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Santorini, Anafi, Sikinos, Schinoussa, Koufonissi, Folegandros, Donoussa & Iraklia

Santorini, Anafi & Sikinos

Santorini, Anafi, Sikinos, Schinoussa, Koufonissi, Folegandros & Iraklia

It goes without saying that, in my almost half century of writing about Greece (my first book of poetry, published at age 11, has been mercifully suppressed), I have accumulated an odd and piebald library of books about the country. One of my favorites is, still, “The In-depth Guide to The Unspoiled Greek Islands.” If only for her title, Anne Merwood’s little 1990 paperback would be a treasure. Her chapter on Sikinos (and remember: Merwood’s guide is now some 20 years old) numbers the island’s population at 300, and the listing for “Airport” reads: “No, the nearest being on Santorini.”

Mysterious and sphinx-like Santorini

Airport, Santorini? Very much yes, as Santorini, in 1990 and 2009, could not be more unlike its flown-over and much-more-sparsely-populated and visited Cycladic neighbors, Anafi and Sikinos. It’s astonishing what the lack of an airport (or the blessing of the lack of an airport) can do for a Greek island.

A caique floats at Armeni/Ammoudi

Another of my favorite books, “Aegean Islands: The Cyclades, or Life Among The Insular Greeks”—another fine title—by James Theodore Bent, was first published in 1885, and comprises an eccentric, 19th-century primer to the islands “circling” holy Delos: The Cyclades. Bent writes of Anafi: “This is the extreme south-eastern point of the Cyclades, the island of the rising sun, as its name implies. . .so called from its mythical association with the sun god Apollo Aeglites. In the whole of the Cycladic and Sporadic groups there exists no island so remote in its solitude as Anaphi. . . . It is a mere speck in the waves, in the direction of Rhodes or Crete, where no one ever goes, and where the 1,000 inhabitants of the one village thereon are as isolated as if they dwelt in an archipelago in the Pacific.”

The author on her first voyage to Greece

Well, much has changed since the days of Bent and, even, Merwood, but Santorini is still a magnet for jet-and-yacht-set visitors, and Anafi and Sikinos are still quieter country cousins. . .which is why your hedonistic author spends her autumns on Santorini, floating in the salty waves, and scarfing down Banoffee Pie with her metrio on St. George’s Beach, while my more misanthropic if hardy and adventurous friend, peripatetic barrister Michael House, files reports from the to-him-much-more-interesting outlying isles. In this chapter, you get the benefit of both our ramblings, plus an ebullient essay on Greece’s excellent wines by food-writer, and friend, Diana Farr-Louis.