Leros Castle, "Kastro"
The Leros roundtrip starts at 9 o'clock, and the first stop is the old castle high above the 3 towns Agia Marina, Platanos og Panteli.
Some claim it is a wonderful walk to the castle. I am less enthusiastic about hill climbing and appreciate the convenience of a bus, especially when it is hot.
There is not a cloud, and the view from the castle is fantastic. You can see most of the island spread out like a map.
Of course there is a church too, and we have barely got a glimpse of the magnificent view before the company is shepherded into the dimly lit church. There is a fusty smell, and it looks like a thousand other churches with icons and wax candles.
Helle and I sneak out quickly, enjoy the view and explore the well preserved fortress.
Originally the fortress was Byzantine, and later the enterprising knights of St. John enlarged the place. The hairpin bends and the view down the abyss makes your stomach tickle on the way down.
The Crab Church
Our next stop is by the Crab Church on the island's southern tip. It is special because it is so tiny. A sign by the road asks visitors to close the gate to prevent sheep from eating the trees.
Lone shows oil lambs and incense and tells that they can be found on the religion-shelf in every supermarket.
In Lakki we have a coffee break. The Italians ruled the island 1912 - 1943 and built Lakki, because the big natural harbour was strategically important. The streets are broad and straight, and the architecture is quite different from the usual Greek building style.
The war museum and The Battle of Leros
Italian military built a maze of tunnels near Lakki and the harbour. Today some of them house a war museum with items and weapons from the Italian occupation and The Battle of Leros in November 1943.
During WW2 Churchill interfered a lot in military decisions and had quite a few weird ideas. One of the less fortunate ones was to take Leros, which had been occupied by the Italians since 1912. The Americans thought it was foolish and didn't support the adventure.
The main problem was that the British forces didn't have as much as a seagull for air support. Neither did the Italians for that matter. So when the Germans with complete control of the airspace disliked the English occupation, the island was subjected to heavy bombardment. Despite heroic defence the Brits were beaten badly. 184 British soldiers were killed, and a whole bunch was taken prisoners.
Most of the fallen Brits rest in a special cemetery near Alinda. German casualties were transferred to Athens, and I think the Italian corpses have been brought back to Italy.
At the War Museum there are many items and photos from that time, and they also show a short film about the battle in 1943.
Gourna Bay and yet another church
Along the west coast we reach Gourna Bay and the small church Agios Georgios. Say, are we on a pilgrimage?
This church is also tiny. People were poor when they built it.
Gourna Bay has one of the best sandy beaches on the island, and you can go pretty far out before the water gets deep.
Lunch in Alinda
We have 2˝ hours for lunch in Alinda - and swimming if you like. We get a nice table with parasols by the water's edge. However instead of being experimental with the food we should have ordered a Greek salad.
The roe salad, taramosalata, is okay, but Helle's deep fried squid rings are like rubber, and my grilled octopus legs with suckers are tough and extremely salty.
Some throw bread into the water, and this immediately attracts shoals of small fish that are almost beached fighting for a bite. The small cats, which were hand-fed with squid rubber by Vinnie and Helle, have lied down to die from constipation.
The waiter repeats the order when I ask for coffee, but he forgets, and I need to repeat the order twice. Not a super place to eat, but the position on the beach deserves five stars.
At half past four we drive to the west coast, to the church Agios Isodoros. It is slightly bigger than a kennel for a Great Dane and lies on a rock in the water connected to Leros by a narrow concrete bridge.
The setting is very romantic, and the church is very popular for weddings. Most wedding guests have to stand outside or on terra firma, but nobody seems to mind.
The biggest problem seems to be that the bride can get wet feet crossing the bridge. Right now the waves are small, but never the less the bridge is wet and slippery here and there.
It is hot, but there is a nice breeze out here, and on the rocks below the church lies natural sea salt in flakes. Delicious!
Yet another church!
Next stop is - you'll never guess - a church. This time on the island's northern tip. I feel stuffed with churches and in danger of developing an allergy.
The special thing about this church is (supposedly) that it was decorated by political prisoners during the junta regime.
I try hard, but cannot see that the paintings are special in any way. There is not a spark of hidden political messages in the darkness.
An antique temple
Not far from the church - on the other side of the small airport - are the remains of an antique shrine dedicated to Diana. On a small hilltop we see some structural remains and stone boulders. There isn't much to see besides wild thyme, rosemary and sage.
It could be a bombed goat shed, but in that case it had probably been a bigger attraction, because Greece has a wealth of antique ruins.
The place has never been excavated, but that is quite common in Greece, where it is difficult to dig a hole without hitting the past.
The British cemetery
Last stop before going home is the British Cemetery for the soldiers who died during The Battle of Leros.
From the bus we can see straight lines of identical gravestones, ranks of tragic dates. There is no shadow, so we stay in the bus.
Even though the Leros roundtrip was pretty focused on churches, it has been quite interesting. You also see quite a lot from the bus, and the guide, Lone, is a good storyteller, and we have learnt a lot about the island's past and present.
Most important: the tempo has been good - no rush. But it has been hot - phew!
Back in Panteli
Despite the cats' help at lunch we have little appetite. Helle just wants a sandwich. I am not that hungry either, but stroll to the beach for a Greek salad at Zorba's.
The salad is good, and there are caper-leaves in it with mini capers. The house white is okay, and the small bottle of water, I asked for, is 1˝ litre.
There are guests from different countries, but the majority is Greek. I have drunk about half a litre of water and take the rest with me as I leave.
The bedside lamp doesn't work, so I may as well go to sl…