Bit-by-bit as the sun prepares to go down, Apollonia once more comes alive. Shopkeepers open their doors, pull out and rehang whatever goods they display outside to lure customers in, and foot traffic begins to grow. By nine o’clock, life in To Steno will be in full swing.
To Steno is probably my favourite place in all of Sifnos, the pedestrian alley that was once this town’s main street. It still is in the evenings, the argument can easily be made. It’s the time of day when seemingly everyone who lives in this town walks through. It’s when they take time to talk with whoever they meet. It’s when kids come out to play and, watched over lovingly by the whole town, to grow up. It’s a place where if there’s news to be heard, it will be here. Where this news will travel the length of this alley faster than you can.
Over the twelve years that my husband and I have been coming to this island, we’ve learned that a good measure of how much you belong lies in the amount of time it takes to walk the length of this alley at night. Longer and longer every time we come back, in our case, for more and more are the people who recognize us, say hello, and more numerous and lengthy are the conversations that ensue.
There’s a kind of magic of living in a climate like this, I’ve long thought, where so much of life is conducted outdoors. There must surely drawbacks, of course, to having your family business out there for all to see, but so much that is good. I know I feel it – the warmth, the strength, the ease of living even for a short while in a place where relationships across the community are nourished every day and grow strong.
It’s hours upon hours upon hours that we’ve spent in To Steno, the majority of them at our favourite taverna. It’s where we know that our table will be waiting, our favourite drinks too. Where we’ll learn bit-by-bit about those passing by at the same time they’re learning about us. It’s where we’ll discuss the news of the world, where we’ll hear about the parts we missed while we were off doing something else, and see what others have been up to today. Where we’ll find that someone has been cooking for us all day. It’s where, in short, we feel at home.