Thursday, October 15, 2015

Patmos: island of mysteries. Just not that one.

Today's cliché moment was randomly exploring a steep narrow pathway back from the waterfront at Patmos, and hearing, invisible on a roof terrace above me, an old man playing the balalaika, singing along to it, and encouraging his little granddaughter, Ella, to sing with him. It was tuneful and charming, and so very Greek - what with the white-painted buildings, the blue doors and window frames, the purple bougainvillea and all.
Patmos is the most northerly of the Dodecanese island group, and relatively untouristy - or as much as possible, given that St John had a vision in a cave here, and dictated his Book of Revelation on the island; so of course it's on the pilgrim trail. 
We went to the cave, a dark, granite overhang now built in and turned into a shrine, cluttered with icons and glass cases and paintings - but with a lovely view over the hills and valley and harbour. If I'd been an old man sleeping on rock with my head stuck into a hole in the wall, I reckon I'd've had a few lively dreams too, but I wouldn't have written them down and broadcast them. Staunch atheist that I am, I do find it disappointing to see otherwise intelligent people sucked into believing such claptrap - I mean, the bit on the cave roof where the revelatory crack splits, dividing a lump of rock into three: so that's proof of the Trinity? Give me strength. [Pause while religious readers instantly click on their X.]
I was far more impressed by meeting a cat on a beach, which was a first for me - a friendly cat with the loudest purr ever - and intrigued by seeing a goose on the water out in the bay - again, a first, since I've previously associated geese only with fresh water. Perhaps that's my ignorance turning something ordinary into a marvel? Funny how that works...
The day's greatest mystery, however, was observing an old man at the end of a pier continuously sweeping his arm back and forth, holding a line tied to an octopus. He did it for ages, never stopping while I watched, and I have no idea why. Slowly beating the poor thing to death on the concrete step? Tenderising it after death and before consumption? Playing puppet-master? I'll probably never know; and that's ok by me. I have faith that there will be a practical explanation.

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