Meis island (in Turkish) or Kastellorizo (in Greek) is the largest formation of the Rhodes archipelago, technically part of Greece since 1947, the island has actually been the source of much consternation between Turkey and Italy for centuries – since Alfonso V of Aragon, King of Naples, first conquered the island in 1400s. Meis actually lies just 2km from the coast of Kas, so you can see how its triggered a Britain-Gibraltar-Spain type argument. We caught the daily 45 minute ferry which serves as the main form of transport to and from the island, to be left marooned in the harbour town for the day.
In its heyday, up to 10,000 people were thought to have lived around the island’s harbour – the only safe port between Beirut and Fethiye, Meis prospered through trade, selling fish and sponges. All along Turkey’s Mediterranean coast are scars from the 1923 forced exchange between Greece and the Turkish republic, and in Meis, alongside the downfall of the Ottoman Empire, the town’s prosperity rapidly declined and by 1920s over 600 properties were abandoned. In 2011 census, only 492 people resided in Meis’ neighbourhood of colourful buildings, many former homes still standing ruinous.
Disembarking from the ferry and handing over your passport at border control for safe keeping during your 6 hour stay (a little worrying) you really do feel like you’ve been marooned. Tourists make up for the declining number of ‘Kazzies’, since the oscar-winning ‘Mediterraneo’ opened up the island to whole new audience. Although, there might not be any more sponge fisherman, the catch of the day is still proudly displayed, enticing the day’s visitors in for a spot of lunch.
We pitched up at lounging cafe directly on the water front. If we thought Kas had a lazy feel, Meis is positively horizontal – no one’s in hurry, unless its to get in to the cool, crystal water, that beckons like siren on a sweltering day – what was worse, is that we’d made the decision not bring a swimsuit (terrible decision, I honestly don’t know what came over us and we were too ‘British’ to try skinny dipping). After a thorough exploration of Meis’ many cafés and derelict streets, we headed home thoroughly chilled.
The Elixir Hotel is the local tourist haunt in Kalamar district of Kalkan, and fed up of battling power cuts, we headed here for the weekly Turkish BBQ feast, opened a bottle of Turkey’s finest bubbly and tucked into some freshly baked pitta.