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Kalymnos, Greece
Kalymnos Island (Image by MathiasSha from Pixabay)

Kalymnos, Greece

Kalymnos is arid and mountainous, though in history its good harbours gave it some importance and it is dotted with the ruins of early Byzantine basilicas. Its fame though was as ‘the sponge fishing island’. In its heyday, a huge fleet left cach year after Easter, returning in the autumn. Half the divers never came home. Decompression chambers arrived only in the 1950s; now a few elderly disabled survivors are reminders of the effects of ‘the bends'. In 1986 local sponges were almost completely wiped out by a virus and the government turned to tourism to bolster the economy. The string of resorts along the good beaches of the greener west coast became a popular package destination.

The main port, Pothia, lines a big and very busy harbour, backed by tawny hills. It is brash, noisy, photogenic, unpretentious and very Greek. Old warehouses still process imported sponges.

On the road to the resorts lie Khryssoherias, a castle of the Knights of St John, and Hora, the medieval capital. From here steps climb to the Byzantine citadel. South-west of Pothia, Vlyhadia is one of a small number of legal diving areas in Greece. It has a Museum of Submarine Finds.

The east coast is harsh and uninhabited but for Rina, a tiny port and yacht anchorage at the mouth of a fertile valley. Here there is swimming in the narrow turquoise inlet and a spring where islanders fill containers with fine drinking water from the mountains.

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