Friday, 30 May 2014

Copulation and Coffee - But Not at the Same Time

 The other evening, as we sat on the terrace with a little drinky-poo, our attention was drawn to a bit of a rumpus going on beneath one of the Lantana bushes not more than a few feet from where we sat. There were puffs of dust rising and flashes of bright green could be seen as something was evidently thrashing about down there.

Rushing inside to grab the camera and convincing myself that the show would be over just as soon as I returned with it, I was pleased to see that it was still going on. Sure enough, there were two lizards, each about 9 or 10 inches in length, furiously circling one another in the dust and so preoccupied with their activity that they allowed me to get in quite close to snap these...

"They're fighting" says my dearly beloved.
"They're mating" says I, entirely without knowledge and with loads of bluff.
"They're not. They're fighting. Look, one has the other one by the throat!"  Says my dearly beloved.
"Aah, yes, but that's how they mate - these chaps. Well, ...chaps and chap-esses" says I, still hoping I'd be proven right, though fully expecting to be proven wrong.

Guess what, once I'd shot the pics and the two protagonists had finally completed the show and sloped off in separate directions, I whipped out the old laptop and Googled "mating rituals of lizards" with some trepidation, I must admit, about being shot down in flames by the better half.

Boy, was I relieved when I came across this page. If you click that link and scroll down to the subheading "The Mating Ritual" you'll see a description of precisely what we'd watched. Boy was I a happy bunny. I resisted the urge to pretend all along that I'd known all this stuff though, but only just.

"But why does the male bite the female on the neck?" asked my significant other.
"You've got a short memory," I replied, ever so slightly smirking.

On Tuesday evening we went out for a stroll down to the beach road, it was so beautiful outside that it would have been a crime to stay indoors and watch Ακου τι Είπαν on Alpha TV. So off we trotted down the lane and eventually on to the sleepy beach road that so many visitors to Kiotari still fail to find. 

After a while we approached the spot we love, where you'll find the Il Porto café, plus a few tavernas, namely The Pelican's Nest, Stefano's and La Strada. Just a little further along too is the Paralia, right on the beach. Hailing Tassos and Anastacia as we passed the Il Porto, we stopped to admire the now completely renovated terrace that George has worked so hard to prepare in the Pelican's Nest. As we stood there admiring various aspects that pleased us, a head appeared over the white bannister, the one belonging (the head that is ...well, the bannister too come to think of it) to George the owner himself.

"Yassas Pedia!" he called, as he placed a half-consumed frappé down on the table top beside the head in question, which - as we've established - was his. We returned the greeting and gushed our praise over the sterling work he'd done to completely overhaul the feel of the place. After a few moments during which he graciously accepted our praise, he suggested we might like to stop for a drink, if we weren't in a hurry that was.

Since we had all evening and it was deliciously wind-less and warm, we almost accepted, until, patting my pockets, I exclaimed that we didn't have a bean with us.

"Ah, thing is, got nothing on us George," I said. To which George replied:
"Listen guys. I invited you didn't I? Get yourselves up here and pass a few moments with me!"

No contest then. Up the newly installed steps we ascended to catch our first glimpse from inside of just how nice he's made the place during months of hard graft all winter...

My beloved asked for a simple bottle of still water and I requested a frappé for myself. Bit risky ordering coffee in the evening, but now and then you have to live dangerously, eh?

Soon we were joined by another local, Vasilis, someone we've known almost since moving out here in 2005 and the conversation flowed animatedly for half an hour or so. Then came time for us to be on our way, for the twenty-minute or so walk back up to the house.

We thanked our host profusely and promised that when my sister and her hubby are here with us in July we'll bring them to George's place to eat at least once, then bade goodnight to Vasili and strolled off into the gloaming.

As we were descending the steps, George's first customers of the evening came in. Timing eh? 

When we got home we both agreed that we'd had one of those moments that you get occasionally; the ones that remind you that life can be very sweet just now and then.

"Sweetie," I said, as we locked the garden gate behind us, "You know what those lizards do when they mate..."

The look she gave me left me in no doubt that this was an avenue I'd best not pursue on this particular occasion.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Bouzoukia, Beards, Butterflies and Bounding About, Oh, and some White Flowers.

John and Wendy, our landlords, have just planted two new gardenia trees in their garden. We, of course, are charged with watering them and so I was busy the other day piping them into the watering system. Gardenias are sometimes called Cape Jasmine and they produce a deep shiny leaf and a wonderfully blousy white flower which is very waxy in touch and appearance and smells simply wondrous. Whilst I was working around these plants and the heady aroma was drifting past my nostrils I was transported back to my wife's uncle's home in Kato Patisia, Athens, circa late 70's. 

I haven't been back to this particular house since 1982 and have been told that the area has changed much since then. But in the late seventies it was a respectable suburb of Athens with a handy station on the Electriko [underground] for easy access to the city centre. We always used to stay with cousin Kristina and her husband Taki (who crop up regularly in Feta Compli! by the way) and my wife's uncle Theo lived just fifty metres along the road.

We'd walk along to cadge a cold drink from Aunt Vaso, Theo's wife, and, on arriving at the gate, would walk through their "avli" to the veranda. The "avli" was chock-full of Gardenia plants, since uncle Theo grew them for a living. I still remember the first time I had the exotic experience of walking among these lush shrubs, which were head-height in uncle Theo's yard. You'd have to brush the plants with your shoulders as you threaded you way to the veranda and hence the front door of the house.

"How come they have all these plants of the same variety?" I asked my wife.

"Uncle Theodorakis grows them to sell," she told me. If you've ever either seen the inside of a Greek Bouzouki club on TV or actually had the experience of a session in one you'll know the culture here when it comes to expressing approval of a particular singer, dancer or musician. Bouzoukias [Bouzouki clubs] don't get going until well after midnight, something that regular readers of my ramblings will probably already know. Time was when I'd fancy a knees-up until dawn with the rest of them, but these days it's all a little too much bother I'm sorry to admit. But at least I had a pretty good dose of it all when I was younger. 

The floor in front of the band is where the singers will stand and usually they will sing alone or in pairs and, whilst the music continues unabated at earsplitting volume, they'll pass the mike like a baton to the next pair or solo artiste and leave the floor for their break, before relieving still others when they return later. All the while the band plays on and dancers will often completely surround the singer or singers. There's hardly a table without a couple of female dancers girating on top of it and plates (though not so much these days) and flowers fly everywhere...

Vasilis Karras, one of Greece's top singers, in action. Courtesy of

Huge amounts of cash are spent by the revellers on flowers and Champagne during a typical Bouzoukia evening. If you're listening to a singer who particularly pleases you, then you'll gesture to the ever-circulating waiting staff and one of them will approach you, whereupon you'll order up a bottle of Champagne at an obscene price and point at the singer (or dancer) who's currently impressing you. The waiter/waitress will then disappear, then turn up in a few moments carrying a fresh bottle of bubbly. They'll walk right up to the singer (or maybe dancer) you've pointed to and pop the cork, foam spraying liberally all over the place. They'll pour a little Champagne into a glass, hand it to the singer and point in your general direction, so the singer will get an idea who's sent him (or her) the liquid compliment. The singer will take the glass, raise it in your direction, pretend (more often than not) to drink a sip, and then hand the glass back to the waiter, who'll then speed off to the kitchen as soon as he or she can to quoff a few gulps of gratis bubbly, none of which you'll get to consume, by the way!

As can be seen from the photo above, though, it's not just the gesture of appreciation with the bubbly that goes on in great abundance at a Bouzoukia evening, oh no. Staff continually move among the tables carrying little baskets of flowers, often red, but just as often white. If they're white then they're probably Gardenias. You raise your hand when some dancer or singer has entranced you sufficiently and they'll sell you a basket of flowers - also for a crazy price - which you'll then take with you while you rise, mount the dance floor yourself and pour the lot over the head of the person you admire, thus signalling your approval of their performance.

Hence we get back to why my wife's uncle grew Gardenias for a living. In Athens there was (and probably still is) a constant demand for the Gardenia flowers so that they could be poured over some singer or dancer in the wee small hours in one of the many Bouzoukias to be found in the city.

I don't think the flowers on the plants I just piped in will suffer such a fate though. But you never know...

On a much smaller scale, here in Kiotari the modest and cozy Ekaterini Hotel has now begun its regular "Greek Night" for the season, which it stages every Friday evening. We went along for the first time just last week and, thankfully, the hours for the action tend to run from about 9.00pm until some time approaching midnight, nice and manageable for an ageing old fart like me you see. Although things began with around six people on the terrace, it soon developed into one of the better shindigs, with quite a lot of locals, both Greek and Albanian, arriving and getting in on the action. See what I mean with these rather poor quality pics taken with my budget smartphone...

My better half never fails to get some of the action. Saves on aerobic classes you see.

This rather poor quality video nevertheless give you an idea why we rather like it there...

Around the terrace at the Ekaterini there are quite a few mature geranium plants. These have already lost a few flowers following the event the other Friday evening. By the time the season's half-way through, I doubt there'll still be a flower on any of them within reach of the terrace.

Changing the subject completely; I hesitate to mention Naxos at this point, 'cos I still have yet to complete my summary of the whole experience there [bit remiss I'm afraid], but something came to my attention whilst we were there which must be worrying for both Gillette and Wilkinson Sword, to name but two companies that produce shaving products. 

Actually, to do this subject justice I have to go back to when I was watching the RBS Six Nations Rugby Tournament back in February/March. As the players came on to the pitch for the first Wales match, I found myself wondering if they'd been sending talent scouts to the Amish community of North America. At least one Welsh player and, as the tournament progressed a fistful of players in the other teams, sported beards after the fashion of those worn by the above-mentioned particular religious group. Even those not wearing decidedly bushy beards, still wore one although slightly more closely cropped.

It was the first time I'd noticed what seems to be a trend that's sweeping the planet; well, Europe at least. I say this because, engaging in our usual sport of people-watching whilst spend the hours that we did sitting in cafés sipping frappés and other liquid delights on Naxos for 22 days, we began to realize that probably 75% of young males seemed to be wearing beards (and not a few of the females), and not only beards, but bushy Amish-type ones. In fact Y-Maria told me that she thought that an unusually high percentage of the young men on Naxos seemed to be training to be priests. That was before we realized that it's simply the latest trend in male grooming.

Since coming home here to Rhodes over 3 weeks ago we've been watching and observing and, sure enough, it's rampant. beards are taking over!! On one rather inane panel game which is based on Family Fortunes [Family Feud in some countries I hear], which is currently running nightly on weekdays here, the teams don't have to be family, they simply need to be a team of friends or workmates, and each time there's a team of 5 young men, usually all five have a beard. 

I'm not even going to mention the Eurovision Song Contest.

If you have shares in Gillette folks, my advice is  SELL, SELL SELL!

Finally, this afternoon, as we sipped our Earl Grey tea after a light lunch of tomato and onion salad, prepared with locally produced olive oil, Balsamic dressing and dried oregano, into which we dipped our fresh bread from the local bakery as we sipped a chilled Rosé and gazed at the magnificent view, our Lantana bushes received a visitor...

He (or she) is a beaut, eh? it's a "Two-tailed Pasha" and they have two broods a year. They're classed as a tropical butterfly, but we're glad to say that some risk living on the North rim of the Med and thus give us a chance to admire them. They're quite large, often almost large enough to cover the palm of your hand with their wings open and their larvae feed on the "Strawberry Tree", known to Greeks as the Koumara, of which we have an abundance in the hills around our home here. 

This chap (or perhaps chap-esse?) was gracious enough to hang around while I dashed inside to get the camera, but he wouldn't open his wings while at rest for me, boo hoo.  If you Google it [pasha butterfly] though you can see some shots of the upper wing surface, which is quite different from the under-wing seen here.

Off to bed now, it's almost 2.30am. Wot - you not sleeping either?

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Shot Away

Here's another of those virtually all-photo posts. I know how much you like 'em!! 

I just whipped out the old digital camera and shot away...

A Naxos doorway.

Rhodes harbour, May 12th.


The newly completed boardwalk that enables pedestrians to now walk all the way from the Commercial Harbour to the town without risking losing an ear to a passing truck or coach!!

An Old Town backwater.

St. George Beach, Naxos.
My wife says this looks like a toy boat!! But look carefully and you'll see the boatman's cap and the top of his back just behind the cabin.

Mandraki from the outside!
Still haven't been able to sit down and complete the Naxos "summary". But I'll get there. Somebody buy me a round tuit. I need to get a round tuit.

Monday, 12 May 2014

As Frank Sinatra Said...

Way back when I was just a twinkle in my mother's eye, or at least so I like to think, Ole Blue Eyes sang about how nice it was to go travellin', and in part the song went...

It's very nice to be footloose
With just a toothbrush and comb
It's oh so nice to be footloose
But your heart starts singin' when your homeward wingin' 'cross the foam

I think the song was called It's Nice to Go Travellin' but, since it was recorded in America, that would be travelin' I suppose, eh? Anyway, the point is, I found myself making a poor attempt at singing this (under my breath, of course) as the fab Blue Star 2 ferry made its approach into Rhodes on the morning of May 1st, at about 10.15am. Through the window in the plush bar at the front end, the sharp end that is, or I ought to say "the bow" to be nautically accurate, I gazed at the familiar landmarks of Rhodes Town and felt a definite twinge of "home sweet home" coming on. I did, really!

My  better half was reading her book on a comfy sofa nearby, but I was drawn to the floor-to-ceiling windows on the starboard side as if by a magnet to gaze at the elegant Casino building, the Aquarium at the Island's northern-most tip, the old windmills and fortress that stand on the harbour mole of Mandraki, the majestic Old Town wall and above it the Palace of the Grand Master and thought: "I'm coming home. This is where I live and you know what? I'm rather happy about it."

By the way, you'll have noticed my dead impressive use of the term "starboard" eh? If, like me, you're never really sure which is Port and which is Starboard on a sea vessel, a Greek bloke I worked with on a Lazy Day Cruise excursion a year or two back told me the secret. 

"Yianni," he said, "imagine a nice bottle of Port wine." I admit, I didn't find that difficult. He went on, "Well, now imagine that it's empty." Ahem, well, yes, having emptied a few through the years this also wasn't hard. And before you start, I don't mean that I've emptied entire bottles of port on my own all right? I've had company on at least some of these occasions. My tutor continued, "Now you have the secret. Just say to yourself, 'There's no Port left!!' and you have it. Port equals left and by process of elimination, Starboard has to be on the right. Easy eh?"

You know. I've always been able to remember that one; which is more than can be said for a welter of Greek verb endings. So, returning to my quiet on-board musings and vain attempts to emulate Ole Blue Eyes, I whipped out the iPad and snapped these...

Sorry I couldn't get a better zoom on those, but the iPad's not as good as the digital camera, which was tucked way down deep in my rucksack at the time. But if you do the usual with them (ie: click on an image, then, when it's opened, right click on it and select 'View Image', which, once that one's opened on most browsers your mouse will turn into a magnifying glass that, if clicked, will give you a really big view which you can drag your way around) you'll get a better look at those famous Rhodes landmarks.

Perhaps you also picked up on my use of the word "Mole" back up there somewhere too? Y'know, I only remember that word in this context because I seem to recall it getting a lot of use in the book "The French Lieutenant's Woman" by John Fowles. If you're in any doubt, check out this website, where you'll see this:

See, told you. You wouldn't believe me would you, huh?

Anyway, there we were steaming into Rhodes after a very comfy night in a first class cabin (beats flying folks) where we'd had the luxury of crisp, clean sheets on very nice beds, an ensuite with an inexhaustible supply of piping hot water in the shower, wardrobes and a TV, and I was thinking (apart from the words of the old Sinatra song that is) about the fact that our meal for the coming evening was already sorted, courtesy of the To Petrino taverna, on the island of Syros. That link, by the way, takes you to the TripAdvisor reviews about this taverna. When I posted mine I was rather surprized to see that I was the first to review it. But in the last couple of days another person has added a shorter, but no less enthusiastic one, I'm pleased to see. You may notice that the taverna is listed as being located in Ermoupoli. This is simply because that's the name of the main town and harbour on Syros island.

As I said, our evening meal for the day of our return home was going to consist of some Fava, some oven-baked aubergine with Pilaf rice stuffing, tomatokeftedes and a green lettuce and carrot salad. They brought us complimentary tzatziki too, but we didn't need that packed up for the trip, we'd eaten it all by the time we were so stuffed that we had to ask if we could take the rest with us!

The taverna's location was really lovely and very atmospheric. In fact Ermoupoli as a whole was wonderful, and more Parisienne that Greek in some parts. 

So, after stumbling on a really good taverna for our last meal in the Cyclades for a while, we were well pleased, well sated and well supplied for our first meal back home. Our neighbors were on the quayside to welcome us back and drive us home. 

On the road home, driving back down the island, no one asked me, "What's that tune you're humming?" But if they had I'd have told them, "As Frank Sinatra said: It's oh so nice to go travellin', but it's so much nicer to come home." The both of us are only too aware that we're very privileged to be able to spend three and a half weeks away on a Greek island, only to be able to return home to another one at the end of it.

Life is good. There will be a post with a complete summary of the whole Naxos visit when I can get it finished. It's taking me a long time to prepare it though. Since it's now approaching 2.00am, I'm off to my bed 'cos I have to be up by 7.00am to do my second excursion of this season, which my employers cannily call "Cosmopolitan Capital". Hats off to them, it sure beats "Rhodes Shopping!" as an excursion title, yea?

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Apollonas By Bus

In the previous post about a bus trip, "Venture to the Interior" I mentioned the old guy called Stefanos, who engaged us in conversation throughout the hour-long trip into Naxos island's hinterland to his home village of Filoti. My wife, although enjoying the opportunity to have a natter in Greek, did make it known to me at the odd moment when she thought she could get away with it, that the only problem was, "he smells of old man smells, you know, wee and stuff!" But then, since he is getting pretty long in the tooth and lives alone, it was the logical conclusion to draw that his clothes didn't see the inside of a washing machine all that often, always assuming that he knows what one of those contraptions is, of course.

Anyway, we decided that on Thursday the 24th, we'd make another trip by bus, this time to the very northern-most tip of the island, to the village of Apollonas, which is nestled in a cosy bay at the end of a steep-sided valley miles from anywhere, "makria apo pouthena" as the Greeks would say. Apollonas is over fifty kilometres from Hora (Naxos Town) and thus the bus trip was going to be a long one. There are no big roads anywhere on Naxos. This we had no problem with at all, since that's the joy of taking a bus on a Greek island, neither one of us is the driver and thus we both get to admire the view - and what a view. If you hire a car you don't get to see from as high a vantage point too, as you do from a bus window.

For the first 45 minutes or so we were passing scenery that we'd seen before, since the route once again threaded its way up into the heart of the island and passes through Filoti, hence the delights of Stefanos' company for a second time. This time we managed to nab the front seats right behind the driver's head but, sure enough, old Stefanos decided he'd sit across the aisle from us, like he did when we'd sat toward the back on the previous occasion. I had the distinct impression (and my wife the dis-stinked impression) that he'd taken a bit of a shine to her.

Once again, as before the bus doubled as a transport vehicle for assorted packages and other stuff that needed delivering to some of the more remote villages. As it wound its way up from the coastal plain, peppered with potato fields, hedged with high swaying walls of bamboo, we once again enjoyed views of an almost Biblical landscape of white villages clustered atop a ridge or clinging to the sheer side of a mountain. Wild flowers were everywhere, including what we took to be Evening Primrose in full bloom beside the road...

These were taken (obviously) after we'd left the bus and were walking the lanes up into the hills
There were innumerable abandoned windmills, which exuded with sadness the fact that once they'd been the lifeblood of the villages near which they stood, but were now simply handy nesting places for the swallows and for lizards to scuttle or sunbathe on the stone walls. More and more frequently as you climb into the heart of the island you see square towers in or above the villages. These are apparently from the Venetian era, which ran for three centuries from the year 1207. Check out some info and nice photos of these fascinating structures on this website.

Once we'd passed the village of Filoti, where, as we'd expected, Stefanos descended the bus and bade us farewell, the road became progressively smaller and more windy. That's "windy" as in "twisty-turny" and not as in "blowing a gale". See, now you understand why I'd prefer the adjective "curly" eh? Almost every corner drew new gasps from our mouths as we admired some spectacularly dramatic valleys between ever rising mountains on the sides of which still there clung ever more villages, seeming like they'd tumble at any moment down over the terraced slopes to the narrow valley floor far below with just the slightest push.

The bus was finding it ever more tricky negotiating some of the bends and village streets when we did actually pass through them. All the while people would hop off in deserted village streets, where you'd see a couple of rickety chairs outside what looked like a house but bore a sign declaring that it was, in fact, an ouzerie or kafeneion. Staring out of the window we found ourselves looking down some pretty sheer hillsides, which, thus far at least, we were slightly less likely to tumble down since some expense had evidently been shelled out for Armco barriers in recent times. These shots were taken through the bus window, so you may see some reflections...

When we'd gone through a couple of very dramatic passes, the bus driver pulled up at a junction in the middle of nowhere, except for the presence of the ubiquitous small church beside the road, where he declared that it was time for us to change buses. No problem, he was coming too and, sure enough, parked up beside the church was a smaller bus, something like a 20-seater, which we were all now going to pile into for the remainder of the journey. The passengers, who'd begun the journey numbering probably 20 to 30, were now down to a couple of Greeks and about eight tourists, ourselves included. So even in this smaller bus there was ample room, except that the driver had to stack a few large packages in the aisle near the front, ...deliveries still to be made then.

I'm not sure, but I think this place is marked on the maps of the island as simply "Stavros", which in this context probably means 'crossways, or crossroads'. Once the diesel engine of the smaller bus had rattled into life we were off again, this time descending more often than ascending and negotiating ever smaller lanes through ever narrower villages above ever steeper hillsides as we began the descent of the final 15 k or so to Apollonas.

Rounding one bend, and negotiating some pretty large holes in the road surface, we came face to face with a huge cow, standing in the middle of the road, which meant that she blocked it completely. Across the formidable pair of horns on her head was laid a chain of some kind, lending me the impression that she'd escaped from somewhere. The driver merely inched forward as though this was something he did every day (which, of course, he probably does) and the cow eventually decided to squeeze herself against the rising green bank on the furthest side from the drop and let us pass.

I must have been wrong about the cow having escaped because after that we passed three or four more, all of which seemed quite at home grazing on the rich greenery along the roadside. At one point, we rounded yet another tight bend, causing my wife and I to remark that it was small wonder we'd had to change buses, since we couldn't imagine for a moment a fifty-seater bus getting round these lanes, only to pull up beside a man dressed in coarse clothing and standing beside three five-gallon white plastic drums with chocolate brown-coloured tops on them. Where he could have come from was a complete mystery, since all I could see was rural countryside in all directions. There was, however a small gateway beside which this man was standing and he was obviously waiting for the bus because the driver pulled up, opened the door and the man placed his three drums in the aisle, beside and on top of the already existing parcels that were there, and squeezed himself into the footwell beside the door as the driver closed it to ensure he didn't fall out.

As we trundled on I tried to get a look at what these drums may have contained and, according to the labels that I could just make out on the sides of them, it was some kind of Nutella-equivalent. Where the devil did he come from with three drums of chocolate confection about his person? That's a question to which we'll never know the answer. I had just about concluded that they probably had been emptied of their labelled contents anyway and filled with fertilizer or something, when knock me down with a feather if the bus didn't stop in a tiny village right outside of a compact house with a sign over the door advertising the fact that it was a zaheroplasteion - a cake and confectionery shop!

I dunno, maybe the cows up here have a very sweet tooth? probably not. 

Something else that prompted us to ask the driver a question was this: driving through endless miles of deserted hillsides as we were, punctuated with the occasional tiny village, where were all these women coming from then? For, sure enough, we'd begun to pass knots of women, mainly middle aged, but with some younger ones among them now and then as well, all striding along with a purpose, many carrying flowers and most using walking sticks, the long ones that go as high as your head. Apparently today, said the driver, it was a yorti (celebration) for some saint or other who has a little church dedicated to him somewhere out in these hills and every year the women from the assorted villages around the area make the trek to this little church for some reason or other. It made hikers out of them so there was that benefit to be considered I suppose.

Finally, after we'd almost OD'd on scenery and tiny rutted, potholed roads, we caught our first glimpse of Apollonas at the far end of a valley as we entered it, still at some altitude...

...But we still had a lot of twisting and turning to do before finally getting down there...

Opposite sides of the valley it may seem to be, but it's the same road!
A couple of kilometres above the village, we made the final stop to let off a German couple who were going to hike over to see the ancient Kouros before coming on down to the village on foot. We ourselves were planning an immediate visit to a café on the front for some liquid refreshment, before doing it the other way around.

So, folks, the bus emptied out on the quayside with its two remaining passengers (us!), turned at the far end of the quay, near the modest breakwater, before letting us off, the driver assuring us that at 3.30pm the bus would be back to pick us up for our return journey. We had just over three hours to explore. Ample time. As the sound of the bus' engine died away, we drew our very first breaths in the truly peaceful atmosphere that is Apollonas, which within minutes became one of our most favourite places on the planet. Here goes with the photos...

A simple lunch of cheese and onion omelette, which I asked for with chips, so they mixed the chips into the omelette (which, as it happens, was actually a stroke of genius), green salad and Gigantes.

Oh, the stresses and strains of modern life...

After a rather welcome beer, along with which the nice lady in the first hostelry we patronised brought us a plate of nibbles for free...

...we took a walk in the hot sunshine up the valley to see the Kouros for ourselves..

Old Dionyssos has lain here for 2,600 years, so I figure he must like the place. Bit bigger than me isn't he.

Look at the flora. The whole of nature here is like one big garden during April.

Apollonas - perfect or what?

What a flower eh? And the bush isn't bad either.

Apparently they never finished him. Not much changed there then.

As the time ebbed away and we again sat quayside waiting for the bus to return, we got back to the subject of how sensible it had been to change from the big bus to the smaller one for the final 15 k or so down to the village. The turns in some of the villages had been so tight that everyone one of them seemed to sport a parked car with dents all over it, testifying to how difficult it is for vehicle to get through these turns without clouting other vehicles. Judging from the state of some of the cars we saw parked in the villages along these valleys, the owners just resign themselves to the inevitable in their refusal to park further away from home. Can't imagine that many of these have seen the inside of a test centre for a very long time.

So, there we were expressing gratitude that the small bus had been rather cleverly parked way up there in the mountains in order for us to make the switch, when the familiar sound of a diesel engine announced the arrival of the bus to take us back to town. Here waiting for it were two German couples and ourselves, all getting along famously and not mentioning the war, all dead certain that the smaller bus would turn up and that we'd once again have to change over to the larger one once we got out of this valley of the tiny, twisty, potholed road, when around the corner came the bus, the 50 seater bus that is.

I could have sworn I saw Vaseline smeared all along its sides as we climbed aboard.