On most mornings we were woken by the sound of the gentle, yet slightly irregular rhythm of the lapping waves. Now in our beachfront room, we would open the bright blue painted shutters to the startling sunlight causing us to shelter our fragile morning eyes. Ladies in wide-brimmed hats are already taking an early morning bathe and a natter.
By the second day on Pserimos I’d almost given up wearing shoes. We’d fall out of our hotel right onto the beach and the softest, whitest sand you can imagine. On most evenings I would walk to the tavernas in the evening barefooted. Spending most of our time on the beach – barefooted. The only time that I really needed shoes was if we decided to walk along one of the streets behind the beach which gradually changed from soft sand to a gravelly dirt track.
One day the scouts arrived. A group of about twenty young people led by a handful of adults. They had set up camp at a small campsite just beyond the church. Every day we would watch one scout and one scout leader push a cart to the harbour to pick up supplies from the Maniai and take them back to camp. In the early evening once the beach (and island) had been reclaimed, the scouts would come down to the beach as a group and play organised games and swim. What a fantastic experience for these young people!
The weekend that we arrived was very busy, especially the Sunday which we learned was a religious holiday for one of Kalymnos’s famous saints (St Peter I believe). This may explain the two trips by the Maniai on Sunday.
From the beach, you can see almost everything. One day I noticed a commotion coming from what was once the taverna called Kali Kardia, now looking as though it has been closed for a long time. We watched as an elderly lady connected to a large oxygen tank was stretchered into the back of an open-backed truck. Moments later I’d seen a motorboat whip across the bay from the main port to the small jetty close to the tourist shops. She was driven the short distance to the waiting boat followed by panic-stricken family members and lifted onto the boat. Within minutes the boat was speeding off in the direction of Kalymnos where there is a large hospital.
Several hours later we saw the doctor (identified by the stethoscope around his neck) and the captain of the speed boat carrying the cylinder of oxygen back to the small medical centre behind the beach. It brings home how different the emergency infrastructure is from our own.
I get the sense that there is a sizeable elderly population on Pserimos. Giorgos had told me there are only about 20 people who stay on the island during winter. Many return to Kalymnos where they have their main homes. Of those 20, I wondered how many of those were elderly and with limited options to do this. Apart from the state pension, and a possible little sideline business of selling shells or herbs to tourists, life I would imagine is quite tough for some.
Every afternoon just as the last tourist boats began to depart, an elderly lady dressed in floral print dress and a white headscarf would walk from the side Manola’s Taverna using a stick to aid her. She would sometimes stop for a chat with a shop owner and then walk to the sea. Every day we watched her walk into the sea, unravel a length of cord tied to the top of her stick and immerse herself into the water. At first, I was curious as to why the stick had rope tied to it. After watching her for several day I realised that she could let go of the stick whilst bathing letting the sea take her weight. When she needed to stand and walk back to the beach she could pull the stick back towards herself. It’s quite genius when you think about it.
As well as being able to see everything from the beach, from the tavernas, cafe’s and shops we could almost hear everything. Gossip unfurled freely from the tongues to anyone who wanted to listen – and I’ve always been a curious person. Some of the gossip was so outrageous that I absolutely cannot put it in print here. In fact, there were two bits of gossip that had my mouth fall to the floor. Whether the stories were true or not I don’t know, but it certainly got my imagination going!
Although reliant on supplies from Kalymnos, the menus in the restaurants were quite varied and of a very good quality. Fish was caught freshly and we’d often see octopus being tenderised before being taken to the tavernas.
We ate at Manola’s Taverna twice and the Aphrodite for one evening meal but also being close to the tamarisk trees, it was a great place to go for breakfast or a midday snack. The Aphrodite does the most incredible orange pie – probably the best I’ve ever had!
Giorgos, a young man who works there is from Kalymnos, Pothia in fact. I take the opportunity to ask him if he likes Pothia, trying not to lead his answer. He said with a shrug “Look, nobody likes Pothia. It is a working town and it is where the jobs are. That is why we leave it as often as we can.” Despite his unsurprising answer, I’m still convinced that Pothia has some redeeming features. I will go back one day and give Pothia a third chance.
Interestingly Giorgos also tells me that he is studying at the University of Kalymnos to be a sea captain. We talk about Oinousses and the other naval academies in Greece and how if successful, he will have a really good career ahead of him. He says that the ships he could end up on vary. Some are old-fashioned boats with very little entertainment during the crew’s downtime. Others are modern with PlayStations and big screens and everything that young men out at sea could possibly want during a little bit of R&R. These things I’m sure will make all the difference to the experience.
Four nights in one place really isn’t very long but to be honest I think that four days on Pserimos was quite enough on this trip. I would love to have walked the landscape but the heat was just too much for this so I was pretty much confined to the beach.
I’ve really enjoyed our stay at the Tripolitis Hotel. I was astounded at how Nico, Anna and their team were able to accommodate so many visitors to their large beach cafe. The onslaught and requests for food and beverages were relentless for six hours daily. One day we found Nico plunging the drains that had been blocked up by all manner of things that shouldn’t go anywhere near a Greek plumbing system. If anything the islands must need to be resourceful in situations like this. Where most hoteliers would call a plumber, here you deal with these problems yourself. One day we returned to see Nico fixing chairs – 15 of them had become rickety through being dragged on the sand. Another day I dropped and broke my sunglasses. “Do you by any chance have any superglue?” I asked Nico. Of course he had superglue and the glasses were repaired.
Now it is time to leave. We will catch the Olympius Zeus to Mastichari before flying home. We had asked Nico how much we owed him for our stay. Not only that, every time we ate there or had drinks it was just put on a tab. The island doesn’t have a cash machine so we were concerned at one point that we wouldn’t have enough cash to pay for everything. He had said the evening before that we should just pay what we wanted to but I’m afraid that just isn’t going to work for us. Before we left for the boat, Peter pushed him for a final cost and paid him the cash leaving us we just enough euros for the boat and a taxi to the airport.
Nico tells us to chuck our cases in the back of his truck because he will be collecting goods from the boat anyway. I’ve been here before. Waiting at a port with a promise of bringing my luggage later. I find it quite nerve-racking. After walking along the harbour wall we can see the Olympius Zeus out on the horizon. As it docks we see Nico driving along the back road with our cases. Phew!
We say goodbye to Nico and thank him for our stay. He is a pretty unique guy and I promise you, a stay at the Tripolitis is a pretty unique experience too.
With no ticket office on the island, we pay our 2 euros per person (Yes 2 Euros!) for our tickets in the boat’s lounge and off we go.
Up on the deck of the Olympius Zeus I scan the waves for dolphins. It was in these waters that I last saw dolpins probably over 20 years ago now. I can wait. I view seeing dolphins as getting a wish from a genie in a bottle and I don’t want to use up all of my wishes too soon.
We disembark in Mastichari and make our way to the first stretch of taverna’s and bars along the beach, looking for somewhere to kill some time. A man steps out from the Majestic Cafe Bar and asks us if we are looking for somewhere to leave our luggage. Oops – I hope that isn’t one of my wishes wasted! I already had a place in mind but this guy was persistent. He tells us that we can have one of his sunbeds on the beach free of charge and he will look after our luggage. I ask him if he has showers and he tells me yes. The place looks like a nice enough place to stay for a while so we agree.
After dumping the cases and having breakfast, we make our way to the sunbeds on the beach – the first of our trip. Pavlos leads the way and seeks out two vacant beds with a large parasol giving us more shade. Pavlos we discover is from Kalambaka in the shadow of Meteora. He lived in Liverpool for a while but despite his wife loving the shopping opportunities he didn’t like it and returned back to Greece. Pavlos asked us if we would like him to call a taxi for us to the airport and we agreed. I do know that getting a taxi on Kos can be challenging where the demand often exceeds the supply capabilities so this is a wise choice. Later that day we heard 2 other tourists asking about a taxi but there were none available for over an hour. “Look” Pavlos tells them “I phoned a taxi for these people (us) at 11am in the morning and they were able to get a taxi. At the last minute it is almost never possible”. Take heed.
In preparation for our taxi pickup I asked Pavlos to point me in the direction of the showers he told me he had. “I lied”. He said. “I don’t have any showers. All I have is the hose that I use to water the plants.” I ask him to point me in the direction of the hose. The least I can do is wash the sand off my feet. I take a change of clothing into one of the cafe’s small toilets and attempt to have a stand-up wash at the sink. The small cubicles are the only places to change. Who in their right mind would select a cross-back bra which at the best of times requires a bit of a wrestle to get on! After two minutes of struggling with the bra, I was plunged into darkness as the timer on the light kicked in. It was only by stepping out of the cubicle semi-naked that I could re-activate the light and continue with my quest to get changed. It’s like the opposite of Houdini – trying to wrestle my way into a bra rather than escape from chains – though just as challenging!
Eventually the mission was accomplished. I don’t know why I bothered. I should have just arrived at the airport in beach clothes. Anyway. That is the end of that trip. A rather rushed post. I depart for my next trip in 4 days time and so it may be apparent that words have just been thrown down. I have a million and one things to do. Until next time!