Leaving Thirassia – a Little Shaken, Rattled and Rolled

This afternoon I will leave Thirassia. My three nights here have been all too short but unfortunately have been dictated by the regularity (or irregularity) of the ferry connections. I do a last bit of handwashing, safe in the knowledge that it will be bone dry after just a few hours on the line. Whilst I stand at the sink wringing out my clothes I notice a blast of water shoot across the bathroom. It fired past me so quickly that it made me jump. That was weird! I looked around to see where it could have come from – the air con, the shower, but there was no logical explanation for how, where or why.

I thought no more of it and carried on washing the clothes and doing the last bits of packing. I have a couple of hours to wait until Manolis comes to take me to the port so I spend the morning doing exactly what I’d come on this last-minute trip to do – relax! Apparently during my stay a Spanish couple had stayed a few doors down for just one night, but they came and went without me ever seeing them. Thirassia I feel is a place to be savoured and to synchronise yourself with a much slower rhythm.

Just below the edge of the plot that Zacharo Rooms (Jimmy’s) is located on, I watch a man tending to a small field of grapevines. The vines are so small that I wonder how much wine a small field like this would yield. Shortly after, Jimmy and Maria (the owner and mother of Babis) (the owner of Zacharo Rooms, not Babis), come to join me on the terrace. They asked me about my stay and if I’d enjoyed it. It’s with no difficulty that I tell them that the stay has been absolute bliss and provided me with everything I wanted from it – albeit too short a time. Maria said that they have lots of ideas of what they would like to do with the place. She would like to build a small outdoor library or book exchange in the garden ready for next season. It is very clear that Maria is very passionate about Thirassia and keen that it retain its traditional way of life. She told me that she’d even spoken with the mayor of Santorini to tell him how important it is not to allow over-tourism on the island. They don’t want this to be the downfall of the island like Santorini. On Thirassia they welcome tourists who come for low-impact stays such as e-bike or walking holidays – or even just doing nothing holidays like me!

There are only a small number of vehicles on the island and the frail infrastructure wouldn’t cope with many more. I put my travel consultant’s hat on and asked Maria whether Thirassia needed or wanted more tourists. She said that the island only has 6 hotels and a couple of rooms so that in itself would limit the number of visitors. However, as a business, they would welcome more visitors though they have no problem filling their rooms in peak season. Maria is drawn away to the telephone ringing from her house. It was after this conversation with her that my attention was drawn to an article in the Greek Travel Pages publication, which said permission had been granted to build a new luxury hotel on the island. I wish I could have asked Maria her opinion on this as I’d have been interested in her answer.

Jimmy is a sprightly gentleman who I suspect is in his eighties. In his Greek American drawl he tells me they used to have an English couple stay here every year for one month. They had been coming for many years and loved it so much they became like a members of the family. A few years ago, the lady who was called Anna was sadly taken ill with cancer and she passed away soon after. Her husband and their children returned to Jimmy’s to scatter her ashes at the bottom of the garden. Jimmy offered to show me her final resting place, so I followed him to a tree at that overlooked the village down below. At the base of the tree was a wooden marker with the name Anna engraved into it. What a fitting end to a well-lived life and to be resting in a place that meant so much. We chat for a while before Jimmy returned to his house at the end of the plot.

I returned to my seat on the terrace, reflecting upon the story of Anna and her husband and what this place must have meant to them. For some reason, my mind was pulled back to the water incident in the bathroom earlier. I’m not the type of person who believes in ghosts. I’m a borderline Athiest/Agnostic – veering more towards the latter as the years clock up. I’m very practical and pragmatic and logic is embedded into my DNA – the world around me has to make sense. However, the jet of water that had shot across the bathroom just didn’t make sense.

I let this thought play around in my head for a while. Could Anna’s connection to this place be so strong that she is still able to make her presence felt? I began to wonder about what type of person Anna was. Did she have a wry sense of humour or was she a practical joker? Would shooting water out of the blue at someone be something that she would have done in life? My imagination was having a field day with this one.

As I brought in the washing from the line, I saw Maria at the front of her house. I walked over to her terrace and introduced the conversation by stating that what was about to come out of my mouth may sound like absolute madness. She looked intrigued. “So”, I said. (Always a good place to start!) “Jimmy was telling me earlier about Anna and her husband who used to come and stay with you every year.” “Ah yes” she replied. “Well this may sound a little crazy – and by the way I don’t believe in ghosts” I said holding my hands up. “Erm, but I was in the bathroom washing some clothes this morning and all of a sudden a jet of water shot across the bathroom! I checked everywhere and it literally came from nowhere”. Before I had time to conclude my ridiculous theory that the spirit of Anna was trying to communicate with me, Maria started laughing. Then she laughed some more. Once she’d composed herself she said “No, no. It’s the donkeys!” “The donkeys?” “Yes the donkeys!” She then preceded to tell me that just behind the house there is an embankment and a small field with donkeys and also some pigs. I wouldn’t have been able to see them through the bathroom window because they are higher up. It transpires that when donkeys drink water they like to take a mouthful and spit it out through their teeth. One must have sent a high velocity spit right through the bathroom window! Maria said that they do it all the time and she is always having spouts of water coming through her kitchen window!

OK, I felt a bit of a fool but that’s that little mystery solved. I’m somewhat relieved and also a little disappointed that it wasn’t the spirit of Anna trying to communicate with me. Oh well, I’ve learned something about donkeys!

Now it’s time for me to leave. I take my bag to the gate and wait for Manolis to come in his taxi. Babis joins me by the gate and noticed me watching the man still tending to the grape vines in the field below. He tells me that this is his uncle and that the other plot next to it belongs to his other uncle who is a priest. Growing grapes is a new endeavour for the family but so far the vines are thriving well in the volcanic soil.

Babis tells me he can see Manolis and I look for his black van coming up the track. Instead, I see an unusual vehicle that looks like a utility truck with a shed built onto the back of it. “This isn’t Manolis is it?” I ask Babis. “Yes it is but for some reason, I don’t know why, he has come in the taxi we use for the Panagia.”

Babis opened the gates giving Manolis room to reverse the vehicle. Manolis opened the carved wooden gate to the taxi and Babis loads in my bag. After saying goodbye to Babis and thanking him for my stay I climb into the back and sit on one of the lightly padded benches. I say lightly padded because as we set off down the track I can definitely feel every lump and bump in the road as we go! I would definitely describe this vehicle as a bone-shaker and at times have to cling to the underside of the bench to stop sliding towards the gate. We make the descent past the outskirts of Manolas village and through pretty Potamos getting glimpses of the steep road and the natural caves in the cliffside as we go. This may not be the most comfortable taxi ride I’ve ever had but it was definitely one of the most fun!

Riva Cove is deserted all bar the tumbleweed rolling across the street. The only sign of life at Agistri Taverna is George sweeping the floor between the outdoor tables. At one point I think I’m the only person waiting for the boat but five minutes before departure time a handful of Greeks turn up just as the Saonisos comes into view. We board and head off to the next destination – Anafi.

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  1. Just wonderful, what a great account of what seems like a beautiful place to be ❤️

    1. Thank you Carol. Thirassia was a real eye opener. With most islands you can get a sense of what they would be like before you arrive but Thirassia was a revelation! ❤️

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