Following all the unforeseen events of this year, corona, lockdown, a cancelled wedding and a really stressful first 6 months, we decided with my partner that safety, followed by relaxation would be our main criteria when choosing our destination. Greece was certainly ticking the safety box, but wanting to avoid any island that could become a tourist favorite, we decided to opt for Folegandros. One of the lesser known Cyclades destinations. Our objective was very basic. Pay a premium to stay in a luxury resort with a pool, overlooking the Aegean Sea and do nothing. But we were in for a big surprise, a very pleasant one that is.
Arriving at the resort, the view from the pool was breath-taking to say the least. But the corona imposed restrictions, prohibiting the service of breakfast or drinks being served, did leave a legitimate gap in our requirements. So we had to venture out. Upon entering the Chora, we are greeted by two larger than life men, sitting opposite their tourist shops, drinking local Raki, and watching the world go by. Andreas and Fotis.
Andreas, after a long and very successful career as Singer, Composer and Songwriter, lending his music to some of the country’s most famous pop Singers, decided to pull away from the limelight, and retreat to Folegandros where he spends half of the year since 2013. His shop, featuring modern art holiday garments, with a touch of Greek tradition, is a must stop, for anyone wishing to stand out in the Chora’s narrow alleys. Style does not need to be expensive and that’s the philosophy of this truly cosmopolitan man. His collection also features a number of unique pieces “by Nikolaos” another prominent Greek designer of Jewelry and accessories.
Fotis (below), with the shop next door, is a Greek Jeweler that has been married to a Danish lady, and has been in Folegandros for a long time already but like Andreas he spends half the year on the Island. His creations are unique. Mooring ropes and leather harmoniously fused with Silver, Earrings made from all kind of precious and semi-precious stones, worry beads
from Amber, and gold rings of tremendous detail, all bring a small piece of Fotis’ heart into the creation. It is unlikely you will find anything similar to his creations anywhere else in the world. Needless to say we brought a whole bunch of presents from both stores on our way back. The best thing though was not the Jewelry which was truly amazing but the welcoming atmosphere of the two men. Every evening we walked past, they would invite us to sit with them and drink Raki, that’s regardless of whether we would buy something from their stores or not. That, about sums up the whole spirit of the island. Everyone is a guest, everyone is greeted with a genuine smile. Not the fake one that you may get in bigger islands, with store owners trying to get you to buy, but people honestly happy to see you bring life to this quiet island. And that is something money just can’t buy.
Few steps further down, the stone paved road, splits into a dyke. You have a choice of going left, right or just move straight ahead into Malama Boutique, another gem of the island. If the Greek Gods ever had a jewelry and accessories store, this would probably be it. Outstanding interior, amazing cutting edge accessories, ranging from dresses, sandals, sarongs, eyewear, bags and jewelry, all Glamorous, and all with a distinct Greek flair to them. The store is run by Tenia, who is there with a big smile and great vibes to talk you through every creation inside her store. Not only does the boutique support Greek brands and designers, but Tenia is a great example of the younger generation of entrepreneurs, not intimidated by the crisis, but thriving through it and insisting “Greek”.
And she does it in the best way possible. By being a great ambassador of “High-end meeting Greek Heritage” at affordable prices. For those of you more fashion savvy , don’t be surprised if you spot a few handbags with Unique Landscapes prints by Marina Vernicou featuring in the store, among other Greek Designers. Needless to say, we shopped our hearts out and will be coming back for more. "In love with the earrings, Thank you Tenia".
Coming out of Malama Boutique and taking a left (or right if you are facing the boutique) into the Chora, you will run to the best coffee bar in town Aquarius. Just sit against the wall, put your feet up on the little sill, and let iced coffee and cocktails, followed by great Rock music, travel your mind away as you watch the world go by. The owner, a man of great Statue, and amazing T-shirts is always
ready to exchange life wisdom with every guest. Every T-Shirt he wears will give rise to a new conversation about life. The man and his bar, since 1987 are cult symbols of Folegandros Island, I just know an Icon when I see one. If you do make a stop at Aquarius make sure you try the local Pilsner Beer called KATSIKA, translated in English as GOAT.
By this time, you have reached the first of 4 squares (Platies) the Chora has. And that’s where the culinary journey begins. Traditional island dishes such as Lamb or Goat with Matsata (local pasta) slowly cooked since morning, salad with the local cheese Souroto, Kalassouna (local Cheesepie), Local Fava, or just a simple souvlaki, will keep even the most demanding foodies satisfied. One piece of advise: the locals are very generous with food portions, so if you are going to try one of the popular main dishes, make sure you don't overdo it with the starters. Otherwise you may find yourself stuffed and miss the main event.
There are too many nice little corners in the Chora which would take me more than a few pages to cover. The bottom line is, we came to the island as strangers, and visitors and left the island with friends. For anyone wanting to experience the Cycladic beauty, without the setbacks of mass tourism, Folegandros should be on top of your list. Outstanding views, quiet corners and beaches, amazing food and wine, friendliest islanders I have ever met. Folegandros is the hidden diamond of the Aegean Sea.