Wednesday morning and my daughter delivered me to Manchester Airport at 06.15 en route to an hour’s skiing in the Chill Factory. How bizarre a beginning to a day is that!!! Given that she was going to minus 2 degrees and I was flying to Rhodes with temperatures forecast in the high 30s and in the smaller Dodecanese islands to which I was heading significantly higher than that.
I’m an old hand at this now and was first on the plane and established in my aisle seat, camera bag stowed in the overhead locker, before anyone else waddled along the airbridge.
Arrival in Rhodes was slightly ahead of schedule and for the first time my Big Bag was first on the carousel and I was strategically positioned to retrieve it and go. Straight out of the airport to the bus stop and a €2.30 fare to Mandraki harbour rather than €24 by taxi. On a roll!!
I had sussed out on the internet that I couldn’t catch a ferry direct to Nisyros, my target destination, on Wednesday. My options were to overnight on Rhodes, Kos ….. or, after careful checking of ferry schedules on the internet, Tilos. No-brainer. Both Rhodes and Kos have their attractions and interests but have international airports and are therefore basically package-trip destinations, commercialised and loud, places to make the best of but difficult to relax. A rule of thumb for deciding which Greek islands I might enjoy is to exclude those with airports and instead require a ferry crossing.
There are peaceful corners even in Rhodes Town and I headed straight for one. Cool reflection on my snap decision during a cool sojourn over a frappé (iced coffee) in a shady garden taverna /cafe/restaurant and then, decision confirmed, 18.00 high speed cat to Tilos.
When we first started coming to Greece the ferries were large lumbering things pensioned off from the English Channel crossings, invariably lateness was counted in hours not minutes, and even the short crossing to Tilos from Rhodes would take 3 to 4 hours with every organ in your body vibrating with the throb of ancient engines transmitted through wooden slatted seats. Those ferries have now been pensioned off again, this time to the Philippines, reappearing occasionally and briefly on a news headline when disaster strikes.
Now the ferries plying the Aegean are modern, well equipped and fast. Few more so than the Dodekanisos Seaways high speed catamarans. An hour and a half after leaving Rhodes I was one of the first off the ferry with my Big Bag, no accommodation booked, just winging-it, as you do in Greece. I was streaking along ahead of the throng, heading for a hotel I have stayed in before, not cheap but comfortable and a reasonably close trundle to the harbour for my ferry to Nisyros the following morning, when I was greeted by a shout of “You’re not supposed to be here. You should be on the next island north”. People I know who live and have accommodation on the island had picked this up on my blog, recognised my sandaled feet and were barracking me from their perch above the harbour, monitoring comings and goings. My response was typically self-serving: “I don’t suppose you have a room for the night?” .
They did. Perfect! One short carry up the steps and I had an apartment looking straight down onto the harbour and the bay beyond. Fabulous view of the moon rising over the ridge on the far side of the bay. Maybe a 30-second walk to the ferry in the morning. Life is tough.
More people greeted me and shook my hand as I walked through the town (village size really!) than when I get home. These are a very friendly people. I had to explain time and again that I was only here for one night and leaving next morning. Genuinely warm welcome even though I had wished folk ‘καλο χειμώνα’, ‘a good winter’ when I left at the end of July after a 3-week stay.
Yet another warm welcome and good meal in Sofia’s Restaurant and then a memorable evening in the main square with live music, a semi-formal family celebration it seems. The music was good , VERY good. The players sat under a canopy of bougainvillea, a guitar, two bouzoukia and one violin-sized instrument with a crooked neck, rested on the thigh and bowed (Cretan Lyra??). The instruments themselves were works of art, beautifully designed and crafted in wood, fret boards inlaid with mother-of-pearl. The music was fast and intricate. I left some time after 02.00 and continued to listen from the balcony of my apartment.
Musical technique was far in advance of the BBQ technique being carried out against the side wall of a house producing vast clouds of smoke which went straight up until the evening breeze picked up after which it swirled around the players and those nearby. Who needs dry ice in a nightclub.
What a great start to my third trip to Greece this year.
Very relaxed , slow-paced start to Thursday.
At 11.15 another high speed cat to Nisyros where, 45 minutes later I was picked up and whisked to the hotel. The balcony doors were open and swallows sat chattering outside on the electricity wires like notes on a line of music. I don’t believe in omens but it set the right mood.
Unpack, quick change, camera rucksack re-packed in hiking-configuration, cold water and bananas bought and by 13.15 I was off up into the mountains, just in time to escape the mass invasion by Russian day-trippers come over from Kos.