|Long golden beaches and beautiful clear water
Under German occupation
Hotel like a concentration camp
We arrived in Naxos after a truly fantastic three days in Paros - which might in some way have influenced our conclusion that Naxos is below par (I originally wrote crap, but Liz felt it too harsh).
Naxos is much larger than either Paros or Mykonos, and is in fact the largest island in the Cyclades. The town centre is heavily commercialized and geared to extract as much money from the unfortunate tourist as possible - this could have something to do with the concentration of Scandinavian tourists here, who are well used to paying above the odds for practically everything!
The one distinct upside of Naxos can be found away from the town itself, with exceptionally long and beautiful beaches, with golden sand and clear water. One beach in particular, Agia Anna (Golden Beach) was so attractive that it finally tempted both of us in for a brief and very cold swim. Liz had a high water mark, however, approximately at belly button level.
But we digress. When we first arrived, we coped with the usual hustle and bustle of the port, but coped less well with our hotel room which more closely resembled a concentration camp than the luxurious rooms we had become accustomed to. Zero water pressure (ironically the poolside foot washing tap provided more water), zero view, short sheeted beds and shower curtains (water flying everywhere in the bathroom) and to top it off, the first hotel with the kind of toilet we feared after reading the guide book. Its one saving grace has been a beautiful pool. Now it should be noted that we are not accommodation snobs, but in this case we have been conditioned to expect a certain class of digs based on Mykonos and Paros, and were enjoying living the high life before thudding back to earth in the Berlin hostel!
The big feature of our stay has been a day's mountain biking around the southern part of the island. We started the day with a plan to meander along beachside tracks (on the strong recommendation of the hire company), taking in the view and avoiding the big hills (read mountains) which are a standard feature when you head inland on the islands. We also planned to reach a beautiful beach destination prior to lunch and the onset of searing heat, to while away the afternoon in shade and breeze. How wrong we were.
The early part of the day involved a casual ride along Agia Anna, and achieved our goals perfectly. However, when our pleasant beachside track ran out, we made a near-fatal decision to diverge from the coast and join up with a road to take us further south via an inland route. At the top of the most punishing hill we later climbed in the worst heat of the day, Liz was heard to declare "I am not having fun anymore, and I am either going to die of heat stroke or skin cancer!" This became a secondary concern later in the day when the combination of mountain terrain and the hardest bike seats produced by man resulted in a pain that still lingers every time Liz tries to sit down. A good day had by all.
I complained much less (as is typical) but to be fair, was much more accustomed to riding after nine solid months in Sweden.
Just to balance this out though, the ride itself (even the parts up the hills) was really quite fantastic, with good scenery looking across the Naxos valley towards the ocean. Also, we had the opportunity to get off the main roads and visit a lovely little village called Agios Asenios, where we sampled some local bakery goods laden in butter and honey (as is compulsory for nearly all Greek sweets) and had a brief hello with some boisterous and friendly local women.
One of Liz's favourite sites was the multiple farmers and their wives getting about in the cabs of their old tractors. Farming is obviously not just men's work here in Naxos. On other farm related observations, we were genuinely surprised to see potatoes being harvested as a pretty major crop on the island.
Naxos has provided some beautiful sunsets - being east coasters the sun setting over the ocean is still a special site. Last night was especially good, enjoying a nice cocktail during half price happy hour while watching the sun drop out of the sky. Tough.
A major feature of the town near the port is an ancient archaeological site called the Sanctuary of Dionysis, photos describe this the best, so check them out.
Today we have enjoyed wandering the alleyways around Naxos town, avoiding the sun, visiting Naxos castle, being amused by the Catholic Church perched at the peak of the hill (as is the Catholic way), savouring some wonderful walnut bread and being unnaturally excited at our freshly laundered clothing. For those of you who know Liz well, the next part will come as no surprise - within 10 minutes of collecting said laundry, Liz managed to spill frappe not once, but twice, on the front of a pristine white shirt. Oh dear - the backpack might be one shirt lighter tomorrow!