Karpathos travelogue. Sunday 16th September 2007.
The destination is Karpathos, a Greek island between Crete and Rhodes.
On Karpathos traditions are still honoured and tourism is relatively modest. Sun, beaches, peace and the beautiful nature are key words. After 3 hours we land in splendid sunshine and a strong wind.
The bus goes by mountain roads to the main city, Pigadia. The sky is clear, and the sea is a bright blue with white laces. The stony earth is yellow and barren, but the olive trees seem to thrive and offer shadow to goats and sheep.
We are booked into hotel Seven Stars and plunge into a siesta. We were up at 02:45 and need a rest.
There are about 600 metres to Pigadia. It is Sunday and the town is quiet. Some minimarkets and souvenir shops are open, but otherwise only restaurants and cafés.
An ouzo welcomes us to Greece. The sun bites, but the strong wind makes the temperature pleasant. It is too early to eat, so we return to the hotel.
At seven we go back to town. The sunset and the blue hour is enjoyed at Kafenion Faros, Ilios' Place, with a view over the bay. Ilios serves ouzo. The man by the card table inside must be his brother, because they are as like as two drops of ouzo.
We say so long to Ilios and drop in at The Life of Angels, a family run restaurant in the pedestrian street. They have lamb made in the oven, says the sign.
By the entrance some old men are playing violin-like instruments. The music is probably local and authentic, but a bit too bleating to our liking. We prefer the lamb roasted.
For starters we have taramosalata (roe salad) and olives. The roasted lamb is very tender and is served with rice pilaf, okra, beans, string beans and potatoes. It is tasty, but there is far too much for us to eat, so Helle shares her portion with 3-4 small hungry cats.
There are cats everywhere on Karpathos. Most are small, skinny and hungry, but fortunately some are taken care of. I have collected some pictures on the page Cats.
The Following Days
The following days follow the same pattern with lazy relaxation.
We go for a morning walk into town and have Greek coffee at café To Limani by the harbour, where ferries, coasters and cruise ships moor.
Then back to relax on the terrace in front of our apartment before homemade lunch with fabulous tomatoes. The tomatoes have not been subjected to skin care and are a bit scarred, but they are taste bombs.
After lunch more relaxation and reading on the terrace with sea view, and we also find time for a siesta. In the afternoon we stroll to Ilios' Place, say "kalispera" and have an ouzo aperitif. When the sun has set and our glasses are empty we find a place to eat.
This routine is not broken until Friday, where we go on a trip to the village Olympos on Karpathos' northern and rugged part. More about this trip on the next page.
All in all a peaceful holiday with relaxation as the keyword - so relaxed that we don't even feel the earthquake the last night. Well, I guess it was just a shiver.
Below you can read more about the main city Pigadia, hotel Seven Stars and the bars and restaurants we visited. At the Facts you can read more about Karpathos.
Pigadia is Karpathos' main city, and about half of the island's almost 6000 citizens live here.
It is situated by a bay on the east coast on the island's southern part. From the harbour it climbs up the hill. The harbour is the town's heart and pulse. Along the sea front are taverns and cafés. In Denmark we have spent millions on EU-dictated port-protection and 'No Terror' signs, but that would be unthinkable here: to cut off Pigadia's port from the public would be like cutting an artery.
Almost parallel to the sea front is the pedestrian street as second row in this theatre-like town. This is where locals and tourists go for their promenade. Here you also find the highest concentration of shops. On the third row from the port is a street with shops and heavy traffic, and further uphill is the residential area.
The town isn't exactly pretty. The architecture is mixed. Some houses are built in Italian style and are quite pretty with arches and balusters, but most are modern cubes with balconies and straight lines, not showy but functional.
They seem quite busy building new houses, but many constructions are just concrete skeletons waiting to be filled. Maybe they wait for the winter.
The tempo is relaxed and even in the city centre you see olive trees in the back yards.
Hotel Seven Stars
Despite the ambitious name it is more like a three star hotel. It is situated some 600 metres from the town and 20 - 30 metres above sea level. It is nice and clean with a delightful view and a pleasant pool area.
It is described as family friendly, and that is correct in more than one sense of the word. For instance the walls carry every sound so well that kids don't need to be in the same room to play together. You can hear everything the neighbour does.
The one room apartments are nice and spacious and have a small terrace in front. Kitchen equipment is really basic. We had to cut bread and vegetables with Helle's pocket knife, and I bought a jug to make coffee. Water was heated in a pot. I am convinced that the corkscrew was left by other guests.
We paid ~ 45 € to use the air cooler for a week.
Restaurants & Bars
Kafenion Faros, Ilios' Place
If you walk the pedestrian street from the north, you pass the church with a red roof. Two stairs later (the two small ones don't count) you turn right to climb to Kafenion Faros.
20 - 30 metres up the steep stairs you find Ilios' Place. It is a small bar with a balcony. The bar is inside and there is a small room with a card table covered with a green cloth. A naked bulb hangs from the ceiling. There are 5 small tables on the balcony and a delightful view over the bay and lower Pigadia.
Ilios opens at five and welcomes you with a "kalispera" (good evening). He always wears a cap and a twinkle in the eye. One of the regulars by the card table must be his brother, because they are as like as two drops of ouzo.
A big glass of ouzo costs 1.8 € and is served with ice, a glass of water, some salted slices of cucumber and carrot and some nuts. Ilios speaks English and German, and I think he has learnt it by talking with his guests.
It is nice here. The loudspeaker plays good Greek music. Ilios sits by the corner table and sips chocolate milk - or maybe it is Baily.
When darkness falls small bats chase insects if the wind isn't too strong. It is the perfect place to enjoy an aperitif. While the sky and sea unite in black, you sense eternity and feel peace at mind.
One evening a German girl asked for the bill. "Vierzehn" (14), Ilios said. The girl looked stunned and fidgeted with her wallet. "Vier, Komma, zehn!", Ilios added.
By the way: Ilios' toilets are very nice!
To Helleniko is on a corner in the pedestrian street, not far from the harbour.
It was the best restaurant of the ones we visited, and we dined there four times. To Helleniko has a comprehensive menu. The food is Greek and good. A main course will cost you between 6.5 and 11 €, and with the house wine a couple can have an excellent meal for 20 - 30 €.
The grilled meats were excellent, and a piquant starter is the roe salad, which is very smoky and quite salty here. One portion is quite sufficient for two persons.
The waiters are efficient and speak excellent English. It is a very popular place, and if you haven't made a reservation you may have to wait for a table. The place is also popular with the locals, and that is usually a sure sign of quality.
Toilets with seats!
The Life of Angels
A family run tavern in the pedestrian street. They serve traditional and solid Greek food. If you get a table on the balcony there is a splendid view over the harbour, where the water reflects the coloured lights.
The food is well prepared and you can also have vegetarian dishes. A dinner for two with the house wine will typically cost 20 - 30 €. Locals come here too.
Toilets without seats so you need to hover above the waters.
We passed this tavern in "Ulof Palme Street" by chance. The place was closed, but goat was on yesterday's menu and the atrium looked very nice.
So we returned in the evening and were welcomed by a very friendly and smiling waiter. The atrium is a lovely place with lemon trees and a splashing fountain. The chairs are comfortable
However the food was nowhere near as good as the other places we visited. The meat was ok, but the accompaniment was dull. My cold and soggy chips went out almost untouched. The house red isn't quite as sour as acetic acid but take care of your teeth anyway.
Toilets with seats.