May 29, 2008
[ JOURNALENTRY BY MOLLY ]
I suppose I’d better jump ahead – Stacy White wrote the last post for us, detailing Fineke and Kos. Here’s our story through our visit to Santorini:
Kos, when pronounced, rhymes with posh for good reason – it was heaven. Because it’s early in the season, we relaxed on fancy loungers at this multi-level bar/restaurant with marble decks that scamper straight from the sea up mighty boulders to the top of the cliff. The views and ambience are very special here. Wheat couldn’t help himself and had a swim, braving the water that wasn’t as cold as we thought it might be. A lovely, lovely day in Kos – skip Monaco forever and come here instead. (And Stacy wan’t kidding about the talking cat. I thought it was an old Turkish woman talking to her cat but when I looked down at the stoop there wasn’t no woman, it was the cat talking! The damn thing was calling the other cats to prayer or something. It was yodeling and yowling in Turkish, and had the other cat (and we) mesmerized. FREAKY.)
A "dolmoosh" (bus) ride later and we’re back in Finike, preparing to head to Rhodos. All the little delightful bright aqua cove beaches are along this highway ride, each with it’s own bar/restaurant renting loungers and umbrellas. Last time he was here, Stacy rented a car and drove this coast, bar hopping along the beaches. If we get a next time, that’s what we’ll do, too.
Finike is actually very cool as it is not a tourist town in any way. It’s a cool old city with a river through it with charming gardens and bridges, and it’s the orange capital, with many ort-istic statues commemorating the orange. It was great to be in a regular, bustling Turkish town and we were shocked at the difference in prices. Efes went from 3 Euros to just over 1 Euro, and the food was correspondingly cheaper. We’d have stayed another day if we hadn’t lost all our free days in Kemer. We did enjoy the UEFA Cup Final at a great Fineke bar, with the tables outdoors in the garden and a projection screen set up on the outdoor stage. Fun to participate in such a European diversion along with the locals. Too bad Manchester beat Chelsea in that double "overtime" shootout. This game would later give us fodder for meeting Brits all along our journey. Easy to engage strangers over futbol, and we got lots of non-typical American kudos for being aware of the favorite pasttime in the rest of the world.
We sailed for Rhodos after getting the boat hatch key duplicated in Finike. The captain likes to keep the main hatch key IN the hatch lock, thereby managing to stab every sailor in the back or in the face each time we go below. Wheat and Stacy argued this point with him to no avail (and I think I still have a scar from that damn key). Anyway, of course they were right and someone’s back bent that key right over in the lock, so the captain freaked out and ordered Stacy to get copies made. That alone was another unbuh experience. Try asking for that service sometime in another language! We kept getting what we thought were vague directions of the "over there around the corner"-type and indications that "he might not be open" but, when we finally approached the alley indicated by the third patient person who helped us, there was no storefront, just an old man sitting on a little wooden stool in front of a vacant city lot. He had a little tiny cart with a small parasol overhead. And on the cart was – you guessed it – a key-making machine. I kid you not. We could not believe our eyes (see pic). Not a hardware store or a locksmith, but a guy on a stool with a little cart. So we get the guy to make a copy of the key, and ask him for two more keys but he kept refusing to make any more. He had more blanks – we have no idea why he wouldn’t make more keys. He finally just packed up and left us laughing in the street. Bizarre!
We sailed overnight to the capital Rhodos, actually entering THE harbor/marina through the gates where the Colossus of Rhodes stood over two thousand years ago. Two THOUSAND years. (Lafayette is two hundred years old. The U.S. seems so insignificant sometimes.) It was pretty overwhelming to sail through that entrance as visitors have for centuries upon centuries. A very exciting moment that was stemmed only by the behavior of the panicked captain yelling orders and instructions – the chronic stress & tension caused by his ongoing beratement and constant tirades during the sail itself is not enough, departures and arrivals must be carried out with a maximum of hysteria as though everyone on board is either six years old or a total idiot, or both. So get over the harbor views and kick those other boats out of the way! USETHEPOLE, MAN! I stood fast and took pictures anyway, standing in the main hatch now that the key has been removed, so you can see each arrival if you want. Approaching these ancient cities by boat is riveting – they are always beautiful and surprising from the water! I’m very grateful to have had that experience; it’s a totally different perspective that I’ll always consider in future old-world travels.
In the marina, we were able to avail ourselves of the crappy showers/toilets and prepared to go into town (Wheat stood guard for me since the door didn’t close. The men didn’t even HAVE doors. It’s the Greek way.) We made our way to an ATM where Stacy spotted us 100 Euros – our first Euros so far. It’s always fun to look at new money until you realize that one Euro is worth $1.66 U.S.! We also note there are still doner kebaps available, but now they are called gyro pitas. Whatever you call it, we love it. This was near the bus stop in the modern cruise ship strip right behind the fanciest part of the marina. Right before that is the foot of the old, walled city – our first of the trip, and it was impressive. Upon entering the walled fortress, there seemed to be a Rennassaince Fest night with knights reenacting swordfights and little booths and spit-roasting pigs along the streets. The city is fine, and filled with tavernas, shops and even discos. We walked around and settled at one of the family owned restaurants to have dinner and drink Retsina, the cheap, resinous white wine. Cold and delicious!
Our next day in Rhodes Stacy and Wheat rented a car so that we could see the entire island. Before finding a vendor, we stopped at the gyros pita place by the bus station. We ate huge chicken gyros with French fries in them (as the pork was still undercooked) while watching the Greek owner create a full skewer of gyro meat. He pulled marinated steak after steak (this was all pork) out of a bin and layered one on top another each one bigger in circumference than the last. He packed them down before adding more. We could hardly imagine being able to lift the thing to get it on the "doner machine" which rotates the meat in front of three heating elements – each individually adjustable to cook the kebab properly as it reduces in size. (We knew from experience that later, in the evening, when the doner is small and pretty much on fire that they’d be done for the evening.)
Wheat found a car rental and they made a discussion about a rental, and the car was delivered by a nice gay man with good English. He walked us to the car and gave Stacy the keys and we were off. We drove west past the airport area, down along the quieter western coast, then midway down cut across the island on a "highway" that’s better referred to as a dirt road. One with boulders in it. And us in our V-1 rent-a-dink. It was pretty funny. Stacy turned out to be a masterful driver though so we made it back to paved civilization eventually. The middle of the island was fascinating. I got my first good look at olive groves, and we stopped in a town that seemed right out of the Alps, with all of it’s Swiss and Germanic influences. Swiss and Germanic prices, too, so we booked out of there and on to a little berg with a taverna overlooking the valley. The old man owner was there and his son was manning the grill. There were pictures of them on the wall that had to span at least thirty years of time – all spent right there, visiting with tourists and cooking them meals. They both seemed pretty happy in their little place in the world. (But they were WAY overcooking the meat – we’ve noticed this in both Greece and Turkey, they keep the meat on the spit until it loses half it weight/bulk, and then slice up the little hockey pucks and serve ‘em right up. At this point I’m missing beef and pork, but the grilled pork in Greece was the chewiest pork I’ve ever had to stomach.) We enjoyed our Mythos beers and drove on to the east coast, where tourism and rampant development meant the Greek version of Panama City Beach – seriously, THAT tacky. It was somehow both disappointing and comforting to realize that for good AND for ill, people are often the same halfway around the world. We booked out of there and found a great restaurant out in the boonies (Zathros’) with an English-speaking owner/chef who’d drove a cab in New York for years. We drank more Mythos (better than Efes) and I had a yummy beef stifado (like a tomato-y beef stew in a ceramic dish) while Stacy finally got a chance to order grilled octipoti (which I kept calling octipopo). It was admittedly over cooked with charring from the grill, but we enjoyed it nonetheless. By this time we had to head back (our relaxing day cruising the beaches of Rhodes has turned in to a grueling road rally!) so we zoomed the rest of the way and had an adventure in car return (YOU try to park a car in Rhodos! The fellas did a great job.) before heading to the "Bar Street" area and dining in an upstairs balcony overlooking the melee. Back to the boat for sleeping and prep for heading to the harbor of Tilos.
We motor-sailed in light westerly wind to arrive in Tilos and find the tiniest, sleepiest little village yet. Nothing sleepy about our loud arrival, of course, but once in we were delighted to escape the boat into the little town. (Escape is the right word – remember the hated passarella? Now it’s over the bow, step on to the swiveling anchor while someone pulls the bow line to get the boat close enough to the dock to reach back with your foot until you can stretch onto the dock. The passarella wasn’t so bad…) Well, callng Tilos a town is a bit of a stretch, but we walked along the cove beach and terrific marble "boardwalk" until we came to one of the restaurants that looked, uh, more open than the others? Anyway, a man was out front raking the beach stones, so we jumped at the opportunity. "Can you sell us some Mythos?" we ask. "Of course" he replies, "I have nothing else to do!" Turns out he "has good English" as Wheat says and he surprises us with his knowledge of U.S. politics, going in to the details of the Democratic Party nomination battle that was nearing a conclusion between Obama and Hilary Clinton. Wheat points out that the guy was about as happy with the current U.S. government administration as we are. (This was not the first nor the last time we’d appreciate the knowledge that others have of our government, while we Americans are ignorant of their own country’s politics.) This was another Greek restaurant owner that had a big pork roast turning on a spit over a grill and was cooking the hell out of it, flare ups and all. We left after a few drinks because we definitely weren’t going to eat dinner there! There were no facilities whatsoever at this harbor, so we freshened up best we could (can’t use the head in port, nor could we pretty much ever use it anyway since it was broken most of the journey) and headed out for dinner. The next morning, Wheat was laid up with a wrenched back so Stacy and I enjoyed "English breakfast" at the harborside diner. This was our first egg & bacon (more like thinly sliced ham or Canadian bacon) on the trip and the egg was fantastic – a large, fresh egg with a bright yellow yolk. We missed eggs! We ate our breakfast and watched the docking and unloading of a big tramp freighter. After all the drama and activity, the cargo ended up being building materials – shrink-wrapped pallets of bricks and what looked like flagstone were unloaded onto the dock. The Greek Islands version of a Dufrene’s Lumber delivery in Grand Isle. After provisioning at the harbor market (OMG those prices were the worst – $10 peanut butter, etc.) we sailed on to Thirra.
On to Thirra, the island formerly known as Santorini. We had a smooth and uneventful motor trip and good thing because Wheat was laid out the whole trip with backtrouble. If the sound of Antalya was the call to prayer, and the call of Kos was the public address system ("we’ll be turning off the water now"), then the song of Thirra/Santorini is the dredging barge re-digging one side of the marina and the constant house sparrow chirp as they nest in the sandy cliffs. (It strikes us odd that these ancient islands occasionally change their name. The locals shrug it off and say one name is more modern but you can use either name. ???) We sail into a very different harbor here – a marina very busy with charming local fishing boats and their endless cleaning and repairing of yellow nets, yet no marina facilities to speak of. Apparently they are building a modern office and sanitary block, but it’s not completed yet. It’s the Greek way, as Stacy says. The harbor is at the base of the cliffs, and we’ve got to go up the cliff stairs to get to a restaurant to find any facilities. So, of course, we freshen up as best we can (and we’re looking mighty rough by this time – sunburned and windblown, people are starting to assume we’re sailors just in. Is is the rumpled clothes, the red faces, or the smell? We’re not sure we want to know.) and head up the stairway. Now enters Dimitri into the picture. Dimitri owns the restaurant and hotel at the top of the stairs and goes out into the street to waylay poor strangers before they get past him to another joint. He is a character! There’s no saying "no" to Dimitri. We settle in for Mythos and a lay of the land, next thing you know, his second lieutenent has come down on the beer prices and scored us a car rental for 25 Euros including tax (Stacy’s experience with the Rhodos car, which was 49 Euros PLUS an unexpected tax let him to make sure about the price before the Romanian guy drove the car to us). Stacy & I drive to town and find a pharmacy – after returning to Wheat with a fabulous back brace and some serious analgesics (everything the pharmacist told me was true!), Wheat was able to join us for dinner – we just drove him on up to Dimitri’s place.
The next morning we prep for another trip to town with showers sold to us by (who else?) our buddy Dimitri – again the price drops from 3 Euros per shower to 2.5 each, then after we shower and drink two large Mythos, we pay 10 Euros for all three of us including the beer. We loves us some Dimitri!
All clean and polished, we drive over to the town of Santorini. Santorini is stunning – a classic, picture perfect Greek Islands town that’s Wheat’s favorite. He’s been looking forward to this island for some time now. Santorini is everything you’d hope – high up on the mountain overlooking an incredible deep blue cliffside harbor, with all manor of sailing yachts and cruise ships moored below. The tender ships, zodiacs and dinghys bring in the visitors who scale the 600 steps to the town on foot or on donkey, or ride the steep cable car. All of the classic, thick walled buildings are white or off-white and seem immaculately clean. The accent paint color of choice here is the bright blue of the Greek flag, and this blue and white motif is everywhere you look. It’s completely charming and romantic, we took approximately one million pictures here. The tiny streets are filled with shops catering to the constant cruise ship crowd – they are fancy and very expensive. This is the one place on our journey that is as crowded as all of Europe will be in July and August; jam-packed with people. We luck out on grabbing a few cans of Mythos from a small souvenier shop with a small cooler in the corner and laugh at her "storage" area behind the counter – it’s the balcony with the fantastic view. We suggested she put three chairs out there instead and she could triple the price of her 1.5 Euro Mythos to make up for it. We got our requisite magnets there and enjoyed our beers while walking through town. We’d had no luck at the Internet café’ there the afternoon before (Stacy and I had gone out to reconnoiter while Wheat was laid up with a back injury) so after sightseeing we raced back to the boat in time for our afternoon departure. We made provisions on the way (83 Euros!) and got gasoline (3.35 Euros per litre) and rushed to get back in time. The blue-eyed Romanian kid came back for the car (our man Dimitri again, makin’ the call for us) and we were on our way to Kriti.
More later! Stay tuned… xoxoxo Molly & Wheat