Chapter Forty Eight August-September
Our Summer to Remember has
ended but it was a carefree, stress-free magical time with no schedule, few
mechanical problems and spectacular explorations.
We were still in Turkey
mid-August when we stopped at a place called Siğaςik, an old walled village with
a small fort. And a walk back in time. You could imagine what life was like
about the year 1940 when everything was slow and simple. People sitting on their
doorsteps greeting you and watching the world go by. There was local produce in
the street markets, home baked goods for sale, narrow alleyways and no cars
allowed. It was a real treat.
Time was up on our Turkish tourist visas
so we signed out and headed for Greece where we would spend a
month visiting some “off the beaten track” islands. Our first stop was
discovered quite by accident. We pulled into a small bay off the southern coast
of Samos called Posidonian. What a place. It was a little bit of heaven with one
tiny market, two tavernas and not much else. Other than a couple dozen private
summer homes that looked as though they had been built about a hundred years
ago. Small, simple, colorful and 100% serenity. We stayed for three days and
even that didn’t seem enough.
Our next stop on the island
of Samos was a place we had been before: Pythagoria. This seemed like the big
city compared to where we had come from, with multilingual menus, over-priced
cafes and yachts squished into the packed harbor. But the cobbled back streets
are lined with red hibiscus and pink oleander and we soon warmed into the
action. We visited with friends and settled into some heavy duty nightlife,
dining out and comparing notes with friends aboard nearby yachts. We also
discovered a gorge which we hiked twice. It was a four-hour trek with lots of
rushing streams, some major wading and even some swimming. There were three
slippery rock climbs which looked a little daunting but we both made it with the
help of a rope!
We rented a car with friends
and had a fantastic tour of this scenic island. Mentioned in our guide book were
a couple of hillside villages which we explored. Exquisite. Ampelos is known as
the balcony of Samos and it sits in the midst of pine and deciduous trees. This
makes it rich in bird life whose chirpings are heard through the steep old
streets. But the best part was when Mary invited us in for coffee. Mary was born
in Ampelos but married an American. She still maintains a home here and is
always hungry for some American visitors. She fed us hot feta pies, Greek coffee
and shared wonderful stories about her village. The one we loved the best was
the story of her cousin who was proud to say he had never left the island in 75
years. Illness forced him to leave recently when he spent about two months in
Athens. Mary complained that after his time in Athens all he does now is play
video games on his computer! Amazing what one visit to civilization can do!
We visited the Temple of
Hera which was remarkable. As the wife of Zeus, Hera deserved a significant
sanctuary and this one was built in the 6th century B.C. on swampy
land where the river enters the sea. We anchored off the grounds which are lit
up at night. Seeing the magnitude of the ancient column that still stands was
quite extraordinary. By the way, there were once 155 of these columns. How did
they do that????
Our tour book describes
Samos as the jewel of the Dodecanese. We couldn’t agree more. Have a look at
some of the spots our driving tour brought us to. Pretty spectacular, don’t you
Our next stop was on a tiny
island called Agathonisi, a sun-bleached, often-ignored speck of strategic rock.
The island has 158 inhabitants and offers nothing more than plain peace and
quiet. There are three settlements on the island and numerous hiking paths which
we explored daily. Our particular anchorage happened to attract several nude sun
worshippers every day and that was the most interesting thing that happened the
entire time we were there. Night-time was memorable: pitch blackness, the
distant sound of sheep bells and us. Just the way we like it.
We dashed back to the
Turkish coastline to seek shelter from a passing gale in a place called Cukurcuk.
This proved to be a memorable experience, too. John had to get to town (a good
4-5 mile hike) while Sharon stayed with the boat. As soon as he stepped ashore a
man was waiting at the curb-side asking if he would like a ride into town. Not
only did he get a ride, he had a full escort service with stops to the local gas
station for camping gas, the fruit market, post office and phone store. He was
back within two hours and had now made a new friend. Within our anchorage was a
private swimming club to which we were invited. We sat and enjoyed a drink with
newfound friends and took in all the local gossip. It was great. We even toured
the home of a local fisherman who collects sea relics from marble columns to
antique amphora. Amazing where a “walk to town” will take you!
In the same anchorage we
made friends with a local fisherman and his wife who surrounded us with nets
every evening and retrieved them every morning. Well, except for the last
morning when we retrieved it for them. Our reward was, of course, fresh fish! A
Back to Greece, foul weather
behind and new discoveries ahead. Lipsi. Big place. 650 inhabitants! Pristine,
quaint, charming. Here we found more solitude. Well almost. Every morning the
local cowboy chased his three wild horses through town and it was like walking
into a John Wayne movie. It was wonderfully funny and quite entertaining
anticipating his grand tumultuous entrance, when you weren’t worrying about
being mowed down, that is. We also walked some wonderful trails around the
On Sunday morning our trail
ended in town where we were greeted by the youthful portion of a wedding party,
bride and groom included. The tradition here is that following the celebration
the fortunate youth (or in this case unfortunate) jump into the sea, fully clad
in wedding attire. Any unwilling guests are pushed! And the only ones exempt are
the bride and groom. This groom was, however, unlucky and celebrated with the
party. Sharon, outfitted in a sundress, nearly made it in, too, but she held
tight to the stop sign nearby. It was great fun.
And if it seems as though it
couldn’t get much better, guess what? It did. We arrived in Nisyros, a small
round island with it’s very own 40,000-year-old volcano. Its craggy peaks and
rolling hillsides are stunning. We, of course, spent a day exploring the volcano
(which still stinks, by the way). The cliffs which rear up with their ravaged
twisted points create spectacular coloring on the crest. Check it out.
But the best part of Nisyros
is Mike, owner and operator of the Eagle’s Nest Car Rental. Anything you want,
Mike will provide. Internet service, phone availability, personal photos of the
ever-evolving volcano, colorful local stories and even a CD for your day of
touring. Mike left the island at age 17 and lived 33 years in Astoria, Queens.
He has returned to his native Nisyros to retire. His accent was a great reminder
of home! He holds America close to his heart and couldn’t do enough for us. What
We decided that if ever we
needed a house on a Greek island it would be in Nikea, the larger of the two
villages on the island. The photos will make you see why we feel the way we do!
A dreamy place.
As if four gorgeous islands
over one course of one summer wasn’t enough! Make it five. Truth. Add Symi. Symi
stands between Rhodes and the Turkish coast, thrust up like a pitted mountain
out of the sea. It has an extraordinarily scenic rocky center with pine and
cypress woods. It has a deeply indented coast with precipitous cliffs and small
bays. We experienced all this on a well-worn scooter, scared to death, both of
us, 100% of the time. We did it because we wanted to drive through the pine
forest that leads to the spectacular Monastery of Michael the Archangel in the
bay of Panormitis. The monastery houses an intricately carved icon that appeared
miraculously where the monastery now stands. (We anchored in this bay the
previous week, but wanted to see what it was like when approached by land.)
Picture the buoyant sunshine ricocheting off the grey peaks, an ornate
Italianate 18th century tower, white stucco loggia, the grand
ballistrated monastery, the echo of 200 chanting monks and the scent of burning
incense. That’s what we found on this particular Sunday morning. Sunday services
which were as chaotic as usual with discontent children, chatting tourists and
seemingly uninterested participants. The spell was broken but it didn’t matter.
We will forever remember the magic of this place.
To add to the beauty of the
place the monastery operates a bakery with fresh baked goods daily. The spinach
pie is simply the best here. And the chief baker is pretty sweet too.
One more story on the
monastery. As we were leaving, in came a privately-hired ferry and 200 guests to
witness the baptism of Nicola Vasili Thera, a full-time resident of Rhodes.
Pappa had a few extra bucks to spare so family and friends were ferried to the
Monastery for this great occasion. The balloon sculptures and antics made it
appear to be more a wedding than a baptism but we were highly entertained.
We settled in for a few days
in the bay of Pedi, a small town north of the monastery. The mornings are cooler
now so Sharon added her morning walk to the agenda. It is here that she met
Maria and husband, Iaonnis. We made new friends and were even invited to join
the family on a Sunday afternoon when their daughter (Sharon’s age) was visiting
from Rhodes. We had a wonderful time and heard lots of stories about the people
of Symi. Maria told us about the island’s first triplets, and Irini, a spry
100-year-old who has never lived anywhere else.
The architecture is clean
and crisp and like no other. We did a morning walk to the church on the top of
the hill and meandered through the seemingly-endless staircases that brought us,
through many a perilous zigzag, to the turquoise sea below. Here are some of our
October is here and we
expect to putter around the Turkish coast until the end of the month or until
the cold sends us into our new marina. The new marina is located on the southern
coast of Turkey about 50 miles east of our previous two winters. We are looking
forward to new scenery and new people. Not sure if it can get any better than
this, but we’ve been wrong before!