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.

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.