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My artist/friend Sandy and I were both accepted into an Artist Residency at the Foundation for the Arts at Skopelos Island, Greece—a small island northeast of Athens in the Aegean Sea. We headed to Athens on April 17th, 2006 and, after a quick visit to the Acropolis and a night in a cheap-o hotel, we were on our way to the island by bus and then ferry.
We were met at the port by Gloria, the founder of the Foundation (pictured here with one of the local Taverna owners) and her daughter, Jill, and Jill’s baby. After a quick stop for groceries, we headed up and up and up to our apartment, which was perched high above the beautiful town of Skopelos. The small apartment was cozy, with a large porch that provided incredible views of the town and the sea. Sunrises were beautiful. The weather was wonderful and I began pinching myself to check to see if this was real.
The studio was just a short walk up even further (pictured here from the beach around the bend from the town), with sweeping views of the Aegean. The studio was well-equipped, with three rooms of art supplies, printing presses, books, and a computer…and…the two of us were the only residents. This is heaven.
We settled in to a routine wherein we worked in the studio almost every day but headed into town for lunch or dinner and took walks to the local beach and along the country roads. Flowers were everywhere. Jill and her significant other, Yorgos, lived in the apartment behind ours. Every morning, Yorgos and a couple of dogs would enjoy the view over a cup of Greek coffee. I didn’t try to keep track of how many cats and dogs Gloria and Jill shared, but they were all fun and friendly.
The walk to town was twenty minutes straight down—first along a donkey path where we saw lots of donkey doo, some occasional chickens, and a horse, but no donkeys. After the donkey path, it was endless stairs between beautiful whitewashed little houses with lots of flowers. Coming back up took closer to a half hour and was our exercise for the day.
We arrived just before Greek Easter, and on Friday night Gloria invited us to participate in a procession through the streets from one church to another. Everyone carried lit candles and it was beautiful and moving.
As I was in the procession holding my candle, I felt something in my pants! I reached down and there was something BIG in there, above my knee! I was able to get it out and it was a big grasshopper (maybe 3” long)! Here’s a very blurry picture—I was too upset to take a good one.
After the procession, we shared a bottle of wine in one of the seaside tavernas and attempted to walk home, getting lost on the endless stairs snaking up through the town and giggling all the way (three tipsy oldish ladies).
We were invited on Easter Sunday to dinner with our landlord, Christo, and his family. He started roasting a whole lamb (or was it a goat?) at 7:00 am and we began feasting around 2:00. It was fun sharing a local holiday, drinking home-made wine, listening to the men sing, and watching everyone dance the traditional dances.
Would you believe that the landlord’s son (very cute) has an Alfa Romeo?
But then the weather turned cold and very windy, and it rained for several days. We hunkered down in the studio and did lots of work. We didn’t think there was heat in either the apartment or the studio, and we were cold for a couple of days before we admitted it and asked for heat—and there was heat!
The weather finally changed and we were out and about again. Gloria introduced us to a German artist who has moved to the island, and we visited her studio/gallery one afternoon. On the way, we stopped at the beach and Sandy painted the scenery while I beach-combed for driftwood. Yes, people give up everything and move to a small island—Jill was an investment banker before she joined her mother.
We took a walk to the other side of the island (three miles) on a dirt road with beautiful views, tiny churches, many olive trees, and a beautiful beach at the end of the walk. On another day, we took the bus to the town at the other side of the island (maybe twenty miles) and had lunch at a local taverna on the water.
We enjoyed the town and especially the tavernas. Food and booze was cheap and good, and we were among the locals and a few tourists. One night, there was a table of locals with instruments, all singing and providing free entertainment. Below is a picture of Gloria’s electrician. On another night, we ate at a restaurant where one of Gloria’s friends was singing. He and his wife also run a shop in town and posed for my camera.
We actually did a lot of artwork between our outings. We both did some printmaking, I did a lot of carving of driftwood, Sandy made quite a few small drawings and paintings, and we both took lots of pictures that we downloaded to the computer and combined with our prints.
Toward the end of our stay, I realized that I had been taking lots of pictures of the people. I then concentrated on people’s images and have about 25 images that I hope to turn into a series.
All good things must end, but not before a last dinner in town. We invited Gloria, the newly-arrived resident and his wife, and Yorgos to dinner. We thought we would have an early night, but we partook in the local tradition of ordering a local liquor called, Tsipouro. It comes as a nip, and for about $4.00 they include an appetizer of their choice. You drink your way through the meal, getting more appetizers as you order more nips. We stopped counting nips and appetizers, and at about midnight found a taxi to take us home (walking up and up was not possible).
After leaving Skopelos, we traveled across Greece to Delphi by taxi (would you believe). It’s a two-hour drive from the ferry through the mountains to Delphi, but there is NO public transportation. You either take a three-hour bus to Athens and another three-hour bus from Athens to Delphi (and waste a day), or pay over $100 for a taxi.
Delphi is magnificent. The ruins are perched on the side of a mountain, overlooking a valley and more mountains. The views are incredible. But it has been discovered, and the tour buses are everywhere. We were there for three days, so were able to be where the buses weren’t.
One day, we decided to go to a monastery that was about twenty miles from Delphi. Again, no public transportation. Took the bus to the nearest town and then a taxi to the monastery. We weren’t warned that the bus leaves you in the middle of nowhere, about a mile from town. It would have been a nice walk if it wasn’t a main highway. But the monastery was lovely, and the woman (a nun?) in the courtyard cleaning leeks added a nice touch.
Finally, we headed back to Athens and wandered the shops and flea markets before a final meal (we found an Italian restaurant!) and the long flight home.