Tag Archives: Kos

Entrance Tickets – The Askelepieion at Kos

Asklepieion Kos 1

Next to pointless cruising and boring city tour buses the third holiday form of holiday transport that I dislike most of all are those annoying tourist trains which are now an irritating feature of almost everywhere you go.

I have vowed never to go on one so was horrified to discover that the bus to the site was not a regular vehicle at all but one of these gaudily painted eye-sores which look so out of place (except perhaps at Disneyland).  Unfortunately it was the only sensible way to get to the Askelepieion because walking was out of the question and I wasn’t even going to consider paying for a taxi so I had to climb down off my snooty pedestal, abandon my lofty principles and jump aboard the train.

Asklepieion Kos 2

It took about twenty minutes to reach the site and we paid the modest entry fee and went inside to see the ruins of the once grand hospital where modern methods of medicine were developed and where treatment was a three stage process of incubation and diagnosis, treatment and recovery and then convalescence.

Rather like the Ancient Agoras in the town there wasn’t a great deal standing and what there was certainly not original because once again it had been dismantled and recycled and try as hard as I could to imagine what it may have looked like it was hopeless because all I could see were toppled columns, ruined temples and fractured and splintered stones.

I used to lament such destruction but here I realised that if I wanted to see it I could always go again to the Knights Castle because they used the very stones that are now missing at this place to construct the fortress.  My view now is that this really doesn’t matter, it is like a child playing with building bricks, it builds, dismantles and builds again using the same bricks but in a different architectural style.

As is often the case the important thing about being there was being there and not what we were going to see.

Kos Askelepieon 03

Temporarily this form of recycling is mostly at an end now thanks to UNESCO and a greater shared global appreciation of World Heritage and for the time being never again will a historically or culturally valuable site suffer the indignity of being wilfully dismantled to build something new and eventually therefore the World will be cluttered up with wholly new construction.

I had visited the Askelepieion several years before in 1984 and little seemed to have changed in thirty years except for fashion (no improvement) and waistline (several more inches).

Then and now…

Kos 1984Kos Askelepieion 02

To make the site make more sense for visitors the Italians, when they excavated the site, thoughtfully restored some of the steps and the columns in the same way that they had rebuilt the Acropolis at Lindos and the Street of the Knights in Rhodes.

I used to think this was rather a shame as well but I am now persuaded by Henry Miller who wrote of the the reconstruction and interpretation of the Minoan Palace at Knossos on Crete: “There has been much controversy about the aesthetics of Sir Arthur Evans’s work of restoration.  I find myself unable to come to any conclusion about it; I accepted it as a fact.  However Knossos may have looked in the past, however it may look in the future, this one which Evans has created is the only one I shall ever know.  I am grateful to him for what he did…” 

Substitute Italians for Arthur Evans and he could easily have been talking about the Askelepieion on Kos.

An hour was quite long enough to examine the site in a superficial tourist sort of way (after all we are not archaeologists) and after we had walked around all three levels and through the ruined temples and buildings we returned to the car park and waited to be taken back to Kos on the pretend train.

Kos Askelepieon Train

Click on an image to scroll through the Gallery…

Entrance Tickets – The Fortress of Kos

Fortress of Kos

I was finding it all quite different from my first visit to Kos so we went first to the castle of the Knights of St John because I felt sure that a seven hundred year old medieval castle couldn’t have changed so very much in thirty years. The castle was once surrounded by a moat with one entrance over a stone bridge and it was over this bridge that we entered the grey castle walls with its stout towers and impregnable defences and went inside to the ruins of this once great defensive bastion.

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Kos Fortress Visitor Leaflet

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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Car Hire Misadventures – Kos, 1989

Kos Car Hire 1989

I first went to the Greek island of Kos in 1983 and I liked it so much that I went back again in 1989.  This time I went with my brother and we stayed in the party resort of Kardamena.

We had a budget priced apartment on the edge of the town and we made friends with a single parent family of dad and two sons.  During the course of the week we hired pedalos and bicycles and also a flame red Suzuki Jeep for a day.

We didn’t go far and limited ourselves to driving across the island to the island capital.  The journey was not by the most direct route and took about an hour through all the coastal villages and then through the unexpectedly green plains lying in the shadow of the soaring mountain peaks with the main crops being grapes, almonds, figs, olives, and tomatoes along with wheat and corn and although the harvest was long since past there were still fields of straw like a golden sea of waving champagne next to exhausted black stunted vines and golden melons the size of footballs ripening in the sun.

Kos is much changed now, I last went there in 2012, the seafront was rather shabby, the harbour full of working fishing boats, the civic buildings in need of some repair and the ancient monuments rather run down and decrepit.  We spent an afternoon wandering around the town (it is a city now) and then we made our way back across the interior back to Kardamena.

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Bike Hire Kos 1989Pedalo Hire Kos 1989

Car Hire Misadventures – Kos, 1983

Kos 1983 Stamatis Rent A Car

In 1983 I stayed at the Continental Palace Hotel just outside Kos town.  Only six years previously in his guide to the Greek Islands, Lawrence Durrell described the place as “an unspoilt backwater where the visitor will find good beaches, unsophisticated but clean little hotels and cool breezes even in summer… ”. Prior to travel there had been cases of typhoid on the island so as a precaution we had to have inoculations before leaving the UK.

The Continental Palace was a large hotel (and although modernised and refurbished it is still there today) and much of the holiday was squandered away in pointless days around the swimming pool whilst surrendering to the anaesthesia of the Mythos lunches and the sun frazzled afternoons but for some of the time we rented a flame red open top Suzuki jeep from Stamatis RentaCar, (also still there) and made some attempt to see the island.

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Entrance Tickets – The Fortress of Kos

Fortress of Kos

I was finding it all quite different from my first visit to Kos so we went first to the castle of the Knights of St John because I felt sure that a seven hundred year old medieval castle couldn’t have changed so very much in thirty years. The castle was once surrounded by a moat with one entrance over a stone bridge and it was over this bridge that we entered the grey castle walls with its stout towers and impregnable defences and went inside to the ruins of this once great defensive bastion.

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Kos Fortress Visitor Leaflet

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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Weekly Photo Challenge: Lost in the Detail

Renewing the Nets

Fishing Nets…

The harbour was in a mid afternoon stupor, the metal fish stalls were empty, the fishing nets were repaired and neatly stacked and the men who would go out in the boats later were resting in their boats, some sleeping, some drinking coffee and some just idly chatting with fellow sailors.  I imagine this is a treadmill sort of life where every day follows the same pattern as the one before and the one that will follow.

The next 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.

Another Driftwood Boat

“The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. To dig for treasures shows not only impatience and greed, but lack of faith. Patience, patience, patience, is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach—waiting for a gift from the sea.” 
Anne Morrow Lindbergh

In the shops earlier we had seen some souvenir boats made of drift wood and this gave me an idea.  It would be impossible to take one home given the restrictions on hand luggage so I decided that I would collect the bits of knotted wood and salt bleached sticks off the beach, take them home and, in an Airfix sort of way, make my own so I set immediately about beachcombing and starting my collection.

In the afternoon we strolled to the beach and went for a swim in the sea and I continued my search for interesting bits of driftwood.  Despite her earlier lack of enthusiasm even Kim was showing some interest in the project and by now we had the pieces we needed for the hull, the mast, the rudder and a cabin, some cuttlefish for sails and miscellaneous bits of twig and sticks for the sea.  Later as I scavenged the harbour for other useful bits a helpful fisherman provided some authentic cord which was going to be just perfect for the nets.

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The Latest Driftwood Project

Driftwood Boat

“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.

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