Wednesday, 3 October 2012
Greece 2012 Part 7
Monday 3rd September 2012
It was a leisurely start to the morning here in Vathi, with breakfast in the Salon at the rear of the hotel, windows open to the fresh air in the cobbled street, and people outside starting to stroll along in the shade. Few shops were yet open, but high above the street I could see the greenery of the wooded hillsides, and way above them the bare rock of the high mountains, all under the glorious blue of the clear sky (lucky me).
From the roof top terrace we could see our next ferry arrive, the MYTILENE of NEL Lines, and again built in Japan, in 1973. She came to Greece in 1990. A taxi took us back to the far side of the bay, ready to board the ship and sail at 11.10 a.m. Coincidentally, berthed adjacent to us was a freighter named EBIAΣHMENT IV, which was also previously Japanese, as the port name of Osaka was clearly visible on her stern and hull.
This time we are sailing north-west from Vathi, here in Samos island, up to Chios (Hios), where we are due at 14.40. The plan then is to get the late afternoon bus to the medieval village of Mesta where we are to stay. This is about 4 kms from Mesta port, where we are to board NEL Lines’ AQUA MARIE tomorrow evening for another overnight sail.
We boarded MYTILENE and could see all sorts of Japanese and non-Japanese styling, including a tapestry panel, curved staircases from Reception, an atrium, an unusual oval metal panel at the stern lower deck aft which was partially hidden by chairs, lots of blue paintwork all over the public decks, lots of numbered seating on deck which was either hazardous or filthy or both, and many salty surfaces. Old dog kennels on the top deck looked long disused, but on a lower deck I did see a small dog asleep on a rug which he shared with his long-haired mistress – it was quite hard to differentiate between his hair and hers, but both looked comfortably asleep.
I enjoyed seeing the glass panelling in the self-service café, and the ship’s bell on the forecastle, and the air-conditioning on board seemed good when we had a snack lunch. My diary says the ladies toilets were lovely because of the big windows giving wonderful views out to sea. About 2 p.m. the Turkish coast was very close on our starboard side, and Chios island on our port side as we turned and headed for the harbour.
Also berthed nearby was the little ERTURK I on which I travelled with friends from Cesme to Chios in July 2007. That was a year when the CESME was running from Ancona to Cesme, in Turkey, and was a memorable trip to make, before we then came to Chios on ERTURK I.
Lots of foot passengers disembarked with us, plus cars and lorries, into a very crowded street. With our tide of people in the street, a new tide of people was allowed on board, plus the vehicles, and half an hour after tying up, the MYTILENE heaved up the anchor chains and ramps, and sailed from Chios to her next port of call. It was fascinating to watch from a shady quayside as suddenly all was quiet again.
The bus station was just a few steps along, with both a rear and a waterside entrance, so we could wait at the café tables for our bus or walk to see part of the old city wall behind. Several of us were waiting for the bus, but it didn’t turn up, and we managed to discover it had been cancelled; plan B therefore was to take a taxi to Mesta, in the south west of the island, where we are to stay overnight. This is a 14th Century village, part of which has been modernised for the 21st Century, and offers luxurious hotel or suite apartments as overnight and holiday accommodation in unusual and tranquil surroundings.
The journey of 40 kms didn’t take very long on the winding mountainside road, but it was disturbing to see the damage done to the hillside trees from the recent forest fires. The island is famous for its Mastic trees, which live to about 100 years of age, and from about the age of 5 to 70 they produce a resin which is mostly exported for various uses. It’s said that the resin was first discovered in the 5th Century by Herodotus, and the island’s history says that Christopher Columbus also saw these trees and the resin in the 15th Century when he visited, when the product was already well-known.
The taxi put us down on the edge of the village, as vehicles are not allowed within it, other than bicycles (and donkeys), so we headed towards the tall bell tower in the middle of the village. This place was built almost as a castle-like fortress for protection, and the houses still inter-connect with occasional alleyways and tunnels allowing access throughout. With about 400 inhabitants living there, plus occasional tourists at this time of late summer, we saw few people until we managed to locate the village square and the bell tower. There was the occasional brick marker on a corner wall and so we were glad to find the office to check in for our medieval village accommodation. The manager provided a map (no street names) and took us to the rooms so we could leave luggage and explore.
It felt strange to be amongst bare brick work, with luxury furnishings and toiletries, and a positive shop-full of electronic gadgetry including a huge television, VCR, computer, telephone and other things. They were all probably useful things for some guests, but there was no signal available for many of them, and I just wanted to return to the sunshine and sight of the blue sky. The separate kitchenette was just half a dozen steps across the tiny terrace, but the walls of that were high and the sky seemed far above us.
We have 24 hours here so there was time to explore the village and see if we could make sense of the network of lanes and tunnels before dusk. There were villagers around and many appeared in the village square later when we went there for an evening meal at one of the few bar/cafes.
Ships seen: Theofilos, Samos Star, Mytilene, EbiaΣhment IV, Pasara Glory, Erturk I,
To be continued….