Medieval Magic

Two buses, a ferry and a taxi took us from Pamukkale to Ismir, then Cesme, and finally to the Island of Chios, Greek territory.

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On arrival in the port of Chios, our idea to catch a bus to Mesta was thwarted. No buses any more that day. Either stay overnight or pay 50€ for a taxi.  After a 40 km long, winding drive, we were deposited in Mesta, and were escorted to our lodgings by the delightful Tassos. He is a young photographer with beautiful taste, as we discovered when we were shown our room in Lida Mary.

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IMG_6993The village of Mesta is renowned as a village that has been continuously inhabited since medieval times. The village itself is preserved, so none of the walls, facades or foundations can be changed in construction. As a result, the hotel we stayed at had rooms distributed around town. Where we were there were three rooms, beautifully designed and fitted out. Tassos had even installed little square lamps in the stairwell – and not a sign of wiring. He scraped the mortar away from between the irregular stones, laid the wires around them and then mortared them back in. Light with beauty.

In our room he proudly showed us the contents of the cupboard – a kitchenette!! Inside this bright red cupboard, are a hob, sink and fridge. All of it closed off so that it just looks like a mod piece of furniture in an ancient room. Little glassed in alcoves  contain small objects and shells and in larger niches nestle urns or candles. It must have been quite a labour of love – negotiations with the rigid town heritage council and being seen as outsiders added to the complexity. It’s taken two years, but it was worth it – we loved the place.

Our hosts were hospitality itself. Since we didn’t have a car, and the nearest village is 15 kilometers away, Tassos took us for a drive around the region. The neighbouring town is Pyrgos, which is known for its plaster decoration style. All the houses are decked out in geometric designs created by plastering the house in white, and then scraping the pattern into the plaster with a fork.IMG_7010 IMG_7011

Further on, we were taken to a beach. S didn’t want to venture in – she will only enter the water if the beach is sandy, and this one has the usual stony shore. But that didn’t stop me – the sight of children jumping and diving off the rocks was too enticing. Very refreshing.IMG_7015

The following day we decided to hire a car with Sutopa holding the license and me doing the driving… We thought we could catch the bus, but fell foul of one of the innumerable Greek holidays. It seems like they have more holidays than Australians have – no wonder their economy is a mess. No bus till 2pm.

Tassos to the rescue again. His misfortune was our fortune: he had to drive into Chios town to pick up a couple of Chinese tourists. They called, and demanded that he organise transportation for them and their bicycles immediately. He tried to explain that it’s 40km to Chios, and he could hire a car for them, but when it came to it they said “no no driving”. So on his way to see if he could get them, their bikes AND luggage into his small sedan, he dropped us off.

We learned later that when he got there, it got worse. They had two bikes, plus those buggies that tow along behind them. How they expected him to manage all that, I’m not sure. But they argued endlessly in broken English, refused to acknowledge the trouble they’d put him to, and then wouldn’t reimburse him for the petrol he’d wasted in attempting to be friendly. AND to add insult to injury, they weren’t even booked into his hotel!!

A post scriptum – we later saw them on the way to see if they could hire a yacht, sans bicycles – so much for feeling sorry for them!!

S and I picked up the hire car – a Citroen van-like thing I’ve never seen before and toured some of Chios, including Kampos – an area renowned in earlier years for their citrus orchards. A museum called “Citrus” shows the life as it was then. The area was extremely wealthy and exported citrus fruit and juices all over the place, as far as London and Leningrad. Sadly, the families have fallen on hard times, since orange juice is so cheap these days, and it’s not worth the effort they expend. That and development and population pressure means that many of the orchards are being chopped down for development. Sigh – the museum is a reminder of days gone by.

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And they make a mean lemon cake.

That evening, we treated ourselves to a pedicure, and then were invited to a sunset picnic.  At the beach I met the last two smokers in America. At least, at that time they were in Greece, but they hailed from USA. They told me that in California, it is now illegal even to smoke in your own apartment if there are people living above and below you. Where will it end?IMG_7096

Chios and Mesta are definitely worth another visit. We took our leave from Tassos and Mary, with invitations to come to Athens when they are there, and enjoy their hospitality there. We look forward to that.

Self drive to the airport, and off to Athens. We were charged 15€ for 2kg excess baggage, but after we paid we noticed the scales were showing 2kg even empty. Note to self – check the tare on the scales BEFORE I put my bags on.

Next stop A is for Athens.

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