CHAOSTOCOSMOS

Saturday, 20 March 2010

The Friendliest Island on Earth

As others have already pointed out, the people of Sifnos are so friendly that a common reaction is for visitors to not want to leave. If I hadn’t been itching to explore Athens too, when I was in Sifnos 20 25 years ago, we wouldn’t have eventually left either and, I have always intended to go back one day.

Maybe not just for a holiday. I wouldn’t mind living there.

We were island-hopping on the ferries with no particular plan, but a vague idea of going to one of the next islands, Serifos (which we never did.) En route, we arrived in the port of Kamares on route, saw the huge curve of beach and decided, “That looks nice, let’s get off here”.

What made the island for me was the Boulis family. When we’d arrived, a little blonde girl met us off the ferry with the usual greeting of “You want a room?” We did and she took us to the family home just up the road out of Kamares going towards Apollonia, to which had been added some rooms to rent. These purpose-built rooms were clean, fresh and – at that time, about 3 quid a night – with twin bedroom, bathroom and veranda and each with it’s own outside door.

We were given to understand that the same family who owned the restaurant we used for breakfast, lunch and dinner, also owned the house in which we were staying. This was when Boulis Taverna was on the waterfront at Kamares.

Actually, we had to stop going to the waterfront for breakfast after a swarm of wasps had taken a liking to my jam. I’d tried running up and down the street faster than they could fly, but that hadn’t worked. So, we bought bread in the bakery, butter and jam in the supermarket and took breakfast back to the room.

That was the point I discovered a) No knife b) No one at home who spoke English.

So out came the phrase book and I made an attempt at copying out what I HOPED was “Please can you lend me a knife?” in Greek. And it can’t have been far off, because I got a laugh and a knife to spread my butter and jam with!

Meanwhile, back at the Taverna for main meals. Because it was small and family and because I can’t abide doing the “Oy, you!” business to call a waiter, since I had heard ours called Yannis (as it turns out, by his father), I did likewise.

No big deal, it just seemed more courteous.

Well, these are people upon whom such small courtesies are not lost and Yannis insisted that my partner and I accept a drink on the house as a gesture of thanks. And, so began a week or so of us tripping over ourselves to take our custom back to the same establishment daily and them treating us like right royal visitors!

We had actually intended to hop on and see other islands, but ended up staying in Sifnos for the duration of our holiday, bar one day in which to see Athens.

Probably the best known and certainly the best content site on Greece is Matt Barrett’s Greek Travel, which I found a couple of years ago via a link on the BBC website. He has been traveling to or living in Greece since 1968 and Sifnos is his own favorite. It is through Matt’s site that I know that Giorgos Boulis Taverna has moved to larger premises, pretty much where the house we stayed in was. It is listed on his page for Sifnos restaurants, along with the comment:

“Yannis, who is my favorite of the brothers waits tables and is the grill man.”

Sifnos 1985

Naturally, I had to write to Matt and confirm a few details, but I instinctively knew this was “our Yannis” (who had indeed worked the grill) and I have to say that it gives me a really warm feeling to know that the friendliness remains and that the family seems to be doing well with the restaurant, the bakery and the sweet and pastry shop …

See more progress on: Sifnos

Photo: by Daquella manera

Pamela is a former accountant, recovering journalist and international cat herder, disabled and chronically sick with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, Fibromyalgia and Cervical spondylosis, fluent in three languages; English, Spanish and Rubbish. Mostly writes in the latter. She likes Genealogy, Model Railways and Cats.

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