Astypalea turned out to be a serendipitous surprise. We had planned to simply spend the night there as a necessary stop en route to Amorgos. But sailing the Aegean means one is always subject to the whims of the sea. Zephyr is the Greek god of wind, and he had other ideas for us. After breakfast we began our journey to Amorgos. But no sooner had we rounded the headlands into open sea but we were blown about like corks on the water. The captains immediately turned back. It was the right decision for safety reasons. But it turned out to be the right decision in every way.
Astypalea is a gem! You guessed, it – an impossibly beautiful town spilling down to the harbor from a hill-top kastro (fort). Within the broken walls of the fort two picturesque blue-domed churches have been built. And if that were not magical enough, a row of white-washed, red-capped windmills line the saddle that leads to the hill, lining up for an impossibly lovely photographic composition.
Wow! What a horrible place to be stranded for an extra day. That night the winds dropped and the seas calmed. We had lost too much time to include Amorgos, but the calm seas allowed us to comfortably sail all day to arrive on Ios at the end of the afternoon.
Ios was never on our itinerary. But our first day delays and a lost day to high seas meant we had to be flexible in our planning. We had understood from the beginning, when dealing with the sea and weather, one has to be ready to compromise and adopt new plans. We motored into Ios harbor as the sun was once again lighting up the sugar-cube buildings and domed churches. Some of our tour members headed to the nearby beach to swim while others explored the town. We had a free evening and people were quite ready to be off the boats for dinner. I remember Ios from 35 years ago. It was little more than a backpackers venue for partying.
Much has changed. There is still a very young vibe, but it has been tempered by some gentrification. The winding, narrow streets (designed to frustrate invading pirates in the day) reveal cute boutique shops and trendy restaurants in addition to the many bars and nightclubs I remembered.
My group found a lovely little restaurant with garden and courtyard tables under trellises and grape vines. The food was exquisite and the staff treated us with kindness and warmth. After dinner we were treated to samples of Mastik (sweet liquor) and the local Tsipouro (Greek grappa). It was a lovely evening. In the morning we cast off and motored to our final destination, the magical island of Santorini.