Patmos -- The Island of the Revelation

Travel Journal of NH and BJ, 2002

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Oct 26th --Finally we reached Kusadasi, a tourist town because of the harbor and the visiting cruise ships. Apparently many Greek cruises stop over here so that the tourists can visit Ephesus, which is only about 10 min drives from here. Kusadasi is a medium size town with many hotels and souvenir shops. We went to Dianna Shipping, the operator of the ferry from Kusadasi to Samos Island. Selcuk bought the tickets for us and told us to come here tomorrow morning before 8 am, for the ferry will leave by 830 am. I asked him about ferry from Samos to Patmos Island; but Selcuk said he had no idea at all! Turkey and Greece are not in exactly friendly term and I guess few Turks will go over to Greek islands, even though the islands are just right opposite the Turkey southwestern coast.

We stayed in Pine Bay Marina Hotel, booked for us by BEF Tourism. A good deal, for at USD 50 we got a double room that comes with buffet breakfast and buffet dinner for two! Real bargain! Unfortunately the hotel is about 1 km from the town (and the harbor) and taxi rate here is more than double that of Istanbul (tourist town lah!)

From Kusadasi to Samos Island

On the morning of Oct 27th, we woke up early and took a taxi to the office of Dianna Shipping by 730 am. We were surprised to find nobody there and the boss came only at 8 am, he took our passport and asked us to proceed to the harbor (just 20 meters away) and waited for him – his staff will deliver the passport and ferry pass to us. There was only one more young man also waiting for the ferry, and I began to wonder if anybody else wants to travel to Samos Island? By 825 am the staff of Dianna Shipping still did not show up and I got a bit anxious – the ferry is supposed to leave by 8.30 am, and I certainly don’t want to miss this ferry, otherwise we won’t be able to get to Patmos. A few minutes later the female staff finally came, I was relief but then she told us the ferry will leave at 830 am, in one hour time! I was confused! My watch showed clearly the time was 830 am then! So

I asked her ‘what is the time now?’ and she told me it was only 730 am! Only then I realized that perhaps on yesterday Turkey had just changed from summer time to winter time (daylight saving); with clock moved backward by 1 hr! So we ended up waiting at the harbor for two full hours! As the time of ferry departure approaches, more and more passengers came – these are people who know the system, they came leisurely, unlike us! By 8 am we went through the immigration (rather straightforward) and boarded the medium size ferry. There were some 40 passengers – the ferryboat was more or less full.

 

                       Leaving Kusadasi town.......

This ferry boat took us to Samos Island

 

Samos Island is actually very near Kusadasi. From the harbor you could see its coast clearly in the distant. However, it took almost 2 hr to reach Vathy, the capital and main port of Samos. The ferry trip was very nice, the sea was smooth and scenery very beautiful, it was like taking a cruise in the deep blue Aegean sea.  

Ferry map from Kusadasi to Samos' Vathi
           

You can see Samos Island (a few miles away) from Kusadasi town (from our hotel)

  

 Enjoying the cruise in Aegean Sea

By 1030 am we reached Vathy. Greece custom and immigration clearance were also no hassle, as Malaysian we do not need a visa to enter Greece (and Turkey too), what a privilege! My first concern is of course to get the ferry ticket to Patmos as soon as possible. That’s why we came to Samos – Samos is the communication hub of the southern Greek islands. I went to the first shipping agent in sight, but the staff told me that there is no ferry to Patmos today! I was surprised, a bit anxious, and insisted that according to the ferry schedule I obtained from Greek Ferries web site there is one ferry leaving from the Port of Pythagorion of Samos to Patmos in the afternoon! The staff than asked me to go to the shipping agent in the next door – only then we discovered that here the shipping agents operate individually, they don’t sell ferry ticket for another shipping line. So finally we managed to get the ferry tickets, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that the one-way ticket costs only Euros 4.8 per person! In comparison, the return ticket from Kusadasi to Samos costs USD 50 each person!

 

  

   Beautiful Samos Island: Vathy Town

  

     Vathy Town: You can relax here

 

While at home I have read about Samos Island and know that the Port of Pythagorion was about 10 km from Samos, and that the best way to get there is by taxi. So we went to the nearby taxi station and took a taxi (15 min, 8 Euros) to Pythagorion town.

 

   

   The quiet little town of Pythagorion

 

This huge ferry approaching the Port of    Pythagorion

Pythagorion is a relax; small town, named after the famous mathematician Pythagoros who was born in Samos Island. There were many people in cafe drinking and chatting. There were very little commercial activities here – this is just a nice small town. We had a pizza lunch here, the food here was more expensive than in Turkey, the prices are all in euros!.

The ferry to Patmos was supposed to arrive at 245 pm, but we being new here were not sure about the harbor and ferry system here so we went to the harbor early, and ended up waiting there for a long time – in a strong, chilly wind. We could have spent the time in the comfortable restaurant relaxing! Finally the ferry came, it was a big, big ship that could take probably 500 passengers, but there were less than 20 of us only!

From Samos to Patmos in this huge ferry ship is like on a cruise, and you can relax watching the waves, the beautiful Aegean Sea and even the sunset! By 630 pm we finally reached Patmos!

 

The Map of Skala Town: But you can never get loss in this tiny town!

 

   

    The Harbor of the Town of Skala

Church of Agios Phokas facing the Port

Patmos! Patmos!

So finally we reached Patmos, the island where John was exiled and receive the Revelation. It was an emotional experience as we physically treaded on this island. On this island, the glorious Risen Lord appeared to John! No wonder the Greeks call this island the Jerusalem of the Aegean Sea.

 

The Map of Patmos: Note the town of Skale and Hora (Where the Monastery of St John is located)

               The Docecanese Islands: Patmos (upper left corner) is one of the 12 beautiful Aegean islands here. Insert upper right is the map of Greece
                   

                      Patmos sea front

 

 

The Skala town as viewed from St John Monastery

Note the brown St John Monastery at the left, surrounded by the town of Hora. Beneath is the Skala Town.

 

It was getting dark as we landed in Patmos. The ferry made a very brief stop only at Patmos, perhaps less than 10 minutes, I told BJ we could take our time to get out, so as we ‘slowly’ walked down the stairs to the exit we were surprise to learn that we were the last to get out! If we tally for another few minutes, the ferry would have left Patmos with us still in the ship! Then we would have big problem!

Even though it was already dark, many shops in the harbor town (the name of the town is Skala) were still open and there were some tourists wandering around, I went to ask a shopkeeper how to get to Skala Hotel (I have earlier booked a room in that hotel through internet) and was glad to know that it was just 5 min walk away!  This is a nice hotel, as we entered the dark entrance suddenly the light was on! We learned that the hotel uses automatic on-off lighting for the corridors too. Apparently they did this to save energy (cut cost) for in this time of the year,  (winter is approaching), there are very few tourists. So you have to walk by faith here in this hotel – I mean, you have to walk straight into the dark corridor believing that the light would be turned on automatically just when you need it! And thank God it worked every time!

This is a family style hotel; the room is not that big but is sufficient for two of us, clean and simple. After settling down we went to the town (just a few streets) for a walk, many shops still open, quite a number of restaurants there, apparently because there is a cruise ship here staying until late night. Many of the passengers of the cruise ship were enjoying themselves here in the relax atmosphere.

A visit to the Monastery of St John 

The next morning we woke up early and found the balcony of the hotel an excellent place for personal devotion. The sea is just less than 100 feet away and from our room, which is on third floor, we had an excellent view of the sea. We can see the breathtakingly beautiful sunrise! The place was cool, with birds singing around, and now and then church bells ringing in the midst of the quiet atmosphere. It was heavenly! As we prayed, a dove came, like bringing the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Oh, it was easy to pray and meditate while in Patmos Island.

We were thankful to the Lord for bringing us here. It is not easy to get to Patmos from Turkey. We were on our own once we left Kusadasi port, and I had to depend on the information obtained from internet regarding the time schedule of the ferry – our local Turkish guide knew nothing about from Samos to Patmos! Since every day there is usually only one scheduled ferry service between Patmos and Samos, and also between Samos and Kusadasi, we had to plan carefully least we got ‘trapped’ in Samos Island for additional day. Our plan was to stay two nights at Patmos for prayer and meditations.

There were very few guests in the hotel and the breakfast served was simple but sufficient. After that we went for a morning walk, I was anxious to get the return ferry ticket first. However, when I stopped over a travel agent to ask for ticket for ferry back to Samos tomorrow, I was told that there is no ferry to Patmos tomorrow; the only one is today’s afternoon. I was surprised and disappointed – that means that we have to leave Patmos this afternoon! We certainly do not want to leave so soon!

But by now I have already learned that you don’t just take the agent’s word, for according to the information I obtained from internet there should be a GA Shipping Line’s ferry back to Samos tomorrow. So I went around to look for the sign of GA Shipping, and thank God it was just some walk away. So we managed to get the ferry tickets to Samos tomorrow, at a cost of 9.5 Euros each.

We decided to visit the famous Monastery first and on the way downhill to visit the Cave of Revelation. The Monastery of St John, built on top of a 200-meter hill, dominates the landscape of Patmos. While we were in a shop earlier the friendly shopkeeper told us that one could walk up to the Monastery using the donkey path, and it would only take 20 plus minutes. But looking at the distance, we felt that it would be too taxing for us to walk up the hill. So we decided to take taxi, the charge was 15 Euros for sending us up to the Monastery, wait for us for 1 hr or so and then send us downhill to the Cave of Revelation. It is expensive, for the drive up to the Monastery took less than 10 minutes, but I suppose they have to make a living, few people use taxi here!

The taxi took us to the top of the hill via narrow, winding road and soon we reached the foot of the Monastery. It is a town call Chora. The view of Skala town and the lagoon from here was fantastic and breathtaking. Many buildings (including the main part of the Monastery) are in bright white and it gave us a sense of peace. The Monastery was very crowded at this time because this morning a cruise ship arrived and all the few hundred passengers from the ship came down to Patmos, most of them visited the famous Monastery and then the Cave of Revelation.

From the foot of the Monastery building we have to climb first the steep street of  Chora town and then walked the steep steps up and up and up to get to the Monastery entrance.

 

   

 The majestic bell tower of the Monastery

The Monastery, looks like a fortress

 

                                          

    

          Inside St John Monastery

 

 

The paved road from Skala ends here, lower corner is the bus and taxi terminal. You have to walk up to the Monastery from here.

From every angle the Monastery certainly is an imposing, massive building that looks like a fortress. The Monastery was built about 1000 years ago by Christodoulos. It was built like a fortress for defense purpose: there were always   pirates around that might be interested in its extensive collections of treasures and vast collections of antique books!

We visited the monastery main chapel, and as expected, it is a highly ornate building. Otherwise we just walked about in the corridors, alleys and steps of the Monastery, enjoying the beautiful scenery. There were some shops selling souvenirs outside the Monastery but things were expensive here. As we came out, the taxi man was waiting for us anxiously; perhaps we spent too much time in the Monastery walk-about!

The Cave of Revelation

From Chora (town of the Monastery) to the Cave of Revelation (the local people call it the Convent of the Apocalypse) is 2.5 km by the winding, narrow road, but there is a short cut if you choose to walk, a donkey trail, I was told.

Soon we reached the Convent of the Apocalypse. It has a garden outside, simple but peaceful. We went into the Convent (no entry charge), and walk down some 40 stairs to reach the Cave, this descend was like a journey into our inner world! Above the entrance is the icon of St John the Evangelist and above it the inscription: “How dreadful is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven”

 

The Convent of Apocalypse, where the Cave of the Revelation is located.

                  The Convent of Apocalypse

Fear God! (at the entrance of the convent)

 

The Cave was only about 20 by 20 feet and it has been converted into a small church with a few rows of pew. As we went in, there were a big crowd inside, they were touching and kissing the icons etc. We could not even come near to see the place where, according to local tradition, John once slept and rested. These were all passengers from the cruise ship. 10 minutes later they finished their business and left, and then there were only 4 of us left in the cave: myself and BJ, an American tourist and the monk stationed there.

      

      Stairs leading to the Cave of the   

      Revelation  

 

                                                   Above: The Cave of the Revelation, Notice the triple fissure at the ceiling, and the corner between the icons and the wall was where St John once slept.

Left: Entrance to the Cave of the Revelation

                                

           You can sit on the pew to medidate

         The donkey path

 

 

 

 

Now we can survey the cave in peace! In the cave. The place where St John once slept, was cordoned off. The place where he wrote the Revelation was also marked. We also saw the very ancient cross, said to have been carved by John in the rock. At the ceiling there is a triple fissure, symbol of the Holy Trinity, from which John heard the words of the Lord Almighty.

For quite a while there was no other visitors. We virtually had the whole place for ourselves! So finally we had the opportunity to pray, worship and meditate in quietness and semi-darkness. As we prayed we were touched by the Lord’s powerful presence. O this was the place where the glorious Risen Lord appeared to John, indeed, how dreadful is this place! It is the gate of heaven!

Unfortunately the silence was quickly broken by the arrival of a couple. The monk greeted them and started to explain (in Greek) the story about the Cave. So we decided to leave the Cave, for we saw some more tourists coming in. We went outside to the garden to take turn reading through the whole Book of Revelation. It was chilly now outside but what an experience it was to read the Book of Revelation outside the Cave where John received the Revelation!

In the Book of Revelation, God has given us a clear picture of what is going to happen in the future

Do you really believe the messages of Revelation?

If you want to tell the messages to others, make sure first that you yourself is an overcomer

And you yourself take heed of the warnings of the letters to the Seven churches!

After spending some 2 hrs there, we decided that it was time to leave. However, now there was no taxi available outside the Convent of Revelation! Of course, one way is to call the taxi station but it is going to be expensive. I read from the tourist guide book that there is a short cut, a donkey trail, to the Skala Town beneath. We managed to get direction from the staff of the Convent and located the donkey trail. It was just beside the entrance to the Convent. It was certainly an interesting walk downhill through the woods, but we had to walk carefully – the path was originally meant for donkey! As we got near the town, the path becomes very steep indeed! Soon we passed through houses, churches and shops, and after 20 min reached the now familiar Skala town square.

By evening we could feel that it was getting really cold. There were a number of restaurants at the sea front and a modest dinner for two of us costs 25 Euros. The town was quiet this evening because the cruise ship had left. Business activities here depend heavily on tourists from the Greek cruise ships.

Good-bye, Patmos!

Oct 29th Tuesday was the day we left Patmos. Again, we have to take a ferry to Samos Island, and from there we have to catch another ferry to Kusadasi. Our departure from Istanbul was Oct 31st.  

This morning we saw another cruise ship in the harbor. Cruise ship is the lifeline of Patmos Island.

Skala Hotel: just some 20 feet from sea

 

Skala Hotel (the arch is the entrance) and sea front

 

Some interesting figures about Patmos Island:

  • It has a population of 3000, mainly fishermen and people in tourist industry, the population swells during summer and shrinks considerably in winter.
  • There are more than 400 church buildings (not churches) in this island of 3000. Patmians love to build church buildings, many of these small church buildings are private properties. A father would be proud to give a church building as an inheritance to his children.
  • Patmians are Greek Orthodox Christians; most of the churches are painted in bright white. You can see the sign of cross everywhere. At night from our balcony we could see a big, blue cross shining in the darkness, like hanging in the sky over the harbor. The Orthodox priests are ‘impressive’ to look at, but whether they know Jesus or not, we don’t know.
  • The Greeks here could manage some English but it is not easy to understand their English with their heavy accent! We had little opportunity to interact with the local people.

Our ferry to Samos was supposed to arrive at 10 am, just to be sure we were there by 930 am, it was rather windy out there. Finally, near 10 am, we saw the big ferry ship  (Daliana) coming into the harbor. There were only a few passengers boarding the ferry. We were awed by the size of the ferry; it is like a big cruise ship, bigger than the Star Cruise Gemini. However, the ship was empty! There were rows and rows of seats and the whole ship could probably take in 1000 passengers, but there were only 5 passengers! We went to the restaurant area – with very comfortable sofa and ambient, and you can occupy as much space as you like. There is even a gift shop here, with a lady shopkeeper. However, the restaurant was not operating at that moment. Such a huge ship carrying only so few of us, it was surely a losing business!

And so in the ferry we had a wonderful time of rest, of prayer and meditations. It was a four-hour ‘cruise’ through the beautiful Aegean Sea.

At 1 pm we could see the southern coast of the Samos Island. I could recognize from far away the town of  Pythagorion  -- the port that we left for Patmos two days ago.

When I went up to the main deck, I noted that our ship was sailing in a narrow strait that was probably only a few km wide. Earlier the captain had told me the land on the right was Turkey, so I asked the only crew on the deck:”What is this island on the left?” “Samos!” was the answer.

 

     In the lounge of the big ferry

 

The strait between Turkey (left) and Samos Island (right)

 

In the Book of Acts, Luke writes about Paul’s journey from Greece to Jerusalem via Miletus. ‘the day after  that we crossed over to Samos, and on the following day arrived at Miletus’ (Acts 20.15). I always wonder why Luke mentions ‘crossed over to Samos’. Well, it appears that this narrow channel between Samos and Turkey mainland was on the major sea routes then. Perhaps as the ship passed through the strait, Luke also asked some sailor the same question: What is this island? And so he wrote down the name of the island in his notebook – I guess!

As the ferry sailed pass the narrow strait, we could see Kusadasi in the distance. However, our ferry is a Greek ferry and it could only go to a Greek port --- Port Vathy on Samos Island. That’s why it took us so long to reach Patmos from Kusadasi: 6 hour in sea travel plus time of transit. A direct ferry service would have taken not more than 4 hours.

At lunch time, the cook of the ferry came to the restaurant with his full seaman uniform. We ordered a set of sandwich and coffee, at least that would keep us from hunger until we reach Samos. By 2 pm our ferry finally reached Vathy (BAqY in Greek). It was very windy at the harbor, perhaps because it was an open space with the strong wind blowing from the sea. We noted that the sea was quite rough today, and the ferry (named Princess) that sails between Samos and Kusadasi was tossing about in the harbor! The crew of the ferry nevertheless confirmed that the ferry would still sail today. So we went to get the tickets confirmed at the shipping agent (MyShipping – again, you have to go to the right agent!) so that our names would appear in the list of passengers at the immigration office. We had to do the same thing when we departed from Kusadasi three days ago; this awkward arrangement between Greece and Turkey perhaps has to do with the long- standing animosity between the two nations.

After confirming the tickets, we went for lunch, and decided to try a famous delicacy of the Greek islands: fried stuffed squid – we thought a trip to the Greek islands is incomplete without trying the delicacy. Unfortunately this dish was so tedious to prepare that it took more than 30 min for preparation, meanwhile we (particularly myself, I am the type who don’t take chance) got more and more anxious as the departure time of our ferry drew near. Finally the delicacy was ready, but we had only 5 min to swallow the delicious food!

The ferry was the same ship that took us from Kusadasi to Samos, apparently this is the only shipping company running this service, and so it was rather full. Must be very profitable also!

The rough sea

During our trip from Kusadasi to Samos, the sea was calm and many passengers went up to the upper deck to relax under the gentle sunshine in Aegean Sea. However, in this return trip, the sea was rough, the (relatively) small ferry was tossing about in the sea and we were a bit tense. The crew, however, were all very calm, perhaps this is nothing to them! Almost everybody stayed in the cabin for from time to time waves splashed into the deck. We were praying much of the time, until later on we saw a rainbow and started to relax a bit.

Well, Aegean Sea can be really rough at time, and we can imagine in Paul’s days the danger of sailing in the sea with ever smaller and much less well equipped vessels.

Finally we reached Kusadasi at 6 pm. We were thankful for the safe arrival and proceeded straight to the hotel that BEF Tourism booked for us.

Kusadasi, the tourist town

The next morning (Oct 30th); we had some time to explore Kusadasi. Not many people like Kusadasi, feeling that it is too commercial and ‘tourist’-oriented. Yes, we saw a lot of tourists here, many cruise ships also stopover here. Many tourists use this town as the base to tour Ephesus (less than 10 miles), Miletos and some other ancient Greek ruins (within 1 hr drive) or even Pamukkale (3 hr drive away). There are many tour agents offering various excursions from Kusadasi, and many taxi drivers also offer to take you to Ephsus, Miletos etc for USD 60. The town is modern looking and has not much history and heritage of its own. Price is high here; even the taxi charges double the normal rate!

 

This is the tourist town Kusadasi

 

We walked to the town (a 20 min walk, by taxi will cost 6 million TRL or RM14) mainly trying to get a mini battery for BJ’s watch. Well, there were lots and lots of shops selling jewelries, leather goods, souvenirs, clothing, and of course – the very sweet Turkish delights (Turkish sweets), but we could not find a watch-shop! The shopkeepers were mostly men, many of them very persuasive. When you just stop to look at the window display, the shopkeeper would come out and try his best to persuade you to go into his shop, once you sit down, he would give you a cup of Turkish apple tea, and you would feel obliged to listen to his sales talk! You have to be very determined to say: ‘No, thank you!’ to walk out of the shop! As we visited several shops, the shopkeeper would exclaim that their goods are very cheap now ‘because the season is over!’  -- By November the number of cruise arrival at Kusadasi will be minimum, many shops will be closed them.

The owner of a leather shop we visited had his unique way of persuading us to buy the more expensive leather coat. He would take some coats with a low price tag, threw the coats on the floor forcefully, saying, in disdain, “These are cheap stuff! Surely you don’t want these!”  and then he showed us the expensive one! It was hard to tell him that we wanted the budget stuff!

From Izmir to Istanbul and to Kuala Lumpur

We returned to the hotel in the afternoon, and by 6 pm the prearranged airport transport sent by BEF Tourism came. The driver sent us to Izmir Airport – a 1 hr trip. He was an old man, and by the time he drove near the airport entrance, he switched on the car interior lamp and BJ wondered why. Of course I knew, this was his way of reminding us to prepare tips for him! Taxi drivers in Turkey expected small tips!

From Izmir we took a night flight to Istanbul. Upon arrival we took a taxi to the nearby Holiday Inn – I booked through internet a month ahead and so was at a big discount – USD 62 for a double room. Holiday Inn was so different from other Turkish hotels we stayed in, it was very American in ambient and room design and decoration, and you hardly know that you are in Turkey if you stay in a Holiday Inn!

The next morning we took the free airport shuttle provided by the hotel to the airport. Two years ago when we left Istanbul we had a bad impression of the pushy porter, and were mentally prepared not to let them touch our baggage this time. However, as we reached the airport, we found that the Airport authority has also learned the lesson, no more porter there! You have to get the trolley yourself, but the rental is 1.5 million TRL (RM 3.4). The security check of the baggage was quite thorough. After checking in we went into the transit area. Two years ago we were on transit in this Airport too, and I remember having lunch at one of the Chinese restaurant in the transit area. So we went to search for the Chinese restaurant again – however, it’s gone! Chinese foods do not sell well in Turkey, I guess.

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