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…
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…
Yiasu! Apologies for the brief photographic interlude, I apologise further for uploading photographs of rank wine (yes of course I still drank it) and throwback photos of me 9 years ago still on the Dimitrius hunt but at least it shows this tale is true. So, back in the modern world I’m at this point in Alonissos, heading out for my first night…
After the build up from my balcony watching the boats bring the dancers in to the beating of their drums, I toddle off to the main square to see what this dance festival is all about. I have to say, the atmosphere is electric. Swirls of dance troupes fill the streets, there’s music and merriment and the place is generally jumping. I need to find somewhere to eat and feel foolish to think I will find a table anywhere. As luck would have it though one of the restaurants makes a table up for me (“just one?!” “yes, just me…”) in what I actually think is one of the best seats in the house. It’s a raised platform from the rest of the restaurant where all of the tables are full and I have a birds eye view of the action. I order a traditional Greek garlic dip as can’t think I’ve had one of those before and a Beef Stifado. Happy days…until the dip arrives and I realise I may as well just eat a garlic bulb raw. Oh well, no kissing if I meet Dimitrius tonight then! I have a fantastic evening watching the dancing and soaking up the atmosphere and though I’d like to get up at the end of the night when they invite the crowds up on stage, it’s really not something you would do on your own: believe me though if I’d been there with the girls we’d have been Opa-ing all night an then some!
Next day I decide I’m going to walk to the old town so take my legs off on a journey…except me being me with my rotten sense of direction end up walking the wrong way. After a 30 minute hike in the heat passing a wall with water bottles stuck to it (representing all the people who have died here trying to find the old village?!) I end up at a dead end with only a resort ahead of me. Appears I’ve got my Marpunta’s and Megalos Mourtias mixed up; why the bleedin’ hell is there a full on proper official road sign that makes you think you’re going to a proper official place when actually a handwritten plank of wood on a tree would suffice? Just confuses folk like me who assume a proper roads sign means an actual proper town. Anyway, after I walk back (so basically hour down and two blisters up) I find the sign pointing to a footpath for ‘Chora’ the old village. Oh well, at least I’m on the right track now at least, ‘track’ being the operative word.
Heading up this ‘path’ I feel more and more like a mountain goat trying to, well, stay alive. Little lizardy things run past me, birds swirl (vultures I reckon hoping to get a taste of last night’s Stifado; oh well at least the garlic may come in useful for something) flying buzzing things land on me and I do some sort of freakish tribal dance to try and ward them all off. There’s a stench of manure and I think that if I don’t find Dimitrius at least I know where Gepeto is. No one had told me that in order to get to the old town I really should have brought Bear Grylls along with me. I’m amazed to see some older ladies coming towards me, phew! There must be a town up there soon if these two have survived. They’re talking to each other in English and just as we pass each other and I’m about to say hello, one of them cheerfully says to me “Guten Tag!”
Guten Tag?! Guten bloody Tag?! Weirdly I smile and Guten Tag them back even though I’m not German and neither are they. I’ve been away from home all of two days and I’ve changed name and nationality, whatever next! Tomorrow I may wake up a teetotal vegan, anything appears to be possible here.
Walking this route though I’m so thankful I decided not to stay in the old village; I know that me being me would probably have set out on this very same route with case in tow: that would’ve well and truly buggared my wheels for sure. I get into the village and there’s only the same band and dancers from last night playing. Bless them they’ve had no rest, still beating their drums and dancing away; I like their style! I wander around the old village like the proper tourist that I am, taking photos of churches even though I’m not religious and never go in them at home but for some reason when abroad always seem to be sticking my head in one and taking photos of the exterior; surely it’s not just me that does this?
After a couple of hours I’m done with the old town and decide to head down to Megalos Whatsitsname. I know the beach is just down from the old town but what I didn’t realise was just how much it bends and bends and bends and bends….my blisters are multiplying and quite frankly I consider turning back it’s so torturous given I’ve already walked so much already. Half way down the bends there’s a message in Greek on a tree with a number printed on it: I’m guessing it’s the equivalent of the Samaritans helpline for those lost wandering along this winding road in the blazing heat wondering if their thoughts of a beach are actually just a mirage. I also wonder if Uber cover Alonissos? I could do with someone to call right now to pick me up but give that Goole Maps doesn’t even seem to register half the place I’m guessing not.
I eventually reach the beach and spend a few hours:
a) Swimming lengths
b) Extreme tanning
c) Drinking beer, nodding off, waking up and attempting to look cool strolling into the sea but tripping over the pepples and falling ar*e first into the water
Answers on a postcard please, you can reach me at: Vasili, The German, Alonissos, Greece
My first trip to Greece was aged 19 and I can’t say I noticed the men then, mainly for two reasons: one I was in Malia which is probably the least Greek place in Greece (Newcastle is possibly more Greek than Malia) and two I went with a boyfriend so don’t think it would have gone down too well if I’d been ogling any Adonis. I also didn’t have my whole ‘Dimitrius’ vision then so it wasn’t on the agenda until a number of years later.
Further trips to Greece over the years have meant a few ‘false spottings’ of Dimitrius, some even occurring closer to home. A few days after the story was blurted out I was in a bar in town with a friend and we got chatting to two blokes; it was clear from the accent that they weren’t Geordies so I asked where they were from:
“Greece” they said. My eyes widened. Jaw dropped. Sharp intake of breath. Could it be? Right on my doorstep? Could my vision of a quaint sleepy fishing village have been confused with a smoky rowdy bar in toon?
“What are your names?” I croaked. I swear at this point you could’ve heard a pin drop…if we hadn’t been in a late night bar where the music was blasting anyway
“This is Stefan and I am Georgios” Said ‘not Dimitrius’
Oh. Buggar. Well there was no blue shirts and they weren’t fishermen and although it was dark I couldn’t imagine their eyes changing colour with the North Sea nevermind the Aegean or Mediterranean so I should’ve known.
Then on the actual holiday to Halkidiki following my ‘vision’ my friends helpfully told waiters and bar men that I was looking for Dimitrius, which lead to a number of ‘fake’ Dimitriuses. Firstly there was ‘Dimitrius’ in the first bar we went to on the first day heading back from the beach: a bar that we only stopped by for one Mythos of the way home and ended up leaving well past midnight several Mythos and ouzos later, still in our beach clothes and ‘just slightly’ worse for wear. This ‘Dimitrius’ turned out to be a chubby adolescent who couldn’t speak English and to be fair I don’t think was even aware his colleague was trying to tout him out. Even the beer/ouzo goggles weren’t working though and anyway it was obvious he wasn’t a fisherman due to being out so late at night. Following that there was the Dimitrius frenzy a few nights later when again the story was told whilst chatting to some waiters, which then lead to a battlecry of ‘I’m Dimitrius’, ‘No, I’m Dimitrius!’, ‘No I’M Dimitrius!’, ‘No! You’re not Dimitrius! I’m Dimitrius’ and so on. Ohh no, no, no, no, no, no, no! You are definitely NOT Dimitrius. None of you! You aren’t even Gepeto the donkey nevermind Dimitrius (remember I’m in my 20’s at this point so can afford to be selective) just get me my drink and jog on!
A few years later in Rhodes I was messing about in the sea and a man started talking to me asking what’s my name, where I was from etc, then when I asked his name it was… Dimitri! Ahh getting closer at least! But although he seemed a nice guy there was no shaggy hair, no broad shoulders, no fishing boat, no, it definitely wasn’t him.
Then finally my personal favourite of the fakes. A few years ago a wildcard came out of the blue when the story had almost been mothballed as I was already in a relationship. I was referred by my GP for some physio for a gammy shoulder, when the receptionist booked the appointment you can imagine my surprise when she said “that’ll be 9.30am on Tuesday with Dimitrius”. Shock horror could this actually be? While I’ve been poncing about with the wrong man Dimitrius has traded in his fishing boat, retrained as a physiotherapist and moved to the North East of England to try and find me instead?! Tuesday as you can imagine could not come quick enough. On the morning of the date, sorry I mean appointment (!) I made sure I looked my ‘9.30am appointment at the physio’ best and when I knocked and heard Dimitrius say ‘Come in!’ it was like the moment the screen finally goes back on Blind Date, the big reveal. I took a deep breath, opened the door with my most ‘9.30am appointment at the physio’ appropriate smile at the ready and…a five foot five Uncle Fester greeted me with a toothy grin saying “hello, how can I help you?” Well ideally you can stop calling yourself Dimitrius and getting my hopes up but for a start if you could just fix my shoulder please that would be great.
So that was the last of the fakes and phoneys, hopefully now on to the real deal…