Flashback: Kos, 2000

My first time on a plane was a very misleading experience: take off and landing were both incredibly smooth, and I had a goodie bag of sweets and word puzzles on my seat.  I was nine years old and the whole thing was unbelievably exciting, particularly because I was going on my first non-France foreign holiday - to Greece.  We were headed to the small island of Kos in the Southern Aegean, an island I had never heard of and honestly haven't heard about since, but like most Greek islands is a little slice of paradise sitting in a brilliant blue sea.  Today I might lust for the iconic white walls of Santorini, or to visit the Acropolis, but at the time Kos could not be beaten.  I was a little bit of a nerd as a kid with a big thing for Greek mythology, and my mum promised we'd be able to see actual ancient ruins.

Unlike in the UK, where our Roman ruins are hidden away indoors and roped off from the public, only to be viewed from purpose-built platforms, in Kos you can wander down ancient thoroughfares and let your imagination run riot.  We passed through the forum, and I imagined toga-clad men shouting at one another in Greek (or Latin, Kos has ruins from both civilisations).  I gazed at the sun-bleached stones and imagined the walls at their full height, and the streets bustling with patricians and plebeians alike.  Plus, since Kos is not one of the more popular holiday destinations of the Greek islands and we were visiting off peak season, my reveries were not interrupted by the yakking of annoying tourists.

My other favourite thing about Kos: LAMB.  Obviously, being an island the seafood is particularly noteworthy, and I would recommend visitors to sample such Greek classics as kalamari, but lamb is also a specialty of the country and there are so many delicious variations.  Kleftika is beautiful, slow-cooked so it melts in your mouth.  I had a particular fondness also for lamb chops primarily because of all the hilarious misspellings you'd see on the chalkboards and menus outside restaurants, "lamp chob" being the most common.  You really have no excuse to visit Greece and not eat like the locals eat, and maybe try ouzo (I definitely had a sip...aged nine...) but that stuff could have you breathing fire so feel free to turn it down!

Kos is lovely, scrubby on land, with a bright blue sea.  I visited in October when the winds were too strong for sunbathing, you kept your layers on most of the time, but the sun still shone every day.  Oh, apart from that one day when the torrential rain turned the road at the bottom of the hill into a river.  Visit out of season and you'll find everything closed on Sundays, but just stay somewhere self-catered because it's worth it for the peace and quiet you'll get.  I remember reading The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy on a huge, deserted beach and thinking I might as well be on a planet far away from civilisation (tried waving my towel in the air just in case a passing spaceship picked us up...shut up I was nine!)  I have fond memories of Kos, but in such a way I don't particularly want to return.  It was the first time I dipped my toe into the thrill of travelling, exploring a new terrain and experiencing a culture that isn't your own, and I will forever treasure that.

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