Thursday, October 30, 2014

Thursday October 30th

Thursday is the day that I am allowed to win at Backgammon (Tavli) every week...and I did!!!

Today we cooked a spinach risotto for lunch and French Anna joined us from Strombos, a small abandoned village on the island where she has a beautiful reconstructed home. We hadn't seen her for several years so we reminisced about past adventures including the time that we discovered her attempting to carry a large metal trunk down a long (1km)rocky pathway to her house.
John carried it for her and she was very grateful. Unfortunately it didn't fit into the space that she had allocated and she was forced to carry it back up the pathway by herself.

This kitten decided to have a nap on her mother!

Jazzmin Cafe/Bar is not just a place to enjoy coffee or a glass of wine.
It is also where people from around the world connect.
Suvi was helping Theodosia to plan her trip to India today.

This evening we were invited for dinner to Theodosia's house that she is currently sharing with Liz, a clothing designer from Holland. We had a tour of the house and a preview of the individual pieces of clothing that Liz is currently sewing for a large store in Amsterdam. 

It was a delicious meal of potatoes, carrot salad, stewed veggies, pomegranate seeds, rice and small fried fish with hints of cumin and curry. Theodosia is hoping to attract artisans to share the house. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Lazy day

It was a lazy day. Not much happening. I have completed 20 hand written pages of my twists and turns every day as the plot unwinds.

This is one of the prologues:
30 years earlier
Two boys floated in the Big Blue, drifting away from shore until Chozoviotissa Monastery came into view. The building, a splash of white, appeared to be carved from the sheer rock face above them. They floated and debated the mysterious arrival of the holy icon. "It was a miracle" one of the boys stated. The other, unconvinced, replied "There are no miracles!"

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Monday October 27 & Tuesday October 28 - Day 10 & 11

Monday was a lazy day as we saved energy for the long trip. We revisited several places on Tilos before enjoying a farewell meal. Our landlady and the car rental agent allowed us extra time in our room and for the return of the car so we were able to relax until 6:00pm when we made our way to the ferry terminal.

Theo picked up picnic supplies and a bottle of wine for the first segment of our return to Amorgos. We sat on the deck and watched as the boat stopped at Nisyros, Kos and Kalymnos before heading to Astypalea where we disembarked at 1:30am to wait for the ferry to Amorgos at 5:15am.

We started our adventure ten days ago with a sunrise trip and ended this morning with another gorgeous sunrise! So, we are back on Amorgos and it is cccccold!!!! It will take a couple of days for us to adjust to the temperature and to settle into a slower pace.

Today is OCHI Day...the day that Greece said "NO" in 1940 to Mussolini in WWII and the official entry of Greece into the war. It is celebrated annually as a national holiday with military style parades. Our heads were on the pillows when this island celebrated this morning!!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Sunday October 26 - Day 9

After breakfast today we drove to the south end of the island and viewed the garbage dump! Yikes!! It will take thousands of years for the plastic to degrade.

The view from this mountain top was violated by tons of plastic garbage!

On the bright side, someone had left a toy for the boys!

Looking in the other direction.

Tiny St. Goeorges church in Livadia (Tilos port)

A square door knob on St. Georges Church.

We left Theo at the start of another pathway. He joined us three hours later in time for lunch. 
We were all starving but discovered that there was a power outage on the island. 
No restaurants in the port were decided to drive back to Magalochora 
to see if the restaurant was open there. 
Even though there was no power we knew that she would make us a salad!

The owner managed to heat some green beans, cabbage rolls and dolmadas by using a small camp stove burner and made a delicious salad. A bottle of Rhodos wine provided a nice touch while we watched another thunder storm pass over.

We were greeted with another rainbow when we returned to our rooms.

Dinner around 9:00pm (new time-changed the clocks back one hour last night) and early to bed (new time)!! Temperatures have dipped a bit but the sea is much calmer so we should have smooth sailing for both portions of our trip tomorrow. Fingers crossed!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Day 8 cont'd

I forgot some important details about this island. First of all...the car rental place is only open from 4:00am - 1:00pm...and...the owner had to check his register to see if he had a car available for us. Hah! Who else was going to rent a car?! Our car is not old but it has definitely been through a few wars and some serious side gouging!!

Second...there is one gas station on the island, about 5km from the port It is open from 9:00am - 1:00pm on various days of the week...and, have I mentioned that rental cars have empty (or near empty) gas tanks when you pick them up? As a result, when we rented our car at 5:30am, the agent had to pour some gas into the tank so that we could get to the gas station when it opened!!

Third, I learned today that churches are built facing east. So, if you are ever lost in the hills on a Greek island, you should be able to determine your direction by the closest small church!!

Fourth, one of the best traditions on the islands. When you ask for your bill after dinner (they will never bring a bill until asked) it is presented along with a dessert, sometimes fresh fruit, other times a sweet wine. It is their way of thanking the customer!!

October 25 - Day 8

Almost impossible to get out of bed this morning. The bed is huge and comfortable. We slept late, finally getting up at 9:00am!!! Of course Theo was awake and waiting for a sign of life from our room since 7:00am. We had breakfast on our adjoining balconies before seeking adventures on local mountain roads. Our car is decrepit but functional. At least the brakes work!

After climbing and descending the mountain on an extremely narrow road we stopped at the abandoned village of Mikrochorio. Fascinating to see the remains of a large village that was emptied after WW11 due to poverty.

Only the church and 2-3 renovated homes are in use.

It appeared that several homes had been reclaimed and rebuilt so maybe the village will become reinhabited eventually. Right now it is more a "goat" town than a "ghost" town. From here we drove to the Agios Panteleimonas Monastery which was built in 1470.

The wall paintings (frescoes) date back to mid 1700's.

From the Monastery Theo embarked on a 6km hike that would take him to a beach where we would meet him in approximately 2 1/2 hours. He finally appeared after 3 1/2 hours having taken the wrong path which took him over two hilltops that were not on the route.

We were prepared to call out the military if he didn't appear by 5:00pm. Fortunately he made a full recovery with dinner and a bottle of wine!! Now it is rest time before we join the rest of the islanders in the Greek tradition of "meeting up" at a cafe around 9-10pm!!

October 24 - Day 7

In bed at 10:30pm…up at 2:00am to catch the ferry to Tilos. John and Theo managed to catch some shut-eye but I was wide awake. 

The cafe at the port on Tilos was closing but the owner brought us tea and coffee when we arrived at  5:00am. Theo wandered off and returned with freshly baked cheese and spinach pies from the bakery and also discovered that the car rental place was open so he arranged for a small car. We decided to sit and wait for daybreak before driving to the other village, away from the port, to look for rooms.

Enroute we stopped at a long beautiful beach with smooth colourful stones. In the summer it is home to free campers. Arriving in Megalochora we could only find one set of rooms open. Maybe we should try the port?
The owner of the local cafenion gave us lots of information and arranged for us to see the museum collection of dwarf elephant bones that were discovered on the island during a cave excavation. An old woman gave us a tour and explained the findings. The Tilos dwarf elephant is the first dwarf elephant whose DNA sequence has been studied. They became extinct just less than 4,000 years BCEFurther excavation of the site is dependent on funding.
Back in the port we found rooms right on the beach. A beautiful stone pathway runs around the harbour, dedicated to the past mayor who brought many ecological and environmental reforms to the island. Tilos was the first (and only) place in Greece to allow gay marriage. That law has since been overturned by the courts.

Before the storm

After the storm

Theo went for a hike while we had a nap. About halfway through his hike a thunder storm hit the island. He tried to find shelter but was soaked when he returned. After drying out we went for a small dinner and off to bed early!!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

October 23 - Day 6

Neither of us slept well in the cabin. It felt airless and from my position in the top bunk, I couldn't dislodge my tongue from the roof of my mouth!! The bottle of water was below and I didn't want to risk a descent on the ladder until my bladder called!

We arrived just before daybreak on Kos and had to wait until 7:30am for the first coffee shop to open.  I remembered a place that sold the very best opened at 8:00am and we were served fresh, warm pastries. By 9:00am the travel offices were open and we learned that our boat was cancelled because of the wind. The next one would leave at 3:00am tomorrow.

A decision was made to find rooms for the day so we could nap, shower and have a few hours of sleep before the ferry. We found a simple hotel with 20 eauro rooms and settled down for a nap. Later, on our walkabout we discovered a new cafe/bar that features exhibits of local artists and met Anastasia, the young owner.

John decided to add a touch of poetic graffiti!!

We introduced Theo to the Anastasia and met up with him later for dinner before buying boat tickets for the morning. Our arrival on Tilos will be at 5:45am!! Off to bed for four hours!

October 22 - Day 5

What a day! We had a very relaxing morning and managed to get to the ferry in time for our trip to Syros. Theo and Bas surprised us by making the ferry. We were worried that they wouldn't make the connection.

On Syros we locked our bags at the port and went to meet Joanna (one of the dancers from Saturday's performance) at Boheme, a cafe/bar owned by Sotiris. He welcomed us, offered shots of rum & glasses of wine. Coffee is not a word in his vocabulary!! 

John had an intense discussion with a young student about "end of life" counselling 
and Sotiris decided that John would be his companion at the end of his life!
John is not napping...just one of those unfortunate photo moments!

Interesting place...great music!

It is easy to spend hours in these cafe/bars with a single drink.

Because we still had many hours until the ferry we decided to visit a new little cafe/bar in the old upper portion of town, high above the port. Jason and Vassilis greeted us with wine and mezes. It was a charming little place. 

From there we had to taxi down to Joanna's apartment where her mother was preparing dinner for eight of us. Of course it was delicious!! Then a race to the port where we decided to reserve a cabin for the seven hour trip to Kos. Whew!!! Another kaleidoscope day!!!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

October 21 - Day 4

We were up early to share breakfast and rep are for the boat trip to Delos. Prices on Mykonos are ridiculous ... 4 euros for a coffee or tea = $6.00!! The only reason that we are here is to visit Delos.

The boat trip, 1/2 hour from the old port (18 euros each) was almost full. As we approached the island of Delos we could see that the entire island is an archaeological site with pieces from the past scattered everywhere.

Cleopatra, a friend who used to live on Amorgos, greeted us with hugs and kisses. She is employed as one of the guards on the island during the tourist season.

These two statues sit in The House of Cleopatra (50 BC)

The Theatre

The Terrace of the Lions, dedicated to Apollo by the people of Naxos shortly before 600 BC, had originally nine to twelve squatting, snarling marble guardian lions along the Sacred Way.
They created a monumental avenue comparable to Egyptian avenues of sphinxes

This is a portion of a mosaic depicting Hermes and a tiger.
It is composed of tiny pieces of mosaic tile that have retained
their original colours.

Delos was inhabited since the 3rd millennium BC. It was once home to 30,000 inhabitants. In the 5th century BC, during the 6th year of the Peloponnesian war and under instruction from the Delphic Oracle, the entire island was purged of all dead bodies. It was then ordered that no one should be allowed to either die or give birth on the island due to its sacred importance and to preserve its neutrality in commerce, since no one could then claim ownership through inheritance.
The French School of Athens has been excavating the island since 1872. Delos is a UNESCO site.
It was difficult to grasp the magnitude of what we were seeing. It was so immense and overwhelming. A three hour visit was much too short a time to fully comprehend that we were walking on history. Below our feet were still many levels of unexcavated remains being trampled by visitors each day. I felt that the island should be closed to everyone except teams of archaeologists who could gradually unearth this hidden ancient world. There were signs of ignorance everywhere...plastic bottles and candy wrappers. The guards do their best but they can't control everything.
The only ones allowed to stay overnight on the island are the guards, the archaeology team and guests with special permission. A heavy fine is levied against anyone attempting to stay. There are no stores, bars, goats, homes or rooms for rent. Our friends Theo and Bas received permission through Cleopatra to spend the night. They took sleeping bags and will sleep under the stars.

Petros picked us up around 9:00pm and we shared dinner at a fusion restaurant. Is there anyone on this island that he doesn't know?? After dinner we went to the opening of a photo "exhibition" by his friend Luca Roberto. We were confused at first because Petros explained that we were going to an "execution"!

Artists' feet on display at the exhibition.
Which ones are mine?

Monday, October 20, 2014

October 20 - Day 3

It was definitely a challenge to roll out of bed this morning after putting our heads on pillows after 3am!!! Theo went in search of yogurt, fresh fruit and baked goods while the group slowly roused ourselves into action.

Coffee at the port and onto another ferry to Mykonos. The seas were still rough but not as bad as yesterday. This time we were met in port around 1:30pm by Petros, another friend of Theo's who took us to a very clean budget Pension outside the main town. During the afternoon we wandered some of the narrow pathways of Old Town and enjoyed a pizza lunch.

Choppy seas!!

The pathways are lined with shops catering to tourists. Petros told us that cruise ships will visit the port until the end of November. Many of the visitors are from China and there is even a special marriage office on Santorini for young Chinese visitors.

It was a long walk (a Greek 1.2km) back to our rooms that took about one hour instead of the predicted twenty minutes. After a much needed late afternoon nap we headed into town again at 9:00pm with Petros for a tour through some of the older sections of town.

This ancient church sits near the sea.

He took us to a funky taverna where they served meals made with local products and encouraged patrons to draw on the whitewashed walls. I couldn't resist...leaving behind a cartoon of Theo that received comments from everyone seated around us. It was so loud that we couldn't converse so Petros suggested that we go back to his place for tea.

He lives in a small building, newer construction on top of the hill above town. Snaking through skinny roads we arrived unscathed and spent two hours sipping mountain tea, sharing philosophies and watching the three guys share some island smoke. 

Before taking us back to our rooms Petros played a bazouki song for us.
Bedtime was after 1:00am!

October 19 - Day 2

Whew! How time flies! There was no time to post anything yesterday. In the morning we had a group breakfast at our favourite cafe on Paros...Symposium. It was fun to sit in the sun and speculate about whether the ferry to Syros would sail in the high winds. After breakfast we did a short tour of the island and boarded the ferry "Aqua Jewel" for a very rough 2 1/2 hour trip to Syros. I sat inside in the middle of the boat and focused on not getting seasick.

On arrival at Syros (8pm)we were met by Kostas who took us to an 18th century mansion which our group rented for one night. It still reflected elements of past elegance and was very comfortable with high ceilings and historic touches.

Six members of our group

After dropping our bags we left for the Theatre to see a dance performance by the local dance school. The Theatre was beautiful...quite old with four levels of box seats around both sides. 
The performance was contemporary and too long but contained bits of brilliance. 
The dancers, all young adults, were amazing!

Ceiling of the Syros Theatre

After the performance we walked to Elia, an upscale cafe/bar to share a celebration with the performers but, by this time it was after 11pm and we hadn't eaten since 11am. The decision was to find a small restaurant, eat and return later for the celebration. Sometime earlier in the day I had removed my watch and had no idea what the time was from that point on!!

Back at Elia we were introduced to several dancers, shared a raki and headed back to the rental house. After about one hour of wandering around on the steep hillside of town we decided that we were definitely lost and attempted to find the group at Elia again. Fortunately they were still there and, after sharing a good laugh at us, they escorted us to the 3:00am!!!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

October 18 - Day 1

OMG! What a day! We were up at 5:00am in order to catch a 6:00am ferry to Paros along with our group. We all sat on the top deck of the ferry. It was a glorious warm summer day.

As we watched the sunrise we decided that it was time to spread our friend's ashes in the Aegean so we sent him on a voyage as the sky turned shades of pink.

On Paros we waited for two more people to join us on our adventures. Finally, as a group of ten, we left the port in two cars and on two motorbikes to tour the island. The other eight members of the group range in age between 27-47. They could all be either our children or our grandchildren!

First stop was a beautiful sandy beach where everyone stripped  and dove into the water. I decided, at age 70, that it was time to shed my bathing suit...and joined them! It was great. There is no self consciousness in this group!

Second stop was another beach that had deposits of argil ( a type of clay). Once again we all shed our clothing. This time pieces of hardened clay were beaten and softened into a muddy mixture which we used to slather on our bodies and parade around the beach while the argil dried. A dip in the sea and a generous body rub left our skin feeling soft and refreshed.

Mud Monsters!

After rinsing and drying we drove to a small town for a massive group dinner.
Yorgos eating the last piece of chicken!

Fully sated we once again formed our caravan of two cars and two bikes for the trip to Lefkes, a small mountain village, for dessert!! It was only 8:00pm by the time we wound our way through the village and found a small cafe for dessert...but we were exhausted. By 9:00pm we convinced Yorgos to take us back to the hotel. The rest of the group could carry on without us!!!

Friday, October 17, 2014

More bits and pieces

A three year old came into the Cafe/Bar the other night and pointed to one of my exhibition pieces. Apparently he liked it. His mother handed it to him and he walked around with it, intent on taking it home. In what universe does an exhibited piece of artwork become an object for a three year old to handle?!

I went to the bank today (the only one on the island)to make a deposit for our friend. His instructions were written very clearly to the bank teller. My only responsibility was to hand the cash and note to her. Her only question for me was "What is your father's last name?"

Bits & pieces

Weekly delivery of water bottles for one of the three markets in Chora.
The amount of plastic bottles and bags on the islands is disastrous!

We learned that it is possible to have INR blood tests done here instead of travelling by ferry to had the test done yesterday with good results! Yeah!! Unfortunately he developed a huge haematoma which was the result of the technician not using the thinnest needle! It should fade out of sight in a month or two!! We did not have to pay for the INR testing or the subsequent visit for the Doctor to check the haematoma.

Usually there is a new graduate doctor on each island every year. This does not provide any level of comfort or continuity for the locals. Last year a Doctor who had visited the island as a tourist decided to set up a permanent practice on Amorgos. With 30 years of experience, he is paid 1550 euros per month by the government! This is much more than the average person earns but much less than the average Doctor in a city.

Another trip to Nondas Organic Farm today....

....and another beautiful smile!!
This marked the first time that I have received a gift 
of organic veggies after asking if I could take a photo!!
The tomatoes are like candy and the white aubergines are wonderful.

Today is packing day for our ten day/ten boat trip with our friend Theo. Most of our stuff will be left behind for when we return to Amorgos... just taking our backpacks with a few essentials. The original plans for the start of our trip have gone awry because of mechanical problems with a ferry. As a result we will stay one night on Paros before going to Syros where we will disembark and go straight to a dance performance before checking in at our accommodation. 

The beauty of this trip is that I don't have to do anything!!! Theo has planned the trip, is looking after ferry tickets, accommodations and will probably search out the best food along the way. What a treat!! Another friend is leaving a car for us to use on Paros during our unexpected overnight stay.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

October 14

Another day of wandering through Chora. 
The sun was shining.
Butterflies flitted.

A final coat was being applied to the little church.

A rare photo of three beauties!

Coralie, a young artist from Paris, prepared dinner in the underground kitchen.

We watched another glorious sunset from the top terrace at Jazzmin.

Alive on the rock

How do so many green "things" manage to grow on this rock?

Bouganvillea bursts out of walls.

Crocuses in October push through the rocky pathway.

Geraniums and cactus flourish in pots.

Pomegranates weigh down the branches of this tree.