Earlier this year my husband, Michel, was invited to be on the jury of a small documentary film festival. In itself not an unusual request, but this one was to be held on a Greek island.
“Excellent, “I said, “I can accompany you. Where is it?”
The most easterly point of Europe, and the smallest of the Dodecanese group.
I had never heard of this island. Yet I have travelled and spent chunks of time over the years in Greece and prided myself on knowing its geography averagely well. Even looking up the location on the internet did not give me a great deal of information. It is, I read, where Europe ends and Asia begins, which sounded enticing. So it became a must see!
To reach the island of Castellorizo, which lies approximately one kilometre off the southern coast of Turkey, you need to take a ferry from Rhodes, which was what we did. We flew to Rhodes and from there took the dawn boat which sailed silently for four hours through the south-eastern Mediterranean waters, the edges of the Aegean Sea.
On a very hot mid-September late morning, the ferry dropped anchor into one of the prettiest harbours I have ever set eyes on.
Disembarking was chaotic. Every inhabitant was waiting on the quay to greet the new arrivals. What I did not know then is that it is only on Tuesdays and Fridays, the days of the arrival of the Rhodes ferry, that the very few cars in circulation on the island, are allowed to be driven. It is mostly a car-free zone, which gives the place, this tiny faraway haven, a real sense of serenity.
You read, you listen to the lapping waves, you stare at the water and count the turtles who swim right up to your feet and show no fear.
Due to the fascinating history of Castellorizo, the island claims a mere 280 permanent inhabitants. During the tourist months that number can rise to several thousand and most of those are Australians. Everywhere about us, as our luggage was wheeled by festival assistants along the narrow cobbled lane at the water’s edge, English was being spoken with Aussie accents. We are a long way from Australia, I was thinking, puzzled.
Over the following days as the festival unfolded by starlight I took the days to learn a little about my surroundings, including through an excellent documentary which was screened at the festival and will now be internationally distributed by Michel’s company, ICTV.