This blog ties in with tomorrow’s YouTube video #78 “Dicey 300m climb to famous cave”, where we hired a car and explored Samos island. As we toured around Samos, I was fortunate enough to not only see some beautiful places, but also experience a wide range of reactions to what I saw and experience.
Baz and I trudged around several chandlers, mechanics, plumbers and hardware stores in Samos town in search of an elusive 55mm hex socket to loosen/tighten the heating element in our hot water cylinder – to no avail. Feeling a tad frustrated, hot and thirsty, we returned to our car (which we’d hired from Pythagorion for the day) and set about exploring the island.
Samos town is on the north of Samos island and we followed the harbour around to the north west, taking the coast road. I have to say I was excited at the prospect of exploring this island, which is small enough to drive around in one day. Just past Avlakia, we turned left and began driving up a winding road until we reached the delightful mountain town of Vourliotes. As the car twisted and turned, we had breathtaking views over the countryside to the sea.
We parked the car on the outskirt of the village and headed on in through the old winding streets with their whitewashed buildings and colourful wooden doors. Sadly, we noticed a few of the buildings were in quite a state of disrepair and some of the wooden balconies looked so weather worn that I felt as if I was dicing with death standing underneath them! We heard later (in a conversation with a fellow on Lipsi) that in order to renovate an old building you have to use the same building materials and stick to traditional building styles. When you consider that much of the wood originally used was cedar, which comes with a hefty price tag, it’s easy to understand why many people find it difficult to maintain their homes.
We kept walking, fascinated at the obvious age of this town and, following the path that seemed to lead through renovated houses, we found ourselves in one of the most colourful villages I’d seen so far. It was charming and vibrant and the blue and white striped awnings over tables with orange tablecloths and chairs painted in that gorgeous Greek blue was cool and tempting. So much so, Baz and I stopped at the Blue Chairs Restaurant and had a beer. We did laugh though when I tried to pull a paper napkin out of the little triangular metal holder. Usually, they all fly everywhere, so Baz decided to capture this attempt on camera. And what happened? I pulled one out and left the rest there! I haven’t giggled so much for a long time – just seeing Barry’s astonished face as he hit his head on the table in disbelief was too much for me. Funny as.
While we videoed another segment about our failure to find the hex socket, I suddenly became aware that I was wearing a revealing dress that showed more than usual of my boobs. You can actually see the moment in the video where I glance down and then try to cover myself with my arms. It’s surreptitious but there if you know what to look for. Of course I had a mental talking to myself and I’ve decided to let go of any lasting body shame I may have inherited and just do what millions of other women around the world do when it’s hot. Wear something appropriate. Enough said.
Dicey 300m climb to Pythagoras’ cave
I’m not that scared of heights. In fact, I can remember standing on the ramparts of Pandeli Castle on the island of Leros with nothing but air between me and the sea for at least 300 metres. But I stepped back pretty smartish, and the drop disappeared behind the castle walls.
Climbing to Pythagoras’ cave (near Kambos Marathokampos) on the other hand, didn’t allow for such luxuries as walls along most of the climb. Up smooth, ever-so-slightly-sloping, but well laid, steps. And no hand holds. I felt a little dry mouthed when I saw how far we’d have to climb, and as we ascended I tried not to think about the descent. I was beginning to feel a little challenged vertically, when I heard the clip-clopping of horse’s hoofs above me, followed by an occasional clip-clop-slide sound. Tearing my eyes up from my next foothold I was pretty amazed to witness a guy leading a reluctant pony (with a chain bridle) and two plastic crates tied to its saddle, coming down the same path towards me. My heart went out to this poor pony (there were actually two on the pathway), who was obviously definitely not happy. But what can one do? Bear witness. Send out loving thoughts. Be grateful for the opportunity to step carefully to one side and stop for a while.
As we climbed the path got narrower and the metre-wide steps tapered into a dirt path with some concrete to give stability. This mountain path wound around and upwards, sometimes with an overhanging rock wall to gingerly pass. Always with a death-defying drop to the right. Halfway up and our hire car already looked like a piece of Lego.
Stopping occasionally to allow my heart rate return to a familiar speed, I’d look up to see Baz disappearing around another ridge. Eventually, the path led to some final steps. These had a thick wall on the mountain drop side. I was thankful of that. It made the 60cm (2 ft) high steps more bearable. This last section was tackled hand-foot-hand-foot. One. Step. At. A. Time.
At last, I reached the top. Feeling like a hero. Until I realised that Pythagoras hadn’t had the luxury of laid steps or walls to assist him arrive at this cave.
The cave itself looks fairly plain, but does open out into a deeper section that is prohibited without a guide. Looking at the sheer drop off into darkness, I can understand why. However, there is a delightful little chapel of Panagia Sarantaskaliotissa that was built in the 10th century and has a few iconic paintings hanging on flaked painted walls.
Coming out of the cave, the view was stunning! I’d conquered the heights, explored the dark recesses and relaxed in the tiny chapel. Now, stopping to look at the valley far beneath just confirmed my awe of nature.
We made our way gingerly back down the track until we reached the steps, which we sauntered down almost casually. There was a sign off to one side showing the track to Pythagoras’ real cave (the one we’d visited was where he’d taught his students), but Baz checked it out and it was too narrow and steep even for his goatlike nature to attempt.
Fish lunch and closed tunnel
Lunch was a tasty affair at the Kerkis Bay hotel, overlooking the harbour at Marathokampos. I had Greek salad with taramasalata and Baz had the biggest plate of fried tiny fish I’ve ever seen. He had to share it with the town cats to get anywhere near finishing it!
Our journey back to Pythagorion took us to the one place I’d very much wanted to visit: the Tunnel of Eupaulinos which is 1,036 m (3,399 ft) in length and was built to serve as an aqueduct. This had been constructed in the 6th century BC and is considered an amazing engineering feat as it was started at both ends and actually met in the middle! It is a difficult task even today, as two parallel lines never meet, so measurements have to be very accurate. Eupaulinos did account for this, but his accuracy nevertheless meant that the two tunnels met with an accuracy only four centimetres out.
We arrived on a Tuesday and the sign said it was closed on Monday. The cat that was there seemed pretty sure it wouldn’t open at all. I thanked the cat and told it that it had just missed out on a very tasty fish lunch. Boy was I disappointed though. I did get some footage of my phone of the entrance to the tunnel, which you could see through the metal gates, and only slightly hurt my head when I bumped into the low roof.
We returned to Pythagorion later that day, did some grocery shopping and returned to the boat. Tired and a tad disappointed by not getting the hex socket or seeing the tunnel. But nevertheless very chuffed at what we had explored.
That week too, we also walked around the picturesque and truly pretty streets of Pythagorion. The town harbour is built on the ancient Byzantine harbour and has colourful fishing boats tied up next to yachts, which moor stern to giving them a view of the many tavernas and restaurants along the front. The main street and side roads are filled with enticing tourist, craft shops and cafes and decorated colourfully as only the Greeks know how, bringing a feeling of beauty and charm.
South west of the port is a hill on which the castle of Logothetides stands. This was built during the time of the Greek Revolution and has a church next to it that was erected when they achieved independence in 1824. This area has been inhabited since prehistoric times and as we walked around the field next to the graveyard, we came across Roman pillars and ancient walls.
Samos is a beautiful island and it was an absolute joy to spend three weeks in Pythagorion. We met new friends in Christopher and Marie Longmore, who we met up with so that Christopher could kindly give us one of his smart solar hot water heating systems to test and review. And the harbour provided everything we needed while we spent several days creating six more videos (and blogs).
Fun fact: Did you know each video takes between 20 and 30 hours to create and edit?
If you haven’t already, do go and subscribe to our YouTube channel, as our videos complement these blogs with great visuals and music, allowing us to bring you along with us on our journey. Until next time guys and gals!