12 Months In Anafi

The ship is sailing and you, leaning on the boat’s stern, are saying your goodbyes to Anafi, the island that filled your heart with unique emotions and your mind with colorful images. Your summer friends are waving goodbye holding white handkerchiefs, thus sealing the promise for a reunion sometime very soon.
Caught up in the rhythm of everyday life and the city’s fast pace, you reminisce… The phone rings and some friend from the island takes you back there. He didn’t leave, he chose to stay. You are wondering what he will do…
Yet, life on the island takes its own course…

Summer is giving way to autumn, and the Panagia Kalamiotissa local festival is still attracting visitors. The island’s «usual suspects» are coming back for a last dive into the Aegean Sea’s warm waters and a walk along the island’s trails.

The sun plays games, creating a canvas of magic colors during the day. Summer’s fast pace is over and now it’s time to relax. Harvesting season is here. Wine barrels are out and the next meeting under the moonlight is by the grape mill. It is now October…and while the locals are anxiously waiting for the equinox rains to collect snails, the nice weather is holding strong. The shops are starting to close for winter and the people of Anafi are now planning their vacations. They need their rest. In the evening, the hunters’ talk is being heated up by some raki at the traditional cafe.
It is now November and starting to get colder. The fishermen are bringing their boats ashore. Families are collecting olives to produce this year’s olive oil. At the olive oil press, the olive’s perfume is mixed with that of raki. Women are arranging to meet in the countryside in order to collect greens (“horta”, as they call them), mainly the “provatses” kind. They also collect saffron, the cleaning of which is an entire ritual and one more opportunity to meet with loved ones under the moonlit sky, while men are competing in a card game, called “diloti”. The countryside’s Saints will call for gatherings at the country chapels, for yet another dinner or lunch. The entire island is getting ready to honor its patron saint, Aghio Nikola, and the cultural association is organizing the ceremonial feast.
Christmas is just around the corner. The castle and the squares will be decorated, as well as the houses that will remain open to welcome the new year. Alleys are filled with sweet smells of honeyed specialties and children’s voices are chanting the traditional Christmas carols.
The entire village comes down to the port, waters are blessed, and a handful of bold and courageous men will dive for the Cross. Aghios Antonios country chapel, the oldest one around, calls to the residents, who will once more gather in a wonderful location. That’s when the first masqueraders will make their appearrance.

January… It’s rainy and cold but the halcyon days light up the island. What a great opportunity for yet another visit to the countryside, now that the earth is generously offering asparagus, piney chicory, radishes and bulbs. Nature is tricked into thinking its spring time, but the rainiest month is now here.

 

The main topic of conversation on February is the dam and whether it is time to plant potatoes, while the beekeepers are counting winter’s losses. The cultural association is preoccupied with entertainment on Carnival Sunday and, on Clean Monday, kites color up the sky.

March is now here and greens are replaced by precious herbs. Wine growers are tending to their vines and beekeepers are searching for the first bee colonies.

The entire island is getting ready to welcome its first visitors who are beginning to arrive, to explore different trails and enjoy April’s serenity. The weather is already better; the fishing boats set sail, followed by swimmers who are now taking their first dive.
Easter is just around the corner and the people of Anafi are loyal to their customs. They turn on the ovens (“fournia” as they call them) to bake the traditional saffron cheese pie, the “melitera” (small cheese pies with honey) and the traditional lamb dish, for the night of the Resurrection.

On Easter afternoon, Aghios Nikolaos square is filled with people, anxious to punish Judas. Zoodochos Pigi monastery completes the festive atmosphere, as it attracts visitors from the surrounding islands. The blooming land invites girls to prepare May’s wreath, a “bait” to be stolen by young men, as a token of love.
The regular visitors of the island are arriving and the expression “Now we’re good!” marks the beginning of the season. Hot nights are ideal for the preparation of local products (capers leaves, oregano, “throumbi” a thyme variety) and on everyone’s mouths are predictions about summer traffic and the results of the first harvesting of flower honey.

In June, mornings are becoming livelier by the day, since many visitors disembark from the ship, giving life to the alleys in Chora, as well as to the countryside trails. Temperatures rise and clothes at the beachside are becoming less and lighter, or, in some cases, nonexistent (!). Vegetable gardens are blooming with “katsounia” (a local cucumber variety), tomatoes and other vegetables, that will be used to add flavor to traditional recipes, in the island’s restaurants and tavernas.

 

July’s etesian winds carry the scent of thyme, challenging locals to go out and collect it like worker bees, in order for it to be placed on the shops’ shelves, along with more local products. Traffic is more and more intense, while some lucky visitors will attend a music event held by the municipality or some local festival in the countryside, like the ones of Prophet Elias and Aghios Panteleimonas.
August nights and everyone is friends with each other by now, meeting up in the alleys and squares. Every home is open and the lights from the small balconies are a real spectacle.

Regulars to the island, old and new, are now flooding the island, leaving very few hours of rest to the locals, who are more than willing to serve them. Each day a different celebration and, if accommodation is arranged, one will enjoy this year’s cultural events, held by the Association of Anafi’s Citizens, “Argonaftika”.
Summer is coming to an end and the port is filled with visitors that are carrying bags with local products, such as thyme honey, capers and herbs.
White handkerchiefs are coming out of pockets, the ship is sailing and you, sitting by the dock, are waving goodbye to the ones leaving…
We stay in Anafi!