The Latest

Ikaria … and a Little Patmos

7-3-2016-Skala, Patmos, Greece

I just arrive in Patmos this afternoon, after spending about four days on Ikaria, to the north (officially now I’m no longer in the Northern Aegean Islands and am in the Dodecanese). Ikaria was great, so far easily my favorite (new) island I’ve been too this trip. I started off in the south of the island, at the main port of Agios Kirykos. It’s a typical little Greek Island port town, not super exciting or anything, but a pleasant enough place. Lonely Planet describes it “dated, but dependable.” I can definitely understand the “dated” reference—most or the place looks like it was thrown up in the early sixties and has undergone little change since then. I don’t quite get the “dependable” part, though. You can depend on it being dated?
This town is in interesting surroundings, though. Ikaria is rugged, big mountains sticking out of the sea basically. Agios Kirykos is situated on a tiny coastal plain and backed with fast-rising mountains so high their tops are shrouded in shifting mists. Like Samos, the island is quite green; I did some hiking and was surprised at how dense foliage there was, how many big trees greeted me. Things got a lot more interesting, though, when I headed for the north coast …

There I stayed in a tiny settlement called Kambos, at a little place called Rooms Dionysius, run by a wonderful Greek man and his Greek-Australian wife. On my first night there they took me to a village festival down the road, where I got to hear some good music, eat abunch of goat (not my favorite meat, but not bad), and drink way too much Ikarian wine. It was easily my best night on this trip—finally I got to feel that I was part of something beyond the tourist trade …

Like I said, I’m now in Patmos. This is not a stop that particularly thrills me. I went to this island my last time thru. It’s a nice place, in regards to landscape, and it has a pretty vocal fan-base of travelers. But it’s not my thing. It’s a little glitzy (though admittedly in a low-key way), one of those spots that seems to have adapted itself almost entirely to the tourist trade. It strikes me as the kind of place that would be neat to sail around if you had your own yacht: there are lots of little inlets, hard-to-get-to beaches that must be fun to explore from that angle (then again, most places are probably fun to explore if you’re doing it from your own yacht). More »


Fourni Chill Out

6-27-2016–Fourni Korseon, Fourni Islands, Greece

Taking a chill-out day. Last night at dinner I really didn’t feel well, not like a I had a cold or something, but more like I’d spent far too much time in the sun. So today I’ve mostly just been lying around the room reading and napping. One of the problems I’ve had on long road trips in the past is that I never slow down and I end up getting sick. Plus, my knees are sore from traipsing up and down mountains and my bad left ankle, even though I’ve made sure to wrap it tightly on hikes of any duration, is not working well at all. It seems like I’m finally getting a little smart here in my extreme latter youth and learning when to wave the white flag …

I did do one thing today. I bought a boat ticket to my next destination: Ikaria, the next island to the east. Unfortunately the next boat heading that way won’t come thru here until the day after tomorrow, which means I’ll be spending a day more here that I planned. Oh no! An extra day of relaxation, of a cheap comfortable room and the warm Aegean lapping below it. I think I’ll survive …

While I’m on the subject of Ikaria … I’m looking forward to going there for a number of reasons. First off, Homer claimed that they were the first to make wine, and to this day Ikarian wine is renowned (the wine on Samos is killer as well–I bought a bottle of red there for 11 euros that would have been a bargain in the States at 40 bucks). Also, this island boasts “radioactivehot springs (whatever that means) that are supposed to cure just about every ache there is–and at the moment I seems to be experiencing most of them. It’s only 5 euros a session. I plan on spending 20 or 30 bucks and coming home a new person …

Notes:

The people in Pythagorio, back on Samos, were amazingly nice–I’ve never met a nicer group in my life, at least on the municipality level …

Don’t know what I’m going to do tomorrow. There’s a pretty challenging hike I want to do, but another day of rest might be better. Between that and the springs on Ikaria I will hopefully be ready to again take on the world (or at least big chunks of Island Greece) …

Photos:

One of the odd things about traveling alone is that you come home without any photos of yourself. Here is my lame (blurry) attempt to fix that. Also here’s one of the caiques I like and a couple of a little chapel that caught my eye …

image

North of the Main Settlement

 

image

Chapel 2

 

image

Odysseus

 

image

Caiques


Fourni Islands

6-26-2016–Fourni Korseon, Fourni Islands, Greece

I’m in Fourni now, a little island group wedged in between Samos and Ikaria. This place couldn’t be more different from where I just was in Samos. There I was in a quite touristy place, a place that has been in big ways organized around foreign travelers. That exists here, but to a much smaller degree. Mostly the main settlement here is still a fishing village; I have to speak some Greek here, fit in with what they’re about …

The place is also very physically different from Samos. Gone are the mountain pine forests. Here the lanscapes is harsh and scrubby–I’ve yet to even see an olive tree! Still, there’s a beauty here, very similar to that of other small dry Greek islands, which I enjoy. There’s not much to do here (which is kind of the point). It’s a good place to relax, which is what I’m doing, taking some “personal days” to think and write, to sit on my balcony and watch the fishing boats moving in and out of the port … More »


Photo Catch Up – Chios

6-25-2016–Pythagoria, Samos, Greece 

Just a quick post to catch up on photos (since I again have a good internet connection). These are all from Chios Town. The first is of a little coffe shop I liked: it was actually quite and cozy by Chios standards. The next to are just from the streets of Chios (the former mosque the minaret belongs too is now Eastern Orthodox museum–weird and a touch mean spirited, if you asked me). The final shot is where I stayed, a funky guesthouse run by Don, a New Zealander. It’s a very cool, laid back place (in defiance of its crazy surroundings).

image

Chios, Greece – Summer, 2016

 

image

Chios, Greece – Summer, 2016

 

image

Chios, Greece – Summer, 2016

 

image

Chios, Greece – Summer, 2016


Samos Roundup

6-24-2016–Samos (Vathi), Samos, Greece

Samos, the next major island south of Chios, nestled into the Turkish coast. I’ve been here a couple days, based out of Vathi (also called “Samos”). This place is beautiful. Green, well-watered mountains, covered with pines, interspersed will olive groves (though these take up less of the landscape than on other Greek islands, especially that of Crete, which so often seems to be a giant olive plantation). I came in on a late night ferry from Chios, and after some irritating machinations involving long sweaty hikes and a night of over-priced accommodation (I’ll vent about this some other time) I ended up here. I like this place. A typical Greek port town, but mellow—it moves at a reasonable pace.

It’s a bit different here too, though. Being so close to Turkey it features many more people from there; women in head scarfs are common. There’s also a small contingent of Africans, who, not surprisingly, stand out. Still, it very Greek, very much like other Greek islands I’ve been too. Tonight, for example, I sat in a ouzoria listening to a guitarist and bouzouki player going at traditional tunes. It’s also unfortunately a bit touristy, not so much here in town, but along the coast to the east. This area is essentially one big tourist trap, based around some surprisingly mediocre beaches. I went down there today, mainly because it’s way hot here and I needed to hit the water. “Sunbathing with Germans,” would make a good title for this excursion (I’ll vent about this at some later point too)…

Tomorrow I head down to the south coast of the island, to a port called Pythagoras, because l’m interested in seeing the place and because a couple days from now l need to catch a boat from there to my next destination, the Fourni Islands, which supposedly are quite remote and lightly visited. More »


Chios Craziness

6-21-2016–Chios Town, Chios, Greece

Sitting here in crazy Chios Town (pronounced “Hee-os). By “crazy” I mostly mean busy and chaotic. Even by the standard of Greek port towns, which tend to be pretty wild, this place is nuts. Cars and scooters flying down tiny streets and ridiculous speeds. Endless numbers of people on their way somewhere that seems to be pretty important, crisscrossing just about every piece of concrete. It wears me out just writing about it …

There are other more … difficult … aspects to this place as well. Chios is the first island I’ve been to where I’ve had to face the refugee crises. Just several blocks where I’m staying the tent “communities” begin. (I’m not sure what to say about their plight–it’s horrible and there is nothing I can do to help, which makes me feel guilty, ridiculously privileged.) Also, since this island is nestled right up against Turkey, there’s a strong Greek military presence here, which gives the place bit of a dark edge.

Still I kind of like it here. It’s definitely lively and very Greek: there are hardly any tourists (most of few foreigners who are here are people working for aid groups associated with the refugees). It’s definitely allowed me to see yet another side of Greece …

That said, I’m limited here. Like Lemnos the bus system in pretty limited, meaning I can’t get too far out of town. Also, there’s just not that much I want to see here–it’s just a stopping off point as I move south. Tomorrow evening I catch another ferry, to Samos, another, smaller island off the Turkish coast. I’ve come to Greece to learn, but also to relax–and this place is anything but relaxing …

Tomorrow I’m going to go deep into the areas where the refugees are. I’m not sure why–it just feels like something I should do …

image

Chios Town Waterfront, From My Room

 

image

Chios Town Waterfront


Lemnos Interlude #2

6-18-2016–Mirina, Lemnos, Greece

Lemnos–an interesting place I can’t yet get a handle on. Very Greek, in the sense that it doesn’t seem to attract many people from elsewhere (I think I was the only non-Greek on my plane in); I ran into a few Engish folks and today a couple of American girls (one Greek-American), but such encounters are so far quite rare. Also, I’m having far more problems making myself understood with my usually combo of English/baby-talk Greek than anywhere else I’ve been in this country. But, I don’t know … I’m also not getting that feel of history that I’ve gotten other on other islands. On Crete for example, a part of me is always expecting well-armed mustachioed Sfakians to come down from the mountains in traditional dress. Or half the men I meet to suddenly pull out a louto or lyra and start singing old traditional songs. Here, it feels … different. The post-war Greece concrete bland modernity? What I’m not feeling is a soul

I know I’m reaching here: I don’t anywhere near enough about this place to make such conclusions (though I also shouldn’t ignore my instincts) …

Like I said, I didn’t come here for any significant reason. And this is showing I as I move thru the hours. I’ve only barely left the main port here, and I’m fine it’s that, which is good because my options are very limited unless I want to lay put for a car rental (I don’t): the bus service is limited (I actually had to take a taxi here from the airport–expensive!) and the island is far too big and it’s far too hot for me to get to too many places on foot). Maybe this is just a place I’m destined to wander thru lightly. Fate is in charge on this one …

*

While flying in and driving from the airport I noticed the a lack of olive trees–gone were the endless groves that dominate most of the other Greek island lanscapes I have seen. Here it was wheat, plowed fields; it looked a bit to me like parts of California’s Central Valley. This place is also much flatter than other islands I’ve been to, rolling hills and big valleys as opposed to rugged mountains sticking out from the sea …

Some photos. Shots from the castle above the town (yes, another castle–half the towns around here seem to have them) and some of the town from that vantage point.

image

Mirina, Lemnos, Greece

 

image

Castle #1

 

image

Castle #2

 

image

Castle 3

 

image

Looking North

 

image

Looking South


Lemnos Interlude #1

6-17-2016–Mirina, Lemnos, Greece

And then suddenly I’m on something close to the other side of the country … After a long day with little sleep I made I it to Lemnos (often transliterated as “Limnos”). I took a bus from Palehora to Hania and then hung around that town for several hours. Then I took another bus to the airport, where I caught a plane to Athens. And then, after a five-plus hour layover there, I caught another plane here.

I have no real strong reasons for being here–it’s simply the northernmost spot in northern Aegean islands with an aiport, a point from which I can work my way south to the places I have more interest in seeing.

Actually, I do have one other reason for being here. Lemnos is the only place in the world where the Etruscan language has been documented outiside of Italy. Before this became a Greek island, many centuries ago, these Etruscan speakers had the place. And I just thought it would be cool to be somewhere with such an interesting settlement history (I am an anthropologist by training).

I have some reflections on this place I’d like to put down, but I’m too tired to get into that (I’ve only had about four hours sleep over almost two days). More tomorrow …


Moving On …

6-16-2016-Paleohora, Crete, Greece

Moving on today. A bus trip to Hania, then another to the airport. Then I have a late-night flight to Limnos, an isolated island (not part of any island group) in the northern Aegean. From their I will island-hop south, to what end point I’ not sure. Maybe as far as Kos. Perhaps only Samos. Time and where I can most easily get a flight back to Crete in mid-July will be the deciding factors …

My cold’s still getting me down. But I’m ready for new places. I came to southern Crete this trip to relax before taking on new stuff. It didn’t work out too well. Bad weather kept me from my getting where I wanted to go and from the second I got here it’s all felt a little stale. Oh well, live and learn (and other cliches) …


Some Greece Photos

Just some photos from southern Crete, which I’m leaving in a few hours. The last one is from inside Fragokastlo. I just think it’s an interesting shot …

image

“My” favorite swimming hole near Paleohora.

 

image

Some coastal context

 

image

Frangokastelo