Holiday Tales Part 5 Living in a ghost town

*Long post alert*

Some time back, during our trip to America, we had been to a ghost town. Well, we needn’t have bothered. We were to have an opportunity to live in one, not just visit one.

As I mentioned here, we decided on Greece based on a friend’s holiday pictures until then we had been debating between Turkey and Greece. So while planning it out, I spoke to my friend, and he advised us on the best places to stay. A beach and a sunset point. Two nights at each, we decided. Our first place of stay was near a beach. Our friend had said that we would not need to rent a car, there is enough to do in one place. So at the airport, we took a taxi to our hotel. Please note, we did not even bother asking the locals this time 🙂 We could not possibly handle lugging suitcases once more.

It was a scenic drive. Cliffs on one side, the sea on the other. Gorgeous! We could see those cute blue domed churches around us. Some of them had miniature replicas of themselves built near the road. I never managed to take a picture of them, though.

We reached the hotel within 20 minutes. Our taxi dropped us off, and drove off. It was only when we walked towards the entrance of the hotel that we realized that it was shut. We got a little confused. Were we at the wrong hotel?  Rechecked our booking, and it looked and sounded like the place we booked. I asked husband and daughter to wait while I walked around the building to figure out if I could find the staff. As I walked around, it just grew more eerie. Not a single soul around. All doors locked. It looked empty. Then I thought, may be everybody must be sunning themselves at the beach – it was a glorious, sunny day, when I reached the pool, which was drained! Oh my god! Did our booking get cancelled? Did we miss an email from them? Has the hotel shut shop? What were we going to do now?

I got back to where husband and daughter were waiting, worried, and tensed. I would have preferred lugging suitcases to being shut out of our hotel room anytime! Finally, we happened  to notice a paper with emergency contacts jotted down, stuck to the reception door. So we decided to call the mobile number that was mentioned there.

Thankfully someone picked up. He said he would be there when I mentioned that we had a booking at their hotel. He sounded as if it were a totally normal situation of hotel guests landing up at a shut down hotel, with not a soul in sight. And just to clarify, this was not a tiny B&B or a low-priced hotel. This was supposed to be a ‘Boutique and Spa’! And it looked grand too – only with no staff or guests.

As I said, 5 minutes meant more than 15 minutes here. Our guy here was no different. Finally he arrived with a lady. Turned out he did not know much English, nor was he very friendly. It almost felt as if he were resentful that we landed up here and spoiled his vacation. It was a change after all those wonderfully friendly Greeks we came across in Athens.

While we were waiting husband had made plans to spend the afternoon at the beach. It was a gorgeous day, just perfect to be at the beach. So as soon as our hotel manager(I assume, I still don’t know), turned up, husband was eager to know about the beach. The hotel had advertised a private beach, and we just wanted to get there.

As soon as we mentioned beach, he said, ‘Beach closed, No beach’.

‘Beach closed?’, we asked, ‘ You mean, the beach is closed? Why’?

‘Season finished’, came the answer!

‘If the season is ‘finished’, why on earth did you take our bookings??’, is what I wanted to ask, but was so flustered by this, that neither of us knew what to think or say.

‘You want car?’, he asked. We said no, because our friend had said that it wouldn’t be required.

‘Breakfast, yes or no’, he asked. I said no, because it was not included in the room tariff, and after what we had seen, I wasn’t too sure of what they would provide. He and his colleague spent about 15 minutes locating the room key. Finally he took us to our room, which was not too bad. It was quite good, to be honest. Although I could not locate a kettle, and by the time we tried to ask them, they had left the hotel – again. And we were the only guests in the hotel. Spooky, is what it felt. All alone in a big hotel with nobody else on the premises.

The view from our room.

As soon as we freshened up, we decided to step out for lunch. By then doubts and worry had started to set in. If the beach was ‘closed’, then what would we do here? And how on earth can a beach be ‘closed’? That too, when the weather was so gorgeous! We would be lucky to have such lovely weather in summer, in the UK!

We set off on the road, hoping to find a decent place to eat. We crossed a bakery, and a super market, and our hopes rose. I went into the super market and asked a lady where we could find a restaurant. She indicated the direction in which we should go. So we walked on. We found a few restaurants which had menus hung outside, but were closed. It looked weird to say the least. It was as if people had abandoned them abruptly. Some even had ‘Today’s Menu’ written in chalk, and closed. I wish I had taken pictures, but at that point in time, we just wanted to find a place to eat. It was hot, and tiring to walk down an empty road, in a place where beaches were closed. We kept going, and kept finding these abandoned restaurants. Finally, we decided to turn back and go to that bakery we saw. Hopefully we would get something in the form of lunch.

The bakery had some food. Some pies, and being extra hungry, we even bought some baklava, which were delicious, but a tad too sweet for me. The biggest bonus was the owner of the bakery who was such a wonderful person! He told us that the season was drawing to a close and most of the restaurants and hotels shut shop during this time. Apparently in November, all the hotels and restaurants in this area would shut shop. He told us to rent a car, as that would be the easiest mode of transportation. The local buses were hourly and would go only to the capital, Fira. The best thing he told us was that the beaches were most certainly not ‘closed’. In fact according to him, this is the best time to come to the beach, as it would not be jostling with tourists. Nice and peaceful – his words. Needless to say, we felt less disheartened now. All we needed was a car, and lunch, of course.

So we went back to the hotel, to relax and have our lunch. Daughter did not like the pie too much, but husband and I ate what we could. After lunch we decided to go and rent a car.

We had been told that rental cars are available, the agency was about 1km away.

So off we went, the three of us. The only people on the road was us! We craved to see one tourist. One little proof that we were not the only crazy ones 😦 Whoever said that it is nice to be away from touristy places, was certainly not us. I have never wanted to see people so much before this. People and open, functioning restaurants.

Every second shop on that road was a restaurant(closed, albeit with their menus out there, for us to see, and maybe come back to, in summer?) or a car rental place(again, closed). Oh, I forgot to mention that the hotel manager had given us pamphlets of car rentals, with their numbers on them, but none of them picked up the calls. All in hibernation, I guess.

Finally we walked, and walked until we reached the one shop that was open, and busy – the Tattoo shop! The lady in the tattoo shop had no idea if the car rentals next to her place would open or not. Nor did she have their numbers to try to call them. By then we had reached the beginning of the beach.

See that mountain? We were right there. The road ended at the mountain, and a little road led us to this beach. One thing that was in plenty were directions to the beach. All roads to the right( from the main road), apparently led to the beach.

Given that we were so close to the beach, we decided to make the most of it, and forget about cars and rentals, and just enjoy the beach. As you can see, finally, we managed to see some tourists 🙂 Most of the beach was empty, for us to relax and enjoy.

See the boarded up shops/restaurants..

Finally, we managed to find a few open restaurants, buzzing with activity, music and tourists further on the beach. We also managed to get the numbers of one car rental, that everybody said is open. It was such a relief to find people! I think it gave us a perspective of how it would be to be far away from civilization.

Getting a rental car, still took some time. The owner of the car rental told us he would be there in 10 mins, but as expected, it took him over half an hour – but we were just delighted to get our freedom 🙂 Now we could go somewhere, drive around, find a place to eat! Yay! Armed with the car, and a map, we set off! After ages, it was different driving around in an unknown place, without a GPS, but as our friend, the baker said, it was impossible to get lost there.

We stayed in our ghost hotel for another day, but it was much better because we managed to get away and explore the rest of the island. It was a little spooky coming back to an huge, empty hotel. I just hoped that no cats or bats would jump out to scare the wits out of us 🙂

We did have a tough time finding a place that was open for breakfast, but our trusty little bakery saved the day.

Thankfully, we had a fun time, despite the initial hiccups. It will be something that we will always remember. In a way, because it was so empty, we ended up driving around and seeing the rest of the island. I am quite sure that we would not have bothered had the place been buzzing with activity. Silver lining, and all that.. Certainly made sense to us that day!

Edited to add: Husband read this and reminded me of how he tried to spook me out. He wanted to tell me the story of the movie ‘The Shining’. I did not let him tell me though 🙂