Samos is a semi-tropical island lying just five miles off the Turkish coast and, as you read in the last "Ephesus blog", a good place to jump off for ancient site touring. But the island itself deserves exploration as it has numerous off-the beaten-track fishing villages, beaches and quiet spots in cool (OK, cooler) forested inland mountain villages.
After finding Nico's wonderful bike shop in Pythagoria town, we opted to hire two of his full size 27 gear, Karhkoff German bikes (instead of using our 3 gear folding "monkey bikes") to discover some of the south coast villages and, not yet done with ruins, (can you believe it?) to stop to see Hera's Temple.
We followed a coastal path but detoured to see working vineyards, orange groves and fields of green agriculture. At a welcoming roadside stand, a farmer had us tasting his freshly sqeezed orange juice and some of the island's sweet local wine, delicious, but not for daytime sipping.
Beyond its fame for wine, Samos is also significant as the legendary birthplace of Hera (Mother Goddess) and the sprawling ruins of her ancient sanctuary, the Ireon, where archaeological excavations continue, are impressive. Craig's pictured here to give you some height reference (original columns were 20+ meters) and the German and Austrian guys next to him (and the same column) a historical perspective (their excavations were some of the first in 1925).
This sacred site dates back to the early Bronze Age, (3rd millennium A.D.). The cult of Samian Hera preserved the settlement, building and reconstructing many different temples and altars over the centuries. The photo at the bottom left shows the remains of an early Christian Basilica, first built in 5th-6th c. A.D. and later replaced with a larger structure in the 16th century. The headless statues are called "Kouroi" and were figures who adorned and kept watch over the sacred way leading from Pythagorios to the central Ireon (or Heriaon).
We wrapped up our time on Samos in the town of Pythagorias by joining in the annual celebration of the defeat of the invading Ottoman's on the 6th of August, 1824. The whole town was decorated with the flags and banners proclaiming this past glory. We anchored under the "Kastel of Likourgos Logothetis" - you can see Sangaris and Deep Blue at anchor below.
The celebration culminated with a full blown procession from the local church of the Metamorfosis Sotiros to the waterfront. At the harbor the local boats paraded around a mock Turkish "ship" which was soon "attacked" and "burned". The victorious Greek "fleet" returned to their slips after which an amazingly huge fireworks display commenced and the Greeks lived up their reputation for knowing how to have a great party. Opa!