Stranded on Samos!
ANEK: 6hr Leros to Samos
It’s 10pm, Thursday 12 June, we have just boarded the ferry for Lesvos. It’s about a 7 hour ferry trip, our first overnighter. We have plonked ourselves in a corner on the floor, hoping to get some sleep – I’m not so convinced. 6 days ago we arrived on Samos with ferry tickets in hand for Sunday, a two night stay before we hopped to our last island; Lesvos.
Only in our diligence to confirm the departure port on Saturday morning, did we discover that the Sunday ferry was in fact cancelled and so was the next. The first available option to leave Samos was Thursday evening. To date, we had avoided long overnight hauls, but we now had no option, unlless we wanted to risk waiting until the following Sunday. Why was the ferry cancelled? The official excuse is vague at best, something about not being able to get fuel. Dig a little deeper and ask some of the locals and their take is that this happens on a regular basis; shipping companies trying to save money. If the bookings are slim; cancel. Lucky for us, we have nowhere to be in a hurry.
We go back to our hotel and extend our booking for another 4 nights. Tried to bargain down the price, but no go. €45 with breakfast, right on the beach, is pretty good: Samos Beach Hotel. What was there left to do? The usual thing; we bought the 7 day beach chair and umbrella package (€14) and resumed ‘the position’. Gagou beach is a lovely little bay, though a stone beach. We watch numerous holiday makers gingerly make their way down to the water, stumbling in to swim past the rocks. Our Decathalon shoes are coming in handy!
The travel agent who had helped us with ferry options passionately circled a map with the ‘must-do’ sights around the island. We spent a great day ticking them off and were so impressed with his suggestions that we popped back in to thank him. He was delighted that we had enjoyed ourselves and appreciative that we had made the effort to let him know.
Our first stop was to be the tunnel of Eupalinos, a remarkable piece of engineering dating back to 524 BC, when they built a 1000m tunnel to provide water, this was unfortunately closed. However if you continue up the road you arrive at Monastery of Panagia Spiliani, which provides wonderful views back down over Pythagorion.
Next stop Lemnionas beach; a beautiful sheltered bay about 13km South West of Vathy, with clear water and a sandy shoreline. We almost gave into spending the rest of the day here. This spot is worth an asterisk in case we ever return.
There is a Monastery or church perched on nearly every hill and the clifftop villages have magnificent views across the island and down to the sea. We drove through a few and then came to Platanos, which is no exception. It’s a quiet little village with a centre square shaded by a large old tree. We decide to have lunch here. This poses a dilemma, as three tavernas are all gesturing for you to join them for lunch. It’s not the loud boisterous touting we’ve experienced before, more a gentle pleading; Which one to choose? Two have customers, but it’s the sweet elderly couple with no customers and less appealing decor that we decide on. Perhaps more out of sympathy, than expectation of a dining sensation.
Mama runs the shop, whilst Papa nods and smiles at us. No menu, Mama just runs through the options; we select a greek salad, meatballs and stuffed tomatoes. Well, I’m not going to say it was the best meal we’ve had, but it was really good. The stuffed tomatoes were superb, a reminder of how simple, good can be. Just when you think the meal is done, Mama is so grateful for our patronage she brings out her homemade cake.
Our journey takes us from the south west coast through the centre of the island and up to the north coast. The coastal landscape becomes more lush inland. Olive groves and vinyards planted in terraces sweep down the hillsides. Stone walls, centuries old and laid by hand divide the farms.
The ascent to the village of Manolates is a steep and twisting road, but worth the effort. The village backdrops are either dramatic rugged mountains, or a sweeping view down to the coast, the day is clear enough to see right across to Turkey. We find Lukas Taverna perched on the top of the village, serving local wine. We sample a Rose (not so good) and an OK dry white. It was €1 a glass, so what can you expect? In general, the WCP has been very reasonable (we have stayed with house wine by the 1/2 litre). We have learnt to request a taste before ordering and everyone is always happy to do so with a generous quantity.
Our best meal was at Elea restaurant in the Ino hotel, sitting up on the hill behind us. We thought we’d check it out and have a drink first. As usual we request a taste of the house wine. Don picked up the slight Australian accent in our host, Dimitri. It turned out that he grew up in Sydney until the age of 8 and still visits relatives often. The family built the hotel 25 years ago, which he now runs. Dimitri was born to work in hospitality. We watch him greet his guests. Most are staying in the hotel. He chats with everyone and it feels more like a family gathering than a restaurant.
Dimitri appreciates that we appreciate good wine and without asking, we progress from house to bottled wine. I think Dimitri was looking for an excuse to try it himself. In conversation he learns we are traveling for a year and is in such awe that the wine is complimentary. It wasn’t just the atmosphere that made this a memorable night; the prawn spaghetti and salmon pasta were delicious (the spaghetti better). We couldn’t resist the signature desert: chocolate brulee!! We appreciated the recommendation to share, it’s a generous portion and divinely rich.