A bowl of yellow and red fruit rests on a brown table in the lounge of our Bees Knees rental villa, in the Wilderness, South Africa, where you can enjoy a magnificent ocean view right from your lounge.

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“SIGA-SIGA” or The Year We Bought A Farm in Greece

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We have heard the words "Siga-siga" many times since we started our adventures 8 years ago. When referring to us, its usually in the beginning of the season when we are still on high tension and rushing to the get the boat ready so we can go, go, go!

"Siga-Siga" means "Slowly, slowly", usually accompanied with a slow waggle of the right hand up and down. It has taken us many years to get into the Siga-Siga rhythm early on, but this year we achieved it perfectly. Within days of arriving in Greece you could almost hear our collective high pitched, inner balloons deflating.

It is the land of the gods!

Albert Camus, Nobel 1957

We set sail from Leros and zig zagged northwards between peaceful remote Arki, imposing, gorgeous Patmos and on to bustling Samos.

Still in Siga-Siga mode, we left Pegasus on a safe mooring in Pythagoria and took a ferry 5 hours north to our much-loved Lesvos. We had a scheme. We had just signed the sale agreement on our house in Johannesburg and, with Henry's UK citizenship allowing him a possibly very short window pre-Brexit to buy property in Greece, we had decided that this was the right time to go house hunting, to find something special that would complement our other holiday rental houses.


Our friend Bridge had asked us a year or so ago, if we had to buy a property in Greece, where would it be? We mulled over this for a while. We have visited so many incredibly beautiful islands, towns, harbours, villages. How to choose? So we decided to think about what was important to us.


The island should not be too touristy, it should have its own industry and a critical mass of people living there all year; it should have a large main town with great restaurants, museums, good shops; it should be scenically beautiful with gorgeous beaches and interesting towns and villages. It should have a magical essence, be exciting, authentically Greek and have a feeling of the unexpected. And most importantly, it should embody the marvellous Greek value of Philoxenia - Friend to the Stranger.

There were a few contenders, but it did not take long to decide that Lesvos was that island.

Our friend Bridge had asked us a year or so ago, if we had to buy a property in Greece, where would it be? We mulled over this for a while. We have visited so many incredibly beautiful islands, towns, harbours, villages. How to choose? So we decided to think about what was important to us.

The island should not be too touristy, it should have its own industry and a critical mass of people living there all year; it should have a large main town with great restaurants, museums, good shops; it should be scenically beautiful with gorgeous beaches and interesting towns and villages. It should have a magical essence, be exciting, authentically Greek and have a feeling of the unexpected. And most importantly, it should embody the marvellous Greek value of Philoxenia - Friend to the Stranger.

There were a few contenders, but it did not take long to decide that Lesvos was that island.

The ancient capital Mytilini, founded in the 11th century BC, is a university town, buzzing with vitality and energy. Great cafes, excellent tavernas, interesting shops. The best ouzo is made on Lesvos and the olive oil industry is thriving. The mountain villages are remote, characterful and unspoiled; the long and ragged coast is dotted with beautiful beaches and wonderful towns and hamlets; there are two huge gulfs with the best fishing in the Northern Aegean, excellent bird watching and hot water springs and spas. And there are not too many tourists, probably not enough for the locals, but just enough for us.
We took a bus to Plomari, the town where we were moored when the earthquake struck last year. We had come to know this town well when, after the earthquake, we had slowed down to a crawl and we had time to get into the rhythm of the town, meet its wonderfully friendly inhabitants (many Greek South Africans), explore its nooks, crannies and idiosyncrasies, and fall in love.

We spent hours in the village squares drinking coffee in the mornings or sipping local ouzo in the evening, watching Greek life passing by. Not crazy, tourist driven Greek life. This was every day Greek life. Men in the kafeneneons playing backgammon and passing the time of day with friends. People trading fruit, vegetables, fish and doing their daily shopping at one of the bakeries or butcheries.

Twenty odd years ago, a professor of Architecture from a Danish university, recognising the value of this architecturally interesting town, took a group of students to Plomari to measure the town and record the buildings. Now, many years later, no less than seven of these architects have come back and bought and renovated houses. It's not surprising. The architecture is extremely interesting, Neoclassical and Venetian in style with an intricate town layout along a canal and between steep hillsides.

Although the canal is dry in summer, it manages to add to the Venetian feel. Many of the buildings are crumbling, some are complete ruins, many have been restored – but the patina of age is evident everywhere and stories from the past ooze out of the walls, balconies and windows. There are simple houses where ordinary people lived – and still live. There are grand mansions where the olive oil and ouzo merchants lived when the town was flourishing. There are stables, ouzo and olive oil factories, winding cobbled streets and several irregularly shaped squares where people meet.

When the real estate agent stopped on a bend in the narrow winding road going through a lush valley on the outskirts of town and pointed to a property on the other side of the valley, we knew this was for us. A small olive and citrus farm with a traditional house built in 1876. A child's drawing of a house, 2 eyes and a nose with thick stone walls nestled in the old stone terraces shoring up ancient olive trees.

With the winter-running river forming the front boundary and an abundance of fruit trees, grape vines and olive trees, this was the magic we were looking for. The views up the valley to the mountains and across the river to the outskirts of the town are glorious, and most wonderful of all, this place of peace and simplicity is only 10 minutes' walk to the town squares with cafes, tavernas and shops and 15 minutes walk to the beaches and the incomparable Aegean.

We left Lesvos and spent the rest of the season going very slowly, siga siga, while the bureaucratic process started. We didn't mind. We settled into this enforced gentle time, not sailing far, sheltering in a small fishing harbor in Leros for a few weeks, dropping anchor in lovely bays and then experiencing the remarkable sight of the blood moon rise over Turkey followed by it's total eclipse in the most beautiful bay we have every been in. And then back to Plomari to finalise the deal. 

Now we are home and Henry is already busy with the drawings to do small renovations that will, we hope, turn this simple, beautiful house and property into a traditional but sophisticated retreat on the outskirts of this fascinating town.

Of course, the name of this magical place has to be "Philoxenia Farm" and if there are not too many hitches along the way, it will be available for holiday rental next summer - with excellent rates for our friends who we hope have come to love Greece through reading our blog!
Loving the secret season at Ballots Nature Reserve

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