What a find, we really enjoyed our time on Amorgos, with its uncompromising mountains dropping vertically into the Aegean, the welcoming village of Katapola and the amazing Monastery of Panayia, impossibly suspended near the top of an almost vertical cliff face.
The Island is incredibly rugged, uncompromising slabs of rock are the main feature of the landscape which explains the lack of cultivation except in the few fertile valleys, sheltered from the winds and baking sun. In the past the islanders have had a reputation as pirates and wreckers which is not surprising considering that other ways of providing an income were limited.I am also told the island is famous as the location for Luc Besson’s film, Le Grand Blue … it seems everyone expects recognition when the films name is mentioned, but I’m afraid, not one I have seen or heard off.We arrived at the bay of Katapola, with its high mountains encircling and protecting it, at the respectable hour of 10.30am (thanks to Mark …. hmmm). Luckily we found a mooring on the town quay to the left of the small ferry dock, the pilot book stated this area had very limited depth but it was absolutely fine with a good 4.5m and because it wasn’t on the angled section of the quay, you could avoid crossed anchors.
On arrival we took advantage of the water on the quay, with Mark washing the outside of the boat and me tiding up the inside. The quay filled up pretty quickly, with the British outnumbering the other nationalities except for our neighbours, we had Australians on both sides. Jobs done Hudson and I went off to explore the village whilst Mark had his daily afternoon siesta.
The village itself has a relaxed and “local” feel to it with the usual pretty bars and restaurants encroaching onto the quay and discrete walkways running behind the main street. Despite its size, katapola had all the necessities, a laundry, butchers, bakers, car hire and of course a clutch of mini markets – the opening times were based on the slightly confusing “Greek time” world clock.
On the Friday (26th May) we hired a car at the very reasonable rate of 25 euros, our Australian neighbours had recommended a few sites to see around the Island, with the Monastery of Panayia a must. Map in hand, we set off to the northern end of the Island to the small village of Aigiali, which has a lovely sandy beach and a quay, but unfortunately, lacking the welcoming charm of Katapola. So we gave Hudson a walk around the village, stopping for an orange juice, and then onto the hilltop town of Chora for lunch – a very large tasty omelette (more like a frittata) with everything on.Next was the Monastery of Panayia, which unfortunately was closed for siesta. Having seen the amazing facade of the monastery chiselled out of the cliff face, we knew this was a site not to miss, so we returned to the boat for a couple of hours, planning to return at 17:00 when it opened again. To reach the Monastery, you ascend an impressive rock stairway, winding back and forward as it climbs up several hundred feet and constructed from great slabs of rock hewn from the cliff face.You can’t help but wonder how they lifted the materials to construct the building and even today how they get day to day supplies up the rock face especially during the storms of winter …. and who made the decision to build in this inhospitable location. On a tiny grassy ledge, just below the monastery itself, some of our questions were answered, as we discovered two donkeys with the hair on their backs rubbed bald by the travels up and down the stairs, loaded with provisions and over weight monks.The front elevation of the Monastery is substantial, however front to back is quite narrow, the back wall is quite literally carved from the cliff face, as you can see from the picture of the steps leading up to the main chambers. At the top are two prayer rooms, decorated elaborately with chandeliers and religious artefacts painted on wood, incense tickles your senses. Dress code is strict, with ladies having to be covered, wearing skirts not trousers. When it comes to heights Mark and I are wimps, but you cannot help be staggered by the breathtaking view from the balcony at the top of the monastery – photography cannot really reflect the true scale of the building and the view.The Priests indicated for us to join them and 6 other visitors for refreshments, a shot of cinnamon floured Saki (produced locally) and some Greek Delight (Turkish Delight). Seated around a grand oak table, the amiable rotund priest entertained us in broken English. He was keen to get our thoughts on Brexit, as well as the German and French couples opinion on the merits of the European Union – although answers were constrained by language to yes and no and thumbs up or down. We concluded by inadequately attempting to describe our visit in the visitors book, it was impossible to put into words the grandeur and humbling nature of the achievement to build this place …. let alone any religious sentiment.We finished our evening off next to the boat, with dinner at a restaurant on the quay called “Capetam Dimos”, Dimos the owner, was proud of his Greek food with a twist and happily explained the merits (or not) of the local wine and calamari – which apparently is caught in the winter and spring time, and then frozen i.e. there is no fresh squid in summer in Greece … so he claimed. The wine (still at a reasonable price) was the best Greek wine I have had; it was so nice Mark insisted on sharing it. I had the Moussaka (which was made with a few different ingredients such as yogurt, so was lighter and tastier) and Mark had the Lamb in Ouzo sauce, both dishes were presented beautifully and tasted yummy, some of the best Greek food we have had.
We left Katapola the following morning content and happy that we had stopped for a few days and enjoyed this lovely island.