Tag Archives: Kalymnos

Doors and Windows of Telendros

Kalymnos Grey Window

The weather-beaten taxi boats left the harbour every thirty minutes so we arrived in good time for the ten minute crossing and sat waiting in the sunshine on the open deck of the boat for it to begin the short crossing to what is little more than a stranded mountain top, a giant grey peak pitted with fissures and caves and thrusting magnificently out of the sea.

All along the lazy harbour there was a ribbon of tiny shops and tavernas.  This was a unique and improbable sort of place where the shops left local souvenirs out on shelves with an honesty box to pay for purchases.  It was like stepping back in time, a sort of cheesecloth and denim 1960s hippy commune that progress had forgotten to release and left it behind in a nostalgic time warp that everyone here seemed happy about.

The shops offered hand-made souvenirs made from driftwood and sea debris, wood, sticks and shells and the dusty shelves displayed herbs and spices and hand-made soaps and cosmetics.  The tavernas were stirring into life and one displayed a recommendation from an English newspaper from twenty years ago.

It was wonderful and we walked along the seafront as far as we could before the path petered out into stones and dust and then we returned through the sleepy back alleys to wait for the return crossing at a harbour side taverna where we agreed that if we were to return to Kalymnos sometime then this would be a good place to isolate ourselves for a couple of days.

Kalymnos Green DoorKalymnos Blue GateKalymnos Blue Windows

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Twinkle – The Harbour at Kos

Kos Harbour at Night

And so the day drifted slowly away into evening until the lights came on around the harbour and the tavernas started to twinkle into life.  Later we walked the short distance into the old town and made our way to our favourite taverna at the back of the cathedral and we enjoyed a simple meal before returning to the hotel for our one night stay before moving on to Kalymnos the next day.

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Corfu, My Family and Other Disasters – Corfu Town

Cortfu Town from the New Fortress

“The architecture of the town is Venetian; the houses above the old port are built up elegantly into slim tiers with narrow alleys and colonnades running between them; red, yellow, pink, umber – a jumble of pastel shades which the moonlight transforms into a dazzling white city…” –  Lawrence Durrell, ‘Prospero’s Cell’

Travelling to Corfu town by speed boat seemed a much preferable option than taking the long tedious journey by bus all around the bay because even though it was rather expensive (€19 each but children free) it only took twenty minutes.

The boat bounced over the gentle waves and we looked unsuccessfully for dolphins as the direct route to Corfu town bypassed all of the holiday resorts that punctuate the horseshoe bay and then we passed the monstrous cruise ships in the harbour and shortly after that disembarked at a small jetty quite close to the old fortress.

No one can really accuse Corfu town of being picturesque (that’s just my opinion) and it is an odd mix of busy streets and unappealing modern buildings and this is because sadly a lot of the town was destroyed in the Second-World-War when the Luftwaffe bombed Corfu as they grasped control from the Italians following Italy’s surrender to the Allies.  No one has gotten around to restoring the place to its former glory and sadly it is doubtful that they ever will.  Time marches on!

The old town of Corfu with its pastel-hued, multi-storey Venetian styled shuttered buildings, peaceful squares and graceful arcades was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2007 and stands on the broad part of a peninsula at the end of which the old Venetian citadel is cut off by a natural gully with a seawater moat.  To begin with we walked in the opposite direction along Arseniou, the old coastal road with the sea on one side and the elegant buildings on the other.

Saint Spyirdon Corfu Greece

History has left the Ionian isles with a fascinating cultural legacy, the result of Corinthian, Byzantine, Venetian, French and British influences that extend from architecture to cuisine and Corfu Town boasts the stateliest of Neoclassical buildings a legacy of the nineteenth century British Protectorate of the Ionian islands.

During two short spells of Napoleonic occupation, the French left their mark as well. This influence is best seen in the town’s arcaded Liston, a recreation of the Rue de Rivoli in Paris and a sun-drenched venue for sipping coffee and people-watching. It runs alongside the town’s huge grassy open space, the Spianada and before  all of this, the Venetians bequeathed all of the Ionian islands a distinctive landscape of Italianate buildings.

The overall impression is that of a cosmopolitan and Italianate city so we picked out our photo opportunities carefully concentrating on the stylish mansions courtesy of the Venetians, the large public buildings and parks left there by the British and the esplanade thanks to the French and all looking faded, sun damaged and dilapidated but all splendidly elegant.

Eventually we found a café that we liked and stopped for ice cream and a drink before continuing our walk through the cobblestone streets and up and down the steep steps which sucked us towards the very centre.  Having been developed within the confines of the fortifications the old town is a warren of narrow streets, which, as we walked through them were often hard work as they followed the gentle irregularities of the ground and corkscrewed through narrow alleys.

Emerging from the shady streets back into the sunshine we passed the Esplanade, once the exclusive place for nobles and important residents and the cricket pitch, which looked lush and green and rather out of place.  It is a quirky legacy of fifty years of British rule from 1814 to 1864 and where matches are still played today on a pitch with a precariously short boundary if you have parked your car near by and if Ian Botham or Viv Richards were batting!

I don’t suppose many people would expect to find cricket being played in Greece but it was introduced in Corfu in April 1823 when a match was played between the British Navy and the local Army garrison.

The Hellenic Cricket Federation was founded a hundred and seventy years later in 1996 when Greece became a member of the European Cricket Council and an affiliate member of the International Cricket Council.  There are now twenty-one cricket clubs in Greece, thirteen of which are based in Corfu and Greece competes annually in the European Cricket Championship despite being banned for a year in 2008 for cheating.

(For information there are ten full members of the International Cricket Council (ICC), fifty-two Associate Members including USA, Canada and Gibraltar and fifty-nine Affiliate Members including Greece).

Corfu Tonn Greece

To complete our visit we visited first the old Fortress to the east of the town and then the new Fortress built in 1813 during the Napoleonic wars and enjoying panoramic views of the town and the sea from the very top of the battlements.

I liked Corfu town, it is untidy and noisy but it has a friendly and familiar feel, rather like an old pair of shoes or a favourite holiday tee shirt that is both reliable and comfortable.  Four hours wandering around the town had passed surprisingly quickly and soon it was time to run the gauntlet of the pesky waiters trying to draw customers into the restaurants and return to the harbour for the return journey.

These men are masters of persuasion and can intercept people who have no immediate plans to stop for a drink or food and have them sitting down with a menu card in their hand in the bat of an eye lid and before they can fully understand what has happened to them.

The best man I ever saw at this was on the Greek island of Kalymnos.  I watched him working the pavement because he was a genius.  He had an infectious smile that he probably practised to perfection every morning in a mirror and he had the ability to make people stop and sit at a table and order drinks as though he could manipulate their minds and thoughts.  He stood back in the shadows waiting for his opportunity and then with a predatory sixth sense and a perfect awareness of potential customers as they passed by he stepped forward and pounced and was almost always successful.  It was a pleasure to watch him work and when we left I told him so and congratulated him on his skills.

Corfu Town Greece

Kos, Kalmnos and Bodrum

2012 has been a year of revisiting previous destinations but this time hopefully as a traveller rather than a holiday maker.  In 1984 I visited the Ionian Island of Corfu and returned there in July this year staying in the village of Kalami where Lawrence Durrell once lived.  In 1983 I made my first visit to Greece and visited the island of Kos in the Dodecanese and in September this year I returned there also.

In my Corfu journals I mentioned that although I hired a car and travelled around the island as far as I can remember I saw everything but didn’t see anything, so as with the return to Corfu I was interested in trying to compare the two visits because if the Cambridge classical scholar Professor M I Finley knew enough about Greece to fill a barrel, what Lawrence Durrell knew about Greece would fill a bucket and if what I know now would fill a teacup then what I knew then would barely cover the bottom of a thimble!  In 1983 I didn’t have the foresight to maintain a journal and the guidebook that I bought has long been lost so all that I have to help me make the comparison are some creaking memories and an album of fading photographs.

Kalymnos, The Islet of Telendros and a Departure

Telendros Kalymnos Dodecanese

There was more trouble with the room in the night, this time with the air conditioning unit which refused to respond to the battered and sellotaped together controller and was permanently set to sub-zero arctic temperature and so cold that it would have tested the endurance of a polar expedition team.  On the positive side this did prevent the fridge from constantly going on and off which cut down on the noise and there was no trouble with mosquitoes!

I thought it would be a good idea to let the sunshine in but after twelve days of blue skies and continuous sunshine it was a shock this morning to open the shutters and to come face to face with a hanging mist and the top of the mountain disappearing into a battleship grey cloud.

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Kalymnos, Sponges and a Monastery

Kalymnos Kos Dodecanese

The coast road to Vathi wasn’t the most attractive I have ever driven but it swooped around the sides of the hills and gave good views out to sea and the neighbouring island of Pserimos until suddenly and without warning it turned inland and after climbing for a while we emerged into an unexpected fertile green valley full of citrus trees in neat rows in carefully cultivated fields which was in complete contrast to the barren appearance that we had become accustomed to. The road suddenly turned back on itself until it reached the village of Rena and reached the sea and could go no further.

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Kalymnos, Pothia and the Greco-Turkish War

Kalymnos Kos Dodecanese

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 we were very glad that it was morning.

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Kos to Kalymnos

Kalymnos Kos

In the morning we took a stroll along the harbour to watch the last of the fishing fleet return one by one where family were waiting to take the catch, clean and gut, grade and sort and put out on iced beds under the shade of umbrellas for sale whilst keeping vigil and waiting for customers.

Out all night but there was no immediate rest for the fishermen because whilst this was going on there was more work yet to be done untangling, repairing and storing the nets, cleaning the pots and clearing down the decks.

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