We met in Patmos, Greece in the beginning of July of 1997. We were both traveling routard.
I had started in Greece in early June, sailing on a small yacht with 10 others – a trip that I signed onto in San Francisco at a travel show in April, very inexpensive $450 for a week, lunches included. They are still around (Seascape-Sailing.com). We started at Leros in the southern Agean so I flew to Amsterdam from SF, then after a few days of partying, I flew direct to Samos. After my first ever night in Greece on Samos, I took a hydrofoil in the early morning to Leros, about a 3-hour trip. I remember that I could not find the yacht on the harbor when I arrived, and became a bit worried – but after talking with locals I was told there was a smaller harbor on the other side of the island – and took a taxi there, and easily found the boat. The crew was Australian with female skipper and male first mate; the other guests were from the mid-west and all knew each other. I got to sleep in the forward hole by myself, which I enjoyed. We all got along nicely as we visited some of the Agean islands – but there wasn’t a lot of wind so going was slow. In the late afternoons, we would dock at a harbor of an island, and then have dinner together at a harbor restaurant. The skipper and her mate were familiar with the restaurants and we often had very special treatment. Meals were usually less than $10 each and fantastic!
A key stopover on our trip was the island of Patmos. On the way there, I dropped my camera on the deck, breaking it. When we arrived, I brought it to the local camera store and gave it to them, as a gift. I remember dropping the mooring line into the harbor as we arrived – and the first mate had to jump in and fish it out. I don’t think he liked me much. There was one women on board with whom I became close friends. She was an anesthesiologist (married) and we would have breakfast together on the various islands. One day we didn’t, and she came back to the boat very sad and said she missed me! Upon our departure, we held each other very dearly to say goodbye. Departure for me was onto a hydrofoil back to Samos. I stayed in Samos for a few days, finding that I was exhausted, and needed time to get accustomed to walking on land again.
Then off to Turkey; Kusadasi is a short ferry ride from Samos, about an hour. A few days in Ephesus, then a bus to Ismir, and flight to Istanbul. Found nothing interesting in Istanbul, but around the corner from where I stayed, I had some raki and food on the street with a travel agent one evening– and he said I’d like the Cappadocia area. Next day I was on a plane. Nothing much interesting there as well, and I got very sick on something I ate but escaped on bus to Konya, where I fasted on fruit juice and recouped for a day or two. My birthday was near, and I hoped on a bus to Antalya. Got a nice and expensive hotel with pool, and had a Burger King burger for birthday dinner; met an interesting girl by the pool whom I thought was Turkish – but found later that she was from Paris.
Onto the Turquoise Coast on the 23rd of June, bused to Kas. Found a really neat let in house for a few nights, for $8 per night, where I could listen thru my open window to the local musicians perform in a nearby square at night, and met a Brit lady who lived there in the neighborhood. We became friends and hung out a bit, played dominos nearly all night and rented a boat + skipper for about $40 for the day for a trip around the bays – and did some swimming.
Here, I starting looking at the clock. I had to be back in Samos in the first days of July to fly back to Amsterdam, then travel to Zurich to see a friend I met in Italy in ‘93. I had planned to then visit a friend in Copenhagen in mid-July, who I met while giving walking tours of San Francisco. I had a flight back to SF from Paris in late July, to finish the trip. And I wanted to get back to Patmos to stay one night at a neat looking hotel that I saw on the harbor when we stayed there on the yacht earlier in the month.
The path that followed was first the bus to Marmaris for one night, a British resort town in Turkey, and then a ferry to Rhodes the next day. Two nights in Rhodes, then a ferry to Kos. Three nights in Kos, where I met a couple of Brits – guys – we hung together and drank a lot, and finally a ferry from Kos to Patmos. A ferry from Patmos to Samos would be leaving the next day, which would get me there just in time to catch my flight back to Amsterdam. However, the next morning something remarkable happened. I met Fatiha.
I had all morning free and I had packed my bag and dropped it at reception – and took off to see the cave of John the Evangelist and the monastery. This is why Patmos is a very visited island – perhaps the most visited in the Agean. Well, it was a pleasant walk through a forested area up to the monastery and town – but once there, on the south side of the town, I had a very strange feeling of being lost. But I hadn’t walked very far at all! Actually, I had a feeling of being detained. I turned a few corners and finally saw a main road that led up to an area overlooking the forest in the direction of the path I had used to get there.
There I could see the figure of a young lady with dark hair sitting on a bench overlooking the forested area. I said to myself, that’s it, I have been detained and directed to meet this beautiful creature. I walked up the hill, maybe 150 meters, and approached her from the side of the bench she sat on. I approached and said, ‘Hello, could you take my picture if I stand just in front of you, overlooking the forest’. As she turned toward me, I could see that the skin around her eyes was badly wrinkled and as she looked toward me, she said ‘I'd like to, but I am blind’. I sat with her and talked. I had her stand up and put my camera in her hands and adjusted her to take my picture as I stood in front of the forest. As I sat with her, I told her how beautiful she was, and knew she wouldn’t have knowledge of it -- she looked at me and I could feel how deeply I touched her. Her companion soon arrived, and we talked for a while. They were there praying for her sight to return, and were headed to Zurich next to some other holy site. I explained that I would soon be there as well – and we parted. I walked down the path back to the harbor, relieved that the detained feeling had a purpose that was fulfilled – that the experience was all about making her feel good, telling her that she was beautiful. About halfway down the path back, an interesting looking woman was on the pathway coming up the hill just a few meters from my pathway down the hill. She greeted me. I greeted her. We stopped together and sat and talked. This was Fatiha.
Fatiha and I spent the next week together on Patmos. I changed my flight to leave from Athens; we ferried overnight to Piraeus, and from there I flew back to Amsterdam and she flew back to Paris. I visited my friend in Zurich, and then went on to Prague. Fatiha went back to work. I called her from Prague and said I missed her. Next stop for me was Hamburg, and then the plan was on to Denmark. I called Fatiha from Hamburg, and she invited me to stay with her for the next week since I was flying home out of Paris anyway. Next day I took a short flight from Hamburg to Paris, she met me on the quai of the RER station at Chatelet les Halles – waiting for me to get off the B RER; when I got there, she ran to me and we embraced. That was the first time I knew we were in love.
We spent the next 6 years going back and forth, SF to Paris, and traveling in Europe and the US together. We became engaged in 1999, and married in 2003.