Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Only in Limnos ...

On our last night in beautiful Limnos, we're reflecting on all the funny anomalies about this place, the things that made us laugh, the things that made us question, and the things that just left us feeling completely perplexed.

Only in Limnos will you find a dog inside a women's clothes shop.



Only in Limnos will you find a moped growing in the garden.



Only in Limnos will you see ducks walking around a fishing port.



Only in Limnos will you see a smashed up car in a car sales yard that's been there for at least 7 years – I witnessed this same smashed up car myself in 2004.



Only in Limnos will you see a taverna chair in the middle of nowhere (and many miles away from any taverna) on a cliff overlooking an amazing view of the Aegean Sea.



Only in Limnos will you see scarecrows dressed in traditional Greek costume.



Only in Limnos will cars park right in the middle of a road, completely blocking the road.




Only in Limnos will you find completely useless zebra crossings. Not only do Limnian drivers have no idea what a zebra crossing is, but these crossings have been inexplicably placed on streets that have no footpaths.






Only in Limnos will you see a hotted up hoon taxi – yes, it's a taxi – not only adorned with rows of blue lights and diamontes, but get this: that's marble inlay around the headlights.



Yes, marble inlay.

.


Some things don't need explaining ...







And some things just can't be explained ...





These images and many more will remain in our minds as the things that made us gasp, laugh, and just stand there dumbfounded. Every day there was a new surprise in Limnos that we will go home and continue to laugh and wonder about.

Tomorrow we will be on the plane heading back to Melbourne thinking about our time here, and when we get home I will work on putting some of the videos together so Limnos will be on our minds for some time to come. I'm hoping to be able to post the videos up here on the blog over the next few weeks, hopefully one every few days, so stay tuned!!

But for now, it's andio!

Monday, August 22, 2011

The beautiful beach of Riha Nera


It's only a three-minute walk from the family house, the beautiful Riha Nera beach of Limnos. Riha Nera, meaning "shallow waters", has a very gradual incline into the deeper sapphire waters of the Aegean sea, so the water temperature stays warm and the waves are always gentle.

Everybody comes to this beach, from little babies with floaties on their arms, to very old men and women in their bathers they've had since the 1940s. Limnians, Athenians and plenty of foreigners of all ages come here because there are no egos on this beach. It doesn't matter who you are or what you look like. The ugliest and the most beautiful people are here, but everyone is accepted. You can go topless or completely cover up, you can just sit under your umbrella and read your book, or spend the whole day in the water until the sun goes down. There's something very free and easy about this beach, and it's not just because it's only a three-minute walk from the house.

The beach is lined with rows and rows of blue and white striped umbrellas, each with its own pair of adjustable banana lounges, a wooden table with ashtray, and a white plastic chair. Mano's beach bar/cafe is only a few metres away where you can sit on bar stools under grass umbrellas with an icecream, a cold beer, or a frothy frappe (iced coffee). Waiters from the bar also provide table service to the sunbathers on the beach, bringing your frappe straight to your banana lounge while you continue to soak in the sun.

I'm not much of a swimmer, but Riha Nera doesn't let me just sit on my banana lounge and watch. The warm, crystal clear water is too hard to resist, and the high salt content makes it incredibly easy to float, so you can lie on your back with only a few centimetres of water below, without any effort at all. Small spotty fish swim around you and softly suck on your skin in search for tasty treats. You might also see a little crab or some tiny yabbies. Then after your dip you make your way back to your banana lounge, just in time for the waiter to take your order.

We have been coming to this beach almost every morning, and sometimes in the afternoons. The mornings are quiet, and the sea is often still. It's easy to secure a banana lounge at this time and it's the perfect time to swim before all the splashing kids arrive. After 2pm the beach comes alive as all the banana lounges fill with people preparing for their afternoon of swimming, wind surfing, and participating in the ever-popular beach sport, sand tennis. The music is turned up at Mano's bar and everyone looks tanned under the golden glow of the sun.

Today we had to return the moped as we'd reached the end of our hiring period. However, we felt we had to fill the void with some other form of vehicle, so we hired a paddle boat at Riha Nera. There's a strong easterly wind today, which means the sea is completely flat (looking at the horizon of the sea you are facing west), but the drift risk is high. The guy warned us not to go too far out, stressing "you won't come back", so we planned on keeping close to shore and not paddling out at all... Only problem is, if you don't paddle, the wind just takes you out to sea whether you like it or not. We'd booked the boat for one hour, and found that the pain of lactic acid coursing through our thighs from constant and severe paddling for the first 20 minutes just to keep the boat near the shore, wasn't worth another minute risking losing our legs. As the water is so shallow, we just decided to get out of the boat and drag it back to shore. It started off fun, and ended up just being "funny"...

Tomorrow is our last day here in Limnos. On Wednesday morning we take an early flight out of the island, then have to endure almost two full days of travel before we get back to Melbourne. In the meantime, I am compiling a series of weird and wonderful photos I've been taking on the island that will come under the topic "Only in Limnos", which I will post on the blog tomorrow.

But for now, here are some of the photos from the hundreds of pictures we've taken over the last few weeks at Riha Nera beach.

Beautiful, warm, shallow waters of Riha Nera.


Outside Mano's beach bar.

Where else can you have frappes delivered to you on the beach?




Tony going out for a swim.

"I'll be brown soon ..."



The ever-popular sand tennis.

Relaxing in the paddle boat ... little did we know we were drifting out to sea.

Desperately paddling to get back to shore!

Friday, August 19, 2011

The longest moped ride in history

Today I spoke to my first cousin, Botis, for the first time ever. He is George and Koula's youngest son, brother of Nicholas. Nicholas lives in the Dandenongs in Australia so we see him all the time, but Botis lives in Houston, Texas and I've never had the opportunity to meet him. George, Koula and I just concluded a Skype video call with Botis and his young son Nicholas - how surreal it is to be able to communicate through a computer from one side of the world to the other...

We are about to head off to Dad's neighbour's place for drinks, about 300 steps up the hill. They have a beautiful terrace overlooking the whole of Myrina and the sea. The sun will be setting and I'm sure we will soon be witnessing the best view in Limnos.

Today we had a relaxing day of easy walking, swimming and lazing at the beach, to try and reshape our flattened bums from the longest ride on a moped ever achieved by anyone in the universe. We rode from the far southwest point of the island to the far northeast point, a diagonal line across Limnos, reaching the little fishing village of Plaka, not to be confused with the market area of Athens (or any of the other thousands of towns across Greece bearing the same name).

We feared the worst on our way to Plaka, anticipating getting lost, running out of petrol, or the moped just completely blowing up (it has been making a variety of unidentified noises since we hired it), but were very pleased to see the sign "Welcom to Plaka" as we rolled into the quiet little narrow-laned village. Beyond Plaka is the road to the end of the island which takes you a further two kilometres through rural pastures to the Port of Plaka and a small beach. Chickens, geese and goats inhabit the whole area between Plaka and the port and are commonly seen crossing the roads in hordes.

With relief, we dismounted the bike and walked around the port to stretch our legs and take some photos. It was incredibly quiet, with just the whistle of the wind through the fishing boat masts. No one was out fishing, the fish are all gone. Piles of fishing nets lay dry and dormant in the boats, the fisherman now working on the farms.

Honey, cheese and wine are some of the industries still thriving on Limnos, and in the long grasses where the chickens roam, you will see colourful rows of farmer's bee hives.

The north east part of Limnos seemed greener than the rest of the island, perhaps because the landscape is more flat and conducive to growing crops. There are also the wetlands of Lake Aliki and the Asprolimni salt lakes in this area, visited by flocks of flamingos in October and November.

On our way back we stopped at Kotsinas for lunch. The bronze statue of Maroula, the last 'Amazon' of Lemnos, stands proudly at the fortress of Kotsinas. Maroula was the legendary successful defender of Kotsinas Castle against the Turks in the Middle Ages, bravely using a stick to kill the warriors that killed her father.

Plaka beach – the most north eastern point of the island.

Quiet port of Plaka.

Boat shed of Plaka.





Leaving Plaka.

This is not photoshopped.

Farmer's bee hives.

The inspiring statue of Maroula, Kotsinas.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Historical tales of Limnos

Recently archaeologists excavating an area south east of Limnos uncovered some significant evidence of human presence on the island that dates back to 12,000 BC. The area of Louri where residues of gatherers' activity were found is currently being excavated and is expected to produce important conclusions in the near future. We were keen to visit the area but it is not open to the public, so we decided to explore the area of Poliochni, which, before the latest discovery, was known to be the first settlement on the island, and also believed to be the oldest town and commercial port in Europe, dating back to 4,000 BC. There is also evidence that Poliochni had its own parliament, 2,000 years before the parliaments of the classical period, and stands as the oldest testimony of democratic constitution in the world.

After devastating earthquakes in 1,500 BC, the township of Poliochni was destroyed. Excavations now reveal the foundations, retaining walls and roads of the town. Amongst their finds are many artefacts such as implements, weapons, pots, vases and jewellery, as well as skeletal remains of humans and animals.

Below in the photos, I've included an artist's depiction of what the area may have looked like as a thriving town. I've taken this from a book called "Poliochni, the earliest town in Europe" by Italian archaeologists Santo Tine and Antonella Traverso. There is also a very unintentionally funny passage in this book that I have to quote here: "A group of precious objects were found together inside a vase, hidden there by their owner, who did not search for them again because he was prevented by certain events (like his death in an earthquake)."

On the way back from Poliochni, we stopped at Moudros, the second largest town of Limnos. Moudros played a major part in the battle of Gallipoli, as it served as a safe haven for wounded soldiers to recover. Then in 1918, it was the site of the signing of the Armistice of Moudros, which saw the end of hostilities between the Ottoman Empire and the Allies. There is a large cemetery in Moudros for the soldiers that died in the war, most of the graves belonging to Australians.

We had lunch at one of the seaside tavernas and watched the unproductive fishing boats bobbing up and down in the port. The fishing industry is coming to an end as it's a sad fact, there are very few fish left in the meditteranean seas...

I'm really on a roll now with blog entries, trying to write every day with only a few days left of our time here. Tomorrow I will write about today's adventures. We did a marathon ride to the little village of Plaka, which is right over the other side of Limnos, the most north-eastern point of the island.

Excavation of the ancient township of Poliochni.

Grinding bowl.


Artist's depiction of a thriving Poliochni.

Port of Moudros.