We are flying towards Athens. This is all I know so far. This trip is a surprise and all will be revealed on the way. Elise organized everything with extra care to keep me uniformed.
We arrive at Athens’s harbor, Pireas, instead that in the city center. The hotel we will stay the first night, that Elise booked, has bad reviews on Google Maps. Moreover we are on the commercial harbor. So I make the link between this and what Elise told me about waking up very early the morning after. That it is, tomorrow we will board a ferry, but for where? In the meantime I meet the smiling Antia, Elise’s Spanish friend from Galicia that is already waiting for us. She arrived a few days ago to enjoy Athens and most important to find the best Gyros place. So first thing we go eat a Pita Gyros with an iced Alfa beer. Then off to sleep. Tomorrow wake up at 6 a.m.
We are heading to the harbor with a Frappé (cold shacked coffee typical from Greece). Boarding is at 7 a.m. on a massive Hellenic Seaways ferry. The two friends won’t tell me where we are going. Reading the ferry destinations, amongst a long list of Greek cities, I see Karlovasi. That reminds me of something. So when I ask the two girls they laugh. So I google it and I found it to be on a Greek island called Samos just next to Turkey. This is the island that I’ve heard so much in Elise stories about the place where Elise and Antia spent 10 months as European volunteers back in 2013. (back then I was doing my Erasmus Exchange in Denmark). So it is clear (now) where we are going, to Samos, to meet old memories. So I ask them, they deny, but their body language confirms that I am right. The ferry brings us in the Aegean Sea and semi-desert islands like Syros, Mykonos, Ikaria (the island with the highest life expectancy in the world) and finally Samos. During the ferry trip several times they tell me to hurry up and take my luggage that we are ready to get off. They also take their luggage as if we are finally arrived, but when they convince me every time, then they start laughing. They were just kidding. So after 10 hours of journey we arrive in Karlovasi in Samos. I almost get of the ferry on my own. Because this is not our stop I learn. But then where are we going? Was I wrong when I so certainly thought we were stopping in Samos? Isn’t this almost the ferry last stop? Seeing me lost, they reassure me, the last stop is Vathy, the island main city and next stop! (this is the only island with two stops..) Then I also discover someone else is waiting for us already on the island. Olga, the Greek philosophical friend, that also spent 10 months with the two girls at Archipelagos (the place where Elise and Antia where volunteering). She has a house in Mytilinii, a smaller village in the island hills. The sea is blue and transparent. Blue like Greece flags that wave with their white cross and stripes on the coast. Compared to the other islands, Samos is greener and with a rich vegetation that covers mountains and hills. The sun is still strong and shines high in the sky.
It is 5 p.m. and I want to go to have a nice swim in this wonderful clear water and start exploring. It has been 30 hours that we left Paris. I have read, wrote, and worked for the YouTube channel with Elise. We finally arrive and we wait for Olga at the harbor. She is late, like a typical Greek (“Siga, Siga..” they say there) but soon she drives us to get a nice Frappé and cold espresso and then to a nice bay behind a white church. We have a great swim there in perfect water and with the view on Turkey. This is the very place where the girls used to go years ago after their working day was over. I also learn that the plan is to stay over at Olga’s place for the next few days. Little by little the plan is revealed to me. Also because there is no real plan.
Like this I will be able to participate more to the trip organization and be more aware about what we will do the day after. I confess the feeling of not knowing what to do was not bad. Elise was knowing it for me. I just had to follow her.
After we go to Archipelagos to meet some of the new volunteers and see these places where the girls lived long time ago. I can see they are touched and would like to stay more but it is dinner time. We go to the village best tavern to eat the most typical Greek dishes. Cheese in the hoven, Greek salad, tsaziki with pita bread, moussaka, goat in oven, grilled vegetables and Greek beers: Alfa, Mythos and Fix. All is delicious and for just 10€ each. I like Greece already! We end our first day in Pytagorio, small village on the sea, hometown of the famous Greek philosopher Pythagoras. To him is dedicated a statue representing his famous triangle theorem. I fell that passion for science that animated my years at university coming back. The nice bars on the harbor are colored with soft glowing lights with tables under olive trees. We also meet the salsa party organizer for the island in his jewelry and I discover he lived in Italy in Florence for 3 years during is goldsmith studies. He speaks still a good Italian and loves Italy. She shows us his videos of Samos from his HD drone (You can find them in his Youtube channel mkard).
We wake up at 10am (it is nice being on holiday) and we take a fresh shower in the terrace, drying under a warm sun and a wind from Turkey that brings a good smell of summer. We head to a nice bay on the north side of the island called Navagos Beach. There the sun beds and umbrellas are offered if you take a coffee or a Frappe at the bar. So the first things that the girls do is to order a nice Frappe and espresso freddo.
I opt for a swim. The bay is protected by the wind and has a crystal clear blue water and its sand reminds me of Sicily. So I start doing snorkeling and taking great videos of the sea wildlife and waves with my GoPro. On the beach there is a relaxing Lounge music in the background, perfect for enjoying a cold Frappe and chatting. Elise, Antia and Olga reveal me the plan for the afternoon and maybe the next days. We start going to Manolates, a small village on the north hills of the island. We soon meet a local artisan doing ceramic in his art shop.
He also loves Italy and speaks a good Italian. We walk through the small village roads, they are all uphill and we find figs plant from which eat sweet fruits. In the small village squares and roads the elders are already eating their dinner under the shadow of some tree. They are having cheese and they talk waiting for the evening to come. And the evening is close so we head to a hill from which we will be able to see the moonrise behind some Turkish hills on the other side of the Mycale channel that divides Samos from Turkey. Today is the full moon, and it is rising ochre yellow big in his round shape. The moon is now rising fast, the wind is slowly ceasing and the evening quite is amongst us. The last breeze of wind passing through the trees canopy produces a light melody that for me sounds like an ancient Greece rhythm.
Today is the big day. We are going to climb mountain Oros Kerkis and conquer his summit. The highest mountain of the island, it is 1500m high. So we wake up too late and we start even later, at 1 pm. We start from Pythagoras cave and we head towards the path that will lead us to the top in about 4h walk. The start is difficult, the heat is scorching today between the olive trees near the sea. The uphill path brings us to a first monastery, after a first steep 2h. The monastery is white and blue, view on a even bluer sea, under the afternoon sun and gifts us of a peach tree from which we satisfy our first hunger eating plenty of peaches. The path continues in a maritime pine forest then a more exposed rocky area, where it is harder to climb and easier to slip. We then arrive at another monastery, this time a shelter for the climbers of Oros Kerkis. We are alone, and all along the path we didn’t meet anyone so far. We enjoy the view from 1000 m high directly on the Aegean Sea.
It is now mid-afternoon and the wind blows stronger. The last part of the path is covered with typical Mediterranean scrub full of harsh thorns that easily cuts our legs when passing if we don’t step right on the path. We also pass a big flock of goats that are quite amused by our walking by. We are too! When on the TOP, the view is breathtaking, all the islands on the archipelagos around Samos are visible. We take this opportunity to do some breathing there and enjoy our solitude at the summit.
Despite the cold strong wind, we are in peace and we feel successful. It is already 6pm and the way back will take us at least 3hours. It will be dark in two. So we head down fast, sometimes running, but at times also stopping to take some pictures. The light at sunset is amazing, and I have never seen such a beautiful coastline from so high up.
After the twilight we are in the forest and we start walking in a pitch dark. The moon is not up yet and it is only half past 8 but it looks darker. We decide not to use our phones to keep the experience real and challenge also our nerves. The noises of the forest and nocturnal animals are now lauder and closer. The light of the moon comes to our sight. We go out of the forest and the big orange moon is just coming up from behind a big hill in front of us. We are almost arrived at the end of our path when we see the lights of a car coming. It is Antia and Olga that came to pick us up. We head home and we go to sleep. We are exhausted.
Today is the perfect day for a horse riding adventure! We go to Andriani (and his friend Catarina) ranch (Panouris Ranch) in the countryside of the island. I have the horse Tornado and together we make a great team. We walk gently following the coast along small paths that go through a typical Mediterranean scrub and olives trees, up to the sea. We stop in a small beach, and it is only us there. So the first thing we do is preparing an iced Frappé and then we swim with the horses in the water. One by one we ride the horse without any saddle and that jumps in the salty water more like a dolphin than a horse. We come back trotting and galloping under the hot afternoon sun, we are happy and we would go on and on forever on these horses. We go then to a second beach where the water is calm and full of fishes that come around the curious snorkelers. In the evening we go to Vathy to eat in a typical Greek restaurant that only locals know. We have the view on the harbor from the top and even if without a small accident (Elise head will remember Antia way of closing doors) we enjoy these moments of joy between us, drinking some Ouzo and eating some good fried fish (not the same I swam with before in the afternoon I hope).
We start the day with a session of breathing and meditation in the roof of Olga’s house, not too early in the morning. The sun is good to us and we regenerate with an hour session. After a cold coffee the next adventure begins: today canyoning in Potami waterfalls. The water is fresh, but with our preparation thanks to the Wim Hof Method (see Youtube Video) we have no problems to do it and enjoy it! We go through all the rapids with the girls, climbing on rocks and on vertical wooden ladders or ropes. Just some panic when after a jump in the last pool I lose my sun glasses (yes I know I don’t need sun glasses while canyoning) and we spend 10 minutes doing apneas under water to search for them in the very turbid water. We finally find them with also another pair of Ray-Ban. It is time to go to the beach then and enjoy an afternoon beer on the warm sand. We did well and we feel like we deserve it! Coming back we buy a tasty vegetarian Pita Gyros and we decide to eat it once again on the house rooftop. There is something magical about these simple moments, eating, laughing and looking far away over Turkey. We are happy and thoughtless. Maybe this is the island life that fascinates us.
The last day in Samos between big Greek luggage of Olga and our last Frappes and swim. Olga make us a surprise and buy us a specialty similar to focaccia: one with cheese and one with cream. They are delicious.
We don’t want to leave. Usually with Elise we do intermittent fasting in the morning (see article) but not this week. We take the ferry from Karlovasi to Athens. Some dolphins swim next to us for some time before leaving the view of Samos in the horizon. Oros Kerkis is the last thing to disappear between sea and sky. I say to Elise that I will like to go back to Samos and in the Aegean Sea. I liked it and I would love to do a tour of all the islands sailing. She smiles at me (she is happy I liked her Samos) and Olga invites us to come back. The ferry arrives in Athens late at night. Olga and Antia will stay in the city and we head to take a bus to go back to the airport. I am sad to leave but also happy for what I lived this week.
Now my next adventure is at the door: I will climb Monte Viso 3800m on the Italians Alps, and my journey starts just in two days. We are back in Paris after 28 hours, one boat, two buses, two flights and one train. The mystery and magic of Ancient Greece are with us to keep us fascinated. We will be back.