Haynes World - ships, ferries, a laugh on the ocean wave, and other interesting things...


Greece 2012 Part 8

Tuesday 4th September 2012
I woke this morning in a medieval village house, about 4 kilometres from the sea, but in an isolated village surrounded by mountains, and felt quite disorientated for a moment. There were so many modern items around me, but they were contained in a property originally built about seven hundred years ago.

A cup of coffee at a table on the tiny terrace brought me back to reality, and the day could begin. The sun was up and high above me I could see a square of blue sky, so I made my way to the village square in search of something to eat. One of the café owners provided coffee and suggested ‘toast’, so I smiled and thanked him. What actually appeared was a toasted ham sandwich, which was a bit of a surprise but good to eat.

Harrowing view

Part of the village square

An excited babe in arms

The dog

Mesta medieval village

Then there was good news from the outside world: the little 1956-built Hurtigruten ship NORDSTJERNEN had arrived safely in Bergen on 1st September and was now at the Agotnes AKER Solutions shipyard. Many months ago I had been asked to write a piece for the Ferry & Cruise Annual 2013, and I chose to write about NORDSTJERNEN. I travelled on her last year and she made such an impression on me, that I was happy to research and write something that was now in the hands of the Editors, together with photographs and captions, ready for publication in late October 2012. I was so pleased to know that the ship had done her trips around Spitzbergen during the summer and was safely back in Bergen in Norway, although her future is still unknown.

My travelling companion had found this news for me via his internet connection as we sat under the trees and canopies at one of the three village cafés (hooray for free wi-fi). After the coffee we were ready to be tourists and visit the imposing church of Saint Taxiarchis and look at the bell tower beside it. It so happens that we are to travel on a ferry with the same name in a couple of day’s time.

Aerial view of the village square through mesh fencing

In the church of Saint Taxiarchis

Gold in the church

The church was built in 1868 and inside it contained wonderful crystal chandeliers, tapestries, embroidered banners, ornate golden this and that and other things that looked hugely valuable. As is often the case, one cannot help comparing the wealth in this beautiful church with the rather obvious lack of it in the buildings and inhabitants outside.

Outside the church

The Bell Tower

One local lady wanted to make sure that we went and visited the church and I assured her that we had been inside and thought it was wonderful – all this conducted in Greek and English – so she patted my arm and all was well. I wondered what the villagers must think of the Medieval Castle apartments and the tourists, but as long as we bring in some income then I’m sure that must help, but it is a humbling thought. Certainly there was some beautiful hand-crafted jewellery and other items for sale in the tiny shops we discovered in our morning walk. Having found our way around the village (more by luck than judgment) we managed to get back to the village square again, and many of the people sitting there looked up, and I found I was saying ‘For our third appearance….’ as it felt like quite an achievement.

We saw a donkey amble through one street, with several small children suddenly appearing and speaking excitedly with the man leading him. Several young mothers with toddlers in pushchairs met for a chat in the square too, and of course the
usual alert young dog was ever hopeful of food being dropped from the tables.

Walls, wires and wheelbarrow

Medieval Castle Suites offices

Village telephone box

We found another café tucked into a side street house, which had the typical Greek gyros meat cooking on the rotating spit, so that was the obvious place for a tasty lunch. I had the shaved meat with tzatziki and tomatoes tucked into a wrap – delicious.

Later at 5.30 p.m. we were collected as arranged by a taxi at the edge of the village, and taken down the mountain road to the tiny port of Mesta. I knew we were sailing on another ship of NEL Lines, the company created in August 1972 in Mytilene, Lesvos, which was why I was happy to sail on the ship of that name recently. We could see our next ferry, the AQUA MARIA, already tied up at the quayside and moving gently against the mooring ropes. The narrow bay seems a natural harbour, as usual surrounded by mountains.

Aqua Maria and another

Aqua Maria

End of the quay

I think that during the first hour we spent walking around part of the bay we probably saw just two people, but we enjoyed the views and sight and sound of the water in the hot sunshine.

Pontoon and dredger


View as the sun went down

We could see a bar/café with seating on the quayside near the ship, so that boded well for a cool drink and then an evening meal before we could embark.

The lady of the house at the café took our food order, from a choice of the usual meat or chicken dish, and then I went inside to find the Ladies facilities. I was so glad I had my camera with me, because these were most unexpected. Like me, the lady of the house obviously loved lavender/purple colours and had enjoyed herself creating a chiffon-draped room and door, with a deep shag-pile patterned rug on the floor. The actual porcelain facilities were perfect and beautifully offset by the colours of these soft furnishings. What a wondrous little room to find in this tiny tiny port.

Memorable facilities

Have a nice trip message from Aqua Maria

More people gradually appeared and came to drink at the café, presumably arriving from unseen hill or country-side homes. We were able to board the NEL Lines’ AQUA MARIA at 8.30 p.m. for the overnight journey from here at Mesta port to the Greek mainland port of Lavrio, which is south east of Piraeus.

Deck plan

One of the bars

Near the bar

Deck seating

Something drastic must have happened here....

Interesting floor tiles pattern

Interesting staircase rail joints

We are due to sail at 10 p.m., call somewhere at 11.30 p.m. and arrive at the small port of Lavrio at 6.15 a.m. tomorrow. This is yet another ship built in Japan in 1975, this time at 3,484 gross tons, so just a little ship but still going about her daily business with the aplomb of many a larger ferry or liner.

Bed, blanket and book holder

Authentic Japanese blanket

Away we go from Mesta port

Ships seen: Aqua Maria, Agio Kypiakh, and dredger NX76 at Mesta port.

To be continued….