Saturday, September 28, 2013

Megisti, a/k/a Meis, a/k/a Kastellorizo or Castellorizo

 As always, click on any image for larger view.
Kas old harbor, opposite side peninsula from marina
We have spent the past month mostly just sailing back and forth in the big bay between Fethiye and Gocek; not doing anything particularly interesting so difficult to get enthused about writing a blog; spending some time in Tomb Bay in Skopea Limani on the western side of that big bay.  Tomb Bay seems to be our favorite anchorage, so far, of those places that require a stern line ashore.  I continue to hate dealing with that stern line, although I do understand why it is necessary in so many places.  Our favorite swing anchorage is behind the tiny island of Fethiye Adasi.  Usually we are the only boat anchored there.  It is too far to dinghy into Fethiye and there are no restaurants ashore, so most yachties do not see the attractiveness of that anchorage.  The isolation, calmness, and clearer water is exactly why we do prefer that spot over the more crowded usual anchorage near the Coast Guard dock in Fethiye.

Note Coca-Cola advertising
Fold down Coca-Cola ad and you
get a nice bench.  These are all over
the place in Turkey.  Great idea!
But one morning we made a spur-of-the-moment decision to sail down to Kas.  Well, not really.  We decided to sail to Gemelier, a small island filled with ruins that is about 1/3 of the way towards Kas from Fethiye.  When we got to the turning point to head to Gemelier, we decided there were too many charter boats in the area and we would simply continue onward to Kas and maybe stop at Gemelier on the way back.  Or sail to Gemelier during the second week of October when there might be fewer charter boats filling the small anchorage there.

Soon afterward we put out the pole on the port side and enjoyed a great day of downwind sailing all the way to Kas.  We had hoped to swing anchor near the Kas Marina.  This would have been possible except for 2 gulets that arrived just before us and anchored with stern lines ashore.  That ended our hopes for a swing anchor so we hailed the marina and asked for a berth.  We had previously emailed the marina to inquire if they were still offering the 'pay for 1 day and get 1 day free' promotion that they had the last time we were here in May 2012.  That promotion is no longer offered but since we had stayed there last year under that promotion the marina manager kindly offered us a deal of pay for 2 days and get 1 day free.  Okay; we'll gladly accept that offer.

When we first arrived in Kas Marina near sunset that day conditions were perfectly calm.  It was easy to see why someone might consider this a good place to winter.  It has everything one might want and is less than a mile walk into the town.  Even a mid-sized Migros Supermarket right inside the marina.  Every amenity one might want.  But the last time we were here winds exceeded 25 knots and the docks were 'snaking' terribly.  Boats had to be placed 3 meters from the docks.  People were having to get into their dinghies in order to get onto the docks.  I felt that walking on the snaking dock was not safe.  We decided then that there was no way we would winter in the water at Kas Marina.  

The second day on this visit the same thing happened.  Winds were only 22 knots but it was rough enough to make the docks snake.  Very glad we were staying put for another 2 days to let the weather system move through and conditions calm down.

Kastellorizo, viewed from hillside while walking up to museum 
The main reason for going to Kas was that I wanted to visit the Greek island of Kastellorizo.  Almost every yachtie we have spoken with has simply sailed their own boat or their charter boat over to Kastellorizo -- without legally clearing out of Turkey and clearing into Greece.  Everyone -- literally, everyone -- says that this is okay.  That Kastellorizo is so off the beaten track of Greek isles that the officials both in Kas (Turkey) and in Kastellorizo (Greece) turn a blind eye to 
Harbor statue.  Really fitting for the place.
the violators.  They simply remove the Turkish courtesy flag and put up a Greek courtesy flag.  Being the strict law-abiding Americans that we are, we could not do this.  With our luck we would be the one boat that got checked either by the Turkish coast guard or the Greek police.  They could fine us 500 Euro each plus 2,000 Euro for the boat......and they could legally confiscate our boat.  Consider that this is the same as being an illegal immigrant.  Just not worth the remote chance of that happening for us to knowingly violate the law.  Especially when it is so easy to simply take the ferry over for the day and do everything legally.  Which is exactly what we did.

Approaching harbor at Kastellorizo

Kastellorizo, or Castellorizo, is the name of this island on our navigational charts.  In Kas, the ferry line advertises trips to Meis, which appears to be the currently favored name in Turkey for this island.  The ancient name was Megisti or Megiste.  It is darn near impossible to keep all these names straight and know that these all refer to the same place.  

And a closer view as we arrived
The Meis Express ferry leaves the old tiny Kas harbor (not the Kas Marina area) each day at 10:00.  You must book the ferry on the previous day and surrender your passport to the ferry company.  They take all passenger passports to the Harbour Master's office and you are stamped exiting Turkey.  Once on the ferry your passport is returned to you.  Upon arrival in Kastellorizo you once again surrender your passport to the Greek Immigration Police; they do not stamp the passport, but they do look at each person and confirm that the passport photo matches.  The ferry departs Kastellorizo at 16:00. 
Hey wait!  Is this Greece?  Looks sort of Dutch.

The ferry company collects the passports from the Greek Immigration Police; upon arrival back in Kas the passports are again taken to the Harbour Master and stamped back into Turkey on the same visa.  One does not have to pay for another Turkish visa.  Thirty minutes or so after arriving back in Kas, you go to the ferry office and collect your passport, now legally cleared back into Turkey.  Cost of the round-trip ferry was 50 TL on the day we visited, about $25 each.

Greek flag painted on mountain.
Reminded me of Cyprus.

Many of the ferry passengers very obviously made this trip just to visit the Duty-Free Shop in Kastellorizo so they could purchase less expensive liquor, wine and tobacco.  Turkey considers those items to be luxury items and taxes heavily.  Much less expensive in Greece.  We did not bother to visit the Duty-Free Shop.  We don't drink enough liquor or wine to make it worthwhile to haul bags back from Greece.

It is also possible to continue onward to other Greek islands if one is traveling in that direction.  A 3X weekly ferry connects with Rhodes, where one can connect either via ferry or flight to just about anywhere desired.

Mosque minaret entering harbor
Kastellorizo is a simple Greek fishing village.  The main businesses appeared to be tiny restaurants crowding the narrow sidewalk around the harbor.  It is very picturesque.  As we motored into the entrance I was somewhat surprised to see the minaret of a mosque on the left hand side of the harbor.  Several Orthodox churches could be seen strewn about on both sides of the harbor and up the mountainside, but I was surprised to see a mosque.  I don't remember ever seeing a mosque on any other Greek island.

Could this look more Greek?  I think not.
BTW, Kastellorizo enjoys an especially close relationship with the nearby Turkish town of Kas.  Kastellorizo is situated fairly distant from all the other Greek isles in the Aegean, and is very close to the Turkish coast.  In fact, Kastellorizo does not rate a mention neither in our Greek tourist guide nor in our sailing guide for Greece.  Information on Kastellorizo is provided in both our Lonely Planet guide for Turkey as well as our sailing guide for Turkey.  A note in our sailing guide states that Kastellorizo had a population of 8,800 at the end of WWII, but that a few years ago the inhabitants numbered only 200.  Supposedly, there is an agreement that if the population drops to 85 inhabitants then the island will revert to Turkey.  The population has increased slightly very recently and numbered 495 in the 2011 census.  There is a lot of renovation going on at the moment.  I like out-of-the-way places.  But I would go stark-raving insane living in that small place, regardless of how picturesque.

A perfectly Greek tiny harbor.

There is sufficient room for possibly 5 yachts to anchor in the small harbor without crowding the ferries.  There also is a town quay that accommodates maybe 15 yachts docked stern-to.  I did not notice any electrical shore power pedestals, so probably all you get is just a spot to dock for easy access to the restaurants.

The old and the newly renovated old.

And, boy!, do they have restaurants.   Small cafes with sidewalk tables right on the water's edge lined all the way around the harbor.  All looked so good it was difficult to choose which one for lunch.

This is a street.  Believe it or not.  Bill is
standing in front of the 'supermarket'
and those are store displays in the street.
The narrow alleyways are really the streets.
I brought along our insulated cold-bag in hopes we might find pork.  We sought out the 'supermarket' and were sorely disappointed.  It was tinier than the smallest convenience store imaginable.  There was some frozen meat but we could not read Greek and I could not positively identify anything in its frozen state and wrappings, so we returned empty handed.  Much later I read in our Lonely Planet guide for Turkey that it is possible to purchase pork in the Duty-Free Shop in Kastellorizo.  That seems more than a little weird to me and I question the validity of that advice.
Love the doors here.  The top sections
open for ventilation while the
bottom sections provide privacy
from passers-by looking into home.

Man coming out of his home doorway.  Close only the
lower sections and leave top sections open for
ventilation.  Passers-by cannot see inside home.

We walked all around the harbor and enjoyed wandering the very narrow walkways between the very crowded buildings.  There were several old churches that most of the tourists were visiting, but none heightened interest in either Bill or me; so we gave that a miss.

Getting energy to hike up the hill

We settled on a comfy wicker sofa to soak up the setting and people-watch, always good entertainment.  Bill downed a Mythos beer (those are so large!) while I enjoyed a freshly squeezed orange juice.  We needed to bolster our energy level for the walk uphill to the museum.   

Castle ruins; not worth the hike up, IMHO.

The steps up the hillside were not too bad to navigate.  The continual slope upwards after we reached the top of the steps were another matter!  These uphill slopes do not bother Bill at all, but my mitral valve problem makes my heart pound like it is going to pop out of my chest.  We stopped a couple of times to snap photos of the harbor below, and for me to catch my breath.  It was only a short distance to the museum, thank goodness.  I decided to forego walking farther up the hillside to visit the ruins of the castle.  It did not look like much was left standing up there.

First of the steps up the hill to the museum and castle
Very old planes in harbor.  Many more buildings then,.
Inside the museum were old aerial photographs of the harbor during WWII.  I do not know why this particular island would have been of any strategical significance during WWII, but apparently it was.  The old photographs show many more buildings back then than remain today.  There is still evidence of bombing in some of the partial remains of old buildings still standing here and there.  I honestly cannot understand why this tiny harbor would of been of any importance.  But this place was heavily bombed, nevertheless.

Memorial to those who drowned
Near the largest church (near where we soaked up sunshine, fresh orange juice, and Mythos beer) there stood a small monument.  The plaque stated that this was a memorial.  Shortly after WWII 497 Kastellorizons boarded a ship in Port Said, Egypt, to return to their island home in the Aegean.  That ship sank, and 85 Kastellorizons, mostly women and children, lost their lives.  The monument lists the names of those killed, along with the simple words, "Lest we forget."

Byzantine plates
Byzantine plate
The museum was not very large.  It held the typical things -- Roman artifacts; Lycian artifacts; early Christian artifacts; plus a large collection of pottery which had been recovered from a Byzantine shipwreck at the opposite end of the island.  Hey, I found a new set of dishes for BeBe!  If only.

Old jewelry from older coin
The museum had only 1 old coin.  That is surprising.  Usually there are a bunch of old coins covering many time periods and cultures.  This particular coin was from the era of emperors Heraclius and Heraclius-Constantine, 613-638 A.D.  It had 'more recently' (as in about 1000 A.D.) been used as dress ornament, hence the wide embossed silver encircling the coin.

Looking back toward Turkey

From the museum there were great views looking eastward to Turkey.  Tiny white caps were still topping the wind-driven waves out there in the area not sheltered by the island.  Glad we were doing a land-based activity today and not having to sail.  Would have had salt splashed all over the boat!

Next area of the museum contained a few frescoes.  The frescoes came from the Church of St. Nickolas at Mourmouria, which is near the castle farther up the mountainside.  That church dates to 1460 A.D.; the frescoes date to sometime in the 1600s.  The church was severely damaged by bombs during WWII.  The frescoes were detached from the old church in 1976, and later brought to this museum.  The frescoes depict the book of Genesis and some of the individual saints.  


As was the style in the 1600s, these frescoes are very dark and black.  

Traditional female dress

Dangerous stairway
Another room of the museum displayed traditional manners of dress for this island.  No dates were provided.  Certainly no one here dresses like this anymore!

We retraced our footsteps and found a stairway back down to the museum entrance.  They had at least installed a handrail on the wall side of the steps.  This would never be allowed back home.  Way too easy for someone to fall on those uneven and steep stone stairs.  

Hardy oleander growing in stone

The stairs led to a courtyard filled with all sorts of things; nothing special.  But I was impressed with a small oleander plant growing right out of the stone floor.  No dirt; just right out of the stone.  Oleanders are native to Turkey and I am sometimes amazed at how hardy these plants are.  No wonder these grow so well in Galveston, Texas.

Old method of sponge fishing

Tucked in a back area on the ground floor of the museum was a display of the traditional sponge fishermen.  Somehow I don't think this is done anymore.  This island was once known for its sponge fishermen.

Lighthouse light covering.  Would reflect lots of light.

Also back there was a top section for a lighthouse.  I was glad to see this, even if it was not an old thing.  When we sailed from Fethiye to Kas we had passed Patara.  Patara was once a HUGE port in Roman times but is completely silted in now.  In fact, the silted in area forms the longest stretch of sandy beach that can be found anywhere along the Turkish coastline -- 18 kilometers or 10.8 miles.  We could easily identify the ancient lighthouse, which supposedly is the oldest lighthouse in the world discovered to date.  We had discussed what might have been used in that ancient lighthouse to reflect the flame out to sea.  Bill speculated that hammered tin or copper could have been used; along with soot slaves to keep that metal gleaming.  Here is a link explaining the Patara Lighthouse.  
 Patara Lighthouse  

A smaller "morning fish" at another sidewalk cafe
We visited Patara in May or June 2012 with Chay, Katie and Jaimie of S/V Esprit.  And we will be visiting Patara again with a group of cruisers in early November.  A most impressive site.  BTW, on our return passage to Fethiye we could not see the lighthouse.  Guess the sunlight must be just right for it to show up when a half-mile or more at sea.

Biggest fish we have seen since arriving in the Med.
Each floor tile is over 12" so that should give viewers
an estimate of the size of this amberjack.

After the museum we walked back to town and selected a place for lunch.  We chose the place that had the largest "morning fish" that day.  That is what the menu called the huge amberjack that had been caught by the fisherman for this restaurant that day.  BTW, amberjack is called kingfish locally.

Our table was literally right on the water.  To the point that I had to be careful to keep my chair legs on the stone pavement!  Kept thinking that any second I would knock the camera or my knife or something into the water.  Did manage to get through lunch without that happening.  

Our lunch spot
We enjoyed a combination of 3 starters as our lunch -- fried calamari, french fries, and a local speciality of small fried mashed balls made from chickpeas.  I could not understand the Greek name for the chickpea balls.  The waitress said these were the local delicacy and were quite tasty.  Yeah.....well....not so much to me.  These were rather tasteless.  Would have been barely okay if we had tzatziki to dip them into.  So, fried....fried...and fried for lunch.  Healthy, huh?

Castle in the distance up there.
Then we walked some more.  Ran into some charterers who docked on the town quay while we were eating.  They were mostly Germans with 2 Americans, on 2 charter boats.  They had been at Kas for the past 2 nights across the dock from us.  They did what I described earlier -- just switched flags and sailed on over.  Not their boat so they weren't worried about it being in Greece illegally.  Not to mention themselves.  The Germans would not have a problem because Greece is EU; but the Americans could.  I know; I know.  'Everyone' does it.  Don't worry about it.

Television interview for travel series
Farther down the harbor sidewalk we stopped for baklava and coffee since we still had 3 hours to while away before the ferry return trip to Kas.   Normally neither of us eats baklava.  It is way too sweet.  But this baklava was like nothing like the baklava with which I am familiar.  It was as tall as a 2-layer American style cake.  With a nut filling more than an inch thick.  And no honey visible.  It was excellent!  Great with black coffee to offset the sweetness.  Good thing that is not available often because I would indulge too frequently!

Interview in background right
While enjoying coffee and dessert  a woman reporter and camera man arrived to interview one of the restaurant owners.  His shirt displayed the name of his tour company.  So I assume she was doing a travel segment for some television station and they were featuring Kastellorizo as a destination.  People kept walking right between the camera man and the reporter doing the interview.  Not like they had a lot of choice; that sidewalk was pretty narrow.  Finally the owner of the restaurant started diverting people to walk around the building.  Most people listened but a few kept right on walking between the camera and the interview.  Bet that tape will be difficult to edit.

Finally it was time to board the ferry back to Kas.  A quick trip back across to the old harbor; a thirty minute wait for our passports to be processed; and a slow walk back through town and down to the marina.  What the heck!   Just another mile or 2; we could do it!  

View of the mosque, right next to the bar, as we motored
out of tiny Kastellorizo harbor towards Kas.
The next morning the wind had died.  Perfect for motoring back to Fethiye.  Once again we thought about stopping at Gemelier and even sailed close by.  But, once again, decided there were too many charter boats.  We will do that another time.

We returned to the main anchorage at Fethiye.  Visited the private hospital one day for Bill to have a follow-up blood test that his doctor at MD Anderson in Houston had requested.  Lab results show that Bill remains cancer free!  Wonderful news!  I think they will continue follow-up blood tests for several years.  We fully expect the results to remain so positive -- or, actually, negative.  Negative lab tests are what we want.  All in all, life is great!

Nights are much cooler now.  Autumn has arrived.  This is the most perfect time for sailing the coast of Turkey.  It is blissful and we are loving it!