The next morning the anticipated spectacular sunrise just didn’t happen because although the sun arrived as regularly as it ever does its first appearance was obscured by a hill on the other side of the bay and then by an inappropriately placed building opposite the hotel.
This meant that we would have to wait until we would be in Folegandros in a few days time where we knew we could rely on the early morning solar experience. It was a bit windy still and while we had breakfast on the balcony, consisting of pastry, fruit and an excellent cup of tea we could see the boats in the harbour moving about restlessly at their moorings in response to the swell of the sea.
Today we were planning to visit the Hora about five kilometres and a twenty minute bus ride away and by the time we pitched up for the ten o’clock ride the wind had dropped, there were no more clouds rushing in and the sky was an uninterrupted blue.
The little green Mercedes bus was at least thirty years old (probably more) and the driver took the fares, blew his horn to indicate departure and set off on the only bus route on the island. Every seat had retrospectively fitted seat belts but this must have been only to satisfy some EU directive because it was impossible to use them because they were neatly strapped up and secured with those little plastic cable ties that can only be released by cutting through them completely.
So without the security of a seat belt we travelled to the top of the mountain through several hairpin turns and going back and forth across the face of the mountain until we came to a spot where the bus was able to turn around and leave the passengers at the entrance to the lower square of the village. There was an alternative way of reaching the Hora but that involved an arduous climb along a mule path which interlaced several times with the road but it looked like hard work and so definitely worth the €1.40 fare on the bus to ride in relative comfort to the top.
After visiting the redundant windmills, now being converted into holiday accommodation, we followed the signs to the Kastro and passed through pretty streets where the walls of the buildings squeezed in close to the narrow lanes and tracks but then opened out into the delightful main square of St. Athanasios about halfway to the top that was a complete contrast to the agoraphobic streets that led to it from all directions.
Here was the immaculately whitewashed church, the neoclassical town hall, which was in need of a bit of attention, a traditional taverna called Zorba’s with blue doors and windows and Café Stou Stratou a trendy ouzerie across the square selling coffee and traditional Greek snacks to a handful of customers. We passed through without stopping and continued towards the top and the little church of Church of Agios Konstantinos from where there was a panoramic view in all directions and especially down and over the port of Livadi stretched out below.
The Hora of Serifos is one of the most spectacular and attractive in the Cyclades, it is how I imagine Ios might have been if it hadn’t been discovered and turned into a Euro pleasure zone because here there are no bars or nightclubs and best of all no shops either. On the way back down we passed by renovated houses which shared the streets with various abandoned properties where a glance inside revealed the truth of a hard life without utilities from only a relatively short time ago.
In the gaps between the buildings there were great views over the barren rust coloured hills that reminded me of the bodywork on my first car, a Hillman Avenger, and the now calm inky blue sea in the bay of the harbour that looked like a giant inkwell full of Quink.
After we had circumnavigated the town we returned to the main square, which was by now basking under a hot sun, and we stopped for refreshment and a rest. A nice feature in the bars and cafés in Serifos was the hospitable habit of providing customers with a jug of cold water. I was unsure of this at first because I was brought up with a paranoia of drinking water abroad, so bad that I used to wash my teeth in bottled water in case I inadvertently swallowed a millilitre or two. In fact the first time that I went to Greece, to Kos in 1983, I had to have typhoid injections and a certificate to prove it! Well, how things change and now it appears to be safe to drink the water across the whole of the Eurozone without suffering ill effects or an upset stomach and this was certainly the case in Serifos.
After the stop we took the bus back to Livadi and made plans to return again the following afternoon. It was hot now so we rested and enjoyed the view from the balcony and then later looked for somewhere to eat. We quickly passed by last nights disappointing restaurant choice and selected a traditional fish and meat taverna on the beach just beyond where the pavement ended and a dirt road began. Waiters crossed the street with trays of food, wine, and beer to customers who were dining by the sea. The restaurant was welcoming, the seafood was delightful, the staff were friendly and we were accompanied by a flock of gregarious ducks. We had made a much better choice than the previous day so thought we might return later.
In the afternoon we went for a couple of hours to an alternative beach behind the town where there was the welcome shade of the whitewashed armirikia trees but could have done without the booming music from the beach bar that spoilt the otherwise ‘get away from it all’ mood of the place.
In the early evening we sat on the balcony and watched the lights in the bay twinkle into life and as the main street started to get busy with the first of the evening’s diners we returned to the friendly taverna on the edge of the town and had a second good meal of the day. At the end of the second day we were in full holiday mood now and beginning to enjoy Serifos and although we agreed that we probably prefer Sifnos (our next stop) we were able to reassess our unnecessarily negative first day thoughts which now seemed to have been a little bit hasty.