Published: July 11th 2011July 2nd 2011
Rugged and beautiful
Santorini is iconic and absolutely beautiful but we were not sad to say good-bye to all the tourists there, and it wasn't even high season! We were longing for the quieter islands and Karpathos didn't disappoint us. It took us 14 hours getting back to the Dodecanese but it was well worth it, as Katpathos is a rather big island, only has few tourists and you can get to experience Greeks living a more traditional life style. In addition, it also has great scope for hiking/walking, which we took advantage of.
First, we based ourselves in Pigadia, the capital and major port of the island. Rose's Studios were our new little home close to the old port, very cosy and convenient. Our hosts were a very hardworking couple, who'd worked 5 years in Zimbabwe, followed by 10 years working at a restaurant in far northern Canada, (where nobody else wanted to go!) to get enough money to build their dream, 'Rose's Studios, which has 12 rooms, so quite substantial. This is not unusual on Karpathos, making a living on the island is very tough so therefore, many people migrated in the 60's to USA, Canada or Australia. We spoke to several
The Rhodes Choir performing at the waterfront
people, who'd lived in Australia but had returned mainly because of family pressure. I have to say they said it was the worst decision they'd ever made, a bit sad.
Karpathians are very friendly people, take this example: We had taken the local bus to the furthest village on the other side of the island, Piles. I wanted to buy some fruit, went to the one and only little taverna to inquire. No fruit shop in town, but the guy took me by the hand to point out his house, told me to go there, open the door, (no need to lock doors there) go straight through to his garden and pick as many apricots as I'd like:) How was that!
The area around Pigadia is the most touristy, but it's very easy to get away from. Hop on a local bus to visit the local villages and do some walking, then you think that you're in the middle of nowhere. The island is quite mountainous and very beautiful with small beaches hidden amongst the cliffs. One day we hired a car to see the less travelled areas and it was a treat, my camera was running hot:)
Our favourite fishing boat at the little fishing hamlet of Agios Antonios, 10 people living there, including an Australian journalist!
caught the local bus going up to the northern part along a narrow dirt road. Here we stayed in Olympos, a tiny village in the mountains, originally built here to escape the pirates! Life here has always been very tough, and up to the 60's it was self sufficient, because it didn't have much contact with the rest of the world. Now they still live a traditional life, but is also supplementing their income by day tourists twice a week. The women are dressed in their traditional clothing and have shops selling souvenirs and local products in the main street. Unfortunately it seems they're missing out, things are not going so well, we sensed a tension in the community, and the younger generation doesn't want to stay there, so....
However, we enjoyed our stay there very much, we only met 4 French people who were also staying , so very quiet. Spoke to one hard-working, young woman, who was very determined to have a go. She had inherited her auntie's house and had re-built it, so now it's a very nice restaurant. Every year she adds a little improvement, good to hear. She serves dishes made of local products, so
Agios Antonios, Tilos
The door to this little chapel happened to be open
we tried the roast goat, which was nice. The main problem for these people, is, that the season is SO short, it's mainly only July and August!!! During the winter, this young lady, helps her family with the goats, harvest olives, etc, so still a tough life. Family plays such an important part in people's lives.
During our stay we got to watch a family's traditional wedding on DVD. A lot of singing by the male guests and the bride dressed in traditional costume, all very colourful.
Our final stop was in Diafani, a small port, only 6 km from Olympos. I carefully asked in the small shop what time the bus would leave to Diafani, 7 o'clock was the answer! Therefore, we got up bright and early the next morning, waited for a whole hour, then it dawned on us, there wouldn't be a bus, it was Sunday! Norm was busily searching for somebody to give us a lift. A lady pointed out a guy, who she said was a taxi driver. Encouraged, Norm approached the guy only to hear, yes, he was a taxi driver but unfortunately he didn't have a taxi, too bad!! Finally, we got a
There are beautiful beaches here too
lift with one of the locals.
Diafani is a sweet little place, where you can chill out, go for walks and swim. Not only that, the locals here are the friendliest people, we've met. One evening, after dinner at the local taverna, three locals got their instruments out and started playing, that was just fantastic. Diafani is also a place where there are more travellers not tourists. On one of our walks to Avlona, the old agricultural village, we met a German couple, who just seemed to be of the same mind set as us, so we had a lot of fun together.
After 13 hours travel via Rhodes we arrived on beautiful Tilos. It's a tiny island not far from Kos. It's quite green, it actually has plenty of water, and fruit and vegetables are grown on the island, not so common on the Dodecanese. Tilos has a very relaxed atmosphere and not many tourists, not even in July. The island is well organised for walking. Some days we did our usual thing, hopping on the bus and walking back. Other days we'd walk along the coastal tracks with superb views. The most amazing thing, was, that we hardly
The best Greek food, we've had was here. The chef took us into the kitchen to show what he'd cooked, yummy:)
saw anyone on our walks. Most tourists come to lie on the beach and that's it! We really did feel transported back into time when coming upon deserted villages in the midst of lots of stone walls around the fields, not to mention the terraces. What a lot of hard work it must have been, and then have to walk away from it all to migrate, pretty tough!
Our favourite trip was that to the monastery up in the mountains. We both felt a calmness, peace coming over us. It's beautifully set between the mountains and the sea. We got talking to the local priest there as he's spent 20 years in Germany, so my rusty German was being put to the test! An Italian guy joined us for the walk down to a small fishing village. His English was limited but we had a lot fun exchanging language, I had lesson 1 in Italian. He and Norm got on really well, he was so full of life. After the walk we caught up with his wife and daughter for lunch. They're visiting 5 islands in 17 days!!
On our last evening on Tilos a choir and 3 accompanying musicians
The best food!
held a concert on the waterfront, it was just beautiful, very touching:)
The reason that Tilos seems so well-organised is mainly due to their mayor. He seems to have great visions for the island and put them into practice. For example, there are restrictions where development can take place, they clean up their beaches, etc.
Now on Nisyros, just 20 k's from Tilos. It has an active volcano, where you can walk down into the crater. A bit like walking on the moon with a strong sulphur smell. Great to have a look at the yellow sulphur crystals with the hot water bubbling away. This natural phenomena attracts hordes of day trippers, the good news is that they go home at 3 o'clock, and then there are only about 50 travellers staying behind:) Initially, we had a few problems settling in here on Nisyros, as the bus service is very erratic and infrequent, but finally, we've got our heads around that. Managed to catch one one of the local buses the other day, and walked down the mountain.
Compared to Tilos, Nisyros is more the 'real' thing, Mandraki, the main town here has a couple of souvenir shops, but the
Special friend. Have you noticed the priest's kangaroo?
feel of the town is that it is functioning for the locals. Had a wander through the narrow lanes admiring the colourful balconies, which are distinctive in this town yesterday afternoon, plus the cute little monastery sitting on the coast overlooking the town.
Friday night we were in for a real treat. The local cultural board had organised a traditional music/dance night at a monastery in the mountains. How lovely to see all ages, dance the night away. Each tune was local and had its own steps and everybody knew them.. Good to see an effort to retain their cultural heritage.
Yesterday we hired a little car and basically saw all the island, it was good fun. Again, we were amazed that we could go to places with no one-else in sight in July!!
Finally, today we chose to walk up to the monastery from the dance night enjoying spectacular views. 37 degrees so the main 'cargo' was water:) Yasu for now.
There are more photos below