a message from a Danish friend of Leros
Don’t tell anybody!
Said by an english island-hopper, when I told him about my favourite
Greek island, Leros. We tourists are reluctant to share our private
holiday-paradise with other... tourists.
Leros has, thank God, no international airport. A small flight from
Athens calls daily. All other connections are ferries, catamarans and
hydrofoils, ”Flying Dolphins”. A few-hour-boat-trip, up north from Kos.
The main city, Lakki, on the western shore, offers the biggest natural
harbour in the aerea. The big ferries call here, and many a backpacker,
spotting the ”un-Greek” town, has chosen to continue to the next island.
English novelist Lawrence Durell arrived here, shortly after the war,
with a severe hang-over and a worse digestion. He saw only the results
of one of the most fierce battles of the Mediterranean, and gave the
island the finger. The negative quotes from his book, ”The Greek Islands”,
were adapted by several travel-guidebooks to come.
Lets give Durell a standing ovation. Leros has not been spoiled by mass-tourism.
To complete the picture, the government placed an ill-reputed mental
hospital on the island and the
Junta used Leros for deportation of political dissidents. Not exactly
the way you would promote a
tourist-paradise. But the hospital provided steady, well-paid jobs for
the islanders, and is today managed according to modern principles.
One only senses its presence by the fact, that the Leriots are relatively
well off, economically
speaking. The islanders are only to a small degree dependant on tourism,
and the result is a laid-back, friendly atmosphere.
Let it be clear from the beginning: Leros is not Luxury Tourism. There
are, in fact, a few
hotels with private swimming-pools, but then, again, the Mediterranean
Sea is litterally at your doorstep, and most private rooms are of good
standard. Electric fall-outs are parts of ev’ryday life, and are greeted
with cheerfull applause in the evening. The stars shine so much brighter,
and the power is on shortly after.
Leros provides ”playmates” for all ages. Kids and young people are having
fun till late evening. But
beware! You might get yourself a greek son-in-law! A fact proved by
a number of Danish-speaking Greek men.
Old legs, of course, are having a hard time in the greek islands. But
don’t let it hold you back, you
learn to survive. Children and old folks have a lot of goodwill with
the family-loving locals, who are extremely helpfull.
You’ll meet tourists from all over the world. But especially Pandeli
has a tradition for Danish tourism. Small Danish company Skibby Rejser
has operated for some decades, and many danes have had their first encounter
with Leros on a charter-trip, brought over by boat from Kos. Some of
them now buy a flight-ticket to Kos, jump on the first-to-leave Dolphin,
and rent a place on their own. You find your favorite, and keep returning.
You’ve become addicted.
To me, Leros is the fishing-village Pandeli. A lovely bay, facing South,
with a small harbour and a
tamarisk-shaded beach, with fishing-boats, tavernas and cafees at the
waterfront, two mini-mini-markets and houses for the locals and rooms
The small township of Spilia clings to the cliffs at West. Up the stairs
you’ll find more rooms and
Dimitris’ internet-café (!), and continuing you’ll get to Vromolitos,
a long sandy, tamarisk-shaded bay with a few hotels, a bar and a taverna,
where, every night, Stamatis and his bouzouki-pupils do their tricks.
A ten-minute walk, to the north of Pandeli, using the road or the steep
stairs, brings you to Platanos,
grown together with Pandeli and Agia Marina, the third of the siamese
drillings. Platanos, on the ridge of the hill, has got a bank, supermarket
and shops, and is situated around a small, vibrant square, where a Gyros-bar
is the perfect excuse for a rest and a cold retzina or a Mythos, the
Settle down here, or at the old kafenion or at the the soft-chair-bar.
Open the door of your mind, and letthe island come to you. You’ll meet
friendly tourists and locals. The photographer, across the street. He’s
the master of a greek string-instrument, played like the xylophone.
The priest on his Vespa. The pony-tailed pharmacist. He plays the blues-guitar.
The entire population of Leros will pass here, eventually.
In case you promised your family to be back, within an hour, bringing
fresh bread from Mike’s Bakery, you’ve made a big mistake! Time flyes,
and you’re bound to go down the hill, to Agia Marina. The elderly couple,
down by the midway-church, may have time to show you their collection
of photos and family-heirlooms. Maybe they even insist of giving you
a blessing in the
But you’ll be on your way again, and just down-hill you will find yourself
facing the harbour of Agia Marina. To the right: the jetty for the Dolphins.
To the left: the bay with Krithoni and Alinda beaches, flanked by beatiful,
crumbling neo-classical and cubic houses, and, scrutinizing it all,
on the mountain-top, the Castle. Here too, you’ll find tavernas, cafés,
hotels, a bank,
a tourist agency, you name it. A chair on the harbourfront provides
the perfect spot for watching the sunset, but not least, the Greek ”volta”.
The Greek girls take your breath away, before they, within a few years,
transform themselves into big, loveable Mammas. Agia Marina is also
the center of the nightlife of Leros.
The coastline of Leros is bays, like Pandeli and Alinda, located like
a string of pearls. The latter being the hottest tourist-place in the
island. Following personal taste and wind-direction, you can go to Xerokampos
in the south, where you’ll find camping and a diving-scool, or Lakki,
with its unique out-door cinema. Don’t miss the saturday late-night
bouzouki-dance in Gourna, or go north to Blefoutis, where the taverna
has a great fish-salad.
Rent a two-wheeler, the noisy, modern donkey. Or walk. Or take a taxi.
The island is so small, you can drive from one end to the other for
approx. 5 Euros. A round-trip by taxi, including stops at the highlights,
can be done for 15.
Talking about highlights. Don’t go to Leros to study ancient ruins.
There are hardly any. The island’s past-century-story is interesting,
though. Listen to the old people. There are a vast number of beautiful
churches, mansions and landscapes, and the Castle provides a spectacular
view over the entire island.
In my book, though, the main attraction of Leros is the island itself,
its bays, townships, and last but
not least: The wonderful people of Leros, and its ever returning summer-holiday
visitors. You’ll find, that the Greeks have a genuine and honest way
of combining friendship and business.
I mentioned before, that to me Leros means the fishing village of Panteli,
to which my family and I return every summer.
After returning from Agia Marina, after many a welcoming stop, and going
downhill again to Pandeli, there’s always a Nikos, Manolis, Dimitris,
Yorgos, Apostolis, Elpida, Helle, Peter, Mikkel or Maria, you need to
have a chat with. So, take your time. Leave your front-door open, nobody
steals in Leros! And thus, open the door of your mind, and the island
will come to You.
And this is my point:
There is no place on earth, where I can relax, like here. If I don’t,
it will be commented: ”Piano,
Piano!”. The pronouncement of my name here, with a double meaning: ”
Take it easy, Bjarne!”. And that’s exactly what I do!
Sitting in the shade an entire afternoon at Zorba, Psaropoula Patimeno
Tzouma and Drosia
on the beach. Being shamefully beaten in Tavli. Having a drink. Going
for a swim. Doing absolutely nothing. Trying to remember the siesta,
to be ready for the evening.
Cause thats the hour, when Pandeli turns on all of its charm. Cheerfull
people at the tavernas. Tables at the edge of the water. Full moon rising
over the bay. An improvised party. Meeting new friends. Later we meet
at the Savana Bar, founded by one of the most outstanding personalities
of Pandeli, completely blond Savas. Warning! It might get late. Employees
and owners of tavernas and cafees join for one or several for the road.
There’ll be cheerfull conversation, maybe dancing. One never knows,
what will happen.
Back on your own balcony, watching the daylight arriving, and the first
fishing-boats setting to sea, you will need a very good reason to go
You want it all. On my last night in Leros, I never sleep. It’s my holiday-paradise.
My second home. It’s genuine escape from reality, and I love it!
Hush! Don’t tell anybody! Bjarne Juul. 2002
TO VISIT IN LEROS