Saturday, May 15, 2010

On the road in Symi

Fellow blogger, Adriana Schum, who introduced us to this lovely island through her blog (listed on our blog log) reports that the weather here is above normal and that visitors and cats are looking for shade.  She's correct.  The temperature is 30C - read that, hot!  (We are not complaining -- just making note of it.)

We rented a car yesterday to explore this tiny island which has one primary road and several others that aren't quite the size of roads as we know them in the US but they took us to spectacular locations all the same. First trick was threading our way past the centuries old buildings that line the harbor. . .you time it so that you don't meet the island's one bus coming the opposite direction or you are the one to back up on these narrow stretches.

Then we were up, way up among the pine tries. . .in all fairness many stretches of the roadway did have guardrails. . .and others like this, didn't.  I will show you where this road took us. . .in tomorrow's post, but as Adriana so aptly said, I am heading out now for shade or air conditioning!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Settled in on Symi

We are pretty much settled in on Symi, the rocky, dry island in the Dodecanese chain of Greek islands that ring the south western coast of Turkey.  We are only six miles from the Turkish peninsula, Datco.  And we have set up a sort of housekeeping in a studio apartment in the middle of the group of three buildings shown in the photo above.

If you've ever dreamt of sailing the Greek islands this is the place to be as we have a steady stream of boat traffic just outside our door. . .fishing boats so tiny that you wonder how they stay afloat, multi-million dollar
private yachts, charter boats the size to make you gasp and of course the ferries.  This charter from Turkey pulled in earlier today.

We watch the parade from our deck.  Our room is a mere 50E a night. We lucked out whenwe met Fotini, the lady from whom we are renting.  More about her next time.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Cruising the Adriatic

We left Crete on Tuesday from its northeastern most port of Sitia.  We'd had a spectacular bus trip there the day before and had a few hours to explore the town after our late afternoon arrival.  We sailed Anek lines on the Priveli, a ship te size of cruise ships and complete with bars, restaurants, lounges and sun decks.  We opted for the sun deck. As you can tell, we opted for the sun deck where we spent much of the nine hours it took to travel from Sitia to Rhodes, or Rodos as it is known here.

Here Joel shows why we like ferry travel so much more than airplanes these days.

We arrived in Rhodes after seeing some beautiful islands and ports along the way that now are added to our 'next time' list including this one on the island of Karpathos:
We changed to a smaller ferry in Rhodes and at 9 p.m., 12 hours after we had left Sitia, we arrived in our new destination the island of Symi,  More on it tomorrow. . .we are back to using internet cafes so will tease you with the photo of the harbor we entered to get to our new spot:

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Colors of the Sea

That-- the colors of the sea -- is what I told him when he said he wanted to make me a gift.  But you see the real story here is that the time I spent with Georgios Chalkoutsakis on that warm Cretan afternoon was the real gift.  'George' as we were to call him before the day was over ( we couldn't master the Greek pronunciation), is a glass bead artist. And lucky for me his home/studio was only two doors down from Poppy's,where we stayed in Kastri on Crete's southern coast.

My neighbor, a fellow tourist from Germany, had told me about George and apparently had told George about me because he was expecting me. He knew I was from America but had no idea where Seattle was located.  He spoke excellent English and told me it was self-taught by watching television - Extreme Makeover is his very favorite show and he only wishes he could tell its star, Ty, how much he likes him.

George would be described by some as 'handicapped', but I would call him gifted..  He is wheelchair bound as result of a premature birth.  His hand movement is also just a bit limited but that hasn't kept him from perfecting his art of glass bead making.

"If you have the time I will make a pearl for you," he said of the glass beads he creates. "What colors do you like?"  It was then we agreed on the colors of the sea.

After watching the bead being created and placed in the cooling sand, George and I settled in for a vist.  We talked about philosophies of life, politics, both Greek and American, the difficult and sad times he had growing up as a child who wasn't the same as normal boys, and about what my life is like.  Joel joined us sometime later and he also was treated to a pearl-making demonstration.

We returned much later - after dinner - for my gift and decided that other pearls should be added to it and a necklace made.  I became George's assistant:  I held the glue.

And it didn't take long until the artist had completed my necklace; I indeed had the colors of the sea.  The price of the finished piece a mere 20E, but ias far as I am concerned, it is priceless!

Poppy's Garden

Let me begin by saying this isn't a set up photo, this was a scene in Poppy's garden, the enchanting place we had seen last fall really was home to studio apartments for rent.  The place is owned by a woman in her 40's known appropriately it seems, as Poppy.  The gardens were a wonderland of lemon trees, jasmine covered fences, artichoke bushes, papaya trees, daisies, roses, geraniums that overflowed their pots, amaryllis plants and other edibles.
Our room was one of the nicest we have found along our travels, stocked with coffee pot, hot water pot, dishes, cookware, even flowered china tea cups and saucers.  The sheets so thick and white they could compete with any four star hotel.  Poppy also provided a basket of fresh picked peppers and tomatoes. Our cost per night: 25E just over $30!
Poppy doesn't have a website. The name of her apartments are Philoxenia, phone number 28950 51371.

On the Road to Eastern Crete

We still had much of Crete to explore so we caught a taxi - our driver is pictued above - talking on his cell phone as he takes us from Loutro to Sfakia.  It is interesting to see in these remote villages how little, if any, internet is available but cell phone are commonplace.

We followed the southern coast heading east to a beachfront spot we had driven through last fall and vowed we would return to if we got back to Crete.  While we couldn't quite remember the details, we recalled a garden, a beautiful garden that we hoped was in front of a tourist accommodation.

There is no direct route on the south coast, as the only National Road, follows the northern coast cities so to get anywhere on this side of the island we needed to head up into the hills and then back down.
It took nearly four hours to drive the 192 kilometers we traveled that day.  We wound up into canyon's as pictured above and then down onto coastal lands, eventually coming to the place we had remembered: Kastri, a strip of development on the Lybian Sea.

We were here in this small village the day our US stock market had its free fall - but the only television in the town's tavern was reporting non-stop of the riots and deaths in Athens. . .while it appeared all hell was breaking loose there our big entertainment was watching the knife-sharpener come to town and sharpen knives for the two tavernas that were open.

Aromatherapy and Athletes

"You know," I called out to Joel who was several meters above me, "travel really does make you stretch yourself, doesn't it?" Enveloped in a sun induced thyme aromatherapy, we had set out on a path leading us from Loutro Bay up among Venetian ruins.  

.  We'd taken a picnic lunch up to the stone table outside the village's church perched on a cliff. The day so clear that in the distanc we could see Gavdos Island (the history of this area goes back so far that St. Paul refers to the island as "Cauda" in Acts 27: 12-16). From the church, we followed a level footpath past the remains of a village centuries ago abandoned.

Paths are marked with blue, black and yellow paint which means something to those who hike regularly.  It was when we spotted a path marked with orange "A" that we decided to veer upwards, it appeared a gentle slope through the thyme. But the gentle path turned into a goat trail and at the point I called out to Joel I was seeking a foothold on a rock and grasp a thyme plant above me to haul/crawl in a rather unlady-like manner to the next level.

It took a bit of work, but we reached the top and had a fantastic view of Phoenix (Fenix) the next bay over.  We saluted our atheletic abilities and have decided the letter A must mean, "Athletes only."

Friday, May 7, 2010

Longing for Loutro

/We've spent long winter months thinking about Loutro, the small hamlet to the west of Hora Sfakia that is accessible only by boat or a steep switchback trail down a mountain side.  We opted to return by ferry this year. At 8.60E for the two of us, the price can't be beat as the 20 minute ride is over seas as smooth as glass.
Loutro is so small that it makes Hora Sfakia, at not quite 400 year round residents, the big city. It is often bypassed though by the folks who arrive on large passenger buses and board the ferry heading further west to Crete's famed Samaria Gorge.

We headed straight for Maria's gift shop as we stayed in her place last year (and yes, she also remembered us).  This year we lucked out and had one of the rooms with a larger balcony (our balcony is pictured above).  We greeted each morning here with dove songs and goat bells provided the background music for this perfect setting.  The price was 30E, or about $43 per night.

And for those wondering: yes, the water is really this blue.


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