To lose a work of art is unfortunate but to lose three is careless and the island of Milos has the distinction of being famous for just that. The statue of the Greek God Asclepius has been taken away to the British Museum (not Lord Elgin this time), Poseidon is in Athens but the most famous of all is the statue of Aphrodite, or the Venus de Milo, which has been taken away to the Louvre in Paris. All over the island archaeologists still search for the missing arms but it is unlikely that they will ever be found.
We woke early because we had plans for a very full day and we thought we might hire a bike and join the search for the missing appendages. After breakfast on the terrace with a persistent black cat that seemed to think I was his temporary Merlin and the wind still rushing in and agitating the sea we walked back to Pollonia to catch the ten o’clock bus to Adamas.
The bus journey took about twenty minutes and was curious because here on Milos you paid for the ticket when you get off the bus. Very strange, what would you do if the inspector got on to check? Our first job was to book ferry tickets to Folegandros and we were disappointed that there were no regular ferries, only the new sea monsters without romance, character or soul and then we found a bike shop and hired a death machine from a man who had clearly forgotten to take his early morning happy pill. He wasn’t very talkative and saved what conversation he had to instructions on not to drive to the forbidden zone on the west of the island. He made it sound almost supernatural but the simple truth is that this is a national park called Natura 2000 where there are a lot of wildlife experiments that could easily be spoilt by the careless use of a quad bike.
We wanted to do the bike adventure again because someone told us that these things are so dangerous that within two years they will be banned from hire in Greece so we thought that it was important to try them out before they are no longer available. Apparently as a rule English and French people are generally proficient on them, Italians, who think they know all about scooters and bikes, are not so good and are certain to fall off and injure themselves sometime during the day but the Americans, who know nothing about them at all, are absolutely hopeless and are very liable to crash and cause a multiple pile-up within seconds of taking to the road.
The first thing that we had to do was to negotiate our way out of the harbour and this involved a steep climb to the town high above the seafront, the thing was very difficult to control, it was hard work and essential to concentrate at all times because the slightest road undulation resulted in wobbles and panics all the way to our first stop.
We arrived at the main town of Plaka, which overlooks the port of Adamas below and we parked the bike and walked into the little streets of the busy town. First we walked to the top and to the Venetian castle and after that returned to the shady alleys of the town with its pretty squares and tavernas where it actually started to rain so we were forced to shelter in a bar and have a beer. But it stopped as quickly as it started and we continued our walk.
Like all island towns it was predominantly white with blue doors, external staircases, playful kittens and discreet little shops, most of which were closed on account of this being siesta time. There must have been some sort of priest’s convention in town today because there were dozens of black robed ministers everywhere, in the bakery having morning coffee and later in the taverna having lunch and what we thought was really strange was that they were almost constantly on their mobile phones.
We walked around the town and couldn’t help noticing that there were three distinctive smells. Proctor and Gamble Tide detergent (no longer popular in the United Kingdom), which clung to the fresh linen hanging on the washing lines outside the houses, incense, leaking out under the doors of the churches and the divine aroma of fresh moussaka and other Greek specialities being prepared for lunchtime in the tavernas. As it happened, it was lunchtime now so we stopped and had a leisurely lunch of salad and moussaka (what else), wine and beer and then we reluctantly moved on.