Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Galazio Limani Taverna, 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.

The tavernas of Moudros are also known as a safe haven for many families of cats. On this day we chose to eat at Galazio Limani Taverna, simply because there were more cats there that afternoon.

The traditional use of bright blue paint on Greek islands is said to keep the bad spirits away, and if there is one place in Limnos that would have to be free from the nasties of all things evil, it is Galazio Limani.

The owner, Nikolaos Karamalis, is one of the friendliest and most professional restauranteurs in Limnos. His personalised service and welcoming demeanour is second to none. On quieter days he will even sit and have a chat with you and encourage you to feed your scraps to the cats. No wonder these feline residents love it here.

Obligatory bread always kicks off a Greek meal, closely followed (or preceded by) a couple of cold beers, and the fresh, home-made bread of Galazio Limani was one of the better ones we'd munched on in Limnos.

It was evident my stomach could do with a rest after a fairly steady routine of stuffing it with cheese croquettes and deep fried vegetables as my eyes were instantly drawn to the bowl of bright green string beans I'd spotted at the table next to us.

Tony wasn't quite ready to take a break from his hard-core, stomach-loading exercises and decided to order the Limnian cheese saganaki, Greek salad, smoked mackerel and lamb stew ... with chips.

The saganaki came in three different shapes and sizes which is a little unconventional given the traditional triangle wedge that usually arrives. Obviously this was too much for Tony to tackle on his own so I thought the least I could do was relieve him of his cheese-eating duties and take the small round one. I also helped him out with the salad.

Everything was fresh and delicious, but the stand-out for me was the string beans. I ate that whole bowl (the beans, not the bowl). They were the best green beans I'd ever tasted and despite the word "string" being in their name, there was not a string to be found. They were crunchy yet melt-in-the-mouth tender, lightly oiled and salted but green as Scottish grass I tell you. I don't know how else to describe them. I just could not get enough of them.

And there were no bathroom incidents the next day.

It was an extremely hot day but Galazio Limani is completely shaded by a large canopy surrounded by leafy trees and cooled slightly by welcome breezes from the bay. This is the perfect place to retreat from the mid-afternoon sun and enjoy fresh Limnian cuisine. And if you're lucky, you might be entertained by the antics of some gorgeous little kittens like we were. Click here to read about the rest of our day in Moudros and see the video of the kittens at play.

Galazio Limani doesn't have a website but can be found at:
Moudros Harbour, Limnos
Phone: +30 225 407 1041
Rating: 8.5/10

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Boat trips around Limnos

Two very prominent figures in the Limnian community are boat trip operators Litsa and her husband George – well known not just for the business that they run, but for their flamboyant personalities and genuine hospitality. For 17 years these two have been taking tourists around the island on their traditional wooden Greek fishing boat "Anemos", and every time we are in Limnos we join them on at least three boat trips. This year it was four.

Known as a "kaiki" (pronounced "ky-i-ki") the art of creating these beautiful boats comes from the heart. They are built from pinewood, the frame constructed from curved carvel planking and finished with decking known as "katastroma". A prominent bow post makes the kaiki stand out from the rest of the Mediterranean working boats. Sometimes the wooden steering arm of the kaiki is carved in the face of an animal. Each kaiki is unique and built from memory, without any plans, simply relying on the boat builder's passion for the sea.

George and Litsa have four trips on offer: West coast cruise, South coast cruise, Sunset cruise and a day trip to the small neighbouring island, Agios Efstratios. We have done them all and we both agree the West coast cruise is the most picturesque and best value-for-money trip they offer. For 35 euros you are taken on a full-day trip along the west coast of the island. It includes a two-hour stop at a secluded beach that's only accessible by boat, an impressive buffet lunch, all the wine you can drink and lots of entertainment from Litsa and George.

George is loud, but Litsa is louder. Together they provide hilarious entertainment for the passengers on board. Litsa screams at George in Greek, telling him how to steer the boat, her voice echoing off all the cliff faces around us, and he would just roll his eyes and give us a look that we all know means "See this crazy woman I have to deal with??" Crazy as she is, Litsa keeps everyone very well entertained and informed – her knowledge of the island, its history and geography, is encyclopaedic.

Below: Tony with Litsa

Some of the most spectacular sites on these boat trips are the vertical cliffs where wild mountain goats cling to 180-degree cliff faces. I'm always fascinated by their skill and bravery to explore these treacherous parts of the island, and try not to think about them not being able to find their way back to higher ground. In her thick Greek accent, Litsa reassures us she sees the goats climbing up and down the cliff faces all the time, "These goats are acrobats!"

If you look closely in the picture below, right in the centre of the photo you will see a lone black goat. How did he get there? But more importantly, how will he get out of there!!

During the stop at the secluded beach George will sometimes go diving for sea urchins, and if you're lucky you might be treated to eating one of these slimy orange blobs, torn straight out of its gnarly body by the rather sadistic George. One time Tony was happy to indulge in this peculiar delicacy, being rather adventurous when it comes to eating strange foods. After swallowing what he described as a slippery bag of salt, he resolved there was no need to try one of those again.

Click here to see a video of our various boat trips, including Tony's wonderful sea urchin eating experience.

The trip to Agios Efstratios is more or less a commuting trip for the residents of the small island to come to Limnos for their weekly shopping needs. Agios Efstratios has only 300 inhabitants. It's a pleasant boat trip if you love the open sea, travelling around three hours each way. The island itself has a couple of tavernas in the port where you can enjoy a leisurely lunch for a few hours before the boat goes back to Limnos.

If you take the south coast tour, you visit the beautiful Thanos beach where the water is shallow and flat and there's music at the beach bars and lots of activity at the peak of the summer season.

The sunset cruise takes you half-way up the west coast, leaving Myrina port a couple of hours before sunset. The sunset viewing location is spectacular – on the horizon is Mount Athos on the Greek mainland and the second-highest mountain in Greece, and behind you is a vast expanse of mineral-rich cliff faces emitting a brilliant golden glow. What a beautiful way to end another wonderful day in Limnos.

Litza and George's boat trips come with the highest recommendations from Tony and I. They run boat trips almost every day of the week during the summer months. Call George on his mobile next time you're in Limnos to book one of these must-do boat trips.

Anemos boat trips, Limnos
Call George: 6945 132 163