Traveller’s Tales 2.
Airports are strange places, filled with a mixture of panic and listlessness. The sociologist and travel writer Pico Iyer sums up this kind of weird anxiety by noting that when people come to airports they enter a dream state. He also comments that everyone is on alert to some extent when they go to an air-port, and ‘It is that sense of free-floating apprehension that all the life-insurance companies (and their spiritual equivalents) hope to turn to profit.’ I, though always anxious, try to accept this different state of being. So on entering a plane I try to ignore the discomforts, and I place around me my little necessities – reading matter, glasses, a bag of small comforts. Then, before I know it, the ground recedes and we are on our way.
It is only now and then, when the plane begins to tremble, and ‘Fasten your seat belts’ comes over the speakers, that the interesting possibility comes to me that it all could end with a crash, possibly into the deserts of Central Australia 5 hours from home, or the Iranian mountains something like 20 hours from home. And, despite all my planning, and those ‘small comforts’, nothing changes the fact it is a very long flight from Melbourne to Athens.
When you’re leaving a country you find airport procedures are very similar, but differences abound when you arrive. Entering Australia I usually mutter to Takis, ‘Welcome to fortress Australia!’ There, officiousness prevails, with huge notices instructing you about everything you can or cannot bring into the country (including the feathers in your hat). There are guards watching you at every turn of the corridor, and stern-faced officials and dogs that make searches of your bags.
It’s different in Greece. One time, for instance, we found the customs booths completely unmanned. There was not an official in sight. We stood bewildered with the other passengers, until one businessman knocked on a nearby office door, behind which eight customs officials were drinking coffee. In dismay they jumped up and rushed to their desks, just in time to avoid the disaster of hundreds of foreigners marching straight into their country.
Our main stopover on the way to Athens is usually Singapore. Often it only involves the hour spent in the airport while the plane is cleaned and newcomers join us, but some years we have stopped over for a couple of nights. What I especially love about this city are the gardens, along the roadsides, and in two botanical sites. When there we will usually take the tour bus and get off at the old botanic gardens. Here I make a beeline for the orchid section - an acre or two of orchids of every kind.
Recently we have also visited the huge new botanic garden, ‘Gardens by the Bay’. Here, in its grounds and in two huge green houses (plane hanger size), are displays of plants from around the world.
If you can think of a place that’s the complete opposite of Athens, it’s Singapore, and we’d always appreciated this contrast. Singapore is ordered, clean, and full of tall trees and exotic orchids. Athens is a city where there are few trees, a lingering smell of cigarettes, and pavements are covered with splodges of gum. Whereas in Singapore people keep the road rules, and the no littering rules are strictly applied, in Athens nobody toes the line or is expected to.
In Greece the traffic is disorganized and Greek signs are often hard to read – even though they’re in at least two scripts, Greek or Latin, with English also often thrown into the mix. However, there are positive aspects of arriving in Athens – in Singapore the slim well-dressed Singaporeans make me feel huge and unkempt, whereas in Athens I suddenly feel slim and neat again!
Bouganvillia on an Athenian House
Arriving in Athens we either stay out at the airport and fly on to the island as soon as possible, or we’ll spend a day or two catching up with Takis relatives in the city. If we take the later course we’ll also do some sightseeing, perhaps go to the beautiful new museum on the Acropolis, or to a taverna in one of the city squares.
Isle of Wight and Somerset
There have been a few years I have taken a break from the Lemian summer heat and gone to visit relatives in England. On a couple of times I’ve managed to time my visit to go to old school and college reunions, and once to my aunt’s sixtieth wedding anniversary. But I have to admit that over the years of rebuilding the house the attraction has mostly been to have a few days respite from heat, dust, mice and mosquitoes. I find that immediately I’m in the cool air of England I relax, and my hives clear up. I also take the opportunity to shop for things we need. One year, for instance, I came back with some English mousetraps known as ‘Little Nippers’.
There are daily flights connecting the island of Lemnos from Athens, Thessaloniki and Mytilene.
These reach Limnos from the ports of Pireus, Thessaloniki, Lavrio, Kymi, Kavala, Moudania. Plus the islands, where the ferry boat stops, e.g. Samothraki, Mytilini (Lesvos), Agios Efstratios, etc..
If you have your own car you can bring it on the ferry. The roads on Limnos are fairly good, and on the whole the drivers are not too crazy or dangerous. But if you want to go to special places or to the beach with the car you need to be prepared to drive a few kilometers on dirt roads.
There are taxis in Myrina either waiting at the port when a ship comes in, or else at their own platia in the upper part of the Agora. Taxis (but no busses) are also waiting at the airport when a flight comes in.
Visitors - coming and going
Every year, for the past ten years of this renovation project, we have entertained at least ten visitors a year, so we’ve become very used to giving out travel information. This will change from year to year, and from winter to summer, so we generally need to check and let them know the latest time schedules.
It may seem paradoxical, seeing that we first thought of turning the house into a hotel, but we have gradually begun to feel conflicted about having so many guests. We are very happy to provide a summer holiday hostel for our extended family, but at the same time we have found ourselves working and entertaining as though it was a hotel, without the benefits of an added income! However, we do enjoy having visitors, and we love cooking up wonderful meals. Why else would we have renovated so many bedrooms and put in a good sized family kitchen? And, why would we still be planning to put in another bathroom? Yet…?
Of course this dilemma is partly our fault, for inviting so many folks to come and visit us! The house is now very comfortable and the sea close by thus many family and friends see it as the perfect holiday destination. Consequently we often find we have seven or eight sitting down for the main meal – for months on end!