If you want to arrive as a tourist, and leave as a tourist, don’t come to Greece. If you want to arrive as a tourist and leave as friends, then this is the place for you. On smaller islands and villages, don’t expect perfection. The shower curtain could be missing, the air condition may rattle a bit, and you only get hot water when the sun shines. But you will not find the most important reason for going to Greece in a travel brochure. It’s the people who make the difference…
It was August, and it was hot. Most of the families had gone off to their island, away from the heat of Athens. So, we decided to find an island we had never visited. We had no plans, so just went to the port, and found the first ferry departing and drove on. A few hours later, we arrived in Kalymnos.
We drove past the sponge market and found the tourist office. There we found a brochure for a hotel near Masouri beach. It looked wonderful and had a pool with a view of nearby Telendos. A quick phone call secured our 3-day reservation.
We arrived at the hotel determined to spend a few days doing nothing but lounge around to pool, eat and drink. It would be luxurious. But there was a problem. The pool was empty and had an enormous crack at the base where the water had leaked out.
Maria, the hotel owner, joined us at the side of the empty pool. Her face was tear stained as she explained that the pool had cracked a few days ago and couldn’t find anyone to fix it.
“I have to cancel so many bookings,” she sobbed.
But unknown to her, this was her lucky day.
“Don’t worry. We will fix it,” Alex assured her.
It was pure luck. My honest job, while not writing, was a waterproofing consultant. I gave her a list of materials I needed. We started work. Alex did most of the digging. I did the repair work. Maria kept us fed with sandwiches and coffee. We really had fun, and after two days of labour, we finished. We let the new concrete set and cure overnight. The next day, we filled it with water.
Maria was delighted. “How much do I owe you?” she asked.
We had so much fun; we didn’t want any money. It was enough to see a smiling Maria and a sparkling pool. But we accepted her offer of a meal at her cousin’s Taverna on the nearby island of Telendos.
That evening, a boat arrived at the beach and whisked us the short distance to the small island. Maria was already there with her family as joined the family at the table. We were so close to the sea; we could almost dip our toes in the cool water. It was idyllic.
Maria’s cousin Tassos came over to the table, gave us a big smile, and thanked us for helping her.
“Anything you want, I will cook,” He informed us.
“Do you have any grilled octopus?” I asked.
“One Moment” he replied and disappeared into the kitchen. A minute later, his waiter appeared wearing a swimming costume and a diver’s mask, holding a trident. He waded into the sea. We watch him swim in circles until his head popped up, and he held his trident in the air with a wriggling octopus on the forks.
That was the best payment we could ever have expected. There was no way Tassos was going to disappoint us. If we wanted octopus, he would make sure we got it.
The next day, we kissed Maria and packed our bags into the car to depart. Maria came running out with a black bin bag. Inside were four octopuses.
“That’s a present from Tassos,”
Many years later, we are still friends with this lovely family. And the pool never leaked again.