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The Mermaid of Poros, Greece

Poros 2006, A week in June in Greece

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Day Five : Sunday June 4th 2006 -
Et in Arcadia Ego

(I, Death, am even in Arcadia)

  • The Saddest Road in Poros.
  • The Sailor Taverna.
  • Poros Upper Town and the Clock Tower.
  • 'The Shop' and Jenny's Blouse.
  • A Ferry to Hydra.
  • Zefi's Moussaka.
  • Taverna Apagio

View of Poros from the Kanali seafront
View of Poros from the Kanali seafront

The Saddest Road in Poros :

Began the day with another dose of honey, Greek yogurt and muesli, then went for a walk around Kferia, the island on which Poros Town stands. Jenny had made the round trip on Saturday when I was too spent to leave the hotel. There is a lovely road round around the eastern side of the island - a sort of Corniche road overlooking the sea, with the most beautiful views and flowering bushes. I was amused to see washing drying on the balconies of the Academy accommodation block, but was a good boy and did not take any pictures. Unfortunately, as Jenny had warned me, the road had its darker side. Young men cannot race through the town, so tended to put their foot down once onto this beautiful and deceptive road. The result was the saddest collection of roadside shrines on the island, a record of the deaths of far too many good young men. The most remarkable of these shrines was in black granite and almost two metres high with an engraving of the dead lad on the front of it. The lamps and flowers at the shrines made it all too clear how many grieving mothers still tended these shrines. Yet this road is also one of the most beautiful places on Sferia, with views across from the cliffs towards Bourtzi island, Monastery Bay and Argolis.

From the end of the road we descended into the south eastern end of Poros town, a still flourishing fishing village overlooked by half-completed houses and a gradual eastward spread of Tavernas. It was a refreshing change to see honest fishing boats, nets and floats, the real Greece behind the tourist hype. There was the front of a (locked) church and nearby we stopped for lemonade (me) and Pepsi (Jenny) and ice at the Sailor Taverna, an interesting place that looked as if its food was worth investigating.

Poros fishing port
Poros fishing port
The church on the seafront
The church on the seafront
Sign of the Sailor Taverna
Sign of the Sailor Taverna

A little further on was the Kafe Ouzeoi, with its sign of two mermaids (of course) and a tiny picture of the Battleship Georgios Averof, bought for the Greek Navy in 1908, decommissioned in 1952 and moored at Poros from then until 1983. In 1984 the old ship was restored as a museum and towed to Faliron Bay (Port Faliro) near Piraeus, Athens. She has much the same status in Greece as does HMS Victory in Britain, having been the major weapon in defeating the Turkish Navy and holding the Aegean for Greece before the First World War. The museum site for her is http://www.bsaveroff.com/.

We continued to walk on, past the museum, then up some steps (blue and white painted) into the older upper town. The alleyways were like a steeper version of Venice, a reminder of the Serene Republic's influence. Naturally (being human and male) I managed to get us lost whilst heading up towards the Clock Tower, forgetting that the upper town sits on two hills, climbing the wrong one towards the Mill. Back down again and across the 'saddle' between the hills towards and round the church of Saint Constantine, then up to a tiny square and a beautiful local chapel. The chapel was a gem, apparently furnished by the locals with their own treasured icons, so we lit candles and made a small donation from the love of the place and its shade on a hot day.

The Clock Tower is as beautiful close up as it is from a distance, with one alarming feature on the lip of the adjacent cliff. Massive steel wire ropes hold in place a large boulder supporting a flag-mast with (inevitably) the Greek national flag. I glanced over the edge and reflected that if the boulder fell, it would 'bomb' the buildings below and roll through shops and across the road before falling into the harbour. The snag to its removal is that the boulder would have to be hauled sideways onto a shelf and broken up by road-drills or the like. It would need a tower crane or some massive cargo helicopter to remove the boulder, otherwise, for the narrow and steep alleys would be difficult for any other solution.

Kafe Ouzeoi mermaid and battleship G. Averoff sign
Kafe Ouzeoi mermaid and battleship sign
Alley in Poros old town
Alley in Poros old town
Chapel near Clock Tower
Chapel near Clock Tower

Down the slope to another level, past some very desert-like Prickly Pear cacti growing semi-wild, and to a street above the houses and tavernas on the harbourside. There we found The Shop, one of the nicest discoveries, with its range of fabrics, clothing and other goods, some displayerd in the building and others under sun umbrellas. Jenny bought herself a rather nice embroidered blouse there, from two very pleasant Greek ladies. The Shop, by the way, is along to the left of the Poros Public Library, reached from the harbour by a broad white stone staircase just beyond the Ambrosia cafe; there is another shop to the right of the Library, but that's a different matter.

We had decided to go by ferry to Hydra but needed the times of the ferries, so it was a matter of turning left at the bottom of the stairs, then along to the ferry offices, set behind kerbside shop displays. The Greeks see no difficulty in putting out racks of clothes, watches, hardware and souvenirs, in a way that would have many British firms worried about theft and bad weather. That just goes to show the degree of honesty (and, probably, covert neighbour watching neighbour) that one can expect in Poros.

Poros Clock Tower from north
Poros Clock Tower from north
The Shop, near the Library, Poros
The Shop, near the Library, Poros
Jenny's top from The Shop
Jenny's top from The Shop

On our return to the Saga Hotel we found Dennis and Frances eating wraps of pork and vegetables from Alsos, with Shawn and Bob visiting from their farm. We had something to drink then went to our room to dig out feta cheese, fruit, olives and tomato, for a simple snack lunch. It being hot, I confess we just lazed and I wrote up some more notes for the blog. A very relaxing day, Jenny sunning herself on the sun-deck on the roof in the late afternoon. The most unusual aspect was being invited to watch the making of Zefi's famous Moussaka and two rather nice lemon cakes. There is no doubt in my mind that Zefi could make a good Delia Smith, with her care and easy explanation of the recipe, ingredients and technique. I also made the acquaintance of the Hotel's pet green parrot - good looking and polite, but fond of little fingers.

The Hotel Parrot
The Hotel Parrot
Jenny on the sun deck
Jenny on the sun deck
Apagio Taverna front & sign
Apagio Taverna front & sign

The one disappointment of the day came when I met Takis's brother Konstantinou in the poolside bar. I was thanked for mentioning him and his business on the Saga Hotel website, although Konstantinou did not care to have his picture taken. Unfortunately, he was not running tours to Epidauros and Mycenae so early in the summer season, but left open the possibility of a trip on Tuesday, although this later proved impossible. You need a party of six to eight people to make the tour worthwhile, so it's a matter of egging (or begging) others to come with you.

Liz in the Apagio Taverna
Liz in the Apagio Taverna
One of the Spyros Shipping Line
One of the Spyros Shipping Line
One of Liz's Mermaids
One of Liz's Mermaids

The Taverna Apagio :

For our evening meal there was another Taverna to which Dennis and Frances took us, one of the closest and run by an Englishwoman and her bazouki-playing Greek husband. From what Frances and Dennis told us, Liz is a good example of an Englishwoman who can cook as well as any native-born Greek - as we dicovered for ourselves. The Apagio Taverna offers Greek home cooking, which is slightly different to restaurant meals, in an atmosphere that reminded me a bit of an English country pub and its beer garden. The main room is air-conditioned and a feast to the eye; Spyros plays the Bazouki and the Guitar - particularly in the autumn and winter months - and makes remarkable ship models and decorations from gourds. The garden (where we ate) is the best place to eat, even the trees being decorated with Spyros's gourds. Liz is just as gifted, painting pictures and making pottery figurines; I found in her a fellow-admirer of mermaids, but could only show two of the gorgeous mermaids she has for sale. I forgot to suggest making copies of the Mermaid of Poros and the Academy Mermaid, so maybe someone else will. Liz also makes remarkably good jam, a jar of Kumquat and Peach Preserve being gifted to us after I admired it.

Another of Liz's Mermaids
Another of Liz's Mermaids
Spyros and his Bazouki
Spyros and his Bazouki
Spyros's Gourds on the Tree
Spyros, his Guitar and the Gourds

All told, a good time enjoyed by all; we began with the usual Meze, followed by various dishes, the centrepiece being lamb and mint cooked in foil. The Apagio is slightly more expensive than some of the other Tavernas, but it is different enough to be well worth at least one visit. The Rota and Poseidon both serve excellent food and wine, but at Apagio you have also a remarkable ambience and easy English. Jenny and myself would have missed it all, but for Dennis and Frances - they would make superb couriers and guides for tours to Poros and Greece.

Georgi and his Medal :

The evening would not have been complete without this touch of gentle achievement. Takis and Zefi are very proud of their children, so when Georgi came home from school with his athletics medal, it was a matter for some celebration. He showed it to me and I honoured this achievement, having been no good on the sports field myself. If that young lad continues his pursuit of excellence, he will be a benefit to his family and a fine citizen of Greece. His family set him a good example to follow.

The Meal in Progress
The Meal in Progress
Dennis, Jenny and Frances
Dennis, Jenny and Frances
Georgi and the Medal
Georgi and the Medal

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© 2006 Richard Edkins, Dalbeattie Internet.