Karen Burns-Booth

Lavender and lovage

Postcards from the Butterfly Island of Astypalea

PART ONE

The dawn stole over the Aegean horizon, I was tired after my ten-hour ferry journey, but I just had to stay awake to see the apricot and azure hues of the Aegean sunrise slide over the hillside town of Chora.The lights twinkled and sparkled, and the Venetian castle almost glowed in the early morning light……I had arrived in Astypalea (also known as Astypalaia)and there was a feeling of anticipation of what this remote and tiny island would reveal over the next five days. I had been invited to travel to the Astypalea to celebrate and observe Greek Easter…….as well as explore this stunning Aegean island.

Today’s post is my introduction to the island, as well as highlighting the mystery of the theatrical and very moving Greek Orthodox Easter celebrations……it’s a simple collection of “postcards” of what I saw and experienced……from glistening white-washed churches with their blue roofs to plates of freshly cooked seafood and herb scented hillsides, it’s a visual snapshot of my journey, so please do sit back and enjoy my “Postcards from the Butterfly Island of Astypalea”.

Astypalea is a small island of only 18kms long, but what it lacks in size is more than made up in character and beauty, plus the local people are some the warmest and friendliest I have ever met the world over.On gazing over the nearby hills of Chora, the main town of Astypalea, one could be forgiven for thinking this was a barren island, as dark grey hilltops loom against the crisp Aegean blue skyline; but, on leaving the principal town of Chora, with it’s sugar cube houses clinging to the steep slopes which is dominated by the hilltop castle fort and two blue domed churches, a wilderness rich in herbs, fruit trees and wild flowers is revealed. The scent of thyme and oregano hangs heavy in the air, and wild greens, which the locals collect for salads, creeps across the ground everywhere. Rows of bee hives march across the landscape, and it is no surprise to learn that Astypalea’s herb fragrant honey is a much sought after throughout the Dodecanese group of islands.

The food on Astypalea is very much seafood driven, with lamb, goat, locally made cheeses, pastries, honey, sea salt and vegetables also being high on the culinary list.I enjoyed fresh cheese (chlori) with thyme honey, golden egg laden pastries, creamy yoghurt rice pudding with cinnamon, sweetly spiced cheese pastries and freshly boiled free-range eggs every morning for my Astypalea Breakfast; lunches comprised bowls of Greek salads with salted feta cheese and sun-ripened tomatoes, grilled fish and seafood with locally baked fennel bread and bowls of creamy tzatziki, glistening olives, sesame laden hummus and salty taramasalata.

e ate and drank our way through all of the Greek Easter celebrations, with Good Friday (Holy Friday) being a Vegan Day, but with the most delicious and innovative food still being served, including a faux “vegetable octopus”! Throat warming raki and crisp rose wines were also popular and the rowdy chorus of “YAMAS” and the clinking of glasses was practised daily, and with some gusto! In fact towards the end of my stay, I was heard to say, several times, “no more food please”, as the food and drink just kept coming – there can be worse situations to be in I realise, but there really was a surfeit of astonishingly tasty and good food, which even though I was full was hard to resist.

There are no high-rise hotels in the island, but a collection of “rooms”, pensions and small boutique hotels with self-catering facilities.My wonderful home-away-from-home was high up the hill opposite the town, up seventy-two white-washed steps to be exact, to the lofty and beautifully located Andromeda Resort; my room was large and airy with a private balcony that offered the most spectacular views over Chora, the port and towards some of the uninhabited islands around Astypalea. There was a large double bed, a desk, two wardrobes, lots of easy chairs, an en-suite with WC and shower, as well as a dining table and small kitchenette with oven, hob, sink and fridge-freezer. The room was simply decorated with local arts, crafts and paintings, and was well worth the walk up all the steps at the end of the day!

I hope that I have enticed you to want to come back and read more about my magical stay on the secret island of Astypalea, my next posts will cover in more detail Greek Easter, our activities and of course all the restaurants and food we enjoyed! I have shared a Fact File below, about how to get to the island, as well as some of the main hotels and rooms in the island etc. Enjoy the images below and please DO leave a comment or email me if you need to know anything else about the island and how to enjoy a holiday there. Karen

NB: Look out for my next posts about this magical island – this is JUST part one of several post about Astypalea……

http://www.lavenderandlovage.com/2016/05/postcards-butterfly-island-astypalea.html