Kostas Drakos

Kostas Drakos
Kostas Drakos

In September 1970, when a translator was needed in Plaka, Milos, to explain a contract to a young German who was buying a small piece of land in Pollonia, it was Mr. Konstantinos Afentakis who was called.

So that's how I met this old gentlemen, someone who seemed different from the other people of this island, and the better I got to know him, the more fascinating he became. It was the beginning of a friendship that ended only with his death years later. Kosta spoke seven languages - more or less well - and he was proud of it..Working as a technician for a Swiss company, he had travelled the world and his stories from Paris were as vivid and exciting as those from South America or Italy, always presented with his twinkling blue eyes, that left room for the listener's imagination, room even to wonder: fact or fiction?

His open-mindedness and great hospitality made it easy for him to connect with people, especially foreigners, that he met on Milos. So, he gave me the opportunity to enjoy the first lobster of my life, when he invited me into his house in Plaka, where he lived with his 20 cats and his cousin Tita - who perhaps was not his cousin.

Kostas Drakos with friends
Kostas Drakos with friends

On such occasions it was inevitable that he started to talk about his life, with stories that took place after his return from the world to Milos. The most interesting stories were always those that seemed incredible, but most of them were repeatedly confirmed by other people who had participated in Kostas' life in some way.

When Kosta had returned from abroad he had saved some money, which he brought in British gold pounds to Milos. It must have been the end of the thirties, when he had a boat built for him in Plaka, a 5 meter wooden "trechandiri", which he equipped with an English 5 HP Petter diesel, which - he liked to mention it - he had bought for 80 gold pounds in Piraeus. It was the first motorized boat of this kind in Milos and Kostas wanted to go fishing, to conquer the sea. And his fishing trips became legendary.

He went out in all weather conditions: The boat was designed so that in heavy seas no water could get in; the opening for the seat from which he steered was well-sealed. He would say: in good weather, boat; in stormy weather, submarine. He fished only with a trolling-line. He would buy simple, brightly colored lures or make them himself. He never showed them to anyone and was even more secretive about the perfectly-functioning sinkers that he designed himself, and that he saw as part of his great success. But he showed people his catch: sea bream, perch, tuna, grouper, amberjack, shark.

He was seen in Adamas and Pollonia, in Folegandros and Sifnos. Once he was caught for five weeks in a storm in the Anafi area. I have met fishermen from other islands, fishermen who knew and remembered him, the DRAKOS. He was a fisherman with a legendary reputation.

The name Drakos (dragon) was given to him because his breath smelled sulfur-like of garlic when he returned from long journeys. At sea, he had consumed large quantities of garlic to fight the cold and to boost courage, his only food aside from Kulouria-crackers and some wine. He would return to harbor from the stormiest weather, incredible to many who had given him up for lost many times.

During the hard times of war, the German occupation and the following civil war, he put a beautiful sinagrida on the table of many a starving family. He never sold his fish, which he did not need; he gave it away here and there, exchanging it for olive-oil and honey. He was considered well off and there were rumors of his treasures. Neither his clothes nor his manner bore that out; he was always friendly to everyone. However, there was mischief in his face and his bright blue eyes sparkled in conversation.

His mother had asked him many times not to walk around in his worn and simple fishing-clothes. Hadn't he spent years working abroad, wasn't he rich, didn't he own nice shirts and suits, why did they always remain in the closet? To placate her, Kostas Drakos put all his beautiful Sunday-clothes on a pole and carried it on his shoulders through Plaka, so people could see them. He really liked to flabbergast people. It seemed to be his passion to do the impossible, and his joy to have secrets and keep them.

After he had been harassed for a while by somebody to take him on a boat trip (Drakos always went alone, and he suspected nosiness, which he disliked), he finally agreed, but after two days of uneventful and intentionally fruitless fishing near the remote island of Antimilos, the man begged desperately to get him back to shore. They had not spoken about the duration of the journey and the passenger had brought nothing to eat nor to drink. And Kostas' wine and garlic was only enough for himself...

Once sharks had repeatedly broken his fishing line, and he made himself an especially strong one with extra large hooks for sharks and finally hooked a big one, that was much too dangerous to take on board. (To the fearful I want to say, that in 35 years of being on the Greek seas, I have never seen a big shark). It took Kosta hours to return from Antimilos, slowly pulling the live shark to Adamas, where he landed him on the small beach on which later Luluka had their kafenio. He handed it over to the waiting crowd, people who at that time were hungry or starving. They killed the fish and many ate its meat. It is reported, that after this, many people of Adamas lost their hair, moustaches and eyebrows. All those affected had eaten the shark meat. Although this was not directly attributable to Drakos, this was one of the bizarre stories that people told about him. He suspected that a large stingray, that was found in the shark's stomach, might have poisoned the meat...

Once he came back from the raging sea into Pollonia, went hungrily to the tavern of Kiria Flora and ordered an omelette. "Two eggs or three?" she asked him. "Thirty," he answered. Flora made him an omelette of 30 eggs and he ate it. This story Flora told me herself!

After he had proved to himself and to the people of Milos, how the treasures of the sea could be claimed with courage and creativity, and when fishing had became routine, he sold his caique to someone on Kimolos and turned to new challenges. He bought a rocky slope on Chalakas and decided to create a garden there. Again, people who knew about farming shook their heads: nothing would grow there. Kosta had no knowledge of plants and trees, but he had a vision, a dream. And on the rocky ground, with the spirit of a pioneer, he planted fig and olive trees, pistachios and, of course, that vineyard with those dark blue grapes, from which he made his heavy sweet wine that he offered only to his best friends - which, thanks to his great heart, were not few. If you were lucky enough to be invited by him to Chalakas and captain Nikolo of Adamas took you over in his caique, you had reason to look forward to a few glasses of this aromatic wine that went right to your head. On such occasions he raised his flag Drakos, which announced his presence.

He had built a simple stone house in which, at the time when I met him, he lived alone except for a pack of at least 20 cats, which he regularly supplied with food, boiling big pots full of noodles, cheese and fish. Island cats really love that kind of food! Once he had two young French women living there, who spent a blissful year without electricity or running water. They lived off the vegetables that they had planted in the garden beside the house. Reinhard reports that Drakos had told them the place where he was hiding his gold. We do know that he had English gold-pounds, because our Berlin-friend Janni was paid in gold coins when Kostas had asked to bring him "Geriatric Farmaka" from Germany. Janni still has those today.

Drakos' garden
Drakos' garden

Kostas had a dream, even in his old age, to have a child. We do not know if he ever made this dream come true. We hope though that he tried! Some years later, the famous captain Nikolo stopped his trips over to Chalakas, and it was his fate, one night, to stumble into the swimming pool of the hotel "Venus Village" and drown.

Kostas Drakos himself became a bit muddleheaded and went on his last long trip at the age of about 80. Immediately a rush started to Chalakas; many wanted to find his gold. I admit that I myself translated a manual for a metal detector from English into Greek for a guy from Adamas. It did not take long until Drakos' garden paradise together with his cottage were turned upside down, but I do not know whether anyone ever found treasures. I do imagine Drakos sitting on his cloud watching and being amused with the undignified things going on.