|Pothia, the harbour of Kalymnos|
It is May in Kos and we are down at the harbour to get the Dodecanese Express over to the neighbouring Island of Kalymnos, only 20 minutes away by high speed catamaran.
On the quayside at Pothia, the harbour and capital of Kalymnos, to greet us is our old friend Bill Psaros and Manolis, the ever reliable taxi driver who we always use on our trips to the Island of the sponge divers. Kalymnos is best known as the island of some of the world’s finest sponge divers. The sea has always been the focal element of local life and a culture which has preserved its traditional character, colour and style to a great extent. Kalymnos has always looked to the sea for its livelihood for the island is essentially 3 rocky mountain ranges with a small area of fertile land in the valleys between. Its picturesque landscapes, its clear blue seas and the hospitality of the locals are just a small sample of what the island offers to its visitors. Situated between Kos and Leros and off the coast of Turkey it is the fourth largest island in the Dodecanese; Kalymnos is surrounded by other smaller Greek Islands, (islets) however, only Pserimos and Telendos are inhabited.
Kalymnos is a very traditional island with a distinct musical tradition and a strong sense of identity forged by the harshness of the sponge fishing in the past and the pain of emigration by the Kalymnian Diaspora in America and Australia. Tarpon Springs on the Gulf Coast of Florida and Darwin in Australia are both Kalymnian colonies where after the war they migrated to seek new sponge fishing beds as the Mediterranean ones were ravaged by disease and made inaccessible by political change. So English is spoken by most people on the island but often with an American or strine accent! However today we are leaving the delights of Pothia, the harbour and capital of Kalymnos behind and are heading for lunch the length of the island 25 km to the far north of Kalymnos to where the road literally runs out, the hamlet and anchorage of Emporios.
See; Harbour Front at Pothia
On the road from Pothia to Emporios the island of Kalymnos opens before you. Leaving the bustle of Pothia behind you travel past the windmills by the castle of Chryssocherias and the Basilica of Christ in Jerusalem. As you travel into the countryside the fortifications of the Knights of St John, the imposing fortress of Pera Kastro, loom above you and below lies Chorio, the former capital of the island which huddles up to the fortress in which its inhabitants sheltered from pirate raids.
As you head onward and northwards towards Panormos you view your first sight of the Island of Telendos and the beautiful stretch of water between it and the mainland. Telendos is basically a mountain in the sea with no paved roads or vehicles, 3 beaches, 50 permanent inhabitants, six excellent tavernas and one island donkey called Samson. The sound created between Telendos and Kalymnos is a beautiful sheltered stretch of water which never fails to soothe the senses.
See; Telendos, a place apart
Passing quickly through the badly developed and somewhat ramshackle resorts of Myrties and Massouri the road turns a sharp right at Armeos and you are stunned to silence by the view of a beautiful bay framed by primeval peaks and with the hamlets of Arginonta and Skalia straddling the roads unspoilt by tourism and still earning their modest living from olives, goats and beekeeping. These days this is supplemented by the climbers who come here for the challenging rock climbing on the crags above where many of the routes are marked, pegged and roped.
See; Kalymnos, Island of the Sponge Divers
And finally the road runs out in a beautiful anchorage framed and sheltered by Telendos and the smaller island of Kalavros, the bay of Emporios. There isn’t very much there apart from the five or six tavernas, a number of places for tourists to sleep and the beach. It is at the north end of the island and is the quietest coastal village with few inhabitants; mostly farmers and herdsmen or honey producers and those involved with the tourist industry. So Emporios doesn’t get the ravers but rather like us gets the chillers, people who come for a day or so and end up kicking back for a week. Emporios is also a magnet for the yachting fraternity and each of the tavernas has buoys anchored in front of their respective restaurants along the beach. In antiquity, it was a trade centre of the island since its port was protected by Kalavros and Telendos hence the name “Emporios” the market or trading place.
|The bay and beach at Emporios|
It is here that Harry built a simple restaurant / bar about 30 years ago and then built some simple rooms. His wife Aleka over the years with love and persistence converted the scrubby grounds into a lush, sheltered and beautiful garden which they were so proud off they called it “Paradise” after another famous garden! Haralambos (Harry) and Alexandra met and got married in Australia where so many Kalymnians emigrated after the war and in the 1950’s. In 1969 they moved back to Kalymnos and in 1979 they decided to have their own “paradise” in Emporios, where Harry grew up and always longed to be. Working very hard year after year, they created out of a barren mountain the garden and shady glade which surrounds the restaurant and accommodation.
|Accommodation at Harrys|
It’s run by Evdokia now, who took over the responsibility of this lovely place when her father, Harry, passed away a number of years ago. He would be extremely proud of her and his wife for what they have achieved since then for the restaurant is the same special place and the tradition continues.
|Seating area among the olive trees|
At the end of the garden, you will find the family restaurant. Here when we called there was not yet a menu but rather the way it should be, home cooking by Aleka and Evdokia, with fresh ingredients from the garden which makes eating here an unforgettable experience. The food is traditional, as the Kalymnians would have eaten and changes with the seasons and produce. Today we left it to Evdokia to choose and like all real Greek restaurants’ the kitchen is open and you are expected to inspect the produce before ordering. We dispensed with such proprieties and were brought a selection of mouth watering and largely vegetarian dishes to share with water, bread and wine.
There were Chick Pea Fritters, a moussaka like dish called Papasaki, a cheese tart, a spinach pie, and fried garlic courgettes, Derocafeterie (a spicy cheese spread), Aubergine Croquettes and a Tomato & Cheese Terrine. It was a feast and every dish was shared and delicious during a long and leisurely lunch with local barrel wine. This is the way Greek food should be and indeed was before the advent of “touristic menus” with Spag Bol and cheeps.
It is no insult to call this peasant food for it is honest food au terroir prepared from artisan ingredients with care and love and which would have graced the life events which bound families and communities together of births, christenings, marriages and deaths and religious festivals. It harks back to the days in Spanish, Italian, French and Greek villages when food would have been prepared from what was grown locally, taken to the communal oven to be cooked and shared afterwards. It is the food of memory where you break bread with friends and neighbours and so it proved on this balmy day in Emporios.
|Bill’s “Hemingway” look!|
|Goats – a traffic hazard on Kalymnos!|
Harry’s Paradise website;
Many have come here to the end of the road at the “end of the island” on Kalymnos and lost track of their schedule and ended up staying longer than they intended. I recommend Harry’s Paradise to anyone who gets a chance to visit Emporios (Emborios), but you need to know that they get the same visitors returning year after year, so you have to book early to avoid disappointment. To the six studio rooms this year they have added a restored small cottage and along with the shady sitting areas in the garden, the restaurant and the rooftop bar with its views of this tranquil bay it may entice you to discover your own definition of a Greek word popularised by Aristotle’s Concept of Motion in c. 335 BC – Inertia!