Now home to just 500 inhabitants, the Greek island of Kastellorizo (Meis in Turkish, derived from the official Greek name Megisti) had a population of 10,000 people in the late 19th Century. Assigned to Greece with the Paris Peace Treaties in 1947, the island has been variously Byzantian, Ottoman, Italian and Egyptian, as well as being occupied briefly by the Knights of St John, and administered by the allied forces for the last years of the Second World War.
Just a few kilometres off the Turkish coast, the journey by boat takes just half an hour. The approach to the harbour always reminds me of the approach to Tobermory on the Isle of Mull in Scotland, with its rainbow coloured merchants’ houses.
Despite being only a few kilometres from Turkey, there is no missing the fact that you are in a different country. Although many of our old merchant houses in Kaş are of identical architecture, the colours are totally different, the boats are different and the food tastes different, despite most of their fresh produce coming from our Friday market. Several ferries each week mean that the island is supplied with all things Greek (and European), so we delight in stocking up on essentials like decent coffee, condensed milk for making caramel and, of course, a few illicit porcine supplies. The little duty free shop has a great selection of Greek wines, so a few of those have been known to make it to Turkish shores too.
If you are feeling energetic (and don’t mind the odd snake), you can walk up to the plateau on the top of the island and visit the old monastery. You can either walk up the steps behind the town (very very hard work) or take the old path from near the basilica in the upper part of Megisti town, and then traverse the top of the island and come back down the steps (much easier, but longer, and still very steep in parts). That will then earn you a fish lunch and a tin jug of wine at one of the many waterfront tavernas.
The old mosque at the end of the harbour – a throwback to the Ottoman occupation of the island – is now a charming museum, which has a fascinating collection of old photographs charting the island’s history.