Friday, 23 August 2013

Goodbye to Greece

Pithagorio faces the coast of Turkey 

Samos mountains to the south west
A month is "long enough" to experience what's on offer in Greece, advises the Lonely Planet in its "trust us, we've picked the eyes out of the place for you" tone of voice. Some Greeks have even said to us, "seen one island. seen 'em all". So why did we feel so forlorn handing in our transit log (the boat's "temporary visa"), obliged by the unfathomable Schengen zone 90-days-in 180 rule to quit Greece just as we were feeling we'd really like to know her better... No Arki or Leros or Symi for us this year though. We've had our quota of lovely islands for this season, though a week ago any or all of these were still a possibility.

The thing is, we got to like Pithagoria (named for the maths whiz Pythagorus, born there in 580 BC) and Samos, very much, and as the days passed, we couldn't find a good reason to leave. Then the wind piped up (i.e. it blew harder than usual) for a day or so, and after that we discovered (thanks to an email from our friend Jane in Bodrum) that Turgutreis, the port where we were expecting to check into Turkey, was hosting a summer music festival to coincide with our intended arrival date. Great at any other time but not when you need to make a quick, clean entry, without tangles of red tape.

So we made another adjustment to the schedule. That's one of the things that happens when you are captain of your own ship, so to speak. It's the best part actually. Instead of checking out from Kos, we'd leave from Samos,

The temple of Hera was once the largest in Greece

What's left of the huge altar on which animal sacrifices were burnt

Fragments of the temple

Technically (in LP terms) we were ready to up anchor and see more sights, do more activities. We'd seen the Pithagorio museum (open and dazzling) and whizzed around the island by car. We'd visited the ruins of the Ireon (Hera's temple), we'd taken the high road through the olive and cyprus valleys and popped out on the lush north-west coast, we'd bypassed the weekend crowds in the mountain village "destination" of Manolates, we'd loitered on shocking pink cushions against a turquoise sea in the Rick-Stein-eat-your-heart-out port of Kokkari, we'd taken a spin around Vathi, the island capital, and marvelled at what must be the loneliest quay in the whole Mediterranean in the summer time (the northerlies blow straight in).

Kokkari beach

Good coffee in the port of Kokkari

Plenty of space on the town quay at Vathi - and the swell never stops

The dingy quay (our outboard in foreground) at Pithagorio
We'd given Samos a lick and a polish, in other words. But we liked the anchorage, and the town was pleasant and each evening as we motored in to join the crowds, we discovered something more we liked about it, and then (as happens) we fell to wondering what it would be like in winter....There's a very good upstairs jazz bar near the temple of Aphrodite ruins called, predictably, the Sacred Way, and we regularly stopped by The Iliad for a beer and free wifi. You are laughing, but Greeks can can use those ancient names for their bars and hotels with a straight face, not that Sandy, the once-was-a-New-Zealander who owns The Iliad, is short of a sense of humour. It was Sandy who persuaded us to stay for the local celebrations of the goddess Hera, full of good cheer as she was also for birth of a grandchild that week.

A quiet ale (Alpha draught) at The Iliad (below as well)

The Duchess (right) and friend wait for the catch

The biggest surprise Samos threw our way was a sharp and invigorating exhibition by an art collective called Slavs and Tatars.  It could have come straight from the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and as it turns out, Slavs and Tatars have shown at MoMA. Standing on the quay amongst the tavernas and fishermen, the families on holiday and the young Greeks at play, it was like coming across a new book by Janet Malcolm or Colm Toibin in a marina book exchange. Better actually, because exhilarating new art is such a rare treat when you live on a boat whereas now we have Kindle...on which I can read Homer or the latest Alice Munro, or both at the same time.

Museum pieces - remnants from a more powerful Samos (and below)

The Roman emperor Claudius

I have finished The Odyssey, to my regret, though I sped through the Robert Fagles translation, wanting to keep everything I had seen and learned in Greece in front of my mind as I followed Odysseus on his epic trip back to Ithaca. I knew those helmets made of boar tusks which Homer spoke of, I knew the bronze spears, the silver and gold cups...they were real to me, I'd seen them with my own eyes in the museums in Athens. And so much more I'd seen.

Mycenean gold cups

Zeus in bronze

We're already tossing about where to check in for Greece Part II - Rhodes harbour or Symi? - as if that were happening next week rather than eight long months away. Turkey, on the other hand, we return to knowing the ropes much better than we did at this time last year, and there's some comfort in that.
We sit at anchor now in a bay known as Paradise, its clear warm water edged with pine trees and not a dwelling in sight.  Rod Heikell's cruising guide directed us here through the legion fish farms in the gulf just south of Didim. For that, and much else, Heikell (dubbed Rod the God by some we know) deserves much thanks. Libations in gold cups even.


No comments:

Post a Comment