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…
Today it happened. I fell in love. It came quite unexpected to be honest but they say love can strike when you least expect it. I heard him before I saw him and when he called to me I froze for a moment at his sheer beauty; he was mesmerizing and he knew it but to be honest he suited the swagger. When he called to me I went straight to him and we shared a tender moment, looking deep into each others eyes…then he sh*t himself and ran off…
Yes at last I had encountered the beautiful miniature horses of Skyros and this one was one hell of a dude, mane flowing in the breeze he could be a top model for err, Horse and Hound magazine maybe.
I’d had a bit of a headache to get here but it was worth it. First there was locating the actual taxi rank and as I’m finding most people’s English is on par with my Greek here that in itself wasn’t straightforward. Once I’d found the taxi rank and approached the drivers (who looked really p’d off that I dare to interrupt their card game nevermind give them some business) there was the issue of where I wanted to go. Bearing in mind my Geordie accent and the place I wanted to go was called Mouries…
Me: Err Taxi parakelo?
Blank looks from the taxi drivers sitting in the taxi rank
Me: Err I want to go to Mooooreez? In a taxi?
Even blanker looks. One of them says something, another scratches his chin. Thank god there’s a woman there too, someone with a bit of sense
Lady taxi man: Muriesss?
Me: Uhh Yes Mooooreez…Murriess? Err little horses
At this point I pat the air to indicate little horses. I’ve no idea how or why this would indicate little horses but idiot abroad has struck again.
Lady taxi man: I will take you, come
We agree a fare and set off into the countryside. It only takes ten minutes but watching her whizz around the corners, driving with fag in one hand and her phone in the other texting her mate it feels a little longer. When we arrive there’s all of about five other people here on a little farm in Skyros with only little horses for any real company. Perfect. I spend some time there then head for a walk into the countryside as there’s nothing else here but a restaurant but it’s too early for lunch.
It’s at this point that my little grey stallion gallops up out of nowhere, whinnying at me and standing proud as punch on the hilltop. I sneak a few photos before going to meet him in person, he’s an absolute superstar and I’m smitten. He soon gets bored of me though so I’m left to wander on my own, ending up on the other side of the island on another beach before heading back to the restaurant by the farm.
I go to order some food but apparently the kitchen doesn’t open until 1pm (It’s now gone midday) so I entertain myself with a beer and when I hear someone calling the waiter Dimitris it’s only right that I stay for some food too; it’s not so long to wait when you have beer in hand after all. When the kitchen does open I order a traditional Skyrian pie which is possibly the weirdest thing I’ve ever eaten. It’s basically some pastry with a dollop of cheese on the side and it’s enormous. Now I like my food but even for me there are limits on the about of pastry I can eat in one go and I end up defeated by the piebeast, having to leave a third of it. I try to leave at this point as I’ve been here almost two hours and have already said I’m stuffed but rather than the bill a dessert appears ‘on the house’. I think it’s chocolate ice-cream before I stick my spoon in but turns out it’s chocolate torte, possibly one of my favourite desserts and has a hazelnut wafer filled with chocolate stuck in the top of it. Little horses, beer, giant pie and free chocolate torte. Who needs Dimitrius, I’m in heaven! I’ve had enough of being held food hostage though and need to push on. I’ve a one hour 40 minute walk back to Magazia and I’d like to get back on the beach….Oh and by the way the waiter was definitely Dimitris and not Dimitrius in case you were wondering; besides he was far too young and short and clearly wasn’t a fisherman either!
I walk through Aspous, planning on having a drink there as it’s half way between the farm and Magazia and it was also somewhere I had considered staying at one point, however when I get there again there’s nothing there. I settle for a bottle of water in the supermarket and trudge on. By the time I get back to Magazia I’ve walked 18km and did a 6km run in the morning so feel I’ve earned a lie down on the beach. I decide to sit on the opposite side from yesterday, away from the ‘busy’ end and particularly boys who kick you.
I’m soon disturbed though but by far more welcome company…Dimitrus you say?! Has he finally made an appearance to help with suncream and rub my aching feet?
No, a big golden retriever has taken a shine to me and basically decided to plonk himself pretty much on top of me; his owner comes over and drags him off but I was quite happy with that kind of company. When I take a dip later my friend appears again to join me: some people go on holiday and get to swim with dolphins, I get Golden Retrievers instead; trust me, I have to be different.
In the evening it’s more Greek dancing at the Alonissos dance festival: my word those poor musicians must be knackered! I choose another restaurant on the harbour front and am again given a curious look when I tell them the table is just for me. The waiter, who is definitely not Dimitrius, asks why the most beautiful girl on the island is alone. Oh dear, here we go with the patter. Just because I’m on my own does not mean I’m desperate (err despite the title of this blog) and furthermore I can spot schmoozing a mile off. I shrug “Hey, that’s just the way of the world isn’t it. Can I have a menu please?”
Well clearly if he genuinely thought I was the most beautiful girl on the island he’s not making much of an effort as the service is incredibly slow despite things being a lot quieter than the evening before. Where is my menu?! Eventually he brings the quarter of wine and water that I have ordered and asks me which glass I would prefer the wine in: wine glass or tumbler. I joke that it’s fine, I will just drink from the jug however it’s definitely lost in translation. He just looks at me like I’m weird, which I guess I am a bit. The food is fantastic and just when I think I am all pattered out at the end of the meal a different waiter appears and tries his luck (he’s definitely definitely definitely absolutely not in a million years and then some Dimitrius). He tells me that he will meet me at the bar with the van in the wall (he means a VW Beetle; it’s not a white-van-man-type-van like it sounds, that’d just look a bit, well, s**t) when he finishes work and will buy me a drink. There’s no asking me if I want this, just a statement of fact. Well your fact is my fiction mate, there’s not a hope in hells chance I’m going to that bar tonight now despite planning to so cheers for that, you’ve just ruined my evening. Obviously I don’t say any of this, just make a nod and ensure when he has gone I leg it as soon as I can; after I’ve paid the bill of course…I haven’t turned to that life of crime after the ferry incident just yet
The following day I’m keen to have a more relaxing time and my blisters will thank me for it I’m sure. I decide to head to the nearby beaches of Rousoum Gialos and Votsi, which are basically the next bays along from Patitiri where I’m staying. All of these beaches are pebble rather than sand so I almost feel like I’m having a hot stone massage each time I lay down, they’re good for you though right… even though it feels like I’ve been sleeping on, well rocks. Walking from Rousoum to Votsi I have a slight problem: my sandal breaks. I’m not near any shops and I’m a good twenty minute walk from the hotel. I do what any self-respecting person would do and err shuffle along as best I can in the heat. I’m spurred on though when I see a sign for ‘Dimitris pizza café restaurant’ with not only the sign but a boat run aground behind it. Could this be?! Has he given up his life of fishing to enter the catering business?! There’s no way I’m turning back now; I hobble on at speed, find the restaurant and am brimming with anticipation; could this finally be?! I sit on a seat overlooking the waterfront and try and look as nonchalant as possible; flicking my hair, and gazing out at the boats. I hear someone approach and steel myself, preparing to meet the love of my life, big smile at the ready, I turn my gaze and see… a teenage girl, notebook in hand. Arrrghhhh I knew it was too good to be true; besides it was the wrong spelling anyway. I order a Mythos for refreshment before me and my Monty Python school of funny walks head back home again.
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