For the last 10 years or so, Alkis and I have been spending our summer holidays in Greece, mostly on the Greek Isles.. Having already visited most of the Ionian Islands (Eptanisa), we felt like exploring the Aegean Islands renowned for their unique natural beauties. But then again, is there one single Greek Island which is not noted for its crystal clear waters and amazing sandy beaches? In the Aegean Sea, there are about 115 inhabited islands divided into 3 districts: the Dodecanese, the Cyclades and the Greek Archipelagos. We've alredy been to quite a few of them: Rhodes and Symi in the Dodecanese, Tinos, Syros, Myconos, Paros in the Cyclades, Crete, Skiathos, Skopelos. This summer we went back to the Dodecanese, on the island of Kos. From there, we also visited the islands of Kalymnos and Nissiros.
We had already got up before the alarm went off at 6:30 am. Everything was ready! As per usual, Alkis started grumbling about "all the excess weight" we'd have to pay for at the airport and went on to wonder why we needed two suitcases and not just one for the two of us! Funny how men can be so naive, at times! I smiled at him sweetly and asked him to carry both suitcases downstairs because by 7:00 am, the taxi had alredy arrived! At luggage check in, Alkis, at last, realised that we had 3 kilos less - the allowance is 23 kilos per person and we only had 44 for the two of us. I thought the luggage allowance was 20 kilos... Had I known I'd have packed my platform sandals I recently got from Amazon, my brand new strapless floral dress, and a few more bikinis! Needless to say that Alkis was very pleased to see that we were below luggage weight limit! He congratulated me on my packing skills but thought it would be more convenient if we had taken only one suitcase! I promised I'd do that next year. I'll only pack one pair of shorts for Alkis, 1 T-shirt. 1 pair of trousers and only one swimming suit for him!
We flew Aegean Airlines to Athens. The flight was bumpy due to strong winds but the pilot managed to land at Eleftherios Venizelos Airport. I felt sick on the plane but did not throw up. I did eat the great breakfast, though! Pancakes with feta cheese, yogurt, hot rolls, butter and jam, coffee and ornge juice. I was scared to death before landing. I almost thought we'd crash!
In Athens we had about one hour and a half before boarding Olympic Air to Kos. We had plenty of time for coffee outside...and a smoke at last! Olympic Air left on time and safely landed at Hippocrates Airport, Kos at 2:10 pm. By 3:00 pm we we had already arrived at Palazzo Del Mare at the village of Marmari at about 10 km from the airport and 15 km from the town of Kos. We were shown to the veranda and offered a welcome drink during check-in which was fast. Soon afterwards we were shown to our room which had private access to the largest swimming pool I've ever seen in my life! I thought the one at Aenias Beach Hotel, Cyprus was the largest! But I was wrong! This one was much larger! The greatest surprise ever was a variety of fruit and a bottle of champagne. Alkis and I felt like spending our 28th honeymoon at Palazzo Del Mare.
We had a short nap and then a swim in the pool before getting ready for dinner. We were on half-board terms and had dinner at the hotel. But just before dinner, we had a long walk on the beaach contemplating the sunset at Marmari, Kos.
And a few days before coming back home, we travelled to the nearby islands of Kalymnos and Nissiros. Kalymnos is the island of the sponge divers while Nissiros boasts some of the best fish tavernas ever! Try grilled lobster with ladolemono (olive oil and lemon juice) or astakomakaronada ( lobster spaghetti) at one of the many tavernas by the seafront.
TO BE CONTINUED
I guess I could have saved this post as Draft and publish it once completed instead of editing, but I know it would take me a long time to finish it. My mind is still filled with so many images and aromas from all the new places I've been to that I couldn't wait to share my experience with you.
Kalymnos is known as the island of the sponge divers. Manolis Neophytos writes in his book Kalymnos - The Island of the Sponge Fishers, the Arts and the Letters: "Kalymnos is the metropolis of the Greek sponge divers. Of course, all islands of the Dodecanese are known worldwide as places of divers and sponge-divers who rank among the best in the world. But Karpathos, Kasos, Nissiros, Megisti, Symi, Chalki and , above all, Kalymnos, are considered the main learning places for these divers, whose activities extend not only to the whole of Eastern Mediterranean, but as far as Florida in the U.S.A. There, they founded the town of Tarpon Springs where Kalymnians and other Greek-Americans from the Dodecanese live. These people continue the Aegean tradition of the sponge-divers in these far-off places, diving for sponges in the Bay of Mexico. Every year, 40-50 groups of fishing boats with crews that reach 800 to 1000 seamen set off from the islands of Karpathos, Symi,, Kasos, Nissiros, Chalki and particularly from Kalymnos, heading for the shores of Africa, specifically to Tunisia and Libya. In order to bid the sponge-divers farewell, festivities are held in Kalymnos that last two days. These festivities begin by sprinkling the boats with Holy water and end with the Supper of Love. All the inhabitants of the island (16,000) participate in the festivities."
Photo scanned from: "Kalymnos - the Island of the Sponge-Fishers, the Arts and the Letters"by Manolis Neophytos
After a 10-minute bus ride to the neighbouring village of Mastihari, we caught the boat to Kalymnos. The voyage, which lasted 45 minutes, was sheer bliss! As much as I fear flying, I thoroughly enjoy being at sea. I could sit hours on end at the upper deck contemplating the immense blue of the Aegean.
We spent the whole day in Kalymnos strolling along the picturesque seafront or the narrow pebble streets despite the heat wave. We had a divine ouzomeze - a variety of finger food to eat as an appetizer with a glass of ouzo - at one of the many ouzeries by the seafront before taking the last boat back to Kos.
TO BE CONTINUED
At the village of Kardamena, which lies at about 10 km from Marmari, we took the boat to the nearby island of Nissiros. Nissiros is noted for its volcano which is still believed to be active. Just like Kalymnos, Nissiros is a tranquil island with amazing beaches - an ideal holiday destination off the beaten track. We were told that most of the inhabitants live on fishing - hence the numerous fish tavernas on either side of the small harbour. Alkis is allergic to fish, so he had feta saganaki and chicken souvlaki for lunch while I had seafood salad for starters and an astakomakaronada(lobster spaghetti) - the best ever!
A few days before our trip to Nissiros, we visited the town of Kos which is situated in the north-east of the island and constitutes one of the gateways to the villages such as Pyli, Marmari, Tigaki, Kardamena, Asfendiou, Mastihari, Kefalos and many others. Against a background of tall palm trees, cypresses, jasmine and hibiscus, the past blends with the present in perfect harmony. The ruins of bygone times, the well-preserved buildings of the Italian period, byzantine churches and minarets stand next to modern buildings in the wide avenues or the narrow streets of the island.
Eleftheria Square is the most central part of the town. You can enjoy a drink at one of the many bistros, visit the town's museum, the Defentar Mosque or buy fresh fruit and vegetables at the public market. There is no public transport in the town, so most people get around by bike. However, regular bus services link the town and all the villages of the island.
Funny how time flies when on holiday. The last day arrived in a flash. We spent it leisurely on the beach, basking in the sun, swimming or eating melon and water melon offered by the hotel. That was such a nice treat! Aegean Airlines safely landed at Larnaca International Airport at 4:10 pm last Wednesday. We came back home filled with so many sweet memories from an unforgettable holiday in the Aegean. I can still picture the immense blue and smell the salty air.