‘Aliki and Simeon’ Kastelorizo, Greece

Waiting for the morning ferry to Kastelerizo, a 20 min. ride from Kas, Turkey, we ran into an older Australian couple that seemed to have done a lot of research on this island. Seeing our backpacks, they wasted no time in warning us that there were only three hotels on the entire island, two of them already fully booked, and everything was extremely expensive. We, of course, had nothing booked and planned to stay there for maybe four days, so this was making us a little nervous. They continued by telling us story upon story about getting ripped off everywhere on their trip so far, and the only one that we could even possibly share was our direct fiasco to Kekova. Our trip has been so fluid and easy going, we had trouble relating. They were very excited about seeing this island though and passed on some of its history, as there was also a very informative documentary we had to see, shown everyday at the main church at noon. The harbor looked like it came straight off a Disney set, or “Greece” in Epcot Center, and at first glance didn’t come across as quiet or as quaint as The Lonely Planet described it. It said you would either absolutely love it or undeniably hate it because you’d be bored out of your mind. We strolled through immigration, made our way around the harbor drooling over all the new food we were going to get to try, started to get a feel of the town, checked out a few rooms and by our second one, found the one with a balcony and view we were looking for including a mini kitchen for 40 Euro. Score! Being as small as it was, no doubt we would run into the couple again, but we didn’t expect it to be as soon as we stepped out. Instantly they started going on about their hotel and how once again they had been ripped off.  They paid three times the price of our room and to add insult to injury found out that the following day on a tour of the infamous Blue Grotto they paid 30 each to our 10 each. Poor guys, not sure what their deal was, they seemed nice enough. We’ve been traveling for almost four weeks now, and other than a few little bites in Egypt, we’ve encountered one ‘getting ripped off’ incident. Funny enough, we had to run into them one last time on our stopover in Rhodes and it wouldn’t be the same without hearing one last getting ripped off story. Unfortunately, it seems like that’s all they are going to remember from their trip.

Anyway, Kastelerizo was the solitude we were looking for and we absolutely loved it! We did our own laundry, went grocery shopping, and chatted up the locals. It just so happens that this little island is inhabited by tons of Australians, and everywhere we turned there was another Aussie to introduce ourselves to. After all these weeks, it was very exciting to be able to make our own food. With our left over Turkish Lira and a disgruntled cashier, we bought tons of fruit and veggies, muesli, Greek yoghurt, wine, honey, feta cheese, and sat on our sweet balcony overlooking the bay to chill out. It was finally time to settle in a place for more than a day or two. Exhausted from feeling the need to rush out the door to try and see as much as possible, we thoroughly relished our down time. I couldn’t wait to relax and finally spend some time writing, reading and sorting through pictures…

The sitting down didn’t last long, though, ha! The water looked so beautiful we couldn’t resist and within five minutes of looking for a suitable entry point we spotted two big turtles near the edge peeking their heads out between a couple of fishing boats. I literally threw my clothes off and my mask and fins on and into the water I went to follow them with Simon’s camera. They let us follow them to the middle of the bay for quite a long time, then the sound of boats moving in burst our bubble and we had to say goodbye. What a treat!! Since the Mediterranean doesn’t offer much in the way of marine life, a pity since the water is crystal clear and has visibility for days, it was more than a treat to get to play with turtles. When would you ever consider jumping into a working harbor to snorkel? We could see the turtles from our balcony and made a few more running attempts to view them again. We explored, we tried new food, and on our way back to the hotel we ran into a wonderful man named Michael, whom after Simon asked what the interesting coffee drink sitting in front of him was, he invited us to join him for one.  He ordered us drinks and when we inhaled that, he ordered us large bowls of ice cream. We tried to share, but he wouldn’t have it and rightfully so because we easily inhaled those as well. He lived in Kalymnos and insisted we stay with him when we got there. We ran into him again later that night while we were having dinner and he ordered us wine and a traditional eggplant dish. The following night at dinner his name came up because I ran into him earlier in the day at the ferry office and found out he missed his ferry. Everything but him made it on and he was looking into buying a flight. He was covered in oil and from what I understood had some trouble getting a couple of machines on, but everything, including his luggage, made it but him. As soon as we spoke his name, we looked across the restaurant and saw his kind face light up delighted to see us. He joined us for some wine and we wrote down his number, in total agreement that we would be staying with him in Kalymnos.

There was tons of hiking to do on this island and we spent three evenings doing so. The first was spent sprinting to the top of the stairs that lead to an incredible view of the town and we did so in 8 minutes flat, the most exercise we had done since diving in the Red Sea! We might have been a little bit proud of that time. Exercise is definitely something the two of us can’t do without for very long and it felt great! There was an old monastery over the back we were told, where the Greeks used the basement to hide from the Italians and teach during their rule, but the doors were locked and we couldn’t make our way inside. Supposedly there’s a key you have to ask for beforehand, but unfortunately we didn’t know that. Except for the occasional goat yelps, we were the only ones out and about and it was stunningly beautiful and quiet. Eight-thirty sunset, and we strolled through the village, enamored by all the tiny alleyways and found our way back to our room. Night number two made way for the other side of the island and instead of going back the same way we found a paved road that we thought for sure would lead back to the harbor. Around 8:15, we found ourselves standing in front of the military base with no way out but back the way we came. I assured Simon that we would be fine making our way through, but he shook his head at me thinking it was a horrible idea. We didn’t have a choice, hiking all the way back in the dark was not really an option. Five minutes into our hesitant walk we heard dogs barking and I’m getting anxious thinking we’re going to get jumped when a soldier with a machine gun makes a move towards us. My immediate reaction was to raise my hands high, which made me laugh as I quickly realized how ridiculous that was. He asked us where we were from, made a call, we heard Los Angeles said a few times and cleared us for the rest of the base. We had a good chuckle thinking Simon actually considered bushwhacking our way around the base in the dark instead. Day three was another incredibly beautiful hike with more incredibly beautiful viewpoints of the surrounding islands and towns and sunsets and as small as the island may have felt, there was still so much more left to explore.

On day two we also spent the morning going to see the Blue Grotto where we had to duck all the way down in the boat to make it through the opening. It was very, very blue and we jumped in to take some fun photos. The older couple told us that it’s supposed to be much grander than the infamous Blue Grotto in Italy. It was a pretty blue cave we thought.  George was the captain and Luise was his wife and Mary was her mom and Barbara was his mom. It was another family affair and their café was situated just caddy corner to our hotel room, which meant every time you passed there was a conversation to be had or coffee to be drunk. We were told that many people come to the island just for Barbara alone! She made a mean version of Loukoumades, Greek donuts, and laughed when we asked to just try two. It was about 11pm and we were stuffed from dinner at ‘George’s. He could describe anything on the menu and we would instantly say yes to all of it! The donuts were freshly made and we were warned that they went fast and may not be there in the morning. It was either a plate full or nothing at all. So a full plate it was! Barbara, the quintessential heavy set Greek woman you know so well from films, sat right next to us and not to offend, we felt obliged to eat them all. They were delicious, but ouch! We literally rolled home and fell into bed holding our bellies.

It was a nice change to spend more time with the locals getting a bit of insight into their life here. Everyone had a story to tell and everyone had the same proud story to tell about Kastelerizo’s incredible history. It’s been ruled by the French, the Germans, the British, the Italians, bombed and rebuilt numerous times and each time they came back strong. “Aliki and Simeon” they called us because that’s what our names were in Greek. They made us feel at home, extremely welcome and special for giving us a peek into their wonderfully magical place! Luise and Mary sent us on our way and couldn’t resist mentioning that Kastelerizo is a great place to have a wedding! Lol. Farewell for now!

Picture credits: Simon and Alice

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