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Chilling Out with the Great Gods on Samothrace: Natterings from Northern Greece on the Looney Front, Part 7

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Besides roaming over the extensive ruins of the millennia-old Sanctuary of the Great Gods, as described in the preceding blog, Samothrace off-season (late April) is a fine place to hang out for a bit of peace and quiet, with country walks and a pretty little waterfront offering several pleasant cafés and ouzeris to pass the time.

The 4 ½-mile walk back from the Sanctuary to Kamariotissa affords sweeping views of lofty Mt. Fengari, verdant hillsides and the wine-dark sea. OK, let's forget blind Homer and his unseeing maritime descriptions. Hello, Homer! It's blue you know, sometimes dark, sometimes bright, depending on the weather, but blue, and unless your wine was blue...

Walking Samothrace's byways

On this particular day, though sunny, a gale-force wind is propelling me from behind. Thank Gawd it's not from in front as it would double or treble the time needed. As it is, it's almost pushing me over and driving me this way and that.

But it's pleasant with the clangor of crashing waves along the shore and the deafening hiss of the wind rushing through the branches.

Another view

And another

Yellow, blue and purple flowers border the roadsides, and as everywhere throughout Greece a whole religion's worth of miniature churches atop pedestals memorialises motorists who didn't make it.

Roadside flowers

On this little stretch alone there are three: a little domed shrine with a cross on the flat front, a blue domed affair at one end of an S bend, and a red-roofed Byzantine miniature on a bend on a bluff where the drive took a short cut to the beach - less ornate than many that have red-tiled domes as well.

Roadside memorial


And another

In fact the island's roads seem to have at least one miniature church roadkill memorial at every bend, in one spot double twin Byzantine affairs with matching little red domes, arches, roofs and crosses nestling side by side.

Twin memorials

And if this wind gets any stronger they'll have to put up a miniature synagogue for Yours Truly when I careen off a bluff into the angry waves.

Back in Kamariotissa I'm sitting at an outdoor café on the sea front watching the sun go down and minding my own business when an ambulance draws up. They take out a wheel chair, go inside and within minutes are out again with a really old guy with a drooping white moustache and a woolen hat. He looks like a veteran from Greece's war of independence of 1821.

Kamariotissa waterfront

They lift the chair into the ambulance, leave the door open and strap an oxygen mask on him. Gawd, they've almost strangled him with the tubes. He now takes it off himself, steps down from the ambulance and walks right past me. I take back that 1821 bit. He's a veteran from the Battle of Marathon against Persian King Darius in 490 B.C.

Hm, I wonder whether it's just oxygen they've given him or if it's his daily fountain-of-life dose of something much more intriguing from the Sanctuary of the Great Gods, in keeping with the mysteries of the initiates. I think I'll ask for some myself.

Hora, the island's hilltop capital

The gale-force winds have dropped, there's not a cloud in the limpid blue sky, so with the ferry back to the mainland not leaving till late this afternoon, there's plenty of time today for a car ride round all the roads of Samothrace - for $64.45.

The orchards and fields are a brilliant emerald, the gnarled olive groves a relaxing grey-green, and herds of goats dapple the countryside with their mottled colours against a snow-streaked background of massive crags on one side, while the sun dapples Homer's wine-dark' sea with gold and silver glitter on the other.

Hilltop view with mainland in background

Another hilltop view

Twisty-laned little villages clamber up the hillsides. Hora, the island capital, is particularly enchanting with its tiers of red-tiled roofs in its mountain bowl between precipitous rock faces. The round turret and ruins of a Byzantine-cum-Genoese castle top its cliff.

Another Hora view

Hora castle ruins

After passing the thermal springs of Loutra on the north coast, the road ends at east-coast Cape Kipos with views across the sea to the mountains of Imbros, the island that in Greek mythology was sacred to Hephaestus, by appointment divine arms manufacturer to the gods of Olympus.

It has always been massively Greek but was granted to Turkey under the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923 after the end of the Graeco-Turkish war.

Groves of trees tumble down the mountain folds to the sparkling sea, splashing the grey rocks with a fresh green sheen, as scores of goats meander and browse, bleating amid the clinking of their bells. Bucolic bliss.

By Cape Kipos

Another view

On the west side the road ends at Pahia Ammos, a sandy cove between saw-toothed bluffs, again with views across to Imbros. Saw teeth seem to be most definitely in fashion here. A whole range of sharply indented incisors top the grey mountain background above a carpet of bright-yellow flowering bushes and fresh-green bushy trees. Browsing goats wend their way in between.

Bucolic bliss once more.

Pahia Ammos beach with Imbros on the horizon

Behind the beach

Another view

And if you think you'll get any idea that Greece is in economic crisis as you travel around the country, fuggedaboutit, as they say in New York. The wall-to-wall cafes and ouzeris are well frequented everywhere with carefree gents knocking back strong coffee and even stronger ouzo and young students shooting the breeze.

cafe time

By the same author: Bussing The Amazon: On The Road With The Accidental Journalist, available with free excerpts on Kindle and in print version on Amazon.

Swimming With Fidel: The Toils Of An Accidental Journalist, available on Kindle, with free excerpts here, and in print version on Amazon in the U.S here.