Red wine and a red sunrise at Amorgos

After a numbing 9-hour-trip with the Blue Star Ferry from Piraeus, I arrived in Amorgos around 3 in the night. Since I was travelling in March – off-season – I was the only non-Greek aboard the ferry. Only a couple of taxi drivers were waiting in sleeping Katapola to pick up the three or four families who came back from Athens with plastic bags full with Feta and canisters of olive oil (or maybe raki?).
Since it was the middle of the night I decided to catch a few hours of sleep before sunrise at the nearby beach. Around six in the morning I noticed things getting busier again. The first families appeared in the harbor for the early ferry to Piraeus. This was my chance to flag a cab to take me across the mountain to Chosoviotissa, a spectacular monastery literally hanging in a steep red cliff, on the island's east coast. The cheerful taxi guy (who didn't speak a word of English) drove me all the way to the monastery and offered to wait for me. I declined, since I wanted to hike up the mountain and back to Chora, the island's main town, myself.
I had planned this moment - sunrise at Amorgos - for weeks. I even brought a bottle of red wine from Athens to make it perfect. But I wasn't prepared for something quite like this. I arrived at the monastery approximately 45 minutes before sunrise. The first streaks of red already appeared on the far horizon. The silence was absolute. I was alone. I unfolded my camping mat in front of the monastery yard, uncorked the sweet Mavrodaphne from Patras (barbaric, I know...) and waited.
The sky became more and more red by the minute, and then slowly, just slowly, rising out of the water, at first as a small dot of light, but soon like an enormous flame lighting up the Aegean horizon, the sun ascended from the water. It was just magical, the world stopped turning in this ineffable overwhelming silence and the sun rising out of the water like the torch of Prometheus without the slightest noise. I never experienced a sunrise quite like this. Even the famed sunset at Thira pales in comparison. It was just perfect. The almost zen-like calmness with the waves rolling in and just a few waking birds chirping went into a perfect union with the red wine and soon I found myself smiling, with my eyes drifting across the sea. After the stressful time in Athens I was feeling like I had finally arrived in Greece.

Chosoviotissa monastery

Tips for travellers:

The easiest way to get to Amorgos is the Blue Star Ferry from Piraeus. The trip takes about 9 hours and you'll arrive in the middle of the night. Business class seats are 47 €, economy class is 33,50 €. Since economy class is pretty comfortable, the 14 € more for business class aren't really worth it.
Make sure to arrange your stay in Amorgos beforehand so someone from the hotel will pick you up at the harbour or be quick if you want to flag a cab. Otherwise you'll have to walk. Regarding the hotel, either book ahead or walk to the central store in Katapola as soon as it's opening in the morning. Tell the owner you need a place to sleep and he'll arrange something in a hotel in town for you. It seems like the whole island is run by a couple of families. I was staying at Hotel Minoa, it was just fine. Another good and cheap option is the well-organized and fairly clean camping ground in Katapola.


The food in Katapola is excellent, especially if you go off-season and stick to the tavernas the locals are frequenting. My top pick would be the inconspicuous taverna Mouragio, just west of the central harbour. Look for a place with a wooden fish above the entry, cats gathering in front of the side exit and rugged-looking fishermen sitting at the tables smoking and drinking Greek coffee. Try the fish dishes, they're incredible and straight from the sea. I had three red mullets for lunch. The weathered old fishermen sitting next to my table applauded me for my choice. They told me they were the ones who caught the fish in the night and sold it to the tavern in the morning. It can't any fresher, can it? The prices are very low regarding the quality you get. I paid around 10 € for the fish, some bread and some wine. When I was asking for the bill the old woman owning the place brought me an excellent dessert of honey-dripping pickled fruit for free, urging me to try it. Gorgeous!
Another pick would be the taverna Gorgona, close to the harbour. The Souvlaki in this down-to-earth place was pretty good and the atmosphere is cheerful with the tavern owner telling you a tale about the island or two.
If you're looking for a local specialty and like it sweet, you need to sample a glass of the famed Amorgos rakomelo. It's basically raki spiced up with honey, cardamom and cinnamon, really sweet. You consume it hot. It's said to cure every disease.

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