I ended Easter season on the island of Kalymnos.
A short walk on a small island
With Easter passed, my time in Greece was coming to an end and in a few days I would take a boat back to Athens. With no grander ambition than to see some more of the island, I struck out on foot toward the south, in the direction of a village that looked on my map an easy walk. The road passed a line of low hills indifferently terraced and planted with pine trees. Less than a mile out of town the paving gave way to a dirt road that turned west, toward the center of the island, away from what I had taken to be my destination. A footpath, however, seemed to continue in the direction I wanted to go, so I took that.
The path dropped away from the road, crossed a stream and climbed toward a jumble of gray stone cliffs that faced the sea. The walk, easy at first, grew more difficult as I climbed toward the cliffs, over rocks weathered to sharp points and knife edges, and ground growing thick with low, spiny plants.
Near the top of the hill, beneath the cliffs, I came into the full wind blowing from the east, off the sea. Facing into the wind I could see the coast of Turkey, part obscured by the smoke of grass fires.
Despite the constant wind, the air on the hillside was thick with the sweet, dusty smell of the early spring flowers and herbs that seemed to sprout from every break and crevice in the rough, gray stone.
I sat out of the wind, to the lee of a boulder, near an abandoned sheepfold, where I could rest and nibble a chocolate bar and wonder how far I ought try to go. I had started later in the day than I might have wanted, and it would not be long until evening, but, Easter being just past, I knew there would still be a good moon. On the other hand, it could well be overcast and these rough, unfamiliar cliffs might not be all that safe even with a good moon.
Then suddenly, around a corner of the hill, came a half dozen Greek children. There were two girls of maybe thirteen or fourteen, followed by several other youngsters of lesser age.
We exchanged pleasantries and I asked if the path they had just come up led to the village of Agios Vasilios, as my map seemed to indicate.
They replied that the trail they had just come skipping up was washed out and dangerous, quite impassable. Not to put too fine a point on it, I did not believe them. But not wanting to appear a complete fool and head off squarely against their advice, I bade them a good day and headed instead up the hill toward the base of the cliffs.
The children started to leave, but, perhaps fearful that I would persist in my folly, they turned and started after me. I dodged behind boulders and slipped through defiles in an attempt to evade them, but the fleet-footed muffins easily cornered me.
And so, as they would entertain a dim-witted child to keep him out of trouble, the young girls sat down to chat with me. Having probably figured out that anything more complicated than “See-Spot-run” was beyond my Greek language ability, the children began to talk with me in slow, simple sentences. And the hill being covered with wild flowers and herbs, they began telling me about these.
An aromatic plant with thin, furry leaves was called anisfakia, and you could make a tea from it that was good for headache.
Votani had very small, light green leaves on a spindly stalk, and made into a tea was good for the throat. What they called thimari is, I think, thyme.
Alisfakia had a small blossom atop a bulbous base, and its furry leaves could be eaten. I took a bite of one and I suppose it might have been something to eat if you were particularly hungry.
Agkathi was a very dry, spiny plant that grew low to the ground. The children didn’t think it was good for anything.
They wrote in my journal and insisted that I take their pictures, and I took their address so that I could later send them copies, which I later did. By then it was late enough that I decided to give up on my walk to Agios Vasilios and, with a bouquet of herbs and wild flowers that they had picked for me, I followed the children back down the footpath toward the port of Kalymnos.
Easter was passed and there seemed to be a new light in the world and I was ready to go back home and get on with my life.