My first stop was Milos, where I rented a car to explore the seahorse-shaped island known for its tales of unscrupulous pirates over the centuries, who found refuge here among hidden coves and caves, like in Papafragas. There’s also the old town of Plaka with its laid-back bars and tavernas, and the colorful fishermen’s houses of Firopotamos. I swam at Sarakinika where the coastal rock is dazzling white, a mixture of volcanic ash, sandstone and pumice, shaped by wind and water into piers, arches and bridges. Every once in a while there was a boom of water echoing around the caverns below. I jumped off a cliff into the crystal clear sea, swimming along channels on the seabed, twisting and turning through the serpentine rock structures.
Yet Milos is perhaps best known for what it doesn’t have: the marble Venus de Milo, now housed in the Louvre, was found in the earth here in 1820. The Milians didn’t do much d stories about the site where the statue was buried for a few millennia. I veered off the path, down a steep slope between gnarled olive trees, to discover a discreet sign nailed to a rock that read: “Here was found the Venus of Milos.” It would be impossible to locate him if he had not been reported to me.
“All we have left is history,” said my guide, Marinos Poutnidis, rather soberly, recounting the scuffle that ensued after a farmer’s tool struck the statuesque figure. An Athenian collector clashed with the French navy, the latter being in the region to supervise the archaeological excavations. The farmer promised it to the Greek, but weather conditions delayed his plans; meanwhile, the French moved in to take the statue to Paris.
I was staying on the northeastern tip of Milos in Pollonia with its gentle bay of dancing kaiki, the traditional Greek fishing boats, children playing in the shallows, gulls soaring overhead. From this small port, I took my rental car on the ferry to Kimolos Island, less than an hour away. This point is a perfect antidote to everything we may have worried about during the pandemic; there was hardly anyone here, just a few curious farmers and fishermen. The village was shabby; the winding lanes so narrow that my compact car brushed its left and right side mirrors. I inadvertently inhaled, before spilling out onto a single track, which took me to a beach called Prassa and the end of the road. Here I swam alone through the cerulean body of water, skirting a distant rock, then floating on my back.