A personal view by Marc Dubin – travel writer and resident of Samos
Greece‘s eastern Aegean islands, between Lesvos and Kos inclusive, spent much of 2015 in the overseas news for the wrong reasons. According to the UK press, they were swamped with refugees. I’m pleased to tell you that, in the case of Samos anyway, that’s a load of boúrdes (vernacular Greek for ‘utter nonsense’). Unless you spend much of your time in the Samian capital of Vathy near the lone refugee camp, you’re unlikely to see a single one.
So don’t hesitate to book a trip to Samos, now. The islanders are very keen to welcome you this year. It’s been especially lovely this spring, despite (or because of) an unusually dry, warm winter, with spectacular sunsets during much of May and June, and summer promising to be a scorcher (my garden thermometer is showing 34° C/91° F as I write in late June).
A long Turkish peninsula extending as far west as Chios protects superb poster-portrayed Tzamadou bay on the north coast from the worst of the meltemi (the prevailing late-June-to-early-September northerly wind), and there are plenty of lovely south-coast beaches as well – especially at Sunvil’s chosen resorts of Ormos, Votsalakia and Limnionas – if the meltemi becomes too much. I’m off tomorrow to rather misnamed Votsalakia (‘pebbles’) to dig my toes into its fluffily sandy strand. Too crowded? There’s more unpopulated sand at Megalo Seïtani beach on the northwest coast, with taxi boats going there from Karlovasi port (or an hour’s walk along a path).
Samian tavernas are as delicious as ever, with fresh grilled swordfish through August, along with fried fresh anchovies or sardines, and many perennially available vegetarian specialities like revythokeftédes (chickpea rissoles) and bouyourdí (baked tomato, chilli and cheese hotpot). For the carnivorous, Samos does a nice line in goat (stew or chops – healthier and tastier than lamb). Local wines are improving, as independent vintners like Vakakis escape the dead hand of the local co-operative. Samian ouzo, especially the Frantzeskos and Zarbanis brands, is excellent, and strong (up to 46% alcohol).
The two archaeological museums in Vathy and Pythagorio are some of the best in the islands, with monumental sculpture, a huge hoard of Byzantine gold coins, and intriguing votive offerings from the ancient shrine of Hera, which should stay open the two or three nights around the 18 August full moon until 1am – magical.
The Young Artists Festival in Pythagorio’s ancient theatre (7–13 August, schwarzfoundation.com) constitutes a treat of seven classical, operatic, jazz and fusion chamber concerts at bargain admission prices. The outdoor cinema at the edge of Mytiliní village is perhaps the most appealing one in Greece, lushly landscaped and with a good play list of last year’s hits from early June to late September. Both the festival and the summer cinema are an easy drive from Sunvil’s accommodation at Kérveli, Samos Town or Pythagorio resorts, but also quite doable from Sunvil’s other featured resorts on the north coast, Kokkari and Aghios Konstantínos.
Hikers should wait until cooler weather during late September/early October; the Nightingales walking club publishes a very useful, detailed (1:25,000) free map of around 20 waymarked trails between Kokkári and Agios Konstantínos.
Marc Dubin has lived at least part of each year on Sámos since 1989, in a ramshackle village house. For decades he wrote or co-authored guides to Greece and its islands for Rough Guides, Insight Guides and Berlitz Pocket Guides. He is now primarily a web-based journalist for The Daily Telegraph travel section, and a frequent contributor to Wanderlust magazine.