Sunday, October 12, 2014

Samos.

In Pythagorio.

We're back in Greece, if only for a day.  We arrived into Vathy, Samos, Greece by ferry from Kuşadası, Turkey.

Standing outside the ferry terminal, we had no idea where to go so our day back in Greece started with "where do we go?" and "how do we get there?"


Across the street from the ferry terminal was a travel agency.  It was closed.  I had a sinking feeling that like Santorini, Samos begins to shut down as tourist season winds down.  That and today was Sunday so I'm sure some of the businesses simply because it was Sunday.

We were barely a few feet away from the ferry terminal when a taxi driver rolled down his window and asked if we needed a ride.  The only place that I could remember going to was a town called Pythagorio so I asked how much for him to take us there and he replied 30 Euro.  No thank you.

In my reading, I had come across mention that you can take a bus to get about the island so I suggested to Bro that we go in search of the bus terminal.  Of course, we assumed there was such a thing.  The ferry terminal appeared to be on one end of town so we started walking towards the other end.


As we walked along, the first thing that we noticed was how every bit of sidewalk, on both sides of the street, had been torn up.  It was obvious that they're doing major repair work here.  Ignoring all the construction work, Vathy is a pretty town - reminded me very much of Nafplio.

Town square.

Another view of town square.

The city was pretty empty.  So, it took a while before we passed anyone.  Our question was where is the bus station.  The guy just sort of waved in the general direction of where we were headed and he also said that since it was Sunday, few buses if any would be running.   Oh no, I thought.  But, we didn't let that deter us from walking to find the station so we continued on.

They're repaving all the sidewalks.  We had to walk around a lot of block sections of sidewalk....and occasional construction vehicle.

We eventually arrived at a spot where a few buses stood but they were all empty.  It wasn't really a bus station....just an area along the street where buses would stop to pick up people.  A sign, tacked up on the door of a local establishment, had what looked like a bus schedule posted up on it.  Unfortunately, the establishment was closed so we couldn't go inside to ask for information.  It was not our lucky day.


In Pythagorio, statue of Pythagoras (yes, of theorem fame) behind us.
We decided to walk back to the ferry terminal.  Perhaps someone there could help us.  As we started to walk away, I saw the same taxi and driver that we had encountered outside the ferry terminal, waiting by the buses.  He rolled down the window and told us the buses were not running because it was a Sunday and offered to take us to Pythagorio for 20 Euro, a whopping 30% drop from his initial offer.  I had read that you should only pay about a euro per kilometer for a taxi ride.  The distance between Vathy and Pythagorio is only about 11 kilometer so even 20 Euro was high but I was willing to go with that considering we basically had no other option.....and the taxi driver was acutely aware of that. 

We agreed on 20 Euro and got in.  I was in the front passenger seat and Bro in the back.  Our driver was Dimitri.  Very, very, very chatty fellow and he spoke fast as well....a little hyper.  But, a very nice guy.  So he explained why the difference in fares.  At the ferry terminal, he's trolling for passengers alongside his colleagues and so he can't ask for a lesser fare than they would.  Otherwise, it would come across that he's trying to undercut them and in fact, he is.  At the bus area, there were no other taxis around so he could drop his fare....low enough that he would have a better chance to get riders.  His strategy worked so kudos to him for being so savvy!!

The ride to Pythagorio took only about 20 minutes.  The island is very mountainous and very green.  Landscape wise, it is indeed much prettier than Santorini.  It's also a much bigger island and very popular vacation destination for both Greeks and tourists.

All along the way to Pythagorio, Dimitri played tour guide - giving us advice on things to see in Pythagorio.  He was talking so fast, I could barely slot any information into my brain before he blurted out something else.  He even offered to drop us off at the museum but we opted to go in to town first.  I was getting exhausted just listening to him talk! :-)

Dimitri dropped us off in the commercial heart of Pythagorio.  It's such a picturesque little seaside area.  With the crystal clear blue sky, the turquoise colored water of the Aegean Sea, the colorful boats in the harbor and the colorful buildings, this was the image of the Greek islands that I had in mind.

Dimitri insisted on taking some photos of Bro and I.  Usually, we have to ask someone but I guess he's done this for countless other customers.  Before he left, we agreed to meet back up with him at 3:30pm so he could take us back to the ferry terminal.  I just hoped he would keep his word because looking around, I didn't see another car in sight.  I had a feeling that Pythagorio was as *dead* as Vathy was.

We paid Dimitri for the ride and then said our good byes.  Off we went to explore Pythagorio.  We had a little under 4 hours to spend.

Pythagorio is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is the birthplace of Pythagoras, the famed ancient Greek mathematician, hence the statue in his memory.

Such a pretty little harbor area.


A view of the harbor.  The town is just to the right.

A promenade runs along the entire harbor area.  I can imagine this would be a lovely place for an evening stroll.

The boats here were just so cute.  Very well maintained.

Looking down the promenade, towards the center of the commercial area.

Bro stopping to see what these young fisherman had caught.

Plenty of boats taking tourists out for excursions around the island.  Few were operating today.

We walked from one end of the promenade to the other.  I would say that only one establishment out of 10 was open for business.  Some of the places definitely looked like they had shuttered up for the season.

Even the promenade itself was pretty quiet.  We probably passed by fewer than 10 other tourists.

I like quiet but this was too quiet.  The scenery did make up for it though - much prettier when no one is around.

We strolled along.  Took our time.  Soaked in the views.   Eventually, we made it back to where we started.  There, we found a small restaurant open for business.  Stomach was calling for food.

There were plenty of chairs and tables with a view of the harbor.  Perfect spot for a relaxing al fresco meal!


We enjoyed a light lunch of a veggie cheese crepe and a grilled cheese sandwich.  So not Greek food.




After brunch, Bro decided to slice up his melon.  Ordinarily, you wouldn't dare do this in a restaurant but this place was relatively empty and the guy who served us was too busy chatting with a patron to care about what we were doing.



Not as sweet or as flavorful as the melon we bought in the Central Market in Athens but hey, what do you want?  It only cost 1 lira which at today's exchange rate comes to about 44 US cents!  For that price, I can't even buy a slice of melon at home, forget a whole melon!


We lingered over lunch for quite some time.  There was not much else to do and it was pretty relaxing just sitting and chatting.

Located just stone's throw from the restaurant was a small beach.  We had spotted it when we had gotten out of Dimitri's cab.  After paying our lunch tab, that's where we headed.  Bro was determined to get a swim in.

Bro just wrapped a towel around his waist and changed into his swim trunks.  I can't do the towel change thing....I'm afraid, it would end up being the towel drop thing and well, that would be an ugly incident.

Closer to shore, the *sand* was rocks and as it neared water, it became more like small pebbles.  Not bad but Bro still kept his sports sandals.  As expected, the water was COLD.  I don't know where the warm waters of the Mediterranean region are but I don't think the Aegean is part of it.




I will give it to Bro though.  It took him a few seconds to get adjusted to the temperature of the water and then he was all in. He didn't stay in long though. 

After his brief stint in the water, we decided to explore the rest of the town.  Dimitri had told us that there is a castle here and indeed, when we were eating our lunch, we could see it atop a nearby hill.  We used the castle as our walking destination.

With no map in hand, we just set out in the direction and kept going in that direction.  Our walk took us through a surrounding neighborhood.  Everything is very quaint and charming here....very Greek in style.  Lots of the buildings were shuttered up, gates and doors locked up. 


We even cut through a few narrow alleyways just curious to see what they were like.  It was a very compact neighborhood - pretty much one building up against another.  Pops of color brightened up the stone of the buildings.


Out of the blue, we ended up at a cemetery.  On one side there were the remains of a long stone wall...it looked like the outer wall of a castle.  Strewn about the grounds are ancient Roman ruins. There was a lovely sea view.



Out of curiosity, we walked through the cemetery. 

Not a large cemetery but extremely well maintained.

By the dates on the tombstones, this was a present day cemetery. 

Adjacent to the cemetery is Lykourgos Castle.  In the historic timeline, the castle is relatively new; it was built in the 19th century, atop land where Roman monuments once stood, hence the ruins near the cemetery. The castle is named after Lykourgos Logothetis who was the island's leader during the revolution against the Ottoman Turks.

Standing outside Lykourgos Castle.

We followed the signs to the castle's museum and tower but we didn't enter inside either of them.


Instead, we went to the water's edge and took in the view from the old walls.  As you can see, Bro managed to find a nice shady spot to sit in for a short break.



Located just a short walk from the castle is the Church of the Metamorphosis.  We went there next. This being a Sunday, I would have expected the church to have been open but the doors were locked shut.

The museum and tower of Lykourgos Castle on the left;  the terracotta colored dome of Church of the Metamorphosis in the far distance.

The blue and white bell tower of the Church of the Metamorphosis.

At this point, we decided to head back to the harbor area.  We took one last stroll along the promenade before heading back to the small city park ....more like a small playground, to wait for Dimitri.  Bro decided to lay down on a bench and catch a quick nap while I stayed on the look out for a taxi.

Pretty much right on the dot, a taxi pulled up. It was the same taxi company but a different driver. Dimitri had told us that it could be someone else picking is up in car #121.   When the driver rolled down the window and identified himself as car #121, we got in.   He dropped us off right back at the ferry dock. 


By now, it was barely 4 o'clock - we had at least an hour to kill as our ferry was not leaving until 5:30pm.  As far as I could tell, none of the establishments that had been closed when we had arrived in the morning were open now.  I guess it's Sunday.


Instead of walking towards the bus *station* area, we took the opposite route.  Might as well enjoy the sight of water while we can.  We found a small restaurant where we got a small bite and Bro finally got his chance to have a small glass of ouzo, the iconic spirit of Greece.  I took a small sip - very licorice-y.  We had some small bites to go with our beverages.


By the time we got back to the ferry terminal, there was already a good number of people waiting for the doors to open.  We cleared immigration and boarded the ferry, once again sitting on the upper deck.


Bye Samos!  Bye Greece!  If we're lucky, we'll be back one day!




The ride back to Kuşadası was thankfully a very uneventful one.  The waters seemed a bit choppier and it was colder, especially as the sun began to set but it was the ride in reverse.  Same boat captain.  Same guy delivering tea and coffee.  We even watched him swap the Greek flag with the Turkish flag as soon as we entered Turkish waters.

By the time Kuşadası came into view, it was dusk.



The cruise ships marked the location of the ferry dock.  The lights of the city were twinkling in the fading day.

I think everyone was ready to get off the ferry boat way before we even hit land; I joined a line of people that queued its way down the stairs.  As soon as the ramp dropped, people scurried off the boat BUT....none of them were reading the signs. They were all heading to the entry door meant for cruise ship passengers.  Eagle eye me, I saw the ferry boat door so I ran towards that; Bro was right on my heels.  We ended up being the first two people to go through Immigration.  Ha!

Back in Kuşadası, we decided we might as well grab dinner before going back to the guesthouse.  Easiest option was to go back to the same place that we had eaten at last night - Köfteci Hasan Usta, simple eatery serving Turkish fast food.  Bro had noticed the tavuk kanat i.e., chicken wings on the menu.  They looked awfully mouthwatering so


It's fast food but it's cooked up fresh.

Bro wanted soup.  I had him get lentil, a Turkish classic.

Tavuk kanat aka grilled chicken wings.   Plump, juicy and flavorful.  Finger licking awesome!

After dinner, there was no strolling.  We had to get back to the guesthouse and get packing. Tomorrow, we're leaving Kuşadası to continue our trip through Turkey.  We're flying from Izmir to Kayseri and from there, heading east.  Our flight leaves at 6:30a but it takes at least an hour, hour and half to get to the airport so *J* arranged for the taxi to to come at 4:00a.  It will be a very early wake up for us!  I've put poor Bro through many an early morning departure on this trip and he's been kindly pointing that out to me.  I will have to be more mindful when I plan the next trip though I have already warned Bro that if we save money by traveling early in the day, it's more than likely that I will go with that option.  I am a budget traveler through and through and as much as he would not like to admit it, so is Bro :-)

We've had an enjoyable time these past two days but it's time to move on!  I'm very excited about the next three days as we'll be going to a part of Turkey that I have never been to before but have always wanted to go so I'm thrilled that I'm finally able to do so.  I know Bro will enjoy it as well.

Goodnight from Kuşadası!