Impatient to leave Kardamena we had an early start and after a rushed breakfast and check-out from the hotel we made our way to the busy village square where the buses irregularly leave for Kos town.
The journey was not by the most direct route and took about an hour through all the coastal villages and then through the unexpectedly green plains lying in the shadow of the soaring mountain peaks. Farming remains a principal occupation of many people on the island, with the main crops being grapes, almonds, figs, olives, and tomatoes along with wheat and corn and although the harvest was long since past there were still fields of straw like a golden sea of waving champagne next to exhausted black stunted vines and golden melons the size of footballs ripening in the sun.
Arrival at the bus station presented an immediate problem because I was completely disorientated and could make no sense of the ‘You are here’ map and after some debate I marched us off in the wrong direction much to Kim’s annoyance which only increased in intensity when the mistake was realised. After correctional directions we turned around and this time walked the right way and found the Hotel Santa Marina without any difficulty. It was too early to check in so we left our bags and walked the hundred metres or so down a leafy street of Oleander trees and another with butterflyshaped leaves that floated on the breeze but which I couldn’t identify to the sea front and the road into the city.
At the seafront we walked around the horseshoe shaped bay with its thin strip of gritty grey beach towards the harbour and the castle which looked vaguely familiar but thirty years is a long time and since my first visit and in that time Greece and its islands have been on a Euro spending binge so generally the place was barely recognisable and I was struggling to remember very much about the place.
The main square where cars and scooters once sped through was now pedestrianised and tables and chairs spilled out onto the pavements and there were lots of other changes too. Greece and Turkey get along better now diplomatically so the once neglected minarets have been restored, the main church has a new coat of paint and is resplendent in pastel blue and pink, everywhere there are cycle lanes and in the harbour swanky yachts lay moored up with masts clinking, bows gleaming, decks shining and owners posing.
Then and now…
One of the biggest changes was the Plane Tree of Hippocrates which thirty years ago was supported by stone columns and bits of wood but these lay around discarded now because the tree has a more robust but rather unattractive metal frame to keep it upright and the branches from falling off.
Hippocrates was an ancient Greek physician and is considered one of the most important men in the history of medicine, so famous in fact that he is referred to as the father of western medicine in recognition of his contributions to the field as the founder of the Hippocratic School of Medicine. This intellectual movement revolutionized medicine in ancient Greece and established medicine as a profession. Hippocrates is credited with being the first person to believe that diseases were caused naturally, not because of superstition or the spiteful acts of mischievous deities. He separated the discipline of medicine from religion, believing and arguing that disease was not a punishment inflicted by the gods but rather the product of environmental factors.
The Hippocratic Oath is still taken today by physicians swearing to practice medicine both ethically and honestly.
Using our tried and trusted method of selection criteria (the price of a Greek salad and a Mythos beer) we examined menus for later and then walked around the harbour looking at ferry boat schedules and prices because in three days we were due to cross into Bodrum in Turkey.
Back at the hotel the desk clerk apologised that there had been a mix-up over room bookings (my heart sank) and then explained that because they couldn’t give us the room we had booked then we they would give us an upgrade for the same price (my hopes soared). Justifiably as it turned out because our room turned out to be a top floor apartment for five people with full facilities and a balcony in the afternoon sun that suited us just fine.
The first job was to stock the fridge and over the road was a modern mini-market but with old customer service values and invited to sample the produce I purchased more food than we could possibly eat in three days including a monster melon and feta cheese that was so good that we ate it straight away and I immediately went back and bought some more.
After an afternoon on the balcony and a swim to cool down we prepared for an evening in Kos at the taverna that we had selected earlier. We took the same route into town along the sea front where the sea was now dark and mysterious instead of blue and inviting. In the busy streets we walked through narrow lanes lined with tavernas and bars each with swaying overhead lights which illuminated the place as though there were to be a festival. Along the way we repeatedly turned down invitations to sit down and dine and we made our way to the taverna that had caught our eye earlier and we were not disappointed because we enjoyed a simple but excellent meal.
Afterwards we walked a while through the busy shopping streets and the bright lights of the harbour and then returned to the hotel for a reflective ouzo on the balcony. It had been a good day and we had enjoyed it.