Wednesday, July 27, 2011

IthacaLand 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.

More later.

Cropping the photo doesn't get rid of the blank below. Any solutions?


The Unbearable Banishment said...

Beware of stone ledges that must be gingerly climbed upon. It could put a crimp in your vacation. Just saying.

Pat said...

UB: ah ha! Got away with it that time. I promise I wouldn't do it now.

Scarlet Blue said...

I don't know about crimping the vacation... but it might crop it!
I find that history does come alive when I visit the relevant places.

Pat said...

Scarlet: we had a doddery old Welsh teacher - Mr Evans - who did the Odyssey with us. He would have been so pleased- and astounded.

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

You have really traveled the world, Pat....And your memories of Greece are so vivid....Did you keep a diary of your trip? This is great!! I've never been to Greece and will no doubt not ever get there, so this is such a treat, my dear....!

BTW: New post over at my place, if you get a chance.

Pat said...

Naomi: I had some articles published way back then and still have the magazines. These are edited versions. I'm grateful for any written records I still have. Greece has always been very special to me. I'll be over soon.

angryparsnip said...

Love your travel stories... I feel like I am there.

cheers, parsnip

Pat said...

Parsnip: thank you:)

Macy said...

"There is barbed wire it is for your safety"
Orwell would have been proud of that line.

Pat said...

Macy: I love the way Greeks speak English and aren't they brilliant to be able to do it?


what a lavishly beautiful story, lady! you do take us along with you as you retrace your trains planes and automobiles - and would that we could all revisit the magnificent magic of homer - literally - love the beautiful image - did you try photobucket to crop it, by the way? i've found that when my other photo apps won't work, i can usually get what i want at PB! just a thought! - have a glorious day and thanks so much for the journey!

Pat said...

Gypsywoman: I only really know Picasa - the others are all Greek to me. The next time a son or grandchild comes I must get them to show me. The difficulty arises when I use photos I have scanned rather than digital.

Vagabonde said...

I don’t think Murdoch and his paper would have been in the news in the US. All the media here is owned by large corporations and none are neutral. It was interesting reading (in an English newspaper) that Murdoch’s mother is still alive at 102 and is much respected in Australia. She told her son not to buy these gossipy papers. You say your French son is in Florida on holidays – you mean your son who lives in France? I went to Greece with my mother as a little girl then a few years back I went during the month of November – there were no tourists, it was very nice and the weather was quite good.

Pat said...

Vagabonde: I didn't know about Murdoch's mother. A pity he didn't listen to her.
Yes I do mean our son living in France; since he married a French girl,lives and works in France and has had three French children it is easier on the blog to distinguish him from tne others.

Leah said...

this really is lovely. I have been back to read it three times!

Pat said...

Leah: that makes me very happy;)
The final bit coming up today DV.