Where families meet

Cornelis de Vries

Being in Greece is a Delight

About thirty-five years ago, being a pupil on the grammar school in The Hague, Holland, I was introduced into the ancient Greek world. Being a boy of only fourteen, I did not enjoy the alpha, beta, and gamma stuff very much I am afraid. Those long-lasting schooldays, we had to practice with pen and ink pages full of alphas, betas and all the other ‘hieroglyphic’ Greek characters until the very last omega. It was as if I had shrunk to the size of a young boy in the first class of the primary school, learning my first, Latin alphabet.

The teachers promised us that practicing those strange Greek symbols eventually would lead us to the divine world of Xenophon and Homer. That would widen one’s spiritual horizon they said. Quite soon, we were able to decode and write the Greek letters in deed, and we started to translate Greek texts. I have to admit that the few lines we translated during one lesson were not very inspiring: they were as exciting to me as just one piece of a big jigsaw puzzle. Greek mythology did not make me feel happy either, I remember: all those gods, goddesses, half gods and half goddesses were as confusing as silly soap series.

Years later, directly after the exams before going to university, I had a three months summer holiday. Quite surprisingly, I decided without any hesitation to travel to Greece. It was a long trip all the way down from Holland to Greece, and finally I crossed the Greek border for the very first time.

This appeared to be a remarkable and quite decisive moment in my life. Setting foot on Greek soil, I entered a new, amazing world. The alpha, beta and gamma changed into the ‘alphavitario’, and I started reading comics written in Modern Greek. I remember, for instance, that I read Tira Molla, and Donald Duck sitting on deck of the old Evangelistria sailing to Amorgos. A very kind Greek student sat next to me. She helped me to decipher the comics’ text lines. I didn’t care about our shabby steamer being so slow: the trip could not last long enough since the girl’s friendly help made me feel being in high spirits.

Ah, Amorgos; Lakki in Aegiali: music of klarino, violi, and lavouto, so seducing; ouzakia, aspro-bato, countless; dancing on the beach in the timeless, starry night: Aegiali beach where I learned to laugh and to love life.

Greeks appeared to be very friendly and hospitable people: the times that I was not charged for a drink or a meal were countless. Greeks taught me to say ‘kalimera’, ‘kalispera’, ‘ti kanete’, ‘s’agapo’ and some other words that I should not repeat.

Forever, I closed all the Greeks and their magnificent country in my heart. Since then, during the summer holidays, Greece is my destination: two timeless months feeling healthy, being happy: coming home.

During my first vacation in Greece, I started to make color slides. Walking on the Acropolis in between the real temples, instead of the black and white images of the dusty schoolbooks, I saw the beige-white temple of the Parthenon, in one frame with the never-ending city of Athens spreading out its wings graciously, hugging the surrounding mountains’ slopes and the glittering sea. Like an angel on a cloud, I admired this superb scenery, and I understood that my grammar school’s teachers had been right: I saw the ancient times together with our brave new world in a wider perspective indeed.

In Greece, I crossed the threshold to a new way of life. The glorious Greek landscape stole my heart. I cannot live without the seducing aroma mixture of rigani, and thyme anymore. I love to listen to the cycads orchestra, as I like to listen to the sea. The sea and Greece: like the Greek flag: a symphony in blue and white.

In 1969, I started traveling in Greece from the area adjacent to the former Yugoslavia, saw Meteora, and discovered Athens driving my yellow Citroën 2CV. In the eighties, I hiked with ten friends and five donkeys around mount Chelmos, mount Erymanthos, on the Peloponese.

In the Aegean, I roamed around from one island to the other. Eventually, in 1993, I came to Nisyros. That was love at first sight. This tiny island south of Kos is special. I cannot explain precisely why. Nisyros is full of hidden mysteries and fascinating energy. In 1996, I met Richard Economakis; we became friends, and virtually the day after we met, we started our collaboration producing a book on the history and architecture of Nisyros.

I repeat: Nisyros is special. I cannot tell you why. However, I can show it to you quite easily: see it yourself, enjoying the books.

References to books:
'Nisyros, History and Architecture of an Aegean Island'
'Nisyros, History and Architecture of an Aegean Island' can be ordered at:
(Greek: ISBN 960-204-231-1, English: ISBN 960-204-232-X)

'Nisyros, Nymph of the Aegean'
'Nisyros, Nymph of the Aegean'
is available in all big bookshops in Greece and on the island Nisyros
(ISBN 960-535-183-8).


Below are some of my photos. Click on Images to enlarge.


Below are some of my poems and prose.

White Beach
The sandy seashore at 'White Beach' is black instead of silvery white: a lovely, small bay with dark, volcanic mini-pebbles; one of the Nisyrians' favorite swimming places. In summer, the many bath-sheets change the place into a multicolored mosaic. White Beach is red, blue, and yellow: neither black nor white.

Two heads floated on the deep-blue sea's surface. The waves made them going up and down rhythmically. They spoke about; God knows what they spoke about: it doesn't matter. Her wet hair in wild locks over her face. His face? I really do not know because it was mine.

Liés Beach
One parasol, two bottles of Loutraki water,
two tins of Pepsi max, both cold;
one tin of soda water, tepid.

An empty beach until the horizon,
just two boys, one girl, and two towels,
underneath the funny umbrella;
one flacon of tanning oil.

A teasing, light wind,
blowing from 'somewhere else',
blue sky, no clouds,
cheerful waves, like living diamonds.
Small talks, like picking flowers,
no time, not even a split second:
maybe one split second though,
as I wished this to last forever.


Speed of Light

I am in the mood to throw the dishes; to smash all into pieces on the ground.
I smell wild rigani: my room looks like, no is mount Diavatis' summit:
I'll jump from terrace to terrace to the bottom of the valley.
I'll fly downwards along the slopes, swift and silently like an owl.
In my wild ride, I'll tip the rocks and float up into the air again.

I will land on the beach, finally.
I will jump there through the fire and drink my ouzo 'aspro bato':
I, ha, I do not need the alcohol:
I am boozed by the music and no one can stop me:
I am out tonight.

Black pine trees' silhouettes cut the moon into pieces,
myriad stars accompany me on my Space Odyssee.

I am loose.

Trecho me tachitita fotos, …



The Cage
Somewhere at the road from Mandraki to Pali, directly on the waterfront, perches la paloma blanca ‘Mira Mare’ on a rock. The nightclub is a shabby building though: not much more than a grey wall, enclosing a sinister courtyard. I am not sure whether the brick-barrier is meant to protect what is inside or what is outside the nightclub. On the courtyard, another enclosure is placed, called: ‘the cage’.

One evening we decided that, after we had explored the entire island of Nisyros, ‘Mira Mare’ was the last white spot one the map. The nightclub’s population appeared to be divided into two groups: those being outside the cage and those being inside the cage.

That night, as Annie and I were about entering the cage, I felt trapped: condemned. At the same time, though, I felt a funny thrill that hit my veins: as if we entered Hell and Paradise simultaneously. Within the cage, a curious collection of Homo Sapiens, both male and female, undulated on the horny heartbeat of loud, low-frequent music. Sensuality, concentrated into the highest degree, led the ‘cagers’ to an almost fatal climax.

The swinging, rocking, and sweating octopus’s eye winked invitingly: ‘Come and join us in bellybutton land’.

Standing on holy Hades’ threshold, we hesitated: a split second, lasting a century. Then we left the nightclub.


The Hague, November 2003

Cornelis de Vries


Note from Paul B. Campanis, administrator of
We are grateful to Cornelis for his tremendous contributions to the island of Nisyros. He has produced and published an extremely large collection of photographs of the island. He has also contributed significantly to several publications on Nisyros. As well he has demonstrated tremendous inspiration and conviction to preserve Nisyros in her original state as a lasting treasure.

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