Thursday, October 10, 2013

Mama Mia: Skopelos is Stunningly Beautiful

So we finally arrive in Skopelos after catching the ferry from the port of Volos.  This is the place I had been dreaming of ever since we saw the movie Mama Mia!  We’ve chosen this spot as a base where we
will finally put our backpacks down for a while to write, to be creative and to indulge in the luxury of a bit of rest and relaxation to reflect on everything we have learnt and where we wish our future to take us.

The daughter of our host is waiting at the port to pick us up.  The little apartment we have chosen is situated up on the top of the hill so I am glad we are not lugging our packs up by foot.  We circle the island to reach our studio, as like most Greek Islands, this town is a mostly car free zone.  Georgia is waiting for us when we reach Kastro Studios.  She is a friendly lady and is already chatting nineteen to the dozen with Steven.  He occasionally interrupts to let me know what she is saying. 

She leads us up a narrow stairway and throws open the door of the balcony and I gasp.   I could not have imagined such a view.  The photos on the website did not do this place justice.  She explains that we’ve been allocated the best studio as it is the low season and there is no one else here.  We have a 270-degree view that includes an ocean view to the left and a view of the town to the right.  It has just been raining the last few days and today the town glistens in the sunshine, as if it has only just been whitewashed.  For many years now, I have fantasized about experiencing life in a little white Greek cottage with an ocean view.  It’s not exactly a Greek cottage but I feel my dream has just come true.  The entire town of Skopelos is painted white with splashes of blue and the occasional green or red to highlight windows and other features. 

Stunning simplicity…what more can I say.

I now understand why so many photographers, artists and writers come to the Greek Islands in search of inspiration.  I am already beginning to feel I could stay here for awhile…and feel my mind and body unwind.  The landscape before us changes colour as the afternoon turns into evening and we sit on the balcony and take it all in.  When the sun sets and the lights come on in town, there is a completely different kaleidoscope of colours and my camera works over time!  

I wake up the next morning to a spectacular sunrise.  Still half asleep, I grab my camera and start shooting before climbing back into bed.  There will be plenty of time to write and explore – but for the next few days, I want life to unravel slowly.  I am woken up again to the sounds of church bells.  It is Sunday morning and every church in town rings their bells around 7 am to remind us it is Sunday morning.  The sound is incredible and quite beautiful.  I look outside but it looks like a ghost town – there isn’t any sound or movement yet.

We eventually make our way down to the port.  The way down is beautiful with a different scene around every corner.  The blue and white theme predominates but there is no monotony to this conformity.  Colourful bougainvillea adds a splash of colour to the stark white-washed walls. 
Pomegranate, orange and other citrus plants are still bulging with fruit but the grape vines are now withering in the courtyards with the onset of autumn.  It all serves to remind us that people on the islands are far more self-sustaining than their city counterparts. 

We are quite surprised to find how quiet the island is.  The tourist hordes have all gone home and the little alleyways are almost deserted.  Doors and windows that would normally have been wide open in the summer are shut, guarding those inside against the slight chill in the air.  Most of the tavernas are also shut but we find a little place by the water that is still open.  Locals sit around having a coffee and playing board games.  It feels truly authentic and despite the cooler weather, I am glad we are not here during the peak season.  Later today we will buy groceries so we can live like locals but on our first day here we indulge in a plate of souvlaki and enjoy the ambience of Skopelos. 

As we make our way back to our studio, we stop on the way to chat to a family sitting outside the stone steps that lead to our place.  Later we find they are the daughter and son-in-law of Georgia, our host.  Their two little girls are giggly and shy but eventually make friends with us.  In Greek and English they explain they have lived here for 7 generations.   Why would you choose city life they ask, when we have this beautiful island to wake up to each day?  Why indeed.  The crisis has not affected Skopelos as badly because the fame of Mama Mia brings boat loads of tourists each summer, hot on the trail of the sites made famous by Merryl Streep and Peirce Brosnan.  Angelo works hard in the construction industry and is annoyed at the bad propaganda that all Greeks get in the media. 

Eventually, we say good night.  It feels good to be getting to know our neighbours and making friends.  Community is after all what makes a place feel like home…

As we continue to explore further, we meet more of the locals, all of whom are keen to chat and ask where we are from and if we love Skopelos.  They clearly love their island home. 

We have travelled the world in search of community, and as I look around me, I realise that here in the Greek Islands people have lived communally for generations.  Houses are not walled in from intruders or neighbours.  Kids walk home alone, and people gather in the tavernas with the neighbours for a drink and a chat and sometimes to watch a game. 

If only I could speak Greek, here is a place I could easily call home…

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