Monday, 27 October 2014

Halkian Days IV (!!)

I suppose everyone wants something different out of a holiday. During the past decade or so of our UK lives though, we simply wanted to relax, recharge our batteries and not be bothered about anything except doing very little in a suitably conducive environment. Here we are now starting our 10th year living in Greece and, as I've said before, we have come to a point where we wanted to experience again that feeling we used to get when going on Greek holidays; sounds odd I know, but true.

Let's face it, wherever you live on this little globe of ours, you have to get on with daily life. There are dishes to be washed (well, in my case there are), cars to be cleaned, gardens to be tended, DIY jobs to be botched, shopping to be done, beds to be made, washing and ironing, cooking, cleaning... Feel relaxed now, do we? 

See, so you understand how, even living somewhere like this, one gets to feeling that it would be nice to shoot off somewhere and take it easy for a while. I may have said this before, and the older I get the more I have a tendency to repeat things (as my ever-loving dearly-beloved likes to continually remind me), but Halki ticks all the boxes we used to have in our "how to have a really good laid-back Greek holiday" list.

Not wishing to boast, OK, but here is a list of all the places in Greece that we've visited (including places where my wife has family of course): Athens, Pireaus, Kalamos, Oropos, Corinth, Epidauros, Nafplion, Argos, Corfu, Paxos, Anti-Paxos, Zakynthos, Kefallonia, Ithaka, Patra, Thessalonika, Halkidiki, Thassos, Meteora, Ioannina, Parga, Skiathos, Skoppelos, Evia, Loutraki, Glifada, Aegina, Agistri, Poros, Hydra, Spetses, Naxos, Santorini, Samos, Leros, Kos, Symi, Crete (various parts) and, yup ...Rhodes!! I'm tempted to try a Greek version of that old song "I been everywhere sport..." but that would be too silly. I'm only making the point that, since we were ever in search of the "real" Greece, we like to think that we know where to find it by now.

Tell you what, it's on Halki. Now, if you're looking to crawl all over a bunch of old ruins then maybe don't go there. It's not "long" on ruins, but what it IS "long" on is a picturesque harbour, little bobbing multi-coloured fishing boats (that still go out to fish), superb traditional tavernas and very friendly local people. There are no crowds, even in the high season, and there is no airport, thus deterring many mainstream tourists from making the effort to get there. Elsewhere on this blog I've already posted a link to Nissia Holidays, but I'll plug them again here. They do a lot on Halki and they took up the mantle where Laskarina left off some years ago. My wife and I had gone to Symi with Laskarina and, although it was a mite expensive, it was worth every penny to be staying in a traditional Symiot house with a harbour view TDF.

There are only two or three beaches and they're all modest in size. Our favourite is definitely Ftenagia, which you reach by following a well-worn path over the rocks from the far South end of the harbour, up behind the Police station, which is right on the sea front. There is a taverna there, a couple of photos of which I've posted before, but here are some anyway (including some I posted before)...

Look closely - you can just see a head under the table, bottom left (see text below)

My other half does the Dr. No thing

S'funny isn't it? I mean, that shot above of my plate of chips (no, I'm not going off on that one again, except to say, click this!) and my bottle of Heineken (they didn't have a Fix!) with an Alpha glass doesn't show the table to my left, where the proprietor was sitting, a genial old chap who's probably about 70-ish and ready for a natter with anyone who happens to be within earshot. Suited me fine. Beneath his table was a toddler (see the other photo with the caption mentioning this) who I'd have estimated couldn't have been more than three, and she had a little dog sprawled all over her legs while she busily tapped away dextrously on a tablet, evidently playing some game or other. She was leaning her back against one of the table legs. The dexterity that her fingers showed as they raced all over the screen on that device made me wonder how young she'd been when her parents first put one in front of her. Tell you what, if they ever need someone to play a crewmember in a Star Trek movie, sitting behind the captain in the bridge looking like they're analysing something in the ship's "system" with great aplomb, here's your girl. Like lightning those fingers were.

The amusing thing to me was the fact that her little dog evidently wanted some of her attention, but wasn't getting any. Occasionally it would nuzzle its nose over the iPad, or whatever tablet it was, only to have it brushed aside by a hand which hardly paused from the job in hand. Then the dog would stand up, turn a round a few times and try and nestle it's head against the child's chest, only to have it unceremoniously pushed away while the kid got on with the job of racking up the points in her game.

Just as an experiment, I extended a hand and gave the dog one of those little "spv" noises (usually accompanied the sucking in the cheeks, got it?) that we all seem to do when addressing someone of either feline or canine origin, and quick as a flash it got up and trotted over to me, where I gave it a little of the TLC it evidently craved but wasn't getting from the child. As soon as I stopped petting it, without complaint it just sauntered back to beneath the other table and nestled itself on to the child's legs again. I rather took to the little chap (or perhaps "chap-esse" I dunno about such things).

On the subject of iPads, or tablets, whatever, you can see from another two of those photos above, a woman seated near the front of the terrace, probably in her late middle age, certainly not a "yoof",  also concentrating on her device, which is placed on the table in front of her. She'd retreated to the taverna almost as soon as she and her partner arrived at the beach, which was only a few yards ahead of us. In the four hours or so that we spent on that beach, she never left that chair. Her bloke was a tablet-widower for the entire time. Now, maybe this suited him just fine, but we couldn't help but wonder about their relationship nevertheless. Plus the poor taverna owner had to surrender that table against all other potential diners for the duration, just for the return on a Greek salad and a couple of drinks. She wanted the wi-fi and she was going to use it.

Hey ho, or ho hum and all that. Here I go again fearing for the sanity of our species.

We dined out on exquisite fare over two evenings - once at Maria's, where we received a warm welcome and a modest discount from Maria and her hubby, whose name I once again forget - but never his permanent warm smile, and once at Babis, where Zois did us proud too. The amiable chap who runs the large cafe bar right on the jetty wouldn't let us pay for our drinks, although I did insist on paying for my delicious hazelnut and caramel ice cream which I forced myself to eat purely to show kindness to them for all the work they put in by providing it (!?**) after we'd eaten at Taverna Babis. 

Before we boarded the Fedon for the 4.00pm sailing back to Kamiros Skala on the Friday, we took lunch with dear Kyria Levkosia and her daughter Kiki, who sat with us (there was hardly anyone in) while we partook of Levkosia's delicious homemade dolmades, a Greek salad, some fresh bread and home-made cheese balls.

Simple it may have been, but she really only opened up for us, since at this time of the season there's not much custom to be had during the midday hours. When we arrived, which would have been around 1.00pm, after a long trudge from the bar right next door, the place was devoid of life. The kitchen door, though, was open, so I walked in a called out "anyone here?" to which no reply was forthcoming. 

Levkosia's rather large-of-girth son (not Mihalis, who sadly for us was over on the nearby uninhabited isalnd Alimia checking on his olive trees) turned up on his dirt-bike, told us that yes his mum was coming and then disappeared again. After waiting a while longer and deciding that perhaps things weren't going to go according to plan, I once more poked my head inside the kitchen door where, just ahead of me was a long stainless steel unit, from behind which up popped Levkosia's head in such a manner as to faze me for a split second. She'd been asleep behind that counter all the time! In very short order she'd rustled up our lunch from nothing, explaining that she'd expected us for the evening and had planned to make us one of her delicious vegetarian moussakas. Aw drat!!! Now we'd have to wait for next year as we apologised profusely whilst explaining that we were leaving at four.

The entire duration of our three-day-two-night stay was blessed with perfect weather, including warm evenings, not always guaranteed in the second week of October. Naxos we'd fallen in love with, true, but to get there from Rhodes is not much different expense-wise from going back to the UK. Here we were sitting on the rear of the top deck of the Fedon on our way home to Rhodes, discussing the fact that we can get to Halki for pennies really, leaving our car right at the port too. Plus, Halki is for us exactly what we'd always looked for in a Greek holiday. The fact that we know a lot of people there from the three years when I went every week all through the season was an added bonus.

An even more wonderful treat was the fact that the sea for our return crossing was, as the Greeks say, "like oil" - that's olive oil of course!! They say that when we'd say "like glass" or "like a millpond"

The beloved, the wind gently raising her hair in the warm afternoon sunshine, did bemoan the fact that I'd told her on many occasions of the dolphins that I'd seen while making this crossing. Oh how she'd like to see them - just once. 

I think they must have been listening. Right on cue two adult dolphins began giving us a display that would have done a "Sea World" show proud. They were leaping in graceful arcs right out of the water from what seemed to us to be pure joie de vivre. In fact, the sighting was of such an exception that Captain Vasilis emerged from the bridge with his camera to try and grab a photo or two.

Talking of photos, here are a few more we took on Halki...

This was taken during the walk out to Ftenagia Beach

We had a full moon whilst there. This was shortly after moon-rise with my inadequate camera, taken from the balcony of our "Marcos" room.

An evening study as we made our way down to the harbour to eat and...

...the same scene as above in daylight. Just behind the Marcos Rooms.
A rather nice shop just off the seafront during the evening

Not sure what this was, but may have been a grain store in times past.

Once back on Rhodean soil, we took a brief excursion up to nearby Kritinia Kastro before heading home...

The rather chirpy cafe bar just below the castle. Note the signs are in Russian!


  1. Before I read this may I point out that we've had Part 111 already. What's that you say? Artists are not mathematicians! Now I must start reading..........

    1. Aha! So you spotted my cunning little trick eh? You're quite right of course, I can't even count up to five if I've got my mittens on, which fortunately is very rare here. Title now corrected by the way, which is why no one else is gonna have the faintest idea what all this is all about!

  2. Now I understand (para 3, you're repeating yourself!)
    Seriously, a lovely post evoking all sorts of images, scents and feelings of warmth and well-being. Thanks

  3. I see from your list of places that you have visited in Greece that you must be saving the best until last--you haven't been to Tilos! Loved your tales of Halki though- even though we have never been.We only just left Greece 3 days ago and I an already counting the hours until we return

    1. I really must get to Tilos before much longer. I have two correspondents there so I don't have much of an excuse really. Where is home for you, Anon?

    2. We live in the Midlands, but have been Tilos visitors for over 30 years. Spend about 10-14 weeks a year there--split between spring and autumn. As part of our spring trips, we always have 4-5 days in Haraki, and drive around southern Rhodes, so your "locals" are our locals!

    3. You obviously know the best part of Rhodes then!! Perhaps you could give us a few pointers regarding modest studios or village rooms to stay at on Tilos maybe?

  4. John . Tilos is on our to do list.
    Have to wait now till next year

    1. Absolutely Trevor. Kastellorizo too, have you been?