Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Serifos 1986

In spring 1986 I wanted to go to Milos. The ferry did not leave Piraeus until quite late, I forget now the exact time. By the time we were approaching Serifos it was getting late. the ferry was behind schedule. I had done my homework and knew that at Serifos accommodation was in the harbour but not in the chora; at Siphnos, the next port of call, accommodation was in both the port and the villages uphill, and at Milos most of the accommodation was in the harbour. It was perhaps nine o'clock, and I was still quite a novice at island hopping. Did I want to arrive in a strange island late at night? Or should I get off at Serifos. Caution won, and I got off at Serifos.

Today ferries seem to call at Serifos most days and from what I have read it is very popular with visitors. There were then few onward ferries, and little evidence of a large tourist invasion at peak season. I was accommodated comfortably, and cheaply, at the Hotel Serifos Beach, but the room may have been so cheap as decorating was under way and I had to tread my way past paint pots and other paraphernalia of decorating to reach my room.

Serifos port, Livadhi, was pleasant enough in a quiet and unassuming sort of way. Chora was then an mostly unspoilt Cycladic village. I say "mostly" unspoilt as I saw a tourist bar or disco, but this was shut when I was there. I remember having lunch one day in the chora, roast chicken; the meal was memorable as chickens (live) were clucking pecking around on the floor the way cats usually do. Cannibals!

Chora was a confusing place (again to deter pirates). here as elsewhere in Greece I would come across some road or oath works (as the paths are so narrow it only needs one small hole to make the street impassable), I would make a detour trying not to disturb the person doing the work, then find that I had done a circuit and was either where I was before, or approaching the works from a different direction. No, I was not last, just exploring, just arastirma if I dare say it.

One day I walked across the hills to, I think, Koutalas (I had no map, apart from my map of Greece, as none were on sale). The taverna with no beer. A huge crate of empties outside. I went in, gasping with thirst. the place was open, so surely there was something to buy? All there was was water. Not bottled water. Not tap water even. The owner scooped a glass into a bucket of water and gave it to me. He did not charge!
I recently found some notes I wrote on Serifos back in 1986:

"4.30 p.m. Serifos. Sitting in a cafe on harbour. Boat to Sifnos leaves at 6.30 p.m. Rather - supposed to. Be surprised if it arrives before 7.30. Getting used to Greek laziness. So far a dullish day with spots of rain. Sun now breaking through. A day to walk not too far (reserving my energies for the Sifnos mule paths). Sitting. And reading. Towers of Trebizond. Must go back to that sometime for the meaning of the religious bits. But I was too keen to find out how the plot unwound that I missed them.

I'm now unwound. After 2-3 days of hectic tramping and seeing of sights I'm now ready to relax. This is the mood I never get into at home. I'm ready to write. Trouble though - my mind still too preoccupied to write.

The gentle breeze. The lapping sea. Impregnation by the sun. Where will I sleep tonight? Don't know! Don't care! Gather Kamares, Sifnos can be pricey. But so cheap so far - 'C' hotel full rate 1600, less than £8-00. I'll soon start dreaming of veg.
OK - spuds. And those overcooked beans. Tomatoes off, then lettuce. Ever eaten a whole cucumber?"

There were few places to eat in the port, I think just one taverna and a bar by the jetty. I ate each night at the taverna, and each night something else was "off", one night Greek salad without the tomato, then no lettuce, soon just the cucumber remained. I was reminded that when I was at Ephesus in Turkey a pleasant Turkish family who were picnicking gave me a cucumber. I was at a loss as to what to do with it. The Turkish family were watching me expectantly, so I nonchalantly started to nibble it (I had no knife with me, I was less organised in those days) and ate the lot. I can imagine the tale being told by those nice Turkish people, "you'll never guess what. We gave a cucumber to this English girl, and she ate the lot, skin and all, as she stood there." Well, what would you have done? A nice little point of etiquette.

Waiting to leave Serifos I was sitting in the bar by the jetty. the only food that was being served was spaghetti with a parmesan type cheese, nothing else appeared to be on offer, not even (tinned) tomato sauce.

On passing through Serifos in 1991 I noticed that there had been a lot of building around the harbour, and recently I have read that Serifos is developing into a chic little resort island.


Astypalia 1995

Astypalia is not one of the Cyclades , but is sometimes (depending on ferry schedules) most easily reached from Amorgos. In spring 1995 there were fairly regular ferries from Amorgos to Astypalia ( I have not seen them run so frequently since then). Sometimes the ferries terminate at Astypalia, other times they go on to the further Dodecanese, such as Rhodes. In autumn 1995 there was a twice weekly ferry from Kalymnos to Astypalia. In 1996 a ferry was doing a circular route from Naxos to some of the small Cyclades and Astypalia, and fitting Donoussa in on the way back to Naxos. In the Cyclades it is a matter of visiting an island when the opportunity arises. In spring 1995 the opportunity arose to visit Astypalia.

We had long wanted to visit Astypalia but on previous visits there had been two ferries a week from Naxos to Astypalia, and they both left on Sunday evening or the very early hours of Monday morning. We always seemed to arrive mid afternoon on Monday. So Astypalia remained unvisited by us. In 1995 we found a number of ferries were running from Amorgos to Astypalia, and, we were told by our old beret wearing friend at the ferry-ticket agency in Katapola, back again. The departure boards on an island show the departures from that island, but not where the ferry has come from. A ferry could, for example, go from Amorgos to Astypalia and on to Kos, Rhodes, etc, but come back to Amorgos by a different route. Departure boards do not show where a ferry has come from. We had to rely on the ticket seller's word that we could go to Astypalia, spend a night in Astypalia and come back the following day.
The sea-approach to Skala, the port of Astypalia is very striking (it is referred to in a well-known Greek folk song, "To Kastro tis Astrpalaias ehei kleidi kleidonei..."). The ferry crawled round the steep cliffs of the north-western coast of Astypalia (but by no means as precipitous as those of north-eastern Amorgos, passed about an hour earlier) and suddenly as we rounded the headland of Heliou we saw the steep peninsula of Chora, the ochre walls of the Kastro and the white dome of the church of Panayia tou Kastrou rising above them. The scattered clouds were clearing slowly and the domes gleamed in the early morning sun.

Would Astypalia match this spectacular approach? In fact we were a little disappointed with what we found, but I am anticipating, and in a day we did not have time to do the island justice. Part of the disappointment was because we had waited so long to get to this at times inaccessible island, that the reality did not live up to our (perhaps unrealistic) expectations.
As we stood on the Astypalia harbourside, circled by high speed motor cyclists, watching the ferry leaving I had my doubts as to when we would see a ferry to take us away! Skala harbour is not one of the more attractive I have seen; it is bitty, straggly and does not form a cohesive whole. Chora extends down to the Skala, or Skala extends up to the port, whichever way you want to look at it.

The quayside was busy when we arrived as large numbers of people had come down to await the arrival of the ferry but they disappeared as quickly as the ferry. We arrived at around eight in the morning, and at that time of morning there would have been far more activity by the harbour in Katapola with a cluster of people around a fishing boat buying freshly caught fish, shopping at the shops fronting on the harbour, mending fishing nets, fiddling with boats, etc. So quiet was Skala that we wondered around for some time looking for somewhere to stay. Everywhere but the Hotel Paradissos seemed to be closed, and even the Paradissos was not fully open; the hotel was deserted, we enquired at the OTE office on the ground floor and one of the OTE staff was kind enough to telephone the hotel owner. An modernised old-fashioned hotel, with rooms overlooking the harbour (very convenient as we could stay on the hotel balcony watching for the ferry to round the headland). The hotel owner, Franciscos Angelides, was a busy chap, not only running the hotel but also running a travel agency (very useful for checking our departure times) on the ground floor and an agent for the Ionian Bank.

We never did get the hang of Astypalia buses, and I suspect that at that time of year they only ran to meet boats but then we were busy looking for somewhere to stay. There was no bus timetable to be seen so we walked everywhere.
Chora seemed a long walk up the stone stairs (motor traffic went up a more circuitous route), but once reached did not seem that high up. The main feature is the kastro, the centre in ruins apart from some renovated churches, but very pleasant to explore. The kastro is magnificently placed, and what remains is impressive. On the landward side the walls are well preserved, but most of the seaward walls have gone (demolished in the 1956 earthquake) and the houses that formerly stood within the kastro were demolished for building stone. Standing within the flowers and butterflies of the ruins I tried to imagine what the kastro would have been like when intact; it must have been something like the kastro on Naxos.
I had thought of Astypalia as "butterfly island" because of its shape; up in the kastro I found lots of butterflies. Outside the Chora the diamond patterned wooden balconies and stair sides were a particularly striking feature.

The locals do not drink Amstel, as we were told it was only available in August! The Dodecanese is a duty free (or duty reduced ) zone, and we found evidence of this in the souvenir shops dotted around Skala. Many of the shops were closed and all we could do was peer through the windows (not that I wanted to buy any of the souvenirs, but i do like to nose around what is on sale). I wondered who came to Astypalia to buy these electrical goods, and kitschy porcelain figures of Far Eastern origin. Someone must have, or they would not have been on sale. Or were the closed shops stocked with the remnants of the previous season that no-one wanted to buy? Perhaps the shops, like the Amstel, were only available for consumption in the peak tourist month of August. All we wanted to buy was a bottle of wine, and that was no cheaper and may have been more expensive than elsewhere in Greece.

In guide books I had read that Skala is dominated by a power station right in the centre of the village, but by the time we had arrived it was closed. The eyesore (unfair to call it that as I expect electricity to be on tap, or at switch wherever I go) had gone from the village. We found the replacement eyesore, a brand new sea side power station, on our work round the coast in the direction away from Chora. We walked to the wide beach before Malatazena, but did not reach Malatazena, as the coastline (where the two wings of the butterfly meet) was deceptively long). Not only did our walk take us past the large generating station, but we also saw huge quantities of litter on the beaches, some apparently tossed ashore by the sea but mostly tipped down the hillside. We often notice that there is a side to an island that is particularly prone, because of the prevailing winds and tides, to litter. On Astypalia we had found it - first time unlucky that day. On beaches generally we usually find they are mainly oil free , with just the odd lump of oil (often the size of a donkey dropping). if you tread in the oil a little can go a long way, though. Elsewhere in Greece we had seen evidence of civic pride, such as the beach cleaning on Koufonissi. We came away with the impression that the Astypalians were an apathetic bunch, not bothered to neatly dispose of their rubbish, not bothered if their buses run, not bothered about the general appearance of the island, not bothered about the condition of the quayside WCs (described in one book as 'mind- boggling' and 'indescribable' , I didn't investigate myself). Are Dodecanesians different to Cycladians? If the Astypalians do not want visitors, that is fine, but they do seem to be fouling their own nest. Some of the people we met were fine, but we got the impression of an odd mix of apathy and money grabbing, and not at all the relaxed atmosphere we had found in the Cyclades. I wondered who takes the lead in deciding the way an island goes. What makes a Mykonos a Mykonos, an Ios and Ios, a Naxos a Naxos, an Amorgos an Amorgos? Is it by chance, or is there some conscious planning process? I wondered, and wondered about Astypalia. Did it know where it was going, it was drifting, drifting between the Cyclades and Dodecanese. I wish it well, whatever way the inhabitants, or whoever decides, wants it to go.

Like Mykonos, Skala had a resident pelican, Carlos. Carlos was a real character. At a bar down by the harbour he was trying to wrestle tins and empty cigarette packets off a table. I did not like to put my hand too near his beak, as I wanted to leave Astypalia with as many fingers and thumbs (and arms and legs and ears etc) as I had arrived with. One of the fisherman pulled some glasses and other breakable items out of Carlos's reach. Strange, but pleasant, the way the fishermen treated Carlos as a slightly backward child.

We came back on the Olympia Express; she is an ex-Channel Island ferry and in her lounge we found evidence of her Channel Island history, such as the Lillie Langtry lounge.


Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Siphnos 1986 and 1991

I first went to Sifnos in 1986, and again in 1991. I prefer staying in Apollonia as, being central, you have easy access to the entire island. Although it is a part of a large central spread out cluster of villages, they all have a rural feel. Kamares, the port, I found an unexciting sort of place, a grown up boat stop. Kamares did look very attractive at night when I arrived for the second time, with taverna tables by the water.

What are my abiding memories of Sifnos? I remember the uphill straggling Chora with a wide variety of architecture from small village houses to large detached houses. I remember the old village of Kastro. And I remember Vathi, Vathi to which I had walked down a most attractive mule track in 1986, Vathi to which a road was being blasted in 1991. I found the modern resort of Plati Gialos characterless, with its rows of modern buildings. Plati Gialos had no "Greek island" village at its core, and no 'Greek' atmosphere. It is the sort of place that would appeal (when the sun was shining) to the sort of tourist who likes to lie on the beach all day and is not really bothered where that beach is. The beauty of Vathi had been so slender, so fragile. I wonder what has become of Vathi now that it can be reached by road. Is anything of the fragile beauty left? The new roads to Vathi on Sifnos and Angali on Folegandros were the first examples of despoliation by road building that I came across in the Cyclades. On each of my visits to Greece since 1991, I have come across many more examples of age-old mulepaths being bulldozed to make way for roads.

I forget now what made me choose the Hotel Sifnos on my first visit, but a good choice it was, old-fashioned but comfortable and having the appearance of being one of the first hotels on the island. I took Ken there and as he followed me away from the centre on at half past nine at night Ken wondered if I was heading in the right direction. So did I, as I could not remember the hotel being so far away from the centre. I was right; Apollonia and the surrounding villages form a surprisingly long and straggling built up conglomeration. The couple who ran the Hotel Sifnos spoke little or no English but we managed. On my first visit I was having I think breakfast when I was offered some almonds. They were delicious but difficult to open, and one of the props gave me a pair of pliers, very effective. A little while later an old lady (the mother of one of the props) was also having difficulty opening some almonds, so I passed her the pair of pliers. She was very pleasant but I could tell from her expression that she was wondering what I was doing with a pair of pliers at the breakfast table! We regularly went in in the evening for a glass of brandy, and the props took the opportunity of having a glass as well while the bottle was open. 
Sifnos is famed for two things, pots and food. Some of the best chefs in Greece are reputed to come from Greece (and some must have stayed at home for we did eat well on Sifnos). Many Siphniote buildings had pot jar shaped chimney pots. I thought I managed to buy a typical Siphniote pot down at Kamares, but later had my doubts when I saw identical pots on sale on Syros, marked "Syros" instead of "Sifnos". Mass production hits the Cyclades. I suppose the pot I saw on Syros could have been made on Sifnos, but I rather suspect that it was the offspring of some mainland factory.
On both visits, very few eating places were open. On the first visit, I ate at the Restaurant Cyprus in the main square. I particularly remember the meatballs in avgolemona sauce. On my next visit, that restaurant was gone and the building was in the middle of conversion to another use. On the second visit, we ate at the Restaurant to Apostoli tou Kotouki, on the main street. I first came across roast pepper salad at this restaurant on Sifnos - a dish that one now sees everywhere. Another speciality was a sort of chickpea cake served with tomato sauce. This was delicious; I was offered a sample on the Sunday and had some at the following meals. I suspect that the chickpea patties are a Sunday speciality as on the following days they were less fresh. Or perhaps they just tasted less good as the novelty was wearing off? I do not usually eat moussaka unless I know it is going to be fresh. I have memories of my first Greek moussaka, eaten somewhere in the Plaka in Athens in 1981. That first moussaka was stone cold and swimming in fat. This huge trayful was new and unstarted and looked delicious. No doubt the ingredients were good quality, but it was barely lukewarm and therefore a disappointment. The other cooked food here was piping hot.
As in all traditional Greek restaurants, the customer was encouraged to walk into the kitchen to see what was on offer. That custom was lost on some German visitors who sat outside for five minutes or so before shuffling off annoyed and hungry. The inside of the restaurant was quiet apart from the hustle and bustle of cooking and waiting, and the chit-chat of customers. Outside, across the road, was a nightclub or similar establishment that was sometimes throbbing with music - I felt sorry for the people living nearby.
The inland villages of Sifnos all have their own atmosphere, unlike Platy Gialos which we found had none!
Kastro was far more interesting with its uniquely styled houses. Some of the streets are at first floor level supported either by one-storey buildings underneath, or on arches thrown across the lower street. The design reminded me a little of the Rows at Chester.
The cats at Kastro looked particularly battered (rereading this, I see that this makes the cats sound like a piece of English fried fish – sorry!). Ken, that inveterate cat lover and adopter of strays, said that he had never seen so many sorry- looking cats in one place and felt like endowing a veterinary-surgery for mauled tomcats. We looked round the small archaeological museum at Kastro but it was difficult to decipher the descriptions in faded Greek typescript. Clear script I could just about have coped with, but the faded script was almost impossible to decipher and reminded me of my old Greek teacher's wobbly handwriting (equally impossible to decipher). We lunched in the garden with a good view at the Kafeneion 'Star', a combination shop / taverna.

Between Apollonia and Kastro, I noticed a few "Tinos" style dovecotes.
Most of the time I was on Sifnos I am sure that the weather was perfect, with a breezeless, cloudless blue sky, etc. But what I remember most is the storm, rain bucketing down, and the paths through Apollonia flowing like streams. On a trip to Faros (not the best of places to visit on a wet day as there is little to do but walk) we met an English chap who had come prepared for the worst the Greek climate could throw at him. He was clad in a Barbour jacket and waders (or was it flippers, he may have been carrying flippers). Just what you think of taking on a Greek holiday. Unfair to Sifnos as it rains elsewhere - but I associate Sifnos with a torrential downpour. Returning from Faros the bus (unusually) drove down to Chrysopigi Monastery. We made the detour as the convent was preparing for the feast of the ascension.

Walking on Sifnos was made somewhat easier by the excellent map of the island on sale locally, prepared by an Englishman, John Birkett Smith. As on other islands, some of the paths were marked with red paint spots. I vividly remember that on my first visit I lingered at a taverna at Vathi, so much so that as I wanted to catch the last bus back (then the bus went from Plati Gialos) I had to run quite some distance cross country. I did not know the route, which was new to me, but I ran from stone to stone, following the red paint spots. Luckily, the spots did lead to Plati Gialos where I arrived just in time to jump on the bus. I was hot and bothered. The passenger in front turned round and said "yassou". It was the woman who had served me in the taverna at Vathi. She looked as cool as the proverbial cucumber and could not have raced across the hills I raced across. She must have come by boat, far more leisurely than my breakneck pace (I did not, but thank you for asking!) She must have come by boat! I had heard rumours of a boat from Vathi to Kamares, but not of a boat from Vathi to Kamares. I would know another time, I thought. Next time there will be a road and I will not need the tip that is stored in a little accessed crevice of my mind.
By comparison with Serifos, Sifnos is very green. On the way down to Vathi, we passed a sign by the road, which we did not understand. Only when we got back to the hotel did we discover that the sign read "Danger - Blasting". A graphic illustration would not have gone amiss, but I am not sure what we could have done if we were caught in a blast.

In 1996, I met a French couple on Kimolos who had been to Sifnos some years previously by yacht, and were waiting in Kimolos harbour to catch the Milos Express up to Sifnos. They remembered the beautiful unspoilt village at Vathi. I tried to break the news to them gently, in my best French, that the Vathi they knew was no more, Vathi was now reached by road. They looked aghast, bereaved; the village of their dreams was destroyed.
[1986 and 1991]

Flight to Milos 1997

Usually I land at Athens airport at three or four in the morning. This time for reasons I forget (probably because this was the cheapest flight I could get) I was due to land at about six in the evening. I had checked the times of internal flights. Anything before 7.30 I discounted as being too tight a connection, even if my luggage was checked straight through. The earliest flight was a flight about 7.30 to Chios, and island I had long wanted to visit (I know it is not in the Cyclades!). The only other flight to a place I at all fancied was much later, nine or ten, to Limnos. Limnos airport seemed to be miles from anywhere, and I did not want to be stranded without a taxi. I did not book in advance, but decided to wait until I got to Heathrow and could check if my Athens flight was on time.

At Heathrow, I saw my flight was due to leave on time. If I was going to catch an internal flight about an hour after I landed, I wanted to get my internal flight ticket before I checked in for the Athens flight, so that my luggage would go straight through. The Chios flight was full. Ho Hum. Back to the drawing board. Where would I spend that night? I did not imagine that by half past seven I would be stepping foot onto one of the Cyclades. Onto the tarmac of Milos airport, in fact.

As I was waiting to go through the security check a chap dashed apologetically to the top of the queue - saying he was late. He only had hand luggage. Checking in bags must be a headache when you are late. I felt smug as I had arrived in plenty of time, catching a train from Huntingdon an hour or two earlier than I need have. In the departure lounge at Heathrow, I overheard a snippet of conversation. "He's not here yet. He's always late." And on the plane "He hasn't checked in yet." A chap dashed on board just as we were about to take off. He had a very short hair cut. "Stopped off for a hair cut?" his friends teased him. It transpired that (the hostess doing breathing exercises made me think of that word) he had come from Welwyn (through which my train had gone). The first train had been cancelled, the next one at least 25 minutes late, but it sounded like one of those "delayed indefinitely" situations. Then he got a lift by car from someone at the station. Lucky I caught a very early train. I do not like being late, especially for a plane. Little did I know then………….

At Athens I looked for a tourist office, hoping to find an up-to-date ferry timetable. If a ferry was going that night to an island I fancied I would - travel time to Piraeus permitting - catch it. Otherwise, I intended spending the night in Athens and setting out to Piraeus next morning. There was certain to be a ferry going to somewhere I fancied between 7.30 and 9 in the morning. I did not find a tourist office - the only information desk was an Olympic information desk, but I did notice the domestic departure board. By then, it was around 18.40.

There was a plane at 19.15 to Santorini. Santorini was too big and expensive, I thought (although I have since heard that because of over capacity on Santorini, rooms can sometimes be had cheaply). There was also a plane at 19.00 to Milos. In twenty minutes time. I fancied flying to Milos. But could I make the plane? Could I buy a ticket, check in, and get myself on board the plane in twenty minutes. It would be tight. When I decided to have a go for the Milos flight, I had not realised the length (and, Greece being Greece, the breadth) of the check in queues). Could I do it? I would certainly try. Groups of elderly Saga passengers had been on the flight from London and were meandering apparently aimlessly around the terminal. This did not make my journey to the domestic ticket office any easier. I thought of how smug I had felt when I saw the late arrival dashing to the front of the security check queue at Heathrow, and the chap dashing on to the Athens bound plane at the last minute. Now I had done this all before and knew the ropes and where to go - more or less - otherwise I would never have made it. There was, inevitably, a queue at the ticket office. I reached the head of queue. A Greek woman was also in a hurry. The woman at the ticket desk was on the telephone. She gestured me to the next free desk. The person at that desk was also on the telephone. Then I was gestured to a third ticket desk. Time was ticking by. I thought of Lunn Poly in Lincoln where I had bought my ticket from London to Athens. The staff there were often interrupted by telephone calls when negotiating my ticket, but there had been no urgency. When I tried to buy an air ticket in Lincoln, the plane was never due to leave in just ten minutes. "Is there seat to Milos and is there time to catch it?!"

Yes, there was a seat. I bought my ticket. I had to go to the cashier at yet another desk to pay, and then back to ticket office where I was given a wodge of paper. The boarding pass? In too much of a rush to notice what I got. "Go to A Area." Now back in England, I think of the analogy with a Monopoly board. Not a bad analogy thinking that Olympic has - or at least used to have - a monopoly on internal flights in Greece.

Area A a seething mass of humanity. The queue anywhere arrangement is fine usually, but here people for flights leaving later are queuing with people for soon-to-leave flights. My flight soon, very soon, extremely soon. Imminent in fact. The plane could be already trundling down the runway. Help!!. The plane takes off in less than minutes. Left bag in queue and went to front to ask. There is one girl behind the desk processing a passenger’s ticket. Just as in England the person at the head of a queue for railway tickets always seems to want to go to John O'Groats by the scenic route by way of Land's End, the person at the head of this queue had some lengthy requirement. Obviously not an urgent requirement. Another Olympic girl was standing at the side of the desk. I approached her.

"Milos?" I said to her, in what I hoped was a quizzical but friendly tone.
"OK. Yes. Wait" she replied.
I went back to my place in the queue. The queue did not move. I ventured forward again.
"Milos 10 minutes." I said. Actually, it was more like five minutes.
"OK." She said. I again looked quizzically.

A nice chap for the Santorini flight at 19.15 said I could go in front. I did. Then at 19.00 the nice Olympic girl at the side of the desk kept looking at me. I heard the last call for Milos. She talked to girl behind the counter, then gestured me forward. I put my luggage on the scales. The girl behind the counter dashed off - to the despair of the others in the queue (sorry, but it was not my fault, really!). She ran back and said, "take luggage - GO gate 2. GO" - I went, dashing as quickly as I could through the crowds of Saga Louts.
I staggered to Gate 2, staggering not because of the weight of my luggage but because of the density of the swarming masses. I have been to the domestic departure gates many times, but silly me, being in a hurry I managed to set off in the wrong direction and had to ask in my best Greek "Gate please" to nice old Greek man!

Gate 2 was shut. The passengers had flown. Or rather, I hoped they had not yet flown. I peered anxiously through the glass. "Wait here," said the woman hostess. Flight 19.00. Now 18.59. I was sent to a door labelled "ground hostess." They were expecting me, and a hostess ran to the door to the runway, and ran with me across the runway to the waiting plane. We usually do this bit by bus, and as I dashed, I kept glancing left and right. And glancing ahead to make sure the plane did not go without me, although there was nothing I could do if it did.

"Leave luggage outside please," said the hostess. I dashed up the small steps to the plane. My small rucksack got caught in the cord rail by the door (more haste less speed). The door was shut up after me. The plane took off. I dared not look back - in case my luggage (in case my case) was still on the ground.
I may have known of the Milos flight at 19.00 but must in England have discounted it as too much of a rush, even if my luggage had gone through direct!! A thought - after late plane on the way back. If I had booked the Milos flight in advance, missed the flight because of a late running flight from London, and checked my luggage straight through, Olympic may have retained my luggage for the first Milos flight next day. I would rather then have gone by ferry that night. The delay in getting my luggage back could also mean that I would miss any ferry going that night. What is the procedure in those circumstances??

By the time we were flying over Milos, I almost had my breath back.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Kalymnos - Doggy Paddle

The drama unfolded before my eyes as I sat on the hotel balcony.
In late November there were few tourists on the Greek island of Kalymnos. The lucky few that remained were enjoying the sunny weather. We did need to shelter from the wind, though. Storms were forecast and already the sea in the bay looked choppy.
I heard voices and shouts and looked up from my book to see what was happening. A crowd had gathered on the promenade running around the harbour. They were looking at the sea. Something was bobbing round in the sea. Something with a sleek looking black head. At first I thought it was a seal. I went for my binoculars and watched the rest of the drama through them.
I soon realised that what I could see was not a seal but a dog. A large black dog. The animal was only a few feet out from the edge of the harbour. However there was a steep drop down into the water. I did not see how the dog got into the water; it certainly would not be able to climb that edge without help.
There was plenty of help on hand. By now the dog was swimming out into the bay, but still only a few feet off the boats moored alongside a jetty that jutted out into the bay. One person thrust an oar towards the dog, another a large fishing net (though nowhere near large enough to contain the dog, even if the netting had been strong enough to hold the dog's weight). One man kept dashing onto whichever boat the dog was nearest too and thrusting an even longer pole at the dog. Yet another hung a short ladder over the edge of a boat. The dog nosed towards each of these offers of help. I could almost hear the sighs of relief from the crowd each time the dog swam towards one of the rescuers; and the groans as the dog backed off and swam out of reach.
The dog seemed to be strong and not in any sort of distress. It came tantalisingly close to these rescue devices on many occasions, but each time a rescue seemed imminent it swam away. Before long the dog was swimming further and further out to sea. Occasionally it approached the end of the jetty, and spurned a number of rescue attempts. Yet after each approach the dog swam back into the bay. At times I almost thought that the dog was teasing the rescuers with its frustrating approaches. But no, that could not be. Soon the dog was far out at sea. I could no longer see it with my naked eye. Through my binoculars I saw the head bobbing above the water, so far out that there seemed no possible hope of rescue.
Poor old mutt, I thought.
I had been in the town for a few days and had noticed a motley group of dogs, all mongrels, playing by the water's edge. The dogs all appeared to be strays. It was touching to see that the local people were prepared to put so much effort into saving a stray dog. There were a few small tan coloured dogs, a larger dark coloured dog with a pronounced limp, and a large black dog. From what I could see it was this black dog that was now swimming out to sea, to a lonely watery grave. I tried not to think of the suffering the poor dog must be going through at that very minute. The next time I saw the group of canines frolicking along the promenade one would be missing. I was sorry I had not given it a pat when I had walked near it earlier in the day. Tears came into my eyes as I thought of the dog out at sea. It could not possibly swim for much longer. Surely it must soon drown. If it had not already drowned. I had put my binoculars down. I did not want to see the sad end of the tale.
Then I noticed another flurry of movement on the harbour side. The local heroes had not yet given up. A group of men, including the man with the extra long pole, was setting off into the bay in a small boat. I looked through my binoculars again. The dog was several hundred feet out. The boat approached the dog many times, but each time the dog backed away. I soon saw what the rescuers were trying to do. The bay was large, and on the far side there was a beach. Gradually the rescuers edged the dog towards the beach. He sloped ashore, and shook himself down. I saw him bound off and disappear from my view behind some parked cars. He seemed none the worse for his adventures.
Later that day I saw the usual pack of mongrels, including the black dog, playing on the harbour front as usual. I saw the wicked looking gleam in the black dog's eye as it romped past me. And I wondered if the dog had ever been in distress at all. It may have just gone for a swim!


I was half expecting accommodation on Donoussa to be primitive, but after our "luxury" find on Iraklia I also half suspected that standards could be good - and they are. More luxurious than Iraklia in fact. A number of room owners met the boats, and we accepted the room offer made by one Greek lady. The block of three rooms was very modern, and situated on the far side of the bay up a very steep path, the steep part was short but especially when laden with a rucksack it seemed almost vertical.

The rooms were very well furnished (and even had wicker lamp shades and lace curtains, and modern pine furniture), and as well as a bathroom each had a small kitchen area with sink, fridge and hot plate. The water supply was brought to the cellar by a green hosepipe, and then pumped round the buildings. I don't know where the pipe came from and it may sound Heath Robinsonish, but there was no problem with the supply whilst we were there. There was also an open air shower (not needed!) in the garden.

So my fears of primitive accommodation on a small, Greek island were again unfounded. Outside there was a spacious terrace with sea views.



Be alert to the changes in the time at the start and end of summer. It is easy to lose track of such things when in Greece. I know, I have done it, but not (yet) missed a plane because of it. I remember one dark and not particularly warm morning standing at a bus stop in Paleochora in Crete with my bags, waiting for a bus back to Chania. Yes - the bus did not turn up when I expected it - the hour had changed.
Spring forward, fall back. That is the right way round, isn't it! It is Saturday 26 March 2005. The clocks go forward to 4 in the morning (2 a.m. in England, there is a two hour time difference). I am travelling to Piraeus on a ferry that arrives at about 9.30 this evening. My journey will not (as far as I know - perhaps I should get to the harbour an hour early, just in case!) be affected. Ferries travelling overnight will be affected by the change of hour. Some of the regular timings that people have become used to will be changed, just for the one night.
This time I am not flying back to England until Monday. One year I was catching a plane from Athens to London early in the morning. The morning when the clocks change at 4 a.m. I had not then realised that the clocks in Greece are changed at 4 a.m., not 2 a.m. Obvious when you think about it, for synchronisation, but until then I had not had occasion to think about it. All I was concerned about was the change in time when I woke up, not the actual time of the change in the middle of the night. I asked the chap on the desk at my hotel to book me a taxi to the airport. Leaving at 4 a.m. should give me plenty of time, I thought. A slightly pained expression crept over the chap's face. "4.15 a.m., that would be plenty early enough, do you agree?" I saw his point. Booking a taxi for 4 a.m. would have been a bit tricky. Which 4 a.m.!?
Other times I have got back to Piraeus too late to make it worth while getting a hotel, and have snoozed at the airport. Snooze. 3.30 a.m. Snooze 3.45 a.m. Snooze 3.55 a.m. Snooze. 3.05 am. A long night!


A pleasant little island, but being on the small side it would not take much in the way of tourist numbers to make it seem very touristy.
I remember the path to the right of the harbour - quite a long walk to reach it - as having some of the pleasantest views I have seen from any Greek path.
I was fascinated by the ruins of Mikro Chorio (and tried to ignore the disco in one of the buildings). Looking at the ruined buildings, in which people had lived until relatively recently, I tried to imagine how people lived. Such as - where were the bathrooms?


Symi struck me as a place geared to large scale tourism - the taverns around the port had lots of tables - but when I was there there were not many tourists. One pleasant feature (this was in the mid 1990s) was a cafe with a range of foreign newspapers. It was pleasant after a day's excursion to sink into a comfortable chair, order a drink, and read a wide range of English newspapers!



My room in Mykonos, although in the old town, was quite a walk from the harbour. The landmarks I followed to reach the sea front were mostly made up of shop displays - still closed early in the morning, so I got lost a time or two on the way to the sea front. Reaching the sea, I wanted to sit down and get my breath for a few minutes before carrying on. I took off my large rucksack, put it down, and sat down on a bench by a church. Or rather I had half sat down when…………….
Suddenly the peace was broken. "NOT POSSIBLE. Stop. Stop. STOP. No. No. FORBIDDEN. NO. STOP. FORBIDDEN. VERBOTEN." The shouts got louder and louder. What was going on? Had someone stolen some fish? Or trying to take more than a photo of one of the pelicans? Murder? Rape? Robbery? What was it? The man who was shouting had rushed out of a travel agent's shop shouting wildly. No one else seemed to be taking any notice of him. Was he mad? A well-known local eccentric to be tolerated with mild amusement? He was coming towards me, still shouting, "NO. FORBIDDEN. NO BAGS HERE."
I was the cause, the innocent cause, of this outburst. So it was forbidden to put down a rucksack in Mykonos, even when sitting by it. He went on to shout that I could leave my rucksack at his shop. For a fee, no doubt. For a five-minute break on the harbour, no thank you. I carried on my way to the new harbour. Mykonos had started to grow on me, with its good food, empty early morning streets and market. But no longer. I will not come back to Mykonos in a hurry. What has come of Mykonos if a rucksack cannot be put on a bench while its owner takes a rest? No one else was using the bench. If I had intended leaving it I could have understood it. But to be sitting alongside it.......... In fact I was still standing and stretching by the bench, when the screeching of "not possible" started. Perhaps a rucksack spoils the look of the place. There were no cruise ships in.
I get the feeling that backpackers are discouraged by certain elements (I do not categorise myself as a 'backpacker'. I just use a rucksack, as it is the easiest way of transporting things. Yet, that chap in the travel agency - he cannot be desperate for the 1000 dr. or so he would probably charge for keeping my bag - so what is the problem? There were two or three empty seats by the church. Travel agents get no money from cruisers. They get money from independent travellers. By his action, he lost a potential customer for a ticket. It seems that some local (and by that I do not necessarily mean islanders, but those with businesses here) money-makers want to discourage tourists from doing anything that is not revenue producing.


I spent about a week on Paxos in the early 1980s.

In Paxos I experienced my first Greek Easter. I did not then know to look out for the Epitafios, the walking of an effigy of Christ's tomb, on Good Friday and did not see the procession. I hung around outside the main church late on Easter Saturday evening. I was not dressed to go into church, but wanted to see what was happening. A local gave me a friendly tug and I was inside the church. People piled in and soon I was no longer near the door.

On Easter Sunday I had arranged with some fellow tourists to catch a small boat to Anti Paxos. We were down by the harbour early, and could see that the chap who owned the boat was getting ready to leave. We spoke very little Greek; he spoke no English. He seemed to be indicating that we need not get on board just yet. As he was obviously about to leave we jumped on board. A handful of tourists - six of us perhaps - wearing shorts and dressed for a day on Anti Paxos.

Hold on, where is the boat going? We are heading to an island in the bay, and not to Anti Paxos. The boat went to an island in the bay. We hopped ashore, keeping an eye on the boat. Some priests/ monks went on board, carrying what we later realised was an icon. We tourists tried to make ourselves inconspicuous. It was difficult to hide on a boat the size of a small cabin cruiser. We went back to Gaios port, where there were 100s of people waiting to greet the boat. The arrival of the icon was obviously a large part of their Easter celebrations.

The icon was reverently carried ashore. We tried not to look irreverent in our beachwear.

Later in the day, after the trip to Anti Paxos, the local police had set up a trestle table in the street laden with Easter goodies for passers by to sample. So we ended the day as the guests of the police - luckily not in custody!
[early 1980s]


Cheating really, mentioning Leros. I have never stepped foot on Leros yet I have spent a night at (or, rather, off) Leros. Yes, you have guessed, I was storm-stayed in Leros, en route from Kalymnos to Patmos. What I could see of the island looked attractive, and one day I would like to visit properly.


Kalamos 1989
Kalamos is not an island you will find mentioned in many guide books! Kalamos is a small island in the Ionian, near the village of Mitikas.
In 1989 I was heading by ferry from Zakynthos to Nidri on Lefkada. The ferry was running late and I did not want to arrive too late at night with nowhere to stay. We left Poros on Kefalonia, and the next and final scheduled stop was Nidri. The ferry made an additional unscheduled stop at Mitikas, on the mainland. With hindsight, it would have been more logical to stay on board until Nidri, a large town catering for tourists. Mitikas was an unknown quantity. Would there even be anywhere to stay? On a whim, I got off. A friend had been in the area a year or two earlier, and told me about a visit (by yacht) to the small island of Kalamos. I wanted to visit Kalamos.
On Mitikas room touts met the ferry. I stayed at a small hotel. I chatted to the hotel owner in my limited Greek. He was doubtful about my proposed journey to Kalamos, and warned me that the island was "no good" - I thanked him but privately dismissed his caution.
At a kafeneion I chatted to a Greek who had lived in the Netherlands and spoke fluent English. He and his friends too were uneasy about my visiting Kalamos, but I could not quite ascertain why, and assumed the usual Greek attitude which does not understand the exploring traveller's eagerness to move on.
The following morning I asked about a boat to Kalamos in a shop - and again the person I spoke to hinted that perhaps it was not a good thing to visit Kalamos. There was a boat to Kalamos at 11 a.m. The boat returned from Kalamos to Mitikas at 7 a.m. the following morning. The boat for Kalamos, the "Agios Ioannis" was moored at a pier. I boarded and paid the 100 dr. fare. I chatted to a friendly Kalamiot who had lived for many years in the United States. This was his first trip back for years. He was of the opinion that I should readily find somewhere to stay. Alas, this proved not to be the case.
On arriving in Kalamos I stopped at a kafeneion and enquired there about accommodation. The owner was very friendly and helpful and asked around, but was unsuccessful. I left my bags at the kafeneion, climbed up the steep main street, and enquired at the baker's - here again I was unsuccessful. I walked a little out of the village and came to a huge villa overlooking a small beach, whose garden contained numerous taps dotted here and there, presumably to water the shrubs planted between the many concrete-and-coloured-stone paths. Given the general shortage of water, even in the wetter west of Greece, this seemed to be an extravagant use of water. I wondered whether this building gave a clue to my failure to find somewhere to stay; I suspect that the inhabitants of Kalamos, perhaps under the influence of a powerful landowner, discourage casual visitors.
By good fortune I met two American yachtspeople in the baker's, and they kindly offered to put me up in the saloon of their yacht, which I gratefully accepted. My rucksack spent the night at the kafeneion. The ever helpful owner assured me that he would be open before the boat left at 7 the next morning, and he was.
Kalamos is a magnificent island as far as its landscape goes, and the town is very pretty and completely unspoiled by modern building other than the large villa previously mentioned - in fact many of the houses are in ruins - but I would advise any visitor to arrange accommodation before leaving Mitikas.



I visited Fourni in 1998 and found it a very quiet and relaxing sort of place.
The port village has an unusual (for a small Greek island) grid pattern, like a small Greek town plonked on a small Greek island. A difficult island to get around. I did not get to the other village of Chrisomilia. No buses, no taxis. There was a dustcart and I did consider thumbing a lift in that. One day I went to a beach over the headland from the port, at Kambi. The owners of a small bar there gave me and the other customers a lift back to Fourni in their small fishing boat.
There were a number of old-fashioned grocers and cafes - almost as if some of them were private houses having an "at home"!
There were quite a few Greek soldiers on Fourni - I noted that they were repelling the Turks with music and backgammon!
Many of the small country churches in Fourni have tables and benches in the courtyard - obviously designed for panagia, but ideal for a picnic as well!


In 1981 I went from Mykonos to Delos on a very small motor boat. The passengers were strapped into place by a thick rope. The sea was rough. I was lucky not be stranded on the island. A French girl once told me about a school trip she had been on to Delos. All they had to eat were rabbits caught by one of the custodians of the island. After they arrived a storm blew up, and they could not leave for several days.
On my next trip I went on a much bigger boat, with more than one deck level.
Guide books will tell you what to see on Delos - it is a fascinating place, and there is too little time to enjoy the island between the arrival of the first boat and the departure of the last. On my two visits I have been lucky - there have been no cruise ships in. The atmosphere of the island would change completely if it was overrun with 100s (or 1000s) of tourists.
Mykonos is not one of my favourite islands - but I would put up with a night or two on Mykonos to enable me to see Delos. Delos is an archaeological site, and there is no accommodation for tourists, storm stranded or not!


Once upon a time cheap flights were not as easy to find as they are today. I had to take my time off work before the end of March. The only reasonably priced flights at that time of year were then to Crete and Corfu. So I have been to Corfu twice and Crete twice.
I found Crete to be too big for the relaxing island experience I seek on a Greek holiday.
What did I enjoy about Crete?
* the archaeological sites. Try to get to popular sites like Knossos early in the morning - as soon as the site opens and before the coach trips start to arrive
* the museums
* strolling round the old streets of Chania
* Loutro - though I have read that Loutro can now be reached by road
* walking through the Samaria gorge


Once upon a time cheap flights were not as easy to find as they are today. I had to take my time off work before the end of March. The only reasonably priced flights at that time of year were then to Crete and Corfu. So I have been to Corfu twice and Crete twice.
I did not stay long, as Corfu was not really my sort of island. What did I enjoy about Corfu?
* walking in the streets of the old town
* the museums
* the old Venetian fortress
* reading books about Corfu by Gerald Durrell and Lawrence Durrell - one of Gerald Durrell's books was being filmed when I was there.
* the ferry to Paxos and the ferry to Igoumenitsa!

Conch shell noise

You know how when you put a large sea shell to your ear you can hear a sound like the sea? I never was too sure how that worked. Is it the sound of your own blood pumping away that is magnified by the shell. Or is air caught up in the passages of the shell agitated when the shell is moved. Anyway I've discovered that the local fishermen signal to each other across the bay by blowing into huge sea-shells. And the fishermen use the shells to signal to the villagers that fish are on sale. The shells they use are superb. Absolutely huge. I'd love to be able to buy one. I'd probably never get it home intact so it's probably best that I don't look for one.

I once picked up a small seashell intending if not to take it home, at least to decorate my room with it. On the way back to my room I wanted to buy some matches, and I leant up to the cigarette counter to show what I wanted (I never can tell the difference between the works spirta and spilia, one is a match, the other is a yellow flowered gorse like flower). As I leant against the counter I heard a crunching noise (I hope the shop keeper did not think I had brittle bones) - the shell had smashed. Now the shells the fishermen use, they must be much tougher.

Chios (late 1990s)

Chios town is one of the noisiest and most traffic ridden places I have ever been in Greece. It was also difficult to find anywhere to get a decent meal. Most of the establishments on the sea front consisted of bars with the counters open to the sea front and blaring out loud music. I say open to the sea front. There was a road the size of a motorway between the footpath and the sea. I did find one decent place to eat, round by the vehicle loading area of the docks. Nothing to look at but trails of HGVs waiting to board ferries.
My view of Chios may be slightly jaundiced by the fact that my luggage went astray, and did not arrive on the plane I arrived on. Slightly jaundiced, but not unjustly so, I would say.
I did enjoy the days I spent staying outside Chios Town.
Mesta is a lovely medieval village. Obviously there must have been much restoration, but walking through the gateway you really did get a sense of stepping into the past. The accommodation was very good quality. As was the food. There are a lot of coach trips in the day time, which means well stocked tavernas, and plenty of choice for the few people staying there overnight. And the traffic free paths of the town were particularly welcome after the noise of Chios!
I also stayed at nearby Pirgos. A more workaday sort of place than Mesta, but very attractive nonetheless.

[late 1990s]

Cephalonia - 1990

Cephalonia - 1990
Much of Kefalonia was destroyed by the 1953 earthquake. Most of the buildings that survived are at the north of the island, at Fiscardo in particular.
Lixouri, a short ferry ride from the main port of Argostoli, is a pleasant place. There is a fascinating library-cum-museum in a 19th century house that survived the earthquake.
I enjoyed a short stay in Aghia Evfemia in 1990 - although I suspect that the village will have changed following the filming of Captain Corelli's Mandolin.
The Ionian is very popular with yachtspeople. One morning I was having breakfast at a cafe in Fiscardo. Suddenly I felt I was in a classroom. The yachties' leader was giving them all a loud and lengthy briefing - oblivious to the fact that quite a few non-yachties were also present.


I am writing this in March 2005 in a small Greek island. Unusually for the winter season, there is a printed bus timetable. The timetable shows that on weekdays a bus leaves the port for Chora, about 6 kilometres away, at 10 a.m. on weekdays. The timetable is for the week ending 18/02/05. Today is Monday. On Thursday the bus left at 11 a.m. What time will the bus leave today? [The answer? Probably 7.45 a.m. and 4.30 p.m.! The following Thursday the bus left at 11.30 a.m.]
On the same island, this time probably in the autumn, a bus was parked in the usual stopping place, with a timetable stuck on the windscreen. The timetable showed that the bus left the port for Chora at 11.30 a.m. A small cluster of people stood around the bus and waited. 11.30 a.m. came and went. 11.35 a.m. came and went. 11.40 a.m. came and went. No-one was too concerned, we were on holiday and in Greece. 11.45 a.m. came. The bus driver appeared, ripped the timetable off the windscreen and replaced it with a timetable showing the bus leaving at 1.30 p.m.
Some tips for using buses:
  • always have a Plan B, both for what to do if the outbound bus doesn't leave, and for getting back to base if the return bus doesn't materialise.
  • if you want to travel to another port, is there a ferry you can use for one or both legs of the journey?
  • check the phone numbers of the island taxis!
  • There are often fewer buses on Sundays. 
  • But also watch out for changes to bus times on Saturdays. 
  • And national holidays. 
  • And if the bus you want to catch is a school bus, or heading to a school on one leg of the journey, the time may not be the same every weekday.  The school may close earlier on Friday than on other days.  If you have an up-to-date timetable, you should be OK.  But don't assume that a bus that leaves at, say, 2p.m. on one day wiull lave at the same time every day.


One day to go. For ages, I had been flinging things I might possibly, just possibly, need, into a pile in the corner. The pile would fill the luggage hold of a Dornier. Time to rationalise. Long ago I used to get everything together I might need, then cast aside three-quarters. Now I have a list on my laptop of the things I need, really need. Could I manage without something I intend packing?

As far as clothing is concerned, I work on the principle of one on, one in the wash, with an extra of anything not easily replaceable on a remote Greek island. As with making tea, I tend to throw in the odd extra or two ‘for the pot’. Will it be hot or cold? One November it was cold. Thessaloniki airport was closed by snow. Athenians were wearing fur coats. I discovered why the streets around Syntagma Square are lined with fur shops. I was wearing all the clothing I had, cotton leggings acting as improvised long johns (I suppose I should call them yannises) under my cotton trousers, short and long-sleeved T-shirts, long sleeved blouse, jumper, cotton jersey jacket and lightweight nylon jacket and still I was cold.

Spring would be different, I told myself, and it would be getting warmer as time went on, not colder. I was not convinced and flung in a few more winter warmers. I thought of the previous spring. Perhaps setting out in late March had been a mistake. On the way out, we were storm stayed in Syros. Then on Amorgos, the standard greeting was "Brr, cold today. Do your rooms have central heating?" No, and I suppose very few do on Amorgos, which is not really geared to winter visitors. One girl we met kept warm by using her hair dryer. [2011 update. Heating now available in some at least of the rooms on Amorgos. A few years ago I arrived in winter, soon after snow had fallen in the islands, to find a heater already switched on in my room. And now air conditioning often has a "heat" setting.]
I always take too much luggage, no matter how hard I try to travel light.

Once my luggage weighed in at 19.80kg - not counting my hand luggage (if you go on an internal flight on a light aircraft, you may find that hand luggage as well as main luggage is weighed. Oops.) Now the limit is 23 kilo, and I am trying oh so hard not to let my bag weigh 22.80 kilo. I walk about my bedroom at home thinking how light my bag is (I have no scales that weigh that much); but wear the same rucksack in the blistering Aegean sun, up hill, up steps, and after a sleepless night travelling, and you will realise just how heavy it is.

Strange how priorities change. At home in England I think about new clothes, take on holiday. When I am in Greece, I keep on wearing my favourites - the T-shirt that is soft and bleached from navy blue to pale blue by the sun. Faded and stone washed clothes are fashionable.  I have achieved mine by hard wear and tear in Greece. Clothing that seems fine when I pack it yet I am too modest to wear it when I get to Greece, especially when staying in untouristed parts. I do not want to stand out like a sore thumb. Yet next time, I will be tempted to pack unnecessaries. "What if that wears out?" I tell myself. "Now that is something I could not buy in the Cyclades."

I tell myself that now there is a Marks and Spencers in Athens all I need do if my trousers, leggings, or shorts become too battered to be decently repaired and are not replaceable on an island, is to hop back to Athens and buy a pair. I would never do this, I would make do and mend, but the thought is reassuring and helps me to pack less.

Packing to go to Greece is like decorating a Christmas tree with old and well loved baubles, but the baubles I take to Greece are all (or nearly all) useful ones.

Every holiday I am ashamed at how little Greek I speak. I have (or had) good intentions of learning Greek and listened to a Greek language tape whilst packing.  But I reached the stage when I knew what was on the tape and wanted to learn more. 

So much for my good intentions and now as usual I am packing with a Greek language tape playing in the background, reminding me how to transport, accommodate and feed myself in Greek. I did once many years ago start an evening class in Greek. I went to the classes for a term and a half but then had to give up, as I was working away from home. To be honest all I can remember from the classes is how to ask for something. "Perhaps you have ...."   [Mipos echete]  Our teacher insisted on writing the Greek words in lower case letters on an old blackboard. I realised how difficult it is to read an unfamiliar script when written in a non-standard way. Greek capital letters I can just about manage, and I know most of the lower case letters (but often have to look at the alphabet when I look words up in a dictionary as I cannot remember the order in which some of the more obscure letters appear). Even in English, it is sometimes difficult to read a word when it is written in an unusual script. The chap who gave the Greek lessons wrote on a scratched old blackboard with third rate chalk, and only about a third of everything he wrote appeared as a white squiggle on the board. To make things even harder he wrote with such a small, wobbly and inconsistent style that his English words would have been difficult to understand. His Greek writing, suffice it to say that it was all Greek to me. I was reminded of my schooldays when we had a very elderly French teacher (an English teacher of French). She was very old, or at least seemed very old to us teenagers and was reputed to have retired several times and come back so that she could get another leaving present. She was very deaf and wore a hearing aid that looked like a primitive set of head phones. But we wondered if the "head phones" worked for one of our tricks when she asked us to say something in French was to stand up (as we were expected to), open and shut our mouths indistinctly without actually uttering anything at all. "Well done, very good Susan". Smirking (cruel girl that I was, that we all were), I would sit down.

Room touts on Paros

 I stayed on Paros harbour waving to Ken for so long that by the time I had left most of the room touts had gone. The port officials had kept the room touts well back from the embarkation and disembarkation area.

A few years earlier we had wanted to go from Amorgos to Naxos, but the only convenient ferry went direct from Amorgos to Paros, missing out Naxos, so we had a few hours to spend in Paros waiting for a ferry to Naxos. Even after we had left our main luggage in a luggage store and were walking around with our smallish day bags we were pursued through the streets of Paros by room touts.

This time one chap approached me in Paros, opened a folder and told me of his rooms at the other side of the island at Piso Livadi. Now I am sure that Piso Livadi is a very pleasant place (I have never landed there, only called in when the old Skopelitis had Paros on her Naxos-Amorgos itinerary) and that all its inhabitants love it dearly, but if I were to stay on Paros I would chose Paros Town. "Everywhere else is full" this persistent tout told me. Full indeed! In spring 1996 there were so few tourists in Paros that I was sure that rooms were to be had (if I had wanted one) in just about any establishment I chose. I thought of the Earnest German Tourist on Anaphi, who had been told on landing at Sikinos that there was no accommodation in Sikinos Chora. His informant no doubt had accommodation to let in Sikinos harbour. I thought of the woman desperately trying to deter two tourists from boarding the bus up to Chora. Most Greeks I meet are scrupulously honest, but some room touts are not. Imagine a novice island hopper meeting this chap late at night and anxious about finding accommodation. Such a person could easily snap up this person's offer without even realising how far out of town Piso Livadi was.


Sikinos - Locked Out On Sikinos

The wind is getting up. I had hung out some washing - a two sock peg wind.  (I judge wind speed by the number of pegs I use to hold a sock on a washing line!) I heard a plastic chair blow along the balcony, and dashed outside and brought the chair into my room. The `balcony' runs the length of the building (two long rooms wide), and is used by those in the know as a link between the upper and lower paths though the village. My room has three windows. Both the bedroom and kitchen windows are shut. The bathroom window will not shut. I have to remember to keep bathroom door shut (I was thinking more of keeping out stinging insects than human intruders). There is a key in the bathroom door, and if I was really concerned about security (would anyone climb in through my bathroom window in Sikinos?) I could keep the bathroom door locked from the bedroom side. Lucky that I did not lock the door…………. read on!
The shutters on the kitchen window are shut; they kept the dazzling morning sun out and I did not bother re-opening them. The main shutters are open, but not fastened back. I heard shutters banging and dashed outside to fasten them back. I got to the door to come in. And found that the door had slammed shut. The key was inside the door. There was a large outside knob but no outside handle. Why that combination? It seemed to be asking for trouble in the windy Aegean; until the door slammed shut I had not appreciated that I would be stranded if the door slammed shut. Lucky for me that it was not the middle of the night! Sheepishly I padded across to landlady Maria's house to explain. Maria lived in the house next door, divided by a small garden area from the building I was staying in. I was barefoot as all my footwear was indoors. It was lucky that in my eagerness to stop that shutter banging I had not dashed out half naked. There was nothing in which to hide any nakedness except prickly pears - apart from the socks and undies on the line. Maria is not a smiley woman! Her husband climbed through my bathroom window. He was grinning broadly when he opened the door and gave me the key. Maria gestured in no uncertain terms that in future I should leave the key in the outside of the door.

Santorini in 1981

In 1981 I was pleased to reach Santorini after a cramped boat ride from Paros. The island is the remnant of an extinct volcano and the main town of Thira is built on the rim of the volcano. There was then no cable car, the only way from the old harbour to the top was up the 600 odd steps on foot or by donkey taxi. The ferry landed at the new port of Athinios where two buses waited. Hundreds of passengers and rucksacks clambered on board. We saw a spactacular sunset as we wound up to Thira. Where would we all sleep? No need to have worried.
 Back in 1981 the cable car had not been built and I walked up and down the steps to the old harbour a time or two, resisting the temptation to buy a ride on one of the now probably retired donkeys. The new harbour a mile or two round the coast had been built by 1981. The new harbour was not and is not a place to stay, and if there are rooms they would only be used by people waiting for or landing from a boat. There is usually a fleet of buses and hotel owned mini buses to meet the ferries, and I usually sail out of Santorini to the site of a positive convoy of these vehicles snaking their way up the hairpin road leading from the harbour. Are they so assiduous in returning you to the harbour, I always wonder. I say there are usually a large number of buses. Coming back from Anaphi there were only five passengers and a crate or two of fish on board the Express Santorini. I noticed that the ferry was not met. If anyone had been getting off at Santotini there could have been a long wait in port until the next bus appeared. Another ferry (presumably from more populated ferries) had just left port, the buses were snaking up hill, but not single one had waited to meet the ferry from Anaphi. Luckily no one (human or fish) got off.

In 1981 I stayed at the Hotel Kavalari. I see that the hotel is now listed in various hotel guides and must have gone upmarket since my visit. I remember the novelty of having the reception on the top floor and the rooms on the floors beneath. My room was in the volcanic crater, windowless, dug out of the rock. Apart from a cave hotel I stayed in at Matamata in Tunisia, this was the only time I have ever slept in a cave. This room was reached down a tunnel and had no window, just a ventilator onto the tunnel; the cave room in Tunisia gave onto an outside platform. The Tunisian hotel was on the tourist trail; the door was only made of palm leaves and had no lock. One morning I was lounging in bed, not that late, perhaps about eight, when I heard some voices.. A tour group was exploring the hotel. I rapidly made some noises and put my head out of the door so that thay could see the room was occupied. I had no such problems at the Kavalari for although the room was in a cave it had a locking door.

I heard one couple complaining that their room was damp. To me a damp room in that heat would have been a blessing. I have different expectations when I am in Greece to when I am in England, and maybe these two had not adjusted their expectations. In England I expect a hotel room to have a fitted carpet, yet in Greece I am more than happy with a marble tiled floor and a rug or two. I have been in hotel rooms in Athens with carpets, but the carpets look tatty.

How to find accommodation in Greece

People at home often ask me "How do you find somewhere to stay? I would want to know in advance that I had somewhere to sleep at night."

I go to Greece in March-May, and September-November and have never had a problem finding anywhere to stay in the Cyclades. I have read that in summer all beds are taken, and people sleep on the beaches from necessity. I always avoid travelling in peak season for this reason - and because of the meltemi and the heat. In peak season booking ahead would be advisable. Yet one of the charms of island hopping - unless you are going back to a place that you know - is finding the place to stay that suits you. If you book ahead, you lose this flexibility.
Ratings are hard for the uninitiated to fathom. In one island an 'E' class hotel is smart with private baths, and a nearby 'D' class hotel is nowhere near so pleasant, more like a youth hostel than a hotel and with communal baths.
As accommodation standards improve generally, I find myself drawn to the more old-fashioned sort of place, which is somewhat ironic after spending years looking for "modern" accommodation.
In the earlier days of my travels in Greece, I used to be apprehensive about the standards of accommodation in the smaller islands, having read of primitive accommodation and even more primitive plumbing. Yet even on the smallest islands I have found comfortable good quality accommodation. My only fear now is that if I were to arrive on an island where there were lots of tourists, there might not be enough accommodation to go round. When I was on Lipsi, for example, I heard stories that in peak season a ‘full’ sign was put up in the harbour and tourists who had not booked accommodation in advance were not allowed to land.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Folegandros Cottage

On my first visit to Folegandros in 1991, I stayed in a small one roomed cottage. When I say cottage, you may imagine something far grander than it really was. Just one room. Two thirds of the floor area was taken up by a double bed that touched the walls at three sides. On the other side a bedside table, and a couple of folding chairs. There was a ledge in the wall behind the bed. That was it! I enjoyed staying there! There were sheep in a barn next door, and a bathroom outside - often with a donkey tethered outside. I went back to see the cottage a few years later. Admittedly, it was a wet day. I noticed the goatskins drying nearby and the tannery, and animal smells. Not at all idyllic on that day.
As soon as I got off the bus in 1991, I was offered the cottage. I walked with my landlord-to-be down a lane to the edge of the Chora. And there was the mini one roomed cottage, with the detached outside bathroom with superb views of the monastery. To the left was a stone barn with sheep. On some nights there was a donkey parked outside my door. The building on the other side was being converted for residential use. It was just off the track leading to what looked like an open-air disco - which was shut. Beyond was on olive grove. Perhaps not such an idyllic location when the disco was open. The cost? 500 dr. a night.
Was it a cottage, or was it a barn or sty? It was comfortable enough with its stone walls, beamed ceiling, large bed that almost filled the room and a convenient ledge in the wall behind, but my neighbours were animals! I felt in touch with the past, for this was not a cottage purpose built for tourists. There were all mod cons, across a yard, and I often had to pass a tethered donkey to do my ablutions. I say all mod cons, and so they appeared to be from inside, but outside there was a large water tank on the roof to which water was delivered by tanker. I never did work out the arrangements for delivering water. On the first day the landlord looked dubiously at the tank and said it might be OK if I had a shower the following day. I used the water sparingly and it never ran out during my stay. I saw no water delivered to my tank, either, although I did see water being delivered elsewhere in the Chora. In the centre of the village were a number of wells. There were also taps at the edge of the roads. I only used the latter for washing my hands when eating at tavernas, but I saw how the water supply would have been obtained from the streets before alternative arrangements were made to the houses. I enjoyed living in my cottage. When I went back to 'my' cottage a few years later, I saw the goatskins hanging all round the approach to the cottage. It was hard to see why I had found my stay in the little cottage so idyllic. Either the goatskins were not there in 1989, or I had not noticed them.


A Room on Mykonos

When you get off a ferry clutching luggage, it's fairly obvious that you need a room. OK, you might already have somewhere to stay organised. But that is unlikely. So room touts descend on you like locusts. And, being a harbour, there is only one way you can walk. You are trapped. Thus it was when I arrived on Mykonos. A gaggle of room touts swarmed round me. I said no thank you to most of them. Seeing that I was alone, several shouted out "small room. One person."
I thought of double glazing and plastic window salesmen at home who, like rooms touts, carry out a war of attrition. Offer you something you do not want for long enough and you will give in, just to get some peace. Reader, I gave in. My tout shouted "Nice room. Little Venice. 3000 dr."

"Bathroom?" I asked. Foolishly, I did not say "private bathroom." I visualised what I wanted - a private bathroom.
"Balcony?" I asked. Foolishly, I did not say "private balcony". "Of course," replied the tout. Then I saw she had a minibus. The wording on the side included the words pension, sea side, and swimming pool. Hey, that was not what I wanted. I wanted to stay in town. She explained that she had other accommodations. She was taking me to a room in Little Venice. Once in the bus she became the Brisk Businesswoman. So much for the low key private accommodation I was hoping to stay in. The bus circuited the ring road. Seeing my look of alarm (where was I being taken? Why did I not stick to my resolve to avoid room touts?), Brisk Businesswoman explained that no traffic was allowed in the town, we had to go round the edge. We were certainly going a long way round the edge.

The room was in a house on a small street near the row of windmills at the back of town. A very small room. The tout's chorus of "small room - one person" still rang in my ears. This was a small room par excellence. A small double bed completely filled over half of the floor space. One small window in the wall, and another in the door. The bathroom was not private, but shared with the two rooms on that top floor and I know not how many below. By "room with bath" I meant a room with a private bath. Brisk Businesswoman knew that, her English was good enough. I was annoyed at being brought all this way. I saw a sink on the open landing, and thought that even when the bathroom was in use I would have access to water, and the room seemed to be in a quiet area. The room cost only 3000 dr. Brisk Businesswoman offered me a larger room, but it would cost more. I decided to make the best of a bad job and stayed.

 "How long are you staying for?" asked Brisk Businesswoman. I had no idea. I wanted to go to Delos on the following day, and then on to Naxos or Amorgos. I had as yet no idea of the times of the boats to Delos, or the ferries on to Naxos or Amorgos. "Two nights" I said. The boat from Delos would not get me back before midday, so I would have to leave my luggage somewhere, and it might as well be in the room. "Pay now, please," said Brisk Businesswoman. I paid for the two nights. "If you want to stay longer, pay the person who comes to clean every morning." Brisk Businesswoman did not ask to see my passport, neither were there any prices on the doors of the rooms. I wondered about the legality of the set up. All tourist rooms should be registered? I knew it was illegal for a customer to buy something and not take a receipt (to avoid dodging the requirement for electronic tills and VAT registration). Was it illegal for a tourist to stay in an unregistered room? These thoughts flashed through my mind, but I could hardly ask to see Brisk Businesswoman's tourist office registration credentials. She did give me her card so I could contact her if I needed to. An otherwise law-abiding tourist was unlikely to be arrested for sleeping in an unregistered room. Or was she?

After Brisk Businesswoman left, I started to settle in. The other two rooms had doors open, unlet, so no problem with bathroom access. No doubt, Brisk Businesswoman would be down at the harbour when the next boat came in, hovering like a vulture to catch her next tourist prey. I decided to have a shower whilst the bathroom was free. A very pleasant, well-fitted and large bathroom. I wondered if the house was a private house in winter. I thought of the early days of tourism when tourists slept chez the locals. I was going to experience some of that. A fridge on the landing, a pleasant view onto a square, not a disco in sight. Although the room was small, this was not going to be too bad.

The bathroom had no lock on the door. No one was about so I was relaxed about showering, and had the light on. Should I splash quietly in the shower so that I could hear if anyone else arrived? Should I splash loudly so that anyone outside could hear me even if I could not hear them? Or should I sing loudly? That first shower I was quiet. When the new arrivals came (when I could get into the bathroom), I sang at the top of my voice.

The balcony/roof was pleasant enough with its marble type outside sink, tables and chairs and an outside fridge. And a view of trees. The area was probably quiet [the area was quiet - my neighbours were to prove otherwise!] (apart from loo on the other side of my wall). Padding round on the landing, I soon discovered that the outside tap did not work; it was lacking anything other than the bottom piece of the tap, and there was nothing to switch it on by.

My room was very small, with a small double bed, wardrobe and table. That was all. [Even the table was a small stool with a cover at the side of the bed]. A door (naturally!) and a small window. As I would not stay there long OK, probably. [To accept a tout or not, that is the question. ...As in all walks of life, there are touts and touts.] I paid for two nights. Daughter cleaned every day - pay her if I stay longer. At least Brisk Businesswoman did not insist on taking my passport and leaving it for me to try to make contact with daughter on her once a day visit to get the passport back. I have been wary of leaving my passport with absentee owners since the time I stayed in a private flat in Fez, Morocco, many years ago. I had arrived in Fez, unwittingly, in the middle of a conference of Islamic foreign ministers. Every hotel I tried was full. I asked at the tourist office about a room. The girl in there said that all the rooms in town were taken, but I was welcome to stay in her own flat. I said thank you but no thank you, thinking that she was out to make some money for herself. Surely all the rooms in town were not taken. The truth was probably in a comment made by a Moroccan in the tourist office. Words to the effect of "there are rooms, but not for you." Sometimes I wonder, when I am told that a hotel in Athens is full, if there would be room if I did not look as though I had slept in my clothes the night before - which I invariably have when I arrive in Athens. Thinking about it, the only time recently when I found a room straight away in Athens was on my last trip when I arrived, clean and refreshed, after a fast trip from Naxos on the High Speed...........After another spell of fruitless room searching, I went back to the tourist office. It was not as though I was stranded - I could always have caught a train and moved on. But having reached Fez, I did want to see something of the town. Her room was still free. I shared a flat in a block with several other tourists. Next morning I tried to retrieve my passport - which took quite a time to do. So I was pleased to hang on to my passport in Mykonos. At least I have not left my passport hostage.

My room on Andros twice the size of my Mykonos room. Yet the Andros room was a single. The Mykonos room was - in theory - a double! At least on Andros I had my own wash basin and use of three loos and two showers.  Here there was a narrow double bed; stool with cloth posing as a table. Wardrobe with doors and an internal shelf. The only 'hook' was a nail in wall, knocked too far in to be of any use.  The door had glass on a hinge and a nailed on curtain. Small 2-foot square window had a 'nailed' curtain. The only light was over the bed. The fridge was on the balcony. The lights on the balcony must be operated from inside the other rooms. Not only was the sink outside lacking a tap; the plug hole was also blocked.

Time to go out and explore. Going down the internal staircase I noticed at one turn where I would have expected some sort of handrail that someone had put a glass globe lampshade, and at another strategic position there was a bucket of water. I also noticed then that the light bulb holders were empty of light bulbs. Booby-traps for the unwary.

Years ago when I was in Brussels I was out with some friends and we were taking home a new arrival to Brussels. The young man had no idea where he was staying! He had faint glimmerings of the area but had not noted down the name or address. Since that experience, I have always been careful to make a note of where I am staying. Staying in different hotels although I am unlikely, (I hope) to forget the name of the hotel, I might forget what my current room number is. There was no number on this door, but I would not forget its position on the top outside landing. It was not as if I had to find a room from a row of identical doors. I got outside and went to close the door. The door handle came off in my hand. I put it back again, and remembered in future to edge the handle sideways when opening or shutting the door. Not long before I had locked myself in my bathroom at home when the door handle got stuck with the moveable lever bit stuck in the open position. Luckily, I had a screwdriver in the bathroom (I am that untidy, there is little that I cannot find in any room) and managed to unscrew the whole door handle to get myself out. I wondered what would happened if anyone managed to shut the door completely. I had a Swiss army type knife in my rucksack, I must make sure that I always carry it with me. Out in the path-street I looked for a number on the door. There was no number on the door, just a row of fairly similar looking doors. I drew a sketch of the tile pattern by the door to remind me which was mine. One way the street led to a square; there was no street name so I went to the other end. No street name there either. I was near the row of windmills out at the edge of town. How to know which street was mine? I stood back and looked for some identifying feature. No house number or street name, and no clue that the house had rooms to rent. No wonder Brisk Businesswoman had to go down to the harbour to find customers. A casual tourist passer by would never find this place. And if they did it was obvious (apart from if and when the cleaner person put in an appearance) there would be no one here to receive them.

There was an architect's sign on a building at the end of the road. I made a note of the wording on the sign so that I could identify it if I got lost. An old man and woman were sitting near the sign. The old couple looked at me, nudged each other, and smiled. They must have thought I was drawing them. I smiled back. No, I was not drawing them, just trying to find out how to get back to my room.

On my first return to the room, I found that two young Canadian women had just arrived. They were in the bathroom with the door open, scantily clad, treading washing in the way I imagine Andriotes (or perhaps Mykoniotes if they are not too sophisticated) treading grapes. There was water everywhere. I picked up everything off my bedroom floor in case the flood flowed that way. Everything was wet, wet, wet.

It was less light than before, so I switched on the light. Nothing happened. Another 'popped' light bulb I thought. I looked at the light fitting on the wall above the bed (there was only one light in the room) and found that the bulb had not popped. There was no bulb to pop. Now I saw why the fittings on the stairs were devoid of bulbs. They had all been filched for use in bedrooms. As a precaution I put my travelling light in the socket on the wall, and made sure that my torch was in the pouch. I would ring the landlady and ask for a bulb. As I went out the Canadians were still sluicing in the bathroom. Had they set up a laundry business? The line was full of clothes, no view at all, every chair on the balcony was draped with wet clothes, and the tables as well. I paddled downstairs clutching my landlady's card. Brisk Businesswoman was out. Her daughter did not understand. She kept saying there was a light in the room. Bad enough trying to explain the lack of a light bulb in person when you do not know the Greek words and have to resort to gestures. Worse on a telephone. Will I or won't I get one? I had rung as soon as I found a telephone. I was out and about for a while so hoped to find a light bulb in my room when I got back. Nothing. The bathroom door was closed and I could hear splashing sounds from within.

Enough was enough. I decided I would forego my 6000 dr. and look for a room with light and with access to the bathroom. I had seen attractive gardens at the Hotel Philippi and thought I would try there. The Hotel looked pleasant enough, but a single room without bath (I could not see how many rooms shared the communal bath) cost 5000 dr., and the room overlooked a busy main road. I had envisaged a room overlooking the courtyard. No. I would stay put. If I could get a light bulb.

Got back to my room. No bulb put in. Had put torch in pouch in readiness and switched on my travelling light. (How glad I am I did not eject that from my packing list). Went to bathroom, when I managed to get in there, - and found a range of three light bulbs! Small, bayonet and screw. Not just us that have a problem with incompatible light bulbs.

I do not know what the French foursome (who had recently arrived) thought (they were out on the balcony) when they saw me on my bed fiddling with my light. [I was to meet two of them the next morning when I was boiling water].

The screw bulb fits. I can see! I can see! Not that there is much to see in this cubbyhole of a room. What with a light and a free bathroom, I decided I had better stay.

The First Night at the room. The loose door handle on the outside door. I had to hold it to one side when I used it so that the handle did not fall off. In middle of night I heard giggles from my wet Canadian neighbours when they managed to do just that.  The door handle keeps falling off the outside door. A lever type handle. Whatever held the handle onto the spindle has broken off. Pushing open is less of a problem, but when pulling the door to you have to veer the handle to one side so that it does not fall off. Even after leaving Andros I was still treating door handles in this gingerly fashion, in the same way as I was, Anti Paros like, averting my toes from the waste pipe when using a washbasin. Voices of wet Canadians in the night - the door handle had fallen off.
Last night I woke - I think more than once - to hear voices say "Now, is it this street?" Someone could not find "home." With no street names, no door numbers and all doors painted blue, I am not surprised. Often elsewhere in Greece I have seen house numbers painted on walls outside buildings. Often these are crossed out and renumbered several times. I saw none of that in Mykonos, at least in the street in which I was staying.

I am writing this in my mini room at about 7 a.m. The loo next door flushed so many times last night and I kept switching my now working light on by the switch above my bed, that the light eventually stopped working. Later tried the main switch near the door and the light came on. The room must have dodgy electrics.

Room lit c. 6.30 (still dark) by plug in light. Wanted coffee. I had tried to fit my water heater into the socket last night without success. The lights on the balcony seem to be operated from inside the other two rooms. This room has no such mod. con. Last night I heated water on the balcony socket - the socket has a cover to protect it from the elements. Then I had the light from my room (the light then worked) and the balcony light near the socket was on. Anyone coming out of the other room would have been able to see me. The room had a light on, but no one emerged. So this morning I took out the plug in light in my room, put my torch on (you need to be equipped). As before I could not get the heater plug to fit in the socket. With torchlight, I compared the heater plug prongs and the light plug prongs. The heater prongs were slightly wider than the light prongs. So presumably the light would fit into any socket, (or is it dangerous to put the light into a 'big' socket?) but the heater would not fit into a 'light' socket. So out I went onto the balcony with a T-shirt over my nightie. I put the heater plug into the socket over the stone sink without a tap. When I had first seen it, I thought there was an outside tap, so that one bathroom would be less of a problem - but not so - the 'tap' to the sink lacked a head to turn it on by. As I feared the bedroom door next to the socket opened, and an innocent young girl emerged. I did not want to frighten her so said casually, "Morning, I'm just boiling some water." I think she was French. She seemed completely unperturbed. Less so me in her situation, I think. Back to my room. Not thinking, I flicked on the main light switch by the door - and the light came on. Tried the bedside switch - and that was OK. Strange.
Chorus of birds outside. 7.15
No problems with bathroom access this morning.
I returned to my room after a day (or as much of a day as the boat times allowed!) on Delos. I got back to the room to find that an Italian chap (a Canadian of Italian origin?) had moved in with the sluicing Canadians. I heard him say to the girls, "Are you going to have a few?" If anything like last night's flushings, they will be passing a few. Never known such a noisy loo. All is modern in the bathroom but I rarely get chance to go in there.

The second night in my room. More giggles from my neighbours in the night when the door handle outside fell off.
On Andros, I had been woken up by the "pssht" of the fishmonger shouting at the cats. On Mykonos, I was woken up at the dead of night by the flash of my neighbours' camera.

The Sluicing Canadians and their entourage got in at about 4.30 a.m. and made merry until around six on balcony outside. I put my light on to politely make my presence felt but noise continued.

Shower soaking wet. Yesterday morning the small carpet was wet. Then the prop put in a very attractive large red woven rug. Very smart. Now that is soaking wet. The shower has a kerb so there is no need for all this wetness. Poor prop. And I say that although she is in my bad books for misleading me over the nature of the room.
Every available chair on the balcony covered in wet clothes. The two girls are forever sluicing. They did not get to bed until around 6 a.m. At 7.30, they were sluicing again.

[late 1990s]