I had a Dream by Brigid Gallagher
My taxi deposited me at the old port of Skiathos, as the sun rose on a very COOL early October morning. I soon discovered that the next available ferry to Skopelos was due in SIX hours - a very long wait after three flights from my home in Donegal, Ireland!
I was living out my dream of visiting the islands featured in one of my favourite movies - “Mamma Mia.”
Entering a small cafe, I spied some freshly baked pastries. “I’ll try one of those please,” I told the waitress, as I pointed to a spinach and feta pie or “spanokopita.” Spinach, leeks, scallions and onions, feta cheese, eggs and fresh dill were wrapped in crisp filo pastry, producing a heavenly sensation on my tongue.
Happily replenished, I spent the remaining time people watching, including a large group embarking on a “Mamma Mia” themed sailing trip. “Dancing Queen” played on deck, as a series of scantily clad men and women stepped onboard. They were frozen! Indeed one middle aged woman wearing a bikini and a see through top, had the good sense to turn around and head back to her hotel. The others braved the unusually inclement weather. Once my own ship arrived, I climbed up to the passenger deck and entered a sheltered cafe with a view of the Aegean.
Unfortunately, nine days before my well planned Greek Odyssey, I had learned that a freak three hour storm had hit Skopelos. Walls had crumbled, houses and businesses were flooded, and a car park had literally fallen into the sea, along with cars, motorbikes...
The island was declared a disaster zone. What should I do?
I telephoned my accommodation on the edge of Skopelos Town.
“We have suffered no damage, and we are still open for business,” my hostess assured me.
Finally, I arrived on my island paradise and I was greeted by a very welcome sign “Brigid,” before being driven a short distance to a beautiful ground floor apartment, a mere 100m from the Aegean.
A short time later, I was lulled to sleep by the sound of the waves.
Skopelos is incredibly hilly and covered in pine forests. Thankfully, the walk into town took just ten minutes via flat but very muddy roads. Although the Greek army were doing a sterling job repairing roads and bridges, I learned that a number of cars remained in the harbour awaiting specialist lifting equipment. Sadly, it was unsafe to swim off Skopelos Town beach.
My long held dreams of leaving my apartment and jumping into the ocean or the swimming pool had now evaporated, for I soon discovered that my hostess had told me a white lie, as her pool now lay filled with MUD!
Undaunted, I hopped on the local bus and spent a number of delightful sunny afternoons at Panormos Beach, where I swam in the open sea for the first time in a number of years.
I heard a number of local yarns surrounding the filming of “Mamma Mia,” including the spotting of Strip and Pees (Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan) in a local bar. It reminded me of a similar Irish tale of a Hughdie Mc Menamy alias Yehudi Menuhin playing in a village pub in my home back in County
My holiday would not have felt complete without a visit to the chapel of Aghios Ioannis, where Meryl and Pierce were married after climbing all 202 steep steps up a mighty cliff. I boarded the local bus to the island’s capital Glossa , then hopped into a taxi for a ten minute white knuckle ride around very winding roads, which had not yet recovered from the mighty storm. I departed the taxi, ever thankful that I was the only tourist willing to make the climb that morning. I would not have wanted to attempt it in the busy high season.
Overcoming my fear of heights, I ascended the mighty rock, took out a song sheet and began to sing,
“I don’t want to talk...”
My version of “The Winner Takes It All” was no match for Meryl’s rendition, but I shed a load of emotional baggage on that Greek cliff!
Another hair raising taxi ride later, I looked forward to a relaxing meal, before heading back to Skopelos Town. However, I did not anticipate a lunchtime cabaret with a difference.
It was the weekend of Staphylofest, the island’s 3rd annual grape festival, and a loudspeaker announced that a salesman was in town. He produced fluffy bedspreads, rugs, a hairdryer, a saw, an umbrella... from the back of his van.
The hairdryer metamorphosed into an imaginary ear syringe, which he demonstrated to anyone willing to watch, amid peals of laughter. I felt reluctant to leave, as I pondered on Staphylofest’s ongoing entertainment.
At holiday’s end, I bade a very tearful farewell to the islanders, before setting sail to Skiathos. On the ferry, I caught up with Skopelos News blog, and discovered that the Greek Prime Minister Alexei Tsipras, and the Defence Minister Panos Kammenos, had flown by army helicopter to Skopelos Town football pitch, shortly after my departure.
They were reported as enjoying a brief lunch, surrounded by onlookers, before they inspected the remaining storm damage...