Right outside our kitchen window is the Greek island of Kastellorizo – known as Meis to the Turks. It is less than 2km off the coast at its nearest point and sometimes it appears so close that I feel I could touch it. When we have bad weather, it disappears altogether, only to reappear magically as soon as the storm has passed. (The photo left was taken from behind the harbour on Meis – you can see the hills of Kas in the background).
Luckily, the locals here rub along pretty much with the locals over there – as long as our two national football teams aren’t actually playing each other, we root for the Greek team and they cheer for ours in every major tournament. Our harbour in Kas is full of Greek boats on a Friday – our market day – and regular ferries ply between the two harbours. A day on Meis is one of our favourite excursions – it may only be a couple of kilometres away, but the food is entirely different, both in the tavernas and in the little supermarket. Obviously we would never consider using the trip to stock up on bacon and ham. Or Parmesan. Or decent coffee. Or Mr Muscle oven cleaner (banned here, ahem). Of course not. Never. Banish that thought.
Sadly, it is so close to the coast that it has become an obvious destination for the many refugees making their way to Europe from Syria and Iraq. The sound of the powerful engines of the coastguard’s boats has become such a regular occurrence in the early hours of the morning that I am ashamed to say it rarely wakes me any more. This week, in the space of just one night, our coastguard rescued more than 70 people, half of them women and children, travelling in tiny overcrowded boats on very stormy seas.
Little Kastellorizo, with its population of just 500 people, has seen up to 100 people per day arriving on its shores since the summer. Volunteers from Kas have pitched in to help and there is a huge effort to collect warm clothing and other essentials to equip the refugees for their onward journeys to the much colder climes of nothern Europe, but one wonders whether this crisis has any chance of an end.
Of course we had other bad news this week in the shape of terrorist bomb attacks in the main tourist area of Istanbul. It may be two days drive away from us, but it has affected everyone here and a gloomy summer season is predicted. I hope not, but we shall have to wait and see.
To top off our week, we had an earthquake. Weirdly, it was much lower on the Richter Scale than the ones we have experienced in the past, but the epicentre was Kas and, my goodness, did it make me leap out of my chair, as the house rocked and the ground rumbled for a few seconds. It was the same day as the terrorist bombs in Istanbul and we weren’t sure whether it was an explosion or an earthquake. It seems strange to say that I was pleased to have an earthquake, but I really was – the alternative was too awful to contemplate.