Maiden Voyage in Andros

Exploring the Greek island of Andros

Apart from me, only the cats seem to be out at night in Andros Town - capital of the Greek island of Andros - so my dinner attracts great attention.

One of the cats, a big grey and white tabby, is more beautiful and daring than the others. It chases off everyone, except two elderly gentlemen sitting down at the neighboring table, obviously regular customers. Chatting loudly with the waiters, they enliven the entire Kairis Square, the heart of Andros Town. We are not totally alone, though. In the café chairs on the opposite side of the square, a handful of dark figures can be discerned under the plane trees.

Andros Town perches on a rocky spur, an oblong peninsula cutting across a large bay. The town has a striking shape, the shape of a ship, most evident when seen from a distance.

This particular square, with the sea far below on both sides, makes up the deck. Perhaps that's why Greek ship owners have a preference for Andros, the ship owners' island. They have summer residences in Andros Town, also called Chora, and in Stenies, a nearby village. Elegant mansions indicate wealth, clearly not paid for by tourists as tourists only come in small numbers, mostly day trippers.

The Kairis Square is an ideal starting point. If curious to know about the past, one should pop over to the archeological museum where a posing Hermes is a real eye catcher. From Kairis, an arched gateway leads into the old town, painted brilliant white. A little theatre has put flamenco on the playbill there, while a nautical museum, further forward, confirms the shipping tradition. So does an unknown bronze sailor, in the bow itself, carrying a duffel bag and gazing longingly towards the sea.

On the port side, just beside the museum, a flight of steps leads down to the sea. Modern art can be enjoyed on the way down, a permanent Greek exhibition on the left and alternating exhibitions opposite. Right now, the exhibition is Miró.

Down at the sea, in the background, the northern beach presents itself with pensions, cafés and taverns, and at the far end, a power station, behind which the road to Stenies climbs the hillside. From this side, Andros Town looks like a true ship of luxury.

The spectacular southern beach, on the starboard side, is also reached via a flight of steps, whitewashed and steep as a ladder. The beach, untouched by man, is populated by white geese, strutting in the sand or swimming up and down the river that ends here, surrounded by lush vegetation.

The mountainsides contribute to the overall beauty with green scrub flowering in yellow.

The starboard side needs some upkeep. Certain houses are crying for paint; one is about to collapse. The balcony, however, on which a young woman is airing her shoe collection, seems strong enough.

The name Goulandris often shows up in Chora. Goulandris was a ship owner who donated both the art museum and the archeological museum. The main street, paved in marble and connecting the two squares of Kairis and Goulandris, is filled with cafés and small shops offering all that the heart could desire. The street is just as car-free as the old town, so it's safe to lose oneself while looking upwards to admire the blue domes of the Panagia Church.

No ship is without a bridge, and in Andros Town it is placed right on the marble-paved Goulandris Square. On the rear deck, the Andros citizens go to an outdoor cinema, rush about in their cars, run workshops, go shopping and build new houses, all fitted with red tiled roofs. Although the stern, if breaking loose, would leave a gaping wound in the coast line, I bet it would be a beautiful sight to see the ship put off with the large Hotel Paradise shining in the stern.

The red tiled roofs, typical of Andros, are out of place in the Cyclades, the group of islands that Andros belongs to.

On Sunday morning, an inferno breaks out. Accompanied by thunder and lightning, the heaven above Andros opens its floodgates. A young man selling fruits in golden syrup and other goodies, gives me shelter inside his shop. As the light is gone, we watch the pouring rain in semi-darkness. A rainstorm is extraordinary at this time of year, late in May.

Apparently, the weather gods have decided to sweep us away, and in my mind's eye, I see Andros Town set out on her maiden voyage.

Author: Terje Raa