Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Filoxenia: a warm welcome

Filoxenia: hospitality, love of strangers, inviting an outsider into your home and looking after them. No wonder it's a popular name for a place to stay in Greece. 

In Tilos, Filoxenia apartments are a special place to stay, yet often overlooked because they're a kilometre from the nearest beach at Eristos. A five-minute walk down from Megalo Horio village, they're right on the kampos or plain of Eristos, the most fertile part of the island, surrounded by farms.

Filoxenia, set among vegetable gardens and fruit trees, was one of the places I'd stop off last summer to buy melons, tomatoes and peppers to supply the kantina. The family were so friendly and helpful. They always had a delicious-sounding menu outside for home-cooked, local food in their restaurant. 

When I stopped by the other day, we chatted about the coming season and I heard the story of the live music. Apparently the family's grown-up son was practicing a classical piece on the violin one day when a group of women overheard him and wandered in. They asked if he would play again that evening. And so 17 women had dinner that night with a soloist performing Bach and Mozart for them, surrounded by lemon and orange trees in Tilos.

If people ask me about a place to stay at Eristos beach, my immediate response is Eristos Beach Hotel - because I loved staying there myself, because it has pretty gardens and cute cats, because the family are so laid-back and most of all because of Maria's moussaka. I forget to mention Nitsa apartments, attached to En Plo restaurant (very popular with locals), also set back from Eristos Beach. Lisa and I walked past yesterday and their gardens were looking so attractive already...

On a slightly different note: Filoxenia is a concept so central to Greek custom and tradition that the world was shocked in April by the incident at Manolada in mainland Greece, which has come to be known as 'blood strawberries', when a farmer with a gun opened fire on a gathered mass of immigrant workers demanding their overdue pay. The episode cast a hideous light on the shameful rise of racism since austerity measures made life so difficult for so many Greeks (overdue pay being the rule rather than the exception these days), and perhaps it shocked people enough to have, in the long term, a positive impact.

It seemed to me, therefore, the right time to give thanks to the generous people of Tilos for being so welcoming to outsiders. British, Italian, German, French, Dutch, Danish, Russian, Ukrainian, Bulgarian, Albanian - I'm sure I'm missing a few nationalities but you get the picture - all of us have come to settle here and been accepted, while others from Asia and Africa have worked here for a season or so, and all have made local friends and found a place in the community. 

It was a few years ago that dozens of illegal immigrants from Afghanistan, Palestine and Pakistan were left on the island with practically nothing, apparently by human traffickers using a Turkish boat. These islands in the east Aegean are one of the easiest borders to breach for those desperate to reach a new life in Europe. The unconventional arrivals were treated with friendly respect, according to accounts of those who were there; by Tilos' long-serving mayor, the late Tassos Aliferis (himself an outsider who made his home on the island) as well as other islanders. A few of the young boys from the Middle East ended up staying and working hard to become part of the funny old melting pot that is Tilos.

It's the first of May, the official start of summer in Greece, and it's also Greek Easter week. Kali Protomayia, happy First of May. The island is already beginning to buzz with people who've come to celebrate Easter. It feels like it's already summer - we've had 30-degree temperatures this week, and have been swimming. The sea's been so calm and clear you can see the fish. It's a warm welcome to summer this morning. Glad I'm here to stay. Thanks, Tilos.


  1. Lovely post! Thanks, Jennifer.

    1. I totally agree.. Love the pics too.. As a country girl, it looks perfect and just what I had in mind.. Thankyou Jen..Now to start organising my life!.. P.S.. Can you recommend somewhere to stay overnight in Old Rhodes Town?

      Lots of love from sunny Somerset!.x

    2. Glad you like the look of it!

      Overnight in Rhodes Old Town, at the budget end the Stathis is friendly, cheap and cheerful; slightly more presentable is the Eudoxia or a few little places on Fanourios Street, or Nikis (all about 40 euros a night); if you're treating yourself to luxury, then Nikos Takis or Spirit of the Knights are fabulous.

      Glad to hear you've got sunshine there too now!

  2. Thankyou so much for that Jen..much appreciated!.x