My main reason for returning to Naxos was to take an island tour. I have wanted to write about Naxos but on my last trip here, the island tour was conducted mostly in German so I missed some important parts. There are many fascinating things to see around this island, both ancient and near history, so I am looking forward to the chance to learn more and explore.
In spite of a restless night and stomach cramps I managed to get the pick-up bus to Naxos town on time. We waited around in Naxos town (Chora) for awhile and I got talking to a nice young woman from Toronto, so we teamed up for the day and later included another young woman from L.A. So it was nice to have company and chat, eat lunch together etc.
This was another one of those gut-wrenching, white-knuckle rides on a precipitous, winding mountain road. the andestrip was mild in comparison. A couple of times I was left gasping. Yes, and praying! How those big buses maneuver those narrow hair-0pin cures I'll never know. But I'm glad to report we managed the entire trip without mishap, though was feeling a bit more squeamish by the end of the day (and I think the others were too!)
We saw a lot of interesting things, stopped at places I remembered from before, and a few new ones as well. And this time the guide spoke very precise English so it was good. Some of the highlights were the interesting pottery workshop at Damalas. Iwished I'd had some money to spend but how to transport it home?
At Chaki we went to a ktron distilling plan. The kitron is made from the leaves of the kitron tree (a large, lumpy lemon-like fruit is produced and used for table sweets and preserves). We got to taste some: theyllow is the strongest, the white is medium, like cointreau and the green is the sweetest. It's served with fish meals. Later I bought myself a small bottle of the green for 5 euro.
We passed by a lot of the old Venetian towers and castle remains and visited a couple of very old churches. the Panagia Drossiani (called "Our Lady of Refreshments" because the miraculous icon 'sweats' if the town is in danger), is the oldest church in the Balkans (5th- 7th C. AD) and was built as a Mausoleum. Later it was used as a monastary for nuns and during the Turkish occupation it was here the Greeks had a "Secret school" inoneof the back chambers as children were prohibited to learn their own culture or speak their own language. They would come there at night and secretly meet for classes.
We visited a small archeological musim at Apiranthos where there were rock carvings from the prehistoric era depicting hunting scenes, dancing and navigation.
Naxos is the most fertile of the Cyclades (and the largest) and is self productive because of its many natural resources. In addition to the many agricultural things grown there (they have the best potatoes in Europe, lots of olives, figs and other fruits) it is mining of emery (the hardest mineral next to a diamond) and the beauitufl Naxian marble, famous from antiquity, that provides economic support for the island. The Cycladic marble carvings of Maxos are seen throughout Greece in archeological sites and even in other parts of the world. a bust of JFK erected after his assassination, was carved of Naxian marble.
Near Apollona, on a hillside, is the remains of a gigantic kouros statue left in situ after the carving became flawed. This one is of the god of wine, Dionysos, who plays a major role in the mythology and legends of the island. It's 10.50 metres long, carved in the early 6th century BC and lies like a sleeping giant on the hillside. (The other kouros which is at a different site, is a later period carving and depicts the god Apollo who also had a large following on the island. Apollona is named for him and in antiquity was a holy site.)
On our way back through the breathtaking mountain scenery, we saw the two great dams that supply Naxos water and passed the former home of the writer Nikos Katzanzakis ( author of Zorba the Greek and The Last Temptation of Christ.). I was hoping we'd stop so I could photograph the house which is now owned by a wealthy Naxian family. But the bus didn't hardly slow down, so no photo.
Coming down to the coast, you see the distant view of the Portara, the Temple of Apollo 530 BC which is on the spot where supposedly Ariadne had a palace.
It was a long journey, but ended pleasantly and in spite of my worries I had tried to enjoy myself. I returned to my studio, went for my last refreshing swim, and now as I write this I am sipping ouzo out on the porch, getting set to go out for one last meal at the beach taverna, Palatia. As I sat, I was thinking of Anibal and once again, the music spoke to me.
When I arrived at the Palatia taverna, it was all Latin music playing. I nearly cried. the spirit of friends, even those who are absent, can still touch you with their presence.
I had lit a candle at the old church of the Panagia today and prayed all my money prolems would be solved. So I will try my best to enjoy my last night here on this lovely island. I wish I hadn't checked my bank accounts yesterday because it put such a damper on my spirits and my last days here.
But I saw dolphins, didn't I, and that's an omen of luck. So I will try not to worry.
NEXT: Cruising Home to Athens.