Thursday, September 12, 2013

Blogging with free wi-fi while on holiday in Greece –
not recommended for the faint-hearted!

Blogging is never easy when you've got sunshine, stunning views and an obscene amount of photo opportunities waiting outside for you. But it's made virtually impossible when the free wi-fi melts down every time more than one person tries to use it. So the chances of me getting another massive post up here on the blog before we come home are looking pretty slim. Even trying to get this little post up has been causing me grief!

We are having an absolutely brilliant time though. Spending four days (including my birthday!) in Santorini was wonderfully blissful. We are now back in Athens, shopping, sightseeing and this afternoon off on a bus trip to Cape Sounio. Two more days here and then off to Singapore for two days where we will be meeting with one of my blog readers!

If I don't get a chance to log in again before we get home, rest assured (or brace yourself!) – there will be a massive onslaught of a post on this blog in just over a week's time.

Until then, I will leave you with a picture of us in Santorini that totally looks like we have been superimposed onto the background which makes this whole holiday feel like even more of a dream . . .

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.


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!