#travelhacks to Kythira (and, by large, to any other Greek island)

This Monday marks the beginning of the last full-blown week of summer. Next Friday autumn officially kicks in. (Can you believe?!) It was a great summer for me. I was blessed with a chance to swim in the waters of Greece, Tunis, Adriatic Sea (Croatia and Montenegro) and, just a few weeks ago, at the feet of the Korean peninsula, in the strait of the Pacific Ocean between the Sea of Eastern China and the Japanese Sea. Idly laying on the beach, listening to the music of the waves, playing with sand and breathing in, greedily, the salty breeze, I was contemplating the ranking. Mediterranean Sea, to me, will always be the best. And the bingo on available flights, amazing food, scenery of all kinds and – relatively, depending on the island! – relatively sane prices is Greece.

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The coast of Kythira, Greece, savage and free

Here goes to this summer paradise – #travelhacks to Kithyra. Most can be applied to pretty much any other Greek island with understandable exception of Mykonos and Santorini.

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Dreamy and Savage: Kythira Beaches

One of these days, I sent Sophie a work-related email and got her (all-related) auto-reply. “I am OOF enjoying the Greek islands”, it says. Right, the Greek islands.

Kythira is the opposite of Mykonos: lavish green instead of sunburnt yellow, solemn and empty instead of busy and packed, rural instead of commercialized. (It is also about one third price of its well-known contender, which is worthy of consideration in the middle of summer). I love Mykonos too, it is just a very different kind of holiday: festive and trendy instead of quiet and authentic. The only common point between the two is the azure waters of the Mediterranean Sea. Mediterranean will always be the best sea in the world for me. And I keep on thinking, all the world known islands on this sea: Mykonos, Sardinia, Santorini and Ibiza, of course, used to be like Kythira some fifty years ago. Pure, savage and empty, open only to the eyes of people who wanted to wander into the unknown looking for beauty.

Diakofti beach, the one with the only 4 star hotel on the island, Kythira Golden Resort, is the Côte d’Azur of the island. Is it primarily famous for its white sandy shores, the only beach of this kind on Kythira. The ship, sank according to the hotel owner, by the drunk Russians and now the famous landmark of the island, is a pleasant sight. Diakofti is also known as the best family destination, so we admired it for a moment and kept on driving.

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Diakofti beach, Kythira, Greece

Here is a sacred map of the islands’ treasures. I kept it because there is no chance of getting a better one on the island (or maybe even another one). Given to us (as you can see by a subtle product placement) by the same lady at the same hotel, it has all of Kythira’s beaches: the stony and hidden Chalkos, the lively and touristic (if the word touristic is applicable to Kythira at all) Kapsali. There is Firi Ammos (two of them, actually) with its secret lake Kaki Lagada and Kaladi with its 150 stairs. And Avlemonas, with gorgeous and unusually deep waters, surprisingly cold in early June.

Kythira Map

I would keep the map, too, if I were you: it also has the island’s best restaurants on it.

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Kythira: The Pristine

– Pigeon, where should we go this May? – I was jumping with excitement anticipating our annual trip with Sofia the way a small black car jumps on MyTaxi app when an order is confirmed. (I remember one friend asking us: “But why, why do you call each other pigeon?” The world might never understand best friends but together, best friends will understand the world.) – How about Malta? I have never been.

– I have been, I would go again… What about Spain? Check out the top beaches I sent you.

– Spain, mmm… – Somehow I have never connected with Spain. I love Barcelona – but then we already went there together, – had a good time at Tenerife (more than a decade ago, running away from November in Finland), and was absolutely not impressed by Madrid. And Madeira. – Or we can go to Montenegro. You know, because when else would we have an opportunity to travel there on an exploratory mission, and who else would sign up for it?

Or I can take you somewhere romantic, where the green dissolves in the blue, a place with gorgeous beaches, nature, waterfalls and serenity. And the Greek food, of course. Like Kythira.

A few weeks later we were boarding what turned out to be a very small plane (with barely any luggage head space, a note to a savvy traveler) to Kythira, a tiny island a short flight away from Athens.

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Wandering in the forests of Kythira, Greece

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Focus

This week’s photo challenge, Focus, is asking to share one’s favorite focus (or out of focus) photo. Now, there are two “aha” moments in every photographer’s life: the moment you try your first full frame camera and the moment you get that low aperture lens to play with focus. Focus (or, more precisely, its strategic lack) is what made me fall in love with photography. (Ok, there is a third “aha” moment and that is when you take and process – successfully – your first RAW photo.)

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A cup of Turkish coffee at the Café des Délices in Sidi Bou Said, Tunisia

This photo of a Turkish coffee in a Tunisian cafe is my latest absolute favourite. I love it so much that I am using it as a background photo to my mobile chats, – this and what is means to me (not to mention my favorite color combo of white and blue). And it means… focus. On this cup of coffee, on the moment of pleasure it offers, on a creative break, on living and breathing, in the now. How often we let beauty, taste and creative pass unnoticed, busy with our daily concerns, daily thoughts, daily messages, news and chats.

I keep it precisely where most of this noise is coming from, on my phone, to remind myself. To focus.

🙂

Tunis: The (Hidden) Gems

A promised sequence of Tunis: The (Obvious) Great Things: The (Hidden) Gems. The hidden gems of Tunis are its restaurants (at least, three of its restaurants) and the biggest mosaics museum in the world, Le Bardo.

The surprising fact is that restaurants are not a big part of the Tunisian culture (coffee shops, on the contrary, are). Food is big in Tunis but people mostly eat at home, cook at home, buy already prepared delights for home and entertain at home. An exception to that are sandwich shops, which are many, (apparently) delicious and as diverse as a sandwich shop can be. That’s why I have marveled that much at Dar El Jed, Fondouk El Attarine and The Cliff.

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Tunis: The (Obvious) Great Things

The first thing that the mind links with Tunisia is the sea. This post is not about it. Well, not exactly. The sea has been been such a great power in the country’s history, culture and soul that Tunisia is unthinkable without the sea. This post is about the the capital, Tunis. I have decided to split it into two parts: The (Obvious) Great Things and The (Hidden) Gems.

The things Tunis is best known for are Carthage, Sidi Bou Said and The Souks. Why talking about them if they are so well-known? They are still stunning.

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One of the famous blue doors of Sidi Bou Said, Tunis

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Heritage

This week’s photo challenge is Heritage. To me, heritage is much about history and much about culture, – two things that growing up in St Petersburg, home of one of the world’s largest museums and a scene of many, well, interesting historical events, has deeply ingrained into my character. That made me put work aside for a moment and go through the pictures of my recent travels.

As you might have noticed, I like learning new things. A few weeks ago I discovered a new country for me – Tunisia. It’s capital, Tunis, has the world’s largest mosaics collection, Le Bardo. And that’s just breathtaking: hundreds and hundreds of square meters of history laid out in gorgeous rainbow colored tiles, floor to ceiling.

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Which museum have you recently discovered?

🙂