Ithaca –Land of Sage and Honey
It was our first Sunday on this fragrant isle in Greece. Washing the breakfast dishes it didn’t occur to me to wonder why the church bell was ringing incessantly. Suddenly I lost my balance. Clutching the sink for support I found the sink, the dishes and the floor beneath me were gently shaking.
Later in the village we were told it was an earth tremor which measured 5.5 on the Richter scale. They said the earthquake of 1953 had been measured at 7.8. Three quarter of the buildings had been destroyed but miraculously only one person was killed.
The tremor revived memories and everyone had a quake story to tell…
All the water was sucked out of the harbour and then a great wave came and we thought we would all be drowned.
I was a child and I didn’t mind when the ground shook, but when it jumped up and down…
Words failed Yianni, Ithaca’s most famous taxi driver.
We had just come out of church and we looked back and we saw our church disappear.
Rebuilding was done to strict specification; we were relieved to hear, and learned the safest place to be in a quake is under the table. Not unlike the blitz.
Noted for its association with Homer’s Odyssey Ithaca in the late eighties was unspoilt. It is situated west of the Greek mainland, 17 miles long by 4 miles wide.
We flew to Cephalonia and then bussed north to Fiskardo where a caique took us across the strait to the tiny fishing port of Kioni. On our return a road was blocked because of the tremor and we had a breathtaking coastal drive on Cephalonia.
The best way to see Ithaca is on foot; the taxi drivers are very accommodating and will drop and collect you at a prearranged rendezvous so you aren’t constantly retracing your footsteps.
I found Homer dull at school but here the myth and legend became real for me. The noisy owl in Kioni is said to be the unquiet spirit of a young boy who inadvertently pushed his brother over the cliff to a watery grave. Every night he hooted Thomas, Thomas.
Any doubts that this was the home of Odysseus were dispelled by the small dusty museum at Stavros with its solid pieces of evidence including the 13 tripods said to be part of Odysseus’ treasure and discovered in the bay of Polis by Miss Helen Bentona a British archaeologist. His secret city is said to be near Stavros between three mountains and where can be seen three seas.
We had to find the spot.
The headmaster’s wife – custodian of the museum was not optimistic:
There is barbed wire – it is for your safety.
Undeterred we continued along a path until we came to a house surrounded by barbed wire and a notice – Keep out – by order of the owner now an exile in Australia. Clinging like a limpet to the forbidden house was a ruin. (The Greeks tend to leave the ruin and rebuild next to it.)
Carefully we entered this, gingerly clambered onto a stone ledge and there – Eureka –were the three seas; the channel to the west, Aphales bay to the north and the bay of Frikes to the east. The mountains were Mount Neritos, Mount Exoghis and Mount Marmakas. I swear I know how Columbus must have felt when he discovered America.
Cropping the photo doesn't get rid of the blank below. Any solutions?