Fashion designer Marios Schwab’s Guide to Astypalaia
Astypalaia is a beautiful Dodecanese island in the shape of a butterfly. In ancient Greece, it was considered “the bank of the gods” because of its beautiful flowers and fruit. I’ve been spending my summer vacations there since he was eight years old, so it’s a special place for me. A cousin who visited the island in the late 70’s and fell in love with it moved to the island.
We arrived by boat and another boat had to pick us up as larger boats cannot enter the harbor area. A place for people seeking adventure, and it felt like this special secluded spot in the Aegean Sea. We went to a hidden beach. There were also family gatherings and traditional folk gatherings. The celebration of the Ascension of the Blessed Virgin Mary on 15th August was celebrated during her two days with great music and excellent food. All households cook. Eat food cooked overnight in a wood oven. That tradition continues to this day.
A typical day is pretty routine when I visit now.we go to cafenio, a place to drink coffee. There is a cafe called Meltemi in Chola, and I go there almost every day. Chora has always been the main town of the Greek Islands and its location in Astypalaia is beautiful. At the top is a 14th-century castle whose ruins are of dramatic beauty. From there, there is a row of whitewashed houses towards the port of Astypalea. At Meltemi, traditional small pies are stuffed with local cheese and topped with honey, making them savory and sweet. They make great omelets too. After drinking coffee and chatting for a few hours, we go to the nearby store to buy some fruit, then hit the beach.
Because of the island’s butterfly shape, there are interesting coves and beaches along its coastline. My favorite beach is Plaques where the sea is so beautiful. It’s very rocky and not everyone likes it, but I like it because you can swim from rock to rock. I love Watts too. This is a dramatic beach with bars that play great music. It’s always good to have small tapas with fresh beer. I went diving there with my partner and found a high spot to dive into the ocean.
Stay on the beach until you’re hungry and go to your favorite taverna. From Plakes we went to Maltezana, the second largest village in Astypalaia, to Almyra Restaurant. Almyra Restaurant has beautiful appetizers. They have a special way of looking at Greek food and adding a little twist to it.Astropelos, in Livadi, another village below the Chora, offers excellent seafood. I love the faguri, or ceviche made with sea bream, the sea urchin salad, and the sea bass carpaccio. Maria, the owner, is a wonderful host and has a great wine list.
Chora’s Deximi Art & Design Gallery also has a shop selling beautiful gifts made in Greece. I always like to bring something for my friends who are in London or Athens.When I stay in Astypalaia, I usually stay at my friend’s house, but I would recommend somewhere else to my visitors. If so, you will be sent to a traditional Kalderimi house built on a hill just 5 minutes from Chora.
In the afternoon, stop at the classic Mills Cafe before showering and taking a nap. Enjoy a little conversation over a chipouro or chikoudia. There is a balcony overlooking the amphitheater at the bottom of Chora Hill so you can see the beautiful sunshine slowly coming down.
After taking a shower, go to a restaurant near the castle. Go to Agoni Gourami, which makes a delicious stuffed vine leaf called Dolmadakia, or Karai Kafenio, further up towards the castle, serves lovely mezze with a beautiful view. After dinner, visit the very sophisticated Archipelago Café & Bar. Housed in a beautiful old building, it has the most delicious sweets. I usually have chocolate cake with red pepper or poached pear with yogurt cream, but this one is really refreshing.
Then head up the hill to the castle and past your friend’s bar. My favorite places are the Castro Bar which plays really good music and has a great view and for dancing, the Artemis Bar which has a very good DJ and makes nice cocktails. If I’m not too adventurous, I’ll sleep, but I tend to stay up quite late in Astypalaia. We will probably end up on the rooftop watching the sunrise. It has the most incredible colors – it fills you with energy. Dream about your next visit, recharge your batteries and return to city life.
Return flight to Athens British Airways From £98, connecting flights to Astypalaia from £168 sky express