Continuation across the Aegean Sea calling at Thira
Slept well, and did not rise until nearly eight. When I got on deck we were just sighting Cerifo (Kithira), our next stopping place. It is the baldest and most barren looking place I have come near. The coast line is generally precipitous, and occasionally pierced with caverns. It is very thinly populated. On all sides of it are small islands rising sheer from the sea but not very high. We took a few Greeks on board, both men and women. They are all deck passengers. It has been blowing a moderate breeze all day, and there are clouds about; but the air remains clear to the horizon much further away than with us. Weaver and self are the only cabin passengers left on board, and we both have been quieter to-day. The motion of the boat affects him a little; and I am just a little heavy, but enjoying my food and felt no sickness. If nature does not work we must take a little medicine tomorrow.
Awoke just as we were entering the port of Syra (Thira?), and, putting my head through my window saw a beautiful sunrise. It was very fine; but I was too drowsy to enjoy it properly. Syra is a large place, being the central port of the Levant.
Steamers call here most days, and sail to all parts. Like nearly all the towns on these islands it lies at the foot of a hill, and the houses rise from the water upwards. But one hill is very remarkable. It is steep, and of the shape of a sugar loaf, and all round the top is covered with houses. The hills and country is stony and barren; but there must be some fertile places between the mountains, and fruit and vegetables are plentiful.
After breakfast, Weaver and self went ashore; and, on the way, bathed from the boat. (The steamers always anchor about 2 to 300 yards from land, and a small boat must he taken to get ashore.) The water was so clear, and just warm enough to be agreeable. It was first rate. Its only drawback is getting into the boat again, and that is just hard. After our bathe we landed and went up to the town, which is much like the others I have visited. Not seeing anything to keep us there, we ascended the hill which overlooks the town - very rugged and stony, with no vegetation but sage and a wiry thick growing plant. We saw lots of grasshoppers and a few lizards. The mountain is, in principle, limestone but, on the top, igneous and ... rocks.
The sun was strong; but there was a strong breeze as well, which counteracted the heat and made it pleasant. We made our way back through the little town on the conical hill I have already noticed. On the top are two windmills and a Church. By the way, many of these Churches are on the tops of hills or on considerable elevations. The windmills are primitive and peculiar; there is no provision made to turn round the sails to the wind; so I suppose they can only work when it is favourable. The sails are of canvas, fixed to the main arms of the mill. We went down what we took for the main street of this little town. It is about 8 ft wide, and about as steep as Everton Brow - the houses only one story high, and often placed in the most comical situations. I believe that all the water has to be carried up, so that, if they use it sparingly - no wonder! The women and children look tolerable clean, and all the children cared for; but I must say that in several places the stench is truly vile. I have noticed nothing very unusual in the dress of the women on the isles - only the poor women have no bonnets, but sometimes are seen with kerchiefs on the heads. The majority of men are dressed as ourselves, in fact all the better class; but there are many with the baggy trousers of the peasant Greek costume. This is most striking, and is, I understand the original. He has pointed slippers, black gaiters falling well over the foot, white trousers, which look as though they are wrapped round the leg, a very full pleated white petticoat falling to the knee, a red scarf round the waist and a ... shirt with a black or red waistcoat often richly embroidered; and on his head a red fez with black tassels. His petticoat is very full and stands out considerably: and he has a kind of strut in his walk so that he looks an oddity. Most of the men wear only their mustach; but, as a rule, look as though they want a shave, the old ones especially. Coffee is very extensively used, and is brought to you in a little pan fresh from the fire. It is strong and not strained; but is very poor dirty tasting stuff. They give you sugar but no milk, and invariably give a glass of water with it. Shoeblacks appear to be a universal institution nowadays - you meet them everywhere, and on this isle there are lots of them, with as much cheek as our ... . The donkeys here are worthy of note. They are large, clean limbed creatures, and do nearly all the work. Ponies are very rare, and mules ditto. There are no carts drawn by any animal, as far as I could see. I did come across a kind of light dray; but always pulled by men. The very hilly nature of the country no doubt accounts for this. After our long walk we indulged in coffee and a smoke, and then came aboard. After dinner had chess with Chief Engineer and with Weaver until nine, and then talked with him until eleven.
Still at Syra. Are to sail at twelve today. Did a little German and after breakfast went with Weaver ashore. Bathed by myself. He had enough yesterday. Found it pleasant and the water very buoyant. Could soon become fond of sea bathing in the climate. Returned to steamer early and found we had a considerable accession of passengers and I had to turn in with Weaver again. Among the passengers was a conjuror named ?Boxer and his wife and little boy. After dinner he showed us some of his tricks.