“Cruising the Dodecanese” is Peter Sommer Travels’ last scheduled cruise in Greece in 2017. This year, to give an impression of the experience, we are providing a diary of sorts on our blog. Rather than describing every day in detail (you can check our itineraries on www.petersommer.com for that), every day we will pick one image we took that day, accompanied by some explanations and thoughts.
It has been a very peaceful day on our "Cruising the Dodecanese" trip today. We started on lovely Leipsoi, stopped at a cove, and ended in Pothia, the capital and main harbour town of the island of Kalymnos.
We'll explore Pothia tomorrow: it is a picturesque place and was very affluent in the 19th and early 20th centuries, due to its then vibrant sponge-diving industry. This evening, we showed our guests to a sponge-washing-and-processing workshop, where our local friends Maria and Stelios explained the history of this unique tradition, going back well over two millennia, perhaps many more.
But the true highlight of the day was Mesa Almyres. If you try an online search for that name, you are not likely to find much: Mesa Almyres is a small cove on the very rugged and mostly rather forbidding eastern side of Kalymnos, a small spot of shelter from the prevailing northwesterlies that must have been welcoming to mariners for millennia, as it was to us today.
At face value, there is nothing special about Mesa Almyres. It is one of hundreds of such coves in these islands: a deeply incised V-shaped notch of turquoise water - just wide enough for a gulet like ours to anchor - in the otherwise sheer limestone cliff that forms this coast, perhaps as the result of a natural fault in the limestone, or of the little winter gully that cuts through the interior of the island and meets the sea here, or maybe of both. There is a tiny pebble beach with a row of tamarisks growing on it; the surrounding slopes are quite barren, clearly showing the striated structure of the sedimentary rocks, but just hospitable enough for a few wild olive trees, assorted herbs and some caper bushes. Day trip boats like to stop here for a bit, and sometimes we see goats roaming - or browsing - along the cliffs, announced by the tinkle of their bells, heard long before the animals are seen performing acrobatic stunts above near-vertical drops. That's all there is to Mesa Almyres...
Nothing special at all? Mesa Almyres, a cove reachable only by boat for any but the most hardened hikers, is the perfect embodiment of the wild and tranquil beauty of this part of the world. It is a place far afield from the trappings of civilisation, perhaps unspectacular at first sight, but heart-achingly peaceful, beautiful, timeless, a world in itself. It is a place that invites our guests and us to simply enjoy the moment, perhaps just by admiring the scenery, by considering its geology and botany, by exploring the beach and surrounding cliffs, or - chief joy of all - by swimming in its clean and temperate waters. The happiness that a place like Mesa Almyres can offer us is as pure as its waters, as sheer as its rocks and as peaceful as the place itself: an instant of perfection in time and space.
To me, coming to the place, and to places like it, is a bit like William Butler Yeats' image of his "Lake Isle of Inisfree": And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow...
We spent many hours at Mesa Almyres before finally continuing to Pothia, and although our guests may have already forgotten the name of the place, what will stay with them as a memory of our voyage in the Dodecanese is much more significant: its image, its sounds and its aroma, the feel of the water on their skin, the peace and the happiness.
Itineraries like our current "Cruising the Dodecanese" are always to some extent unpredictable. We have certain points and benchmarks we need to reach, but every day, every route and every stop is variable to various degrees. Mesa Almyres is not a guaranteed feature of any cruise, and no-one can actually book a trip to Mesa Almyres specifically. All that is beside the point: there are many such places, each of them unique in its own way, and all our gulet cruises in Greece include stops, sometimes entire nights, at such places.
Tomorrow, it's back to civilisation: we have some great art to admire...