Interrail day thirteen – Samothrace (Sanctuary of the Great Gods)

10 May

I am wrecked! It is now 5.30pm, the time of day for chilling before the evening starts, so a good time to lie around in my hotel room and tell you about my strenuous day.

It started off gently enough. Breakfast here is from 8 until 11, I think, which is not for the early risers. It was good to have a lie in and a big breakfast. The waitress at breakfast understood (most people don’t) that I would like to improve my Greek, so she taught me how to properly say I was there on my own.

Then I set off to walk to the Sanctuary of the Great Gods. It’s over a hour’s walk from Kamariotissa (the port village where I’m staying) but I was feeling fresh, and the walk by the seaside, with the road fringed by wild flowers and swallows whipping about overhead, was the kind of activity that makes you spontaneously break into worship songs.

I found the location and went to the Archeological Museum. This is free, mainly because it is not finished yet and has very little in it apart from photographs of archaeologists, but there was a helpful video showing how the sanctuary would have looked originally. It is not very well preserved, sadly. There are huge chunks of carved stone in the stream that used to be an impressive bridge into the sanctuary, until an earthquake toppled it.

A copy of the Nike of Samothrace. The original is in France.

My linguistic adventures get ever more ridiculous. When I was leaving I was approached by a man called Apostolos who works there and wanted to know who I was, since I was not with the party of Americans (I didn’t see them) or the schoolchildren from Alexandroupoli (naturally, I ran into them). He speaks some English, but when he found out I have a bit of German, he preferred to speak to me in that, and he was very interested in my writing. Just picture me trying to explain the premise of my novel (set in Samothrace) to a random man in a mixture of bad German and worse Greek 😂

There were numerous signs exhorting you to keep only to the authorised paths, but these did not apply to Apostolos, or to me when I was following him. He showed me where the Nike had stood, which I had missed, so that was helpful. When I was leaving he offered to drive me to the main village, where I was going next, but I thought I would be fine walking, and it’s not always a good idea to take lifts from strange men. But I should have accepted.

You can just make out the road through this barren waste.

I knew the way would be all uphill, because the main village on any Greek island is up a hill, but I didn’t realise it would take so long or be so unpleasant. No wildflowers here, just lots of bare dirt and plenty of sheep dung, which meant plenty of flies. They plagued me whenever I was in the lee of the wind, and these are the flies that look like normal British flies, but which will give you a nip if they settle on you for so much as a second, which will develop into a nasty, itchy red spot. I was hot, tired, needing the toilet by this time, and constantly batting flies off my arms. It was horrible! There was no singing of worship songs here.

Finally, the village was in sight!

I made it to the village, which was as cute as you could want, all stacked up on top of itself, but I couldn’t find anywhere open. I mean, obviously shops close at lunchtime, but not restaurants, surely?

Another reference to the Nike up here.

I found a bar with an old man sitting inside and asked if they did food, or if there was anywhere that did. The answer was in the negative. At least they had a toilet and cold water for sale. It was better than nothing. But then, after a conversation between the man and a woman who worked there, they suddenly asked me did I want x, y, z? I recognised ‘Greek salad’ and ‘feta’ and said yes, thinking they would direct me somewhere. But no, they brought me out Greek salad and bread, and then a plate of prawn paella. They had taken pity on me and rustled up a meal specially! The old man even gave me a wee glass of ouzo on the house. I like Greece 😊

After that, I was ready for the downhill walk to Kamariotissa, even though my legs and feet were starting to protest about all this walking. This road was much nicer, with wildflowers, goat bells gently tonking, and fewer flies. I got caught in a sheep jam at one point. I don’t think the shepherd understood why I was laughing.

I stopped for a much-needed iced coffee once I reached the shore again, before coming back to the hotel room to update you lot. And now I’ll go in search of dinner, which probably won’t be interesting enough to tell you about, and after that I intend to watch the Eurovision semi final, as Albania is in it tonight. I hope you have an enjoyable evening too, and that your legs hurt less than mine.

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