From Athens we took a bus to Volos- where we boarded a ferry that would take us to the Island of Skiathos.
Skiathos is a small island in the Aegean Sea belonging to Greece.
Skiathos is the westernmost island in the Northern Sporades group of islands.
The trip by ferry took about three hours on a navy blue sea.
Beautiful color-dark and intense.
Skiathos at night.
When we reached Skiathos -we recognized our South African friend from London's brother immediately.He was dressed is khaki's and had long hair and beard.He looked more like a Boer than Greek!He has been living in Skiathos for about 5 years and building houses to make a living.
This was in the early 70's and the time of free love, free spirit, women's liberation and hippies....
There were quite a few South Africans in Skiathos. A Mrs.Ella Pienaar of Bloemfontein lost her husband and other family members tragically so she sold up in South Africa and moved to Skiathos in the mid 60's. She ran a B+Bed for a while.
We got into a beat up old truck and started on the dirt road inland. After driving for about 15 minutes he turned back toward the ocean and stopped next to a big new hotel that they were still working on-The Espiredes Hotel-
We got very nervous as we could not afford that!
Espiredes Hotel today-
We passed the hotel and stopped next to a old farm house with a walled garden- right on the beach next to the hotel.
The house had two floors -with the family living on the ground floor.On the second floor there was a covered walkway with three guest rooms .A staircase on the outside of the building lead upstairs.
It was all very primitive -but clean and a magnificent location. When you opened the gate of the yard you were on the beach.
The toilet was further down in the garden .One had to fetch a bucket - go to the well and draw water before you trekked to the toilet .It was a porcelain toilet but no wooden seat.One had to flush the toilet with the water in the bucket.
The "shower' was a piece of canvas draped around a olive tree.From a branch hung a tin with holes in the bottom .A ladder was used by a second person to reach the tin and fill it with water drawn from the well.Thank heavens we had the ocean about 10 steps from the font door -so a shower everyday was not that important. Now and then we had a shower to get rid of the salt water on your skin.The room was clean and had a door onto the balcony and a window facing the hotel's (unfinished) poolAt night we could see the family downstairs through our floorboards.
The family consisted of Grandpa and Grandma . Maria a girl of about 12 years old-with her Dad and Mom.
Early in the morning Grandpa would get onto his fishing boat and go out and fish.
Grandma would sit on her haunches against the wall of the house and watch the sea until he came back around noon.
The fish he caught he sold to a restaurant right on the beach .The fish would be thrown on a block of ice and at lunch time one would sit under the grass awning and point to the fish that they would grill .
A big Greek salad completed the menu.
Dad and Mom did odd jobs around the place during the day.Little Maria was very friendly and tried to talk to us .We did learn to say good morning ( kalimera) to Grandma every morning and good night (kalispera) and thank you. (afgaristo)
I am sure as the hotel got bigger they must have bought them out so I hope the five are them had some fun with the money .Little Maria must be over 50 today......bless her.
We spend our days on the beach relaxing - reading ,swimming, tanning, sleeping eating and drinking.
Neil brought his blow up mattress all the way from London.- so me took turns drifting on the ocean.
The weather warm and hot being August.
Skiathos in the early 70's were rather unspoilt and not such a big tourist attraction as it is now.The Espiredes Hotel next to us, was still being built with some rooms ready that were filled with mostly German tourists.
The hotel was about 6 miles from town and we use to take the local bus to town.Later a night we would share a taxi with other tourist from the hotel-but when Elsa arrive we used to take it on our own. It was not that expensive- but we were on a budget.
While waiting for the bus- that was filled with locals carrying their wares to sell in the town -we would see some of the Greek women riding their donkeys to town .In most cases they got there before we did.It was not uncommon to share the bus with chickens and even the odd goat that had to be delivered in town that day.
Skiathos village was rather sophisticated with good restaurants and even a night club- that we did not visit. Today it is a tourist trap but it was not overcrowded those days-even it was August- the high season.
After a week in Skiathos -it was time for Elsa to arrive from Amsterdam
While waiting for the plane we were talking in Afrikaans and I noticed a woman sitting across from us trying to hear what we were saying..After a while she came over and spoke to us in Afrikaans.
Anchen was a school teacher at a Greek private school in Johannesburg and traveling through Europe. She would find a job as she went along and when the job ended -she would move on.
As luck had it she was employed by the Espiredes Hotel .She was the Liaison Officer there. She would pick up the German tourist at the airport and take them back to the hotel and take care of their needs. She had a tough job ....the hotel was not 100% completed and there were a LOT of complaints.No warm water,no hot water, elevators not working etc ....they drove her crazy.
The plane arrived and she welcomed her tourists and off she went. We arranged to meet that night in the bar of the hotel.
All the passengers were off the plane but no Elsa......?
I took out my holiday planner and then realized that we were a week too early- She was only arriving a week later .Neil was not thrilled as he had enough of Skiathos and wanted to move on.
Elsa arrived the next week and then we started to travel and visit other parts of the island.It was unspoilt and most of the beaches were deserted.
Koukounaris Beach is now world famous and rated as one of the best beaches in Greece.
Having Anchen at the hotel helped a lot.She said we could use her room to shower .It was downstairs close to the unfinished pool.When we saw her bathroom we knew why there were so may complaints about the hotel -There was a heap of solid cement right in the middle of the floor.We did not mind at least ,we had a place to shower.If I came all the way from Germany and paid a lot of money- I would not have been thrilled...They must have sorted out those problems as it is a five star hotel now-being redone in 2005.
The barman at the hotel, a young Greek, had a motorbike and after the bar closed at 1:00 am we would hear the motorbike roar as he and Anchen left for the town's nightclub.
We went to some of the deserted beaches and did a lot of walking.We got tanned brown as berries .
I had two red swollen ankles for days after I overdid it. We rested in the afternoon and then at night we would take the taxi to the town and have dinner there.
It was all rather affordable and great fun.We shared the bedroom that had only two two beds so we had to take turns .The looser had to sleep on the blowup mattress .I remember as you moved, the sand under the mattress grinded on the floor so it was rather noisy.Wondered what the Greeks downstairs thought we were up to!
After few days Elsa saw what was to be seen in Skiathos and we decided to move on.
We did not have much time as Elsa only had two weeks vacation.
We decided to take the ferry to Mykonos, a island further south . This would be a overnight trip and we booked two cabins .
The harbor of Skiathos was not big enough for a the ferry to dock so we had to wait there until the ferry blew it whistle to know that it was close by.We were then taken by a smaller boat into the open sea and our luggage were thrown up to the guys on the ferry to catch and we had to climb aboard with a rope ladder .Every Tom Dick and Harry on board came to look at the spectacle- Elsa being tall and blond got a lot of attention from all of the men - so she decided no way was she sleeping in her cabin alone. So the three of had to us spend another night in one cabin.