Ok, cards on the table. Have you ever dreamed a dream or had a crazy vision of something and thought ‘yeah I should do that/try that’ but either been too scared to do it or just thought you were talking nonsense? Well I have.
Many moons ago (probably about 130 or so maybe) some verbal garbage came out of my mouth. I can remember it vividly and have a few good witnesses to testify. I was sitting with a group of good friends talking about a forthcoming holiday to Greece and how I would meet the man of my so far unknown dreams. A whole tale came forth about this man: how we would meet, what would happen, his family history, blah blah blah. It’s been a well-known story ever since with those who know me and brought about many random incidents and cases of mistaken identity.
So a little while ago I was thinking about how I have fancied going Greek island hopping for awhile but the ex would never do such a holiday, and that now I’m single maybe I should combine the two and take myself on a little trip with a side mission in mind? What the hell I’m going to do it. I’m going to find Dimitrius…
I wake curled in the foetal position at the top of the bed. I still have last nights dress on. I can’t stretch out as my suitcase is at the bottom of the bed so I’ve obviously decided just to lie down around it. Ohhhhhhhh dearrrr…
I reach for my phone, which is surprisingly sensibly on the bedside table next to me and get the fright of my life: It’s 11.30 am! 11.30am!!!!! Jeez I’ve missed a whole morning of Dimitrius hunting AND tanning time, both of which I can ill afford to miss! There are three missed calls from the couple last night checking I got home safe and messages from people I’d been texting before I passed out, again checking that I’m ok. I’m ok… I’m still in the foetal position and there’s a little man banging his fist off the inside of my skull but I’m ok. I gingerly text the couple back to give my apologies for not getting back to them, telling them I passed out on my bed and thank you so much yes I did get home safe… though God only knows how. I must’ve been a racing pigeon in a previous life as I somehow always manage to find my way home; even though I’d only previously walked here once and that was a back-and-forward-try-this-way-then-that-way-mission. In that respect I’m very proud of my drunk self as she actually has greater navigation skills than my sober self. My drunk self gets extra brownie points when I realise she also remembered to take her contact lenses out: I’m an inebriated genius! Though the makeup taking off was obviously a step too far as looking in the mirror I’m sporting that lovely panda look. How come my makeup was sliding off my face last night yet now it is resolutely stuck to my skin and burrowed into every crevice? I sigh, turning my gaze from the mirror to find of all things a biscuit perched at the end of the bed. What the…?!
Moving around the room there are biscuits everywhere. I must’ve come in and had some sort of biscuit orgy. Just as well I didn’t manage to give them to Not-So-Grumpy-Old-Dimitrius and Not-So-Grumpy-Old-Dimitrius’-Wife as they’ve clearly played a key part in last nights activities. They’re on the drainer in the kitchen, in the bathroom sink, basically any random place you can think that a biscuit shouldn’t be, there’s a biscuit there to greet you. It’s like a Tracey Emin piece of modern art. A postmodern biscuitopia. I eat them; or should I say I down them like last nights shots. I hate waste and hangovers call for food… even if they wouldn’t be my first choice and they’ve gone abit soft now, they’ll do.
I finish my biscuit treasure trail of gluttony and look at my phone in more detail, specifically the messages from the night before. Oh my. It’s just as well I’m sitting down (I find the little man in my head bangs his fists even more when I stand up). My favourite messages trail is the following, all sent by me and with no response from the other party in between:
00:26am: Oh dear
1:01am: I am ver
1:02am: I am ver
1:02am: I am
Then nothing else.
Answers on a postcard please: what the bloomin’ heck was I talking about?! I have absolutely no idea now and by the looks of it I probably didn’t have any idea then either. Think brain think…I can’t recall leaving the bar but I do remember at one point walking along Papadiamantis (love that name) Street and giving myself a stern talking to for swaying around like the drunken idiot that I am. The next thing I recall is waking up…
Uh-oh how did I get in the hotel?! The lady told me when I checked in that they lock the front door at midnight but there is a key on my fob I can use, or there is a back gate near my room which also might be locked, but again I have a key. Question is did I get in the front door or use the back gate?! Either way I’m very impressed at my key usage at a strange property in a drunken state; again drunken self has outshone sober self. Oh hang on, did I see anyone? Or more importantly did they see me? If I went through reception there is the possibility I may have had a conversation with someone… I have absolutely no idea. I could’ve met Dimitrius himself in reception last night and I’d be none the wiser. I decide for the rest of my stay I shall use the back gate so that I don’t have to see anyone at reception, just in case they know of or mention my drunken antics.
Keen to waste no more of the sunshine I take my makeup and last nights dress off, put my suncream and beach clothes on and drag my sorry a** down to the beach to mend my broken self. On the agenda is pure pandering to whatever my hangover wishes, be it sleep, stuffing my face or hair of the dog, whatever is necessary will be done.
I find a solitary space on the beach and doze and dip for a few hours before playing a game with myself: I want food, I don’t want food, I want food, I don’t want food. For gods sake please don’t let today be Dimitrius day, he’d run a mile if he saw me now I’m sure. What exactly happens to your face during a hangover? Is it just that my eyes can’t see straight so I look different or have my features actually contorted into some unrecognisable shape? It’s 3pm now and other than those random biscuits I haven’t ate anything and as not eating isn’t making me feel any better I decide to give eating a go.
The beach is lined with bars and tavernas. I go and sit in the only one I can find that isn’t shaded (after missing the full morning I need to maximise my tanning time now) I sit for fifteen minutes and no one approaches. Maybe I’m just invisible on my own, or maybe someone recognises me from last night and thinks I’m not going near that drunken loon, or maybe I just look hungover and should not be served anything just in case I decide to hurl it up again. Whatever it is I’m not in the mood for Greek service lethargy so move on elsewhere; sun or no sun I need a Cola. Speaking of Coke I’ve recently been made aware that some people actually say no when told at a bar ‘sorry we don’t have Coke, is Pepsi ok?’ I honestly thought this was just a polite bar brand name awareness statement which everyone always agrees to but apparently not, there are people in the world who change their drink preference if they are to be served Pepsi rather than Coke! Who knew! Life is a constant education.
Me being me who will eat or drink anything doesn’t care what Cola beverage they serve, only that they serve one quick. I find another bar, plonk myself in a chair and zone out to the music. I’m bemused when people keep clapping at the end of records until I realise a good half hour or so later that there is a dude playing guitar right behind me! Jeez hangovers suck, you miss the most obvious goings on: Dimitrius could’ve been holding two fingers up behind my head to do that rabbit ear thing right now and I’d be none the wiser. I down my Coke faster than last nights Ouzo and eagerly wait for my obligatory holiday Club Sandwich (for some reason I never eat them at home, only on holidays) then it arrives and I struggle to eat it. I’m neither here nor there nor in nor out. I’m used to indecision at the best of times but I’m in hangover hell and don’t know what to do with myself, everything is a self-inflicted struggle. I take my time and get through the bread mountain before retiring to the beach again to do the only thing that can help me now: sleep. Dimitrius will have to wait another day…
As the ferry pulls into Skiathos Town I’m busy taking a million photos until it dawns on me the boat has anchored and may be going elsewhere; nevermind playing David Bailey, I need to get off quick!!! I attempt to run for it but can’t find a door off the deck nevermind anywhere else: where on earth is the exit when you need it?! Why is the layout of this boat so different to every other ferry I’ve been on?! Where’s Grumpy Officer when I need him?! Why do I always leave everything until the last minute?! Arghhhhhhhhhh…
I manage to find some doors and fight my way through them, leaping over some steps with my case in the process: those recent hills have definitely turned me part mountain goat. I sprint down the corridors, down a staircase or two, down the gangway and onto dry land. Phew. Home and dry, well almost. Once there the town feels very flat compared to where I’ve just been so even when I can’t find the hotel at first it doesn’t really matter, I simply walk abit more than planned: compared to Skopelos this isn’t anywhere near a maze, it’s just me being abit useless with my non-sense of direction. When I do find my hotel it’s like a different world, it’s an actual proper hotel with lots and lots of rooms, an actual proper reception desk, actual proper computer booking systems and people speaking better English than I do. I feel like I’ve been time travelling; it’s like a vision from the future.
I don’t have much time as I have plans tonight (me! plans! tonight!) so nip out quickly for the essentials at a nearby supermarket before a quick shower and time for glamourfication. Yes, I’m back to wearing proper make up here. I hadn’t bothered in some of the more recent places as would’ve stood out if I’d made too much effort and prefer to blend in where possible. Even here I’m not out to impress anyone tonight (Dimitrius isn’t the type to notice make up, he’d probably just ask what was different about my face; besides he won’t be out late tonight being a fisherman and all that) so whilst I’m getting my face tarted up I start to think what is the point, I’m not doing this for anyone so why bother? Then I realise she’s standing right in front of me. I’m doing this for me. I’m doing this because I want to look nice so that I feel good about myself, and that’s a nice thing to think…even if it is a right faff putting make up on in the heat and my eyeliner just keeps rubbing off anyway. So where am I off to I hear you wondering? Remember that lovely couple from the flight, well they invited me out with them and their friends now I’m back in civilisation so I’m off out on the town…
I manage to find my way back into town from my hotel and we go for cocktails, dinner then drinks. Well there were drinks throughout of course, there were just more of them toward the end. Civilisation is fun! I can understand why our ancestors became err civilised! You can talk to people and have conversations and laughter and much merriment, which although I haven’t missed company during my trip I’m now remembering that it’s fun to have people around. The waiter is of course asked if he is Dimitrius? No, he’s not. Does he know Dimitrius? Yes he does, which one? Err how many are there? Thousands.
Hang on a minute, there are thousands of Dimitriuses on this island alone but I can’t seem to meet one on four Greek islands and even the mainland?! Is there some sort of Dimitrius conspiracy going on?! Maybe there’s some international Dimitrius airwave that has infiltrated my plans and decided to hide all Dimitriuses from me? The waiter points out that one Dimitrius he knows works at some sister restaurant somewhere or other that I’ve never heard of, which isn’t surprising considering I don’t even know the name of the restaurant I’m in now. I decide whoever he is he’s not my fisherman anyway so turn my attention instead to my other great love: alcohol.
Wine, beer, gin, whatever…I love it all and I drink it all. We’ve moved on now to a lovely little bar with some great live music. I do chair dancing (basically sitting down and twisting your upper body about as you’re too lazy to get off the seat) and sing along to whatever I can where possible: this time not accosting the musicians and grabbing the microphone from them as I have been known to do on previous drunken occasions. Young people who are far too young to be in a bar appear sporadically and try to sell roses; someone then buys a rose which creates a multitude of photo opportunities: holding it between teeth and trying to balance it on your head/chin/nose as the kid does but all to no avail of course.
Then it happens. There’s always some idiot at some point in the night who decides shots are a good idea. That idiot is always me. I never learn. Never ever ever. I go to the bar and as we are in Greece, obviously order a round of ouzo shots. It’s like I’m possessed by the shot fairy and can’t control myself, no one is safe from my shotliness so….Yamas!!!
I feel fine! I feel great! I send a WhatsApp message to someone saying ‘I’ve just had a shot of ouzo and can’t feel my tongue’! I dance… or at least move around in a non-walking type motion. Someone tries to match me up with some bloke but I’m having none of it, he’s not my Dimitrius and I have a rose to dance with! I’m having a great night! I know I am! I just can’t now remember any of it…
The magic beer scooter appears at some point and whisks me home…which is very clever of it considering I’m not even sure where home is; I couldn’t even find it sober earlier so how the heck the magic beer scooter knows where to go in a strange town after copious amounts of alcohol I have no idea…it’s clearly better than my ferry navigation skills at least…
It’s axiomatic that on my last day in Skopelos the sun is back out in full force. As I’m leaving one of the hostesses neighbours pops by and there’s discussion around the weather; I comment that bad weather seems to follow me and she is visibly relieved when I tell her I’m going today, effectively asking me to please never return. My lovely hostess (who appears personally distressed that the weather has been so poor during my stay as though it were something she could control) offers to drive me down to the port but I tell her I have plenty of time, it’s all downhill and plus I have some people I’d like to say goodbye to…
I make the regular turns: left then right then left then right and…they’re not there! Not So Grumpy Old Dimitrius and Not So Grumpy Old Dimitrius’ Wife’s house is locked up! I am genuinely gutted. I wanted to ask their names; why on earth I didn’t do this sooner I have no idea and now I’m kicking myself. I also have some biscuits left over I was going to give to them. I figure I could leave them on the doorstep (well, pavement) but how would they know they were from me and it’s not like I have some post it notes in my suitcase I could quickly write a note on…and even if I did they wouldn’t be able to understand it anyway. Another reminder that in life you should do things while you can as you never know what is around the corner (that’s certainly the case around here, I can’t even work out what corner I’m on nevermind what is around it) and may never get the opportunity again; Carpe Diem and all that jazz. I trundle off deflated down the hill, bumping my weary case behind me.
Once in town I need to find a bakery to have one of these famous Skopelos cheese pies – and see if they’re actually any different to any of the other islands cheese pies. This one is baked fresh for me and it appears in a snail shape, which would have been a surprise had the spinach pie in Alonissos not been the same shape. I sit at the harbour with my pasty swigging from a can of Greek beer (well I wasn’t going to leave it was I, I did say I hate waste!) once again waiting for a man in a blue shirt. No such luck but I figure it’s too busy around here anyway, this is neither the time nor the place so I’m quite happy to leave when the next ferry appears and whisks me off.
The water is still very choppy after the storms so it’s a slightly queasy journey and I’m pleased with the slight break from the bumps when we stop in Glossa. This is the port nearest the famous Mamma Mia church so I’m surprised it appears quite low key, I was expecting lots of sightseeing party boats but it appears very peaceful and unpretentious…possibly the sort of place where you might find a fisherman! Damn why didn’t I stay here again?! Oh well, no changing plans now, I’m all ferried out; onward to Skiathos! My final Dimitrius hunting destination…
Oh my word what a night! I haven’t seen a storm like that in a long long time and haven’t slept too well because of it. If Dimitrius was out fishing in that I have to admit he is probably a gonner by now and I am a fishermans widow without ever being a wife. It’s still chucking it down and doesn’t appear to want to ease for a good few hours so I have a slight panic in that I have no water or food in and am the sort of person who likes to make sure she has supplies in at all times: at home I always have an emergency pizza in the freezer as obviously in an emergency a pizza is exactly what is needed. I also note the extreme impact the weather has on my mood. I know people get Seasonal Affective Disorder and I can understand why; in the space of 24 hours I’ve gone from happy-smiley-person to grumpy-as-hell-don’t-cross-me-I’m-in-a-right-fettle-person; all because of a few drops of rain and a drop in temperature (I HATE HATE HATE being cold).
Mid-afternoon when the rain finally stops I take the opportunity to head out and like everyone else does on holiday when the weather is crap, go and find somewhere to eat and drink. I decide on a local restaurant with a nice seated area by a tree and ask for a table. ‘Just you?’ the owner says. Yes ‘just me’…just me again as always. Other people seem to have such an issue with my being alone; some even seem quite upset by it but quite frankly I would much rather be on my own sitting in silence looking awkward to everyone else, than sitting in awkward silence with someone. You see it all the time: couples just sitting staring into space or worse still looking at their phones throughout a meal together. I’ve watched it many times on this trip and can honestly say I may not have anyone to smile at but I have smiled more and have had far more entertaining evenings than some of those people appear to have. I’ve been in relationships where a partner has looked at his phone throughout a meal for no good reason whilst I sit and look like the gooseberry in the situation; I’ve been there and I won’t go there again. I may not be as smart as a smart phone (who is) but my time is worth more than being second best to a gadget…so it’s just as well as Dimitrius probably doesn’t even own a mobile and if he does it’ll be a brick. So yes world stop feeling sorry for me as I don’t need it. I’m alone because I don’t yet have someone who I want to spend my quality time with: my time is precious and until there is someone I want to spend it with, I am spending it on myself and that in itself is a good investment.
I order a Moussaka and the waiter asks me if I want some homemade pitta bread. I don’t but he does such a good sales pitch I agree. When it turns up though it’s not pitta bread, or certainly not pitta like I’ve ever seen. This appears to be some sort of deep fried dough ball the size of the plate. It’s tasty but it’s massive and I end up having to leave some of it again, which I’m not happy about. I really don’t know what has happened to me this holiday as I hate waste and normally polish off every bit of food just for the sake of it. You could say it’s because of the heat…except you couldn’t say that today. Maybe I’m finally learning I’m not a walking dustbin after all, that’s an achievement if nothing else.
In the evening I walk past Not So Grumpy Old Dimitrius and Mrs Not So Grumpy Old Dimitrius and we do our usual Ti kanis, Kali Speras; I shall miss these two when I go I really will. I can’t get in to the restaurant I want to go to as it’s full so spend most of the evening wandering aimlessly around to find somewhere else even though I’m not particularly hungry after my giant pitta experience this afternoon. I decide to keep it simple with a Gyros and Fix beer (I’m always looking for a quick Fix: boom boom!) and try to head home, determined that I will find the right way this time despite failing to every time since I arrived.
It’s not even like I keep making the same wrong turn, every time I get lost I end up somewhere else. There’s a whole other town I keep discovering…which is nice, other than when I just want to get in before the downpour starts again. Once again, twice again, thrice again I end up in the wrong place, having to keep dropping back to water level to start again. I’m sure the streets are alive and moving, changing direction as I walk through them. This is all up steep winding streets and I keep going only with the thought that at least I might get an *ss like J-Lo’s by the end of it. How on earth elderly people live here I have no idea. The place is a mountain. I’m surprised there aren’t goats leaping past. I’d hate to be a postie around here and it’s certainly not DDA compliant. Saying that there’s no one on mobility scooters but everyone gets around fine, you wouldn’t get that at home where you can’t walk around Tesco at ease without fear of being mown down by some morbidly obese forty-something year old on a mobility scooter. The reason I never pass Not So Grumpy Old Dimitrius on the way back is that I can never actually find their ‘street’. I’ve tried to memorise it as the street near a yellow house which you look at and think couldn’t possibly lead anywhere, but turns out there’s a load of those too; everywhere looks like it doesn’t lead anywhere and the paths you think do lead somewhere often don’t: there’s a metaphor in there somewhere. I’ve walked past a game of hopscotch five times, each time thinking I was in a different place and I’m sure even if I marked a trail it would be wrong; I feel like I’m in the film Labyrinth where they keep moving her markings so she doesn’t have a clue where she is. So it’s back down to the water level for me, again…
At some point in the night after I don’t even know how many attempts I manage to find it: the ‘hidden’ stairway past Not So Grumpy Old Dimitrius’ house, then a left and right and left and right and I’ve sussed it…just in time before I leave tomorrow
It’s abit cloudy this morning so I figure I will spend some time wandering the streets and trying to get my bearings as best I can… otherwise known as just getting lost for the sake of it. When I arrived back at the apartment last night the hostess was sitting outside reading; I have a feeling she was waiting to see that I got home ok as she seemed concerned that I was on my own and urged me to call her if I was ever lost or needed anything at all. I hope I don’t need to do that but it’s nice to know she’s there and there’s someone looking out for me. It was also handy she was there and probably confirmed her cause for concern when I couldn’t open the latch on the gate and thought I needed to use a key to get into the main building when actually pushing the door sufficed: pretty sure she’s now wondering how such a calamity has managed to get herself all the way to Greece on her own if she can’t even manage a simple gate without assistance; to be fair I often wonder the same myself.
I leave the apartment and turn to head left then right then left then right again but remember this will make me cross Grumpy Old Dimitrius’ path. I stand still for a split second thinking whether I should just find another way rather than crossing him again… then decide I should face my fears head on and just go that way anyway.
Grumpy Old Dimitrius isn’t outside when I pass but his wife is still sitting in exactly the same place as last night: infact she may have been there all night, though she can’t use my excuse of being lost. Instead of bowing my head and shuffling quickly past I smile my brightest, broadest smile and say ‘Kalimera!’ Grumpy Old Dimitrius’ Wife grins a more toothy grin than her husband could ever manage and says also ‘Kalimera’. On hearing this brief but meaningful exchange Grumpy Old Dimitrius sticks his head out of the kitchen/living room/general-purpose-room-that- appears-to-be-their-entire-house and shouts ‘Kalimera’ followed by some incomprehensible (to me) Greek. I smile even more widely (that one where your cheeks start to hurt), wave and ‘Kalimera!’ him too.
Great! Would you believe it! We are mates now! Bestest buddies BFF afterall! That’s made my day that has. After feeling a bit off my guard and out of sorts yesterday I’m at ease once again and smile to myself all the way down the bank..and up the bank…and around the bank…and over the bank… yeah I’m lost but I’m taking in the sights and sounds and seeing where each meander takes me. I take far too many pictures, end up wearing the battery out on my phone and have to find the apartment again just so that I can get some charge into it. Once I’ve managed to locate the room (cheating by using the road-navigation-pasty/pie-on-building-technique again) I plug my phone in to charge and sit typing on the balcony for awhile where I’m joined in the communal area by my hostesses husband (he’s called Stamatis; of course I checked!). He tells me he spotted me before, walking around in the maze and backtracking around the road. I tell him that ‘I was just checking that I was where I thought I was and I was’ … yeah he looks as confused as me at what has just came out of my mouth. He reiterates his wife’s request that I call them if I need anything and also explains the weather is meant to be particularly bad tonight. I decide in that case I will make sure I am back before darkness falls, free ouzo or no free ouzo.
I’ve walked a lot downhill into town this morning so decide to head upward this afternoon and explore where this road that has saved me from death-by-lostness actually leads. I walk up and up around the twisting road and have a slight panic that the wind is picking up, clouds are circulating, I am wearing sandals with no grip on a road surface that is already very slippery and as the worlds most accident prone person and number one candidate for ‘person most likely to fall over’, overall it’s not a good combination. I find myself doing what I have done a lot lately and think of a contingency plan: what will I do if it starts chucking it down and I can’t actually walk back down the hill as the road is too slippery? I figure I could take my shoes off and walk barefoot like a hobo but actually decide instead that if this does happen I will just slide back down the road on my honkers; it’ll make a memorable entrance back into town if nothing else and who knows, I may even slide all the way down to the harbour and into the arms of a certain fisherman… here’s hoping eh!
The further up I go though the windier it gets and as I have no idea where I’m headed, I decide to drop back down into town and have a mooch around the shops instead. I now understand why Southern Europe may have a less robust economy than the North: in the South it is mainly sunny so people sit out enjoying the sunshine, head to the beach, relax etc, in the North it is bloomin’ cold therefore people go shopping for entertainment and thus the economy thrives. Clearly all Greece needs if it is struggling financially again is a few days of grey skies and a boat load of women to go shopping, that’ll solve any economic crises and everything will be right as err rain; in the space of a few hours of grey skies I’ve somehow managed to buy a picture, a scarf and some earrings that I hadn’t intended to. If the sun had been shining there’s no way this would have happened; I wonder if I can sue mother nature for financial ruin induced by storm clouds…?
In the evening I walk past Not So Grumpy Old Dimitrius’ house again, smiling again at his wife (who still hasn’t moved) and say ‘Kalispera’, she Kalisperas me back and Not So Grumpy Old Dimitrius sticks his head through the door and I recognise one of his words this time: ‘Agapi Mou’ I know what this means, and it’s an affectionate term so it’s nice to hear. I have friends. Even though we just pass on the winding steps a couple of times a day, for a few days they are a feature of my life and I am a feature of theirs, and that feels good.
I have a lovely meal on the steps of Gorgones taverna and get back to the apartment just as the rain is starting; just as well I do as 10 minutes later there is a power cut. Complete silence and darkness. Only the wild wind howling, rain lashing and a few lights down by the port, other than that nothing…until the thunder starts and lightning streaks across the skies. I am so happy I came home when I did. I would hate to be out in those twisty mazey streets on my own in the pitch black. That would indeed have freaked me right out; there’s no way I could have found my way back and would probably have broken an ankle or two in the process. I use the torch on my phone for the first time ever and notice someone has been in my room as there’s something new on the bedside table: a battery powered lamp has been placed there, I’m guessing in case there was a power cut. I may not yet have found Dimitrius but I have found the warmth of Greek hospitality and that’s a comforting hug in itself, particularly when you are faced with the night of the mother of all storms…
I arrive in beautiful Skopelos town and am greeted from the ferry by my lovely hostess who has come to pick me up in her car. I think this is a nice kind gesture, which it is, but later realise she has done this as I wouldn’t have had a hope in hells chance of finding the place otherwise. The town is a rabbit warren. If I thought Skyros Chora was bad, this place is a million gazillion times worse, completely impossible to navigate, particularly for someone like me who has zero sense of direction. As she drives us to the very top of the town (there’s no roads in the actual town itself, only pavements…if you can call them that) then leads me down some steep steps to her guesthouse perched on the cliff. I’m lugging my case along with me and am thankful I don’t have any mobility issues. Once inside though the room is well worth it; beautiful views looking out over town and a pretty seaside theme filled with artwork makes me feel happy and at home. The view from the shower was a treat in itself (I’ve included a photo below, most scenic shower I’ve ever had!)
I head out early, keen to eat sooner rather than later as I’m worried about the maze below me as I don’t really know where I’m staying…despite having just left there…so want to try and get back before darkness; plus I’m rubbish with keys and the doors in the apartment appear really stiff, so I don’t want to be waking up the lovely owners just because I can’t open a perfectly adequate lock. I leave the room and turn left then right, left then right to get down the hill into town as instructed by the hostess… where I’m then met by an old man on a step who growls something at me which stops me in my tracks.
I’ve literally no idea what he’s said and he’s not smiling. I look at him and motion that I’m just passing through and query whether this is a footpath, he mutters something at me again and I look across the pavement to some elderly women for help. They say something too and just wave me on. Have I just walked through their yard? But I’ve gone the way that the landlady said? Ooh maybe that was Dimitrius?! Maybe he got so sick of waiting for me he’s aged and pulled all his teeth out in sheer frustration and when he’s finally has seen me he’s so p’d off he just gives me abuse?! Who knows, I wander on and try not to ponder what on earth that was all about but I’ve been a bit unnerved here and I really don’t know why. Further down the hill the town is far more touristy than the previous places I’ve been (maybe that’s why, maybe all the people here make me feel alone?!) but for some reason today I feel like I’ve lost my nerve. Maybe for that reason I decide to stick with what I know so when I’m beckoned into a restaurant by a man waving a menu at me I haven’t the will or energy to decline. Like a lamb (Kleftiko) to the slaughter I sit down and order a Mythos, the man who waved me in comments “you like Mythos! I like Mythos, I like you!!” and so it starts…
I don’t usually realise when someone is cracking on to me but this guy is so blatant it’s hard not to. He just stares at me when he’s not trying to drag other unsuspecting victims into the restaurant so I find I have to ask random questions or play with my phone just to try and feel less uncomfortable in his steady gaze. I order only a main thinking I’ll just have one course and go, then he starts asking where I’m from, what part of England, what’s my name, blah blah blah. Out of courtesy I ask the same back and he says his name is D….
D…ennis! Phew! That would’ve been a curveball. Just dodged it. What a relief! He brings me a cheese ball ‘on the house’. Wow, this is my kind of romance! Who needs flowers or chocolates when a cheese ball is in the offering! He brings me my main and touches my back as he puts it down. ‘Gerrof man!’ I want to growl but instead I just say thank you and make sure I don’t look at him. He stands next to me while I’m eating and comments that it is ok for me to travel alone as I am young; despite me being probably a good ten years older than him at least but I’m not going to argue or say ‘of course it’s ok for me to travel alone, why would it not be you moron?!’
I finish my food and ask for the bill; I’m keen to get going as still need to go to the supermarket and it’s beginning to get dark and my sense of direction is very poor at best, downright terrible at normal and completely non existent at worst. He asks me ‘what is the rush darling?!’ Oh gawd… I tell him I’m tired, I’ve had a long journey and need to go to the supermarket for some supplies. He says he understands. He asks if I would like an ouzo ‘on the house’. Now obviously at this point I should say no… but I have standards to maintain…
I can’t turn down a free ouzo. It’s not in my nature. My friends would think I have been kidnapped and replaced by some sensible Ruthbot that turns down free alcohol in favour of going to buy water, not getting lost and getting an early night; so obviously I say yes. He brings the ouzo then a couple of minutes later a ‘milk cake’ arrives, also ‘on the house’. Crikey ‘the house’ is very generous! Dennis tells me he finishes work at 11.30pm and we could go for a drink; I tell him again that I am tired and need to buy water etc and again he says he understands. I get the feeling I’m being held hostage here with free food and drink to try and make the place look busy as there’s only me and another couple now in the restaurant. It’s getting dark and I really want to get a shifty on; I definitely don’t want to be going anywhere other than a supermarket and back to the room. I remind Dennis firmly that I need the bill. He brings it eventually saying ‘sorry, sorry but you should not rush so… maybe tomorrow we could meet for that drink? Once you have rested and feel refreshed, yes?’ The thing with travelling alone is that I can’t say I have plans as I obviously don’t and he knows that. I just nod, smile to his face, then stick my money in a jar and leg it when he has his back turned. Note to self, don’t walk around that end of town tomorrow night!
I find a supermarket and walking back to my room manage to get completely lost in the labyrinthine streets. I knew this would happen. I try Google maps but that’s a fat load of good as the hotel isn’t where Google says it is (I’ve decided on this trip Google is no longer my friend) so I have to rely on my own (non)sense of direction. The only thing that saves me and gives me a bearing is the road at the top of the town. I know that once I am on that road I should be ok, so I just need to keep heading up and up and up. I pop out the maze eventually near some fortress-hilly-monumenty-thing and spot the road. It’s now just a case of finding which narrow windy street off the road, back into the maze and down some steep steps again is the right one…
Fortunately on the way in this afternoon my host pointed out a cheese pasty sign on the building next door to the apartment where I’m staying, so spotting that I know I am home. Who’d have thought it, saved by a cheese pie again! Maybe my saviour is not a fisherman called Dimitrius, it is actually a humble cheese filled baked good.
Another day, another port, another ferry and another cheese pasty/pie. I don’t know why I say I’m Greek island hopping, I’m actually just Greek pasty hopping; sampling a cheese pasty in each port of call. Not a bad life really.
I managed this morning to check-out, waving my friendly landlady who speaks no English away and I’m pleased when I get to the bus stop that there are a couple there with suitcases: excellent, I mustn’t have missed the bus! I then start to panic as I realise I’d been so focused on trying to say ‘I had a lovely stay’ in Greek to the landlady that I’d forgotten to get a receipt and as they have my card details and I’ve basically just handed over a whole wad of cash, I could be charged twice and would have no proof of payment…
S*** s*** s***! What to do, what to do?! The bus is due (as due as Greek buses ever are anyway) in about 10 minutes looking at my watch…but if I get charged twice that would cost me a whole lot more than a taxi fare would…I leg it back to the apartment.
Given my noisy decrepit case disrupting the silence of the ‘busiest resort on the island’ the landlady is waiting for me outside before I get there, looking confused as to why the strange-woman-who-she-doesn’t-actually-know-who-she-is-but-smiles-a-lot has suddenly reappeared. I shout ‘receipt’ and make the little sign you draw with your hands when requesting the bill. She looks confused. Fortunately there is another lady there at this point who speaks excellent English and I explain to her what I need. She translates to the landlady in Greek then before I know it three old men with giant moustaches have appeared out of nowhere with a load of papers and a massive log book from about 1975; a flurry of activity follows and there appears to be some confusion about what is needed on an actual receipt. There’s much talking in Greek and I stand there looking perfectly clueless as I’ve perfected it so well lately.
The English speaking lady asks where am I going. I tell her I’m going to Skopelos then Skiathos then…she stops me and asks ‘but where are you going now, how are you getting there?’ I explain I’m getting the bus from here to Linaria then the ferry to Skopelos… She stops me abruptly again: ‘A bus? Here?’ One of the men barks ‘Taxi! Taxi’ as though he’s got taxi tourettes. No… not taxi, bus…Oh crikey people don’t make me panic! Surely you should know these details running a bloomin’ hotel and living here! There’s only about five buses on the whole island and one each day at this time in the morning that goes through Magazia to the port! I know this and I’m the idiot tourist! Please don’t tell me I’ve misread the bus timetable?!
I tell her what time it leaves and where from and she frowns at me. I’m right I’m right I know I am, I’m sure of it…but now I’m doubting myself given that all these locals appear to think a bus is about as likely as finding a fisherman with a blue shirt on a wall whose eyes change colour like the sea… Anyway the receipt is finally produced and presented with such a flourish you’d think it was a piece of fine art (I may well frame it when I get home) I’m then told only ‘RUN!’ which I do.
I ‘run’ as fast as I possibly can over bumpy streets in sandals with a case that has no rubber left on its wheels. Come on legs, faster, faster! I figure if the couple are still there with their cases it means the bus hasn’t yet been and I’ll be ok. I’m at the end of the street and pleased that no buses pass while I’m still slapping my feet along the cobbles. Out of breath I round the corner to the bus stop and…the couple have gone.
I look at my watch. It’s still before 9:45…but it could have come early…I’m not sure? But where could the couple have gone? There are no other buses? The locals didn’t even know about that bus…I’m cursing myself now. The bus must’ve came, there’s no other explanation. Unless the couple were going elsewhere? But where? No, there’s no where else to go at that time with cases. Unless they got a taxi? No, there’s no taxi’s that pass this way. Dammit I must’ve missed the bus that’s the only explanation. I consider walking up to Chora to get a taxi but rule that out on the grounds that I’d probably cause such a racket I may trigger an earthquake; or I could ask the woman in the supermarket to call a taxi but then she’s probably still on the phone to her mate. I couldn’t possibly go back to the hotel again, taxi tourettes man would have a field day. But the bus still isn’t technically due yet so maybe I’m ok?
I decide to ignore the couple, wherever they have gone it’s none of my business and has nothing to do with my journey. Buses in Greece would potentially be late but not early surely? I resolve to hang fire and trust in myself. I’ll give it 20 minutes/half an hour, if it hasn’t turned up by then I’ll…do something…don’t know what but… something… it’ll be fine…
Five minutes (that feel like ten hours) later the big green bus that transported me here reappears. I flag him down, it’s the same driver that dropped me off; thinking about it he’s probably the only bus driver on the island, the Mr Big in the bus world. ‘Linaria?’ I double check. He nods. Get in!!!!! I make a mental air punch, throw my case in the hold and jump on board. As we start our journey I remember a valuable lesson: stop with the self-doubt and trust yourself, you’re an intelligent person…apart from where ferries are concerned, then you’re a bit ridiculous.. but in general terms, believe in yourself woman, you’ve got this.
I ease into the journey…having only a slight panic when he turns away from the road pointing to Linaria to instead follow one to Pefkos, until I realise he just has a few diversionary stops on the way to the port (you’re not on the X11 to Newcastle now dear) As I’m pulling my bag off the bus at Linaria who should I see but the couple from the bus stop! Aha they must’ve decided to walk to the bus stop at Molos I figure, possibly worrying themselves that the bus may not stop at Magazia. Damn you couple why couldn’t you just stay put rather than freak me out, I’ve a few more wrinkles because of you, Dimitrius will not be impressed!
I kill time at Linaria with the cheese pasty for breakfast (remember this is what the locals do, I’m not just a pasty addict…yet) and try some Dimitrus spotting activity…nope no sign here either and to be honest I’m quite relieved; for one I’m leaving now and quite frankly I’m not prepared to miss any more ferries and two, I think living here may be pushing it even by my rustic vision of donkey rescuing and selling olives: there’d be no tourist bus for me to sell things to after all and Mr local bus has enough on his hands. Yep my pasty is good enough company for me right now.
The Skyros Shipping Company ferry arrives, again playing 2001: A Space Odyssey as it docks and I once again ask more people than I need to if this is the right boat. Once on board I notice a man on the other side of the ferry (port side?), he has shoulder length hair and a blue shirt… could this be?! It’s hard to tell his features from a distance and he has sunglasses on so there’s no way of knowing if his eyes change colour like the sea but this is the only blue shirted, boat related, hairyness I’ve seen so far. He wanders off deck and I decide to follow him to the bar where the barman who kindly watched my case for me last trip when I had to nip to the loo is at work again.
He turns to me before he sees ‘Dimitrius’ and asks me where my bag is. I tell him I’m being super brave today and have left it on its own on deck: anything could happen to it today (like someone could decide to pick it up and throw it overboard or anything!) I’m feeling reckless and wild. I remember the barman is from Lesvos and does not like passengers taking suitcases into the loo but other than that I know nothing else about him. I know his name isn’t Dimitrius (well actually maybe it is? I don’t know at this stage!) and I know we never had this conversation last time but I figure if I can just say the name out loud, the other guy may register if it is his name and look up; as you do when you hear your name even if you’re miles from home and there isn’t anyone around that you know who might say it. Here goes, most ridiculous conversation of my life but it’s the name I need to say loudly, the context doesn’t matter…
Me: Did you say your name was DIMITRIUS? (I look over at the man with hair, not a flicker) err I can’t remember..I’m errr rubbish with names?!
Barman from Lesvos who is now looking very confused: Excuse me?
Me: Err, I’m trying to recall…did you say your name was DIMITRIUS? (I look at the other man but no flicker of recognition so I don’t think that’s his name, dammit)
Barman from Lesvos: My name is Lefteris.
Me: Oh of course! Lefteris from Lesvos, how could I forget! (embarrassed laugh)
He looks at me as if to say ‘probably because you never knew in the first place you raving lunatic?!’ and asks what I want
Me: Oh just a beer is fine please Lefteris…not DIMITRIUS Haha! (well it was worth one last shot)
He passes me a beer saying nothing else, I grin like the idiot that I am and pass him some cash. He brings me my change saying nothing else and I decide my work here is done.
As I’m putting my change away Barman-from-Lesvos-not-called-Dimitrius-but-Lefteris goes to serve ‘man who isn’t called Dimitrius’. In the campest voice ever ‘man who isn’t called Dimitrius’ asks for some water. Oh well, just as well he isn’t called Dimitrius, I’m pretty sure I’m not his type…