Friday, September 6, 2013

Last days in Limnos


I could live here. I'm sure there's some sort of magic dust being slow-released into the air here that makes you fall in love with Limnos and renders you unable to leave without heart-break.

But we are leaving tomorrow, and today we need to wean ourselves from the spell that has intoxicated us. We're meeting up with our old friend and Limnos boat cruise operator, Litsa, at the beach this morning for a seaside frappe, then out for a last-hurrah lunch at our favourite taverna, "Sinialo", after which Tony will indulge in an afternoon siesta while I might stroll the streets looking for cats to photograph, then tonight we will sit around the terrace with the family enjoying ouzo and mezes before we retreat to our room to pack.

Our time here in Limnos may have flown, but we have enjoyed and tried to make the most of every day with lots of eating, laughing, swimming, cooking, drinking, sunning, and riding the motor scooter.

I have lots of photos to post today, all from the last week of our stay here in Limnos. Prepare yourself for a lot of fast scrolling! Or, hopefully, some enjoyable viewing :) Tomorrow we leave for Santorini where the photos will be snapped off at a rate that will surely make my index finger fall off, so consider this post a training session for what's to come!

Cats and dogs of Limnos

Stray cats are not so abundant in Greece as they once were. Desexing and rehoming schemes have reduced the numbers of cats significantly and in Athens there is rarely a cat to be seen. Here in Limnos there are still a few, but they are well looked after by the Limnian people who have accepted them as part of the landscape and leave food and water out for them every day. The strays also get to enjoy feeding times at the tavernas, having mastered the art of putting on their best sad-cat face while patiently waiting at your feet for your scraps.














And then there was this crazy random cat that just appeared out of nowhere on the day we visited the Russian fortress in Myrina. High up on a hill, away from any houses, away from the road. A domestic cat.


While Greece is known for its cat population, stray dogs also quietly roam the streets. Perhaps not so noticeable because they don't put themselves on display like the cats do and they find food their own way rather than begging at tavernas.

One well-known iconic dog of Limnos is the local pharmacist's old pet Chow Chow. Well known because he is the one dog that is constantly on display in the main street of Myrina, right outside his owner's shop.


All day, every day, he sleeps on the footpath at the door of the pharmacy, waiting for his owner to take him home. But not on a lead, or in the back seat of a car. This dog has a very unique way of getting home. When the pharmacist locks up his shop at the end of the night, this ancient-looking dog gets up from his slumber and hops right onto the platform of his owner's motor scooter and together they ride away. It's the most spectacular sight I tell you.


Boat trips around the island

Litsa and her husband George run a boat cruise business in Limnos, taking tourists on day-long trips up the west and south coasts of the island on their traditional wooden kaiki boat called "Anemos". It's a beautiful way to enjoy the scenery of the island and the expanse of the Aegean sea. A gorgeous buffet lunch is included and Litsa and George do a wonderful job keeping the passengers entertained and informed of the history and beauty of the island. Tony and I take the trip every time we're in Limnos – this is a must-do activity for anyone visiting the island.


Below: Tony and I with Litsa, co-owner and operator of the boat, Anemos.



Below: Tony with Litsa's husband, George, captain of Anemos.



Castro Fortress

Every year we bravely take on the Castro mountain climb. Castro is the Venetian fortress that dominates over the port of Myrina, the capital of Limnos. The Castro mountain is the only area on the island inhabited by deer, and has the most spectacular views from atop. The climb is strenuous and made particularly difficult by the dangerously uneven rocky tracks that even the deer would find hard work to tackle. But it's worth every step to the top where the views over Myrina are simply breathtaking. As is the fear factor! There are no barriers to be found anywhere along the perimeter of the fortress – the sheer drop of around 300 metres that confronts you as you step towards the stone wall is positively frightening. You wouldn't want to bring your kids here. But what a view. You can see the whole world from up there!






Around 30 or 40 deer occupy the Castro mountain. It is believed that a pair of them were brought over from Rhodes as a gift to Limnos to rid the island of snakes.


Moudros

Once the capital of Limnos, Moudros is now the second largest town on the island. The bay of Moudros is one of the largest natural harbours in the Aegean and is a picturesque place to sit at one of the two large tavernas and ponder the history of the First World War and the role Moudros played as a safe haven for injured soldiers during the Gallipoli campaign.

Our longest trip on the motor scooter this year took us to Moudros for lunch earlier this week. We love eating at Galazio Limani owned by our friend Nikolaos who is one of the loveliest and most professional restauranteurs in Limnos.




The food

I'm afraid to say Tony and I failed miserably this year to share the duties of preparing family lunches at the Limnos house. One day there'd be a boat trip, the next a motor scooter ride, and with Koula, Julia and my dad fighting over who could dominate the kitchen, Tony and I have now found ourselves on our last day in Limnos with only two of the luncheon feasts prepared by us.

That's not to say that we haven't enjoyed many family gatherings at the table with some of my dad's speciality dishes like spanakopita, horta and of course his famous hummus, Julia's fabulous salads and her take on fasolakia loaded with large chunks of garlic, Koula's endless array of Greek stews, bakes, pastries and cakes, and even George has contributed his own condiment concoction made up of fresh tomatoes and feta mashed together with some lemon juice and olive oil.











There are around 30 tavernas here in Limnos and we've tried them all. The menus are intensely abundant with vegetarian options in the appetiser section. I have no trouble at all putting together a wonderful feast for myself, usually made up of Horiatiki Salata (Greek salad) with obligatory crusty bread to soak up the salad juices, Horta (steamed greens), a glass of Mythos beer and the most beautifully crisp but light Kolokithakia Tiganites (fried zucchini slices).


The beach

The beach closest to the house here in Limnos is called Riha Nera, which is Greek for "shallow waters". I will tell you this is the best beach on the island and not just because it's a 3-minute walk from the house. The water is so clean and warm and the sunsets are out of this world.



The Agora (main shopping strip)

Strolling down the winding cobble-stoned car-free road they call the Agora, is one of the most pleasurable ways to spend a morning in Myrina. Lined with boutique shops, cafes, souvenir shops and convenience stores, the Agora is the place to be, not only for daily shopping needs, but for people-watching, relaxing with a frappe and bougatsa (custard or cheese-filled filo pastries) or just taking in some more of that magic dust.








The Limnian nightlife

After the close-down of afternoon siesta, the shops re-open for the evening trade and the Agora once again comes to life, buzzing with activity.


Parallel to the Agora is the taverna-lined stretch of beach called Romaikos Yiallos where beach bars open up and deliver surprisingly pleasant music to the streets of Myrina. Slowly the streets start to fill with families, young couples and old people, both locals and tourists.

As the sun goes down on the Aegean horizon beside the distant Mount Athos from mainland Greece, the tourists are dispersed and the Greeks and their extended families come out in droves to bring joy and a whole lot of wonderfulness to the island atmosphere.

The tavernas and beach bars are humming with live music, Greek chatter and laughter, filled with patrons ranging from parents with babies in prams to old couples in their 80s and even 90s. After dinner the frappes and ouzo continue to flow all night – the only intoxication coming from the magic dust that Limnos is sprinkling down on us through the warm night air.


So for now we farewell Limnos – until next year – and tomorrow we are off to spectacular Santorini. Hopefully with all this blogging I won't blow up the wi-fi at the place where we will be staying!

20 comments:

  1. Just gorgeous Lisa! Looks like you've had the most wonderful time, and I think that magic dust works through computer screens because I reckon I could live there too!

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    1. Thanks Liz! We are in spectacular Santorini now and while this place is out of this world, Limnos will always have a special place in our hearts :)

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  2. Oh wow, I can see why you're not excited about leaving! What a beautiful place, though that mountain climb with no barriers would freak me out. I hate going on the Great Ocean Road here as it is. Have a safe trip home, at least things have defrosted here a little :D

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    1. We still have another ten days or so before we return to Melbourne, and knowing Melbourne's weather, I'm sure there'll be a resurgence of winter just as we arrive home. We miss Limnos but being in Santorini isn't a bad distraction I have to say :) Oh and today we found out that Limnos' Castro mountain climb was a mere molehill compared to the volcano climb here in Santorini!!

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  3. How absolutely beautiful it is! I hope you enjoy Santorini as much, but I think it would take an awful lot to beat Limnos. Enjoy the rest of your trip. Love. Sandie

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    1. Thanks Sandie, we always love Limnos but our stay was too short this year. We only just began to relax in the last week. Thankfully we have a few days here in Santorini to unwind - we have vowed not to do any work while we are here!!

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  4. these photos made me tear up. they are so gorgeous! i am extremely jealous of you, in the most loving way possible ;) in greece, dayv and i always joked that it was the only place where stray dogs can just freely wander in and out of restaurants ;)

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    1. Oh Caitlin, I'm so glad you're enjoying the blog. Yes, the dogs, and of course the cats, are such an integral part of the Greek landscape :)

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  5. Those cats are gorgeous! They have such a unique face. What type are they? They don't look like the "regular" cats you'd see here in the US. Quite stunning!

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    1. Hi Maria, I'm so glad you asked about the cats! I was just talking to Tony about this and how most of the cats here look like they've come from a particular line. I'm sure it's Abyssinian. I have a Somali cat (long-haired Abyssinian) at home and the markings are very similar.

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  6. Hello Lisa,
    I am enjoying your blog so much! Your photos are absolutely SPECTACULAR!!! I adore Greece and after reading about your visit to Limnos, I have no doubt I must visit this island. I am very much looking forward to your photos of Santorini. My husband and I were there for a week at exactly this time last year and I took an embarrassing number of photos -- every one precious to me. Bravissimo job on your blog!

    Melinda Brovelli

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    1. Thanks so much Melinda. Greece is truly an amazing place and it's wonderful to hear from people who have been touched by the magic of this country. Limnos is gorgeous but Santorini really takes the cake as far as spectacular scenery goes :) Don't worry, I'm sure I'm up there with you for embarrassing numbers of photos!!!

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  7. Stunning Lisa! I've never ventured to Limnos but after seeing your beautiful pics, I want to pack my bag and go! Enjoy Santorini...O look forward to reading about your adventures there soon. Cheers!

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    1. Thanks Peter :) Now that we're in Santorini, it's even more apparent how untouched Limnos is by tourism. There are tourists, but it's still such a traditional, homely island - every taverna still serves up totally Greek food. Here in Santorini, of the thousands of places to eat, we've been lucky to find two or three traditional tavernas. And there are hardly any Greek people here!! Of course, the views in Santorini are out of this world - it's an amazingly beautiful island - but for a truly Greek experience, Limnos is the place :)

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  8. Lisa, those greek cats are so photogenic! they love the camera - amazing. Happy Happy Birthday, Really enjoying all your stories.Love Mum.

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    1. THanks mum. We've been having an amazing time and the camera has definitely been getting a workout! The internet has been really bad since we left Limnos so I'm not going to be able to post another big entry until we get back to Melbourne. We're in Athens now - two more days here, then two days in Singapore..

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  9. WOW! So many beautiful photos. And of course (predictably!), my favorites are the ones of the cats. ;) I can't imagine seeing so many cats roaming around a city like that!

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    1. Thanks Kiersten! The cats of Greece are just beautiful. With their skinny, fragile frames and wild-cat markings, they're like no other cats I've ever seen.

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  10. So good to see your posts again, Lisa! Hope you've made a considerable dent in that work pile. :-)

    I still owe you photos- I've been meaning to send them for ages now; this weekend, I promise!

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    1. Yes, the work pile is finally getting smaller and getting back into the swing of blogging. I have photos for you too! And will be writing about our visit to Singapore in the next few weeks..

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