The Dog Rescuer of Zakynthos


I came around the sharp curve and slammed on the brakes. I almost rear-ended the car in front of me. The car had stopped suddenly because the car in front of it had stopped suddenly. I couldn’t tell what was going on. How could there be a traffic jam on the island of Zakynthos?

old church on Zakynthos
An old church on Zakynthos.

Zakynthos is in the Ionian Sea between Greece and Italy. It was once ruled by the Venetians, who called it Zante. It is still known by both names. Today it is a tourist center for sun-seeking Scandinavians and Germans, as well as for Greeks from the mainland. I was spending a few days on the southeast coast of the island, because that is where the best beaches are.

Zakynthos beach, Greece
An almost empty beach on Zakynthos.

It turned out this traffic jam was only three cars long. After a couple of minutes, the lead car moved on, followed slowly by the car in front of me. I inched forwarded to prepare to take the next hairpin turn and stopped again. There was a puppy in front of me.

He had sat down in the middle of the road. Again. Now I knew the reason for the stops. I pulled my car to the side of the road and jumped out.

old olive tree
An ancient olive tree.

He was a cute little guy, all big feet and floppy ears. He was some kind of mutt but with a nice coloring of buff yellow, white, and light brown. He was about three or four months old. He came over to me as he wagged his tail. I scooped him up into my arms. He started licking my face.

“Hey little guy, you can’t wander around in the road like that. Somebody is going to run you over.”

There was an old house at this turn of the road. With the pup in my arms I walked to the front door and rang the bell. There was no answer. I banged on the door. There was still no answer. After ringing and banging for a while I gave up. Maybe it’s not his house?

I walked down the road to the next house and started ringing that door bell. There was no answer at this place either. Did everyone go to town tonight? The pup kept licking my face.

Those were the only houses around so I turned to walk back to my car to wait until somebody showed up. I couldn’t in good conscience leave the pup alone.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw a middle-aged woman pushing a wheelchair towards me. A very old woman was in the wheelchair. They were about fifty yards away. Maybe they could help me find the dog’s owner.

Zakynthos view
A fellow hiker enjoys the view of the Ionian Sea.

I waited by the side of the road. As they got near me the woman got a big smile on her face and starting talking excitedly in Greek. Of course I had no idea what she was saying.
Like a tourist, I started talking to her in English.

“Hi. I found this puppy in the road. He almost got run over by a car. Do you know whose it is?” I said.

“No English,” she said, then rattled on in Greek. She did point to herself, the dog and the first house. This was a good sign. It must be her dog, that must be her house, and the old woman must be her grandma. She must have walked down the road to grandma’s house to get her or perhaps was taking her for a walk.

Since she was pushing the wheelchair I carried the puppy as we walked back to her house. When we got to her driveway, I started to set the puppy down. The woman chattered away again. I didn’t understand the words but her hand motions indicated that she wanted me to keep the pup and take it away with me.

This is my new dog Chewbacca, not the Greek puppy.

“Whooaa, lady, I like dogs, I love puppies, and this seems like a nice one, but I can’t take your dog with me,” I protested. She didn’t understand me. She kept going with her hand gestures and rapid fire Greek.

I tried to explain that I was just visiting and that I was leaving the island tomorrow. I couldn’t take a dog with me. Besides, I already had a new puppy reserved for me back home. I was picking it up in a few weeks.

Eventually she realized that I meant business. I set the puppy down and told it to stay. He sat down and looked up at me with sad eyes.

I said “Arrivederci” (since I don’t even know how to say goodbye in Greek), got in my car, and drove away.

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The View of Vieux Ville in Nice, France

Castle Hill view top

I climbed the steps on a sunny morning.  They started at the end of the Vieux Ville (Old Town) of Nice, France, one block in from the Mediterranean Sea.  I stopped every few minutes to take photos.  At every point the view was fantastic.

Castle Hill view
A view from the start of the climb up Castle Hill.

Castle Hill overlooks the Vieux Ville and the rest of Nice.  It is on a small peninsula splitting the Vieux Ville on one side and the port of Nice on the other.  In the Middle Ages there was a fort on the site that protected both the port and the town.

view of Nice port
Which yacht can I take for a sail?

The fort was destroyed in the 1800s and a park was built on the hill.  Today it provides a good workout for those running up the steps, or even for people like me who hiked to the top to get one of the best views in the Mediterranean.

Castle Hill view top
I made it to the top of Castle Hill.
Vieux Ville street in Nice, France
The narrow streets of the Vieux Ville of Nice.

I had been to Nice about ten years ago. I had stayed in a hotel by the yacht club on the south side of the modern city.  It was a decent place to stay for a few days, but it lacked culture and interest.  For this visit I stumbled upon a small apartment for rent located in the middle of the Vieux Ville.  It was in a building at least a couple of hundred years old.  The streets were very narrow and were lined with small shops, cafes, restaurants, and service establishments for the locals.

The apartment was on the third floor.  The stairway was a challenge to navigate, since it was narrow and steep. There was no elevator in the old building. The view from the window was only of the building across the lane, but I could look down to watch the local residents shop at the patisserie on the corner.

Building in Nice, France
A typical building in the Vieux Ville.

A few yards away from the doorway to my building was another street called the Cours Saleya.  This pedestrian street hosts daily markets.  Fruit and vegetables are sold in the morning, flowers in the afternoon, and arts and crafts in the evening.  Along both sides of the street are restaurants of all kinds, with some of them serving traditional Nicoise cuisine.  Sitting in an outdoor café, eating a fresh croissant, and watching the tradespeople and shoppers is a relaxing way to take a mid-morning break.

Roof view in Nice, France
The red tiled roofs of the Vieux Ville.

The neighborhood of the Vieux Ville is a delight to wander around.  The middle-aged women line up outside the butcher shop to buy the main course for tonight’s dinner.  Old men drink pastis, the local aperitif, at the bar while arguing about the football news.  Trendy young women flit in and out of the designer clothes shops looking for a good deal on the latest fashions. At night the tables outside the restaurants are full of diners.  Once in a while a young man on a loud scooter speeds past the startled diners in a haze of blue smoke.

This is a working and authentic neighborhood.  Local people go about their lives in their daily routines despite the occasional group of boisterous American college students searching the back streets for good pizza.

Promenade de Anglais
Perfect for a stroll…

Across the street from the neighborhood and stretching along the coast is the Promenade des Anglais (Promenade of the English). Before Nice was urbanized, the coastline at Nice was bordered by a deserted stretch of beach covered with large pebbles. Houses were located on higher ground well away from the sea, as tourists visiting Nice in the 18th century did not come for the beach, but for the gentle winter weather. The areas close to the water were home to Nice’s dockworkers and fishermen.

In the second half of the 18th century, some wealthy English people started spending the winter in Nice, enjoying the panorama along the coast. When a particularly harsh winter up north brought an influx of beggars to Nice, some of the rich Englishmen proposed a useful project for them: the construction of a walkway along the sea.

I walked the Promenade des Anglais every day of my time in Nice.  The Mediterranean Sea shined in a bright blue glaze in front of the pebbles on the shore.  Like most beaches on the French coast of the Mediterranean, even today there is no sand.  Instead, the beach consists of various sized rocks and pebbles.  Although the rocks are worn smooth, it is still quite a challenge to position the rocks in such a way as to be comfortable for more than two minutes.

That doesn’t stop the hundreds of sun worshippers from spreading out across the beach every day all summer long.  Some of the women wear no bikini tops.  This is France, after all.

Beach scene in Nice
Ouch! That rock is poking me.

Major Sun in Majorca

Majorca, Spain villa view

What is the difference between Majorca and Minorca?

I had no idea. I didn’t even know where they are located.

I was searching the web for last minute cheap airfares from Munich. I was tired of the cold and wet spring. Where can I go to see the sun again?

Sunny sea view in Majorca
Ahoy there Captain! Do you need a first mate?

I found out that they are the largest of the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea, and a part of Spain. They are far enough south in latitude to have nice, sunny weather in June, unlike the flooded swamps of northern Europe.

Last minute, cheap airfare in hand I took the U-bahn and the S-bahn to the airport, and a short while later found the sunshine in Palma de Majorca, the largest city on the island.
I made my way to the northern coast of the Majorca near a town called Alcudia. After taking a detour into the local garbage recycling station (thank you Mr. GPS!), I found the resort I had booked.

Majorca villas, Spain
I’ll take any color villa as long as it is white.

While checking in I changed from my very bad German skills to equally bad Spanish skills.

“Ola, Senior! My casa is su casa! I have a room reserved,” I said.

“Bon Sera, Senior. Yes, I have been waiting for you,” said the nice Spanish man behind the counter.

He gave me the key and told me where to go. Politely, of course.

I’d like to report that something memorable and funny happened to me while I was in Majorca. However that was not the case. This short sun break was spent lying on the beach, swimming in the cold Mediterranean Sea, swimming in the cold, unheated pool, and taking long walks along the seashore.

At night the port of Alcudia came alive with families strolling along the boardwalk. Tapas was prevalent in the trendy restaurants, meant to be tasted along with the local wine. The old town of Alcudia, originally built at least in part during the Crusades, was a delight to meander along the back streets in search of gelato.

old town gate of Alcudia, Majorca
The old town gate of Alcuida, built by the Crusaders?

Even the crowds of British tourists on the main beach didn’t dampen my mood. I could retire here, I thought. I could rent a small villa on the hillside with a view of the sea. I might even learn Spanish.

Majorca, Spain villa view
I could sit on that deck every day….

By the way, Majorca is a larger island than Minorca. That is the difference…

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Relaxing at Rum Point, Grand Cayman

Rum Point on Grand Cayman in the Cayman Islands is one of my favorite places on earth. It is on the north coast of the island, far from the crowds of Seven Mile Beach.

Rum Point Beach
Another day in paradise

The point itself is a small peninsula, with a splendid white sand beach on one side, and rocky iron shore on the other. I like to walk along the iron shore coastline and gaze at the multi-million dollar beach villas, trying to decide which one I would buy if I won the lottery. Along the way I comb the beach for nice shells or interesting flotsam, but all I ever seem to find are plastic bottles washed ashore from Cuba.

Since the Rum Point beach is within the North Sound and far from the reef line, the water is typically very smooth and shallow for at least 50 yards from shore. This makes it great for small children to play in the water and in the sand at the water’s edge. The sand is perfect for making elaborate sand castles. The beach is partially shaded by large pine trees bent by the easterly winds and there are many beach chairs and hammocks for comfortable lounging.

There is a small reef to the right of the pier which is only 20 yards offshore in shallow water. This reef is very accessible for beginning snorkelers to see the colorful fish of the Caribbean in a safe environment.

Rum Point
The crystal clear waters at Rum Point

For those a little more experienced or adventurous, swimming out around Rum Point itself is another option. This area is a marine preserve with lots of sea fans, coral, larger fish, and even some lobsters, conchs, and octopi if you look closely. If the weather is right, there may be a current running from east to west over the point. By starting on the east side, you can swim out 30 yards with your snorkel gear and then float all the way to the pier. No need to paddle, just relax and watch the fish as you coast on by.

The Wreck Bar and Grill is on site to provide a tasty island-style lunch and a fruit smoothie for hot afternoons. Water sports such as paddle boats, wave runners, and small sailboats are available for rent through the Red Sail Sports operation. A trip out to Stingray City in the middle of the North Sound on a large catamaran is good way to spend part of the afternoon.

The beach sometimes gets crowded with cruise ship passengers, who come by boat for a few hours in the middle of the day. Thus the best time for quiet relaxation is in the late afternoon. The sun is not so hot and the shadows from the trees shade you nicely as you snooze or catch up on your reading.

The view from the pier at Rum point
A walk on the pier at Rum Point

Rum Point is also an excellent spot to watch the sun set. As the sun goes down over the calm waters, you can ponder what to do tomorrow. The answer might be to do the same thing that you did today. Nothing but relax.