Sunday, 16 October 2016

Karpathos, part three: And For My Next Trick, I Will Headbutt a Roman Toilet

Kira Panagia, Karpathos, Greece (Κυρά Παναγία, Κάρπαθος, Ελλάδα) 
25 July 2016
Waking up early to have a quiet morning swim, we were once again shocked by how clear the sea was at our little Kira Panagia beach. The air conditioning unit in our AirBNB didn't work particularly well: it had been set up in the corridor, so we were forced to leave our bedroom doors wide open and even then the ambient temperature stayed high enough for us to sweat throughout the night. Even so, we were content in knowing that a wonderful beach was just down the hill.
After a quick breakfast, we drove south to Karpathos town in an attempt to find a garage where we could acquire a replacement tire. This was surprisingly difficult, and after driving around for a while with no luck, Fabienne and Yannick visited a car rental company to inquire there. The receptionist wasn't sure, but rang her mum up on the phone for input. They were given directions to a possible garage that was part of a petrol station (there were only three petrol stations on the island) while I had seen a bakery nearby and leapt from the car to get me hands on some bread! I was stuck in line behind an old woman who had a long list of different pastries she needed, but I got a loaf in the end and returned to the car just as the others were leaving the car rental!
Following the employee's mum's directions, we pulled into the petrol station which did indeed have a garage attached. A mechanic inspected the tire, too it off our hands and told us to return in a couple of hours.
With time to kill, we drove to the town of Menetes to continue our Karpathian adventure. With no car parks around, we found a place to pull over along the main street and walked up to a high point of the town: the church. We could see the tall white belltower poking up above the rooftops and figured that it would make for a first-rate lookout point.

The church (and subsequently its belltower) was closed, but we were able to gaze out from the footpath in front of it at the whitewashed houses sprawled over the hill. Fortunately we had just seen a painter, bucket and brush in hand, walk past after slathering on a new coat to the glistening blue railings, otherwise I might have leaned on one.

Selecting streets to stroll down at random, we became enchanted by the beauty and simplicity of Menetes.

At one point, we turned a corner to find that a Jack Russell terrier was frozen in his tracks, staring at us and silently trying to decide "friend or foe?" We left him alone in case he settled on 'foe' and glanced over a couple of tavernas that were featured on Lonely Planet.
As it was nearly time to pick up our freshly minted tire, we drove back along the coast and stopped for a brief swim at a pebbly beach north of Karpathos. And before we knew it, all of our tires were fully functional again! Only out of pocket €20, we were pleased with the cheap fix (though Yannick and I were informed later that the tire blew out as Fabienne and their dad were driving on the French motorway towards Paris).

Finding no inspiration for eateries in Karpathos town, we drove back to Menetes to feast at the Dionysus Fiesta taverna for lunch (great name!). The shady terrace out the front was very inviting, and as we approached a man ushered us in, asking where we were from. Learning that we hailed all the way from New Zealand, he crossed himself and then asked if we wanted the large round table. We were hesitant, however, as there was an aged woman already sat there. He explained that she was his aunt, and she relocated amiably, so we were free to cluster around the round table. I thought that for once, we might actually be able to fit all of our many mezes onto the table and still have space for wiggle room!
He pointed out which dishes were available that day, indicating that they used local produce and what was in season. We ordered grilled aubergine and courgette, briam (a dish made from potatoes, green beans, artichoke, pea pods and okra in a tomato sauce), baked feta and a local dish called macarounes (oniony pasta). Everything was lovely, including the white wine and the traditional cookie covered in icing sugar that was presented to us for dessert.

Once finished eating and drinking, we were guided inside where his childhood home had been turned into a folk museum. He told the story of how when he was growing up, his whole family lived in that one room. There was a raised area to the left where everyone would sleep, and the lower level was where the cooking and eating took place. The walls were covered in embroidered cloths, decorative plates and woven baskets. We thanked him and his wife profusely for their generous hospitality, and returned to our car as happy chappies. 

After driving through mountainous terrain for a little while, we arrived once again at the coast. The west coast, this time, which we had not yet been to. Finiki was a cute village with just a few buildings and a sheltered harbour.

For our third swim of the day, we dipped into the calm waters of Finiki, paddling next to Greek children in inflatable tubes.
Driving onwards to Lefkos, we kept our eyes peeled for signs directing us to the fabled Roman cistern. The definition I was taught for 'cistern' is the tank that sits behind the toilet that fills up with water. This is correct, but 'cistern' also refers to tanks that supply taps with water, and an underground reservoir for rainwater.

I'll assume this Roman cistern was the latter, as it was underground. We descended the dusty steps and were surrounded by ancient pillars. Great stone slabs were still in place above us, and some scaffolding had been erected to keep certain less secure slabs and pillars from falling.
On the way back to the car, Yannick spotted a doorway down an overgrown track and went to investigate. It turned out to be a cave that someone had converted into a simple house, with the entranceway made of stones that looked like they had been stolen from the cistern. On the way out, I wasn't paying attention to the low doorway and banged my head. I'm told it was quite funny to witness.

Figuring we may as well have a fourth swim, we visited a beach near Lefkos, but it was fairly crowded and so we drove on. Having heard that Achata Beach was nice (about halfway between our accommodation and Karpathos town), we headed there and found that it was beautiful, not too crowded, and the sea was pleasantly warm. Delightful!

Today's post was almost called: 'Fiesta Like You Stole Your Auntie’s Table!'