The adventure I briefly alluded to yesterday that Athena suggested I embark on would have involved catching the ferry to Turkey for the day, as it’s bazaar day in the town the ferry goes to. Much as I’d have loved to have done that, it would have involved setting off in the dark from Molyvos to catch the ferry from Mytilini, getting back in the dark, and trying to read signs in Greek whilst driving early in the morning and late at night. That suddenly felt like a step too much, even for the intrepid adventurer I’ve become this week. So I settled for driving over the scary mountain road in daylight and making a day of touring round the island.
As it turned out, the northern part of the drive was spectacular but didn’t faze me – I must have become used to hairpin bends and road signs pitted with gunshot in my week here. In fact it was lovely driving along virtually empty winding roads, with the sun shining, and glimpses of the sea far below – and the odd goat sheltering in shade at the roadside every now and then.
I knew I’d made it across the northern stretch when I saw signs to Mandamados, which is a town at the top of the eastern coast road, so I decided to swing into the town and have a coffee (don’t say I don’t know how to have a good time!). I knew there was a beautiful monastery there, as Pam and Mandy had told me about it when I’d seen them in Skala Eresos the other day, and the thought crossed my mind that I should go and see it, but another part of me thought it better to press on. Just as I was leaving the little café where I’d bought a cappuccino, an elderly man came up to me and started talking in Greek (and gesticulating) about what sounded like taxis. As he looked quite grizzled, like a taxi driver, I assumed he was thinking I’d somehow ended up in that outpost by some magical means (maybe I’d beamed myself there?) and now needed a taxi ride back to civilisation. So I gesticulated back as though I were steering, and said loudly and with precise articulation, as though that would help him understand, ‘No thank you, I don’t need a taxi – I have my own car.’ He continued to go on about taxis though, so I just said ‘Efkareesto’ in my best Greek accent and made my way back to the car. As I was getting ready to move off, there was a tapping on my window, and I looked round to see Grizzly, still gesticulating and talking. I wound the window down and heard ‘taxis’ again. How could he STILL think I needed a taxi? Then he preceded it with ‘Moni’, at which I suddenly twigged. ‘Monastery?’ I asked. He repeated ‘Monastery’, nodding vigorously and pointing in the other direction to the way I’d have gone had I been going straight to Mytilene from there. So I said ‘Efkareesto!’ much more effusively this time and headed off in the direction he’d pointed in, even though I wasn’t 100% sure if I’d got the right end of the stick. But lo and behold, a couple of minutes down the road, there was a sign – to ‘Taxiarchos Monastery’!! The misunderstanding over taxis took me right back to when I was five and had just started school, and we were having a Religious Education lesson (Blimey! Wasn’t that a bit advanced for five-year-olds?). The subject was Jesus and the tax collectors, and we had to write an essay (Blimey! Expecting by five-year-olds to write essays?). Would you have known what a tax collector was at five years old? Well, I clearly didn’t, as I wrote a whole page on Jesus and the taxi drivers. Boy was I embarrassed when the teacher burst into hysterical laughter at my expense (though I hadn’t a clue as to why she was laughing…).
Anyway, I digress. I wanted to go back and thank the grizzled old chap properly, but thought better of it, and walked round the highly ornate monastery instead. Unfortunately the grounds were packed with screaming schoolchildren – so much so that I didn’t actually realise I was at the monastery when I first got there, and asked a taxi driver (or was he a tax collector? I don’t know) where the monastery was, as I assumed the forecourt was a school playground. He looked a bit bemused as he gestured to the building not ten yards away, and I just smiled my charming foreigner’s smile and shuffled off to take a picture of the aircraft so prominently and mysteriously displayed outside the monastery grounds.
After going round the interior, accompanied by young Greek children crossing themselves with holy oil and daubing all of the holy pictures with it as well, and noticing swallows’ nests high up in the eaves all the way round the inside of the building, I came out again and asked the lady selling holy medallions and the like (a) if she spoke English, and (b) if she could tell me why the aircraft was on such prominent display. She did speak a little English, and what I gathered was that a local resident had been a pilot who had crashed his plane somewhere, and the monument – as well as a smaller one inside the grounds – was in recognition of him.
The rest of my drive was uneventful – thankfully, as it means I can now relax about getting to the airport on time on Sunday. I drove back via the second-largest town on the island, Kalloni, and stopped off there too. Strangely (or not, for anyone who knows me), I ended up in a shoe shop, tempted by some blue boots in their sale. Thankfully they didn’t have them in my size, as I really DO NOT need any more boots. Until I see some more that take my fancy…
After Kalloni it was back into the mountains again, and I realised how the locals take the treacherous drops and sharp bends totally for granted when I rounded one of those bends to see an elderly chap standing next to his little moped, with a precipice and no barrier right behind him, chatting away on his mobile as though he was in the village square.
I’m back at the hotel now, with a Mythos and a cat (yes, Fluffyopoulos is back) by my side, feeling glad I did that drive, but ready now for a nap…