Dave and Gerry's Alonissos Island Information Site

UNESCO World Dance Day Syros Island Sunday 29th April 2018

April 29th is designated UNESCO World Dance Day and a dance festival was held on the island of Syros in the Apollon Theatre in Ermopoulis by UNESCO and attended by the Director of UNESCO Greece.  The head of the Πολιτιστικός Σύλλογος Αλοννήσου received an invitation for the island dance group to perform at the festival.  It transpired that only 8 groups would be performing on that day:

1 group from the island of Syros.
1 group from the island of Mykonos.
1 group from the island of Alonissos.
1 group from Larisa (Thessaly region ~ 60km from Volos).
1 group from Agrinio (Aetolia-Acarnania region of SW Greece ~ 28km from Messolonghi).
3 groups from Piraeus (Attica Region ~ 12km SW of Athens).

This is the poster for the dance festival:

The dance group met on the port area of Patitiri at 1pm on Thursday 26th April as we had to leave early due to problems with the timing of ferry departures between Alonissos and Volos.  We collected our tickets for the car ferry Proteus which gave us a 50% discount on the normal ticket price.  Dave only had a single ticket as he was staying on in Volos the following week for some medical tests.  The Proteus was running around 1 hour late so 14 dancers along with 7 friends and family boarded the ferry at 2.30pm.  The weather was wonderful for the ferry crossing with clear blue skies and wall to wall sunshine with only a light breeze blowing making for a very smooth crossing.  We arrived at the port of Volos around 8pm where we were met by a lady from Alonissos who was also joining us for the adventure.

After storing our baggage in the Hotel Aegli on the harbour front we made our way to Tsipourathiko Lepi.  Dave sat down and ordered a non-alcoholic beer and promptly everyone else disappeared off to do shopping and visit people and left him on his own.  By 9.30pm everyone had returned and for 2½ hours the ouzo and tsipouro flowed at a constant rate along with countless small plates of meze dishes to compliment the drink.  We ate and drank as much as we could, which cost 13 euro per head and, around midnight we collected our bags from hotel Aegli and headed across the road to where our 30 seater luxury private coach was waiting for us, for which we paid 45 euro per head for the hire of the coach and driver for the overnight return journeys between Volos and Piraeus.

We left Volos around 12.30am and drove through the night to arrive at the port of Piraeus at 5.15am and the coach parked opposite the back of the car ferry Blue Star Naxos.  We couldn't board the ferry before 6am and as it was a chilly morning a lot of people stayed on the coach while others ventured off occasionally for a cigarette.  One of the festival organisers arrived with our tickets and we had a 40% group discount on the standard price.  More people started arriving and these we later discovered were different dance groups from around Greece who were also performing at the festival.  The ferry was large by Alonissos standards being around twice the length of the car ferry Proteus and much taller and wider.  We were joined by 3 more friends at Piraeus meaning that when the ferry sailed at 7.30am there was a group of 24 of us travelling to Syros on the Friday morning.
The ferry was packed as most of the visiting group taking part in the festival were on the same sailing as us.  The weather was again wonderful for the ferry crossing with clear blue skies and sunshine with only a light breeze blowing, making for an uneventful journey to Syros and we arrived at the port of Ermopoulis around 11.30am.  Instead of a private coach to take us to our hotel a fleet of hire cars were waiting and, after the formalities, Dave joined Yorgos and his family for the 15 minute drive to the beach resort of Galissas.  A group of the lady dancers assumed Gerry's rôle and were very protective of him always making sure he knew what the group were doing that he was in the right place at the right time!!
All the dance group were booked into Hotel Maistrali which, on first impressions, looked a very nice hotel and it proved to be a very nice place to stay.  We were greeted by the owner Antonios, his wife and daughter and, after being allocated our room keys, we settled down on the outside terrace together to relax over a drink and a chat.  Every morning and evening that Antonios was sat on the outside terrace the same bouzouki playing and singing could be heard and, when asked about this, his wife told us he was a well known singer, songwriter and bouzouki player before he retired and that some of his music can be heard on YouTube.
Although weary from almost 24 hours travelling there was no peace for the wicked and we headed off for a 2pm lunch appointment at Hotel Di Mare at the beach resort of Posidonia.  We shared a salad and a couple of starters and then everyone had a main course each.  The food was very well cooked and we paid only for our drinks as the food cost came out of the money we paid in advance to the organisers.
Friday evening we went out on the town after relaxing for the afternoon and letting our lunch go down.  Around 7pm we drove off to Ano Syros which is the old quarter of Ermopoulis with a large catholic church adorning the summit of the hill.  The settlement is around 800 years old and we entered through a stone archway and climbed the stone steps to a bar named φεγγάρι (moon) which had a roof terrace with stunning views of the Greek Orthodox church on Vrodado hill opposite and a panoramic view of the port of Ermopoulis.  The roof terrace was packed but Dave and his dance partner Amy managed to squeeze onto a bench before we left for a pre-arranged evening meal.
We headed back to the car park and then drove to an area around the side of the harbour front of Ermopoulis to a taverna called Δυσε....Δέσε, to find the dance group from Larisa had already arrived and were tucking into their food.  We had a pre-set menu consisting of a salad and a variety of plates of starters, followed by pork or chicken kondosouvli.  You could drink as much as you wanted at no extra charge and when the bill arrived we paid 13 euro per head.

The dance music started and members of both dance groups shot up from their tables and rushed outside the taverna to dance.  We danced a wide variety of Greek dances together and proceedings wound up around 1am in the morning and we headed to a music bar in the centre of Ermopoulis for a couple more drinks and eventually got back to Hotel Maistrali around 3am and ready for bed.

Saturday morning and we awoke to a lovely calm day with acres of blue sky and sunshine.  After a buffet breakfast, with an extensive choice on offer, we had a dance practise in a side courtyard of the hotel which went very well.  We drove to Ermopoulis around 11am to have a look around the shops and then we all met at 12 noon, opposite the Dimos offices at the back of the central plateia, to meet our tour guide of the major sites in the town.  Being typically Greek he was 30 minutes late and we were all huddled under the shade due to the intensity of the midday sun.
Our tour started in the huge and very impressive Dimos building where we were shown the areas of historical importance to the island of Syros and then after a short talk outside the Dimos Library building we went for a look around, and a talk about, the Apollon Theatre, where we were due to dance the following day.  Our 2½ tour of the sites ended at the huge cathedral of Άγιος Νικόλαος (Saint Nicholas) where Dave lit a candle for Gerry and another for his family and Gerry's family.
Our last night on Syros before the big day and, as we had nothing pre-planned, different groups decided to go out to sightsee, shop and eat and so we all went our separate ways.  Dave wasn't particularly taken with any of the kind offers that came his way and so decided to stay at the hotel with an Antonios sized ouzo and then eat at Taverna Savvas, which was barely 5 minutes walk along the road from the hotel.  It was a lovely calm and warm evening so a table outside and opposite the taverna seemed the appropriate place to be.  The food was excellent and the red wine very good and after finishing his meal Dave walked back to the hotel to end the evening with a final ouzo.  Many of the dance group started to appear from their trips out and we had a lovely communal end to the evening.

Sunday morning was another gloriously warm start to the day with more blue skies and sunshine and very little breeze.  We were all packed and ready to leave after breakfast because we had to be at the theatre around 1½ hours before the 12 noon start to the festival to have our final practise on the stage and a sound check and then get into our παραδοσιακές φορεσιές (traditional costumes).  Dave watched some of the other groups go through their dances and then we went on and practised the 3 most difficult Syrtos dances of our set of 5 dances.  The Director of UNESCO Greece watched us and said he was very impressed with our performance.  We all went upstairs to the changing rooms to get into our παραδοσιακές φορεσιές (traditional costumes) and, as we were 7th of the 8 groups onstage, we went up to the upper tier of seating to watch the introductions and the other groups dancing on stage.

We went onstage to perform our 5 dances not long after 2pm and everything went absolutely perfectly and seamlessly to lots of applause from the audience (mainly our Alonissos groupies).  After leaving the stage we went out for some air and then walked down to the Dimos building for a photoshoot and a few of Takis' famous group selfies.  We headed back to the theatre and went onstage for the presentation of commemorative plaques to each of the group leaders, by the Director of UNESCO Greece, and then stayed afterwards for the closing ceremony.  Dave had lots of lovely compliments about his dancing from many dancers in the other groups.

Photo Courtesy of the Πολιτιστικός Σύλλογος Αλοννήσου
After changing back into our 'civvies' a group of 9 of us went through the backstreets of Ermopoulis to the traditional taverna Στην Ιθάκη του Άη for a well deserved and hard earned lunch.  We were quickly joined by other members of the group and ended up with 20 of us eating together.  The food was excellent but we were high as kites on adrenalin from the performance, as clearly were some members of another dance group at the taverna next door who were up and dancing as soon as they finished eating.
After finishing our food we headed for the port and Dave was stopped in the street by 2 lady dancers from the Κερατσίνι group from Piraeus.  They wanted to know where he came from and if he lived on Alonissos and then told him how wonderfully well he had danced.  We all assembled on the port at 7pm along with most of the other groups to wait for the car ferry Nissos Mykonos to take us back to the port of Piraeus.  We arrived in Piraeus around 11.30pm and our private luxury coach arrived to collect us around 15 minutes later just as it started to drizzle with rain and it drizzled with rain for most of the journey back to Volos.
The coach arrived in Volos around 3.30am Monday morning and drove into the port area to the cafe bar at the end, opposite to where the ferries dock.  The group settled down at tables and chairs under a covered area outside the bar to wait for the 8am car ferry Proteus back to Alonissos.  We said our goodbyes and Dave headed off to the Hotel Avra where he had a room booked for 4 nights.

The dance group returned to Alonissos and Dave was at the Ιατρική Απεικόνιση clinic at 9am in the morning for some special ultrasound tests.  Dave spent Labour Day on Tuesday at the beach resort of Kala Nera on the Pelion Peninsular and then Wednesday had a day trip to Skiathos and on Thursday afternoon at 3pm had an appointment with a dermatologist in Volos.  Thursday evening Dave met the dance group for Corfu off the car ferry Proteus and we had ouzo and meze together until midnight when they headed off to get the private luxury coach to the port of Igoumenitsa.  Dave returned to Alonissos on the 8am car ferry Express Skiathos on Friday morning.

It was a brilliant and unforgettable experience with a fantastic group of people from Alonissos and Dave's only regret is that Gerry wasn't there to share it with him in body but, as always, she was there in spirit.  The next dance festival is on Saturday June 23rd on the island of Skyros.

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