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Whitewash and Windmills

We have discovered something odd about Athens; those dozens of sites they list in the guidebook are all within two minutes walk of each other and shouldn’t really be listed as separate entries! We really conquered the Parthenon and the associated ruins in less than a day. Many backpackers claim that Athens is busy, dirty and full of pickpockets. We found it was neither dirty nor bustling, though our friend Inge did have her wallet returned by a thief with a conscience ten minutes after he lifted it from her bag (aside from the fact that it had no money in it, I’d say her good looks had a part to play!).

Port town of Hydra

After a couple of days in the city we were glad to get out to the Greek islands. We took a day trip to the port town of Hydra, about two hours by hydrofoil from Piraeus. The island caters for Athenians on weekend breaks and though I hate to use the cliqued expression, it really had old-world charm. There is no motor vehicles permitted on the island, so donkeys, horses and dingies are the primary mode of transport for the locals. We had a great time ransacking the boutique stores and also found a secluded spot to swim off the rocks at the bottom of a sheer cliff face. The sea was beautiful but deceptive; even in May, it is cold enough to take your breath away.

Returning briefly to Athens, we joined a new tour group and spent three nights in Mykonos. I bought a magic circle drawing tool (or Spirographfrom a street vendor in Istanbul which provided us with some entertainment on the rolling ferry. Mykonos is a rugged island famed for its boxy white buildings and trashy party culture. We didn’t see much of the latter as it is currently the off-season and most of the island’s hot-spots are empty. Our campsite group compensated with supermarket booze and Thunderstruck on repeat.

Missy and I spent a full day exploring the main town and the port of Little Venice, where I took photographs of whitewashed alleys, windmills and rats of the sky (pigeons). These images were the basis for the attached sketches. I managed to pick up some watercolours from a bizarre newsagency that appeared to be stuck in an 80s time warp; unfortunately, the tubes must have been on the shelf for about thirty years as the paint has hardened into a useless dry powder.

Painting outdoors (en plein air if you want to get serious) is not as romantic as I imagined. My feet were burnt raw and I have a raccoon-like wind burn in the shape of my sunglasses. The Greek light has an intense quality that suits watercolours, but I was defeated by the elements and had to make quick work of my sketches. I only remembered later that the advocates of en plein air – Impressionists like Monet, Pissarro and Renoir – diffused the sunlight with a large white umbrella. If I ever join an art colony, I’ll make sure to pack a spoonful of cement in my box easel. Or at least a decent hat.

We are headed north to check out the monasteries of Meteora tomorrow. It will be our last point of call in Greece before crossing the border into Albania.        

 

My spirograph skills stink…or maybe it was the extreme lurch of the Mykonos ferry!

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