Here we are on day Wednesday of our holiday which happened last week; we’re back home and back to normal now and it seems we made it home just in time to be greeted by the cold weather – it’s the wind, it must be from the north or something.
Anyway, last week on Wednesday we visited the Asklepion, on Kos. We walked there from the town, it’s only four kilometres each way, and arrived early, so early that we had the place to ourselves, for most of the time at least. “Asklepion was an institution where healers were curing their patients, trying to systematize medicine and teaching other people the art of healing. It was also the temple of the gods who in one way or another were concerned with medicine.” It is an ancient site on tree terraces rising up to give you a wonderful view across the sea to Bodrum, Turkey.
Not long before we left, a teenage school party arrived. They all sat on the bottom steps and listened silently to a lecture given by a teacher and then, when that was done, applauded politely and started to browse the stones and monuments; all very well behaved and polite I thought. A few greeted us as we were leaving too. That’s another nice thing about living around here, you don’t feel threatened by teenagers as you do elsewhere in the world.
We walked back, passing through a small village on the way and stopping for coffee: two huge mugs of coffee and a small bottle of water each, total €4.00 – you don’t see much of that kind of pricing on Symi, sadly. The walk back took us past the ancient Odeum, the theatre, and through the Western Excavations, and finally back to the Museum restaurant for lunch. This was another affair that concerned a large salad to share, garlic bread, and a very nice main dish each too; I had soutzoukakia, but I can’t remember what Neil ate as a free ouzo was also involved. I do remember that we didn’t need to eat again that day.
The evening was an interesting thing. At the hotel we were staying at were also some Syrian refugees, and we got chatting to a couple. A young man, in his early 20s, called Husam (whose name means ‘sword’ in Arabic) told us that he came from a small town called Anabil, near Damascus. He and his friends had left all they had behind to come to Europe, becasue back home it was a case of ‘kill or be killed,’ and they felt that had no choice. There was a large group at the hotel, with their mobile phones, smartly dressed, they were professional people, they had the means to travel and stay, and were looking relaxed and happy to be on their way.
But behind that, they also said that they had had to swim the last 200 meters from the boat to the European shore, at night. Once the made it safely shore they registered at the port police and then, once ‘processed’ there, had been able to buy a boat ticket to Athens. While they were waiting they had booked into the hotel and spent the day outside it chatting and waiting.
As this particular group was preparing to leave, we were having a drink on the front terrace. They were all crowding around their bench like a group of students on holiday taking each other’s photos as keepsakes for when they finally went their separate ways. Neil went across and offered to take a group shot. They all ended up on the steps of the hotel, with Neil taking various images on various iPhones and the like before they headed of for the night boat to Athens.
The guys at the hotel then told us that Kos was receiving around 150 such refuges per day, being so close to Bodrum. To us, it looked like the port police were well set up to deal with them, there was a large military tent on their forecourt, I assume for those who didn’t have money, and as a place to wait out of the elements. Husam and his friend Abdul were heading off to Norway and Sweden, where they had relatives already settled, as for the others, I have no idea, but they were certainly very happy to have reached Greece and were looking forward to moving on. Husam (whose English was nigh on perfect) wanted us to mention his story and to also mention that not everyone was a privileged as he. Of course, not all refuges are as well off, lucky or successful; I’m just talking about who we met and what we were told as their story.