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Definitely Not Another Mission To A Monastery

On Wednesday, a woman asks for directions for the monastery and the waitress tells her that you can’t get to the monastery on foot. It’s too far.

On Wednesday, I point to the hill that looms over the beach and gently suggest how wonderful the view must be from the top.

On Wednesday, DeepThought says the hill is a very big hill, and not one that anyone should want to climb in this July heat.

I tell DeepThought that I’ve found a path that goes through a forest. He doesn’t believe me.

On Thursday, we watch the sunrise from the village and start walking towards a small abandoned theatre, which happens to be in the same direction as both the hill and the monastery. DeepThought finally believes me that there’s a forest once we’re surrounded by tall pine trees.

The map says the theatre is somewhere nearby, but there’s nothing here to suggest the map’s telling the truth. With caution, I enter the forest through an unmarked gate and wander along what I assume is a track. I’m really worried we’re trespassing on someone’s land when suddenly I see it below, the typical arch of a theatre. There’s not a huge amount remaining.

Behind the stage, the forest drops away into a deep ravine and through the gap in the trees we can see the deep blue of the ocean blur with the bright blue of the sky. It’s all rather tranquil and I can’t help but think how wonderful it is to be here instead of staring at a computer screen in an open office in a bustling English town.

I’m dancing around, taking photos, when I glance up and see a perfect small white house with a blue chimney hidden in the trees. According to the guide-book, this was once a thriving settlement. Now I half expect to be approached by an old woodcutter and a talking animal. I tell DeepThought I want that house. He points out the difficulty of getting here and the minor issues of electricity, sewage and internet.

We return to the main road, and keep walking. It’s only 7.30am, but it’s getting warm. The pine forest disappears and the landscape opens up. You can see the hillside right down to the narrow beaches and then nothing but shimmering blue. A cacophony of cow bells indicates we’re not alone, and I’m thrilled to see we’re sharing this hillside with baby goats.

DeepThought points out what might be tank tracks in the road. This will be more amusing to some readers than others.

At about 9am we reach a sign that points to a café, but we’re aware that the café is unlikely to be open at such an early hour. It can’t possibly have any visitors because in the previous two hours of steady walking we’ve passed four houses, two cars and a cyclist. The goats don’t count.

Instead, we turn to continue along the road up. We pass the sign saying that photography is prohibited and begin the steep climb wondering what’s so wrong about photographing a religious building. I complain that the guidebook had a photo of a white building with a blue roof.

We can’t see a white building with a blue roof.

After some time climbing upwards, and with a couple of pauses for more water, we come to a no entry sign. I reason that this no entry sign might be for vehicles as the road seems to be disintegrating around us.

A little while later we come across more stop signs and DeepThought wonders out-loud how peculiar it is to paint a monastery in camouflage and surrounding it with barbed wire. The radar tower isn’t super godly either.

We consult the map. DeepThought shares his disapproval. We walk down the hill, turn left and follow the signs to the café, which is, according to the map, within the ground of the monastery. We stride through an empty car park and follow the path down to a beautiful white building with a blue roof.

It’s locked, but the key hangs on the hook above the door. DeepThought looks at me with a frown as I unlock the door and step inside – but I’ve read the instructions in the guide-book.

Old religious stuff stares back down at me. DeepThought stands in the doorway whilst I admire the craftsmanship in the silver and gold which covers every wall. It’s all rather overwhelming. Such religious places strike me as both incredibly fascinating and a little unnerving. Maybe it’s my own pragmatic approach to religion?

We step back outside just in time for the man who runs the café to unlock the door. I’m nearly as overjoyed as when I saw the baby goats. We wait politely as the café owner goes through his rehearsed routine of sweeping the courtyard and wiping the tables. There is no rush.

I drink sweet Greek coffee. DeepThought has freshly squeezed orange juice. We debate religion and the role of spirituality in modern life. I’ve been reading Spinoza. We’re getting all philosophical when I suggest ice-cream for the journey. My choice is not really ice-cream but ice-yogurt, which is less sweet but beautifully creamy.

As we walk home we’re passed by quadbikes, mopeds and rental cars. They’re driven by bare-chested men or women in bikinis. They kick up the dust and the heat makes me sweat, but the view is just as stunning and most of the time there’s no traffic about.

Finally, back at Kefalos, we gorge ourselves on pizza. It’s only just past mid-day. Nearly siesta time.

Would you choose a banana and kiwi pizza?