I haven’t arrived on Sifnos to do anything specific, unless wallowing in the unique and palpable ambience of Greek island life is specific? Greek islanders are one of the most laid back people on the planet; so I’m not here to do things but I might practice undoing a few things.
As the taxi drives off, leaving us on the outskirts of the fishing village of Vathy, we stumble down an unmade lane towards the sea. Anna from a beachside taverna was expecting us and had the key our fisherman’s cottage. Perched on the edge of the Aegean I imagine the old fisherman having a lazy day and throwing a fishing line from the porch and pulling the fish straight out.
The stone built cottage wasn’t smart but had panoramic views across the deep horseshoe bay. To the right dazzling white cubic houses with powder blue shutters and doors climb back onto the pungent oregano, sage and thyme covered hillside. To the left beautifully soft sand stretches around the bay, partly shaded by Tamarisk trees and dotted with pink and white Oleander bushes.
Sitting on the porch the crystal clear waters lap its edge and the only other sounds are occasional church bells, a distant tinkle of goat bells, a murmur from the nearby taverna, occasional clanks from moored sailing boats and the all pervading drone of cicadas.
The bay is a popular harbour for sailing boats and different flotillas arrive every evening along with the occasional multi-million dollar yacht. Watching inexperienced sailors anchoring their boats and zigzagging ashore in overloaded dinghies is a major entertainment highlight.
Our favourite of the five beachside tavernas was Yianni’s and we ate there most nights. Every sunset was toasted with a couple of glasses of ouzo from the porch; the sun slipping behind the hills, as first the swifts then the bats swoop passed snatching unsuspecting and unwelcome insects from the evening air. Then we would stroll along the beach to Yianni’s.
Taverna’s are the hub of life in any Greek community: Grandma is usually in the kitchen, mum races around organising everything and takes the cash, the kids are waiting tables and dad is in charge of chatting to friends and neighbours and quality testing the homemade retsina or ouzo. No one expects to be served quickly, don’t necessarily anticipate being able to decipher the menu and don’t be foolish enough to think you’ll get exactly what you ordered. But, you’re breathing warm, fragrant evening air, feeling sand under your feet, gazing at more stars than you ever thought possible, listening to the sea murmuring close by and watching fishing boats twinkling in the dark — just chill out, what’s the hurry, this is Greece.