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.