After the Acropolis, this is actually the place that I was looking forward to the most. Yes, entirely because the Cave of the Apocalypse is here. Having been to Palestine, Jordan, and Egypt, (even Syria and Lebanon twenty years ago) you would think that I had my feel of holy places. Nope. Just like I haven’t had my feel of Greek and Roman ruins, I still get a thrill when I run across a place connected to the Bible. The Apostle John was exiled to this island and this is where he wrote the book of Revelation, the final book in the Bible. The Cave is really the only official site that I saw while I was here, but enjoyed every second I was here. Patmos was a much-needed change of pace.
The ferry from Rhodes arrived after midnight. I had trouble before I arrived locating exactly how far my hotel was from the port. I read on one website, that the island was quite small and walkable so I hoped for the best. My plan was to grab a taxi and get to the room as quickly as possible. My body was still hurting from Samaria Gorge and reeling from the lack of sleep on the trip from Crete to Rhodes. I envisioned the usual port rush of people wanting me to rent a scooter, sit at their café, or take their taxi. Of course, this was the one island that was different. There were cafés across the street. I saw no rental places. Worst of all there was no taxi in sight. I plugged in the location of Athina Hotel into google and found a nearly 40-minute walk to the city of Grikos. Not seeing any other alternative, I sucked it up and started my trek. This was a holy island so perhaps God was testing me. My heavy backpack and the hilly landscape should have made the trip hard on my already tired body, but most of the hike was almost enjoyable. I could not help but look up. It has been a long time since I have seen a sky full of stars. This alone made the walk worth it. I’m not just saying that, whenever I started to feel myself getting frustrated, I would simply look up. At one point, I think I actually thanked God for this trial and hummed a tune. Anyway, I reached the hotel, tired, but still alive. I checked in with no problem and crashed in bed as soon as possible. Then I felt my second earthquake tremor of the trip. You may have seen on the news the earthquake that hit the island of Kos. This tremor was connected to that one. I worried for a second that I would be facing the Apocalypse while I was here.
Getting Around
I did not get up and moving until around 10 the next morning. Of course, I just missed the public bus by about 15 minutes. The next one would not come until 12:45. I did not want to wait that long so the hotel called me a taxi (turns out they do exist). It was maybe a 5-minute ride back to Skala, which is where the port is. And sure enough, if I had taken a right instead of a left when I walked out of the port I would have walked maybe 30 seconds right into the taxi stand. (Long story, but there is a running joke among certain friends of mine that when something goes wrong for no apparent reason, it is a “Randall”. My transportation misadventures would qualify.) I wanted to rent a scooter, but my first priority was coffee. I crossed the street and sat at the first café I saw, ordering a double espresso (which has been my standard drink on this trip). The café was right next to the ferry ticket office so I bought my ticket back to Rhodes. I grabbed a couple of cheese pies at a nearby bakery, then began to check in the rental places that dotted the area. As it happens, most vehicles were already booked or they required a motorcycle license to rent even a small scooter. (Leave it to a holy island to play by the rules.) I gave up trying to get something that day. Most places said they could get me a car the next day so I gave into the fact that this would be another day of walking. I knew where to get a taxi. I could have asked about the bus, but John walked, so walking would be part of my Patmos experience as well. Fortunately, I had cheese pies to enjoy along the way. (A word about cheese pies: I have been enjoying them since Athens. They are delicious. For those who do not know, they are baked (or maybe fried, not sure which) cheese. Great for breakfast or on the move. Traditional Patmos cheese pies are slightly different. They taste like cheesy cornbread. So, in a word- PERFECTION).
Cave of the Apocalypse
This was the reason that I came to the island so naturally it was my first (and technically only stop). The walk was mostly uphill (of course), but a beautiful trip. When I reached the entrance to the cave, it was 10 minutes before close according to the sign. I asked the ticket guy if that was right. He said they were open for another hour. So, I gratefully bought a ticket and went in. There is not much to the cave and it has been walled in to make a chapel and doesn’t even look like a cave anymore. Still, I was overwhelmed to be there. The Apostle John is one of my favorite personalities in the Bible and here I was in the place where John actually stood and wrote one of the books of the Bible. The thing about “holy” sites is that so many people come through that it is impossible to have a reflective moment. There was a priest there asking louder visitors to be quiet, but then he also gave a lecture to one of the groups. He also interrupted another man (who was clearly praying) to ask him to move into one of the seats. The guy had sat on a portion of the cave wall so I guess that was fair. I stayed there longer than most visitors. I reread Revelation while I was in there. I don’t think I have ever paid as much attention to the words as that moment. Occasionally, there was a break between groups and some silence. The priest noticed me reading. I thinking he wanted to ask or say something, but he did not speak English (or at least he only seemed to speak Greek).
Unfortunately, the cave does not look much like a cave anymore. Not only is it walled in, but it is lavishly decorated with icons and so forth. There are seven lamps hanging, which I thought was a nice touch (it’s in the book). You can also see the spot where John actually wrote the book. (So, there were two Johns- The Apostle John who dictated the words of the book to John the Elder who actually wrote them for the older man.) There is also pictures of John, and Jesus and Mary. Many people came in kissed the pictures or other decorations in the room. Now most people probably would say that I am religious. I would say spiritual, but I am careful to use that term because that brings up its own stereotypes. I do believe in being “born again”, the Holy Spirit, that the Bible should be read (and understood), and I pray and meditate fairly regularly, but I can’t stand churchy type culture. And whatever I am, I don’t go around kissing statues and so on. I also don’t mean to sound like I am belittling that sort of thing. I suppose that’s the great thing about a place like this, the variety of reactions it brings out of people. On the way out, I needed a bathroom. As I hurriedly walked towards it, I realized that John probably just pee’d in the cave. I did not think that would go over very well so I continued to the proper restroom.
Chora and the Monastery
For centuries, Chora was the main town of Patmos. The Cave and the Monastery of St. John were on opposite sides of the town. The monastery was built nearly a thousand years after John lived on the island, but from what I read was actually the more attractive spot for visitors. The town of Chora also had a lively square to visit. Of course, the monastery was closed by the time I made the long trek to the top of the mountain to see it. There was a couple who showed up just after me. The “active” town square was surprisingly difficult to find and when we found it, everything was closed until 7:00 that evening. Similarly to the previous night, I was tempted to get frustrated, but the walk had been pleasant and I was pretty thrilled to have seen the Cave. So, I set out back down the mountain. There are walking trails around the island. I saw I sign showing them. I was tempted to try the walking path back to Grikos, but figured it would be too easy to get lost. Plus, I wanted to spend more time just hanging out in Skala. So, I took the foot path back down near the port.
Hohlaka Beach
I saw a sign for this place on the way to the Cave. It is just on the edge of Skala. I saw the sign again on the way back and decided to check it out. It is basically just a bunch of rocks, but there are some benches and trees lining the shore. I sat there for probably over an hour watching the waves crash into the shore and reflecting on my trip and life, etc. I prayed. I meditated. I read. I watched the waves some more. Part of me wondered if maybe John came here to do the same thing while he walked the island. There is a verse in Revelation that says the new Earth will not have a sea. As I watched the waves crashing in, I wondered why. John was exiled to Patmos. It was the sea that separated him from his loved ones. So, if we are all supposed to live in harmony in the new Earth, then yeah, I guess no sea makes sense.
Day 2
I intended to check out one or more of the beaches today. I intended to catch the 9:45 bus, get to one of the rental offices and get a car or scooter (if they would let me). Needless to say, that did not happen. Since Samaria Gorge, I had walked great distances each day. I needed to rest. I slept in, caught the 12:45 bus back to Skala and bounced around to different cafes. I spent the day reading and staring at scenery. I did return to Hohlaka Beach, but that was a far from the main part of town as I ventured. I bought a few groceries and caught a taxi back to my hotel fairly early. I ate dinner and enjoyed some peace and quiet on the balcony of my hotel room, which I had not been able to spend much time on. It did not feel like a wasted day at all.
Got Shisha?
Patmos is a small island. Other than the religious places, there is not much of a draw here. It is beautiful and maybe that is reason enough. If you want to party, go to Santorini or Mykonos. Even if you are not religious or into historical places, and just want a nice, quiet spot away from the crowd, you will find it here. It’s a little harder to get to than some of the more popular islands, but I suppose that is reason enough to come.


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