Interrail day fourteen – Samothrace (Therma)

11 May

After yesterday I really didn’t feel like a long walk today, so I decided to take the bus (yes, there is one as it turns out) to a village on the north side of the island called Therma (hot springs).

I had given some thought to the problem of the caves, and while they may be geographically on the south of the island, narratively, it makes more sense for them to be on the north, near the Sanctuary of the Great Gods. So I’ll just move them.

For some reason, they have a toy lighthouse near the port in Kamariotissa.

The (mini)bus was scheduled for 9.50 and, by a miracle actually came then. The driver was very nice to me, his only passenger, making sure I knew when the return bus was and that I hadn’t missed any of the key sights on the island. Interestingly, he also chose to use German when my Greek wouldn’t cut it, so that’s two men in late middle age from this island who have German as their second language. I wonder what the connection is. I suppose it could be the fascist regime in Greece in the 1970s 😕

I now had over four hours to spend before the bus back. I started with a nice Greek coffee (the same as Turkish coffee, but don’t tell the Greeks) and then I wanted to see the waterfalls near Therma. There are two, the Paradeisos and the Grias, but neither is easy to find. I asked directions from a young man who didn’t speak Greek. He is Turkish-German but had excellent English. However, while his directions got me started, I had to ask directions again and backtrack a few times. The trouble is that the road just keeps stopping at the gates of private properties.

It was a nice walk though, through lush woods and with the sound of water and of lizards constantly skittering away in the undergrowth. It’s the kind of experience that feels like it’s filling up some reservoir in you that has been depleted, or to put it another way, restores my soul.

I did eventually find the first waterfall, as you can see. I tried following the river a bit further to find the second one, but after scrambling up some rocks, the way became impassible, unless I was prepared to walk in the river itself, which I wasn’t. I then wandered around the roads some more, looking for a likely path, but it was all dead ends again.

I returned to the start of the footpath (a generous name) to Paradeisos to sit and have a snack, and was passed by a woman who was having the same trouble finding the waterfalls. She had been told that the path to the second one is a bit risky alone, but she couldn’t find it anyway. At least I could assure her that one waterfall was only five minutes away!

I found another likely looking path on my way back to the village. It went through a clearing with beehives and then became a literal goat track (I followed some goats along it) but it got too steep sideways, and the was a real risk I would slide right down the hill, so I gave up. It turns out, after speaking to nice Turkish-German man again, that it was the right path – but while it might have led me to the second waterfall, it might also have led me to the local hospital. 😂

Not much of a path, is it?

My next task was to find somewhere to eat lunch. According to Google, there were any number of lovely places to eat, but the trouble is that this is low season. I found a man doing some work at one of the theoretical restaurants, and he told me that there were only two restaurants in operation, one round the corner and a fish restaurant down at the shore. Again, the preferred common language was German. There’s definitely a pattern here.

The lunchtime rush

I had just got to the restaurant and was looking for the way in when the man from the theoretical restaurant turned up on a moped. I don’t know if he came just to check that I had found the restaurant OK – but he may have done, because all he did was explain that I wanted fish and find out what the catch of the day was. Then he left me with the proprietor, who confidently said “please sit down”, but didn’t speak much more English than that, he claimed.

Incidentally, the woman at one of the mini markets here spoke English to me, and when I commented that not many people speak English here, she said “I think a lot of people speak English here.” Maybe they do, but I don’t know where she’s hiding her English-speaking friends, because I’ve not been meeting them!

There wasn’t a menu, just the choice of two types of fish caught that day, and either tzatziki or Greek salad. One of the types of fish was whitebait (something like gavros in Greek) – yum, decision made! The restaurant had four crazy puppies and three cats, all of which wanted my lunch and chased each other all over the shop.

Back at the bus stop, there was the Greek woman from the waterfall again. It turns out she’s also called Katerina, and that it is a particularly common name on Samothrace (although she’s from Athens). There are 2,500 people on Samothrace. I wonder what percentage of them are called Katerina? 😂

Before the bus came, I took the opportunity to scamper up the path to the actual therma, the hot springs that give the place its name. More like lukewarm springs, but I suppose they’re hot compared to the cold and drinkable ones a little further up the hill. A man on a pony waved directions at me to help me find the springs. Then he got off his pony and started yelling at his goats. Maybe they were Greek words that I didn’t recognise, but it sounded a lot like “Come here!” in German. So maybe they speak German to communicate with the goats 🤣

The actual therma

The bus turned up late, but I wasn’t worried as the driver knew I’d be waiting. We didn’t exactly take the direct route, dropping off a number of people further along the coast and picking up a delivery for the very fish restaurant I’d just been at, but it meant I got to see the Fonios tower. The Fonios gorge is supposed to be unmissable, and Katerina is planning to see it tomorrow, but it is hours of rough hiking and I just wasn’t up for it. “Next year,” the driver says. Maybe not next year, but next time.

I hope there is a next time. I like Samothrace and, what’s more, I feel comfortable here. It’s the kind of place where you would become part of the furniture very quickly as everybody knows everybody. I’ll be sorry to leave tomorrow. But maybe if my novel becomes an international bestseller, I’ll come back and live here. 😉

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