Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Greece: Serifos, the Island with the haunted mines

A family-vacation island of mysterious beauty

(updated with links!)

by Kon Hans


The "Chora" of Serifos (main settlement on a Greek island) gazes from up the hills the vast blue horizon and defies the winds with its pure white graciousness.  Around it, the imposing arid landscape of the Aegean island is littered with deserted mines and rusty machinery, like huge iron talons popping out and grapping the earth, mechanical ghosts of a bygone era, carrying still the lost voices of the miners.  These otherworldly industrial monuments, the smooth lines of the landscape, the sandy beaches, the bustling port and the local rich cuisine have blessed Serifos island with a unique beauty, sought out by many travelers of the Aegean Sea, in Greece.

As the boat passes by Sifnos, the great sister of Serifos, the beautiful port of "Livadi" will welcome you to the island with all its colorful shops and taverns parading by the sea.  Some nice hotels and beautiful studios can be found in Livadi, - though August is more difficult-, and there are two impressive hotel complexes for a luxury escape with spectacular views: The "Rizes" and the "Amphitrite" complex are sure to make your vacations unforgettable. 




The Chora is considered as more of a romantic solution and is probably the most economical, while there is also a wonderfully organized camping for the adventurers, the «Corali» with a swimming pool and a small library.  However, during the peak of the high season in August prices are sizzling at 90 euros (about 114 US dollars) for a standard room at the Livadi port, an unfortunate strategy, especially when you consider the outrageous prices in some port taverns where a Greek Salad may cost up to 8 euros (about 10 US dollars)!

Nevertheless, when the "gold fever" passes, the Islanders are hospitable people and you will always see smiling faces around you, as you enjoy your coffee in the beautiful cafe of "
Yacht Club" by the port.  Also, the port area is indicated for some good meals by the sea waves having arguably many choices in restaurants and taverns to choose from.  I would recommend a short romantic walk a little further down, at Avlomonas beach, where you will find interesting and very affordable taverns with tables on the sand.  You will be rewarded with the famed August full moon: a large gold disc that embraces the calm sea, while the boats sway in its silver waters.



From high up in the Chora, the view is certainly different, of an eerie beauty, with a vast horizon all around you where the sea becomes one with the sky.   The Chora of Serifos is divided into the upper and the lower Chora, but essentially you can easily roam about in its entirety and get lost in its amazing alleys.  In order to reach Chora from the port, you can take a car or a bus or, or, if you're adventurous enough and of good stamina, you can hike your way up there following  the impressive stone path, which will take you about 40 minutes.  






Once in Chora, you may taste good local cuisine at "Aloni" or the relatively new "Marathoriza" restaurant saboring the famous "revithada" (a kind of a chickpea soup) and "louza" (smoked pork meat). Afterwards, you can enjoy a nice "ouzo" (anis alcoholic drink) at the Town Hall Square or indulge in an exotic cocktail at the bustling small terrace of «Aerino» bar listening to some nice music. Also there, at the same square, in the "Café Stratos", you can have your own private retreat to enjoy your coffee or an ice cream in a separate small space watching the hustling and bustling of the Square.  


Aegean architecture of an austere beauty (photo by Kon Hans)

If you're in the island during the Festival of Serifos, then you should definitely pay a visit to the small theatre, as many important names of the Greek music and other events will fill your August evenings with lovely melodies in a quality program that lasts from late July until the 20th of August. When the sun is unbearable and you seek the embrace of the sea, Serifos has many sandy beaches to offer and generally accessible. The southern beaches stand out and are the closest to the port, like "Livadakia", "Ganema", or "Vagia", though "Ganema" is the best among them. However,  you should pay a visit the "Psili Ammos" beach, believed to be the best beach of the island by many a tourist, as well as the "Megalo Livadi" a nice beach to the west of the island.











THE HAUNTED MINES



Perhaps the most neglected part of Serifos Island and what seems to possess an eerie and mysterious beauty, are the abandoned mines.  Since 1870, the Greek Mining Company  has begun exploiting and exporting the island's important iron ore reserves.  By 1880 the economic prosperity to the island due to the mines and has doubled its population, but in 1915 the crisis caused a serious decline of demand, thus worsening significaly the working conditions in the mines and producing fatal accidents.  Consequently, the strike launched on August 21 of 1916 by the miners in the Megalo Livadi caused a bloody uprising that resulted in the death of eight people. 




Nowadays, what remains from the once powerful machines that were digging the bowels of the earth, are silent monuments, like sculptures of an unnatural beauty and witnesses of a bygone era.  Once you visit "Megalo Livadi", you can find open tunnels that lead in the depths of the island without any indication or protection measures, rusty mine carts and ghostly bridges that lead nowhere. All without proper care, even so, they form a unique and spectacular attraction of a post-industrial and eerie magnificence, that will haunt your mind.



(Published in TIME OUT DUBAI ©, on February 25, 2015 read it here )






Rust and abandoned mine cart


Beach in Serifos

Beach in Serifos