Nestling close to Turkey, so you feel you might swim the channel to the mainland, lies the Aegean island of Samos. If you dared that swim, though, you’d probably be swept into the wilder parts of the sea never to be seen: the undercurrents are very strong!
Valerie and I hadn’t visited Samos and chose it for our summer break. We celebrated 28 years of very happy marriage whilst there. We’d booked the holiday over a year ago, and selected the island partly for its nearness to Ephesus in Turkey, a place we’d both like to visit. As it happened, we didn’t go there: Erdogan’s recent draconian reaction to the attempted coup has made the place unstable and we’re unwilling to support this dictator in any way at all.
So, we found other ways to enjoy our stay. The island’s surprisingly green. Those familiar with Greek isles know they can be very parched in summer. Samos has many fresh springs and remains green the year round. This adds to its natural beauty and I took lots of pictures (494). The scenery tempted us to explore the local area on foot and we were fortunate that Anna, a cheerful and charming member of the hotel staff, gave us a well-drawn map showing several walks. The Nightingale Walks are well marked and maintained to allow visitors freedom to explore.
Our hotel, the Kalidon Panorama, a small, well-appointed place, sits on a steep rise on the north side of the island, overlooking the village of Kokkari; always in sight from the hotel facilities and pool area. As usual, we spent our first afternoon, following the flight from Gatwick, exploring our immediate surroundings. The hotel facilities are of a high standard and show excellent taste. Everything’s clean and well maintained and our room was comfortable and quiet, with plenty of storage space. The local holiday rep, Rebecca, gave a useful talk but we declined the usual trips as there seemed nothing new.
Our first evening led us down the steep curving access road to the main road into the village. A walk along the street running parallel to Long Beach took us into the centre and from there we explored the tavernas on the harbour. I love being by the sea, and eating with a sea view is always an additional pleasure. We settled on LaCasa, where George greeted and seated us and left us in the care of his friendly staff, Lefteris and Christos. The food was very good, and the wine pleasant. There was the usual complimentary ouzo for me and a fruit cocktail as an alternative for Valerie. We liked the place, but our habit is to explore a few tavernas before settling on one for the stay.
We tried another harbour taverna; O’Kokaris. Service was professional rather than friendly and the food okay but standard. The place lacked atmosphere and the pecan pie was tasteless and mushy. We dined at an Italian place; Piccolo Porto: stylish, but lacking atmosphere and the food and wine were overpriced. The staff were pleasant.
And we ate at La Bussola, again on the harbour. Miriam and Alexis made us welcome and the food was good, as was the wine. Prices were reasonable and the atmosphere very pleasant. At LaCasa I asked George if he could obtain a bottle of Prosecco for our celebratory meal (neither of us is impressed with overpriced and hyped champagne). Our anniversary meal was lovely and the staff very friendly. They provided a special surprise dessert, complete with sparkler. As a result, we ate there every evening until it was forced to close early in our second week due to a personal issue for the manager. We returned to La Bussola for the rest of our stay. They treated us very well and we enjoyed our meals there.
The first full day led us down the steep slope of the access road until we reached steps Rebecca had mentioned and we took these to the nearby pebble beaches of Lemonikia and Tsamadou. Both are well-provided with sunbeds and a couple of tavernas. The latter beach has a section for nude bathing, the rest being conventional. We’re not really beach lovers. I was brought up as a child on the sandy beaches of Yorkshire but I’m not fond of invasive sand. I do like to swim in the Mediterranean, but these beaches were too steeply inclined to make that comfortable, so I didn’t bother.
We returned to the hotel for our first session of sunbathing and a dip in the pool. An experience! The sunbeds are comfortable and well placed for catching the rays. The pool is deep (10 feet at the deep end) and very cold. Bracing! Nevertheless, we swam a few lengths before retreating to the sunbeds and using towels supplied by the hotel to dry ourselves before stretching out to lap up the heat of the sun. A cool breeze prevented us overheating.
Lunch was served by Dimitris, a naturally taciturn man who proved willing to advise and engage in conversation after our Greek greeting. We ate on the raised area above the pool, with a view of the village and bay and the company of a small flock of house sparrows. Greek music played softly in the background. My first Mythos of the stay went down well in the iced glass provided. Valerie’s usual diet cola came without the normally ubiquitous ice, as requested, and we enjoyed the light meal.
We met a couple in the hotel, Rosalind Plumley, the painter, and her photographer husband, Paul. They’d taken a tour of the island, arranged by Thomson’s, and were full of praise. We’ve often taken such trips but this time had decided against, as it included the inevitable visit to a monastery (Seen one, you’ve seen them all, and their restrictions on dress are irksome – but that’s for a different post!). However, Ros and Paul’s enthusiasm changed our minds and we took the round-the-island trip after all.
It included a visit to the Temple of Hera, the monastery, a local pottery, Ydria, where the ancient craft of Baku is still employed, a stop at the taverna in the tiny village of Pirgos, where we sampled local Greek food and drink, and a brief visit to a local honey and herb shop.
It was a pleasant trip, though we’d have preferred more time at the fascinating Hera Temple and none at the monastery. But we felt we’d seen some of the island (I no longer drive when abroad). On the way back to the hotel, Christos, our friendly driver, suddenly stopped the coach on a steep bend. Irene, our wonderfully informative guide for the day, left the coach with him and they ventured into the middle of the road and coaxed a chameleon off the tarmac into the roadside vegetation. Irene explained that these creatures are often unseen due to their camouflage, and they’re a protected species. The pair received a round of applause on their return for their act of kindness.
We walked into Kokkari every evening to eat and a couple of times during the day to see the harbour and village in the sunlight. Every day during our time on the island we took a walk somewhere, often following routes shown on the excellent Nightingale Walks map. These took us along farm roads and special hiking trails, all well way-marked. And we found some beautiful scenery and saw some of the varied wildlife. There are small lizards, some clownish birds from the crow family and local type of jay, many butterflies, crickets, a few songbirds, and praying mantis. We were rarely bothered by flies, mosquitoes or wasps.
Our afternoons were spent by the pool. I read 10 books during the stay, 8 on my Kindle. (All reviewed here on the blog) And the only other digital thing I did was to text our daughter, Kate, to let her know we’d arrived safely. It was wonderful to be free of the constant online presence we all suffer. (More of that in another post).
I hope this has been entertaining and informative to those who haven’t visited either Samos or any of the many Greek isles. We love the islands and their friendly people and excellent food and hope to return soon.
If you’d like to see more pictures of the place, please visit my Facebook page by clicking this link.
And, for those thinking of a visit, you’ll find reviews of various places on the island under my name on TripAdvisor.