When I start to write this dairy, we are already one week on the way. At the moment I sit cosily in a bar in Mandhráki (Níssyros) near the sea with a view upon Kós. I enjoy a kafés frappé and a small icecream. The murmuring water and the sound of traditional Greek music has to stir up my inspiration...
The furthest Greek island group from the mainland, the Dodecanese lie close to the Turkish coast — some of the island like f.e. Kós, almost within hailing distance of Anatolia. Kós is the second largest and most popular island in the Dodecanese. Albeit its main cause of the popularity are the numerous and beautiful beaches nestled in picturesque coves or extending over kilometres with crystalline waters varying from azure to emerald, we also want to discover its hinterland and wild beauty.
A visit to Níssyros will be truly enchanting to those who are looking for a characterfull, unspoilt island! Níssyros is one of the smaller islands in the Dodecanese. The island is conical in shape and mostly mountainous, consisting of volcanic rock formations and outcrops of stone produced by the periodic action of the volcano. The imposing volcano is a unique phenomenon unparalleled in its natural beauty, impresses the visitor as soon as he sets foot upon the island, filling him with admiration, thought and awe. Níssyros offers good walking opportunities through the countryside together with an ideal blend of natural beauty and a glorious historical past.
Arguably the most beautiful and certainly the best known of the smaller Dodecanese, Pátmos has a distinctive, immediately palpable atmosphere. Pátmos lies at the northern fringe of the archipelago offering architecture and landscapes more typical of the Cyclades.
Monday, June 9
With an early charter flight we travel from Brussels to Kós. Around noon — we already set forward our clock by one hour — we land on the third largest island of the Dodecanese (the second most popular and touristy after Rhodes). We can't find a bus from Andimáhia to the captial town of Kós. We don't wanna wait the whole afternoon so we take a cab. There are not so many roads on Kós. One main road connects the far end villages Kéfalos and Kós Town on this long, narrow piece of island. We get out at the tourist information office near the coast to ask for a list of pensions as well as the schedule for the busses. Last year — when we were on Santoríni and Náxos — it was a very useful document. It doesn't only tells you at what time the busses leave in one city but it also mentions when they return to that village. Because I came along Pension Alexis in several books it's obvious that we go see there first. After a few minutes walk we ring the doorbell. We get a warm reception from Sonia, the sister of Alexis. There are still some rooms available. She pours out a drink and takes a street map of Kós to show us some places of interest as well as some nice restaurants and beaches. While our rooms get cleaned we go for an exploration of the village. Many wooden sailing boats come to archor in the harbour (photo). By every sailing boat there's a person who hands over a visiting card to the tourists trying to sell an excursion. The most famous destinations are daytrips to Kálymnos and Bodrum, which we can see from here. The harbour is protected by a knights' castle which looks more like a citadel. It catches the eye that Kós Town mainly brings tourism into focus because the old town is only accessible for pedestrians. It retains a thoroughly commercialized centre with all kinds of tourist boutiques, sidewalk cafés and snack bars. Whitewashed cubic houses with bright coloured shutters and doors, a huge gate covered with thousands of bourgainvillaeas, Venetian castles and an isolated minaret (photo) and two mosques built according to Ottoman style are harmoniously blended together, forming an attractive and picturesque architecture. The beauty of the scenery is increased by the abundance of greenery and flowers. After the scouting exploration through the stone-paved narrow alleys and steps we end up drinking a kafés frappé in one of the traditional kafenía. Afterwards we take a shower and walk over to one of the restaurants nearby Sonia indicated on the street map. It is located at a peaceful square some 300 m from the pension. And it's very quiet compared to busyness of the tavernas near the coastline. At 'Philoxenia' we get a warm welcome too. The owner is a young man. I order souvláki and Lotte prefers lamb (arnísio). We both get a wooden plate with delicious tzatzíki, rice, vegetables and French fries. It suits all tastes. When we want to settle the bill we get a tequilla on the house. Jámas! We make another walk along the harbour before we go to sleep. Probably because the high season hasn't started yet there's a relaxing and fine atmosphere in town.
Tuesday, June 10
A yummy breakfast on the covered terrace; yoghurt with honey (my favorite), toast with jam, orange juice and coffee. I do remember that the best honey is reckoned to be the pure-thyme variety from Náxos. Meanwhile we make plans to walk near the coastline to the beach of Tigáki. They say that it's one of the most beautiful and most popular beaches of the island of Kós. It is a long white sandy beach extending over 10 kilometres with crystalline shallow waters. The owner of the restaurant estimated the distance between the town of Kós and Tigáki to 6 km. We start to stroll the beach in Kós. Every ten minutes somebody asks us if we want a sunbed. Every bar has its own beach. The beach is made of little pebble stones here and the water becomes deep very fast. As we reach Cape Skandhári we suddenly walk into a military domain and we have to do an about-turn. In other words, we can't walk around the cape near the coast. A little detour leads us to the road near the coast. We soon realize that Tigáki is much further than 6 km. Unperturbed we follow the asphalt road until it goes back inland. We march on along the waterline but it isn't the best way to make progress. A little further — still no sight of Tigáki — there's another sandy track which brings us to an improvised little café next to a boat that's been high and dry. We are glad to sit in the shade for a little while. We order a Greek salade and some refreshing drinks. Thereafter it's another half an hour walk till we come across the first parasols on the beach of Tigáki. Tired of this long walk we lay down on a sunbed under a parasol. Nobody comes or asks anything? We see at what time we can take the bus back. We have still some time for some sunbathing and a swim. Contrary to the seaside at Kós Town I can easily walk 50m into the sea overhere before I get a ducking. The sunbeds are not pressed against eachother either. So our first acquaintance with Tigáki beach is satisfying so far. When we leave the beach for a beer in one of the bars nearby we notice that they normally ask EUR 3 for one sunbed. Today we have had a lucky break. That is probably a reward for the 12 km walk!
For EUR 1.30 each person we are back in the town of Kós by bus. After a refreshing shower we visit another restaurant that is on our list of recommendations. It's called 'Hellas' and it's also nearby the pension. No so traquil as yesterday but still okay. Today we order typical Greek dolmades (stuffed wineleaves) and an oven-baked casserole dish, moussaká. It's delicious too. Because its location is nearer to the tavernas it gets more crowdy than the restaurant we were yesterday. Anyhow, when we wanna pay the bill we also get a sweet drink on the house. We stroll a little more through the streets and then dodo.
Wednesday, June 11
Walking tour no 1. Today we take the bus to Ziá early in the morning for a first test. We wanna climb the highest peak on the island. Ziá, one of the villages nesteld amidst the island's only natural forest, is a picturesque and charming little village 350 m above sea level. We have to go up yet another 500 m by foot. We start to follow a stone-paved narrow path through the village until we reach a sandy track. It leads us along olive and cypress trees. Near a marking we step over to a small foothpath between the rocks. The mountain path goes steeper and steeper. It's pretty hot and it's quite a distance to climb. We rise criss-cross till we reach the tree line. Lotte keeps up a good round by which I'm all in a sweat. On this path we see some tortoises and a little bit further we get to a plateau. The last part is the easiest part. This hike up to the 846 metre high Díkeos peak rewards us with an excellent panoramic view over whole of Kós and the surrounding islands, Kálymnos in the north and Níssyros to the south (photo). While Lotte does some meditation near the Metamórfosis chapel, I have a sip of water and shoot some photographs. We descend by the same route. Lukely I don't have to sweat so much anymore. Ziá is made up mostly by tavernas and tourist shops. They say it's famous for its sunsets. Because it isn't possible to watch sundown at the town of Kós itself a lot of people come up here every evening.
We return to Kós Town in the early afternoon by bus and take the rest of the afternoon off to rest on the bed. Not unusual after such a heavy walk in the blazing sun. In the evening we go to the third place on our list of recommendations. 'Psaropoúla' a simple fish restaurant to the west of the harbour. The owner gets fresh fish every day from a friendly fisherman. So we order fish of course; sole and swordfish. It's good but this place is less pleasant than the two previous ones. Tonight we take a walk around the fort before we go to sleep.
Thursday, June 12
We have a long lie-in. There was a lot of noise from the scooters last night and every morning around 5 o'clock the garbage truck passes by. Today no early bus. We have decided to take a day off. Isn't that why we are on vacation? So we take the bus to the beach of Tigáki to relax and read under a parasol. The sea water isn't very cold so now and then I make a splash. On the beach stand showers to rinse the salt off your body. Today we've payed EUR 6 to hire two sunbeds for the whole day. Nearby in the little village there's a small supermarket where we can buy cold drinks, yoghurt or ice creams. At the end of the day we've got a little bit suntan.
We return to the town of Kós for dinner. We walk back to the sidewalk restaurant 'Philoxenia'. While we are waiting for our meal, an old man on a vespa arrives. He parks his moped near the sidewalk where we are and sits there. After a while he walks around the pick-up truck that is parked across the street in front of a little house. It seems to be his house. He enters but comes back pacing up and down the pavement. When the pick-up leaves after half an hour he takes his vespa and puts it on the pavement in front of his house. Nico, the owner of the restaurant, tells us that this 74 years old man always grouses about the fact that somebody parks in front of his house while he himself always parks his brand-new Ford Mondeo in front of his house next to the terrace of the restaurant. It seems that he only uses his car once a week for about ten minutes. Why did he wanted a new car because he always goes to the grocery with his moped and his shopping basket? Anyhow... The lamb chops and the souzoukakia (stew with rice-pasta in tomato red wine sauce) are delicious. After a large pint of beer we get another drink on the house. This time it's a mix of tequila, orange juice and blue curaçao with lime and a little greek flag. Jámas! It's still very hot during the night. It doesn't cool off in our room.
Friday, June 13
Walking tour no 2. No breakfast. We buy some water and fruit in the market hall on the way to the bus station. At 8.40 am we go to Ziá again. This time we wanna do a hike through the Díkeos mountains back to Kós Town. It's a walk for about 17 km. The way out of Ziá leads us through a pine forest so that we are sheltered by the tall trees from the sun. Around 9 o'clock it already is 30°C that is to say. According to our German book this hike will take about 5 hours and we have to bridge a 500 metre difference in altitude. After one kilometre we pass a cemetery. Here we have to climb a litte bit to an old chapel. There are still some remnants of former frescoes but most of them are partly become fainted or even vandalized. Within the chapel we hear some strange noises. That seem to be a dozen little bats and something that hides in, behind or under an old closet. We can't see it. We move on over the mountain slope through another pine forest (photo). In the valley we see a lot of olive trees. We cross several tortoises on our way. Unfortunately it isn't possible to climb the mountain top of Kefala because it's part of a military zone. The more we walk in the direction of the region south of the town of Kós, the cypresses and pine trees disappear and make way for a rocky plateau (photo). The fresh air gets polluted by a waste product incineration plant a few hundreds metres below. The wind blows the filthy smog into the mountains. Actually you can see this plume of smoke from everywhere on the east side of the island. I hope they'll soon find another way to incinerate rubbish in a more environment-friendly way. We see many falcons around here but I can't distinguish a peregrine falcon from another one. We change direction. While we had a panoramic view over the northern part of the island uptil here, we now walk beside the rocky slope on the south side of Kós. It goes down very steep. We walk around the Erimitus mountain until we reach a forest of eucalyptus trees from where we have to find our way down. If we read the description in our book it mentions that there's a labyrinth of small paths and a lot of them come to a dead end. And yes, our first attempt comes to a strike after 500 m because of an end. We follow a wide path at our second attempt. We have to nose our way carefullly because there are many loose stones and we have to look out that we don't shove away. Here and there we notice that there must have come down a lot of water once. It is sweltering hot and alas no light breeze at all. Finally we get to an asphalt road and find our way to the centre of Kós Town where we flop down in the seats of a kafenion. This has been a beautiful walk.
Saturday, June 14
Yet another lazy day at the Tigáki beach and the azure to emerald waters...
Sunday, June 15
Walking tour no 3. We take the early bus to Pylí, surrounded by green fertile fields. Pylí is full of traditional houses kept in very good conditions. We start our walk in the centre of the village following an asphalt road, roughly 3 km southeast, until we get to the foot of a mountain hill of Paleó Pylí near to a spring. We see the castle on its rock, straight ahead. A sandy track leads us further away from the medieval fort. En route we pass the remains of an abandoned stable as well as a chaotic farm (photo) and an one metre long black snake. The track stops at a taberna located on a rock in front of the ruins of Paleó Pylí. Albeit the fact that we heard an annoying sound of a generator during the walk we enjoy the silence on their cosy terrace under a parasol. The generator has been hide away on the other side of the rock. Via a small foot-path we go down and up again until we reach the top of the old fort. Seen from the fort, the taberna's location has been a good idea. We take a stair-path down till we reach the spring again. In the early afternoon we ride back to Kós Town by bus and we go sunbathing on one of the pebble stone beaches. We don't like it as much as the fine white sandy beaches at Tigáki. In the evening we make reservations for a boat to Níssyros. We go over to 'Hellas' to have dinner and afterwards we walk over to 'Philoxenia' to say goodbye to Nico. When he sees us he comes forward with the words: "I was thinking you didn't come anymore". He treats us to a drink and we talk about one thing and another and Greek music. He tells us he's 33 years old and worked in this restaurant for about 14 years. He owns it since six months ago. Although he has things well organized, he doesn't do good business...
Monday, June 16
After a coffee and goodbye we leave the pension and walk over to the harbour to catch the boat at 8.15 am. As we clear the harbour the only thing that interferes with our view is the filthy brown plume of smoke. The sea is calm and the island of Níssyros slowly comes closer (photo). As we sail into the harbour we see red letters on the roof of a white building nearby, saying 'Romantzo'. It is the name of the hotel Sonia recommended us. After one and an half hour we set foot ashore the concrete quay of Mandráki. We are almost the only backpack tourists. Strange, there's nobody here to offer us a room. That was different last year when we disembarked on Náxos. We walk into 'Romantzo' and everything is settled quickly. The manager sits outside in the shade of one of the trees on his covered terrace and rises to his feet asking "Belgio?". Maybe Sonia has made a phone call? We don't know. We get a large room with a simple bathroom on the roof garden. According to what is written 'Romantzo' is the first and thereby the oldest hotel/restaurant in Mandráki. You can see its glory days are over but we get the well-kept room for EUR 28, breakfast included. We have a very large terrace with a perfect view upon the boats in the harbour and the dome of the little church on the other side of the street. The manager of the hotel also informs us about the fact that the bus service is exceptionally expanded yesterday and today. Every 2 or 3 hours a bus departs from the harbour. Normally there's a bus at 7.15 am and one at 1.30 pm.
First, we stroll into the village for a yoghurt with honey. Mandráki is a very pretty village by the sea in typical Greek style with narrow streets lined with tightly packed white-washed houses, whose brightly painted balconies and shutters are mandated by law. Looking into some narrow streets we get to see blue patches of sea. As we walk back to the harbour to take the bus, there's a lot of busyness. An excursion boat from Kós just arrived and they are trying to get all these daytrippers on the right bus to the volcano's crater. We check with the authorities in a small office nearby if the hours of the bus are still correct and take the only bus that isn't going to the volcano. We plan to go to Nikiá and back. We are only five people on the bus and the others get off at the next stop. At first we pass through Páli, then Emboriós and final stop at Nikiá. Nikiá is the farthest point on Níssyros. It's a village on the east side of the volcano's caldera. Obviously not everybody is aware of the adaptation of the bus schedule. The chauffeur says it's the last bus so we have to take this one back. But by this trip we have an overview of what lies ahead of us. Life here is very laidback. We think that we are gonna spend some time on this little island.
Back in Mandráki we relax and read about the possibilities on the island. After a shower we stroll back into town to search for Taverna Nissiros, the oldest eatery in town. We find it somewhere behind a corner. A young man tells us they fire the grill at 8 o'clock in the evening. We decide to have a drink already. We order two souvlákia. After awhile the five tables outside are occupied. Because of its location we're sheltered here from the wind but there's no view upon the sea and the sunset. An older man with a traditional Greek hair style comes out to manage the barbecue. We both get four satés with French fries and a tomato salade. When we finish our dinner the sun has already disappeared behind the western part of Kós, which we can easily see from the seaside. It's a sultry night.
Tuesday, June 17
Walking tour no 4. Last night it didn't cool off in our room so we decide to hire the remote control for the airco in the morning. After a simple breakfast we put on our hiking boots. Níssyros offers good walking opportunities through the countryside and we are about to explore that. We walk up the concrete road next to our hotel and pass Mandráki from above. On this side it is surrounded by the community orchard (kámbos) and two ancient fortresses. The road steeply zigzags up. A marked path handily shortcuts hairpin bends. It leads us to an enormous tree in front of a monastery. The shade and a little breeze are a welcome chill. As we look on the topographical walking map (of Beate and Jürgen Franke) — we got for free at the tourist information — there are indead standing three wooden arrows on this spot. These are the starting points for walks through the mountains to the volcano, Emboriós and to the highest point of the island. We don't wanna climb much anymore today so we take the foot-path that will lead us to the volcano's crater from where we hopefully can catch a bus back. When I look at the altitude lines on the map, this is an easy path with not many up and downs. We descend a little bit into a valley between two mountain slopes (photo). There are many trees so now and then we can walk in the shade (photo). That does good because it's very hot. Once we pass the highest point of the path I expected to sea a glimpse of the volcano already but my assessment deceives me. We don't walk high enough. The descend is hampered by plenty of the loose stones by which you can easily lose your footing. Suddenly we see a little herd of piglets with a lot of coloured dots on their fur — not so pink as we use to know — who rapidly run away to some kind of stonen stable to hide by mother sow and father beer. The same night I read that it's common that there are pigs in the mountains like in other places they herd goats in the mountains. That also explains why there are so many small stonen buildings with only one entrance. After a two-hour-plus walk we get on the asphalt road on the Lakka plateau that leads to the crater. As we walk on to there we see three busses in the distance. They are about to leave when we get to them. Also the bus that passes us turns at parking place near a little snack bar and rides back again. But there are still some people wandering around so we guess that the last bus — a white one with number 30 — regularly shuttles between the harbour of Mandráki and the volcano. The convoy of blue busses only transports daytrippers coming from Kós or Kardámena who visit the crater in a high speed. These tours tend to monopolize the crater floor between 11 am and 2 pm. Maybe we are lucky all the busses just left. As we descend into the imposing volcano crater, a sulphurous stench drifts out to meet us (photo). The sunken main crater of Stéfanos is extraordinary, a moonscape of grey, brown and sickly yellow. It is 300 metres in diameter and 25 metres deep. The smell of rotten eggs increases. The volcano is unique of its kind in Greece, and apart from its scientific interest, is of the greatest beauty. After millions of years of activity, the volcano is now extinct but there are still many holes where sulphureous fumes comes out (photo). In the larger holes you can even hear the water boiling and bubbling and the soil temperature nearby a hole is adequately hot (photo). Impressive! We get on the white bus which brings us back to our hotel for free. The rest of the afternoon we spend time on our terrace reading and watching the sailing boats moor in the harbour. Towards 6 o'clock we stroll to a cosy bar with a view over the sea. While the sun goes down we drink another kafés frappé while listening to the music and the sound of the breakers dash against the rocks only a few metres away. After sunset we go to the grill restaurant again. This evening Lotte prefers lambchops while I choose the octopus. As starter we take a tzatzíki,. Before we go to bed we get the remote control of the air conditioning...
I think we have found our paradise on this small island as it is very beautiful. We like the laidback atmosphere (photo) and the fact that it's not commercialised, since it has few visitors and the people do not depend on tourism. The excursion boats from Kós stay for a couple of hours, and then there is quiet again. People here live off fishing and farming, since the volcanic soil is fertile. Fruit, olives and nuts are grown, and there is a special flora and fauna.
Wednesday, June 18
Walking tour no 5. After breakfast we rent a moped because we wanna do another walk that starts at the monastery of Evangelístra. Around 10 am we ride up the concrete road towards the starting point. Sometimes when we have to make a U-turn the scooter is in trouble, probably by the steepness in combination with our weight. For safety's sake we filled the moped up at the only service station on the island a little bit outside Mandráki. Later, it seems that it will be far to much, even if we wanna ride around the island. We park the scooter in the shade under the big tree near the monastery and start a two-hour-round trip to Diavatis, the island's summit (698 m). The route is well marked with cairns of white paint. The first part of the route is covered with loose stones but after a few hundred metres we reach a more rocky part nearby a goat stable. From here the only way is up. In a zigzag we climb up a small path. We get shade from the trees and hang over rocks beside the track but I'm all in a sweat anyhow. A hat against the sun would be no luxury. When we get a sight of the first white house the wind is rising. When we reach the white building it seems to be a little church surrounded by a wall. Within these walls stand several enormous fig and walnut trees. The path stops at the church so from here we have to find our way up to the other little white chapel on the top, I guess about 50 metres higher. As we get to the concrete pillar which marks the highest point our efforts are not completely rewarded because we can't see the crater from here. There's another lower plateau before the mountain goes down. But we have a panoramic view over the rest of the island as we see Nikiá and Emboriós, both perching on the crest of a hill 400 metres above sea level. I've noticed there are a lot of ladybirds on the prickly bushes. You can also hear the chirp of a particular birds. One kind is grey with a little black on its tail, the other kind is also grey but has black and redbrown on his head and tail. I don't know neither kind. They sit on a small rock at a safe distance from us. Probably they are communicating with eachother.
The descend goes fast and easy. We stop at the hotel to switch our walking shoes for sandals and we ride on to visit the other villages on the island. At first we stop at Páli, a small fishing village, only 4 km from Mandráki. It is an excellent hangout to have lunch. So, we order a Greek salade. Just a little bit outside Páli stands an enormous unfinished building close to the sea. I read that it was meant to be a new hotel but the building constructor had to stop the activity because of a storm of protest from the islanders. We ride on to the virtually abandoned village of Emboriós (350 m) where pigs and free-ranging cattle far outnumber the people, though the place is slowly being bought up and restored. After the earthquake most of the villagers moved to the coast and founded Páli. As I walk through the paved streets I notice there's indead a lack of occupancy. From a whitewashed Byzantine church on a hill I see many ramshackled and collapsed houses. The white colour is gone but here and there you can still see remains of blue paint on the windows and doorposts (photo). I assume that the third walk we haven't done yet ends here. We take the scooter up to Nikiá, the last village on the road and even so the highest (450 m). Nikiá only has seventy inhabitants. After we stroll through the narrow alleyways we get to the engagingly round square of the village which is paved with hokhláki (pebble mosaic) forming a lovely mosaic of white lines and dark red round stones. It looks much smaller than I had imagined. The only café is closed and there's absolutely no sign of life. We sit down in the shade. The kafenío — which you can see on many photographs together with the square — isn't white with blue coloured shutters and doors anymore. As we see it, it's more alike greyish brown. After a couple of minutes an old man with a walking stick appears from behind a corner and asks us from where we are. We tell him that we are Belgians by descent. Then he makes an allusion to the fact that there's often a group from Belgium coming to Nikiá. We suppose that could be a group of Anders Reizen because we've seen a walking vacation on Níssyros in their brochure. The man calls for his daughter to open the café and asks us to join him to sit at a table outside. He tells us he's 93 years old and that his daughter runs the taverna nowadays. As we order something to drink we treat him. He asks for a soumada, an alcoholic drink based on almonds which looks like oúzo when mixed with water. It's good for his stomach, he says. Suddenly he notices that Lotte tries to find some words in Italian by which he asks if she speaks Italian. He speaks Italian because Níssyros has been occupied by the Italians for a long time. They talk about why most of the people left Nikiá, about the war and the hateful march of the Americans in the rest of the world and about the fact that the introduction of the Euro isn't a good cause for the ordinary Greek. He tells us about his daughter and son and his eight grandchildren. We have one more view across the volcano's caldera (photo) before we leave. As we say goodbye he urges us to be carefully with the scooter.
We take a side-road just outside Nikiá in the direction of Pahiá Ámmos but after fifteen minutes we still haven't reached the sea. The concrete road keeps on twisting and zigzaging steeply downwards but it doesn't seem to come to an end. We decide to do an about-turn and ride back up with a whirring engine. On our way back we stop at the place where we rented the moped to ask if we could keep it until tomorrow around noon. That will give us the opportunity to ride up once more to Evangelístra in the morning to do the walk to Emboriós. After a shower in our hotel we stroll to our favorite bar for an aperitif. We buy a few more picture postcards to write about our fantastic experiences to our friends at home. After another lovely sunset (photo) we have to choose which fish we want them to grill on the barbecue at Nissiros.
Thursday, June 19
Walking tour no 6. We wake up early because we want to do the third walk from Evangelístra before it gets to hot. We ride up the mountain to the monastery and start to hike in the direction of Emboriós. After 1 km we land up in an improvised goat farm. It's made of woodwork, a lot of iron wires and other recycled materials. Within the fenced-in area is also build a wooden hut or stable. The farmer just opened the wicket-door of the stable. Hundreds of goats run back and forth, some of them carry a bell. He shows us how to proceed through this chaos. Behind the farm we see another red dot painted on a rock so we know we are on the right track again. We climb higher via the terraced mountain slope (photo). The pleasant perfume of the numerous thyme bushes with beautiful purple little flowers reaches our noses. There's consideraly more wind today by which the view over the sea and the surrounding islands is much clearer. The sailing boats look like little dots on the gigantic blue water surface. We pass an overhanging rock that is beautifully eroded by which flowing lines came into being. This is the highest point on the track. From here we can already see the ruins of Emboriós in the distance. The foot-path descends and suddenly five piglets jumps out from the bushes in front of us. They flee when they see us approaching them. A little bit further the same thing happens again but this time I suppose they are partridges chicks. We enter Emboriós through the collapsed houses. In front of the little Byzantine church is a small taverna where we halt to have a yoghurt with honey and a kafés frappé. The girl has a very little terrace with an excellent panoramic view over the caldera (photo). Everything is peaceful. The stream of busses hasn't got into stride yet.
After half an hour we follow our footsteps back to the moped. We have breakfast in the hotel before we return the scooter. The rest of the afternoon we relax on the rooftop terrace. I've almost finished my book, 'The Perfume' written by Patrick Süskind (photo). It's strange but since I've started to read it, I've payed more attention to all kinds of odeurs. Meanwhile we see some ferry boats, catamarrans and sailors arrive in the harbour. That's one of the plus points having a room on the roof garden of Romantzo. Around 6 pm...
Friday, June 20
Today we buy tickets for the ferry boat to Pátmos that makes a stop-over at 6 pm coming from Rhodes (EUR 12 per person). We relax on the black-rock beach of Hokhláki behind the Knights' castle at the far end of Mandráki. In the afternoon we pack our things and get some sandwiches to take along. Almost perfectly on time the big ferry boat arrives in the harbour (photo). The crossing lasts five hours. At 1 am we disembark in Pátmos. We are tired and look forward to see somebody with a sign 'Australis'. While we had breakfast this morning we asked the manager of 'Hotel Romantzo' to telephone to 'Australis' to inform if they have a room available. We chose that place because the hotel receives good reviews in the guide books ánd Sonia also gave us a visiting card. They would send somebody to pick us up. And yeas indead, there's a young man waiting for us. He brings us to the hotel, that is located more or less a ten minutes walk from the harbour, in Netiá. We are happy to go to sleep.
Saturday, June 21
Early in the morning I step out on the little balcony I overview the harbour village Skalá and the monastery on top of the hill behind it. I also see where the noise we heard last night comes from. It's an electricity company nearby. When we open the door of the room, we notice that we arrived at the right place. It's a pleasant hotel overgrown with plenty of coloured bourgainvilleaes and other kind of flowers. The hotel is well-cared-for and it has this small cosy sitting corners. We meet the manager while we have breakfast on the covered terrace. Just like his son we met last night, he speaks English fluently. He welcomes us in his earthly paradise. 'Australis' is run by a Greek-Australian family. We can have the room for EUR 25 a day, breakfast not included. That's an additional charge of EUR 5 per person. His daughter takes care of the breakfast. He assures us that we'll come back one day because a lot of his guests did. We find our bread buttered on both sides.
In the early afternoon we explore Skalá. It is the main harbour of Pátmos and the biggest and most populated settlement, located in the central part of the island. Skalá is a charming village built around a lovely port. Picturesque taverns, restaurants, shops of all kinds, Greek cafés and bars have the upper hand. Pátmos has a traditional Dodecanese architecture, which reminds of the Cycladic architecture, whitewashed cubic houses made of heavy stones, with flat or tiled roofs and with coloured shutters and doors. On our return we take a side-road to the nearest beach of Netiá, fifteen-minutes walking from our hotel. Melóï beach is located at a bay and has a proper slender sandy beach where you can find some shade under the olive trees.
Sunday, June 22
After breakpast we prepare to visit the imposing fortified monastery of Ayíou Ioánnou Theológou (St John) on top of the hill at Hóra. We are set for the forty-minute walk. To find its start, we walk through Skála towards Hokhlakás. A little further on the road we find a cobbled foot-path that leads us through some trees to the smaller monastery of Apokálypsis built around the cave where St John heard the voice of God (photo). We climb on to the capital of Pátmos and we arrive just in time to get a glimpse of the warren of interconnecting courtyards, chapels, stairways, arcades and roof terraces inside the fortified monastery of St John. The inside church has many painted ceilings and frescoes of medieval icons and splendid mosaic foors. Pátmos has a strong religious past because it is where Saint John the Divine had its revelation and wrote the Apocalypse. Pátmos used to be an important place of pilgrimage and belonged to the Church once. From this unique past, the impressive monastery of Saint John and signs prohibiting nude bathing and topless are remaining. Because the monastery closes its door at 2 pm we have to come back another day. We walk back to the hotel to pick up our beach bag and go sunbathing at the beach of Melóï. There's an unfavourable wind by which the sand gets blown up. The crystal clear water is also chilly to touch.
Monday, June 23
The nights on Pátmos are less sultry because there's a moderate wind blowing onshore in the evening. For EUR 9 we rent a scooter by the manager's second son. At first we ride northwards and pass the beach of Agriolivádho. It's a sandy beach where you can hire sunbeds and parasols. Maybe something for later. We move on to Kámbos where the road branches off. As we take a look on the road map both directions lead to a point on this craggy island where it ends near a cliff. It isn't possible go round the island because of it's elongated with a jagged coastline (photo). We turn right until we reach a cosy sand-and-gravel beach by another bay at Livádo wherein a very small islet with a chapel lies. We take a dive and read some in the sun. Pátmos is a mountainous island with rocky soil, beautiful coastal areas and nice beaches with crystal clear waters and charming traditional villages with whitewashed cubic houses. Many lovely chapels and churches are scattered around the island, enriching the architectural style of Pátmos.
At noon we ride back to Kámbos to have lunch in the taverna in front of the church near the junction. The people don't speak any other language than Greek so they invite us into the kitchen to see what's cooking. There are five big cauldrons simmering on the stove. I decide just to take a Greek salade this time of the day. Lotte chooses a stew with chickpeas. After lunch we ride southwards via Skála to Gríkou and from there to a little church on top of the highest peak of the island. The small concrete road uphill is very very steep and on one side there's a yawning chasm without any kind of fence. While we ride up I'm asking myself how we're gonna descend again; will the brakes hold out? There's a powerful wind on top. We have a splendid panoramic view over the sea on one side and the Byzantine monastery of Saint John on the other side. I quickly take a picture and then, with a jam on the brakes, we go back down again. This is dangerous. Halfway Lotte decides to get off so that the moped should carry less weight. Especially within the hairpin benches I get some palpitations but after an anxious ouf we are back on the main road again. We pass by a few beaches and stop over at Gríkou (photo) for a drink before we move on to Hóra once more. I like to stroll through the picturesque cobbled alleys winding around the cubic houses that increase the beauty of the scenery. Hóra has some very good examples of the 17th century architectural style of the island. Beautiful mansions are testifying about the wealth of the inhabitants during this period. They are very austere, with imposing facades. It reminds me of the labyrinth of Hóra on Náxos last year. There's almost no sign of life except for dozens of cats.
Tuesday, June 24
A lazy day at the beach of Agriolivádho. In the afternoon I ride to Hóra again to wander around a little more. In the evening we make reservations for a fast Flying Dolphin back to Kós. The crossing costs EUR 19.50 per person.
Wednesday, June 25
We still have enough time to take breakfast at 'Australis'. Thereafter they drive us to the quay in the harbour. A first a little ferry boat to Sámos moors. This would also have been a good choice for us if we could fly back home from there. The Flying Dolphin to Kós arrives at 10.40 am. Via Tyli, Léros and Kàlymnos we sail at high speed back to Kós. The crossing takes a bit more than two hours. We decide to go and surprise Nico at his restaurant 'Xilophenia' but we find no-one at home. Then we walk to the bus station to get a bus to the other side of the island, to Kéfalos. I have a nap and after an hour we arrive in the centre of Kéfalos. I had other expectations so it's a litte bit a disillusionment. We've read that we should go to a particular café to ask for a room but unfortunately it comes to nothing. The barman tells us that there are no rooms available at the moment. We have to go searching down the hill near to the seaside. But then he calls somebody who comes over with his pick-up truck to take us there. A nice gesture because it would have been a very long walk in this heat... He drives us to a small house at the end of Kamári beach with a view upon the ZÍni mountain. There's a woman to welcome us and she offers us one of the two rooms in the small building in her garden. It's very quiet and we also have to little balconies, one in front and one in the back between the orange trees (photo). My disenchantement disappeares immediately. Here we will spend the last days of our vacation. In the evening we stroll near the seaside looking for one of the many fish tavernas to have dinner. We pick one with a small terrace near the sea and they serve excellent grilled tuna fish.
Here is where my journal stops. I haven't written down what we did the last days on Kós so I have to see behind my eyes to bring back memories. What follows is a short summary.
Thursday, June 26
Walking tour no 7. We leave early in the morning to walk up to Kéfalos and beyond. We try to find a way through the fields and very soon we have to start climbing. We find a sandy path that leads us to the serpentine road that goes up to Kéfalos, the one we went up yesterday by bus and came down by pick-up truck. It's only one more kilometre but with an upward fifteen percent rise. In the village we buy extra water to carry along to the monastery of Áyios Ioánnis, another 7 kilometres from the village, mostly rising. We follow the main paved road, and cut off the curves, until the end of the line brings us to the appealing monastery. We are happy to take a break in the shade under a huge plane tree with an enormous trunk. Another serpentine concrete road leads to the top of the Látra mountain but it's fenced off because it's a military zone. We have a little chat with two men who carry out some maintenance work overhere. Because of the heat we don't wanna walk all the way back so we ask an English couple, who came up by car, if we could ride back with them. And they are so kind to deposit us in the streets of Kamári.
Friday, June 27
Walking tour no 8. This morning we take the bus from Kamári to the bus stop near Paradise beach to do another walk in the isthmus that is also called Volkania. We pass an old crater and some wells. It's an easy and short walk. As we reach the main road again we walk back to Camel beach, the smallest and loneliest, protected by a steep drive in. We spend a few hours on the beach and in the sea before taking the last bus back to Kamári where we go and see to rent a moped for the next day to ride back up to the monastery and continue the walk to Áyios Mámas at cape Kríkello.
Saturday, June 28
Walking tour no 9. We ride up the hill to Kéfalos and follow the main road to the monastery of Áyios Ioánnis again were we park the scooter. From here we follow a stonen off-road track to the south from where we have a beautiful view over the coastline a few hundred metres below (photo). There's another sandy track that goes down steeply. It's a walking path to the chapel of Áyios Theológos but we walk on in the direction of cape Kríkello. On the road we have a splendid view over the seaside between cape Pelli (photo) and cape Kríkello. After a little bit more than an hour we reach the ruins of Áyios Mámas at the most southwestern point of Kós. We have a picnic and a siesta before we return in our footsteps. It's very hot and we are happy when we reach the scooter again. On the way back we take a turn left and follow a serpentine road down to Áyios Theológos. It's very windy. There's a taverna near the beach where we stop a drink a coffee. We ride on a little further and find ourselves a cosy private pebbled beach where we spend our time until sundown... We're a happy couple and we've had a lovely time on these Dodecanese islands (photo).
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