We interrupt our irregularly scheduled linear blog-post program to bring you a real-time event that we found particularly fun. Just keeping you on your toes. Jump ahead to the island of Leros where we are currently staying.
When Barb was here and we had the rental car, we tried to find a chapel called Aghios Petros. (We say EYE-yohs PET-rohs, but do you really want to take our word for it?) Despite Mike’s best navigational efforts, we wound up dead-ending in someone’s driveway then having to back up the steep and narrow “road” that got us into the mess. We backed into a driveway, where 30 seconds earlier an old Greek woman had looked quizzically at us as we proceeded to drive down to her neighbor’s house.
She chuckled. “Aghios Petros?” we asked. She didn’t speak English, but nodded and gestured “over there.”
We didn’t like the looks of the road over there, which was equally narrow but extra rough and rocky, so we decided to skip it for the time being. We’d been doing and seeing plenty already.
Today, carless, Mike and I decided to have another crack at it. Our feet can go loads of places a rental car can’t.
We took a new road through town (after passing it and then backtracking), past the hospital, and up through a residential area. The road was narrow—huh, fancy that—with houses that came smack up against it.
Imagine this: You stick your arm out of a window in a house and get your hand run over by a car. Seriously. There are houses with windows where that’s possible. I find this bizarre. My house is in the middle of 17 acres, and that’s barely enough elbow room for me.
In a small field in the residential area, we spotted a tiny Athena’s owl, a.k.a. a little owl, perched on a rock, soaking up the sun.
Cool! What a fun way to start the day.
Finding Our Way
Mike referenced his map over and over, trying to make the roads we were on match the little white and yellow lines, but that is crazy hard to do. It’s a simple, basic map, and many roads are not recorded on it. In addition, there are no signs or street names on either the map or the roads. What’s worse, it’s impossible to tell a secondary road from a tertiary road from a private road from a driveway. There’s a lot of guesswork involved, as well as backtracking and changing plans—”well, that didn’t work, so let’s go here instead.”
Soon we were out of the residential area. We walked over a hill and found ourselves in a tiny pine forest where houses had yards, gardens, orchards, goat pens, and chicken coops. The road turned to gravel and split a few times. We tried to stay on the main road, but see the previous paragraph.
We walked through what felt like an exterior version of a farmer’s living room, greeted by his dogs, not completely sure whether we were still on the road or if this was the farmer’s private road. Mike played a “plead ignorance” card; I played a “Greeks don’t care” card—both fair plays—and we kept right on going. Well, I stopped to pet the puppy.
Around a couple of bends and up another hill, we found ourselves at a crossroads, with two chapels a football field-distance apart. I suggested we go to one of the chapels and see if it had a sign that might tell us something about where we were.
No sign. No surprise.
We went in, because why not?
It contained all the usual chapel accouterments: lots of religious pictures, an altar behind curtains, candles to light, a box for coins and bills to help pay for candles and oil and wicks and upkeep.
I studied the first picture, sounding out the Greek words. P-r-o-f . . . E-l-i-as. Mike, looking at a familiar picture of a guy looking at a crow holding a cracker, heard “Elias” and said “Oh, Elijah.” When he said “Elijah,” I recognized the first Greek word as “prophet.” The clues clicked into place.
I suggested Mike look at the map again and see if this Aghios Elias might be on the map.
Well, what do you know: It was!
We lit a candle for Barb, who couldn’t be there; for the Greek alphabet, and being able to sound out words; and for now knowing where we were, even if we weren’t sure how we’d gotten there.
Back on Track, Literally and Figuratively
With a bit more map study and deciding which of the four roads we were looking at wasn’t on the map, we concluded that Aghios Petros was just over another hill. The jury was still out on whether we’d found and taken the right road to this point or not.
Ding-ding-ding! We finally got it right! We found Aghios Petros, and it is now our favorite chapel on the island. This whole rural area is our favorite on the island.
We enjoyed 360-degree views, the warm temperature, and no wind. No wind! We took some time to orient ourselves (especially geographically challenged me) to the different roads and buildings we could see, recalling places we’ve been and noting places we want to go.
Roads Less Traveled
On the way back, we discovered that we had, in fact, not been on the right road to the intersection with Aghios Elias. We may have been briefly on a farmer’s private road, after all. Or maybe it’s a public road that just isn’t on the map. Beats me.
The original plan had been to return the way we’d come, but with the error and a last-minute decision because the day was so nice, we wound up extending the trip and making a figure 8 loop.
On the way through a pine forest along the coast, we crossed paths with a Greek man walking his dog. After casual greetings in both English and Greek, he asked where we were from. His English was excellent, and he was interested in talking. Turns out, he’s a retired photographer who worked for Kodak and lived in the US and UK for five and six years each. Now, he lives close to the marina in a house previously owned by his grandfather, and I have a mind to popping in on him. I’d like to learn more about him and see some of his photos.
Do you know how old the Aghios Petros is? (Or did I miss that?!)
You didn’t miss it, Lena; I didn’t include it originally. We have little info about Leros ourselves: no guidebooks. It’s not a popular tourist island. I found one source online that claims it was built in the 14th century. It also indicates there are some other markers of other buildings, and we’ll look for those next time we visit.