Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Hijinks and a Hearty Lunch

It's always fun finding an occasion to take the bus on a small island. We've had some of our best times on island buses, because they very often don't just carry your regular 'passenger', but have to double up as handy transport for livestock, supplies, and the occasional postman, to name but a few other uses to which an island bus can be - and very often is - put.

For a few examples of how much fun a bus ride may be on a Greek island (and I'm sure lots of people reading this will already know of such joys), check out this post and this one too from our visit to Naxos in 2014. Also, if you've read my fourth "Ramblings From Rhodes" book "A Plethora of Posts", you may remember our Symi bus trip described in chapter 24, imaginatively entitled "Taking the Bus." Sometimes you can't improve on the original, that's my excuse. This video might tickle your fancy too, as may this blog about it.

Anyway (which is fast becoming one of my favourite words, it seems. Still, anything's better than following that annoying current trend that everyone in the UK seems to have at the moment of starting every sentence with the word 'so'). So, anyway (Aaaargh!) we decided that, after seeing those rather ideal taverna tables laid out under the plane trees on the beach at Kampos last week (see the post "Out and About'), we simply had to go back up there and have lunch. It was simply too picturesque (I refuse to use the word idyllic, all right?) for us to miss such an opportunity. 

Last time we went, we walked it. It may look like a grueller, but it's only forty-five minutes or so from Netia, where we're staying, through some pretty spectacular scenery. This time, however, we thought we'd take the bus, since it only takes about ten minutes to get from where we are to the beach at Kampos. The bus leaves the square beside the port at Skala at 12.30pm, passing the bus stop immediately below our rooms at 12.35, and gets to Kampos Beach at 12.45pm. Doing it this way we could have a coffee in the bar at the end of the beach, walk back to Taverna "Ta Kabourakia" for lunch and then, after having eaten, stroll back to Netia mid-afternoon at our leisure. 

The bus fare is a princely €1.50, and thus we got our small change ready and arrived at the bus stop, just across the road from the boatyard, five minutes early. We got there just in time, in fact, to be able to watch the bus as it drove along the front towards us from Skala, bang on time, too.

Some of the island buses we've taken are actually minibuses, but this one's a full-sized, quite modern one with rather cushy bucket seats. As it approached us and indicated to turn into our road, which is the road that leads all the way to Kampos, my better half said, 

"That driver doesn't half look like Theologos from the Petrino Café-Bar."

Now, there are three regular chaps who serve us at the Petrino, the bar in the square at Skala where all the locals hang out (largely because it's the only one that stays open all winter too), and they are Dimitris, Andreas and Theologos, all of whom have got to know us pretty well by now (There are quite a few photos taken at the Petrino from last year in the post "Patmos People" BTW). They change shifts every few days or so, so that none of them has to work evenings every day for the entire season. Theologos is often to be seen parading the square pushing his baby-buggy during the mornings when he's not on shift, as it were, because his wife is then at work and he's looking after their eighteen-month old cutie. 

Sure enough, as the bus approached the stop to pull up for us to climb aboard, the driver tooted and waved as, not only was it indeed our friend Theo from the bar, but he'd spotted us waiting there too. When you think about it, on an island with only 3,000 inhabitants (that's less than the population of Arhangelos on Rhodes), it's not surprising that they probably can't afford to employ a full time bus driver, and thus a few locals share these duties between them. I well remember my friend Zois, who runs the Babis Taverna on the front at Halki, who also drove the local bus much of the time. After all, it only involved the occasional trip from the waterfront, up past Potamos Beach and then up the mountain, past the abandoned village and on up to a little old church at the top, then back again. Maybe he'd do this two or three times in a day. So it oughtn't to have surprised us that the bus driver was someone we'd already met. 

As we got on, my wife said "Are you sure you've got a licence to drive this thing?"

Of course, Theo treated this remark as hilarious and, as we proffered our fares, told us to worry about those later.

On board the bus, which seats probably fifty, was a mere handful of people. There were a couple of German and French tourists and one or two local 'seniors.' The only bus stop to speak of, after we got on, is at the square at Kampos where we'd been for a coffee a few days earlier, at the delightful Aroma café. When we stopped there, two girls of school age got on, apparently going to the end of the route, which is not much further up the lane from the beach where we were to get off.

Once we'd got off and suggested that Theo might also be the island's Doctor, or perhaps estate agent, which raised a chuckle from him as he said "See you tonight!", we made our way to the end of the beach to have a coffee at George's Bar.

Nothing personal intended, but although the location of this bar is rather nice, we weren't all that impressed with it. Maybe it was because we thought the prices just a tad 'captive audience' infected, or perhaps the staff were not as friendly as we've been used to, I don't know. Plus, all the clientele, such as it was, was composed of foreigners, like ourselves I have to admit. Never mind, we passed a pleasant enough half an hour or so over some nice, if rather strong frappés, paid up and set off along the beach for the taverna for lunch.

Whilst it's completely understandable that the government wants to ensure that all businesses pay their taxes, there are (as all Hellenophiles will know) some old ways that those of us who've been coming here for decades are ruing the loss of. One of these, I'm happy to say, is still alive and well at Kampos Beach. Now, let me say at the outset, before any taxmen reading this get the wrong idea, when we asked for our bill, it came, as it ought, on a printed receipt, OK? Good, that's got that out of the way. But I remember the days when you'd go into a traditional taverna and there would be no menu, the proprietor would simply either invite you into the kitchen, or list verbally what's on that particular day. 

We got ourselves comfy in the simply superb setting of the beach tables...

The lovely old frontage of the building, across the narrow road from the beach, where we planted ourselves.
Not long after we'd made ourselves comfortable, out came the portly proprietor, a plump man with a jolly double chin and teeth that wouldn't have won any prizes in the 'best aligned set of teeth' championships. One or two I remember had actually gone off into retirement too. As he laid the paper table cloth and secured it with those ubiquitous metal clips, to stop the breeze from taking it away, we asked if he could give us the menus.

"Um, no. Don't have menus." He replied, but continued, "But here's what's on today..." And then proceeded to list what was indeed, 'on.' The only problem with this system is the diners being able to remember what he describes. We were aided, of course, by the fact that, once, as he took a breath, we were able to interject that we didn't eat meat, the list could be shortened somewhat. To be honest, we only wanted something light anyway, since we were still planning to eat out that evening. The important thing to us was the occasion and the environs (I know, that's two things really. Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition). So, after having settled on a green salad, a plate of gigantes and a portion of chips (see this post!!), plus a large bottle of water, he went off to prepare our order and we settled into our chairs to admire the view. We did, however, both remark on how nice it was to find a place where they still do things the old way.

We hadn't been there more than five minutes, when four young Greek lads turned up on two scooters, flipped them on to their stands and rough-and-tumbled over to join us at the beach tables. They were joking about and, as they approached and selected the table next to ours, said to us:

"Sorry, are we ruining your peace and quiet?" 

They were all wearing posh sunglasses and touting iPhones, but were sporting very short hair and - amazingly - no beards. We found out the reason for this within a few minutes of their arrival. We answered that no they were not spoiling anything, but in fact were very welcome to sit nearby. So the conversation ensued in which they told us they were conscripts doing their National Service and had been given a couple of days off. They were based on Kos and had taken the boat to Patmos for 48 hours or so. 

As they set about a heated discussion with the proprietor over what they were going to order, we remarked on the difference between lads like these and the majority of their peers back in the UK. Now, I don't want to upset anyone, no offence is intended, but we do rather believe that the youth here in Greece are of a completely different disposition to most of those in the UK. OK, I am generalising somewhat I know, but we were quite sure that, had this been a comparable situation in the UK then they'd have a) set about drinking a darned sight more than these boys did, and, more importantly b) been a lot less happy-go-lucky and respectful toward us. 

In fact, as they were horsing around taking photos with their phones, I asked them if they'd take my iPad and take a shot of us, with the sea in the background. They had us in stitches as they decided who'd be best qualified to take the photo, and the results are below...

The above shot was a selfie that the one who took our photos decided he needed to add to the collection. One of the other lads is behind him and the other two are this side of the camera, aping him as he does the shot. I think it shows from the expression on my face (at least in the first two!) how much fun we were having with these chaps.

And this was our lunch. Modest, but just perfect to keep one going until the evening. The chips were hand-cut and lovely and light, and the gigantes were excellent. The spring onion in the salad added just the right amount of zing to it too. That's the 4 lads' table in the background.
Once we'd all settled down to the serious business of eating, things quietened down a little. When the time came for me to ask for our bill, the owner's wife told us to hang around while she prepared a little something for us. It turned out to be some chopped honeydew melon (the first we'd had this season), on the house, of course.

It was around 3.00pm when we set out for home, taking this photo as we reached the end of the beach and turned up the hill toward the village of Kampos...

On the way back, you pass a spectacular view of Agriolivadi beach...

We were about two thirds of the way home, just walking down the hill past the military camp, when a couple of scooters hared past us, horns tooting and hands waving maniacally. It was the boys from the next-door table back at the beach, making sure we knew that we'd been spotted as they headed back to Skala themselves.

Quite frankly, far from ruining the peace of our beachside lunch, they'd quite made our day.

Once we got home, there was our resident sentinel on duty outside the door to welcome us back...

Sunday, 12 May 2019

Two Return Visits, one of Which was a Success

We decided to give Hora another go the other day. Last year we went up there and found it to be like a ghost town, with scarcely a soul about. It was as if the whole village was a museum, which was closed.

This year we made the ascent using the more well-trodden path that cuts across the zigzags of the road, making the distance not more than a kilometre or so. It's about twenty to twenty five minutes going up, because it is really steep at times, but only fifteen minutes or so coming down. That's starting from and returning to the main square in Skala.

Going up...

...and up.

The reason we were given for the place being bereft of life last year was that we were just a week or so too early. Had we waited around another seven days, the season would be under way. This year we're here a full two weeks later, and so expected that we could go up there, find a nice little square with a café/bar that was actually open, and enjoy the environs. Guess what, same again.

At least there are some stunning views from up there.

Where's Patrick McGoohan when you need him? (Only people of a certain age will understand that).

At least the views make the climb worthwhile.

Cooey! Anyone home?

Well, I say 'same again,' but there was one small difference. A café-restaurant, quite near to where the path arrives at the top, was open, with a handful of customers sitting there admiring the view. We even walked into the village a little way, like we dd last year, and met a local chap carrying a ladder, who told us (much as we'd heard last year): "Well, no one's about until the summer, you see."

In the first square we came across, we passed the local "Dimos," or municipality office ("Council Office," we'd call it in the UK). Peering in through the door we saw a young woman sitting at a desk, but not another soul about either inside or out. Cushy number she's got, I reckon.

Once we'd arrived safely back in the square and parked ourselves in the Petrino Bar and ordered a couple of drinks from our friend Dimitri, we asked him again, "What is it with Hora, then? Why's it so bereft? Is it maybe that they don't want people going up there, is that it?"

His reply was interesting. He said, among other things, that a lot of foreign ex-pats have bought properties up there, the ones with the serious money. They had to be pretty well off, he said, because to renovate a property in Hora costs much more than anywhere else. This is so for several reasons, among which are that there are very strict regulations about keeping the buildings looking right, so that they are in keeping with the traditional feel of the place. This we could understand, of course. It makes perfect sense. Another reason, Dimitris said, was that to get building work done in the thick of the village was a logistical nightmare, owing to the fact that you can't get a truck, not even a pick-up anywhere near the property you're working on. Imagine mixing concrete, even getting building supplies into the village for the work to be carried out. Fair enough, that made sense too. But it meant that not many locals, who simply aren't 'rich enough' could afford to renovate a property in the village of Hora any more.

The final answer we received was much as last year too. "Go up there in the evenings. That's when it comes to life."

Frankly, to us it's not worth the risk. When you walk around the place, yes it's photogenic, but there are little information signs tacked onto the corners of buildings, much as you'd see in Lindos on Rhodes, for example. These would, you'd expect, point you to a bar or restaurant, even a store selling tasteful souvenirs maybe, but the only signs we saw, and there weren't many anyway, were primarily of a religious nature. This way to that church, that way to this one, this way to the monastery, that sort of thing.

Now, arguably, Lindos is much too frantic these days during the summer season, even too overrun with souvenir shops whose wares brush you in the face as you try to walk past. Maybe it is a trial attempting to walk through the village in the summer, owing to the sheer crush of bodies. But Hora is the other extreme, and it has the feel to us of a make-believe place, not somewhere real. The 'soul' of the place is missing, at least at this time of year. Down in the bay area however, in Skala, where the boats come in, and Netia where we're staying, it's vibrant without being overwhelming. 

I'm sure there will be some 'intellectual' types who'll call us Philistines, but we prefer to be where there are at least some people when we sit down for a coffee. It's about feeling the pulse of a community I suppose. Seeing the same faces going about their everyday affairs of life is educational, uplifting, yes - interesting. 

Anyway, each to his or her own I suppose, but Hora, whilst undeniably beautiful architecturally, has for me very little soul. Maybe we'll just have to come here in July or August some time, see if we feel differently then. Although one or two locals have told is that it's likely to be (from their descriptions) more like Lindos then anyway. Sometimes you just can't win.

We've paid our second (and it won't be our last) visit to the Ston Afro restaurant. This time we ordered the Brocolli Salad, which looked so wonderful when it arrived that it was a shame to eat it, although we most certainly did that. Happily for me, Nikos the waiter told us that the fassolakia was on that evening too. Manolis must have told him about me from the old Odyssey days, because I always raved about Manos' fassolakia, which is quite simply the best I've ever eaten. Manolis puts bite-sized chunks of potato into his too. It was, as you're bound to have guessed by now, superb. We also made sure we ate some more of chef Manoli's delicious bread, plus my wife asked for a dish of that celery-root purée that Manos (short for Manolis, sorry if you already knew that!) often dresses other dishes with (such as the swordfish which I ordered the first time we ate there). As before too, they brought us a delicious selection of dips to get us started before the main dishes arrived. We also sampled yet another of Manoli's wines, this time made from a white Cabernet Sauvignon grape. It was even better than the Muscat one, which was hard to imagine beforehand. There's a short video of the Ston Afro's opening night on my "Published Works" Facebook page, if you'd like to go have a look.

And, finally, some more photos taken over the past few days....

Upcycling is an art in a Greek village.

The Ostria Taverna on a quiet night. They still gave us a free 2nd bottle of Retsina and a free dessert. Yes, it's not only the Ston Afro we like, although it is probably the most unique.

I tried to get some fishes in this one, but I don't know if I succeeded. Who cares though? It's a nice shot.

This little beach is just a hundred metres behind our rooms, but on the West side of the island, so it's windier than our side. Nice when it's calm though, eh?

Coming into Skala along the waterfront from Netia, where we're staying. This is only metres past the Ston Afro.

Another attempt at an arty one, with maybe fishes (They're very rare, the maybe fish).

A delightful garden, and if you look closely, there's a woman busy prepping her veg for today's meal in the centre of the shot.

This, my friends, is the 'Green Salad" at the "Souvlakia tou Pappou" joint. That's Manouri cheese on the top. The sauce is almost a kind of sweet'n'sour, and is delicious. The pittas come complimentary when you order the salad.

A view through the alley to the excellent Pantelis Taverna, which is down-home traditional and very good value.

The weather's warming up now too, finally. So we'll probably be eating lunch on that beach at Kampos tomorrow (see photos in the post "Out and About"). Of course, I shall take piccies if we do!

Thursday, 9 May 2019

Out and About...

Here you go folks, some nice shots from the past couple of days...

When you begin to walk from Netia up to Kampos (about a 40 minute walk), this is one of the first views back across Netia/Skala as you ascend the hill. We're staying right in the corner of the bay that's visible to the right of the tree. We've just walked up that road you can see in the foreground.

The beach at Kampos, lunch anyone?


View from the hill where the church/monastery of Koumana stands, opposite the port at Skala. This is early evening, as the sun is sinking in the west, hence the light reflected on the surface of the water. Where the ship is tied up is the main port area, known as Skala. Netia, where we are staying, is at the right hand end of the bay.

Just a pretty old house with a garden full of roses that we passed on the walk down to Kampos beach.

Kampos beach again.

The Aroma Café at Kampos plateia. We had a drink here last year, only the once. Yet, the moment we walked in this time the very hospitable and courteous owner greeted us with a "Welcome back!" We enjoyed a very pleasant chat with both him and some locals who were seated near to us. When we arose to leave, he told us the frappés were on him. It's a really beautiful place, well worth a visit.

The best my iPad can do at 3.00am, but I just thought the lights reflecting on the bay were so lovely.

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

A Revelation

Upstairs is the Tzivaeri, but what's downstairs? The all-new Ston Afro ('on the foam, or surf'). You can't see from this shot, but it's right across the road from the sea.
As you probably know, Patmos is the island of the Revelation, or, in Greek - Apocalypse. When people use the word 'apocalyptic' these days, they usually refer to something catastrophic, but the basic mean of the word is simply, 'a revelation.' If you're up on that sort of thing, then you'll know that the apostle John was a prisoner on this island when he received the sixteen visions that make up the book of Revelation. I talked last year about this whole mythology that's built up around the so-called "Cave of the Apocalypse." I say mythology because that's precisely what it is. Beyond the Apostle's own account of the fact that he was here when he received the visions, we know little else. The 'cave' with the little nook where the orthodox tradition says he laid his head wasn't even discovered until the eleventh century. Still, when has historical fact ever interfered with good old religious tradition and subjective belief (and the propensity to want to profit from both), eh?

I only refer to John and the Revelation because I happen to be his namesake and, not long after we set foot here last week for the second time in our lives, I too had a revelation of sorts. No, don't worry, I'm not going to get all religious on you. I refer to the fact that (and you could have knocked me down with a feather), as we were walking past the building in the photograph above, one of the windows opened and a familiar voice called out...

"Yia sou Yianni!!"

If you'd care to take a peek at the post "An Unashamed Plug, plus Some Other Stuff", from September 2017, you'll see me photographed with Manoli, the chef at the excellent Odyssey Restaurant in Rhodes Old Town. At the beginning of last season I'd noticed his absence in the kitchen when Babis, the owner, told me that he'd moved on to pastures new. Thus, it was with some degree of sadness that I hadn't expected to be eating any of his excellent cuisine again. Manolis is a truly great chef. I don't want to make his head swell, as he may well read this, but facts are facts. A couple of years ago I ate at the Odyssey two or three times a week and, more often than not, Manolis would find a minute or two to come out and sit with me and chat. I'd take great delight in introducing him to diners who'd come on one of my excursions, because they one-and-all would agree about the quality of his cooking. 

It's not simply that Manolis cooks great food; it's that he truly delights in what he does. He loves getting the presentation just right. He loves taking traditional Greek cuisine and giving it an individual twist that makes you feel, as you eat it, that you've had a culinary craftsman prepare your meal.

After arriving on Patmos this time, we'd already walked right past the restaurant a few times every day, as one has to pass it to get from where we are staying to the port of Skala, where the central square is situated, as well as most of the tavernas where we'd eaten last year. When you walk past the "Ston Afro" you can get the impression that it's going to be expensive. That was one reason why we hadn't planned on giving it a try. Yet, as we walked past and I heard someone call my name, my first instinct was to tell myself, "There are lots of Yiannis around, so he probably isn't calling me." The place is beautifully presented, and tastefully decorated in lots of white, pale blue, grey and slate grey. Like I said, it looked pricey.

Although, as I said, I thought the call was most likely for someone else, I turned to look. Like I also said above, you could have knocked me down with a feather when I saw that the guy who'd opened the window and shouted at us was only Manolis, my favourite chef from Rhodes Old Town, now grinning at me larger than life from the dining area of the newly-opened Ston Afro restaurant. He's the new head chef at the newest restaurant on Patmos and he looked delighted to see me and the beloved passing by, both oblivious to his presence.

Crossing the road we exchanged bearhugs and double-kisses and Manolis explained briefly how he'd wound up here. Of course we had to promise to go along some time and sample his cuisine again, if only because one of his purée sauces is one of our favourite ever. It's one he makes using celery root and it's totally delicious. We both joked about getting a discount if we came, to which he replied that we needn't worry on that score, so the deal was done. So, after a few more nights we found the restaurant's Facebook page and I requested the menu, just so we could see what we'd be letting ourselves in for. 

We needn't have worried. Just like back at the Odyssey (where the food's still extremely good BTW), Gordon Ramsay-trained Manolis' brilliant creations are available at very reasonable prices. Once we'd read through the menu we decided that, apart from the odd fifty cents here and there, the menu's no more expensive than anywhere else, plus we knew that the food was going to be epic. So, a couple of nights ago we went along and received such a warm welcome that you'd have thought we were royalty.

My beloved opted for a vegetable risotto dish and I decided to have a swordfish steak, which arrived to my delight with a scoop of the celery-root purée. We were presented with a bottle of wine on the house and it turns out to be a wine (from the Muscat grape) which the multi-talented Manolis makes himself. It's already won some medals at wine festivals by the way. It's a (chilled) dry white with a really beautiful slightly strawberry aftertaste, fabulous. We preceded the main dishes with some bread made to Manoli's own recipe, which is somewhere between pitta and Ciabatta, which arrived warm. The bread was delicious dipped into a selection of dips that arrived on a sectioned plate, and we also tried a starter of cold octopus with cranberries and rocket. 

All in all, we had a truly memorable meal and were served by some wonderful, courteous people. Of course Manolis came out for a photo-call too...

I know, I sound like I'm gushing, but as a designer I'm impressed by the logo too! I think it's pitched exactly right.
The pink stuff is beetroot-and-yogurt-based BTW. The cream-coloured stuff is true taramasalata, which isn't naturally pink at all. It's only pink when you buy it usually because it's been coloured (often artificially). Taramasalata should be cream-coloured. I've never liked the pink stuff TBH, but this version was superb.

We could have stuffed ourselves on that bread alone and gone home happy.
By this time it was dark outside, but if you'd seen out of that window to my left, you'd have seen the lights twinkling on the surface of the Aegean Sea. Later in the season those windows will be opened up completely.

What a revelation, "of all the restaurants in all the world..." 
So, peeps, you can take my word for it if you like. But if I were you and I was planning a stay here on Patmos, I'd be sure to shove it on my 'to do' list right away - 'Eat at Ston Afro.'

Next post will be mainly a bunch of photos. Talk soon.

Monday, 6 May 2019

The Answer to Everything?

I just popped down the road for some water and a loaf of bread from the wonderful and extremely close-by mini-market and Bakery (two different establishments within metres of one another), both of which service our immediate needs admirably whilst we're here.

Today it's business as usual weather-wise, by which I mean sunshine, blue skies and warmth. Yesterday, however, was awful. There was no other way to describe it. The only complaint I have about Suzanna Studios and Apartments (and it's trivial in the extreme), is that the internet is quite slow. I mention that now, only because I was trying to upload a video taken through our windows yesterday morning, showing how winter had clearly forgotten (at least for one day) that we're supposed to be in the first week of May here. The upload eventually failed after about an hour of trying.

This morning, we'll soon be sitting in the Houston Bar enjoying our coffee, so I'll attempt to upload that video there, because the internet there is blisteringly fast. Then you'll get an idea of what I mean about yesterday. The TV news last night was carrying stories from all over the Aegean of ferries either tied up because they wouldn't dare go anywhere, or of other ferries anchored just outside of tiny island ports, riding out the waves because they couldn't get in to tie up. There were video reports of straw parasols on beaches flying all over the place and the chairs and tables that had been laid out on the beaches for the season were either washed into the sea or hastily gathered up and brought into the buildings for safety. Footage of roads a foot deep in water were plentiful too.

Like I said, it's been a helluva winter (needed, granted) but, judging by yesterday, it doesn't want to let go without a fight.

Anyway, as I set off for the bakery and mini-market in bright sunshine, I was made aware all too quickly of a pain in my lower back, right hand side. I don't feel old, let's get that straight right off the bat. I feel young and trendy (I know, I know, even the use of that word sets me hopelessly out of my time), but my body often reminds me of the old adage that my mother loved to repeat, "old age doesn't come alone."

As I stepped into the mini-market, the very pleasant and personable young chap who runs it bade me kalimera. If I were to try and describe him I'd be describing 90% of all the young 20 or 30-something men in Greece at the moment. Slim-faced, bushy black beard and haircut that shows the scalp through the hair on either side, while remaining thick and bushy on top. Identity parades must be a nightmare for the police nowadays. Chuck in the occasional man-bun or mini-pigtail (both of which always send me rushing for a pair of scissors) and you have all the Greek youth of today described in detail.

Then he asked me "Ti kanete?", to which I replied, while rubbing my lower back, right hand side, "OK, but my back's giving me pain today."

He nodded, slightly diagonally (as all Greeks do) and replied, "it's the igrasia." Now, that's a word you hear a lot of in these islands. They apparently suffer from it incessantly. 'Igrasia' translates as any of the following: moisture, damp, dampness, dewiness, sogginess, humidity - and it gets blamed for virtually everything. I'd be surprised if those two deceased who were on the ferry we came over on hadn't had 'igrasia' written on their death certificates as the cause of death.

You complain about any ache or pain back on Rhodes and your Greek friends will say, sagacity written all over their diagnostic faces, "Ah, yes ...igrasia." I reckon I could probably pass myself off as a local doctor. Each time someone came in to tell me about where it was hurting, I could simply look at them over my glasses and reply, "Hmm, yes. Igrasia's your problem."

To illustrate further. Having made my purchases at the mini-market, I walked the fifty metres or so along the road to the bakery, where the lady knows me well by now. Once again (see previous post) she asked the first time I walked in a couple of days ago (after the usual warm greetings and welcome back and all that stuff), Mavro or polisporo? In case you don't know what those words mean in the context of the bakery, 'mavro' means brown, as in a brown loaf [even though it translates literally as 'black'], and 'polisporo' means 'multi-grain,' as in a brown loaf sprinkled with all kinds of seeds before going into the oven. When I went in there for the first time in 13 months or so, she asked which of the two I'd like. See? What did I tell you in the previous post?

Now, where was I? Oh yes, so, I walked into the bakery on my way back from the mini-market and the lady in there immediately remarked on the fact that I was subconsciously rubbing the small of my back (right hand side). 

"You have a problem?" She asked. "Yes, my back's playing me up this morning." I replied. All together now, her reply was [of course] "It's the igrasia."

Well, we've been out for our coffee and essential people-watch at the Houston Café in the plateia and, yes, I was able to upload the video from yesterday. If you haven't already seen it, it's now live on my Facebook "John Manuel - The Published Works" page. You'll get an idea as to why we had coffee in the apartment yesterday. In fact, we didn't venture out until around 8.15pm, when we went straight to Souvlakia Tou Pappou (not three minutes walk from our balcony) and ate there. While I'm on the subject, we ate a veggie pitta each with Haloumi inside, a humungus 'green' salad which was the best 'green' salad we've ever eaten anywhere - period (Yup, now and again the American version works better than the British), and a half-litre of the house white. We were stuffed and the bill was €18.50. We'll be having that green salad again and I'll photograph it to show the waiting world.

Finally, here are a few photos from today. As you'll see, the weather's behaving itself again. I did give it a good dressing down, so maybe that did the trick...

Blue enough for you today, then?

Tables and chairs outside the Tsipouradiko Mas restaurant. We're flaming well going to eat on that beach at least once before we leave! 

Choccy pudding at the Houston.

You see this tree standing sentinel in the centre of the Plateia (this taken from the Houston). Anyone know what this tree is called (and don't say Dimitri, all right?)?

Saturday, 4 May 2019

Settling In

I'll start with a bunch of photos this time...

This what what awaited us on our dining table when we arrived. You probably recognise the 'koulourakia,' but the round 'pita' is a homemade traditional pastry made with eggs which Suzanna, our landlady had made for us. The roses certainly brighten up the place too, don't they.
The first photo below was taken from the newly re-opened "Houston" café-bar on the corner of the main square in Skala, here on Patmos. The name may not sound particularly down-home Greek, but the old Houston stood here for decades before it closed a couple of years ago. 

Last year when we were here the Houston was all boarded up, but there were signs (and noises) of renovation work going on from the other sides of the boards. This year it's re-opened and the renovation work has been done with a real feel for the traditional. See the last photo below, showing the brand new frontage, with a sign that looks like the old-style ones from ages past. It's truly lovely, both inside and out.

Yes, the view from our balcony. It was very nice to take it all in again.

This photo was taken in exactly the same spot as the one below. Note the difference in greenery on that far hillside. The one below was taken a month earlier last year too. The winter rains that returned  with a vengeance this past few months after four or five years of winter drought have really made a difference.

April 2018.

The gorgeous and sympathetically restored frontage of the newly re-opened Houston café.

If you're a regular visitor to Greece you'll know only too well how the locals seem to have a knack for remembering you, right? OK, so there are those cynics who'll say that they're simply winging it, hoping that they'll speak and react in the right way so as to make one think they remember us, even if they don't really. Well, I'm here to tell you that we have proof that very often they truly do.

Whilst it looks increasingly likely that we'll be taking our regular morning coffees at the Houston this year, we still intend to take our late night 'digestif' at the lovely Petrino bar, which holds centre stage at the back of the square. Last year we went in there most evenings at around 10.30pm, after having eaten, to order a couple of glasses of Mastiha, and while away a further hour or two blissfully people-watching. By the time we had to leave, we knew three of the waiters there really well, after having stayed for almost three weeks. There was Dimitris, there was Theologos and also Andreas. The first two of those we often shared a brief natter with, and on our last night Dimitris refused to let us pay. Nice touch, we thought.

Anyway, the other evening we decided to continue the tradition and approached the bar late, hoping to see someone we knew waiting tables. Sure enough, there was Theologos whizzing in and out and, as we approached a table to park our butts, he saw us and came running over. He gave us both a bear hug, plus the usual cheek-kisses, and welcomed us back. Now, at this point, one could say, OK, so he knew our faces and laid it on thick, yeah?

But, oh no, more than that. As we settled our rears into our seats he said, with no prompting from us, "Mastihas is it?"

Thirteen months on, the guy passed with flying colours. Plus, when it came time for us to pay up and set off for our beds, we waved a bank note at him. His response? Shoving his hand at us in an unmistakable gesture of refusal, he said, "You don't pay on your first night back!"

I do really like it here.