Kalymnos: an insider’s guide to Greece’s undiscovered Aegean island

Just as I’m pondering leaving, I see a figure making a beeline for me from one of the packed restaurants. It is Yannis Valsamidis, son of the late founder of this private museum. He is happy to let me in before he returns to serving his customers, and I’m left to explore the agreeably ramshackle exhibits alone. There is old sponge fishing equipment, sea plants, taxidermied fish, a heap of petrified amphorae from an ancient shipwreck and the wheel of a German Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighter plane that crashed off Kalymnos during the Second World War.

When Valsamidis returns to let me out and lock up, he speaks proudly of his father’s passion for all things maritime, and the collection that took him more than 40 years to build. I don’t manage to get to Traditional Kalymnian House at Vothyni, beneath the Monastery of Agios Savvas, which has gathered the yellowing photos, festive undergarments, Limoges porcelain, chamber pots, sponges and dolls of Kalymnos past, but I hear it is a favourite of the historian Mary Beard.

Display at Traditional Kalymnian HouseLavinia Cernau

The boat to the little island of Telendos leaves from Myrties, on the west of the island, every half-hour. It’s a short ride, less than a mile off Kalymnos. A community clustered around a single flat-topped mountain that rises vertiginously from the sea, it has no roads – just a few one- and two-storey whitewashed houses, a church, some flagstone walkways, a couple of beaches and, on the seafront, a handful of tavernas serving perennial Greek dishes. If Kalymnos is Greece at its slowest, this feels a step removed again.

View of Telendos islandLavinia Cernau

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