Kythera: A Greek island for those that seek tranquility

EPTANESE , KYTHIRA
©CLAIRY MOUSTAFELLOU
Kastro

The wonderful for its marvelous beaches as well as exciting contrasts island of Kýthera has been home to hosts of peoples and civilizations: from the Neolithic Age to the Minoan times (20th century AC) and to the Mycenaens, the Dorians and the Spartans, still in the ancient times; from the Byzantine middle ages to the Venetian rule; from the Ottoman to the English occupation; from the State of the Ionian Islands to the modern Greek State which it joined in 1864.

The ancient myth that referred the island as Aphrodite’s birthplace has been the inspiration for the paintings of celebrated artists such as Sandro Botticelli and Jean-Antoine Watteau.

Now, a trip to Kýthera is the symbol of a burning desire, of hankering for beauty; and not unjustly so.

kythera_kapsali_510

– Villages

Chóra, the capital of the island, stretches out around the Venetian castle of the 13th century – renovated by the Venetians in 1503 – to share with it an overwhelming view to the Cretan Sea. On the cliffs around the castle a small yellow jewel of a flower grows; sempreviva is peculiar to the island.

White little houses squeeze each other to fit in the narrow cobbled streets that go whirling uphill and past tiny little churches and Venetian mansions with beautiful gardens. Your need for a rest will be met at the cafés of the two scenic squares of the village. But if you feel like having a delicious meal or a drink, walk downhill to Kapsáli.

Kapsáli could be said to be the busiest spot for tourists. Full of cafés, tavernas, bars and boasting a marina too, Kapsáli is where the night of the island turns energetic and eager for a meeting and romance!

The number of the aficionados of the island is a multi-digit one. Most of them agree that Avlémonas is the most beautiful village of it. Crystal blue-azul waters bathe the frisky morphology of little bays to match with the cycladic architecture of the houses and the cobblestone paths around them into an attractive ambience of recreation and wellness. Getting there from Chóra gives the visitor the chance to pass through the bridge of Katouni. Built in 1826, it is the largest bridge ever built in Europe by the British (110m long, 6m large, 15m maximum height and sustained by 13 arches and 12 symmetrical galleries). According to the legend, the British Commissioner Mackwell had fallen in love with a local young enchantress and had this bridge built so that he could go and visit her easily.

katouni

Chýtra: A spectacular rocky island, Chytra or Avgó (meaning “egg” in Greek) located just short of the port of Kapsali, is waiting to be explored. The sea cave on the south side fascinates visitors with the water reflections creating a riot of colours and designs. The cave is home to seals as well as to endangered species of falcons, which build their nests on its rocks. The rugged terrain of Chytra is another spot where sempreviva blooms. But do not try to collect it yourself! The slipperiness of the ground makes it difficult for people but the experienced locals to carry out the task. Access to the rocky island is possible by private boats.

Potamós is the biggest village of the island. Even on a cool winter day, when the inhabitants of Kýthera generally stay in, there will always be some chatters and banters at the cafés of the central square of Potamós. On Sundays, the flea market is just another excuse for the villagers to go out again, meet their friends, have a mezé and some ouzo with them, and enjoy the atmosphere of their fantastic place. And guess what: they are open and friendly and welcome visitors to join them! Don’t forget to visit the historic building of the English school. In the summer, musical concerts and theatre shows often take place in the open air municipal theatre which is located at the east, towards Agía Pelagía.

EPTANESE , KYTHIRA ©CLAIRY MOUSTAFELLOU Kastro

Agía Pelagía is one of the biggest villages of Kýthera and undoubtedly its accommodation, food and shopping centre. People tend to stay there not only because of the beautiful nearby beaches, but also for the joys of caving. In fact, the 120m² large cave of Saint Sophia (one of the three of the island with the same name) and the cave of Venus in the ravine of Galáni are definitely worth a visit. You are going to love the island anyway; but for those who might wish to spend there the rest of their lives, their chance flows in the potable waters of the source at the entrance of Agía Pelagía: legend has it that if you drink from that source, you’ll get married on Kýthera.

Mylopótamos had been founded by the Venetians. The Saint Mark’s Lion symbol of the “Serenissima” Republic of Venice still adorns the gate of the remains of the castle (built in 1565) in the Káto Chóra neighbourhood. The village is beauteous for the running waters, the plane trees, the ponds with the ducks, the traditional architecture, and the astonishing falls of the Fónissa ravine. Walk down the latter to marvel at a spectacular row of watermills and waterfalls. You’ll be in awe when you will have reached the quite beach of Kalámi. Mountaineering equipment recommended.

Mytáta: if lush vegetation is your thing, then you’ll surprise no one by stating that you regard this village as the top beauty of Kýthera. With an exhilarating view to the gorge of Tsákonas, the village lazily enjoys its position amongst trees, shrubs, and plants. This rich vegetation is the habitat of a variety of nectarines that is unique to this place. Before watering your mouth, this fruit will bring a delightful sensation to your touch; that’s why the locals call them “breasts of Aphrodite”.

Aroniádika: With an architecture recalling the southern Peloponnesian one, this traditional village is one of the island’s crossroads. The visitors are impressed by the myriad forms of the chimneys of the houses of the village. In its proximity, visit the Paleochóra Castle, the Byzantine capital of the island. The castle was built in the 13th century, but it was destroyed by the pirate Barbarossa in 1537. Nowadays the whole area has a wild, somewhat uncanny attractiveness. On the walls of some of the ruins there are marvellous frescoes too. Don’t miss out on a visit here!

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For the fans of agrotourism Kálamos is the place to be. The farming heart of the island beats here. Vegetable gardens, orchards, and vineyards provide the locals with the prodigies of the Kytherian nature that are available for you to taste in the tavernas of the area.

Diakófti: It was in 1995, when building the main port of the island finished, that this area started turning into a developed one. In just a matter of years, a place, which used to be just an area with some sparse houses, is now a busy village where you can stay, eat, and swim. The 800m²underground cave of Choustí, where very important archaeological findings have been brought to light, is also here.

EPTANESE , KYTHIRA ©CLAIRY MOUSTAFELLOU Honey

– Taste

Kýthera’s honey is probably the best in Greece. Tourists leave the thyme-clad island with jars of honey in their luggage. It is believed that it had been the Minoans who taught bee-keeping to the Kytherians. Apart from the prevailing type of thyme tea, erica (white heath) tea is made here too.

Kythera’s Melba toast is produced from cereals and is one of the island’s best-known products throughout Greece. The unique taste of the local olive oil gives the toast a touch of divine.

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Chinese Tourists and Investors in Greece Piling Up

Chinese tourists are currently “invading” Greece in big numbers. Last year, 150,000 Chinese travelers visited the country. Usually they travel in groups, but more and more individual travelers are also arriving to the country, where appreciation for its rich history is always high.

Most visitors from the Far East stay in Greece for one or two nights at most. Nevertheless, their importance for the local hotel industry and the whole Greek tourism is undeniable.

In a local hotel in Athens, Chinese visitors represent a quarter of all guests. This amount is on the rise, despite some minor issues with the guests. These issues are connected to meals mainly, as they prefer food from their own country.

Hoteliers are trying to adapt to their demands and are offering Chinese food. Many Chinese restaurants are opening in Athens, although admittedly, Chinese food in Europe is quite different from the original Far East cuisine.

The main target group from China are young visitors. “It’s easier for younger people to book flights and hotels, as they know how to do it online. So, it is convenient for them to pay a visit to Europe,” a Chinese tourist in Athens said.

Other than actually visiting the country, Chinese tourists are also greatly boosting the Greek property market. This was confirmed by Lan Xiao Cheng, representative of Silk Road Travel, a travel company for Chinese tourists.

Many Chinese people are willing to invest in Greece. They buy properties, renovate them and then rent them out. Reportedly more than a thousand families have invested necessary funds to obtain the so called Golden Visa. This visa is available to those, who invest at least 250,000 euros in Greece. This visa is in fact a five-year residence permit.

The Chinese are boosting the Greek economy. This, however, is perhaps only the beginning of a possible big tourist boom in the future. In September, direct flights from Beijing to Athens are expected to launch. Thus, if last year’s 150,000 visitors are any indication, 2017 is expected to be a record year for tourists from China.

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Theo Ioannou

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Governments of Greece and Cyprus criticize Eide’s role in the negotiations

Nicosia.- (CNA, ANA-MPA)

The reason which did not lead to a positive outcome at the recent Conference on Cyprus cannot be questioned by anybody, Government Spokesman Nikos Christodoulides has told the Cyprus News Agency (CNA), invited to comment on an interview on the July talks UN Secretary General’s Special Advisor on Cyprus Espen Barth Eide has given to the Agency.

“The reason the Conference failed is Turkey’s insistence on the continuation of the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee, on maintaining the right of intervention in Cyprus and on Ankara’s position for a permanent Turkish military presence on the island. These led the discussions in Crans Montana to a deadlock,” he stressed.

Invited to comment on some of Eide’s positions, as these were expressed in the interview to CNA, the Spokesman noted that Eide has adopted the position expressed by Nicosia and Athens that there cannot be a solution in Cyprus which provides for guarantee and intervention rights to any other third country.

At the same time, he said, some of Eide’s remarks, in particular those referring to what happened at the dinner on July 6 and Turkey’s real intentions, confirm what the President of the Republic Nicos Anastasiades has also pointed out in public statements.

“And this is that unfortunately Mr Eide, on many occasions, believed that things happen which he wanted to happen and in this framework he downgraded substantive disagreements which emerged at the negotiating table,” the Spokesman said.

Concluding his comments on Eide’s interview, Christodoulides said “Just as for us this is a time for recollection, evaluation and time to think again, it would be right and reasonable for this time to be the time for self-criticism for Mr Eide too, who has played a role, has contributed to creating expectations and concurred to the preparation or the lack of sufficient preparation of the negotiations for the solution of the Cyprus problem.”

Government Spokesman Nikos Christodoulides, in a written statement, underlined the common positions of Nicosia and Athens on the issue of Security and Guarantees.

The Spokesman made the statement in response to remarks by political parties, noting “once more, we underline that the common position of Nicosia and Athens on the issue of Security and Guarantees is summed up as followed:

“Abolition of the Treaties of Guarantees and Alliance from day one of a solution, no intervention rights in Cyprus by a third country from day one of a solution and a deadline for the complete withdrawal of Turkish troops”.

Noting that he acknowledges that “while we perceive the pre-election convenience of making the remarks and actions of some, it is nevertheless necessary for everyone to be serious and the need for everyone to rise to the circumstances.”

Kotzias attacks UN

envoy for Cyprus

Greece’s Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias on Saturday launched an all-out attack on United Nations Special Adviser for Cyprus Espen Barth Eide, directly accusing him of attempting to undermine the talks on the Cyprus problem.

Pulling no punches in his first interview since the negotiations in Crans Montana – given jointly to the newspaper “Nea Selida” and the Cyprus newspaper “Phileleftheros” – Kotzias revealed that Eide had “secret meetings” that aimed to create a rift in the common strategy adopted by Athens and Nicosia.

“In his visits to Greece, Mr. Eide met secretly with business people – why, one wonders? – who, as it turned out, were linked to specific international actors and choices for Cyprus. Present at these meetings were also some of the journalists that like to insult me personally and try to disparage the common effort of the Greek and Cyprus governments. Secondly, there is that Mr. Eide brought us to this phase in the negotiations without having adequately prepared himself. Thirdly, we allowed him to tell a lot of lies for a long time. I pointed them out one by one during the conference. He knew he was lying but he did not care that he was caught in the act,” Kotzias said.

Fortunately, the foreign minister added, Eide was “forced to backtrack when he attempted to present a document with his own positions as our positions.”

“I am afraid that he is continuing this tactic of his, even after Switzerland,” Kotzias added.

Regarding the escalation of tensions in Cyprus’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) due to Ankara, the foreign minister urged calm and self-restraint but did not hide his concern “that Turkey’s provocations could easily lead to mistakes and accidents.”

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