Saturday, November 10, 2007

Zia and the climb up the Byzantine castle ruins in (old) Pyli

Big cities do not leave me struck and enamored anymore, unless it has pockets of charismatic quarters such as the Montmartre in Paris, or the seemingly town-y feel of Amsterdam where everything is within reach by foot. Huge sprawls of conurbation really turn me off. Maybe growing up in the city has completely robbed me of the magic. But it doesn’t mean I am scraping off big cities from my travel list. It’s just not as fulfilling as opposed to finding myself exploring little villages, ancient fortresses and forgotten ruins.

Now, this post came upon when I was checking my online foto album, which is a work-in-progress by the way as I still have travel fotos that needed to be uploaded. I like to look back at the places I have visited and muse over my experiences, and savor again the sights. It’s also a great repository for people to refer to in their future travels. I do the same anyway, I search for fotos and stories online of places I like to travel and I am thankful there are people out there who give time to post their experiences and fotos online. It helps greatly in reaching an informed decision.

For this entry, I’m talking about ZIA, the pretty little mountain village of Dikaion in the Greek island of Kos, and the forgotten Byzantine castle ruins of OLD PYLI.

The beautiful panorama of Kos from Zia mountain village.

This was in the summer of 2006 (just last year). It has always been our tradition, something I have imposed on the Dutchman, lol, that in every beach holiday we go to, we will incorporate it with some cultural activities. The Dutchman is reluctant, of course, but in the later years, he has been quite flexible (a good sign for such improvement ha-ha!) and have tolerated many a visits. But when it becomes unbearable and he gets claustrophobic with the cultural experience, I go alone. I just let him sit back lounging in the sun at the pool or beach all morning or afternoon until I am back. Fair deal!

For a backgrounder, Kos is part of the Dodecanese group of islands and is situated to the east from Athens near the (sea) border of Turkey.

The main road in Zia lined up with taverns and souvenir shops.

So we went to Zia on a motorbike we rented in Kos Centrum for a week. We thought it was best to rent a motorbike than a car or jeep in Kos seeing the island is relatively small.

Upon reaching Zia, I was impressed with its charm, albeit the mountain village being too touristy with many souvenir shops littered all over the place, but, on the other hand, the village evokes a downright appeal. It has its own particular ambience, a special localized sphere beneath the conspicuous touristy make-up.

I then quickly surveyed the hamlet and explored the little cobble-stoned side streets with joy - yeah, just like a little child in a candy store, lol.

Olive oil in their pretty packaging and next foto is my favorite - took this in one of the taverns by the main road. Think this can be a postcard foto no?

Locals here in Zia sell the typical Greek goodies that you can find all over the country: olive oil with herbs and chili peppers nicely packaged in pretty bottles, honey with thyme, olive soaps, and a varied assortment of herbs.

Behind this sign is the old watermill built in 1800. The owner improvised a bit and is now selling traditional handmade carpets, handpainted ceramic and herbs & honey. Next foto is the tavern with a veranda where we had lunch.

We had lunch in one of the pretty taverns with a terrace on its roof that boasts of spectacular views of Kos. Zia was a beautiful experience and I highly recommend people traveling to Kos to visit this quaint little village in the mountain.

More fotos of Zia and (old) Pyli Byzantine castle ruins here:

Zia, Lagoudi, and Pyli castle

Later in the afternoon we head off to Old Pyli - the ghost town. I saw a sign board on the main road saying there is a castle up there. I also learned about the poignant story of Old Pyli, abandoned by its villagers in 1830 when the cholera epidemic stole the lives of many of its inhabitants.

The Castle sign in Greek.

We passed by the (new) Pyli village, where after the tragic epidemic its inhabitants relocated, and have since then owned the place as their new home. The direction to the Byzantine castle ruins was clear enough and when we arrived Dutchman gave me a quirky look – “I am not going to hike up that mountain to see only stones and ruins!”

“Fine, then you can stay put here with your motorbike!”

A part of the Byzantine castle ruins.

The climb up the castle ruins proved to be a difficult task. For one, I was not in my right shoe attire; I was wearing girly slippers, lol. Not even those rubber flip-flops which would have been easier to walk on, I think. So I took my girly slippers off and mounted the rocky mountain bare-footed. Yes, bare-footed.

Other visitors were glancing at my feet, perhaps thinking of the bravery, treading on hot earth (it was probably 30C!), loose stones and pebbles, and rocks, but when my eyes meet theirs, they smile back sheepishly.

Me with the Byzantine castle ruins behind.

It took me almost half an hour to reach the top, which is actually a detour to a tavern where a better view of the castle ruins can be seen. I was panting heavily; my breath was all over me, lol. Luckily, the tavern on top was open (the other castle we went to, the tavern was closed), and thankfully too, I didn’t leave my purse with the Dutchman. I would have salivated at the cold drinks the English couple, who also just arrived, was sipping.

The magnificent view from atop and the English couple who took my foto above.

Briefly, the owner of the tavern chatted with me. He is in his mid-thirties. He told me his family owned the land for generations and that the castle ruins – which serves as its view is more than 1,000 years old. He did ask me where I come from as he cannot seem to figure out my features. I told him I originally come from the Philippines but now live in the Netherlands. Our short conversation ended when I thanked him for the drink and proceeded to go down the cliff where the magnificent view of the Byzantine castle ruins can be seen, and a peek of Kos City far away behind.

The tavern up in the mountain.

The panorama was amazingly breathtaking. I stood there for a while and locked myself with the view before I started taking fotos. The English couple politely turned to me and asked if I want a picture of myself with the castle ruins. Well, who would not want?

Then I realized – Oh my! The Dutchman is still below waiting for me! LOL

I said my goodbyes to the English couple and the Greek tavern owner and readied myself with the downward trek, something I was not really looking forward to. After almost half an hour of descent, the image of the Dutchman and the motorbike emerged – already in full gear and just waiting for me to hop in at the back.

Bare-footed I said!

“What took you so long?” scoffed the frowning Dutchman. “I’ve been waiting for you for more than an hour.”

I thought - Ah, good that they provide a pool of running water so I can wash my dirty feet - not really paying attention to the annoyed Dutchman. Well, what choice do I have? I just had one marvelous experience up there so he needs to get off my back ;-)

On the way back to Kos saddled at the back of the motorbike, I tried telling Dutchman the magnificent views above, the ancient castle ruins, and the tavern... but my story just fell into deaf ears.

Like what they all say – Ignorance is indeed bliss.

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