This blog aims to give a personal and totally biased view of the Greek islands I have visited. It is not intended to be a comprehensive guide to the islands. Two aspects of Greek islands that I love are seeing goats wandering around and the dawn chorus of cockerels crowing. Accordingly, each island I have stayed on will have a Cockerel Count and Goatiness rating.
Unless otherwise stated, all images are my copyright and may not be reproduced or copied. Should you wish to purchase a license for commercial use of my images please follow the link to my stock photography blog where you will find details of my agents. Comments are welcomed but reviewed before publication. Enjoy your visit. Regards, David.

Friday, 25 December 2015

Have a great Christmas!

Wishing all readers of My Small Greek Islands a great Christmas and a brilliant 2016! I hope you will continue to enjoy reading my blog in the coming year. Kind regards, David.

Enjoying a Mythos at Lakka harbour, Paxos island

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Lipsi, Photography and Me:

Rediscovering photography on Lipsi.
Copyright: Serban Enache/Dreamstime
Readers of my previous review of the little island of Lipsi will notice that it came without my usual photographs (I licensed two images from photo agency There's a story to that which some might find interesting.

From my biography you will see that I used to be a professional press photographer -mainly concentrating on politicians and other public figures. The advent of (initially) very expensive digital cameras and the founding of the internet led to a situation where my type of photography was no longer viable due to the changes in the way newspapers and television news made use of and paid for images. I changed careers and moved on from photography -even selling my set of film cameras (two Olympus OM1 SLRs and a medium format Mamiyaflex).

Moving forward to the early 2000s saw me start to visit small Greek islands where my photography was just limited to holiday snaps using a one-use disposable film camera. Quite sufficient for record shots for me -with no thoughts of ever offering images for sale. Then came my Lipsi trip in 2004.....

It started with the welcome meeting (the morning after our "peril at sea" transfer from Rhodes). One of my fellow guests was sporting a very substantial professional level camera (a Nikon or Canon). My little disposable suddenly looked very insignificant compared to that and I felt the first twinges of missing out on "proper" photography. In conversation it turned out that he worked for the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) and that him and his French partner were both Greek island lovers -recommending Tilos as another small island to check out. Now, when I was photographing, the BBC (News) had been one of my major customers. Again, there was that feeling of missing out and links to my past.

Throughout my two weeks on Lipsi my BBC man became a regular sight (it's a very small island!) lining up, no doubt, stunning professional images of the island. That Greek wedding that I went to check out in the early hours? Of course, there he was already -skilfully capturing the action from every angle (I hadn't even brought my camera). By the time of the Panagia Harou religious procession I didn't just want to take a snap. Oh no, I wanted (needed) to "document" it -the small fact that my camera was rubbish not putting me off. A misjudgement on the route the procession would take found me careering through a building site to regain ground and catch up with the action. That, by the way, is a key to much of Editorial photography -knowing what is going to happen, when and where. This time my BBC friend had excelled himself -not only being in place to capture the procession throughout but (the final triumph) had his partner waiting, positioned at the church, with ANOTHER camera -shooting the event from a whole different viewpoint. I think I ended up with a few blurry images of the band marching and that was it.

Back home in England I had a lot to think about but one thing I knew was that I really wanted to do some serious photography again. My BBC friend had ensured that. By chance, somebody I knew was selling their whole camera outfit. An Olympus OM20 SLR complete with a whole range of lenses and accessories -and at a bargain price. I was back in the zone. Crisp, sharp images. Changing lenses as required. Using different apertures/shutter speeds to get the effect I wanted all started to come back to me.

This also coincided with getting easy access to the internet for the first time and the discovery that there were actually photo agencies that would take sufficiently good images from anyone, professional or otherwise and market them. I suddenly had an outlet for my creative drive and started submitting to a few. I pretty soon realised that in a digital age the Olympus film camera (no matter how good) wasn't the right camera for this new direction and invested (for me) a small fortune on a Nikon D80 DSLR and eight years later that same camera is still going strong.

Of course, I would still love going to small Greek islands with or without a camera, just as I would enjoy going to airshows without taking photographs but having the camera adds a whole different dimension -it really makes you look properly at things and look for those things other people do not notice -and the satisfaction of having good images to remember experiences by is untold. I owe a big thanks to that BBC photographer for giving me the inspiration to get photographing again. If that's you, or it sounds like someone you know please do leave a comment below. Regards, David.

Monday, 9 November 2015

Lipsi (Dodecanese):

Lipsi Town. Copyright: Toth Harald/
I travelled to the lovely small Greek island of Lipsi (Lipsoi) back in August 2004. Situated near the far end of the Dodecanese chain between Leros and Patmos I made the transfer from Rhodes in a not especially big wooden boat -pretty much like a fishing boat with seats added. I mention this because the transfer was not especially smooth due to hitting the tail end of Hurricane Charley which had recently caused much damage across the USA (it probaly wasn't connected at all and just a localised storm, but it made for a much better story). With a heady mix of tiredeness and excitement I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of plunging through enormous waves showering the interior of the open boat with spray. I probaly should have taken the situation a bit more seriously especially when it was announced we were pulling into the shelter of a nearby island - only proceeding again after a coastguard helicopter had flown overhead presumably checking whether it was safe for us to continue. I'm pleased to say that after over four and a half hours transfer we reached Lipsi safely. The rep for holiday company Laskerina congratulated us the next day for surviving their longest ever transfer from Rhodes!

By now, the sun had set and armed with a small map set out to find my accommodation. The Calypso apartments are, in reality, barely a five minute walk from the harbour but by the time the road had petered out into a track near the top of the hill I soon realised that my map reading skills needed some work and had to backtrack down the hill. Arrival at the apartments was made all the better by the sight of a cow happily grazing in a field in front of the property. This must be the only small Greek island I have visited where I have even seen a cow let alone had one by my accommodation (daylight later revealed that there was, in fact, a whole herd of them and that the "field" was actually a vegetable patch which the cow had got into before munching its way through the produce).

Setting out in the dark for the essential Retsina and food supplies proved a success when I found a mini market in the maze of small alleys and roads that make up Lipsi Town. Problems only arose when I realised that I didn't have a clue where I was or how to get back to the apartment. This is where I (eventually) worked out my invaluable technique of heading downwards until I reached the harbour front again. Then it all became clear and I spotted the road home (this time avoiding the unwanted excursion to the top of the hill).

Blue seas and sky of Lipsi
Copyright: Serban Enache/Dreamstime
Waking up on the first morning on a new Greek island is always exciting but on Lipsi it was extra special when at 6.00am I woke to the sound of masses of clanging bells. Rushing to the balcony there they were -dozens of goats being herded across the hillside by a man on a horse. I had never seen that many goats before or since and for that Lipsi gets the top Goatiness rating of Astronomic. This spectacle was repeated a number of times during my stay as the goats were moved to new grazing areas. The taverna menus on Lipsi could probaly also get a Goatiness rating of their own but, as a non meat eater, I won't dwell on that!
By comparison the Cockerel Count for Lipsi only rates as a modest medium.

One of the big standout features on Lipsi is the hundreds of small chapels dotted around the island -far more than I have ever seen elsewhere - giving the whole island a rather spiritual feel. Most of these are privately owned and built by families on the island. The spiritual feel came to a head with the annual Festival of Panagia Harou on August 22/23. This religious festival attracts many to the island and the days leading up to it saw ferry loads of arrivals including senior priests from nearby Patmos and even a military band in full uniform (who actually stayed next to me at the Calypso!). On the day a spectacular procession set off from Lipsi Town comprising the band, armed soldiers, priests, islanders, visitors and a good number of tourists drawn into the atmosphere. This makes its slow way uphill to the old church of Panagia Harou for a special service. Even as a non religious person, the whole event was moving and powerful -not least the desperation of a man pushing an (obviously) very ill woman in a wheelchair. Weaving his way through the crowd up the steep hill to reach the front of the procession in order to receive blessings from the priest on arrival at the church.

Another big event of my stay was the Greek Wedding. In town for dinner I came across a big party of people in the main square all eating and drinking at tables that had been laid out. My first thought was that this was another festival event (especially as no bride and groom were visible at that point). On and on the music and singing went late into the night -and then through the night! By early morning I just had to go and see just what was happening and arrived back at the square for the truth to be revealed. The celebrations then continued well into the afternoon until eventually I saw from my balcony the whole party making their way along the road out of town. It was certainly another unique experience for me.

Lovely Lipsi.
Copyright: Serban Enache/Dreamstime
Lipsi has many small coves and beaches most of which can be readily reached by walking either on the main road or using goat tracks. One I especially liked was Katsadia (about 40 minutes walk) which boasts a couple of nice tavernas. Further up the island (about an hour) is Platys Yialos which also has a taverna. Shallow water extends a long way out here which I liked and you may find yourself being joined by a family of ducks which like to swim in the sea. On the way to Platys Yialos there is a road to the left which takes you down steeply to Kimissi beach. From the beach there is a spectacular series of steps carved out of the cliff face leading (eventually) to a small chapel. According to our Laskerina rep this was once the home to an elderly hermit leading a solitary life high up on the cliff.  Certainly in 2004 there were a number of signs of previous habitation there suggesting more than just a good story. Be warned, the steps are steep and tiring both ways and when you get back to the beach the only way out is the steep concrete road heading uphill. You will need plenty of water for that walk!

If my arrival on Lipsi was a stormy one, my departure was a rapid one. With a 6.00am ferry and suitcase pickup at 5.00am I was awoken by a knocking on the door. When I pointed out it was only 4.00am I soon got corrected -my watch had mysteriously lost exactly one hour. That explained why Katsadia beach had emptied of people rather early the previous day and why there had been virtually nobody at the taverna when I went out to dinner! Instead of a leisurely cup of coffee on the balcony and a last look around at the apartment it was a case of throwing stuff in my hand luggage and heading for the harbour. Not the best way to end a lovely two weeks.

Lipsi is a charming small island with lots of great walking to be had -and all those goats. Of course, there may well have been some changes and development since my visit so some research is advised. Lipsi is in my top four Greek islands and one that I would love to revisit one day. Regards, David.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

My Small Greek Islands Calendars:

Taverna table at Mandraki on Nisyros island
If you enjoy looking at the Greek island images I post on this blog you may want to take a look at the various products and merchandise available from one of my photo agents Redbubble. I currently have four calendars published - My Small Greek Islands, My Small Greek Islands (2), Halki island, Maritime Greece.
As well as the calendars (which you can start from any month of the year) there is a whole range of other gift ideas for yourself or maybe as Christmas presents for the Greek island lover in your life. Prints and posters, T Shirts, Mugs, Laptop covers, baby clothes, scarves, skirts, leggings and more.
Here is the link to my calendar page from which you can view the rest of my portfolio there. Do check it out -there is no obligation to buy! Kind regards, David.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Tilos Sea Star - starring no more?

Tilos Sea Star in Symi, June 2011
Having just recently returned from two wonderful weeks on the Dodecanese island of Halki (a post on this will follow in the future) I was surprised to see no sign of the fast catamaran Tilos Sea Star. Taking the day trip to Nisyros, we twice called in at Livadia harbour on Tilos with no sign of the Sea Star.

Curious, I did some research on the internet and it seems that the Sea Star service was unprofitable and has been sold. I cannot verify this, but certainly it is not running a 2015 schedule. A marine traffic website shows her current position as Rhodes with no recent movements logged.

Built in 1989 in Norway, the ship was purchased by the municipality of Tilos island and commenced service in 2000. I travelled to and from the island aboard Sea Star in 2006 and saw her a number of other times whilst visiting other islands -the last being at Symi in 2011 (pictured).

It's sad to think we'll not be seeing the Sea Star again (if my information is correct). At least not in the Tilos livery (though she may well re-appear in a new guise in the future). If it seems silly to be nostalgic or sad about the demise of a ferry service it needs to be remembered just how integral to visiting small Greek islands these vessels are. They are the start of your new adventure as you arrive in the island harbour and also the setting for your departure as you watch your chosen island fade into the distance.

If you are considering a holiday on Tilos do not worry -there are still other ferry services available (principally the Dodekanisos Seaways catamaran Dodekanisos Express and Blue Star Ferries massive ferry Diagoras). Still, I'll miss seeing the Sea Star when in the Dodecanese. Regards, David.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Halki (Dodecanese):

Emborio village
I visited the lovely Dodecanese island of Halki (Chalki) in 2005 and again in 2010. Slightly over an hour by sea from Rhodes this little island is barely 10km long and has a permanent population of only around three hundred people. Of course, this number is increased in peak season both by tourists and people coming to work on the island. Nethertheless, even then you could not describe the island as crowded and you will be able to walk for miles barely seeing another person.

The main centre of population is the port of Emborio where the ferries arrive and, to my mind, the approach to Emborio is one of the most attractive views of any of the Greek islands I have visited. Pretty pastel coloured houses, the imposing white Town Hall, the bell tower of the Agios Nikolaos church (the tallest bell tower in the Dodecanese) and, above all, the tall stone clock tower all make for a stunning first impression.

Agios Nikolaos bell tower
Now for a word about that clock tower. On my first visit the time on the clock was always twenty past four which led to speculation that, perhaps, the clock was a bit noisy and was stopped during peak season (slightly reinforced by a resident confiding that the major holiday company to Halki at the the time -the now defunct Laskerina Holidays - "encouraged" locals to keep music and noise down during the holiday season). However, on my return five years later, time had literally stood still on the island and it was still twenty past four. It turned out the explanation was simply that it was broken and was too costly to repair, though I have read on the internet that some funds might be in the offing so maybe time has restarted by now.

Emborio has a small selection of tavernas and cafes on the harbour front and a couple of mini markets as well as a bakery for fresh bread and cheese pies. One feature of the village is the number of old derelict stone houses, often with trees growing in them which certainly made for good photographic subjects. On my second visit quite a few of these had been restored to life though a good number still remained. Do visit the Agios Nikolaos church where as well as the bell tower there is also a pebble mosaic "Hoklakia" courtyard. Intricate designs are made up of numerous black and white pebbles from the sea and make for interesting photographs.

Chapel above Pondamos beach
Going right (facing seawards) from the harbour it is a fifteen minute walk to Ftenagia beach where there is a taverna and good views of the uninhabited island of Nissos which lies just outside Emborio harbour. The alternative local beach is that at Pondamos which you reach in about ten minutes by taking the main inland road out of Emborio. This actually has sand (imported!) and an excellent taverna which became one of my regular lunch venues on the island. For variety, when returning to Emborio take the right hand fork in the road which takes you round past the islands cemetery which has a beautiful large domed church. If you want to do some cockerel counting just past the cemetery there were a number of chickens wandering in the road both times I visited and, I expect, still there.

For a longer walk head for Kania beach by taking the inland road from Emborio and then the first turning on the right. This is quite a climb up into the hills above Emborio and then down into Kania. This is just a pretty rocky cove which you might even get to yourself. In 2010, there were no facilities there at all but I gather there is now some sort of temporary taverna in peak season (though do not rely on that!). Allow 45 minutes or so for the walk there.

On my first visit I took the islands taxi to the Monastery of St.John which is near the far end of the island and is the sight of a major festival each August. Maybe it was just me, but I felt rather unwelcomed by the few people working there and left after a brief look around. On the plus side, the long walk back (a good couple of hours) was highly enjoyable and offered excellent views over the island.

Old windmills above Emborio
One thing you won't fail to notice are the three stone windmills that stand on the hill above Emborio. These make a good walking destination and you will get a great view down onto the harbour when you are up there. Take the road on the left just past the small army base on the cemetery road to get up to them. A word of warning: do respect the "no photography" signs by the base -military subjects are considered sensitive in Greece just like anywhere else.

For me, one of the highlights of both visits to Halki was the walk up to the medieval Knights of St.John castle which stands high above Emborio. Take the main inland road past Pondamos beach and keep going uphill to the old (mainly derelict) village of Horio. This will take around 30 minutes or so. Upon
Crusader Knights castle
reaching Horio walk up to
wards two small chapels and then scramble up a path to reach the castle. There were no concessions to Health and Safety when I was there and I was able to explore the castle ruins at will -standing up on the ramparts to enjoy the view and exploring inside the castle chapel (just be careful not to fall down the very
deep looking well!). As expected, there are great photographs to be had here.

One of my interests when on Greek islands is watching (and photographing) all the activity in the harbour and Emborio certainly has plenty of that. Look out for the regular Dodekenisos Seaways fast catamaran, which is the one you are going to get if you take a day trip to Nisyros island to see the volcano (see my previous post on Nisyros). You could also pay a visit to Tilos using this as well (tickets are available in advance from the travel agents in the harbour). Several times a week you might see the massive ANEK lines ferry come in which always looks impossibly big for a small harbour. Notable on Halki as well is the regular visit from the water boat which brings in precious water from Rhodes.
ANEK Lines Ierapetra L ferry

Cockerel count on Halki is medium but Goatiness gets a high rating here. Don't be surprised to meet goats wandering along the road both in Emborio itself and further inland.

Halki then, a Dodecanese island full of charm. Not overly touristy at all. Lovely walks, a castle, boats and goats! Halki is in my top four favourite Small Greek Islands -and I'm delighted to say I'll be returning there in 2015 giving it the distinction of being the only island I have made a third visit to. Regards, David.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Paxos - Paxos Animal Welfare Society (PAWS):

PAWS clinic at Magazia
If ever an animal welfare society on a Greek island were looking for a snappy and memorable name they certainly had it easy on the island of Paxos where the name PAWS (Paxos Animal Welfare Society) became the obvious choice.

Founded in 2005, the society (now a Registered Charity) carries out the usual range of animal welfare activities on the island including neutering and spaying of cats and dogs as well as a year round feeding programme for the feral cats. Volunteers on the island are joined each year by visiting vets to carry out a range of medical treatments on the islands animals.

When I was there in June 2014, I saw a number of the cat feeding stations around the island including the pictured one at Loggos, which was being well used by a nu
mber of cats. Sadly, according to their recent newsletter, this was lost in the storms of December 2014 but is being replaced in 2015. Whilst on a walk through the village of Magazia I came across the PAWS clinic. Doing my research back home it turned out this was a recent development which was opened in September 2013 and has greatly helped the society with their work.

Cat feeding station, Loggos
As I previously wrote in my post about the Alonnisos Society for Animal Protection (!/alonnisosanimals) many visitors to the islands help out with some temporary feeding while on holiday but these organisations are there for the animals all year round and deserve support for the valuable work they do.

To find out more about the work of PAWS (or to make a welcome donation) you can visit their website at . Rather unusually they do not seem to have a Facebook page at this stage, but I'll edit in a link later should this change.

If you are visiting Paxos do look out for the feeding stations round the island and consider helping them with their work. Regards, David.