After a pre-breakfast swim (I wasn’t taking any chances of missing one today), I cycled up to the nearest town. When I first visited it 29 years ago it seemed like a set from a wild west film: low buildings, unused space in the centre, a sense of still being work in progress and a law unto itself. It’s been spruced up in the intervening years and has lost its rough and ready air. (I’m not sure how I feel about this phenomenon. I recall visiting Montpellier after a gap of over 30 years and being almost disappointed that it was so clean; I missed the old cramped, grubby streets and the smell of urine on certain corners!) The sense of lawlessness is still here: I was on the receiving end of some pretty careless overtaking as I pedalled up, and I gather that pedestrians are expected to press themselves against walls as a car speeds along the town’s narrow stone streets.
This was the first place in Greece those 29 years ago where I received a small gift: some Easter biscuits from the baker. I went back to the same bakery today to buy a spanakopita, and the exchange was baldly transactional. I didn’t expect anything different. I don’t know if it’s a change in attitude (and goodness knows many Greeks haven’t got much to spare these days) or the inevitable result of so many more tourists. We were perhaps something of an oddity in those days, turning up and speaking Greek. Now there are lots of regular tourists and ex-pats who speak some Greek.
And then the waitress in the café offered me a small cheese pie as I was leaving, and the years fell away. (That’s actually the second time this holiday that I have received a kindness: the breakfast waitress at a hotel offered me a lift into town as I was waiting for a bus which didn’t turn up. It would have meant riding pillion on her moped, so I didn’t take up the offer.) What kindnesses can I offer beyond being pleasant and tipping handsomely?
Anyway, I saw a couple of rather alarming-looking flying insects about the size of dragonflies. This is a rubbish photo of one, but I wasn’t going to risk getting any closer.
Lots of dirt roads have been tarmacked around here in the last few years; they’re usually fearsomely steep, so I prefer to use them only for descents. I could see from online maps and satellite photos that there was probably a way of getting back to base without retracing my steps, so I pedalled further up and took a side turning. I was going to go straight down to sea level, but I was intrigued by another road that kept its height and promised – thank you, mobile data and GPS – to take me past the ruins of an old Ottoman fort that I had only ever seen from a distance. It’s an impressive ruin: if it weren’t for its straight lines and circular towers, you’d hardly spot it, so well does it blend in with the stony ground. And now I have clambered up one of its crumbling towers!
I confess that I did have to walk the Brompton for part of the way – namely the last couple of hundred metres downhill back to base. The concrete road was something like 1:3 and I was concerned that the brakes might not be up to it.
I had a second swim in the bay but was put off by a few bits of plastic bags and other undegradable rubbish in the water. I wonder if this is the result of last month’s floods, which washed so much dumped rubbish down gulleys and out to sea? This is such a deep (and beautiful) bay that any rubbish that comes in isn’t going to get swept out again.
The wind gets up strongly in the afternoon and is something of a nuisance; I’m not sure I’d care to live permanently with that and the noise of the breaking waves. It may sound nice in theory, but I reckon after a week of it I’d turn into a character from “Riders to the Sea”.
There is company in the field next door: