Beasts on the Bourtzi

I have made several trips to the Greek Northern Sporades, each of which have given me plenty to write about. As time goes on I will add some of these to this blog, but the most recent journey saved a treasure for the last day.

My Passepartout and I had just completed a birthday holiday to Alonnisos and after a fast and furious transfer by water taxi were waiting in Skiathos Town for our flight. As is our habit we ate a light breakfast at the El Greco Taverna. After this we had a few hours to kill and I led us to the Alexandros Papadiamantis monument on a little promontory called Bourtzi.

Bourtzi is a tiny peninsula that divides the Skiathos port into two distinct parts. It used to be a fort, which was built by the Gizi brothers who ruled over Skiathos back in 1207. Bourtzi was bordered by impregnable walls and there were two towers located to the left and right of the main gate. It still divides the old and new ports, but the only signs of a fort are some hefty ramparts and some corroded canons. The centre is dominated by an open-air theatre and arts centre. We walked under the trees in a clockwise direction, eventually scrambling down onto a rough path over the rocks along the water’s edge, circumnavigated the end of the peninsula, then turned back towards the old port.

On a rock shelf at the base of some steps leading us up to our path, we tarried, watched the sea and took some final pictures. It was here I noticed some German wasps Vespula germanica flying around a dead fish in their purposeful way. At first I thought the poor creature was a garfish with its long mouth snapped off, but now I’ve looked at the photographs it turns out to be a silver eel. The wasps were their purposeful selves and ignored us completely, posing without ire for the attached photograph. They were settling on the eel and delicately carving small slices, before flying away to their nests, to be replaced by a compatriot. Rather than ghoulish, it was a gentle and choreographed dismemberment, set off by the colours of the cast. The wasps were at their best in yellow and black, looking bright as wax in the Greek sunshine. The eel was quite fresh, so its skin still radiated colour, but its still bright eye, blue and clear, gave vibrancy to the scene, notwithstanding the fact it was dead.

We left the wasps to their clearing up and walked up the steps under the trees to sit and watch Skiathos Town. Across the water people were clearing up the remains of their early selling spree in the fish market watched by the local cats, and customers gently sliced their fish lunches in the tavernas. Fishing boats were setting out again past the wasps below. Isn’t life lovely?

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