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Published: August 3rd 2010
We arrived in Patmos and tender boats brought us to the island's pretty harbor Skala. Known as the Jerusalem of the Aegean, Patmos is a holy island of Christians, where the Apocalypse of St. John was written. There are 2 main attractions - The Grotto and The monastery. Many people from the ship boarded Mercedes tour buses for the shore excursions that cost a small fortune in euros. But we decided to take a cab. The chinki couple asked if they could share a cab with us and we agreed. The chinkis lived in SFO, she was from Taiwan and a pharmacist and he was from Hong Kong and a software engineer. A good blend of science & technology! I could imagine their kid becoming a doctor. After a winding, uphill ride in the Mercedes cab, Nicholas our taxi driver (taxi #1) dropped us off at The Grotto.
According to Greek mythology the first inhabitants of Patmos were the God of the sea, Neptune and the Goddess Diana. In 95 AD St. John made the cave (located at the foot of the monastery) his home during his exile by the Roman Emperor Domitian and the cave became the centre of
his revelation, which he dictated to his disciple Prohorus and this led to the creation of the Book of the Apocalypse, or Revelation, the last book of the Bible. Seven silver lamps were hung in the cave, of which the largest is above the place where St. John slept using a rock as a pillow that still exists in the cave. A monk sat on the rock and told the story of the Apocalypse and how the book was written, to the tourists. Photography is not allowed in the cave. It was a beautiful place, a sacred site and the steps going inside was pretty steep!!
It was a true paradise to the mallus who had arrived by tour bus and huffed and puffed up and down the stairs, and sat outside on the steps in a large group and sang holy Christian songs in Malayalam, while other people from the ship stared at them as they walked past. We wandered around and saw a man herding some donkeys carrying loads on their backs. It seemed like donkeys are still beasts of burden in Greece. Mrs. Oregon came by and said that donkeys are even used to carry the
dead people. Looks like she did a thorough research before coming! They proceeded to hike up the donkey path (such energy!) and off we went to meet Nicholas who was going to drop us off at the Monastery.
The imposing Monastery, a majestic fortress, crowns the hill above the port of Skala. The construction of the monastery began in the 11th century. It is surrounded by massive walls with battlements that protected the main church and five other chapels. Its treasury contains Byzantine era icons, sacred vessels, embroideries and other priceless objects, while its library houses parchment documents patriarchal seals, illuminated manuscripts and rare old books. In the chapel dedicated to Our Lady, frescoes can be seen which date to the 1200s. It was a beautiful and serene place. We sat in the courtyard for a long time capturing the essence of time, looking up at the place where the nuns used to reside and I could imagine how the monastery would have been in those times. Nuns bustling around the courtyard, drawing water from the antique well, preparing food in the ancient kitchen and worshipping in the chapel inside! Then the spell was broken when Rajesh announced that
he didn’t want to be swamped by the Malayalis and insisted that we leave before they got here.
So we walked down the winding steps pausing to check out some interesting looking shops that sold vintage and medieval stuff. And sat at the edge of the cliff admiring the views of the island, taking pictures and chatting with Nicholas. The monastery was surrounded by dazzling white, cube-like houses which spills down its flanks and forms the medieval village of Chora whose labyrinthine street arrangement was purposefully designed to confuse pirates raiding the town and monastery. Clarence and his mom waved to us and proceeded to climb up the steps to the monastery. The Malayalis stormed past us with shining eyes and looked all geared up to sing more Hallelujahs!!!
Skala is a lively place with more white houses, blue doors and windows, flowered courtyards, quaint boutiques and fish tavernas, After Nicholas brought us back to the port we walked inside the narrow streets into the town to sample some local life. It was a beautiful walk, uphill first taking us past blue + white Greek houses where we peeked curiously into backyards and windows and could smell dinner
cooking in the tiny kitchens. Shops are tucked in between here and there. Then we spotted some excellent views of Patmos, fishing boats and fishermen coming in with their catch. Patmos is famous for its sea-food; it was indeed a spectacular island with great beaches and a unique landscape. Our walk ended by a pebbled beach and just as I was wondering where we were, Nicholas came zooming by in his Mercedes taxi #1, rolled down the windows and gave a big grin. And we knew we were safe! He took us to the port and went on to say that Easter celebrations are very famous in the island, which was a week away and the cruise ships came early to let its passengers watch these colorful celebrations. Patmos is an island where tourism until recently was low-key but has been growing steadily.
We chatted with Krazy Ken, who came out of nowhere. I asked him whether he went to visit the library (wink!) while his wife and son were at the monastery. He guffawed and said yes indeed, and went on to say he came back from an internet café to check his emails, and he had made money that week! Good for him!!! He told us that he sold farm chains to farmers and his website was www.farmchains.com and I should look it up when I got home. I certainly would! We chatted about the US economy, the immigrants, Albany, the Governor, Obama etc. and then as his family came over to join us, we all boarded the tender boats that took us back to the ship. Gosh, I needed a foot rub!!!
That night as we proceeded to the buffet dinner, Vikas (waiter from Goa) stopped us and said that the chef had made chicken biryani and dhal for dinner that night. Because one of the malayalis had requested Indian food for their group. So we decided to try it out and went to the sit-in dinner to eat some mediocre biryani and bland dhal with rice and gulab jamun for dessert. A group of malayalis shared our table and began our typical desi conversation. Some wanted to know if we were on our honeymoon. Their group leader Dr. Raju came by and they all clapped for him. He was the biryani patron!!! That night the ship was decorated in blue & white, it was Greek night and the buffet served Greek cuisine. Passengers were asked to dress in blue and white too, but I was just too lazy. Sounds of music and dancing came from the moonlight bar and there were some shows in the Aquamarine lounge. Though dead tired, we had to check it out and found Clarence swinging his fat butt and dancing his energy away, while I sat with feet up nursing some cocktail that Rajesh had ordered for me. The shows were awesome, a troop from Bulgaria and it ended with Jai Ho!
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