“ Didn’t we have a lovely time, the day we went to …. Antikythira ? ”
No, it doesn’t have the same ring about it, but we had a lovely time anyway. Watch the original by Fiddler’s Dram (‘The Day we went to Bangor’) on You-Tube, and a slightly more risque version by Jasper Carrot (‘Day trip to Blackpool’.)
Even those of us fortunate enough to live here in Paleochora need a holiday, so it was decided to take a day-trip to Antikythira, a small island c.35 km off the NW tip of Crete, and around a two hour ferry journey from Kastelli-Kissamos (just over 1 hours drive from Paleochora). The rather complex schedule of Lane Sea Lines dictates that only on Wednesdays (in summer) can you take the boat to Antikythira and return the same day.
Leaving Kissamos at 7.30am, it docks there at 9.45am, continuing on to Kythira and Gytheio, returning by the same route to collect you at 8.45pm, and reaching Kastelli at 11pm. Which gave us eleven hours ashore, ample time to explore the small island, which measures just 10.5 km x 3.5 km, with an area of 22 sq.km.
We booked tickets with Maria at Selino Travel (incredibly, just 20 euros return, and free for my mountain bike) and, because of the early start, stayed overnight at the Elena Beach Hotel, just five minutes from Kissamos port (highly recommended, they even made us coffee at 6.30am.)
Dawn broke as we sailed out of Kissamos Bay, alongside the Gramvousa peninsula, with retrospective views later to the two islands of Imeri and Agria Gramvousa. Soon Antikythira appeared on the distant horizon, and on schedule, disembarked eight passengers at the port of Potamos – two islanders returning home, and six of us “day-trippers.”
We thought it advisable to find somewhere for an evening meal before the journey home, so we headed for a taverna overlooking the bay. This, the only one as it transpired, was also the Post Office, a (very limited) mini-market, and Tourist Information Centre ; someone, possibly the island’s mayor, disappeared, soon returning with detailed maps describing several places we must visit during our brief stay.
We “booked” a meal for around 7.30pm, then split up, Jane and Michelle setting off one way, Judy and Ulrike another, Dick, a keen ornithologist, heading for the island’s bird observatory (which sadly was closed), and me attempting to pedal south to the lighthouse at Apolytaras on the southern point of the island.
Antikythira is best-known for the shipwreck, discovered by sponge divers from Symi in 1900, at a depth of c.50m . Thought to have been Roman, and foundered off the NE coast in the 1st century BC, it contained a wealth of artifacts, many brought to the surface by the French underwater explorer Jaques Cousteau in 1976. Among them was the “Antikythira Mechanism”, possibly the first-ever ‘computer’, now in the Athens archaeological museum. Read about its fascinating history elsewhere.
An undulating surfaced road runs south to Galaniana, where is the church of Agios Myronas, the island’s patron saint. Annually on August 17th, the resident population of 45 increases to c.1000 with visitors, and islanders returning home for the “feast day.” I rode on, along a rough track to where it ended, then took a stony path towards the lighthouse, now in view ; but with a kilometre to go, and a descent of 150m – and a similar distance/ascent back – I gave up. Next visit……
Instead, I cycled back north, past the heliport and through Charchaliana, left the bike and walked down to the small beach/cove at Kamarela, below spectacular sea cliffs with rock arches.
It was mid afternoon and hot, even in October, and I needed a swim – but not here, too rocky and dangerous. So from one side of the island to the other, over to Xiropotamos beach, probably once the port of the now ruined Kastro (or Castle), a walled Hellenistic city dating back to the 4th century BC. Covering c. 3 sq.km, much of the polygonal encircling wall remains intact, and, cooled and refreshed by the swim, my 30-minute exploration was absorbing.
From here back to Potamos, and the taverna, was a short easy walk around the headland, but for me a steep climb (push!) back up to the “main” road, and a fast descent to the harbour. We all re-assembled with stories to tell, and enjoyed a far more leisurely meal than anticipated ; the taverna owner announced – “boat is coming, maybe one hour late.”
And it was, but it came, and it glided into Kissamos just on midnight. If you get chance, take a day-trip to Antikythira – and ……. “ have a lovely time …. ”
Footnote : So enjoyable was our day on Antikythira that by the time you read this we will havespent a longer holiday on the larger island of Kythira – watch this space !