Tag Archives: Kalami

Looking Back on 2014

Wroclaw Arial View

January always seems to be a good time to go away if you ask me and this year I found some cheap Ryanair flights at only £50 return to Wroclaw, the fourth largest city in Poland and as we had previously been to Krakow and enjoyed it there we quickly the decision was quickly made to visit the historic capital of Lower Silesia.

We enjoyed a wonderful weekend in this charming Polish city and enjoyed it so much that we have made arrangements to go to Warsaw early in 2015.

Semana Santa Holy Week Siguenza 3

Twelve months previously in March 2013 we had travelled to the small town of Sigüenza about one hundred kilometres north east of Madrid on the road to Zaragoza and Barcelona and we liked it so much we decided to return for a second visit.

One of the reasons was to see the  Semana Santa for a second time.  This is one of the most important traditional events of the Spanish Catholic year; it is celebrated in the week leading up to Easter and features a procession of Pasos which are large floats of lifelike wooden sculptures of individual scenes of the events of the Passion.

Ireland Dingle

There is a pub quiz question that comes up regularly and which I always get wrong, which is ‘what is the nearest country to the United Kingdom’ and the answer of course is Southern Ireland or Eire but I always forget about the border with Northern Ireland and blurt out ‘France, it must be France’.  Not surprising then that until now I have never visited the country.

2014 has been a big year for me as I reached the birthday milestone of sixty years and I was planning something special to celebrate the occasion and then some friends asked if we would like to visit Ireland with them and that seemed special enough so we set about making travel plans.

Thomas' Place Kalami Corfu

In 2004 I celebrated my fiftieth birthday with family on the Greek island of Santorini.  On the final night I treated everyone to a birthday celebration meal in a taverna and drank far too much Mythos Beer, Ouzo, and Metaxa Brandy and rashly declared that we would do the same thing in ten years time when I would be sixty.  I went to bed and promptly forgot all about it.

My children didn’t forget.  As 2014 got ever close they kept reminding me about the offer that I had made that night and so eventually I had no option but to deliver on the promise.  Sadly the Boss Bar in Santorini  closed down sometime between 2004 and 2006 and so I needed to find a suitable alternative and decided upon the village of Kalami on the island of Corfu which we had enjoyed a couple of years previously.

Turkey Souvenir Shopping Bag

The end of the Summer usually means the Greek Islands for our travels but this year we were breaking with tradition and although close by to the Dodecanese we were visiting mainland Turkey instead.

At the end of the holiday I drew up a balance sheet of our visit to Turkey.  I had enjoyed the antiquity and the ruins, the temples and the ancient cities; the long walks along the coast; the friendly people; Bodrum; our excellent apartment courtesy of our friends Steve and Kath and the weather.  On the other side of the balance sheet was the dogs, the litter and IMX Travel but overall I declared the holiday a resounding success and look forward to returning to Turkey as soon as the travel itinerary allows.

Budapest Travel Group

At the end of the year we travelled with friends  to Hungary and its capital city Budapest.  We had been before in 2007 but only for a couple of days which wasn’t nearly enough time to see the sights of this magnificent city so had no objections to going back for a second time.

Budapest was an absolute revelation, I had not been expecting anything so grand, it was easily as good as Vienna and in my opinion much better than Prague, the scale of the city eclipses Bratislava and Ljubljana and I liked it as well as any other city I have visited.

2014 has not been our most prolific travelling year – that was in 2007 when we managed to get away somewhere twelve times, once every month.  Airline tickets were cheaper then and we didn’t have grandchildren so I doubt we will doing that again soon.

Just six overseas trips this year and oddly, although I often say that I won’t go to the same place twice this year half of our travels were to places that we had enjoyed previously – Sigüenza, Corfu and Budapest and I think we will try and avoid repeat visits in the future if we can.

So now the serious business of planning for 2015 really begins.  We will start with a city trip to Warsaw in February and then see where the rest of the year takes us…

Postcards from Corfu

Greek StampsCorfu Postcard 1984

Corfu Postcard Map

Corfu Achillion

Corfu Town

Perama Mouse Island

Corfu, My Family and Other Disasters – Assessment

Corfu Post Card 1984 Old Town

I had visited Corfu almost thirty years ago but although on that occasion I toured the island from north to south and from east to west I came as a holidaymaker rather than a traveller and I saw everything but didn’t see anything.

This second visit to Kalami in as many years continued to nudge my memory and from what I can remember it hasn’t really changed a great deal at all – the Venetian elegance of Corfu town, the lush green vegetation of the interior, the twisting roads, the soaring mountains, the views that so enchanted Edward Lear and Henry Miller, The limestone ribbed bays where we spent our lazy days were all very much as I remembered them now and suddenly it didn’t really matter that I hadn’t paid attention to these details all those years ago because now my head and my camera were full to overflowing with all these unchanged images.

In my opening Corfu post I mentioned that I had prepared for the visit by reading Gerald Durrell’s ‘My Family and Other Animals’ which forms a sort of Corfiot trilogy alongside brother Laurence’s ‘Prospero’s Cell’ and Henry Miller’s ‘The Colossus of Marousi’  all written about many of the same places, and often the same people, but from very different perspectives.

Gerald Durell Corfu Greece  Lawrence Durrell Corfu Greece

Previously I had stayed south of Corfu town in the resort of Perama where it turns out that Gerald Durrell lived with most of his family (his mother, brother and sister).  I say most of his family because although his book, ‘My Family and Other Animals’ would have the reader believe that he lived there with all his family it turns out that he didn’t live with older brother Lawrence at all.

Lawrence and his wife Nancy lived some distance away in Kalami in the White House and curiously Gerald doesn’t even mention her once in any of his Corfu books possibly because they were written twenty years after the event and Lawrence and Nancy were long since separated and divorced.

The White House claims an association with younger brother Gerald but it seems he never lived here at all.  In fact it is entirely possible that he never even visited the place because Perama is over forty kilometres away and eighty years ago there were no asphalt roads or cars or even public transport that would have made an afternoon visit comfortably possible.

White House Kalami

Gerald it seems was prone to extreme exaggeration and although his books are entertaining they miss the truth by a mile.  Actually I tired of them.  I enjoyed the first but the second was written when Gerald was in his fifties and had clearly lost touch with his childhood and with reality and I gave it up half way through.  He said himself that he didn’t enjoy writing them and only did so to make money to finance his naturalist expeditions and this I am afraid is blindingly obvious.

I much preferred the work of Lawrence with his sublime descriptions of life in Corfu (and equally curiously he doesn’t ever mention the other members of his family who lived here at the same time), a diary of vivid memories that for me at least bring the place to life.  How wonderful it must have been to live in this place all that time ago and experience a life of bohemian indulgence.

Sadly the truth turns out to be that Lawrence was a misogynist, a bully and an abuser and the idyllic life he describes may only have been spasmodic or one sided.  Henry Miller refers at one point to ‘black eyes for breakfast’.  I find it a shame that a man who could write such elegant prose should also have such a darker, unpleasant side.

As for Henry Miller – I found the ‘Colossus of Maroussi’ rather self-indulgent and heavy going but whilst I have abandoned Gerald Durrell I will return to Miller.

I have one last comparison to make.  For ten years I have been in the habit of visiting the Cyclades Islands, specks of volcanic rock in the space between mainland Greece and Turkey and have gleefully declared them my favourites but now that I have been reunited with the Ionian Islands I have to reassess this opinion.  In ‘Prospero’s Cell’ Lawrence Durrell describes the sighting of a Cretan boat in the bay of Kalami and this seems to me to sum up perfectly the difference:

The whole Aegean was written in her lines…. She had strayed out of the world of dazzling white windmills and grey, uncultured rock; out of the bareness and dazzle of the Aegean into our seventeenth-century Venetian richness. She had strayed from the world of Platonic forms into the world of decoration.”

No words of mine could improve on that wonderful comparison of the harsh, barren Cyclades and the soft, abundant Ionian.   So which do I prefer – impossible now to say, perhaps it may even be neither but the Dodecanese instead which is where I am bound for next.

Island Hopping, Back Packing, Greek Islands, Paros

Read here about all my Greek Island visits…

Click on an image below to scroll through the gallery…

 

Corfu, My Family and Other Disasters – Rescue

Corfu Kalami White House Lawrence Durrell

Although the broken toe continued to swell the pain was kept tolerable because the Mythos cure worked fine once administered in sufficient quantities appropriate to a major foot injury and by the end of the day I had almost forgotten about it.

The next morning the redness had turned to bruising – black, scarlet, yellow and purple spreading across my foot like red wine spilt on a white tablecloth but apart from a little discomfort when walking the damage did not seem too serious and it didn’t restrict my holiday activities in any way although people around the swimming pool did stare at it and avoided me as though I had some form of contagious disease and worried about me walking barefoot around the pool.

Oddly there was still no pain and I could only attribute this to the fact that there was still a considerable quantity of after dinner ouzo circulating in the blood stream.  In fact Kim complained more about a jelly fish sting to the back of her leg than I did about my foot.

It was a good job that the injury didn’t prevent me from getting around because a day later we went on the second visit to Corfu town, again by speed boat taxi and again the return journey provided a potential disaster.

Corfu Old Town

To begin with there was no hint of a problem and the water taxi eased out of the harbour and once in open water the skipper opened the throttle, the bow lifted its head out of the sea and began to carve a path through the surface of the water leaving a trail of white water in its wake and we settled back to enjoy the twenty minute return journey to Kalami but just as we approached mid distance it was evident that there was a problem

The boat suddenly began to lose power and the skipper looked concerned and then there was a shower of sparks and smoke, a death rattle from the propeller and the boat dipped its previously proud bow down into the water and we were suddenly quite still and completely motionless.  This was obviously something quite serious and the skipper apologised and explained that there was a problem with the propeller shaft and although he had got a replacement back in Kalami he hadn’t been able to get around to fixing it quite yet because he had been so busy.  This was an interesting piece of information but not a great deal of comfort to us, stranded as we were in the middle of the sea.

I remember that when I was younger if my car ever broke down that I would lift the bonnet and wiggle a few wires in the hope that this would provide a solution and the skipper went through exactly this sort of procedure and just as it was when I tried to fix my car he was equally unsuccessful in mending the boat and so we continued to drift while he apologised several more times and made some urgent mobile phone calls to someone somewhere back on the island.

Having been so recently accustomed to the roar of the engine and the slapping of the water against the hull it was now spookily quiet except for the nervous conversations taking place around the boat.  We were becalmed and floating gently in the general direction of the lavender grey hills of Albania, probably one of the most inhospitable countries in Western Europe.  No passport, no papers and no credible excuse for being washed up on the beach in a hostile environment.  I imagined the approaching boat being picked up on radar and the Albanian military being put on full alert to intercept and arrest us.

Eventually the skipper made contact with a colleague and a collective sigh of relief circulated around the boat as he explained that shortly we would be rescued.  After a few minutes a high powered speed boat arrived and the first of us had to make a tricky transfer from one boat to the other while they bobbed about like corks on the water as we carefully passed the children from one to the other.

Once aboard the boats separated and the rescue boat sped back at top speed bouncing over the surface and sending continuous spray into our faces as the wind whistled around our ears and clawed at our clothes.  This boat was a lot faster than the taxi and a whole lot more fun as well and once back safely on dry land we had a dramatic story to tell to those who had not accompanied us on the trip and then they rest of the day dropped quickly back into normal holiday routine.

And so a week that started slowly with endless days of sunshine spent on an idyllic blue flag beach suddenly gathered pace in the final two days and they seemed to slip through our fingers with astonishing speed that we couldn’t decelerate until it was almost time to pack and return home and this was my opportunity to reflect and assess…

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Some more of my boat journeys recorded in the journal:

Malta Tony-Oki-Koki

Corfu-1984 Georges Boat

Rowing Boat on Lake Bled in Slovenia

A Boat Ride with Dolphins in Croatia

A Boat Ride with Dolphins in Wales

Gondola Ride in Venice

Captain Ben’s Boat in Anti Paros

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Corfu, My Family and Other Disasters – Greek Dancing

Kalami Corfu Greece

A little scare with the weather passed by as the grey clouds dispersed as quickly as they gathered, the wind disappeared and the previously agitated sea returned to normal which enabled us to return to our now familiar routine of beach and swimming pool.  The local people lamented the fact that it wasn’t going to rain but we of course were selfishly glad of that no matter how much the place needed precipitation.

In the evenings as the cicadas settled down we would walk through the twisting paths by the sun baked gardens and the flower beds of straining woody geraniums and sprawling succulents and back to the sea front and ate in our favourite tavernas where good food was served by the attentive waiters and where we chose plates of Greek traditional dishes and sat by the water’s edge lit up now by a copper moon over a bottomless ink black sea and silent but for the sound of the occasional wave and the contented murmur of fellow diners.

And if the children didn’t fall asleep then we would finish at the hotel bar where there was nightly entertainment.

Whilst I am not an enthusiast of quizzes and karaoke a holiday in Greece is just not complete without going to a traditional Greek food and party night and this really must include participative Greek dancing and one evening we were delighted to find Greek entertainment.  A real enthusiast will prepare for such an evening by purchasing a CD of Greek music to practice beforehand but this is not strictly necessary and all you really need to be able to do is to recognise the opening chords of ‘Zorba’s Dance.

Greek Dancing

What you really need to do to get ready for a Greek night is:

  • Abandon high culinary expectation
  • Prepare yourself for copious amounts of cheap retsina
  • Be prepared to make a complete fool of yourself on the dance floor
  • Have your travel insurance documents handy, as they will be needed at the hospital.

In ancient Greece, dancing was believed to be the gift of the gods. Sacred dances were held as offerings to the deities, as commemorations of key events, and as a way of keeping communities together.

Most Greek dances are danced in a line and the line moves generally to the right and the person on the end with their right hand free is the leader.  Everyone else follows the leader who calls the steps that can be quite complicated.  Beginners are supposed to join the line at the end and it is considered bad manners to barge into the middle.

One of the most common dances at Greek party night is called the Zembekiko, or drunkard’s dance. After a few glasses of retsina this one is quite easy because it has no specific steps and involves stumbling around precariously to the rhythm of the music. In the Zembekiko there are several dancers down on one knee clapping around a particular dancer, and then they’ll swap places now and again. There are no rules. You can dance alone or join the clapping for someone else. As long as people are having a good time, that is just fine.

The Greek night here in Corfu was good but the best that I have been to was in Mykonos in 2005, which was held in a rustic bar in a village in the hills and as well as the food and the wine and the dancing also had table dancing, setting fire to the floor with lighter fuel dancing and plate smashing.  Breaking plates is linked with the Greek concept of kefi, which is the spirit of joy, passion, enthusiasm, high spirits, or frenzy.  Some say that it wards off evil spirits, others that breaking plates symbolises good luck (especially for potters I should imagine).  Whatever it means it is a lot of good fun.

Breaking plates like this is now considered a dangerous practice due to flying shards, and perhaps also because of intoxicated tourists who have poor aim and may hit innocent bystanders. It is officially discouraged and in Greece, as well as in the United Kingdom  a bar or restaurant that wants to do it requires a license and probably has to satisfy a long list of EU regulations.   Tucked away in the hills, I doubt if this place had a license but it didn’t last long and they very quickly substituted the plates with paper napkins to throw around.

Mind you if you think plate smashing is dangerous in the old days they used to throw knives at the dancers feet as a sign of respect and manhood.  This was a bit reckless and not surprisingly, due to countless injuries, that tradition gradually changed to the present-day flower throwing alternative, which is a bit pansy but a whole lot safer.

As it got later the children tired so we returned to the room and the balcony which overlooked the bar and with a final ouzo listened to the pulsating beat of ‘Zorba’s Dance’ against a background of velvet sky with a scattering of stars all reflected in the placid sea where boats rested like fireflys on the water waiting for tomorrow’s adventure.

Greek Night Corfu

Corfu, My Family and Other Disasters – Arrival

Corfu Postcard Map

Corfu: ”this brilliant little speck of an island in the Ionian”                           Lawrence Durrell – ‘Prospero’s Cell’ 

In 2004 I celebrated my fiftieth birthday with family on the Greek island of Santorini.  On the final night I treated everyone to a birthday celebration meal in a taverna and drank far too much Mythos Beer, Ouzo, and Metaxa Brandy and rashly declared that we would do the same thing in ten years time when I would be sixty.  I went to bed and promptly forgot all about it.

My children didn’t forget.  As 2014 got ever close they kept reminding me about the offer that I had made that night and so eventually I had no option but to deliver on the promise.  Sadly the Boss Bar in Santorini  closed down sometime between 2004 and 2006 and so I needed to find a suitable alternative and decided upon the village of Kalami on the island of Corfu which we had enjoyed a couple of years previously.

We were allocated seven seats on the plane, six altogether and one a row behind.  Kim thought she was being clever by bagging the solitary seat so she could stay away from the children and read her book in peace but I had to laugh when someone turned up and claimed the seat next to her with a small baby in her arms!  Luckily the flight passed by without incident.

The landing and arrival were just as I remembered them as the plane approached Cofu, shaped like a ballerinas balancing leg and over Pontikonisi Island, the home of the monastery of Pantokrator.  Then over the ‘chessboard fields’ of the Venetian salt marshes before landing on the freshly ploughed runway which gave everyone on board a rough welcome to the island and through the window I could see the same hopelessly inadequate buff coloured and tired airport terminal as the plane came to a gentle stop as the engines slowed from a high pitched whine to a gentle hum.

Passport control  was surprisingly chaotic with an unusual diligence not normally a feature of Greek border control and the line shuffled forward agonisingly slowly as the official at the desk took his time checking passports and ID until a second man came along, opened a gate and ushered us all through with only the customary glance at the documents that I am more familiar with in Greece and then, reunited with our luggage, we found the transfer coach ready to take us to Kalami.

At first the driver made slow progress through the growling traffic of the outskirts of the busy town with boxcrete apartment blocks with peeling facades, sagging washing lines and precarious balconies all decorated with satellite dishes and television aerials but eventually he nudged his way through the traffic and we were on the scenic coastal road that took us through Gouvia, Dassia and Ipsos and towards the mountainous north of the island where the road climbed in extravagant sweeping hairpin bends up one side of the coastal mountains and then dramatically down the other side.

It was late evening by now and the journey seemed to take forever, not helped by having to make a twenty minute detour to drop just two people off at a swanky hotel before having to double back to the main road to complete the journey.  Ordinarily this wouldn’t have been a problem but I was beginning to panic that as the minutes ticked by that the hotel shop might be closed and I would be unable to purchase essential supplies like milk for the children and (more importantly) Mythos for me!

Kalami Bay Corfu White House

I really shouldn’t have worried because we arrived a few minutes before ten o’clock and as we checked in the receptionist assured me that the shop was going to stay open for some time yet so we settled into our rooms and returned to the street to make our essential purchases.

Having been here before I knew what to expect – the rooms were basic with furniture held together with blu-tack and string, dodgy plumbing and only very basic facilities but this was more than compensated for by the magnificent view from the balcony which overlooked the crescent bay, shaped like a Saracen’s sword, pine fringed with limestone layer cake rocks, boats lolling in the languid water and the White House ‘set like a dice on a rock already venerable with the scars of wind and water’ of Lawrence Durrell.

Back in the land of ancient gods I felt immediately home and opened a bottle of Mythos to reassure myself that they hadn’t changed the brewing recipe and then we all wandered down to the seafront to our favourite beach side taverna, Thomas’ Place, where we plundered the menu for Greek specialities and began the holiday as we meant to continue before climbing back to our rooms and taking a last look at the night time vista before retiring to bed and looking forward to the next day.

During the night we experienced the downside of having a cheap and rustic studio apartment – it was incredibly loud!  The air conditioning chattered like a cicada, the fridge kept switching on and off with an ancient motor mechanism that sounded like a battering ram and every so often the shower head in the bathroom filled with water and discharged with a splash into the tray.  This was bad enough but worst of all were the beds, Kim’s croaked like a frog every time she turned over and mine quacked like a duck every time I moved and eventually after a disturbed night we were very glad that it was morning and we could start the holiday.

Thomas' Place Kalami Corfu

Weekly Photo Challenge: Twist


“The sea’s curious workmanship: bottle green glass sucked smooth and porous by the waves: wood stripped and cleaned and bark swollen with salt…gnawed and rubbed: amber: bone: the sea”    Lawrence Durrell – Propero’s Cell

So, it was an unexpectedly early start that day and so began a routine of a balcony breakfast followed by a morning at the beach where we played for a while, then walked for a while searching for driftwood and other suitable model boat building materials washed up by the sea and then rested for a while listening to the occasional drone of an outboard motor, the flapping of pedalo paddle wheels and the gentle plop or rowing boat oars spearing the limpid sea until it was time to take shelter in the taverna and order a bottle of Mythos.

Read the full story…

Corfu, The Boat Souvenir

“The sea’s curious workmanship: bottle green glass sucked smooth and porous by the waves: wood stripped and cleaned and bark swollen with salt…gnawed and rubbed: amber: bone: the sea”    Lawrence Durrell – Propero’s Cell

So, it was an unexpectedly early start that day and so began a routine of a balcony breakfast followed by a morning at the beach where we played for a while, then walked for a while searching for driftwood and other suitable model boat building materials washed up by the sea and then rested for a while listening to the occasional drone of an outboard motor, the flapping of pedalo paddle wheels and the gentle plop or rowing boat oars spearing the limpid sea until it was time to take shelter in the taverna and order a bottle of Mythos.

Read the full story…

Corfu, Reflection and Assessment

Corfu Greece Kalami

“No other spot on earth can be fuller of beauty and of variety of beauty” Edward Lear.

A week that started slowly with endless days of sunshine spent on an idyllic blue flag beach suddenly gathered pace in the final two days and they seemed to slip through our fingers with astonishing speed that we couldn’t decelerate until it was almost time to pack and return home and this was my opportunity to reflect and assess.

I had visited Corfu almost thirty years ago but although on that occasion I toured the island from north to south and from east to west I came as a holidaymaker rather than a traveller and I saw everything but didn’t see anything.

Read the full story…

Corfu, Greek Dancing

Kalami Corfu Greece

“Marvellous things happen to one in Greece – marvellous good things which can happen to one nowhere else on earth”                                                                  Henry Miller – The Colossus of Maroussi

The little scare with the weather passed by quite quickly as the grey clouds dispersed as quickly as they gathered, the wind disappeared and the previously agitated sea returned to normal which enabled us to return to our now familiar routine of beach and swimming pool.  The local people lamented the fact that it wasn’t going to rain but we of course were selfishly glad of that no matter how much the place needed precipitation.

Read the full story…