Kos August 8th 2019

I am completely, unreservedly happy. Full to the brim. Like a child. When the days roll into one another and day becomes night and night becomes day and you don’t even notice. A life that is free. A life of liberty.

My second day in Kos. Arrived the night before last. Reading ‘Zorba the Greek’. It was one of the only books on sale in the local supermarket. I dumped William Stoner (‘Stoner’ – read chapter 1 on the plane) for Zorba. You couldn’t get 2 more different characters but I wanted to be involved with something that was wonderfully flamboyantly Greek. As I told the girl in the supermarket ‘It’s serendipity’. Zorba had found me.

Stoner is wonderful too but he’ll have to wait til I’m back in the UK. Anyway, at the end of chapter 1 Zorba tells the narrator ‘you must realise I’m a man’

The narrator responds ‘A man? What do you mean?’

‘Well, free!’

What is it to be free? Are any of us truly free? It’s something I used to aspire to and think about and even write about as a young man. Today, without fear or self doubt or that planning nagging I do to myself I seemed to walk like a man in a story: bold and self assured. The assuredness that comes with self knowledge. There was an old friends of my parents, David, sadly no longer with us who I always liked so much. He was always so interested in me even though he was much older but he also seemed so happy in himself. Calm and consistent in his demeanour. I felt he knew himself. It’s what I aspire to.

I wasn’t even phased by the fact I had lost my goggles for the second time in a week. Not even a wince or a raised voice. Weird.

I looked up the different islands I want to visit and bent my body into the wind and the light and yearned for nothing more than that and the next port of call. Yes, I want a wife and a family but at times like this it seems like a completely alien concept. And I feel a little bit of Zorba.

Went to the Asklepion today, a huge complex which was a healing temple built about the 4th century BC. It’s hard to imagine what it was like although the vast sets of steps which lead you from the ground level to the 3rd or upper level remain in tact and the position is incredible, surrounded by pine trees and facing East over the Gulf of Gökova towards Bodrum.

People being treated were housed in dormitories and then in their sleep were expected to be visited by the gods. The next day they had their drama translated and were given the appropriate treatment.

There was a frigidarium, thermae and a room with hot air too. It sounded like the sort of place I would have liked. There was something a little bit too austere about the design, though. It gave me a bit of a chill, not the wholesome aura I was expecting (even if I am visiting almost two and a half thousand years later). It reminded me of a concentration camp or maybe that was influenced by the harsh tones of the German tour guide standing next to me as I looked up those steps.

This is where they think Hippocrates was taught and inspired to become the ‘father of medicine’. It’s disputed whether he actually wrote the Hippocratic Oath.

The plane tree where he taught his theories of medicine to his students still stands in the heart of Kos Town beside an old bridge that seems to divide the port from the main harbour where rows of excursion boats line up facing rows of restaurants each with a person standing to try to persuade you to come in. I feel like asking them if they think that tactic actually works.

I have stayed in a lovely place Hotel Afendoulis. Peaceful, sleepy run by Alexis and his son, Demetrius. The rooms are basic but, like all Greeks, they are keen to offer their hospitality and welcome. It is important to show your appreciation to this hospitality – even it is coming at a price. They certainly expect warmth to be returned.

I have breakfast every morning under jasmine and bougainvillea of tomato omelette, toast with their homemade jams – quince, pumpkin, tomato, fig, grape and lemon, a of them grown in their own house outside of town, yoghurt and honey.

Kos Town has been pleasant and I’ve used it for my cultural ‘bit’ but it’s time to search out the Greece I love: wild coastlines, clear sea and fishing villages. This morning I sail for Patmos.

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