Amorgos – June 2011; Article written by Sarah Gray. Sarah and her husband are regular visitors of Amorgos Island since many years.
“που είναι ο γάιδαρος? που είναι ο γάιδαρος?”
I keep muttering under my breath, as I bump around the hairpin bends leading up from Aegiali to Langada. “Where is the donkey?”. The idea is to impress our friends Nikos and Joanna when we arrive at the Pagali Hotel (for our fifteenth – or is it sixteenth visit?). We’ve been learning a tiny little bit of Greek – taught by our friend Vangelis in Canterbury.
He has promised to tailor-make the lessons to our specific needs – learning what will be useful and ignoring everything else (most of the language that is). What, he asks, is likely to be your first question when you arrive at the Pagali? In England in the cold of winter we allow ourselves to imagine arriving at Langada in the spring.
The welcome we will receive, the studio with its balcony overlooking the sleeping dragon of distant Nikouria. The sounds of the village residents gathering to play bowls below, or perhaps just stopping for a chat. “Where is the donkey?” Colin says at last. “That’s always Sarah’s first question when we arrive”.
It’s true – I go straight to the balcony and survey the field below for ‘my’ donkey. Donkeys are plentiful in Langada – they are the essential 4x4s of the community, needed for transporting building supplies, fodder, water … everything that a working village with stepped paths into the hills might need. But the donkey who lives below belonged to Manolis, Nikos’s father, who died not so long ago, and so is special. Also she brays backwards, Hawhee, instead of Heehaw, and my children never tire of me trying to demonstrate to them the difference.
We think, back in wintry England, of Nikos and Joanna working away to prepare the Pagali Hotel for their guests (most of whom have become friends and return again and again … they know a good thing when they find it). Nikos’s mother, Kyria Irene, will be working in the family bakery – beside the hotel and the source of delicious smells in the early morning.
His brother Vangelis who lives next door will be out gathering herbs to sell to those of us who wish to take the smell of Amorgos home when we return.
Another brother, Giorgos, might be out with his bees at the beautiful monastery of Theologos, tucked away in the northern hills, on one of the many donkey tracks which lead from the village.
Stefanos, man of many talents, will be quietly making sure that everything is ready for the guests to come, and Joanna, Nikos’s wife, will be adding comforting touches to the beautiful cool rooms which await us.
Nikos, we think, may be down on his farm in the valley, talking to his pigs and feeding the chickens – both of which will grace our tables with the accompanying organic vegetables growing down in that fertile place.
So we dream of Langada, the village in the hills where the ‘real Greece’ may still be found coupled with the comfort, warmth and welcome of the Pagali Hotel. The clientele of the bar are always a wonderful mix of nationalities and cultures, and we love just to sit and watch the world go by (assisted by beer or retsina).
So we learn our few phrases and practise our gamma sounds, and now here we are. The glow of the Blue Star Naxos is receding around the headland and the pinpoint lights of the road to Potamos disappear as we round the final bend to Langada and the welcome that awaits us. Tomorrow we will take a path into the hills, perhaps to lunch in Tholaria, perhaps to picnic at Theologos … we will see how the wind takes us.
But now we are arriving and the car pulls into the parking place above the Pagali. We gather our bags and almost sprint down the little painted road to the welcome which awaits us, smelling the flowers, listening for the skops owl, and there … tied to the tree at the foot of the steps – is my donkey. All that preparation and practice and I will not need my first question. But this is a small price to pay.
Some more Pictures of Langada