By Chrissie Flint
The ferry from Rhodes sailed close towards the rocky island. Along the way it passed several stone laden islets and eventually swung in towards the harbour wall, which was lined with grand old candy-coloured houses and string of fish tavernas, with a backdrop of craggy hillsides. It was one of those sights that you cherish forever and one that pulls me back regularly to Kastellorizo.
Leaping ashore and not wanting to waste one precious minute, we stopped by the harbour wall to look across the deep blue water towards the tiny fishing village of Kas on the Turkish mainland. Kastellorizo nestles in the eastern Aegean and is the closest Greek Island to the Turkish mainland. As we wandered past the fishing boats where the owners were preparing their nets for the night’s fishing they welcomed us to Megistri – the local name for the island which means largest and refers to the island’s importance in the archipelago. The largest it may be, but it only measures six by three kilometers. We were hoping to explore but had something else very special at the top of our itinerary.
On good information we hurried along towards the church in search of the Christina supermarket – not that I was hungry. I had been told by a friend who visited the island regularly that George Karayiannis who runs the shop is also a fisherman and can organise trips to the island’s beautiful ‘Blue Grotto’. Inside, George was to be found busy dusting the olive oil bottles and the idea of a boat trip to the grotto was temptation enough. After a hurried conversation in Greek with an elderly relative, he told me in broken English to be ready in five minutes as he was just going to get the boat – we’d have to hurry because otherwise the level of the water wouldn’t be right. I beckoned to my pals who had raced off to grab photos and soon we were clambouring aboard George’s fishing boat.
The hour long journey was thoroughly relaxing as the little boat made its way to the south-east of the island passing huge craggy rocks. George pointed out the islet of Rho with its blue and white Greek flag fluttering from its highest point. Suddenly, George dropped his speed and came closer to the rocks. A problem we asked? Oh no he assured us with a smile as he pointed us to an low ink-coloured archway in the rock. The reason that the water level is important is because the boat has to fit under the archway as it is the entrance to the grotto and is less than two metres high. As George skillfully maneuvered the boat he signaled to us to lean forward and keep low whilst the boat went through the entrance.
As the little boat emerged on the other side, our eyes struggled to adjust to the darkness. Once they had, the sight was truly magical. The grotto is a huge cavern more than 20 metres high with stalagmites and stalactites that would have delighted my old geography teacher. The most amazing thing is the colour of the water which is the brightest turquoise – which I later learned from an Australian Cypriot taverna owner is caused by the sunlight coming through the entrance to the grotto and illuminating the water. Needless to say, when George signaled that we could enjoy a quick swim, we didn’t need a second bidding and jumped in fully clothed. George kept looking at his watch and was keen to start the return journey, so we were soon back onboard. A little soggy, I admit but having seen one of nature’s secret gems.
About the Author
Having discovered and fallen in love with Cyprus more than 20 years ago, the Flint family decided to make Cyprus their home. Today Chrissie Flint is a well known features writer and radio presenter