Tag Archives: Greek Car Hire

People Pictures – Taking a Break

When it comes to taking pictures I like doors, statues, balconies and washing lines, Kim on the other hand likes people pictures so I thought I might share a few of them with you.

This one was taken on the Greek Island of Amorgos…

I imagine this woman was taking a well earned break after a morning of hard graft housework.

We took a ride out to the  Chora which cannot be seen from the sea or from the harbour but as we got closer we could see it above us like a fresh snow fall on top of a mountain.  From the outside it doesn’t look especially promising but once inside the walls of the town it is a different matter altogether.  The town turns in on itself in an introspective sort of way and inside there were narrow shady streets and lots of traditional cafés and tavernas where getting disorientated and lost is a certainty.

It was a lazy place where time goes by slowly and no one is in a particular hurry about anything.  If this was Naxos or Ios the Chora would have been teeming with shops and fast food places but this was a local town for local people and completely unspoilt by the retinue of tourist shops that can be found on more popular islands.

We explored the streets and in a very stiff breeze climbed to the very top to the redundant windmills that overlook the town and the Venetian castle that is built on top of a rocky outcrop that soars above it and its mass of dazzling white buildings.

On the way back we were ready for a second stroll through the Chora where we ambled through the corkscrew of twisting streets returning several times to exactly the same place passing by several churches, the castle, blue doors, blue sky, shady vines and friendly cafés and I knew that this was my kind of town.

The Chora is rather like a hippie time-warp, slow, lazy, faded and bleached, pot plants struggling in the midday sun and appropriately slow mood music in the tavernas and bars – it reminded me of a favourite pair of old denim jeans and my battered blue t-shirt that I am reluctant to throw away.

Click on an image to scroll through the Gallery…

The ambience is compounded by  cultural traditions. Village life retains a centuries old pace thanks in large part to the absence of motorised vehicles. Old men while away the afternoons sitting in the summer shade chatting.  The labyrinthine, narrow lanes are the province of donkeys and wooden carts. Displays of ripe fruit – tomatoes, figs, golden apples – stand outside the little stores, the local catch is brought into the harbour daily, the wine and the raki is plentiful, good and cheap.

As we wandered around an old lady dressed all in black asked for help negotiating some difficult steps and we naturally obliged and in return for our assistance she treated us to her life story and tales of Amorgian life.  Her name was Limonique and she told us that after sixty-five years of marriage she was now a widow so I guessed her age to be somewhere around eighty-five or so.

 

 

Greek Islands, Amorgos – Katapola and the Chora

Amorgos Windmills Chora Greece

“I would stare out the window at these telephone wires and think, how civilisation had caught up with me and I wasn’t going to be able to escape after all. I wasn’t going to be able to live this eleventh-century life that I had thought I had found for myself.” – Leonard Cohen

Katapola was tranquil, peaceful and perfect and at this precise time might possibly have been the most wonderful place on earth and we looked forward to our three days of perfection because apart from concrete, the internet and air conditioning this place probably hasn’t changed a great deal in a thousand years.

Amorgians have a history of preserving the past and resisting progress.  There is a sense of collective defiance perhaps explained by the fact that during the dictatorship of Ioannis Metaxas (1936-41) the island was used as a remote place of exile for political prisoners.

Forty years ago the island didn’t have electricity, the tarmac roads that link the villages weren’t constructed until the 1990s and the modern ports which today welcome the large ferries are relatively recent additions.  The island has a desalination plant now to provide fresh water but up until 2015 fresh water was shipped in and delivered by tankers.

Amorgos Chora

We took the car to the Chora which cannot be seen from the sea or from the harbour but as we got closer we could see it above us like a fresh snow fall on top of a mountain.  From the outside it doesn’t look especially promising but once inside the walls of the town it is a different matter altogether.  The town turns in on itself in an introspective sort of way and inside there were narrow shady streets and lots of traditional cafés and tavernas where getting disorientated and lost is a certainty.

It was a lazy place where time goes by slowly and no one is in a particular hurry about anything.  If this was Naxos or Ios the Chora would have been teeming with shops and fast food places but this was a local town for local people and completely unspoilt by the retinue of tourist shops that can be found on more popular islands.

We explored the streets and in a very stiff breeze climbed to the very top to the redundant windmills that overlook the town and the Venetian castle that is built on top of a rocky outcrop that soars above it and its mass of dazzling white buildings.

Amorgos Chora

On the way back we were ready for a second stroll through the Chora where we ambled through the corkscrew of twisting streets returning several times to exactly the same place passing by several churches, the castle, blue doors, blue sky, shady vines and friendly cafés and I knew that this was my kind of town.

The Chora is rather like a hippie time-warp, slow, lazy, faded and bleached, pot plants struggling in the midday sun and appropriately slow mood music in the tavernas and bars – it reminded me of a favourite pair of old denim jeans and my battered blue t-shirt that I am reluctant to throw away. 

The ambience is compounded by  cultural traditions. Village life retains a centuries old pace thanks in large part to the absence of motorised vehicles. Old men while away the afternoons sitting in the summer shade chatting.  The labyrinthine, narrow lanes are the province of donkeys and wooden carts. Displays of ripe fruit – tomatoes, figs, golden apples – stand outside the little stores, the local catch is brought into the harbour daily, the wine and the raki is plentiful, good and cheap.

As we wandered around an old lady dressed all in black asked for help negotiating some difficult steps and we naturally obliged and in return for our assistance she treated us to her life story and tales of Amorgian life.  Her name was Limonique and she told us that after sixty-five years of marriage she was now a widow so I guessed her age to be somewhere around eighty-five or so.

Limonique Amorgos Chora

With the hire car at our disposal we decided now to drive around the south coast of the island.  I find that mostly it is good fun to drive a rental car but sometimes it is not.  This time it was not. Amorgos is extremely mountainous and the roads sway like a crazy roller coaster around the peaks and the valleys and the mountain passes and in some places only seem to hang on by crumbling asphalt fingernails to the fragmenting rock and loose shale.

The car, a Chevrolet City Spark with an inadequate 800cc engine was hopelessly under powered and totally unsuited to this type of motoring and it was hard work constantly twisting and turning and forever shifting gears – mostly between first and second!

I had put some petrol in the tank but with the continuous high revs the tiny engine was like a hungry sponge sucking the fuel tank dry at an alarming rate  and I became concerned as the needle started to sink like a stone towards the red zone.

And it was dangerous with precipitous drops with inadequate barriers to prevent a vehicle careering over the edge, oncoming vehicles driven by locals who consider it compulsory to text while driving and then unexpected livestock.

Amorgos Driving Hazard

After an hour or so I gave in.  I really wasn’t enjoying it and could go no further so after consulting with the navigator we turned around and headed straight back to Katapola where we parked the car and resumed walking.

There was a noticeable absence of English travellers but by contrast there were a lot of French people on Amorgos because this island was one of the locations for the Luc Besson film ‘Le Grande Bleu’ which self-opinionated film critics and French film-goers rave about but which turns out to be one of those hard to understand surrealist French non-event movies that goes around in ever decreasing self-indulgent circles until it finally disappears up its own aperture.

We waited now until nearly sunset time and then as the sun began to dip, the hills turn purple and the valleys flood with shadows we took a walk along the southern shore of the harbour, past an inevitable white church and an unnamed statue and as we sat and watched the sun fall into the sea and the sky turn purple through to black we looked back on our time in Amorgos and looked forward to moving on the next day to Naxos and then to Ios.

Amorgos Greece Sunset

Greek Islands, Amorgos – Aegiali to Katapola

Shady Relief in Amorgos Greece

Armed with the pedometer Kim had got her really serious walking legs working now so the day after the demanding climb to Tholária we were at it again early and tackling the walk to another nearby village of Lagkada.

Lagkada was about the same distance (two miles or so) but had the benefit of a footpath cut directly through the terraces which did away with the need to slavishly follow the tarmac and we dragged ourselves up the crumbling and uneven steps towards the bottom of the village.

Amorgos donkey

On the way we passed an islander on a mule and it was obvious that he was going about his day and his work on his chosen form of transport.  I got to thinking about how infrequently you see this now, much less even than when I first started to visit the Greek islands over thirty years ago and I realised that soon this will be a thing of the past.

This makes me a little sad!  When this generation has gone it is probable that no one will continue to use donkeys for anything other than equine amusement.  I felt glad that I had been there in time to see this and felt disappointed for those who will come after me and won’t.  Soon, I suspect seeing a Greek man riding a mule will be consigned to the dustbin of nostalgia. They will be gone and Europe will be the poorer for it.

Once inside the whitewashed walls we quickly found a  bar where we could rest a while.  A nice feature in the bars and cafés in Amorgos is the hospitable habit of providing customers with a glass of cold water.  I was unsure of this at first because I was brought up with a paranoia of drinking water abroad, so bad that I used to wash my teeth in bottled water in case I inadvertently swallowed a millilitre or two.

In fact the first time that I went to Greece, to Kos in 1983, I had to have typhoid injections and a certificate to prove it!   Well, how things change and now, thanks to desalination, if you can tolerate the odd taste, it appears to be safe to drink the water across the whole of the Greek Islands without suffering ill effects or an upset stomach.

Lagkada Amorgos Greece

We returned to the rustic narrow streets with decorated paving and adjacent buildings all whitewashed and blue.  All whitewashed and blue because since 1974 in a law passed by the military government of the time all houses have had to be painted white and church domes blue. Recently a debate has been re-opened between the Ministry of Culture and other authorities about allowing the use of alternative colours but as yet the law remains in place.

Amorgos Village Shop

In the middle of the village we came across a curious shop with an interesting window display and when I peaked inside the gloomy interior an old man illuminated by a shaft of dusty sun light invited us in.  It was what I would describe as a sort of workshop and he explained to us that he was the village carpenter, the village hardware store, the village liquor supplier and the village barber!  He obligingly showed us around and explained the family pictures hanging on the walls and invited me to have a haircut but I respectfully declined when I saw the age and condition of the clippers!

Lagkada is a pretty little village but it doesn’t take too long to see all of it (twice) so satisfied that we hadn’t missed anything we made our way down the path to Aegiali for our final afternoon and evening because the next day we were moving to the other end of the island to Katapola.

Amorgos table chairs pot and cat

The bus fare to Katapola was good value at only €2.80 each and after we paid the driver started the engine and left exactly on time.  We sat close to the front of the bus and in the seat directly behind the driver there was an old woman in widow’s weeds who was determined to talk constantly in some sort of quest to distract him and thoroughly test his driving ability as he eased the vehicle out of the village and began the ascent to the top of the mountain that separates the two ends of the island.  Before 1991 when this road was built the only effective way to travel from one end of Amorgos to the other was by ferry.

As the bus climbed higher into the interior and the engine began to complain and the gearbox groan the sides of the mountain became surprisingly greener with rugged plants clinging stubbornly to the desperately thin soil and then we reached the top of the mountainous spine of the island and we could see all the way down across the Chora and into the port of Katapola and still the woman in the seat behind the driver kept talking.

I’d have backed that woman in a talk-off against my mum!

The bus stopped briefly at the Chora to pick up more passengers and then the driver set off down the hairpin bends of the mountain road and down to the port.  I think he liked this part of the journey most of all because he made especially extravagant manoeuvres with increasingly theatrical turns of the steering wheel and he was confident too, even at one stage of the precipitous descent taking time out to make a telephone call while still listening all the time to the woman behind him jabbering away.

Amorgos Wall Decoration

After only a few minutes we arrived at the final bus stop in the port of Katapola, got off and met the driver from the apartments, the Hotel Amorgion and were driven quite some distance away from the town until we reached our destination.

To be honest, this was rather further out than we really wanted to be along an unmade road without any lighting and it was immediately clear that we were going to need some form of transport and with a very infrequent bus service and taxi fares beyond my skin-flint budget it was agreed that we would hire a car for our two-day stay in Katapola.

We negotiated a price of €50 and thirty minutes later it was delivered, a brand new Chevrolet Spark already with several areas of damage on the paintwork.  The hiring procedure was a refreshingly casual affair, there was no insurance hard sell, the man didn’t even want my credit card details and he said that it didn’t even matter if I didn’t return it with any fuel.  Anemos Car Rentals must surely be the most laid back in all of Europe!

Amorgos Sunset

Weekly Photo Challenge: Adventure

Naxos Terror Vehicle

Terror Drive in Naxos

This morning we had to come to terms with our rash decision of the previous evening and after breakfast on the terrace we set out for a planned full day drive in our hire vehicle.  This wasn’t a regular car or a jeep or even a quad bike but rather a sort of easy-rider roadster dune buggy.

It looked cool and it looked fun but this was to be a full day of terror.

Read the full story…