… a trip to the ruins on the other side of the island today, just, really, to give myself some exercise. I only found out about the ruins from the guide book I bought in Athens last week. Nobody who actually lives here mentions any ruins, other than the old Ottoman “fort” (more probably a warehouse with a missing roof, in my opinion) along the shore, that used to be an open air cinema until one of the walls collapsed, about twenty years ago during a showing of Kelly’s Heroes, I gather. Greeks still remember the Second World War, and appreciate movies of that genre, particularly if the Nazis are getting their asses whipped. You can still go into the three-sided building and find faded 1980s cigarette packets, if you can stand the smell of goats.
These ruins over the hill are perhaps pre-Hellenic, predating what we think of as Greek Architecture, but not Minoan, so I was not exceptionally interested. It really was more of an outing than a site-seeing expedition.
The bike, which seldom gets a proper trip, was running well. It’s a Suzuki TS-125, so it’s not going to win any races, but it’s ideal for Greek roads and dirt tracks, having lots of ground clearance and comfortably long-travel front forks, which take the impact out of hitting small rocks, yet it can go quite quickly in top gear on the flat with a following wind and some tarmac. .
Parts of the road over the hill are quite steep, there’s a lot of gravel at the edges, but the middle is quite good, and I was enjoying the characteristic odour of wild thyme and savory that fills the air. Over the crest, I was met by the sight of the road snaking down the hill to a white village on the other side, and the vast expanse of sea fading to a high, but indistinct horizon. The smell of herbs intensified, mingled now with woodsmoke. It was truly idyllic, until I started to feel a little sponginess in the back end of the bike, which turned out to be a suddenly flat tyre. There wasn’t far to go by the time the tyre was flat enough to be self-destructive, at which point I dismounted and wheeled the machine into the village, perhaps a couple of miles, taking three quarters of an hour, and suffering many hacks to the shin, because bikes stick out at various points and they are hard and sharp. The slightest incaution results in a collision of ankle with unyielding steel. Ankles always come off worst.
Sure, there was a bike repair shop in the village, but the owner was not there. Idlers in the neighbourhood expected him about 11 o’clock, so I parked the bike outside his garage doors, and walked to the ruins. Don’t bother, even if you’re in the area. They consist of a wire-fenced acre of low stone foundations arranged around a bit of a pre-historic road, and very overgrown with thorny weeds. The most interesting feature is a tumbledown lean-to of rusty corrugated iron and scaffolding poles that was evidently the headquarters of the Italian archaeological team which originally cleared the site in 1937. If there are ancient treasures there, they are yet to be revealed. I stood in the shade of the lean-to and consulted the guidebook. Had I read between the lines closely before I came, I might have predicted this. The entry on this site was clearly filler, containing phrases such as “it is said…” and “pre-war excavation may have revealed…”. The writer gave no evidence of having visited.
Returning to the village, Mr Fixit had still not appeared, and I took refuge in the taverna for an hour or two, or perhaps three. By two in the afternoon, I was making plans to get back. The choice was whether to leave the bike and take a bus or taxi home, hoping it could be repaired in my absence, or to walk the bike home over the hill, a distance of some six miles. Buoyed up by an excellent lunch of ouzo and wine with a few titbits of meze, I decided to walk. Big mistake. It was nearly five when I arrived, perspiring audibly, at the bike repair shop in my own town, and my right ankle and shin are a medical emergency.
In charge of the shop was the twelve year old grandson of the owner, who speaks better English than I speak Greek. I was quite alarmed when, without much ado, this child began to strip down the complicated mechanisms that hold the back wheel and chain in place, but he seemed to know what he was doing. In about forty minutes, he had the wheel off, the inner tube out, the nail in the tyre identified and removed, a puncture repair applied, and the whole lot re-assembled and inflated. In payment, he asked for a trifling sum – six Euros. Such was my relief, I gave him ten and refused change.
This is what my bike probably looked like when it was new. Don’t ask when that was. To be fair, when I bother to clean it, it still looks quite a lot like this.