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Karpathos, Greece, May 28th - June 9th 2008 (by Dagmar)
Karpathos, one of the most southerly islands of Greece, between Rhodes and Crete, is still one of the very traditional islands of the Dodecanese. The name comes from the Greek word "Dodekanissa", what means 12 islands. But that's not the reality: 200 islands are belonging to the group now, just 27 inhabited, most of them relatively flat with long beaches. But not Karpathos. You will find a very mountainous island, with a wild and rugged landscape, scarcely populated, only about 6,500 Karpathians are living here. Most of the population migrated years ago to the United States of America, Canada and several European countries, still sending pay checks home. Most of the Karpathians are fluent in English.
There is not much work to find on the island. Tourism is for most of the people their only income and the high season is short, now lasting just 3 month from June to August. Gardens here are lovingly tended and homes are getting a fresh whitewash every spring. Sparkling white houses, wildflowers, oleander bushes, herbs, terraced hillsides lined with olive trees. The south, Afiartis, is since more then 10 years a paradise for windsurfers. That's how Bart, Soleil and myself came here, 9 years ago. We had a windsurfing center in front of Hotel Irini. Still some friends of us are working here in Afiartis. So we were looking forward to meet them again.
We anchored in one of the bays of Afiartis, in front of Chris Schill's Windsurfing center. Coming from the Suez Canal and getting in sight of the island, we could already smell it: the pine trees, the scent of wildflowers, herbs like thyme, sage and oregano.
All our kids were so happy to have the possibility to play on shore again, after the crossing from the canal. Chris and Elke's children Sandra and Lukas joined them. They were busy for several days building a hut, cleaning the area around it, planting a garden, creating tools, a door...even stayed in it for a late evening with their sleeping bags.
We passed by Hotel Irini, where we worked in 1999. Yanni, still owner of the hotel, is busy with construction work, and will offer 60 rooms in the following high season, a swimming pool, tennis courts. Several people were working in the past years at our former windsurfing center. Now "Soultravel" took it over with Martin as station manager, but it looks quite the same. In front of the hotel on the beach we met Hannelore (81 years) and Helmut (82 years) again. They are windsurfing since 30 years and were already clients of us in 1999; a couple with an amazing spirit, very warmhearted. They even visited us on "LUNA".
At the shore of the Lagoon, close to the airport in Afiartis, is our favorite bar and restaurant, owned by Socrates and his family since many years. We had drinks at Vassili's bar while downloading our e-mails and updating our website. At the restaurant we enjoyed many wonderful greek dinners and a BBQ at the beach bar.
Socrates has 4 brothers. On the center picture above, you see him on the right, his brother George left of Bart. Their younger brother Mike is running the kitchen together with George and Vassili the beach bar. Their brother Manolis is running a travel agency in Germany. One evening we even met Foulis and Roula there again. Nine years ago they were working at Hotel Irini. Now Foulis is married to Mike, Socrates younger brother. Foulis is working at "Possi Travel" in Pigadia. On Friday, when we were in town for provisioning, she gave us a ride back to Afiartis. We always had to hitchhike into town and back, as there are no local buses from Afiartis to Pigadia.
At the BBQ we met Jourgos, the owner of "Hotel Poseidon" again. You see him in the center picture with us. He is a very good friend of Bart. He surprised us with a homemade Karpathian bread out of the stone oven,...very delicious.
You can't call Afiartis a village. It is just an airport, some hotels, windsurfing centers, hostels, a small church,
ruins of abandoned houses, goats on the grassland, and a ship wreck on the reef in the bay, a desert of stones......
...lined with herbs, but a great place to be as a windsurfer. The "Meltemi" comes shooting down the hills, making it possible to organize a yearly PWA Speed World Cup at Chris' Center. We all enjoyed windsurfing very much. Bart even could use windsurf equipment from Chris' center, what was great for us; so we both could windsurf together. What hadn't happen in many many years.
Pigadia with its harbor is the capital of the island, the center of tourism and night life, restaurants and bars,
the meeting point for the ferries to Crete, Rhodes and Kassos.
For a one day island trip we rented scooters in Pigadia. We were a party of 11 people. Three boat crews: us from "Luna", Lisa, Bruce and Tristan from "Ohana Kai" and Iris, Vincent, River and Roxy from "de Pelikaan". We all had to were helmets, the kids were allowed to join on the scooters of the parents. What a fun trip we had. We picked the perfect day: not so much wind as the past days... We started in Afiartis and drove towards Menetes.
Menetes, a village high in the mountains on a rock plateau overlooking the valley towards Pigadia.
Narrow lanes are lining the traditional white houses on the cliff, the church rising high above the abyss.
All villagers are greek-orthodox. Going to church every Sunday is a must and family tradition. Georgios, the Greek minister of the whitewashed church, wearing cowboy boots under his habit, was just leaving, when we
arrived in Menetes. Service was over. Vincent greeted two older women, who were just coming down the stairs
from church. Mariana who organized a church breakfast with sandwiches, cookies, coffee and tea, welcomed us and invited us to stay. I even met Kathy there again, the woman who did our laundry 9 years ago. Mariana told us that her father is working at the local museum in town and would be happy to show us around. We were very curious to see it, but sadly it was closed and her father not around. But the two sacrament chapel's next door were open, beautiful decorated on the inside with gorgeous wall paintings.
Kassos, the neighboring island you see just behind us. When you drive down the slopes towards Arkassa you pass Paleokastro, the peninsula with an acropolis on top, ancient Minoan columns and ruins of a castle.
The coastline on the west of the island is very beautiful. Past Arkassa and Lefkos, picturesque fisher villages,
we rode on our scooters.....
to Mesochori for lunch.
Mesochori means village in the middle of the island. Kali Limni, the 1,215m high mountain in the center of the island is towering high above the village.
We had local Karpathian food: Macarounes (handmade pasta, tastes a little like gnocchi's), Mousaka (a dish with pasta and aubergines), Stifado (beef with veggies in tomato sauce) and "Skaros", a fish that can only be found in the Karpathian Sea. Eugenia's whole family is running the restaurant, "Mama" cooking in the kitchen.
Every local Karpathian house owns a big stone oven outside, for preparing the typical bread from this island. Vines around the house and terrace, are providing the delicious grapes for the Karpathian red and white wine.
Spoa, is called the lost and forgotten village in the mountains. The traditional windmills at the entrance of the village are in ruins now. 9 years ago, when we left Karpathos, still two were running and one was offering traditional Karpathian food.
From Spoa we went down the east coast of the island, back towards Pigadia, past Apela and Katodio,...
...having a wonderful view towards the mountains of the north of the island. We stopped for a swim at Kyra Panagia. The water was so refreshing, the pebbles on the beach very warm. As you see, Lisa was enjoying them as a very relaxing therapy for her face.
On Monday, May 2nd, Gale forced Meltemi winds screamed down the hills, overlooking our bay in Afiartis, for more then 24 hours, still making it possible for Bart to windsurf with the smallest sail. The howling winds moderated in the late afternoon of the following day..
On Wednesday, May 4th, our friends Iris, Vincent, River and Roxy left with their boat "de Pelikaan" Karpathos for Crete. It was no wind at all, the water in the bay flat like a pancake. We will miss them, but for sure catch up with them close to Spain or even in Italy already. They are on their way home to Holland as well, but have some dates scheduled already to meet with family on the way.
The following days it was time for the kids to windsurf. They each took turns on Soleil's windsurfing equipment and learned a lot. Matthew and Soleil joined in, when Bart did some tricks on the big paddle board.
Pine trees were once covering the whole northern part, but there are not many left after several forest fires; the last major one around Spoa, just 4 years ago. During the last week of our stay here in Afiartis a forest fire started close to Arkassa on the slopes under Menetes. Hugh airplanes flew in from Athens to take care of it, getting salt water out of the ocean, just out of the bay of Afiartis, where we were anchored.
After all this wonderful time on Karpathos, the time to leave towards Holland came closer. We wanted to especially say "Thank you" to Chris and Elke Schill, with Sandra and Lukas, for their warmhearted welcome and all their help here in Afiartis, all the windsurfing equipment we could use, organizing the scooters for our island trip, getting Diesel for "LUNA",.... What a great place for us to come back to. When you would like to have some more detailed information about their center, please have a look at the following website: www.chris-schill.com
On Monday, May 9th, we had to leave Karpathos. Now it was time to say farewell to our friends Lisa, Bruce, Tristan and Matthew from "Ohana Kai". We would sail West passed Crete towards Sicily in Italy. They would sail further North towards Marmaris in Turkey. We are planning to meet again next year, when they would reach Mexico to finish their circumnavigation. We were very sad. The hardest part about cruising is having to say goodbye to people, who during the long time of the cruising became very close friends. It was the first time in many months, that we would be on our own again. For us it was like the end of our trip already. We had to make many miles in long stretches to be in Holland by end of July...still more then 3000sm to go. We realized that we wouldn't have many days on shore left to explore other islands and countries...just a stop to refuel, get fresh produce and off to sail again.
"Ohana Kai" pulled anchor at the same time. We left the bay of Afiartis and saw the wreck on the reef the first time from the back, passed the channel between Karpathos and Kassos towards Crete. The head winds started and we had to bash against wind and waves.
Last modified: September 02, 2008