Thursday, September 29, 2011

Suddenly, I found myself panicking, sweating and standing on a street corner in Samos, Greece, with a 20 Euro bill in my hand, trying to hitchhike my way into town.

This is my story.

With an hour to go before the ferry boat returned to Kuşadası, our kind waitress told my girl friend and I, there were no taxis or buses today. Sheryl had just finished a cappuccino freddo, and I was only half-way done with my second very well-chilled Mythos beer at Gregory’s Bar, located near the Pythagorio port.

This cappuccino freddo was addictive!
“What? You’re kidding right?” I said.

“No. There’s a 48-hour strike. No taxis. No buses,” she responded. (Note: she was right. See online article here.)

“You’re still kidding, right?” I said as I started to panic. I still didn’t comprehend this as we had just traveled from Samos to Patmos less than two days ago. No problems.
A view of the port of Pythagorio before we pulled into dock.
We rushed around the corner, dragging our suitcases, and approached the jeweler where Sheryl had purchased a pair of earrings minutes earlier. “You’re my only friend on Samos. Can you help us get to Samos town? We’ll pay you,” she said.

The jeweler conversed in rapid-fire Greek with the women next door. One suggested we might have to wait until the next day. That wouldn’t work – we had a ferry to catch in an hour and then a flight back to Istanbul from Izmir to make the following day, which was today.

A pick-up truck was passing by. I flagged him down. He knew the jeweler as I’m sure just about everybody knows everybody on Samos.

We begged him to take us to the main port in Samos. He said he couldn’t because he was heading to the airport in the opposite direction, but he would drive us up to the main street corner so we could flag somebody else down. Thank goodness for the kindness of strangers so far!

The next thing I know, we’re unloading our rolling suitcases out of the back of his pick-up, standing on a street corner in Samos and waving to every car that passes by. There we were – two crazed, blond American women stranded on a Greek island.

Sheryl decided to see whether she could rent a car or hire someone from a travel agency while I kept standing on the street corner. Several cars drove by, looked at me and shook their heads ‘no.’

‘Please take pity on us and help us,’ I kept thinking as I waved the 20 Euro bill in my hand. Surely, somebody would take the money and help us.

This whole scenario played out for only 20 minutes when Sheryl waved to me and said she found someone who would drive us. That’s when I started crying. I was relieved.

A young gentleman, a German of Greek and Australian ancestry if I recall correctly, who had just gotten off work, loaded our suitcases and our frazzled selves into his white compact car. I plopped down in the front seat where I kept shedding tears and sniffling.

“There’s no reason to cry. We still have plenty of time,” he reassured me.

I couldn’t help it. Sometimes when I get stressed out, I cry.

The car ride, which only took about 15 minutes or so, went by in a blur for me. Sheryl and I conversed with this kind stranger about our lives in Istanbul and inquired about life in Samos. He told us the strikes make it very difficult for life on the island, both for residents and for the tourists, and it’s not the first time it has happened.

(Apparently, there is another Greek general strike planned for Oct. 5. Really? I did a Google search of transportation strikes in Greece, and they really do happen quite frequently. As if it really solves anything!)

A few things we learned from our gracious stranger:
  • His father owns some vineyards where he makes his own wine and sells the grapes. Samos wine is very well-known in the area. We passed the 100-year-old winery where the grapes are processed.
  • The island is very quiet about six months out of the year. “You work really hard for those six months and hope you make enough money to get through the rest of the year,” he told us.
  • Samos does get cold during the winter months. Then, snow even covers the peaks of two of the island’s largest mountains, the rough and rocky Kerketeus with a height of 1,443 meters and Ambelos with a height of 1,160 meters.
  • The high mountains contribute to the many rainfalls that occur on the island in the wintertime.
  • There are several ancient ruin sites, beaches and monasteries that are worth coming back to visit. Since Turkey is fairly close to the island, maybe that’s a possibility down the road. (See: things to do on Samos.
Here you can see some Greek ruins in the background behind the military
boats that happened to be stationed at the port of Pythagorio. 
I can only imagine how this situation would have gone down if no one spoke English.

Once at the Samos port, the three of us shook hands. We paid the young man and thanked him profusely for his help. We made it to our ferry boat with 15 minutes to spare. Of course, we had to wait in line and then were hassled a bit by the passport control folks.

Note to self: return to Samos someday as long as a transportation strike doesn’t prevent you from getting there!
This is a view nearby the port of Samos, where we caught the ferry boat back to Turkey.
I took the photo from the rooftop bar on Hotel Samos. There is
an abandoned, old Catholic Church on the left side.

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jaz@octoberfarm said...

so glad you made it back. those local strikes sure are awful. what a fabulous place!

Sippy Cup Central said...

Now that's a story!!!!

Joy said...

Looking back, now it seems funny! But not so funny while it was happening. =)

It's good to be back in Istanbul.

Sheryl Sparks said...

We were a pretty good team! I had a great time!

Joy said...

Overall, the whole trip was fun! Thanks, Sheryl! What's next? =)

Kim, Living to Seas the Moment said...

What a adventure! So thankful you had favor and made it on time!!!