To lose a work of art is unfortunate but to lose three is careless and the island of Milos has the unfortunate distinction of being famous for three lost treasures.
The statue of the Greek God Asclepius has been taken away to the British Museum (not by the much maligned 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 was discovered here on the 8th April 1820 and promptly 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 and there remains a lot of debate anyway about just how good the statue of a podgy ancient Greek lady of dubious artistic origin really is.
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 a 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 pay for your 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 find a bike shop and hired a death machine from a man who had forgotten to take his early morning happy pill.
We wanted to do the bike thing 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, 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 then returned to the shady alleys of the town with its pretty squares and tavernas. Like all island towns it was predominantly white with blue doors, external staircases, 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 UK) 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.
Next to Plaka was the village of Trypiti that had restored windmills and Christian catacombs that were sadly closed due to excavations and an ancient Greek amphitheatre that we missed because it looked like a long way to walk in the blistering heat of the afternoon. After a couple of Mythos I was much more confident about the quad bike so we left the high level towns and returned again to the beaches on the north of the island.
First we stopped at the seafront village of Klima, a little fishing community with gaily-painted boat garages cut directly into the rocks. The season was finished now and the village was strangely quiet but I imagine this place would be busy in summer with lots of activity, busy bars and cafés and the aromatic smell of fish cooking on the grills at the sides of the streets.
We drove east back towards Pollonia and on the way stopped at Sarakiniko beach, which is one of the famous picture postcard sites on Milos. The island, like Santorini, is volcanic in origin but there the similarity ends because it is completely different in character and in appearance and here the cliffs are so brilliant white that from a distance they seem to be covered in snow. There are great swirling formations of sea chiselled rocks in the most spectacular and attractive formations.
In the late afternoon we arrived back at the Nefeli Sunset , it had been a good day but we didn’t find the missing arms of the Venus de Milo!