Our trip through the Greek Islands was almost over – one more stop after Amorgos and we would arrive at Kos where we were hoping for a smooth check out of Greece and finally be on our way to Turkey.
We wished we could have stayed longer but the Greek authorities were adamant – we had to leave, despite other European (and other) countries extending visas and visa free periods during Covid-19 uncertainty for people like us.
Our next destination, Levitha, could not have been more different from Amorgos.
Whereas Amorgos was undulating, rambling and dramatic, Levitha was tiny, (9.2 square kilometres), modest, low key and unassuming – and inhabited by just one family, members of which have farmed and fished there since 1820.
There was a diminutive but incredibly sheltered bay where the family have laid seven or eight (easy to pick up and hefty) buoys.
They charge seven Euros a night but if you choose to eat at their little taverna it’s free (we had just had a very late lunch so we didn’t buy a meal. )
We loved walking up to the farmhouse along the well-marked path (paved for a few metres then rocky.)
Once at the farmhouse we were cordially invited in and given icy cold water to drink. We bought some freshly-laid eggs, some hard cheese made on the farm from a mix of sheeps’ and goats’ milk and some beautiful soft goat cheese.
The two brothers were genuinely welcoming and even generously allowed us in to enter their tiny family chapel.
That day happened to mark the birth of my Dad who was born hundred years ago on that day. How he would have loved the reverent atmosphere of that tiny chapel and would have just relished the journey it took to get there. I lit a candle in the little chapel for him, silently giving thanks for inheriting his love of travelling and writing.
On the way to Kos the following day it was a thrill to discover that we were so close to Turkey that we could clearly see houses in the towns along the coastline.
At the last island before turning for Kos, we could see a military installation and an emphatic declaration to the Turks made by a gigantic Greek flag painted on the cliff.
Arriving in Kos we made our way into the harbour, hoping that there would be plenty of space for us to tie up at the town quay. We were surprised to see that there were massive renovations being carried out to the harbour wall and the walkways surrounding it (we learned later that these works were to repair damage caused by a magnitude 6.6 earthquake in July 2017).
Fortunately for us, there was still a space in the shadow of the 14th Century fort that was built by the Knights of St John.
There was quite a breeze blowing (maybe 20 to 25 knots) and this was only the second time we had attempted to do Mediterranean mooring on our own. This entails putting the anchor out and then backing into a tight space with one of you leaping off to tie your lines while the other runs between the anchor and the engines trying to stop the boat hitting anything.
While we were faffing about trying to do this crazy juggling act which really requires four people, two guys from a moored tug appeared and shouted to us to move Sunday away from their boat. This was while we were in the middle of trying to dock. Did they think we were snuggling close to them on purpose?! We were definitely aiming to keep right away from their boat but the wind had other ideas!
Struggling (unsuccessfully) to think what the word for “help” was in Greek “I called back. Please could you help?” In English. Now last time we were undergoing this exercise was in Paros and the lovely port policeman Yiannis helped us without a word from us but not these guys – they just shrugged and went back to their snoozing positions.
Capt’n Birdseye did a magnificent job of leaping on to the dock and giving me instructions on how to keep the boat safe. There were some scary moments though and we felt very upset that our neighbours were so unhelpful!
We hadn’t been there too long before two young port police (both female) arrived to let us know we must go to the port office to check in. I think they had seen the foreign flagged yacht on AIS (Automatic Identification System) and assumed we had come from another country.
So we took our paperwork and once they had seen our transit log and that we had paid our Greek cruising tax (tepai) they were happy.
By the time we had finished at the port police office it was early evening so we decided it would be a good time to explore the town centre.
Kos has had a fascinating history dating back to at least the third millennium BC. It was captured by the Ottoman (modern day Turkey) Empire in 1523 AD and remained under Ottoman rule until 1912 when it became part of the Kingdom of Italy.
When Italy surrendered in 1943, the Germans occupied the island until 1945. In Eleftherias Square, in the centre of Kos, we were able to see reminders of Turkish, Italian and German occupation through the architecture.
In 1946, Kos and the rest of the Dodecanese Islands were finally annexed to Greece.
We wondered why the Islamic crescent on the dome of the old Defterdar Mosque was bent and learned later that it was hit by debris during the earthquake three years previously. The minaret toppled and has not yet been replaced.
After our wander through a very quiet and empty Town centre (due to Corona virus) where we saw a Greek Orthodox Church which had been damaged by the earthquake three years previously, we took a short stroll to the seafront and walked round the outside of the fort.
Unfortunately it had also sustained a little damage in the 2017 earthquake and was temporarily closed.
The following day we were planning to head to Immigration for one last ditch attempt to see if it would be possible to continue to stay in Greece.
We fell asleep thankful that we had managed to find a berth in Kos but feeling slightly apprehensive about what the Greek authorities might throw at us next.