In the morning there was real improvement in the weather and at breakfast Vangellis promised us a day or two of clear skies which came as a bit of a relief. After breakfast we returned to the room and were entertained by a massive row between a young Italian couple. She was so completely hysterical that we were certain that she was being murdered but later Martin and Lisa told us that this was quite normal and just a regular part of their day.
Our normal routine on Ios is to spend the day around the port and on the beach and then visit the Chora for the sunset and for evening meal. This year to be different we decided to visit the main town in the morning to see what it was like during the day. Actually it wasn’t so nice and whilst the evening darkness disguises all the evidence of clubbers and boozers it was all exposed early in the morning. Discarded bottles and cans in the corners and clubs and bars that look inviting in the gloom looking cheap and nasty in the cold light of day.
We walked to the top and admired the views of the port and on the way down stopped to talk to some fellow travellers. As we exchanged stories I saw what I thought was a lizard but quickly realised that it was a snake. Olive brown and about a metre long it slithered by and disappeared into a tiny crack in the steps. Later I asked Antonia who was surprised to hear of a siting in the town and told me that a local naturist had reintroduced these serpents to the island and that they were poisonous. I am all for preserving the natural environment but that is just plain daft! There is a medical centre on Ios but for anything serious the only treatment is on the mainland and a snake bite would mean airlifting by ambulance back to Athens.
We didn’t stay long at the Chora and walked back down to Homer’s, collected our beach gear and made our way to our favourite beach at Valmas where we had promised ourselves a lunch of calamari.
Valmas doesn’t look very much it has to be said, just a small quiet bay with a shingle beach and a sea bed littered with rocks that makes access to the sea quite difficult. I am not much of a beach person I have to say but this is very nice indeed, not a tourist beach at all and most of the other people there were local people and those who clearly just happened to know about it. I know about it now as well so that is why we go back every year.
Lying on the rocks about a hundred metres away were three naked women all enjoying the sun on their bodies and manoeuvring themselves into precarious positions to maximise the tanning effects of the solar rays. Having what I consider to be a healthy interest in naked ladies this naturally intrigued me a great deal and on a sort of Jacques Cousteau pretence of snorkelling and looking for fish and other marine life I swam closer and closer until I could achieve a better view. Now, let this be a lesson to all men with deteriorating vision, because believe me on closer examination this was not a pretty sight at all and in the quest for a voyeuristic opportunity I have to confess a hugely bitter disappointment. On closer inspection these three women were most unattractive and I’m not sure that one of them was a woman at all. Later we discovered that they were Swedish and believe me they were very big Scandinavian girls!
Actually it was all a bit disappointing today, the sea was in a bit of a mess, all churned up and murky following the previous day’s storm, unattractive naked sunbathers and worst of all no calamari at the taverna. We had a nice fresh fish instead and the old lady promised that there would be some tomorrow. So we had an extra drink to compensate and then left and walked back.
We walked along the side of the cliff and then past the little white church at the end of the track. On top there was a Greek flag that was flapping uncontrollably in the wind and trying desperately to separate itself from the pole that was hanging onto it. The blue and white flag of Greece is called ‘Galanolefci’, which means ‘blue and white’. Originally it was blue with a white diagonal cross but the cross has now been moved to the upper left corner, and is symbolic of the Christian faith. Being a seafaring nation, the blue of the flag represents the colour of the sea. White is the colour of freedom, which is something that is very important to the Greeks after years of enslavement under foreign domination. The nine stripes of the flag each symbolise a syllable in the Greek motto of freedom: E-LEY-THE-RI-A-I-THA-NA-TOS, which translates literally into ‘Freedom or Death’.
At the church there were some preparations being made for a baptism and the building and all around it were being decorated in pink and white in readiness. We enquired about the event and the lady in charge invited us to return at eight o’clock that night to see the ceremony and we agreed that we would.
It was very hot now and we spent the rest of the afternoon at the pool at Homer’s talking to our fellow guests and friends although to be honest after fourteen straight days on the Amstel, Robin was living in a completely parallel dimension!
Later we returned to the church to see the baptism ceremony of the little girl into the Christian Orthodox Church, which is a major event in the life of any Greek family because of the numerous rites, which accompany it, many of which go back to the earliest centuries of Christianity. It was a lovely experience and now this holiday we had seen a funeral on Serifos, a wedding on Sifnos and a baptism on Ios. A Greek baptism is a sacred and religious rite that is performed on a baby to cleanse the soul and renounce Satan. The baptism is a complex initiation that starts with an exorcism and officially ends forty days later when the baby is presented to the congregation to receive Holy Communion. We weren’t able to stop for the full forty days and we began to feel a bit like intruders on a private family event so before it was all over we left the church and returned to the Chora and the Mills where we enjoyed another satisfying meal and a jug of red wine before returning to Homer’s for a final drink on the balcony.