Day 10 Leros
The trip between the islands was a little unnerving as we meandered our way amongst the islands and freighter traffic; I’ve never been so close to land (1 kilometer at one point) on Skyelark during a night passage except for making landfall. Dan and Em took turns staying up with us amateurs whenever we reached a waypoint that would require a change in course and checking the AIS for shipping traffic. We arrived on schedule around 9:00am, having motored almost all the way due to light winds mostly on the nose. The harbor of the former capital was greatly sought after by both sides during WW II as it is the largest deep water port in the area; Mussolini’s summer residence was located here when the island was controlled by the Italians during the early 1900’s.
The main attraction on the island is a Byzantine castle which was renovated by the Knights of St. John in the 1300’s; the castle houses a small museum and the church of the Madonna of the Castle. It is perched high atop a hill above the current capital of Platanos a quaint village nestled in the hillside. Being Sunday the buses weren’t running so Peter, Jim and I split a cab while Dan and Em rented bicycles; the intention being meeting up before going up to the castle. The taxi dropped us off at a roundabout in the heart of the village, so we sat at a small sidewalk café and ordered coffee, which came accompanied by chocolate tarts and bottles of water. Local men were sitting nearby and at another café across the street drinking coffee and talking with each other.
Jim started off for the castle while Peter and I waited a little longer for our skippers; once it became apparent that they must have changed plans I set off while Peter chose to wait at the café, his knee giving him a little trouble. Looking at the castle perched high up the hill the thought of climbing up there started to seem a little daunting; the taxi driver had mentioned there were steps and a winding road, both leading to the top so I just went at my own pace.
Oh yeah, that looks like the path; what was I thinking
Making my way up, photo courtesy of Dan
Once I got to the point where there were no more houses above me I unknowingly missed the turn off for the steps and the road seemed to be heading down hill.
I noticed a path leading up the face of the hill and looking up it didn’t seem that far so I made my way up avoiding the many thorny bushes that dotted the hillside. As I got further up the hill I could see that the path I was following was merely a goat trail; soon I was carefully inching my way along narrow ledges no wider than my foot, having to use my hands to pull myself up while wedging a foot in the cracks between the rocks to make progress.
The view from the ramparts
Finally at the top, the others were already there so we went for the tour of the church and museum, given by an American who teaches English on the island and is caretaker for the castle. He was very knowledgeable, especially about the religious background and significance of the many frescos and icons on display inside.
We spent some time walking the grounds and ramparts, taking photos of the surrounding area with harbors visible on both sides.
Inside the church
After we had seen enough Jim and I walked down the steps to where Peter was waiting, while Dan and Em headed back to the anchorage on their bicycles. I decided to visit the other harbor and look for a snack and a beer along the water. Once again there were many little cafes so I had a beer here and ouzo there just taking in the history of the old buildings nearby and spending some time chatting with an older gentleman as we drank beer and ate some anchovies. I stopped at an internet café to upload my trip reports, using my cell phone as a wifi hotspot isn’t working out as well as had been hoped for, not realizing I had the wrong jump drive with me so I was short a few photos. It didn’t help matters that the computers were in Greek but I did what I could and figured I’d take my netbook to shore later at one of the restaurants near where we were anchored.
I met up with Jim and Tina, we walked back to the original café, had some ice cream and then had the girl call us a taxi for the ride back to the anchorage. Dinner was at one of the small restaurants along the waterfront; octopus carpaccio and fish roe cream for starters, with a whole grilled squid for the main course. It was a nightcap of Greek brandy in the cockpit before turning in to bed.