We didn’t “sail” (the Aegean Clipper is a sailing boat, but we’re using the motor for expediency) to Leros yesterday evening because the wind was a bit dicey, so this morning the boat left port at 5:15am, and was buffeted back and forth, about 15 degrees of roll each way, for five hours.
I awoke with the gulet’s departure, took the first dramamine of my life, as a precautionary measure, and lay in bed listening to the creaky (baritone) of the wall. The hangers in the closet slid from one side to the other, scraping a bit, and the door to the toilet banged slowly open and shut. The first breakfast was just olives (a breakfast staple), sliced bread and cheese – no jam even – as the crossing was too rough for more. Only half of our group showed up at eight. Our ten spaces on the Internet filled up fast.
A proper breakfast was served at ten. We are having six meals today, rather than our usual four.
We visited the Castle of Panteli, at the top of the island, and could see the fortifications of the Byzantine citadel, addition fortifications built by the Knights of St John (who, in the fourth crusade, continued, with the encouragement of Venetians, to sack Constantinople), and further ones by the Ottomans. (See photo of photo right, below.)
The small church there has an icon of the Virgin Mary and Christ, done in leather but with the usual gold leaf decoration, miraculous because each time that it was removed from the island it returned on its own. Think it was E who suggested, sotto voce, we take it away and see if it returns again… We are an irreligious lot, ‘cept for Maria, who is Greek Orthodox. We try not to offend her.
Next to the small Archaeological Museum, in Agia Marina, in what used to be a school, a neoclassical building, the displays beautifully done. (Notice how the wall is but into two windows to display a column.) It was technically closed, but with a phone call Maria got us in. The guard who opened the door apologized for the dust, but I didn’t see any. (Two days later Maria was told that there had been no guard at the museum! Hum the Twilight Zone theme: Do-dodo-do, do-do-do-do…)
A quick stop in a shop, Sweet Leros, that sold a traditional liqueur flavoured with geraniums (!) One of our group bought a bottle. Next to lunch at a restaurant with a patio on the beach – platter after platter of mezédhes, rather like tapas, which we all share. Salads, vegetables, batter fried octopus, bread, cheese, hummus, and always another platter when we’re full. Plus melon slices for dessert.
After a few hours of downtime on the boat, tea time with fillo pastries. First meal I haven’t partaken. Absolutely too full.
At six we drove up in the hills to a vineyard, for wine tasting, Domaine Hatzidakis, which makes only a few thousand bottles of Iokallis wine each year. (The name Iokallis is the nickname of the goddess Artemis – Diana, the patron goddess of Leros, who had a temple nearby in the village of Partheni). Maria chatted with her island agent in rapid fire Greek. (She said that was not because of the five cups of coffee she drinks daily – all Greeks speak rapidly. Makes even New York conversations sound like southern drawl.) Every once in a while English would be thrown in – electricity, WIFI, and security, wine tasting.
The white (a blend of malagouzia and assyrtiko, not grapes I knew, Greek varieties) was a bit light, then a rosé made from merlot and a cabernet, 50/50 (our host describing the entire process in Greek while our guides took turns translating. Quite a bit different from a friend in Geneve who was a simultaneous translator.) Small open sandwiches on rusk, and additional cheese (dense goat cheese reminiscent of feta, but aged three years in red wine, so good that I had to buy some – it’s vacuum packed, but not labeled, so I hope that it’s not a problem with customs), various olives, squares of rusk, homegrown tomatoes, and cucumber – not what I expected at a wine tasting. No one asking for a spit bucket; in fact, many asking for seconds. Then the red was served, also a merlot and a cabernet sauvignon blend. We drank quite a bit – even our driver, a gentleman who honks at all of his friends that we pass, had a glass.
A comment on the roads here. Most seem to be a-lane-and-a-half wide, often with cars parked along one side. On occasion our van will have to back up a bit for a large truck with trailer, but no stones seem to be scraped from the vertical hillside. When a road appears with two lanes and a double line down the center, there are still cars parked along one side and our driver motors down the center of the lines – moving over a little for oncoming cars (scooters no problem). I neglected to get a photo of this, so I googled traffic in Leros and found this photo:
On the way back to the boat, a quick walking tour of the planned military town of Lakki, where we are docked. (Photo from the museum I think – got light reflection on the glass.) From what I’ve gathered, there was an Italian base here since 1930, but when the Fascists occupied Leros during WWII, they created the military garrison, imposing Fascist planning and design upon the Greeks.
For example, the wider sidewalks, which I thought sensible, were not shaded, so no one wanted to use them. Up until now I thought that the meter-wide walks in the various towns that we have seen, obscured by racks of sunscreen, sunhats and scarves, or by five motor scooters parked perpendicular to the shops, or by trees planted in the center of that meter of concrete, or by closely-packed cafe tables and chairs, if not in the shade of the buildings or trees, then under large market umbrellas, full of people watching the passing show, were not wide enough, as we detoured while walking into the street. Now I see the practicality of them.
Back to the buildings. I didn’t find the Fascist architecture as unforgiving as that of the Nazis, but it is modulated by Bauhaus style, Art Deco, and pastel-coloured stucco.
Back (and very happy) from the wine tasting, we have dinner, with more wine, on the boat, our sixth meal, if you count tea. Most of the foods and wines that we are served onboard are from one of the local islands.