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Syros, Greece, aerial

The Greek island Syros. Photo by David Kamm (licensed through creative commons via Flickr).

If I ever decide to runaway and become a recluse writer or visionary filmaker or something equally as mysterious and moody, you might be able to find me on the island of Syros in Greece. (If I need a country with no extradition treaty, I’m considering Morocco. Or maybe Laos. There are a lot more options for the fugitive than you would think.)

But back to Syros. It’s the perfect spot for low-key living in the Aegean Sea. The island is a four and a half hour ferry ride from Athens Port Piraeus. (We used Blue Star Ferries.) It’s in the Cyclades island chain but inhabited more by locals than out-of-town party goers. If you are looking for night life, it’s just under two hours to Mykonos via ferry. (But be aware that due to the ferry schedule, you may not be able to make it a day-to-night trip—especially during the off-season. We couldn’t. We also wanted to visit the island Delos, a UNESCO World Heritage site and archaeological sanctuary, but there were no ferries we could take from Syros without spending the night in Mykonos.)

We still found plenty of ways to spend our time on Syros. We rented an apartment in Ano Syros, a medieval town high up on the hill behind the Port of Ermoupolis. We shared the apartment with Nellu’s parents who met up with us in Athens for the Grecian leg of our adventure.

Port of Ermoupolis, Greece, ferry, Ano Syros, medieval town

Port of Ermoupolis, Syros island, Greece. Photo by Nellu.

You could take a cheap cab from the port  to the Ano Syros car park, where you could then access the apartment with a short walk and 40 or so steps. Or you could walk from town. The later option requires you take on more than 100 steps—just the amount of exercise to keep a recluse writer in shape.

Architects, who got whisked off to work in London, owned and renovated the apartment. It was a dream—a true refuge.

Syros, apartment for rent, Ano Syros, renovated

Apparently I was too busy living my mysterious island                                        fantasy to take any pictures of our gorgeous apartment. Our host Frini granted me permission to use a few pictures from her airbnb.com listing.

In my runaway fantasy, I could see myself  making a life here. And if you’d like to play pretend, you too can rent out Frini’s apartment. Check out the airbnb.com listing of her apartment in Ano Syros by clicking here.

Syros, apartment for rent, Ano Syros, renovated

Yup, this patio goes with the apartment and has a view of the port and the Aegean Sea. Photo courtesy of our host Frini Yannopoulou.

We spent hours roaming up and down the marble steps of Ano Syros, accessing pathways winding around homes accented with pops of bold or smokey color. For more photos, please check out randombutbeautiful.com.

Ano Syros, Syros, Greece, stairways, alleyways

Nellu and his parents pose on a marble pathway in Ano Syros.

The town was built by Venetians and had a fair number of Catholic churches for a Grecian Island. Our hosts actually told us that religiously, the island is about half Greek Orthodox and half Catholic. When it comes to Easter festivities, which the Orthodox and Catholics often celebrate on different Sundays, island residents get together and choose one weekend for joint festivities. If only all religious differences could be solved in such a amicable manner.

Syros, Greece, church, Ano Syros, Aegean Sea

A church in Ano Syros. Photo by Nellu.

We rented a car to check out the island’s beaches and got up the courage to take a dip in the Aegean even though the water was still cold. And we ate our way all over the island. Our host recommended the restaurant Plakostroto for its sunset views.

Greek sunset, Syros, Sunset, view from Plakostroto

Grecian sunset. Photo by Nellu

Besides the steps and the swimming, there’s plenty of hiking to do on Syros. Nellu and I went out looking for ruins on the north side of the island and got super lost. We started out following a well-marked path, but that path disappeared as we got further away from home by foot.  We just ended up roaming up and down the rocky hillside and through rustic, traditional villages but made it back just as rain was setting in. (Nellu contends that we weren’t lost. We knew about where we were and how to get back home. We just couldn’t find the ruins.)

Hiking, Syros, hills, Greece, Aegean Sea, island, Tinos

We were lost by this point but I love how Nellu looks totally in his element. Photo by Nellu.

Oh and we saw a lot of goats. Some alive. Some dead. One in the process of being carved up on a dirt and stone pathway, perhaps for an Easter feast. We asked the carvers for directions to a cave. (Don’t ask. These things just happen to travelers.)  As a huge feta fan and recently reformed full-on meat-eater, I tried not to look.

goat, syros, greece, greek island

This little guy was one of the lucky ones…for now. Photo by Nellu

So that was something else entirely. And I guess I could consider it just one of the island’s perks. At least if I did go AWOL, I’d still have plenty to write about.

~ Molly

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Photo by Nellu

Photo by Nellu

Here’s my completely baseless theory on why the European Union admitted Greece to the eurozone (despite what seems like overwhelming  anecdotal evidence that perhaps culturally/historically the Greeks and the Germans have much different methods for dealing with things like debt and taxes): Greece is a fabulous place to visit. Wouldn’t it be even more fabulous if Europe’s favorite getaway spot used the same currency so no one has to waste time getting money exchanged on long-weekend island-hopping. Yes, yes, yes. That would be lovely. Welcome Greece! Here’s the euro. Nun, wo ist das Schwimmbad?

(If you need a quick primer on the Greek financial crisis, the BBC has a helpful Q&A. And if you want more insight on how the financial meltdown ricocheted around much of the western world, but prefer your lectures come in entertaining narratives, pick up Michael Lewis’s Boomerang.)

economic crisis in greece, Athens, Acropolis

We pose in front of the Acropolis.

First of all, Greece makes you feel awesome while you are there. We spent two weeks in the country and my hair has never been so naturally voluminous and my skin has never been so radiant. I’m not exaggerating here. And I think I just figured out how the Greeks can solve their financial crisis. Figure out what’s in your water and air and bottle it. Seriously. Do you know how much Creme de la Mer goes for!? $150 an ounce. Sell 3 billion ounces of that kind of magic serum: goodbye $407 billion debt, hello surplus. Think about it. (Maybe you can work a few German scientists into the bailout negotiations?)

economic crisis in greece, Acropolis, Temple of Athena Nike, Athens

These ladies could use some La Mer. Photo by Nellu.

It’s odd visiting a country during a major financial meltdown not because you feel the crisis but because you don’t. You still go out to eat, shop, and visit the sites like you’re on vacation because you are.

Yes, there were the nightly protests in Syntagma Square while we were there. We actually arrived the day before pensioner Dimitris Christoulas committed suicide in the park in front of Parliament. His death seemed to re-ignite the hopeless feelings many have about the prospects for a prosperous future.

Greek protest,  Dimitris Christoulas, Syntagma, suicide, pensioner, austerity

The tribute to Dimitris Christoulas in Syntagma Square, the day after he committed suicide in protest of austerity measures. Photo by Nellu.

And yeah, it was a little odd when the student groups on the Athens Happy Train booed when they drove by Parliament.

But our airbnb hosts bent over backwards to make sure we had everything we needed during our stay. At both of our apartments (one in Athens and one on the island of Syros), we were treated like family.

Greek protest, protest, Dimitris Christoulas, suicide, Syntagma Square, Parliament, barricade, riot police, police

The a scattered group of protesters outside of Parliament in Athens. Photo by Nellu.

Let me assure you that the unrest was thoroughly contained. Like I said, we didn’t feel threatened or even bothered by the crisis. I make a point to say this because in absence of my out-of-the-box skin care solution to the crisis, Greece could really use a few more visitors.

~ Molly