Catholics and Rebetiko in Ano Syros

One evening our group was taken to explore the winding white-washed alleys of Ano Syros, a quaint little village that was founded by the Venetians back in the 12th century. Perched on the top of a hill overlooking the capital Hermoupolis, the village is dominated by its Roman Catholic Basilica, Agios Giorgos.

After a short taxi-ride up to the village we were greeted with this great view of Hermoupolis and its harbour:

Hermoupoulis from Ano Syros

We took it all in for a while,

Ano Syros Greek Language Group View

and then headed deeper into the village – it was like entering a maze, with little alleys leading off in all directions.

Ano Syros Windz Narrow Streets

Apparently it’s quite cheap to rent a flat in Ano Syros – mainly because of all the steps you have to climb 1) to get here from Hermoupolis and 2) just to get around the place once you’ve arrived. Having  now walked around it and back down into town, I quite literally see where they’re coming from!

Ano Syros Steps

Ano Syros Steps

Ano Syros Steps

But all the walking is well worth it. There are photo opportunities everywhere. From inside the Basilica:

St George's Basilica Ano Syros

down the quaint little streets, where you might find the odd bike or two…

Old Bike Flowers Ano Syros

past old doorways…

Ano Syros Doorway Lock   and locals old…

Old Man Relaxing Ano Syros

and new…

Greek Girl Ano Syros Hermoupolis View

to the birthplace of Ano Syros’ most famous resident Markos Vamvakaris – the father of rebetiko music. He has a small square named after him on the edge of the village, right next to a museum which is dedicated to his life.

Markos Vamvakaris Statue Ano Syros

Whilst there we learnt that he spent his early childhood in Ano Syros, but fled the island for Piraeus (the main port of Athens) at the age of 12, where he worked in various odd jobs and discovered the bouzouki (the larger instrument pictured below – the smaller one is a baglamas, which also has a big presence in the rebetiko scene).

Markos Vamvakaris Bouzouki Baglamas

He quickly learnt how to play (apparently after promising he would cut off both his hands if he couldn’t play within six months!) and then started composing his own songs, which he would play in underground hash-smoking joints (excuse the pun) with his band. Here he is in full swing:

Markos Vamvakaris Singing

And this is one of his most famous songs:

and the English translation (correct me if I’m wrong please Greek people!):

Your eyelashes are glowing

Your eyelashes are glowing
like countryside flowers
like countryside flowers
Your eyelashes are glowing

Your eyes, sister
break my heart
they break my heart,
your eyes sister

You’re tipping your eyelashes
and you take my mind and my thought
You take my mind and my thought
You’re tipping your eyelashes

Even if those eyes look around
they won’t find another like me
they won’t find another like me

And what trip to Ano Syros wouldn’t be complete without a singalong to some of Vamvakaris’ songs? Hmm. Greek is hard enough to speak, let alone sing in it, so I just hummed along and enjoyed the wine, food and amazing view…

Singing Vamvakaris Songs




  1. Sandor Berta says:

    Greetings from Tulsa Oklahoma – I love this blog and pictures – Thanks – have a good day
    ♥ ♪♪♪ ♫♫♫

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