Wow. This was a long time ago. June 1999 to be exact.
We kind of picked Greece as our honeymoon location by accident. My aunt had a co-worker whose parents ran a guesthouse on the tiny island of Patmos, in the Dodencanese Islands. Much closer to Turkey than the Greek mainland, it’s a ten hour ferry ride from the Port of Piraeus, just outside of Athens. When we were told about the guesthouse, I recalled that I had always wanted to go to Greece. Mike was amenable, and so it happened.
We were met at the ferry dock around midnight, in Skala, the only commercial port on Patmos. Vicky, our hostess, met us at the dock and we piled all our luggage in a taxi and headed off to Grikos, about a ten minute drive.
Vicky and John ran Chrisantonis Studios and Apartments, named after their children. While not a B&B, Vicky had stocked our fridge so we would have breakfast the next morning. Our apartment was huge, a three bedroom too big for the two of us and taking up the whole top floor. It was oddly very sparsely furnished, but I’m sure that’s changed. Besides the bedroom, which had a bed and a wardrobe, there was a plastic table and two chairs in the kitchen, but no other chairs, couches, or tables except the patio furniture.
We sat out on our huge patio that first night and one of the first things that told us we were nowhere near home was the sky. It was a cloudless night, the moon was in its last quarter so we could see the expanse of stars. The Big Dipper stood out to us but it was at a totally different angle than the view from our home sky. We weren’t in Vancouver anymore.
I was hit with culture shock in the first of our two bathrooms. The flusher sat on the top of the toilet tank, a small knob on a metal post. I tried to push it down… nothing. I tried several more times… nothing. I was worried I had broken it somehow. Seeing as there were only two ways this sort of thing could work, I finally pulled up on the knob. Voila!
The first morning on Patmos I woke up about 6am; I could not get back to sleep. I made myself some coffee and sat in one of the plastic kitchen chairs with my book. I glanced up in the corner of the room and my heart dropped to my feet. A monster spider crouched there. Watching me.
I tried to wake Mike up, but he was having none of it. I sat and watched the spider watch me for two hours until Mike was coherent. I made him take it outside on the end of a broom. It haunted my dreams. *shudder*
There were several things, besides monster spiders, that surprised me during our stay in Greece: almost all the food we ordered was served with french fries (except the amazingly delicious Greek salads); the ocean was cold! (damn cold); frappés are awesome, they are served everywhere and made with special machines, cold strong coffee blended with ice and optional milk and sugar, I could drink them all day; most people speak English (this doesn’t surprise me now, but it did at the time); I am terrible at driving a scooter (more on that later); buses on this small island ran exactly on time, don’t be late to the bus stop! If you go out to eat dinner at 8pm, you will invariably be the first ones in the restaurant; and if you have trouble deciding what to order, you will be escorted to the kitchen to choose what you like.
We decided to trek to a beach that John recommended, Psili Amos. It was quite the hike. We were told it might take 20 minutes and an hour later, and having passed some random goats, two hot and sweaty people were delighted to find a taverna at Psili Amos beach.
The beach was lovely, although as soon as we started to hike back we realized we were just going to get hot and sweaty again. Luckily for us, after a particularly steep stretch, we found a taverna that was completely indiscernible as a taverna from the road. We were hopeful, however, and poked our heads in the courtyard to find that, indeed, it was a delightful beer selling place.
John took us back to Psili Amos later in the week on his boat. I much prefer that mode of transportation.
It’s said that Saint John wrote the Revelations on Patmos after apocolyptic visions in what is now known as the cave of Saint John. There is a monastery there now and one must dress accordingly.
We reached the monastery via rental scooter. That first day on scooter, I managed to drive myself into a cactus. For some reason Mike thought this was very funny. My other scooter mishap involved wiping out on a hairpin turn. I managed to scrape most of the skin off the side of my foot, but luckily that was all.
We roamed the island and stopped where we wanted. We had lunch at the north end at Lambi Beach, we watched textbook frolicking at Kampos Beach, we explored both Skala, Chora, and our home base of Grikos.
Chora is the town under the monastery at the highest point on Patmos. While on foot in the town one day, we were accosted by an elderly woman who spoke no English. She practically dragged us into her home, sat us down, and pretty much insisted we buy a small framed print of Saint John. So we did. Because what else can you do?
At Petra Beach in Grikos was a nice taverna we lunched at several times. Once, on our way to lunch, we spotted a young boy racing away from the beach. As we sat at the taverna on the patio, the boy raced back to the beach clutching a small trident. He plunged it into the water and came up with a small octopus. He then proceeded to throw it to the ground over and over. Mike and I wondered at this seeming aggression until I finally had to ask him what he was doing. He explained that you have to tenderize octopus right away or they’ll be tough. Nuff said.
John took Mike out fishing one night. He had about 200 hooks affixed to a very long fishing line held up with floats. I helped drop the lines just after dark, but left Mike and John to retrieve them around midnight. John told Mike he was glad I didn’t come out to pick up the lines because, “Most things are harmless, but some, very dangerous.” I’m glad I skipped that part too, although when I went out on the patio to see if I could spot them pulling up the lines, I’m pretty sure I saw my friend the monster spider on the wall. I did not sleep until Mike got back.
John and Vicky were delightful. Each day around 4pm we would be invited down to their apartment to sit in the sun, have a drink, and partake of something Vicky had cooked. I tried my first moussaka, which I loved, and my first sea urchin, which I did not. Mike and John had stopped to hunt octopus on our way back from Psili Amos and although they were unsuccessful finding octopus, they were successful finding urchin. Back at the apartment, John just knocked out the bottom, shell of the urchin, rinsed it out and put olive oil and lemon in. We took some bread and swiped around the inside of the shell to eat it. I can say I’ve tried it once.
We had a full day back in Athens before we returned home. We visited the Temple of Olympian Zeus almost directly across from our hotel, the Acropolis, and the Plaka. The Plaka is a neighbourhood at the base of the Acropolis, closed to traffic with shops and restaurants galore.
I was desperately glad to get in the air conditioned museum on the Acropolis, I was so hot. Cold marble pillars against my face were delightful, although I’m sure I looked pretty strange to others pressing my face to a pillar. Beware the vendors just outside the Acropolis, we almost paid $30 for two slushies until I did the math in my head (it was still drachmas then) and declined to purchase them.
We dined in the Plaka after having been lured into a restaurant with a free shot of Ouzo. We are so weak. But free Ouzo!
Next time, I hope to visit more islands but Patmos was beautiful and quiet. Perfect for a honeymoon.