Even our plane being delayed by 45 minutes because another pilot had insisted on stealing our runway couldn’t dampen our excitement to start our Greek adventure. (We’ll let Easyjet off, this was their first ever Glasgow to Kos flight).
An and Kiki, our hosts for the week, met us at the airport near Antimachia in the centre of Kos, and drove us to their home in Platani at the end of the island. An and Kiki were really cool and friendly; they are both German but have lived in Kos since 2006, and their hospitality matched all the positive reviews we had read on AirBnB.
Driving through the warm spring air, I could even in the dark make out a looming mountain silhouette which seemed too dramatic and wonderful to be true (it turned out to be Mount Dikeos). Once we had climbed up to An’s house we could see the twinkling lights of the Greek islands and Bodrum, Turkey just four kilometres away across an inky black sea.
That evening An drove us to Platani and dropped us at an ace little taverna called Serif’s (pronounced Sheriff), introducing us to ‘the Serif’ and his family who run the place, including Ali who served us – apparently everyone knows everyone in Kos! Serif’s was really cute and locals were dining there, which is always a good sign. The wall was adorned with scarves of football teams from all across Europe, left by customers who had enjoyed the gorgeous food on offer. I and a mixed kebab which sure beat anything I’ve had at 3am in the UK! There are plenty of Turkish influences present in Kos cuisine, naturally with its proximity to the country.
After a lovely lie in we were greeted the next morning by brilliant bright sunshine the like of which our Scottish home soil has never been kissed by. The view in the daylight across to Turkey was even more staggering than we had anticipated in the dark the night before.
We were eager to get out and explore this inviting land and borrowed bikes from An. They were a bit primitive but at least they had gears, unlike Cat Ba island in Halong Bay, Vietnam, the last pace we had cycled at, seven months prior. Kos kind of reminded me of cat Ba Island, combined with southern Italy.
We bounced down gravel paths to Kos Town where we cycled up and down the glorious seafront before stumbling across Kazouli Square. We had a tasty tuna club sandwich at Gossip Cafe and then rode around Cape Skandari along the coast’s edge to Tigaki and on to Marmari, 10 kilometres in total. Everywhere was shut in these two towns (even Supermaket Fani: Don’t try anywhere else until you’ve tried Fani’s!) but a nice fella in a Marmari restaurant gave me a bottle of water for free. We paused a while on the beach, where out of nowhere a man on a horse galloped past us on the sand; it was like a surreal Greek dream.
Cycling was thirsty work and I had ridiculously managed to get sunburnt on my first vaguely sunny day of the year. By the time we returned the 10km back to Kos Town it was time to eat and we tracked down Elia, a restaurant we’d had recommended to us. I had a beautiful lamb shank and we tried our third Greek beer of the trip. So far, Mythos was my fave but I also enjoyed Zythos Vap and Alfe.
Just as it the sun was setting on a perfect first day in Kos, we managed to find the dirt track from Platani to An’s. There was an epic thunderstorm in the night with forked lightning reaching up from the mountains to the sky whilst presumably Zeus cleared his throat in a booming manner. As a result we laid in quite late and didn’t leave An’s until about midday. We walked across the hills past the Hippocratic centre and Hippocratic garden to the Asklepion of Kos. It was €4 to get into the three-tiered former school of medicine, where Hippocrates himself was educated and later worshipped. Hippocrates was a Koan (the people of Kos are known as Koans) and is of course considered the father of modern medicine. Every ambulance today has on it the symbol of snakes wrapped around a pole, referring to the Hippocratic Oath all doctors to this day take, promising to do the best for their patient’s health.
The Asklepion is Kos’ most famous monument and lies 3.5km north-west of the ancient city. It stands on the slopes of a low hill and from ti you can see superb views over the sea to Turkey and the coast of Asia Minor opposite. Amazingly, the Asklepion was destroyed by an earthquake in the 5th century AD and was only discovered at the beginning of the 20th century by the German archaeologist R. Herzog. The site was subsequently excavated by Italian archaeologists, who also restored the monument and gave it its present form. Both the lowest terrace and the large Doric temple of Asklepios on the third terrace are enclosed by a stoa in the shape of the Greek letter Pi. Just wandering around this temple super structure felt like stepping back in time.
Walking back into Kos town felt glorious even though there was rain in the air and thunder in the distance. We ate at Aiyla for lunch (delicious mezzanines) and walked around the dazzling harbour by the castle, inspecting prices for a boat to Bodrum, Turkey.
Back at An’s we sat on the veranda admiring the view across the Greek/Turkish bay. An has several dogs and cats and one was playing with her youngest daughter outside. There was something pure and idyllic about it – Kos must be a beautiful place to raise children. Up in the hills it wasn’t jus the views that were magnificent. The air was full of layer upon layer of the sounds of spring. Birds sang and squawked , dogs barked, chickens clucked, goats bleated and the wind shook the long grass as nature’s mixtape woke up from winter. This was the first week of the season for the island’s tourism; many restaurants and shops were just opening and we were An’s first guests of 2014. It really felt like the island was waking up, stretching its arms and rubbing its eyes after a hibernation and it was a pleasure to witness.
We wandered into Platani and back to Serif’s for dinner. Ali recognised us immediately and we chatted football and got some Mythos beers in. We had a delicious meat sharing platter for two before heading back up the hill under the stars, Turkey’s lights twinkling away in the bay behind us, 4km away. There’s something magical about walking such an ancient land, where democracy and pretty much all of western civilisation grew from. You can see why epic legends and learnings have been set in this part of the world and why the landscapes have inspired stories that have outlasted the civilisations that first told them centuries ago.
Next time: Crossing the bay to Turkey.