You think you know a place. You have seen pictures, heard stories, maybe even met a person or two from a place.
I thought I knew a little about this lovely island of Kalymnos before I arrived. I researched for two months before embarking on this great adventure.I know now that I will never know the island. There is so much history and culture, and some of it is still unknown to historians and archaeologists. The terrain itself holds so many secrets, so many mysteries. There is a gentle nature to the people here cultivate by the sea, but there is also an underlying toughness generated by centuries of conquer -- Persians, Romans, Crusading Knights, Ottomans, Italians, to name some of the historical aggressors. I know I will never know this place.
To begin to know a place you must feel it.
A Wild Taxi Ride Through the Island in the Dark
A wild ride through the narrow streets of Pothia at 5 a.m. does not produce my usual rise of anxiety as we carom through the village too fast for the narrow streets. The taxi driver had managed to puzzle together bags for five people while I held the trunk lid to keep it from slamming him in the head -- again. After it smacked him twice, I decided it was time for someone to step up. Four people in the back seat --two adults and two children. I am in the front passenger seat. Six of us crammed into a cranky timeworn sedan, and somehow calmness prevails.
Contrary to the usual Greek attitude of “no worries,” the scene at the harbor is hectic. The ferry has arrived and time is money. The mother in the back seat objects to the crowded car. The driver explains that her hotel is less than 5 minutes away as he starts the car moving too quickly for her to escape. He is speaking Greek so I can only guess the conversation. Hurry. Hurry. Time is money. The squawk box reminds our driver that fares are waiting at the dock.
I am furthest away in Panormos. We drop off two-thirds of the payload in Pothia, and I hold on tight as we wind up the mountain to the other side of the island. The cabby jumps out and again I hold the trunk lid while he pulls out my bag. At first he pauses and points up the hill to the door. Then he shrugs, turns around, and pulls my bag up to the door himself. Probably a twinge of conscience. I learn later that he charged me four and a half euros more than the usual fare. Or maybe it was because I held the trunk lid. How many times has he been hit in the head with that thing?
"What is your name?" I ask as he hops back in the cab.
“Nicholas,” he replies.
“Efharisto, Nicholas.” Thank you, Nicholas.
A pause. A smile and a wave. Had anyone thanked him by name in this hurried push to make a living during the early morning bursts of frantic activity? If you are ever in Pothia and need a ride, ask for Nicholas. But only pay eight euros for Panormos. Twelve is poly akrivos.
A buzz at the door and a sleepy proprietor peers through the dark screen.
“Evi?” I ask. “It’s Linda.”
Darkness and welcome. She greets me warmly. As a mother greets her long lost child.
I am home. I sense the embrace of a place I do not yet know. Darkness, not the fearful darkness of the unfamiliar, but an embracing calm. Sweet scents of as yet unknown origins. Whispers of gentle waves waking slowly with a wistful song. A rooster calls his greeting, and the familiar cicadas sing churree from nearby trees. Not yet dawn, but a welcome to warm my heart.
A hug and three kisses, on my cheeks. The Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit. Yes, there is spirit in this place. But, you have to feel it.