They met when Lidewij heard some traditional music Nikos was playing in his studio. It made her cry. When he noticed she was crying he gave her a huge hug and she realised he was crying too! He’s such a warm hearted guy – it oozes from him, this gentleness. Like many guys though, he doesn’t know how to talk about his feelings, she says. They got to know each other and he would spend a month in Amsterdam with her and she (when she could afford it) would spend a month in Greece with him. Now she’s sublet her flat at home (the flat which she loves) for a whole year (the maximum she’s allowed to do this) to spend the time in Greece. She said she saw an advert from a Finnish woman ISO of a flat in Amsterdam while she was learning to be a miller. She just knew she’d found the right person to look after her flat when she saw that person wanted to be a miller! Lidewij has learned the Greek language and is learning all about ceramics too. Nikos throws pots on the wheel – she is using slabs to create ornaments.
While Lidewij was telling me their story, Nikos got up and went off to the studio after a coffee and a fag (and the left over greens from the night before). I was left alone in the flat to lock up after I had a shower as Lidewij had arranged to go swimming with friends. She gives good hugs.
So much for my early start – but the delay was good and I’m glad I got to say goodbye to Lidewij. I got to say goodbye to Nikos again too- as I left one hearing aid back in the flat. I’d got about half a mile up the road when I realised. I know it’s hard to imagine how I could NOT realise but it’s true, they’re so much a part of me nowadays. I cycled back to Nikos – who made me a cup of coffee while he went off to look for it. He found it on the fireplace. “Isn’t Lidewij wonderful?”, he said to me when he got back and we were sat chatting. He gives good hugs too. “You always leave something behind when you don’t want to leave”, I said to him. “When you love a place”, he agreed.
I cycled only as far as Olympi when I decided to stop again – as it was another medieval walled town like Mesta. Both of these villages are part of the network which harvest Mastic, which has a ‘protected designation of origin’ – like ‘champagne’ I guess. For more information https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mastic_(plant_resin)
It was worth its weight in gold during the Ottoman era – and Chios is ‘the island of Gum’. I saw the mastic trees with calcium carbonate around their base and the slashes on their trunks - I took some pics and broke off a ‘tear’ – it’s hard like treacle toffee – but becomes chewy and not at all unpleasant to taste. It’s supposed to have all kinds of health benefits and can be used in foods, medicines and even as incense.
There was a lovely restaurant in Olympi who, like my favourite eaterie in Thessaloniki, gave out little extras alongside what I’d ordered. This time, I ordered a greek salad and got a small portion of oven baked tomatoey beans and a small taste of mastic cream for dessert. There was a guy working there who had taken a road trip on a motorcycle to Italy across Europe – despite his English not being fluent, we managed to compare notes. I asked the woman there if she’d ridden pillion and she said “oh no, this is not MY husband!”.
Onwards to Mavra Volia beach – the beach of grey pebbles that look black when they’re wet. The pebbles were created by the lava of the Psaronas volcano (now inactive). They absorb the heat and look very different – and the beach itself was remarkably clean. I decided to kip the night there, under the stars. There’s a second beach over the hill that is a bit more secluded but I opted to stay on the first beach as it was just too far to carry all the luggage In addition, steps made it impossible to push Rowenna there. I went around a small headland and laid my tarpaulin and tent out over the pebbles, then put my inflatable mat on top of this and hoped it wouldn’t get a hole. I lit a fire and got slightly paranoid when the flames flickered across the cliff face, but I wasn’t bothered by anyone – I had the beach to myself. I cooked my supper on the embers of the fire and then lay under the milky way – billions of stars and three shooting ones to wish upon, which was amazing.