Apollonia stands on a great location, along the slopes of a three hills and numerous smaller villages around are connected with Apollonia through scenic paths.
Apollonia became the capital of Sifnos island in 1836 and it is the administrative center of the island. In ancient times there used to be a temple for god Apollo, hence the name but it is also known as Stavri (cross ) as it is located on the crossroads between Artemona (N), Kato Petali/Kastro (E), Kamares(W) and Platy Yialos/Faros (S). For some reason its only one of the few Cycladic capitals that is not called Chora.
Near the parking lot is the central square (Iroon square) where you can visit Folklore Museum. 2’ walk from there you can walk at the main pedestrian alley, it’s the heart of the nightlife in Apollonia as it houses all the pubs, traditional taverns or upscale restaurants and many souvenir stores. It gets packed with people during the evening so we loved it in May that we could walk down in 5’ while you need 25’ during high season :)
In front of the post office and the pharmacy at Iroon square you will find taxis but also the bus stop for Kamares. In front of Prokos Foundation you can catch the bus to other beaches/villages.
It was lovely to walk along the alleys of Apollonia and enjoy the simple but wonderful Cycladic style of the building, most of them in typical form of a whitewashed house with blue windows but also typical arches, neat alleys and steps. The only problem is the maze of electrical cables that literally overwhelm the settlement, maybe they should put them underground at some point.
There are many churches around, Agios Spyridon is the main church but we also liked some smaller ones. Opposite Rampaga square you can visit Giomisti Kefali, a nice exhibition hall. Another spot where you can see temporary exhibitions is Prokos Foundation Agia Aikaterini (opposite the Town Hall). As many people live here permanently Apollonia is the village that houses many different banks and ATMs, also other public facilities, post office, the town hall, travel agents, pharmacies, health center, super markets and 2 gas stations (we didn’t see any other on the island).
Agios Spyridon is the cathedral of Apollonia and main church of the island, every official ceremony takes place here.
First church on the spot dates back from 1700 when there was a small chapel in basilican shape. It had the same name but was demolished in 1893 the new church started to built in 1897. It took about 10 years to complete. It was designed after Agios Nikolaos church in Ermoupoli of Syros island but in smaller scale. It’s in byzantine style cross-shaped with dome and two bell towers.
We visited the church twice during the Easter Week, once during the Mass of Great Friday when they pray the Royal Hours and some scripture readings and hymns about the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Later in the day many locals came for the Epitaphios custom (Lamentation at the Tomb) a touching service that is followed from the procession around the outside the church with believers following holding dark candles. The epitaphios of this church went up to Arades square and back but I have to admit that the priest was one of the fastest ever I saw, he was in a hurry to catch up other epitaphios of other churches!!! It was kind of funny :)
Next day was Great Saturday, traditionally believer gather at church in the afternoon for the reading of the Acts of the Apostles but we didn’t see anyone in the church, it seemed most of them were in other churches or in front of the TV :) We had time to take some pictures of the church and returned at 23.30 when the church was already packed and ready for the Paschal Vigil, lights and cadles were extinguished and everyone waited for the proclamation of the Resurrection of Christ, the priest gave the light to the believers and we headed down for the traditional dinner of the night :)
Directions: at main pedestrian alley
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- Religious Travel
As expected Agios Spyridon is the main but not the only church in Apollonia. Just by walking up and down Steno, the famous pedestrian alley you will see many more churches, smaller in size but interesting enough. Most of them were open so we could check the interior too.
Agios Athanasios church (pic 1) was built in 1746 although some other claim that it was after a miracle of St.Athanasios against plague in 1678, it was written on the wall of the church but couldn’t find more information about it.
Taxiarches church (pics 2-3) dates from 1650, the door was unlocked, a small church with dark interior, we saw Epitaphios waiting for the believer to carry it on their shoulders later in the evening (during Great Friday)
church Ipsoseos Timiou Stavrou (pic 4) dates from 1727 and was built where the temple of Apollo was (back in 7th century BC!)
Christos church (pic 5) is located at Prokos street and dates from 1587.
Panagia Ouranofora church (Virgin Mary Skyclad) is also a beautiful church with old rare icons and a golden temple.
Agios Sozon church (St. Savior) with a nice wooden temple.
We didn’t have the time to check the following (and I guess there will be many more):
Agios Antonios church, Agios Nikolaos, Panagia Mparou, Agia Varvara, Agioi Apostoloi, Rodou and Amarantos, Agia Triada, Agios Artemios
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Iroon square (square of heroes ) is the main square in Apollonia in the heart of the village next to main facilities for the locals (post office, banks, pharmacy).
The square was founded in 1926 and renovated in 1965. At one end we saw the Monument for the local soldiers that died between 1912 and 1922. People from Sifnos went at Balkan Wars (1912-1914), 130 of them returned back to the island and got rewarded with honor. But then there was World War I and the Greek Turkish conflict in Asia Minor. In memory of 74 people of Sifnos that died during those wars have been erected the Monument of the Heroes(pic 3).
The main attraction in the square is the attached Museum of Popular Art and Folklore. The museum opened in 1974 on a building from 1966. It houses exhibitis of traditional life on the island, old clothes, lace, wood carvings, weapons (swords, rifles), potteries, agricultural tools, items of the house, the famous tsikalia for revithada and mastelo, straw hats, busts and an archive of old newspapers (even an old version of the famous cooking book of Tselemente).
Unfortunately its open only during the summer months :(
Address: Iroon square
Directions: opposite the Post Office
Phone: (+30) 22840 33730
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Walking up Steno (the main pedestrian alley) we saw a small square on the right. It’s called Rampaga square and houses a bust of Kleanthis Triantafyllos (1850-1889) who was famous with his nickname Rampagas (hence the name of the square).
He was a publisher, journalist and satirical poet that was born in Sifnos island in 1850 (at Exampela). He lived for some years in Istanbul where he worked as a journalist but he was persecuted by the Turkish authorities for his caustic style.
He moved to Athens where he published in 1878 (along with V.Gavriilidis) the liberal and satirical magazine Rampagas (among the writers where Kostis Palamas), Triantafyllos was using the name of the magazine as a writer there but the articles caused controversy and led him in prison twice (he was also victim of an assassination in 1881). The last years of his life was suffering from mental disorder, he committed suicide in 1889.
Address: Rampaga square
Directions: off the pedestrian alley, on your right as you walk up
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