I've just come back from the AIDA breakfast buffet with my usual quark and fruit when I notice we're tooling along the coast of an island and a big one at that.
"This must be Samos," I say.
George Louis the Book Binder's Assistant laughs. "We are not expected to dock at Samos for another two hours. This is certainly not Samos."
"But this feels like Samos."
"Have you been to Samos?"
"No. Would that make a difference?"
"I'll bet you a thousand euros that this is Samos." Warning: I never honor my bets.
I trot down to reception.
"Excuse me," I say in German (AIDA is a German cruise line) to the German receptionist.
"Ja?" she says.
"Is that Samos out there?" I point out the window at the hills drifting by at 15 knots.
"Hmmm. Honestly, I don't know much about what goes on out there. I mostly know about stuff in here like the Hugo Boss sale in the AIDA shop. I once saw a dolphin on my break."
"I don't know what to do with that comment."
"The map is over there."
The map indeed indicates that we are tooling along the coast of--wait for it--Samos. Ha. I'm theoretically 1000 euros richer although George Louis the Book Binder's Assistant rarely honors his bets either.
Samos is a cat's jump away from the coast of Turkey. Did you know that? One point six kilometers. What does this mean? Well, the cigarette section in the port's duty free shop is popular. That's what that means.
As we pull into the harbor of the Old Town of Samos, an overwhelmingly beautiful little harbor, film music starts booming through the deck speakers. It's dramatic. It's moving. I get teary, and just about the second I start sobbing, one of the other passengers starts a conversation with me. He wants to know what I do for a living. "I cry," I say, "obviously. I'm a professional weeper. At funerals." He's fascinated.
Blue Chair RestaruantWe arrive two hours early in Samos, which gives us two extra hours on the island. We rent a car for 45 euros plus 15 more for the insurance that pays for everything even if you drive off a cliff. There are a lot of cliffs. There's also a temple devoted to the Goddess Hera--or rather there WAS a temple devoted to Hera; now there's a column. One. Column. And you have to pay to see it.
Instead (of course), we drive to the sea town of Pythagoreio and end up having a cider at a pub/restaurant run by a delightful person from New Zealand. I learn from her that Whangarei is prounounced Fangeray. Stupidly, I don't take any photos of the pub and leave without writing down its name. Just look for the All Blacks flags.
Next, we drive into the mountains to the little town of Vourliotes. In our guidebook on Samos, it's described as "worth seeing because it's maintained its character." Driving into the town, we spot the typical Greek restaurants where the tourists are herded into, fed a four-course meal with mediocre wine and herded back to the bus--all in about 45 minutes. We drive past these, deeper and deeper into the village.
A Great Greek SaladActually, there's not much deeper and deeper to the village. At the point where you can't drive any farther, you'll need to back up and park in the little parking lot just a few meters behind you. Then walk back to where the "road" becomes too narrow for cars and go right, then left--and now you are at the little restaurant Blue Chairs.
It's in a quaint courtyard with lots of grapevines and quirky, childlike wall art. The service isn't great, and the wine isn't anywhere near great, but the homegrown tomatoes on the Greek salad were the best tomatoes I've had in a long long time. It was worth the wait. The wine wasn't. All the food going to other tables looked very good.
The wine on board the ship is much better, by the way. Lunch and dinner aboard AIDA cruises include wine, and it's so wonderfully adequate that almost no one buys the expensive bottles of wine trotted out by the waiters. On a humorous note, our favorite waiter on the cruise called our red wine our vitamins when he poured, crying "Vee-tah-mee-nah" every time. It's become a permanent part of our life now.
Next time, I'm going to take you to Rhodes and show you once and for all the Colossus, which I--Explorer Extraordinaire!--have discovered when all the archeologists failed.
To continue with I Must Be Off! A-Z, go to T is for Tenerife.
I must be off,
Christopher Allen is the author of Conversations with S. Teri O'Type (a Satire), an episodic adult cartoon about a man struggling with expectations. Allen's award-winning fiction and non-fiction have appeared or are forthcoming in SmokeLong Quarterly's Best of the First Ten Years anthology, Prime Number Magazine, The Best of Every Day Fiction, Pure Slush, Bootsnall Travel and Chicken Soup for the Soul. A finalist at Glimmer Train in 2011, Allen has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize twice. He is the managing editor of the daily litzine Metazen. Recently, Allen--along with editors Michelle Elvy and Linda Simoni-Wastila--hosted Flash Mob 2013 in celebration of International Flash Fiction Day.