Amorgos and at Sea
Just before breakfast this morning, the Sea Cloud was positioning for her anchorage in the small harbor of Katapola on the island of Amorgos, the most remote of the Cycladic Islands, a group of 220 islands clustered slightly east and south of the city of Athens.
Amorgos is the most eastern of the Cycladic islands and the nearest island to the neighboring Dodecanese island group. These islands are peaks of a submerged mountainous terrain running along the meeting point of three tectonic plates deep in the Mediterranean. As the Sea Cloud dropped her anchor, many of us were watching from the deck and could see the mountainous terrain of the island of Amorgos.
Our group was separated into two groups; those who wanted the extra walk up 300 steps to visit the monastery of Panagia Hozoviotissa and those who wanted a panoramic view of the monastery and more time to explore the very photogenic chora located in the center of the island.
The monastery is located on the southern end of the island and literally clings to the side of a very steep cliff, facing east. A small paved road approaches and ends at the entrance to the steep switchback-walkway leading up to the monastery. Half of our group decided to make this trip along with our Greek guide, who began the story of this monastery as we climbed up to its front door. Built in the 11th century by Alexius Comnenus I, the monastery was created as an ode to the Grace of Panagia, better known to us as the Virgin Mary, who is the protector of the island of Amorgos. Her icon was believed to have arrived on an unmanned boat from Palestine.
Resting on the small deck outside the entrance, we learned about the strategic position of this monastery, and the roles of the monks who are the residents. The monasteries of the Greek Orthodox Church are not beacons of service to the local communities, but rather guardians who live a “monastic and communal” life style. As we looked around we could see that the small wide places along the cliff were taken up with storage sheds, gardens, a stone chicken coop, small corals for goats and donkeys which, of course, are the only transportation up and down to the monastery.
After our short briefing we entered the monastery climbing several stories along an extremely narrow passage that eventually led to the small chapel with the icon hanging at the front. The upper area of the monastery had a lovely outer deck where we all took the opportunity to take pictures of the amazing views out over the Aegean. After viewing the chapel we were invited down into a small reception area where we were treated to a very interesting Raki made with cinnamon, cloves and local honey; which was, of course, accompanied by a large glass of water. Our return journey down the narrow passage, down the 300 steps to a waiting bus was as spectacular as our arrival, and everyone took a moment to look back at this ancient building that guarded and continues to carry on the faith of the Orthodox Church.
Back on our bus we made the short journey to the Chora in the middle of the island. It is hidden from view by the sea, as is the custom on many of the islands we have visited on our explorations of the Cycladic Islands. After a brief orientation we had free time to explore all the tiny alleys and streets photographing the wonderful cubic house construction so commonly seen in this group of islands. The climate is generally dry and mild, though quite warm in the summer months, hence the white washing of many buildings and the thickness of the walls; keeping heat out in the summer months, and warmth in during the short and mild winters.
All too soon it was time to return to the Katapola and our waiting tenders. Returning just in time for lunch, we had a moment to reflect on our visit to yet another less touristed island of Greece. During lunch, our expedition leader made announcements for the remainder of the day and evening. The deck crew would raise the sails once again for a leisurely sail. A soft and gentle breeze wafted across the sea as many of us retired to the decks to watch, visit and absorb the events of the day. Celebrating our time here in Greece, the Galley served a Greek buffet dinner on the Lido deck! Greek music from the piano, much laughter and good conversation could be heard across the Lido...shortly after dinner, and to finish an already fabulous day, the Sea Cloud Shanty Gang arrived to sing some of their saltiest tunes!