Sunday, June 23, 2013

Kasos Thoughts

Thursday, June 20, 2013—Fry, Kasos, Greece

Kasos. The southern-most island of the Dodecanese, just north of eastern Crete. I got here last evening. I've purposefully have delayed writing anything about this place, mainly because I was feeling very reactive when I stepped off the ferry—I felt as if I'd made a big mistake by coming here. I decided that I wanted to get to know the place a bit before I said anything. I've been here almost twenty-four hours now, though, and I think it's time to put down some of my thoughts.

I got off the ferry last night here in Fry (pronounced like “Free”), the island's capitol (population 270, according to Lonely Planet) and my first instinct was to jump into the harbor and make a swim for the ferry that was pulling out. The place looked sleepy in all the wrong ways, run down, drab, lonely. There aren't too many places to stay here, so I grabbed a room at the Hotel Annagennisis (their spelling, not mine), which is right on the waterfront and I thought pretty decent looking. Like I said, there's not much in the way of accomodation here, so not surprisingly, the place is a touch expensive (thirty euros a night), especially considering it's way off the beaten tourist track. But it's turned out to be a pretty good place, luxurious by my standards—I have air conditioning and a TV.

After dropping off my bags I began to explore the town. There isn't much two it: a handful of homes and businesses, and a small port. I immediately felt there to be a mournful quality to the place. Abandoned buildings in the middle of town, including one that I could tell used to be a school house. Broken windows. A tiny little beach next to the port strewn with trash. Brown harsh hillsides surrounding the the town—none of the olive groves of Crete; old field terraces, long-since unused rising two-thirds of the way to cloud misty mountain tops. Heavy, hot air, despite the ocean breeze …The only good thing, I thought, was that the ferry would be back to take me away from here on Friday, less than forty-eight hours away. Then, later, the woman who runs the hotel I’' in told me that it wasn't actually coming until Saturday, that the information I'd gotten back on Crete was wrong (a common occurance in Greece, I've discovered, which sometimes can be charming, but in this case felt tragic).

To distill all this, I wanted out of here from the word go.

But I was stuck here for a while and so I decided to make the best of it. I cleaned up a bit and headed over to Mylos, a taverna right next to where I am staying that Lonely Planet said was pretty good (like accomidation, there’' not much in the way of eats here). The food was good and people who ran the place turned out to be quite nice. Actually most of the folk I've dealt with here seem quite nice: they're pleasant, if a bit reserved: it's like they’re really not used to outsiders here and don't know quite what to make of people like me (I think I was the only non-Greek to get off the Ferry, though I've seen a handful of tourists here since then). After eating I went back to my hotel feeling a bit better about the place. 

My guide book said there really wasn't much to do here, that it was just a kind of quirky out-of the-way spot (that's why I decided to come here—I've had good luck in Greece when I've gotten a bit out of the main travel routes). They did mention that there were a couple of beaches on the north coast to the east of town. So this morning I decided to check them out. The coast here is mostly sandstone outcrops being eroded by some surprisingly strong wave action. Once I got out of town and passed the island's little airport (which for some reason was surrounded by a high barbed-wire fence, which would look quite Soviet in a cooler environment) the road began to run right along the coast, along a sandstone shelf, which was strewn with garbage. Past this a ways I came to the first beach. What a depressing sight. It also was strewn with trash, along with a handful of sad looking chaise lounges and umbrellas, which seemed to be thrown out there kind of randomly. Next to it was a little stack shop. The snack shop was open, but there was no one on the beach. 

 I kept walking until I got to the other beach. It was a little cove that one had to hike down to a bit from the road. It also had a lot of trash on it. The water was also too rough there to safely swim (I could see the undertow and a rip current from the cliff above the beach). I kept walking to till the road ended a little ways away. There I found a monument, it seemed to war dead. The plaque was all in Greek, but there were two dates on it: 1824 and then another one in the 1990s. I assume that the first date is what's being commemorated and the second the date when the monument was erected. 

All long this walk, to the inland side of me, I passed ruins of old buildings farm terraces, churches, etc. That's what gives this island (or at least this part of the island) such a down vibe. At one time this place was very successful, with a large shipping fleet (so large that the Turks felt the need to crush the place before going on to take over Crete) and a strong agricultural base. Now, though, most of that is gone—this place is almost the definition of a depressing backwater. I'm not sure exactly what happened here. Did they never really recover from the Turks all those centuries ago? Did there used to be more water here? Were there political or environmental changes elsewhere that left this place off the main economic lines of the islands? Again, I don't know. But what I feel I'm seeing is people who have regrouped into something without much future. This place is too dry and beachless for any kind of tourist trade and a whatever allowed it to create all those now unused farming terraces (be it environmental or poltical) is long gone and not likely to come back. As I took all this in I began to decided that this is the first spot I've been to in Greece that I truly wished I'd avoided.

Still, I had to make the best of it, I told myself. I can just hole up in my hotel room and catch up on my notebook, read, make plans, relax for a couple of days. It wouldn't be exciting, but it would be restful and with air conditioning I could shut up the place each night (like I'd done the night before) and not be eaten alive by mosquitos for a change (I'm really bitten up right now). I came up with an idea beyond this, though. I decided that seeing if I could summit one of the island's little misty peaks might be fun, and would certainly take the better part of the day. So I decided to do a little test hike on my way home.

I just had my Tevas on, I had only a little water on me and no food, and had started too late in the day for a hike of any significance, so I wandered up a little dirt road that let up into the mountains, just so I could get an idea as to whether or not such a hike was feasible. There really are no trails, but there are lots of old farming/goat paths that lead pretty high up. There are also some rocky drainages that make a relatively straight path up the mountains that look pretty do-able, at least at low altitudes (I went up one of these for about twenty minutes just to see how it would go). Long story short, I think I'm going to spend tomorrow trying to get up a mountain. And if I can't do that I should have an interesting hike at least. It's something do, if nothing else, on an island that features precious little entertaining.

Self Explanatory


One long, hot-ass road

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Funny that you mention the barbed wire at the airport. It was put up about 10 years ago after the 9-11 terrorist attacks. In the past the airstrip was open and there was little to no security at the airport and families could say their good byes at the on the runway.

When I was a child some of the best swimming was off of the rocks just below the runway. It is calm water perfect for young children. Up until a few years ago locals would cross the airstrip on foot to access the water. All that changed with the heightened security at airports-- a sad causality of the modern world.