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Report 1204: Zig and Georgia's Trip of Gifts

By zig from Kentucky, USA, Fall 2006

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Page 13 of 18: 10/3/06 The Island of Patmos

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Sunset from our balcony

I don’t know if I ever really made it clear just how much Georgia hates to be lost. Me, I’m lost so frequently I have my own personal box at the Lost and Found. As we set off in search of Chochlakas Bay and the Doriza Bay Hotel I was going on my normal assumption that it was an island fer cryin’ out loud! How lost can you get on an island? Georgia, on the other hand was thinking dark thoughts about my less than sterling record of locating looked-for places on the first try. I would here defend myself with the observation of a friend many years ago who was, in fact, a remarkable calligrapher. For Christmas he made bookplates for everyone in our little book-discussion group. For me he drew an absolutely lovely stylized “Zig” starting with a backwards swash “Z”, followed by and calligraphically linked to a backwards “i” and a backwards “g.” All three, as I said, were backwards but the totality was still clearly “Zig.” “You always do things backwards,” he said, “but somehow they manage to come out alright anyway.” So very true. As I look back on my life that is the recurring motif. Each action, looked at in itself, is backwards (at best), or clearly wrong (at worst), and yet somehow, (God’s grace?), they come out right. If anyone needs an object lesson in the adage that “All things work together for good for those who love the Lord,” they need only try to follow my stumbling footsteps through life’s thickets.

But Georgia, as I said, was not yet ready to concede that anywhere I was walking was the path, nor willing to admit that anywhere I ended up was the proper goal. And repeating myself, my record is not sterling in this regard, so any route I select between point A (where we are) and point B (where we want to go) is subject to running analysis, discussion, revision, and recrimination. We had a tiny little map of Patmos that showed Chochlakas Bay (where we wanted to go) an easy walking distance from Skala (where we were) in that direction. We stood there discussing the available routes for a while. There are times I get the feeling that “discussion” is more important to my wife than “finding” though “finding” is eventually very important. For me, “discussion” as an end in itself is all well and good, but as a substitute for “finding,” it stinks. I’m a “let’s start walking this way and if that doesn’t work out we’ll try some other direction” kind of guy. Georgia is a “let’s talk about the possibilities ad nauseum, worry ourselves to death, then ultimately choose what we would have chosen if we hadn’t had this little discussion” sort of woman. Making a command-level decision, I picked a route and started walking. Georgia was right on my heels, rethinking the route with each and every step. I pretended deafness and pressed on. The little shops petered out and were replaced by small five or six-room hotels and “studios.” None of the buildings were more than two stories tall, and there wasn’t any neon in sight, only small neatly lettered signs affixed to pastel walls. What a backward people, to read the signs you had to be standing right in front of them. They didn’t flash and scream at you hundreds of yards away. How was someone whizzing by on the freeway supposed to read them? Oh, that’s right. We were walking down the center of a dusty little street pulling our wheeled carry-ons, not breezing along a freeway, and we were only occasionally surrendering the right of way to a buzzing vespa or automobile the size of a Red Flyer wagon. Maybe the little signs work ok after all.

On the right hand side of the street the hotels and “studios” were surrounded by six foot cinderblock or stucco walls covered with billowing masses of pink flowers. The bright sun cast amazing shadows along the walls of the houses, elegantly designed with little porches and verandas and trellises and abutments to make use of these cast shadows to magnify the texture and colors. Pastels make lovely dark contrasts when shadowed and bright white reflects the color from the flowers and trellises and shutters. Everything was subtle and lovely and took great advantage of the bright sun, cool shadows, blue water, pink flowers, and sparkling white walls. It’s a beauty not easy to describe in words and easily lost on a culture saturated with flashing billboards and advertisement trucks that tout their wares in the middle of gridlock. On these back streets no one was even trying to hand us business cards. It was just us, the cats cleaning themselves in the shade, occasional buzzing vespas, blue sun, sparkling water up ahead, and another of those Greek volcanoes off to our left.

But this “volcano” was located on the flat land between two ridges, a very unusual place for a volcano. And this one was also surrounded by a few apparently abandoned refrigerators, old broken furniture, and a wrecked minibus. Lucky for the geologist in me that Georgia didn’t notice the smell of burning rubber issuing from this “volcano” and continued to aim her withering barrage at my route selection.

When we reached the water the little dusty street “T’ed” into another smaller one running left and right along the water’s edge. It seemed pretty clear that we had, in fact, found Hokhlakas Bay, and I justifiably took credit for the success. I couldn’t be held responsible for the fact that Doriza Bay Hotel was nowhere in sight. To our right about 50 yards away the street ended at a small abandoned stone house at the base of a bare mountain. To our left the street wound around the bay for 200 yards or so then up and around a more shallow incline of another, much larger mountain. In the distance and inland we could see that mountain became the center of the island. We could just make out the Monastery of John the Evangelist on the brow, like a fortress overlooking everything but no Doriza Bay Hotel. There was some hotel or other on the lower slopes about 200 yards away, but the sign out front was just too small to read at this distance and I was just not brave enough to suggest we pull our little bags 200 yards along and up the dusty street on the off-chance that it might be the Doriza Bay Hotel, and it might be nice. What this country needs is more large flashing neon billboards so tourists can find places, fer cryin’ out loud.

We considered the possibilities of going back the way we’d come and checking out the little hotels we passed, but they were not close enough to the water to see the sunset and that was the real reason Georgia wanted to be situated right here. The tourist brochures said this was the place (“volcano” or no) to see the sunsets. The obvious place to stay, then, was The Scirroco Studios, in front of whose gates we were currently standing. You couldn’t get closer to the water unless you pitched your tent on the pebbled beach, and the building was obviously the newest in this area, but I was pretty sure they would be too expensive for our limited budget. The gate was open though, and we decided to try. You know how I love the movie “Joe vs. the Volcano?” “We’ll just jump and then we’ll see . . .” so through the gates we went. As we crunched across the new gravel a woman came out of a little bungalow in the courtyard to meet us. She was anxious to show us a room but I told her I needed to know “quanto costa” first. She wrote €40 on a piece of paper. We’d hoped to pay 25 but 40 wasn’t out of the question so we climbed the outside stairs to have a look at the room she proposed.

It was perfect! Little kitchen with small refrigerator, stove, coffee pot, pots and pans, and sink with dishwashing liquid. Small kitchen table for two. Bathroom with sink, bidet, and decent sized shower (by European standards, 2’ by 2’). Windows everywhere, over the kitchen table, in the bathroom, facing the front veranda. The rooms were absolutely full of light. You stepped down from the kitchen area to the sleeping area where there was a queen sized bed and more windows, and with lovely French doors leading out to a covered 10 x 10’ terrace facing the water just across the little street. Because we were on the second (and top) story we were about 10’ off the ground. Our terrace had nice privacy and was complete with a solid wooden octagonal picnic table and canvas-backed wooden chairs plus chaise lounges. The décor, inside and out, was all lovely brown wood, in the furnishings, the cabinets, the exposed ceiling beams, and white for the stucco walls. They reflected all the light and made everything bright. The brown wood made it warm, and kept it from being oppressive. Deep blue shutters and occasional spots of trim let you “feel” the nearby water as well as hear ever-present low sound of the surf.

There were even clothes pins on the clothes line strung between two wooden awning supports on the terrace. We’d done some laundry in Santa Margherita but because of Italy’s overcast skies everything was slightly damp. The chance of rain here was pretty much zero and the breeze promised to dry everything in 15 minutes.

The landlady was justifiably proud of what they’d built. We took the room. Eventually, we did walk up close enough to the lower slopes to see that relatively dingy building in the distance was the Doriza. But by then we were glad to have missed it. See, everything will work out just fine.

We waded in the water and found a lovely sea shell but the pebbles and fist-sized smooth rocks were much too hard to walk on—even with flip flops. Our ocean adventure lasted about 10 minutes and consisted only of “ouch, ouch, ouch” as we tried to walk on all fours in the cold water. We only managed to wet our wrists and shins, and decided to look for a little something to eat.

Walking back along the little dusty street toward Skala we found a sidewalk café down an even smaller alley. Our table had already been staked out by a spectacular collection of cats, but they didn’t seem to mind our joining them. We ordered the “appetizer sampler” for €10 and added a carafe of wine and more Mythos Beer. On the sampler there was bread of course, two kinds of hummus, feta cheese, yogurt, fried eggplant, fried zuccini, enormous shrimp (fried, with their shells on!), fried banana peppers, cucumbers, beets, and mystery meat balls. The shrimp had me stumped. They were coated in a light batter but completely un-cleaned (in the American sense) with their heads and tails still on . . . under the batter. It was obvious we were supposed to eat everything but I just couldn’t bring myself to eat the heads or the legs. I did crunch manfully away at everything else though. I guess it supplied all the roughage I’ll ever need. Georgia pretended to love them. Our cat friends definitely loved the heads I offered when the grumpy young waiter wasn’t looking. We wished them a “kalaimera” “good morning,” though it was actually getting to be late afternoon, but they didn’t seem to mind the obvious faux pas, and we took our leave. Greek cats are very forgiving of conversational indelicacies.

A few more minutes of exploration to locate another restaurant for supper and we headed back to the Scirroco. We definitely wanted to be in our seats, front row, center, when the curtain went up on sunset (or does it come down?) Either way it really was beautiful. Amazing oranges and reds and violets to go with the ever-present blues of sky and water. We sat at our octagonal table, sipped more Mythos Beer and wrote postcards home. I even tried to add some little water colors sketches to a few. I wanted to get some use from having smuggled my paint set through the various airport security stations. After dark we headed back for the restaurant we’d staked out. We should have rejoined our little company of cats instead.

(to be continued)

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