They were dredging the Palon harbour entrance due to silting from winter storms so we entered with caution. Dimitri, the harbour master, arrived on his motorcycle and took our lines to the pier speaking Swedish to us. He lived on Gotland Island in Sweden for 23 years but decided to move back to Nisiros.
We rented a car from Mike (Eagle’s Nest Car & Bike Rental), who lived in New York for many years but moved back to Nisiros, where he grew up with his American wife. He was very helpful in showing and explaining what we should see and gave us some history of the island. When renting a car from Mike you also get written instructions where to drive. As a special bonus you also get the code for his WIFI that is covering the harbour.
We drove to a fortification (the ancient city wall of Nisyros) dating to the 4th century BC. The wall is 2 to 3.65 meters thick, with faces built in coursed trapezoidal masonry of local volcanic black stone. It is on one of these impressive walls we stood and watched the sunset.
Next morning we drove to the volcanic crater. Nisiros’s volcano is the youngest active volcano in Greece. It is claimed that up to 60,000 years ago hundreds of small eruptions built a cone that rose 800 meters above sea level. Two mega eruptions 45,000 and 55,000 years ago destroyed the central part of the volcano, leaving the big central crater which is 4km in diameter. We hiked down to the largest hydrothermic crater in the world, called Stefanos with a diameter of 330 meters. There were steam vents and walking over to them you could hear the water boil beneath the surface and feel a vibration in your feet. Ok, that was enough for me and as I headed for the trail out, Roland was heard saying “coward”. We then hiked up to look down into one of the other three active hydrothermic craters, the latest of which was created in l887. Of course Roland chose his own path to get there and along the way we found the remains of a goat skull in the lava rock. I was busy watching for a snake.
Nikia is the highest village on the island. Upon arrival, lovely music was flowing from a nearby house, otherwise the village was quiet so it was nice to walk around and see the volcano from above.
We then went to a small church which stands high above Nikia and oh what a lovely setting. Mike, where we rented our car was instrumental in getting private donations from the US to build this lovely church.
Driving around the island, your eyes were constantly drawn to the thousands of terraces that were man made. High on mountain sides, valley walls, slight inclines sat these terraces built from rock. These were started at least during Turkish rule, continued with the Italian rule and then Greek rule, still constructing them as late as the l960s. This was done for two reasons; to stop the erosion when heavy rains fell and to have flat growing areas. So not only did they build the rock walls, they then brought in the top soil for planting. The terraces were once green and lush with growth. It was a mental challenge to look at all this and wonder how did they manage at such steep heights and the motivation for such laborious work.
Our last evening here, we are dining in a restaurant that was recommended to us by a French couple that we met on Leros in April. A very unexpected surprise when they walked into the restaurant. We had the opportunity to thank them for the recommendations for both the restaurant and the island.