When I think of Greek islands I think of Crete, Rhodes, Kos, Mykonos and of all-inclusive tours. It wasn’t until I heard of this mysterious red bowl called BluEnigma to find out about the island named Andros. Yes, skate trips educate. If you count every tiny island and every cliff that sticks out of the water then Greece has more than 3000 islands whereas only 113 are inhabited. But of Andros, the second largest island of the Cyclades neither Jonas nor me nor even my mom (who likes to do all-inclusive tours) had heard of before. Andros does not have as much tourism. Those who come here do it because they want to hike. The mountains and the nature are stunning.
On Andros there lives Nikos Garyfallos. With his skate hotel named BluEnigma in the tiny village of Apikia the engineer and BMX rider created himself an island paradise. He did not want to live in big cities anymore, did not want to live to work and also did not want to live apart from nature. After he had inherited the property from his grandparents Nikos decided to revive the family business. But instead of opening the average hotel he created something that people who have a passion for skating or riding probably dream of. He built a red bowl on a slope behind the hotel – something the villagers wondered at as they had never seen anything like this. But skaters no less express their amazement once they see it for the first time because Nikos did construct a one of a kind bowl that, as he says, has infinite lines and is not easy to ride straightaway.
He built a red bowl on a slope behind the hotel
If you think it can’t get any better wait until you reach the Gratitude Trails, a huge DIY concrete skate park that Nikos built on top of a mountain which he constantly expands. The park is a kind of pump track, which consists of multiple bowls. Like a yellow moonscape it stretches above the village.
Since arriving in mid-May the Greek sun is already powerful. So, we wait until the afternoon to take on the thirty-minute hike up there. You have to master a good deal of stairs, a steep paved street and some paths through the wilderness until you reach the Trails. Nikos is generously accompanying us as you can easily get lost being a nonlocal. Upon arrival we immediately feel rewarded with a view of the craggy and green island above the sea that sparkles in the evening sun. Standing in the middle of this yellow landscape with its lunar-like craters feels like watching the world from the moon. Skating it is no less special. The trails slowly slope down the hill so you get a lot of speed in no time. The surface is rough so be prepared for the road rash.
Nikos says he has no final plan for the Gratitude Trails, it will be a constant work in progress. Whenever he has money and time he modifies or expands them. You actually realize quite fast that almost everything Nikos does he does for a deeper meaning. He did not simply cement the Gratitude Trails into the countryside. They blend in with the scenery. You inevitably feel they belong there. We at least will be back and we are already excited to see the changes.
How to get there?
The fastest way is to fly to Athens International Airport. From there you can catch a bus or taxi to Rafina Port. It will take 20 to 30 minutes. During the season there are about five ferries a day. In about two hours you will reach the port in Gavrio. BluEnigma Hotel is on the other side of the island. So crab a rental car.
You find more info on the Nikos’ homepage. He is always super helpful.
Words: Marta Popowska
Photos: Jonas Vietense
A shorter version of this text originally appeared in DogDays Magazine issue #2