Patmos: “This Year I Will Count All 365 Chapels”

Antonia Melianou explains why returning to Patmos every summer is always the beginning of a joyous adventure full of delights.

From Antonia Melianou*, edited by Lina Kapetaniou

This account is part of a series of insider takes on the islands of the Dodecanese. For more on these islands, click here.

“And I’m still on Earth / walking in an even suburb…”

I hear the lyric over the speaker, and the song instantly transports me from the city to my rock on the beach of Plaki, which seems to float on the surface of the sea. It waits for me every year until the summer when it transforms into a magic carpet that will take me all over the seahorse-shaped island.

First off it will take me to Psili Ammos, to build sand castles and for fun in the waves and dunes, and for something delicious at the beach’s sole taverna. I will head inland, passing the hills and the goats which roam free on the paths, and stopping frequently to admire the view and take in the serenity.

I will fly between the masts in the shipyard, and head up to see the sunset from Profitis Ilias which is built on the island’s highest point. When the last trace of color has faded, I will head straight for the narrow alleys of Chora, which are like a labyrinth that you hope will never end. I will pass by the square and sit for a while, because it is pretty and peaceful – it is just the beginning of the summer. I will enter the Kapopoulos Gallery which is housed in a beautiful old mansion and features works by important Greek and international artists, and, of course, Andreas Kalatzis’ gallery where every corner hides a delightful surprise.

I can pick up whatever I need at Koukoumavla – a little shop of miracles – which brought life back to the Chora’s municipal market that was closed until recently. For a drink I will head down to Skala, and begin with one of the addictive Mai Tai’s at Chris, or a selection from the extensive wine list while watching the boats going in and out of the harbor just a stone’s throw away. I will sit at Ariona’s wooden bar for the best music on the island. If I want to carry on until morning, I’ll head to Fix or Kasbah.

A short sleep and then a dip in in the refreshing waters of Vagia from which I will emerge refreshed and awake for coffee and a delicious omelet at the beach’s cafe. If I want more swimming, I’ll head to Livadi Geranou and cross to the island opposite with the church of Aghiou Georgiou, or I will go to Petra and swim to the island of Tragonisi.

Visit Liginou – aka the Didimes (twin) beaches – for a fruit salad at the food truck and the sense that you’re a part of the family that has been running it for years. For a more cosmopolitan environment, I’ll head to Kambos, a sandy beach with sunbeds, watersports and shallow waters that are great for kids. Andreas, who literally grew up here, will answer all of your questions and get you up waterskiing or wakeboarding. I, on the other hand, will just rent a paddle boat and visit every beach that can’t be reached by foot.

As I emerge from the sea, I set foot on the wooden gangway and head straight to George’s Place where, even if I’m not hungry, I will order a salad or a savory pie just for the smile George gives as he serves it – always together with an ice-cold glass of beer. For accessible luxury I will go to Pleiades Bar in Sapsila to eat pancakes for breakfast and enjoy a hydromassage at the most charming jacuzzi with its view of the sea.

In the evening, the atmosphere at Beneto, the restaurant that changed the game on the island 22 years ago, draws me in not just for its food, but for its cocktails as well. Shortly before nightfall, I sit on the stone bench that is still warm from the sun, gazing out at the sea with the best dry martini on the island in hand. But I will also pass by Mostra for Japanese cuisine, or Oklaca for Italian.

The monastery and the Cave of the Apocalypse will wait until morning. Heading up there never ceases to fill me with a sense of awe, my senses overwhelmed. I will hop on my magic carpet again and ask it to take me to Lambi, just as I remember it from my childhood, with its smooth pebbles gleaming – small works of art scattered everywhere.

On my return I will count all of the chapels on the island – of which I was always told there were 365, one for every day of the year. The carpet will gently lower me down to my rock.

I open my eyes and I am back in Athens, with the hope that again this summer I will live everything from the start with my loved ones on our blessed and adored island.

*Antonia Melianou grew up in Patmos and left the island to study directing and today lives in Athens. She returns to Patmos every summer.

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