reached the castle - there was no signage to be seen anywhere.  The area we were walking about was in shambles - everything was a bit run down and weeds were even popping up through cracks. t one point, I thought I was walking on top of a roof of a building.  It was weird.  But, the view of the surrounding land was spectacular! 

Looking at the caldera.  The white washed buildings of Oia in the far background.

We eventually found our way to Agia Theodossia.  Too bad it was closed. :-(



The one thing I noticed in Greece is that they often use full sized doors as gates.  Funny thing is that the surrounding wall is usually low enough that you can peer over it.  This door led to a large terrace that looked like it belonged to a hotel - it had a few tables and chairs set out so patrons could enjoy the panoramic view.


Looking up at the dome of Agia Theodossia Church.  It's a very pretty church from the outside.

You can be sure to see art outside.  Loved this little rider and his donkey - quintessentially Greek!

My favorite view of Pyrgos came towards the end of our walk.  Just as I turned a corner, I peered down a small side street and saw Agia Theodossia from a different angle.  It was such a pretty view.


It was a partly cloudy day and a bit on the chilly side.  By now, it was mid afternoon and a good time for a light snack.  We were back the main square.  Before getting back in our car and leaving Pyrgos, we stopped in at Kantouni, one of the last traditional kafeneia (coffeehouses) on the island.

Kantouni is a family-run coffeehouse that dates back to the 1980s. Mrs Voula, the second-generation owner, has been keeping the coffeehouse alive for the last 16 years; her youngest son recently joined her in running the family business.

Out front, there is a small patio shaded by tall pine trees.  We didn't need the shade today.  We took a table and ordered a couple of very traditional Greek appetizers - melitzanosalata,an eggplant dip and taramosalata, a fish roe dip.  I love taramosalata (mildly obsessed with it, actually) cause I love fish roe but this rendition was a bit to salty for me and not quite fishy enough.  I preferred the bottled one, Kronos brand, that I get at home from my local Mediterranean food market.  Our snack was just enough to tie us over for dinner.  After eating, we got in the car and headed back to Kamari.



Melitzanosalata (delicious!) on the left, taramosalata (a tad too salty) on the right. 

For dinner, we headed back to Kamari Beach.   I told Bro I refused to eat at any restaurant where there was a waiter trolling for patrons.  That eliminated the main drag and about 95% of the restaurants.  I told Bro what WE wanted was a place where there was a woman cooking in the kitchen.  I don't think you can do better than a Greek ya-ya (grandmother) behind the stove.  Basicially, I wanted a homestyle meal.








Danas Restaurant where we ate a scrumptious homestyle Greek meal.


We saw just such a restaurant, a few doors up from the Loizos car rental agency office.  It looked good but we decided to check out a few more places.  Bro had spotted one across the street from where we had parked the car.  We decided to walk back and take a look at the menu.  The strains of someone playing a bouzouki filled the air as we perused the menu.  It had all the Greek classics and the place looked very unpretentious. I decided this was the place for us.

A lovely waitress sat us at our table. She was the only server.  For our appetizer, we ordered domatokeftethes, the classic tomato fritter of Santorini.


For our mains, Bro had the lamb kleftiko which is lamb stewed inside parchment.  It's another classic Greek dish that our friend, Maria, had recommended that we try.


I had the stuffed eggplant.


Both the lamb and the eggplant were very delicious!   We dined to lovely Greek music.  I really enjoyed listening to the bouzouki and the guy playing it was pretty good.  I told Bro we would have to tip him on the way out.  This was a very homey but to our pleasant surprise, a very nice restaurant.   I wouldn't mind coming back....tomorrow.

After dinner, we took a walk back to the seaside promenade down at the beach.  I really wanted to see the supermoon which was suppose to be tonight.  I had Bro walk around with me til I spotted some colorful beach chairs - needed some pop of color in the photo otherwise it would have looked really boring.  I have to say, we both noticed how exceptionally bright the moon was!

Not bad for a handheld shot, if I might say so myself! :-)

When we got back to Acropole Sunrise, one of our hosts, Stamatos, intercepted us on our way back to our room.  He told us that there was a Malaysian (yes, it's a small world) staying at the guesthouse and that she recently got news of a death of someone she knew.  She told him that to *mourn* her loss, she wanted to invite everyone for dinner.  So, he asked if we wouldn't mind attending the dinner.  We told Stamatos that we were Malaysian but that neither of us had heard of this tradition.  We were curious about it so we told him that we would gladly participate even though we had just finished eating dinner ourselves.  So, we headed back to the main room. 


I took a seat at the couch to watch TV while Bro sat at the large dining table, chatting with two fellow travelers who also were asked by the host to participate.  No one seemed to know what was going on or what was going to happen next.   We just sat and waited....not sure for what or how long.

Stamatos on the left, his wife on the right.  She owns the guesthouse, along with her brother Petros, who works here but lives nearby with his family.

A while later, Stamatos returned with a bag filled with gyro sandwiches, which he passed around.  His wife handed out plastic glasses of white wine that they contributed to the dinner.  I felt like I had been invited to their house for dinner.  It was so nice.

By the time Stamatos arrived back, the Malaysian woman had long made it to the dining room.  She took a seat at the dining table and chatted with Bro and the two other tourist.  From what he told me afterwards, she never brought up the reason for why she was hosting the meal so it still remains a mystery to us.  Another guest, Dimitris who is a Greek visiting from Athens, joined me on the couch.  I enjoyed chatting with him about Greece and Greek culture. I have long come to the conclusion that Greeks are very friendly, very hospitable and they love to talk, eat and drink and Dimitris was as Greek as it comes! 

Sitting next to Dimitris, a guest staying at Acropole Sunrise.  Grandma was watching TV and keeping an eye on Stamatos's cute toddler of a daughter.

People were eating, chatting.  Everyone was relaxed.  I was really enjoying myself as well.


The impromptu dinner was a fun way to cap off a great day of sightseeing.  One more day in Kamari and Santorini before we head back to Athens.  Looking forward to whatever tomorrow holds for us!

Goodnight from Kamari!