In Search of History in Samos, Greece
This summer’s choice was really tame by comparison to other destinations we have explored in the past. We are both history, travel and literature enthusiasts, preferably combining all three.
Facts about Samos
According to Greek mythology, Samos was the birthplace of Hera, the long suffering wife of Zeus, and she was particularly worshipped on the island.
Samos is very green and very mountainous. Mount Kerkis is actually the highest mountain in the North Eastern Aegean Sea.
You’ll also find lovely beaches, bays, villages, historical sites and hotels to suit any budget. The capital of Samos, where the ferry docks, is located on the eastern shore and called Vathy.
We live part of the year in Didim/Turkey which is a two-hour drive southeast from the port of Kusadasi. A ferry, operated by Meander Travel runs daily from Kusadasi to Vathy, departing at 9 am and returning from Samos at 5 pm.
The duration of the crossing is 1 ½ hours and the ferry ticket costs €60 per person. The ferry only operates during the summer months and it’s imperative to remember to have visa (if required) and valid passports.
We didn’t want to start our journey from Didim so early in the morning; that’s why we stayed overnight in Kusadasi.
Surprisingly, the ferry ticket included pick-up and return to our hotel. You only have to ask. Meander Travel ticket office and travel agency is located close to the entrance to the port, near Toros restaurant, up one flight of stairs, but it’s also clearly indicated.
Overnight in Kusadasi
The rooms are spacious, very clean and have a kitchenette. The hotel has a decent sized swimming pool, well tended gardens, a minimarket and free internet access. You can either take a dolmus (minibus) to the stop at MIGROS and walk a few steps uphill or walk in about 15 minutes to Kusadasi center.
Although you can have all meals in the hotel restaurant, we went to visit our friend at the Toros Restaurant on the waterfront close to the entrance to the port.
The place is frequented by locals, which says it all. You choose from an open hot or cold buffet and the chefs behind it will fill your plate to your taste and specifications. Afiyet olsun (enjoy your meal)!
Once we arrived in Samos and went through passport control, we had about seven hours to see what we came to see. First stop on our agenda for the day was the Eupalinos tunnel, which is located in Panagia Spilani on the southern coast of the island near the town of Pythagorion.
Coming out of the port terminal, turn right, walk along the main road until you come to Lion Square where a taxi rank is located. Local buses run all over the island but we wanted to save time and took a taxi which cost €16 to cover the distance.
For longer stays it may be convenient to hire a car or scooter; agencies are to be found all along the way to Lion Square.
The Eupalinos Tunnel
Samos experienced its time of highest prosperity under the rule of the tyrant Polycrates from 538 to 522 BC. That’s also the date when the tunnel was constructed to bring water from the mountains to the coast. What can be seen today is actually the middle part of an aquaeduct.
It took ten years to construct and was the masterpiece of the Greek engineer Eupalinos after whom it is named. Countless workers and labourers took turns to carve the tunnel out of the mountain and to lay the ceramic pipes through which the water flowed.
Be warned: this adventure trip into the underworld is not for the fainthearted, not for the claustrophobic or the obese. Otherwise, you could literally get stuck in the tunnel, there is no room to manoeuvre.
Once you are down the wooden steps, the tunnel widens a little and the entire length is very well lit. As can be expected, the ground is damp and, in parts, slippery, so no sandals, heels or flip-flops if you don’t want to risk breaking an ankle.
The achievement of those ancient workers and engineers is breathtaking and there are even side tunnels through which you can look at the ceramic pipes, some of which are in pristine condition – after well over 2000 years.
Emerging from the netherworld, we headed for our next stop, which was the Folklore Museum. If you ask the guy at the ticket booth nicely, he will call you a radio taxi because without a car, there is no other way to get away from this site.
The Folklore Museum
Plan for a spare hour or so and you have the chance to combine history and culture with an elemis deep tissue muscle massage or any other treatment you may fancy. Oh yes, they cater to men too.
The museum is only open until 1.30 pm and not everyone will be so lucky to have it reopened for them as we were, when we arrived 20 minutes too late.
That happened because we threw a pity party and told them, we had come all the way from Turkey to see the museum and that opening hours are no where advertised. Both of which were true.
The museum exhibits only pieces and instruments which were used on the island at any one time. A typical, small village house has been reconstructed with fireplace and elevated platform which was the guestroom.
Farming tools, looms, handmade lace, traditional clothing etc. all is displayed in beautiful arrangements and they even run workshops to teach how bread and cheese were made but time won’t allow to participate in them.
The Doryssa Bay Resort
The minimalist bar and lobby offers free freshly squeezed fruit juices and, they will of course call you a taxi back to Vathy and port for the return journey to Kusadasi.
Back in Vathy, with the terminal and the ferry boat in sight, we decided to indulge our sweet tooth and have an ice cream. Look out for the Delight ice cream parlour in the main street which leads to the ferry terminal.
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