Problematic Pothia …

7-14-2006—Pothia, Kalymnos, Greece

Be careful what you wish for. I was feeling a touch bored the last couple of days I was in Agathonisi—the place was starting to seem a bit slow, played out. The former at least cannot be said about where I am now—Pothia, the main town/port of Kalymnos. As these island ports tend to be (the larger ones, anyway), this place is fast, hectic … I’m not sure if this town has something about it that makes it more so these things than other similar towns or if I’m just tired from being on the road for five weeks, but this stop has really got my nerves jangling; every time I’m out and about I feel as if my senses are being assaulted …

Not that the place isn’t interesting. Kalymnos is dry, hot, and desolate appearing; from the boat coming in it looked as harsh and inhospitable as any inhabited Greek island I’ve seen. Pothia rises abruptly out of this hostile seeming backdrop; it climbs the steep mountains surrounding an inlet in spectacular fashion, until it seems to just stop, as if the any further expansion was doomed to failure and a wise truce had been drawn with the landscape. I also find it interesting, in certain ways, culturally. If nothing else, it’s intriguing me because I can’t quite nail down what it’s about …


More than anywhere else I’ve been in Greece I can see the country’s economic woes on display. Today I had originally planned tackle a long hike I wanted to do. But when I hit the streets I scrapped that, as it was already blazing hot out (32C at eight-thirty, with no signs that it was going to stop there) and my hike was 8km round trip up and down steep mountains. Instead I got up in the upper reaches of the town and wandered the streets for a couple hours. I was amazed at how many padlocked buildings there were—houses and businesses—and how many “For Sale”signs I was seeing, far more than anywhere else I’ve been in Greece. Also, the businesses that are open don’t seem to have too many customers (aside from the eateries right on the waterfront). In other words, things are looking bad here …

But are they? There’s an awful lot of construction going on too. Mixed in with the closed-up dilapidated places are some beautifully restored homes (I keep hearing American English here, which makes me think these houses might be owned by Greek Americans—outside money could be at work here, in other words). Whatever’s going on, this place seems to be in a significant transition …

While I’m on the cultural side if things … I gotta be honest and admit I don’t care much for the vibe here. I’ve met some very nice people, but there is a, I don’t know … hardness I feel on the streets: the warmth I’ve felt so many places in Greece, even in some of the bigger towns, seems lacking. (This is the first town I’ve been to in Greece, outside of bigger cities, where a lot of the windows feature bars. I also keep seeing “Beware of Dog” sings on the homes.) Again, though, this might just be me—suddenly I’m feeling very tired and my thoughts are turning to home. Still, I know a lot of Greeks migrated from here to the U.S.—and few places can harden the soul and warp values like my toxic homeland …

Tomorrow, though, I head out of town, to some (hopefully) much quieter spots. That’s when I believe I’ll start getting this place bit more (imagine, for example, judging Crete just by Iraklio!). I hope this is the case: I really don’t enjoy not connecting with the places I’m occupying …
Notes:

I went to the archaeological museum here today. It’s small, but top flight—I highly recommend it.

At dinner last night I found myself sitting across from a truly idiotic Greek American, who kept loudly going on about how he was going to vote for Donald Trump, “the great business man,” against that “socialist Hillary,” amongst many other tragicomic statements, about how Syrian refugees were all really rich people who are not man enough to stay and fight for their county, public education in the U.S. shouldd be abolished, and the Greek dictatorship was really a good thing, etc. His ignorance was staggering—I was deeply embarrassed to be from the same country as this clown. After he then made a number of patently false statements about American and Greek societies, politics, history, etc. I finally had to call the guy out. My reward was, besides the joy of putting him in his place, was that the waiter, who’d been suffering thru this man’s paranoia Americana for longer than I had, brought me a half-bottle of wine on the house, while giving me a subtle thumbs up. Maybe it’s best so few Americans travel abroad: as a nation we’re too stupid and uneducated to pull it off …

Hunted thru three electronic stores for an iPad adapter for my camera. Nope. Hopefully I’ll track down something in Crete …