As the end of our cruising season approached, we continued south through Greece, selecting islands that we had not visited while looking for a good hiding hole to wait out the coming Meltimi winds.
First stop was in the Oinousses islands. We went to the only harbor, Mandraki, and when the anchor was down, we quickly determined that it would be a great place for northeast winds. In its heyday, Madraki was home to some of the most wealthy ship owning families in Greece. Today it is quiet and a bit run down. The harbor was surrounded by little churches on little islands. The waterfront was quaint but deserted. The construction on the breakwater was sure to drive us nuts if we had to sit there for several days of weather.
We asked a fellow cruiser for recommendations of where to eat in Mandraki and their response was the best place to eat while we were in Mandraki was onboard Berkeley East. We took their advice, had a nice meal on BE, a good nights sleep and set off the next morning to continue our search for a Meltimi hole.
Next stop was a little cove on the island of Chios, suggested by friends as a good place to hide from the wind. On paper, the cove looked good, a bit small, but protected from the northeast, which was our goal. As we entered the harbor, we saw that there were no boats there, so there was plenty of room for us, but the wind and waves were coming from the southeast, pushing Berkeley East into the harbor sideways. We quickly accessed that while it might be ok during the Meltimi, it would not work for us until the wind came up, so on we went to one more island, this time Fourni.
There were many coves to choose from on Fourni, but since the sun was dropping upon our arrival, we quickly set the hook as soon as we found water shallow enough. It seemed like the perfect spot, until a swell rolled in during the night and BE's gentle rock turned into a rock and roll. So when morning literally rolled around, we went off in search of yet another Meltimi hole. Five coves later, at our last possible choice, Vlichada, we wondered if we should stay or move on.
With the wind building and the day fading, we dropped the hook in a beautiful cove for what turned out to be five days of big wind. And as big wind goes, we were as comfortable as we could be. It was a good Meltimi hole that we had to ourselves except all the goats.
When the wind lightened on day six, we were ready to move on. We needed to check out of Greece before returning to Turkey so we headed back to our starting point Pythigoria on the island of Samos. While checking out we were reprimanded by the port authority for not properly clearing out of Lesbos. After so much time in Turkey we had forgotten that some Greek island authorities require that you check out of the island before going on to the next island. We put on our best innocent faces, claimed ignorance and apologized, vowing never to do it again and we were reluctantly allowed to check out of Greece without having to return to Lesbos to correct our mistake. After one final Greek fish dinner, we were off, to one more island.
A few more days in 2014 on one more Greek island was all we needed before taking Berkeley East into the marina for the winter. We chose Agathonisi. This time we weren't looking for a Meltimi hole protected from the northeast, as the forecast was calling for south winds that shifted to the north in the middle of the night. So we needed an anchorage that is nearly impossible to find, one that is protected from both the north and south. We tucked BE into a beautiful, tiny cove on the west side of East Bay which seemed to fit the bill with a bit of land to north, south, and even the west. After a day of snorkeling, swimming and kayaking, we spent the evening making plans to stay for a few days and explore the island. But the morning light brought new conditions, a swell from the east that was not in the forecast, and definitely not right for this anchorage. So up came the anchor and off we went in search of just one more island.
Sadly, we were out of islands that had the protection we needed close enough to our winter destination, so instead of one more island, it was one last sail to Turkey. And after two weeks of cleaning and polishing, Berkeley East was tucked into her space in the boat yard ready to rest until spring.
Dear Nigel, Tom, Chris, Linda... We appreciate your interest in "The Adventures of Berkeley East" blog, and your requests for more frequent entries have been noted. Nigel, we don't even know you, but we were overwhelmed that you expressed your concern for our wellbeing before letting us know that our lack of blogging has disrupted your life. We are alive and well, and Berkeley East is just fine, thanks for asking. The simple reason for our inconsistent blogging is that we do not blog in real time. In fact, if we are caught up on blog entries, it usually means that we are bored or sitting out bad weather. If we are not blogging, it's safe to say that we are busy having fun doing things to blog about later. That said, while we are not waiting for a Meltimi to pass right now, we are trying to finish the 2014 cruising season blog before 2014 is over. So as requested many times, by many people, here is a new update.
Lesbos: Land of ouzo and zucchini fritters
Coming back to Greece after months in Turkey was exciting. Back to the beautiful beaches, relaxing coffee cafes, the easy going island life, well sort of. We had almost forgotten about the strick Greek procedures. But as we were waived into the huge ferry dock by the port police in Mytilini, the capital of Lesbos, it all quickly came back to us. The officer was more interested in grilling us about where we were coming from and how long we would stay than he was in catching our dock lines. It was just the beginning of an hour-long quest, going from office to office to get the necessary paperwork, stamps and receipts to clear back into the European Union. And as we finally pulled Berkeley East away from the dock, the office sternly reminded us to come back before we left to get stamped out of Lesbos. Ooops.
Lesbos is the third largest of the 1,200 inhabited islands in Greece. It is less than 10 miles from Turkey, serves as the capital of the North Aegean Region of Greece (Eastern Sporades) and is the center of production of the country's national liquer, ouzo. The island has a long history of winemaking, dating back to at least the 7th century BC when it was mentioned in the works of Homer. But in the early 19th century, phylloxera (an insect desstructive to vines) haulted wine production and it wasn't revived until the late 1990's with Lesbos' unique grape variety, Chidiriotiko. In the meantime, they perfected ouzo.
A beautiful little church of the Panagia Tis Gorgonas (The Mermaid Madonna) located in the picturesque harbor town.
Most Greeks believe that the best ouzo comes from Lesbos, so we had to try some. The only thing that ouzo has in common with wine (our favorite drink) is that it is made from grapes. It is very strong, 46% alcohol, and tastes of licorice. It is typically mixed with water (no ice) and served with traditional Greek meze's like zucchini blossom fritters, calamari and grilled peppers. While we quickly abandoned the idea of learning to like ouzo, one thing we did enjoy were the zucchini blossom fritters, so we rented a car and spent the next few days exploring quaint fishing villages, monasteries, churches, castles, the island's one organic winery, and tasting zucchini fritters along the way.
In Mytilini there are several important churches including the Cathedral of Saint Athanasios
The Byzantine Monastery of the Taxiarchis - the Archangel
At the Byzantine Castle above Molyzos "Mont d olive"
40 chapels surround the monastery of Leimonos founded in 1523
We have been to a lot ancient sites in Europe. Some were meticulously renovated so it was easy to picture the history that took place there, while others were rocks and rubble that required more information and imagination to conjure up a visual image of the past. On a day trip to Bergama (Pergamum) Turkey, we saw both restored ruins and rocks, that would soon become restored ruins. And we were able to witness some the tedious processes of excavating and renovating an enormous ancient site.
Pergamum is an important ancient city that, over time, attracted artists and philosophers, housed the famous library of Pergamum, was one of the ancient world's main centers of learning, became the capital of the Roman province of Asia, and produced a famous medical center, the Asclepieum.
The Library of Pergamon was second best in the ancient Greek civilization. Legend has it that Mark Antony later gave Cleopatra all of the 200,000 volumes at Pergamum for the Library at Alexandria as a wedding present.
We walked miles down the hill, seeing the ancient city in various stages of disrepair and wondered who the people working were, volunteers? If not, who pays them?
There are more than 400 well-conserved and renovated world heritage sites in Europe. From prehistoric cave paintings, mosaics, forts and historic monuments, to medieval castles, monasteries and market towns, to entire cities created by ancient civilizations. It is difficult to imagine the resources required to turn these piles of rubble into accurate recreations of past civilizations, fascinating places to explore.
It is said that the theater is the steepest Hellenistic theater in the world, capable of holding 10,000 people.
The great temple of the Egyptian gods Isis, known today as the Red Basilica