Sunday, 22 April 2018

Do We know That Person?

Many years ago, in fact far more than I care to remember, we spent a few weeks in County Cork in the Republic of Ireland. Some friends of ours from our home town of Bath had moved out there and were renting a house along a quiet country lane a couple of miles outside of an, as until then, unknown small country town called Millstreet. Of course, all that changed when, totally unbelievably to us, Ireland hosted the Eurovision Song Contest in 1993 and they hosted it in Millstreet. Even now it's almost impossible to believe that this was even possible, when you consider that Millstreet is a one-street town in a rural area far from anywhere. Even today, the population of Millstreet is only around 1,500.

Having just taken a stroll along the centre of town (although it's more of a village really), courtesy of Google maps 'streetview', I can see that the centre has barely changed since we were there, which was an also barely believable 43 years ago this year. But the environs and the periphery have expanded hugely and there are totally unrecognisable developments on all sides that didn't exist when we visited the place.

I only mention this because something that we found strange, yet ultimately wonderful, about rural Eire was the fact that everyone and anyone you passed on the street or road would wave at you. Everywhere we drove people would do this, even down to the farmer trundling along the lane on his tractor. Lots of people would get around from town to town or village by simply sticking out a thumb and anyone passing who had room in their vehicle would stop. It was the culture and we grew to love it. That aspect, I'm glad to say, is also true of southern Rhodes, where we live.

Thus our experience after only a couple of days on Patmos so far has reminded us of our time in Millstreet, because the natives here are seemingly every bit as friendly as they were in that humble Irish locale all those years ago. We can't walk past anyone without them wishing us a 'kalimera', or exchanging a 'yia sas' or two. Sitting in a bar or taverna, if other customers walk in, they'll nod and speak to us as if they've known us all of their lives. The first couple of times it happened, we exchanged perplexing glances with a mutual unspoken 'Do we know that person/those people?' passing between us.

We've already taken a few short walks along some country lanes and, if any vehicle has passed, the driver and/or passengers wave at us like we've been friends for years. It's taken us back, I can tell you. Not that the Greeks all over this country aren't in general a very friendly, welcoming lot, but here on Patmos it's a fine art, the art of making everyone feel at home.

On our first night we ate at the Pantelis taverna, along a small street one block back from the waterfront, near the main harbour. As it's still very early in the season, we were the only customers seated outside in the street. It was just about warm enough, at least until it was getting near time to leave. We enjoyed a superb first meal on Patmos of their special salad (pine nuts, pomegranate seeds, mini croutons, lettuce all dressed in oil and balsamic, plus lemon juice), kolokithokeftedes and gigantes. The waitress was a lovely girl called Katerina, who, since she wasn't exactly rushed off her feet, had plenty of time to natter with us, as she stationed herself at the doorstep, waiting to serve anyone else who happened to indicate that they may be coming in.

We covered a lot of topics and she even corrected my Greek here and there, for which I had to fight back the pride and thank her, of course. But one thing she said had us thinking, "she's having us on here, surely."

A couple of locals happened by at one point toward the end of the evening, and they hung around while Katerina chatted with them for a few moments. This must have been around 10.00pm. When they took their leave, she called after them "Kalo proi! [have a good morning!]" 

We caught her eye and laughed. "Yeah, funny!" We said.

"No, everywhere has its own slang and local ways of expressing things. Well, here it's a Patmian thing, in the evening when you bid someone goodnight, you say 'Have a good morning!' Seriously!" She appeared to be talking in all earnestness, but we were finding it hard to take seriously. Surely she was having a gentle laugh at our expense, to see if we'd fall for it maybe.

The following day we ambled about the place, taking everything in, enjoying the beauty of the scenery and expressing great approval at just how they seem to have recycling down to a fine art here, with all the colour-coded bins everywhere you look. In fact, I've been ticking boxes left right and centre since we got here: 

• Friendliness of the locals - box ticked.
• Comfy, modest accommodation in just the right location - box ticked.
• Lots of gorgeous backstreets, ideal for wandering around, in the area of Skala - box ticked.
• Prices for eating out and drinks - box ticked.
• Drinking water fountain for the public to fill up their bottles, easily within walking distance of accommodation - box ticked.
• Lovely traditional bakery also within five minutes of the front door - box ticked.

Apart from the beloved suggesting that she'd like it a little busier in the evenings (not bothered myself) we're fast falling in love with yet another Greek island.

Here are a few shots taken in our first couple of days...

Seems these white day-lilies are popular here. This show was stunning.

I had to allow the cheesecake to be forced upon me of course.

Meloi Beach, a mere fifteen minutes walk over the hill from our accommodation. This was early evening.

Lunch on the balcony. That white chunk of soft cheese in the centre is homemade goats' milk cheese, left in our fridge for us by our lovely host Suzanna. Yes, she made it herself [OK, with a little help from a few goats, Vicki!].

This charming shot of a door threatens to end up in a frame on a wall somewhere.

This very old cottage sits up on the hillside above the harbour area. Pretty eh?

The walk from Skala back to our place. It takes about fifteen minutes. Interestingly, at the far end of the bay is the area known as Netia, where the taverna of the same name sits across the road from the quayside. In one TripAdvisor comment, someone suggest that you'd need a car to visit this taverna, as it's a fifteen minute walk!!!! Give me a break will yah?

Taverna 'H Netia"

This little beach is five minutes over the hill behind our place. It's the narrowest part of the whole island, see next shot.
The little blue dot is our location. The beach in the shot above is the one just above where it says Hotel Asteri
This evening, which is actually yesterday because I'm bashing the keys now at 1.30am, we ate at H Netia taverna and were pleased and charmed to have met Sozaki, who waited on us the whole time. He is a bit of a lookalike for the clever journalist Clive James (who'll be well known to UK and Aussie readers) and wrote the book on how to be a genial, attentive, kindly yet not at all in-your-face host.*

I asked him how long the taverna had been in business and he told us about seven years. I remarked on the fact that the quayside across the road looked fairly new and he replied that it had been constructed to reclaim the area from the sea. Prior to that quayside being built, the area where now sits the taverna had been under water. Again, the taverna is just visible in the Google Maps shot above [the orange knife and fork symbol], in the far bottom right, as is part of the fairly newly-constructed quay.

While we talked with the very likeable Sozaki, a couple of guests, evidently locals, got up to leave. They waved to us equally as much as to Sozaki, and he and they both exchanged a "kalo proi!" as they left the premises.

There you are then, Katerina had been telling us the truth.

*Yes, Vicki, we received the walnut cake as our freebie. Scrumptious.


  1. Sounds like you are getting into the swing of Patmos, much to my delight! Was that Mistra cafe where you had cheesecake?