Serifos, the island of mines

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I call up memories from the first time I visited Serifos, years ago, at the beginning of summer. We were making the rounds of the island and ate tons of dust in our faces from all kinds of dirt roads while trying to take photographs and find the best beach ―the most remote, the most deserted. I recall that we left the Vagia beach when it was almost dark, with traces of the sun on our bodies. I recall wandering around the narrow streets of the “Hora”early the next morning ―inspired by the photos of Le Corbusier— admiring the thousands of steps and the view offered by the unforeseen openings between the houses.

An island work of art, chiseled by centuries of human labour, which formed terraces and planted them with vines and cereals, the terraces called “louria” (strips). Red soil and slate rock reach the sea, and, under the shadows of tamarisks at Koutalas beach, seafood flavours from the cooking of Eleni. Sweet afternoons of small talk with Yorgos and Manolis and their friends on the porch in front of Lia beach, gazing towards the endless blue. Drinking “rakomela” at Stratos’ place, at the square of the “Hora”. Or, at noon, the surprising midday coolness in the hospitable kitchen of the Monastery of Taxiarches, enjoying the company of cats and the Turkish delight offered by the abbot, Makarios. Hiking with friends on the mountain trails, accompanied by the aroma of wild thyme. And then how I admired the little cells that adorn the hillsides with their simple cuboid architecture.

The secrets of each place are always revealed one at a time. The day I met Antonia at the grocery store and we forgot ourselves, talking about our lives while nibbling on tomato fritters and fresh cheese and toasting with glasses of souma (a distilled spirit). Is there anything better?

An unforgettable night swim at Vagia beach, an afternoon on Margarita’s veranda, when Grandpa Yorgos Youliemnos showed us how a good hand-made basket is crafted, and then gave it to us to remember him by. The swim at the superb beaches of Psili Ammos, Livadakia, Koutalas and Ganema, some with fine sand, some with white or coloured pebbles, others lined with trees or washed by the midday summer sun, when, with semi-closed eyes, you gaze at its shimmering on the water’s surface, while time stands motionless. Then there’s the opportunity to see the bridge at Mega Livadi, standing since 1892, in the place where they used to load ore onto the ships.

But the beauty of Serifos is not exhausted with the myths and the history, nor the wonderful beaches, the picturesque villages, the ancient monuments, the mining galleries, nor with the unique “Hora” with its white houses of the old fortified settlement. Touring around such a beautiful island demands an openness of mind, the generous predisposition towards the unexpected, of a true traveler. If you’re lucky, you’ll also get to taste fried red mullet from the hands of Nikoulias or try that special cheese that Rita, a Serefiot cheesemaker, buries in the soil with herbs only to reach your palate one summer evening with billions of stars over you.

Serifos villas for rent 

Julia Klimi

Translation by Vicky Anastasiadou

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