Sunday, 3 February 2013

Greece: The different faces of Patmos

Greece: The different faces of Patmos

Kon Hans

A poetic path of self-awareness and discovery in the internal character of the island

View of the Chora  (foto by K.H.)
Cold waters, beautiful pebbled beaches, salt cedars that offer small oases of shade, creeks that compose the laced coastline of Patmos as it’s seen from above, from the awe-inspiring and mystic Monastery of Saint John the Theologian, which throws over the island the mythical veil of the Apocalypse.

And indeed, that Monastery is the first thing you see after your long journey to Patmos; illuminated up there in the Chora (main settlement of the island) as if suspended in the middle of the sky, seems promising enough  to make you forget the fatigue of the eight hour trip in the ferry from Piraeus.

The Holy Island of Patmos with its religious and devotional aura that accompanies it and appears to be emanating from its world known cave, -where St. John conceived the dark forms of the Apocalypse-, and then flows into the alleys of the Chora, where black dressed monks walk silently, will surely feed your spiritual concerns.

However, this is only one side of the island, beyond that there is so much more to be offered. A cosmopolitan island, with everything that may entail, with loads of tourists, mainly from neighboring Italy, an island with a natural and wild beauty sculptured upon its Aegean face and finally, an ideal destination for a personal exploration. Beginning from the small sunbathed wild creek to the calm and up to the serene figure of Mr. Vasilis in his nice municipal camping, there are several aspects to this island that are not covered only by a divine mystery, but a much more profound and humane one.

Except from the Chora with its intricate bright-white alleys and stunning mansions, the second largest settlement, as in almost all the Greek islands, is the port:  Skala is a touristically developed settlement, perhaps at the expense of the overall aesthetics, nonetheless alive and with the pulse of the international visitors. Here you may visit the various cafes and shops by participating in the playful promenade along the harbor, or eat an authentic patmiaki tyropita  (cheese pie of Patmos) from the traditional bakeries and stare at the skiffs and other boats as they sway to the gentle breeze. Coming the moonlit night you can visit the Skala and enjoy a drink at the colorful Koukoumavla, or taste some sea delicacies at Gorgones  and Hiliomodi at reasonable prices.

A “mandatory” visit

The Monastery in Chora  (foto by K.H.)

Leaving behind Skala, the ascent towards the hill that hosts the Chora can be done by a very pleasant marked trail that combines the freshness of the small forest overlooking the sea, as well as the possibility of stumbling upon some juicy figs along the way. As you reach  the top, and the trail give its way to a paved alley alongside some impressive mansions, you will know for sure that you have reached the Chora. You are entitled now to enjoy an iced frappe at Jimmie’s balcony, the most beautiful terrace in Chora with the whole island stretching down for your greedy eyes before you get lost amidst the alleys. Fresh and rested you may now commence the second ascend for the “obligatory” visit  the Monastery and principally to its exquisite Museum, one of the largest museums with sacred relics and treasures in Greece. Here, while you admire the impressive frescoes and treasures hidden in the bosom of the Church of Greece, at some point you will find yourself in front of an ancient Greek epigraph;  it is dedicated to the Greek Goddess Artemis and to all the ancient Gods who once inhabited this land and are now lost in the mists of time. 

Afterwards, continuing your exploration in the heart of Chora and admiring the photographic angles, the colors and panoramic views, some alley will take you eventually to the central square. At this point, you can drink a coffee in the historical Thanassi’s Cafe, a beautiful, traditional and cheap corner, or if you get hungry, Pantheon at the entrance of Chora and Vangelis in the same square are both good choices; alternatively, you can grab something from the bakery near the square, probably the best in the island, and do some shopping of souvenirs, typically religious in nature.

The second mandatory visit – or the first, it depends on you – is of course the famed Cave of the Apocalypse (Revelation), a bit further down the Chora. Here, in a small dark cave Saint John had his revelations and as witnesses of his sacred ecstasy you will find two small gaps in the solid rock, which are said to have originated from the unyielding prayer, as he leaned ceaselessly with his hand and his head on the surface of the rock. All these are kindly explained by a monk under the embarrassing looks of foreign tourists who, unfortunately, do not understand a word in Greek.

Sea and pebbles

Didymes Beach  (foto by K.H.)

Abandoning the penumbra of the cave and the awe that surrounds one of the most dreaded 
manuscripts of the Church, the sun-drenched beaches await you for a change of mood. In general, the beaches are not getting the best deal because of the harshness of the ground – most have pebbles rather than sand.  You will probably find the best conditions in Agriolivado, Vagia, Kambos and Meloi Beach, which also offers a nice camping place and a very good restaurant. Kambos is an organized beach, and the other two are sand beaches that also have good shade from trees. The Didymes beach deserves a special mention for its wild beauty, with the small but loaded canteen, and so deserves Lambi beach for its spectacular multicolored pebbles. The queen of the island though is Psili Ammos, probably the most remote and difficult to reach (I would suggest the boat if it gets really hot; the walk is long and arduous), it is, however, the most beautiful sandy beach of the island and, as the majority of the beaches here do, it has crystal-clear, cold waters.

When the time comes for you to leave, you will by now have discovered that Patmos can reveal to you what you are looking for, because it offers everything in generosity; the God, the Man and the Nature.  Moreover, man and nature are the two pillars on which the edifice of religion rests and Patmos seems to be the ideal place where this osmosis between the three shows you the way to find your own God, whoever he is.

Published in KATHIMERINI ©, on September 29, 2012 (transl. & edited from greek, original here )

 (All fotos by Kon Hans)

Psili Ammos Beach (foto by K.H.)

St. George Isle (foto by K.H.)

A deserted beach  (foto by K.H.)

In the Monastery  (foto by K.H.)

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