Saturday, July 30, 2011

Ithaca - final part with photos

Having found the site of Homer’s secret city we walked on air to our favourite taverna in Frikes and feasted on red mullet, baclava and village wine. On the way back to Kioni we stopped at the-beach-with-steps for a swim. Sailing boats were bobbing, a small motor boat was chugging back to Kioni for tea and intrepid wind surfers we skimming over the glittering sea at a fearsome rate. Each to his own.

The evenings were spent sitting under the mimosa tree outside Dite’s Taverna. The owner Aphrodite would feed me metses with my aperitif and I would feel like a favoured child. Across the bay where visiting yachts moor near the other taverna, Titania’s husband might be roasting a lamb or a pig on his outdoor spit. Later we would amble round there for dinner. The next evening the procedure would be reversed and everyone was happy.

The Greek government had been at pains both to curb noise levels and to ban the siesta- with little success in Ithaca. In the afternoon you could hear a pin drop but at night the dogs, cats, donkeys and cocks – and sometimes the villagers took it in turns to celebrate the end of a long lonely winter. Then it’s time to Go Greek, have a siesta and forget about an early night.

Yianni, our taxi driver had had many illustrious passengers including Winston Churchill and Aristotle Onassis. This day he was having to make do with us; he drove us up to a deserted monastery on Mount Exoghi. We watched him bouncing back on the dirt road and then scrambled up the stony slope to reach the mountain top.

The view was as you might expect from a terrace of the gods- the air crystal clear. Great gauze-covered shapes rose up from a silent sea, their peaks smothered with cumulus.

As we stood mesmerized the spell was broken by a noisy, black cloud of tiny butterflies and – more worrying long pointed insects emitting an angry buzz. It was round about the time of the film about killer bees so we scuttled down the dirt road to the sanctuary of the village. Here we were reassured that, far from hounding us off the mountain the harmless insects were just collecting gravel from the path.

In Ithaca there is always someone who speaks sufficient English to answer questions. After the earthquake of ’53 there was an exodus to Australia, America and South Africa. Over the years many of them have returned to their homeland and although the accents are many and varied they understand English.

Alike's shop in the village provided most basic needs plus my favourite Greek yoghourt, Greek honey, pistachios and kourabiedhes (delicious round almond cakes dredged in icing sugar). At this time one could eat out for under £10 a day and we normally took with us, tea coffee and cereal.

We found Ithaca to be one of the friendliest and safest places on earth and sooner or later everyone returns. Just two years earlier the British archaeologists Sir John Cook and Miss Helen Benton returned to the scene of their fantastic discoveries after a gap of 56 years. He was in his eighties, she in her nineties

Everywhere I took them said Yianni they wept.

The next day, waving farewell to my Greek friends from the boat, I understood how they felt.

Originally I mistakenly wrote Bentona instead of Benton - this from Yianni’s pronunciation, as is the spelling of his name which I suspect should be Gianni.

See photos below – if Blogger behaves- or they may be above.

22 comments:

Mike and Ann said...

Thank you Pat. As good a picture of Greece as the Durrell brothers gave. As for the twl elderly folk who went back to an island theyd known; often it's not a place you're looking for, it's a time.

Pat said...

Mike and Ann: gosh that's some special company to be associated with - an honour.
Your last sentence gives me pause for thought.

Sharon Longworth said...

A lovely reflection of what seems to be a beautiful island - does you both justice.

Pat said...

Sharon: please God it still is. Thank you Sharon.

Macy said...

Made me want to go there!
Right now...
You should claim a commission off the Greek tourist board!

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

Ithaca looks and sounds Wonderful, beyond words. I wonder if it still such a place of Peace and Tranquility and Great Beauty and Livliness, too? (I like the ideaof coming "alive" at night, and having that Siesta in the afternoon...) Have you been back, my dear?

Pat said...

Macy: how could I add to their troubles? If I had my way we'd return 'the marbles.'

Naomi: no I've never been back. There is truth in the adage 'one should never go back.'
And there is a lot in what Mike and Ann say: 'As for the two elderly folk who went back to an island they'd known; often it's not a place you're looking for, it's a time.'

Guyana-Gyal said...

What an idyllic time you had then, Pat.

Maybe places do change, but I'd sooo love to go back to the Caribbean islands I've been to, and one I've lived in.

Shh, don't mention killer bees, I live in horror of those things!

Four Dinners said...

My Family And Other Animals is a favourite read of mine.

I caught something of that here.

Hope you gave BIG tips as they appear to be a wee bit short of the readies lately...;-)

Pat said...

GG: I don't know the Caribbean islands at all, sadly.
No I won't mention killer bees;)

Four Dinners: I used to love the TV programme about the young family in Greece.
MTL always tips well and I'm not bad. I learned the hard way in Paris and New York.

kenju said...

I really hope top see Greece before I die. Somehow I doubt the taxi driver was making do - with the beauteous model in the taxi!!

Pat said...

Judy: no it was just me and MTL;)

GYPSYWOMAN said...

your travel journal is quite beautiful and full of wonderful word images as well as photographs - so kind of you to share these memories - and i must say that mike and ann's remark struck a chord in me, as well, having experienced that very thing - but still it gives pause for [more] thought - thanks again for such a beautiful post, lady!

Pat said...

Gypsywoman:I'm very lucky to have wise and appreciative commenters. That's half the fun - it's very much a two way deal. Thank you.

Scarlet Blue said...

I would love to go, I've seen my Greek vision in films such as Shirley Valentine and Mammamia - it's on my list for a visit.
Sx

Pat said...

Scarlet: you'll love it and then I want to hear ALL about it.

The Unbearable Banishment said...

You get an A+ for interacting with the locals. Isn't that the best part of a trip? But you'd be surprised how many people keep to themselves.

Pat said...

UB: my heart sinks if there are Brits around. Some of us don't travel well.

Mary Witzl said...

Your experiences in Ithaca remind me of our time in North Cyprus. Because North Cyprus used to be the home of a lot of Greek Cypriots, and because it is not recognized by any other country than Turkey, it's remained in a sort of time lock. But things have changed there, and from time to time people come back after a period of decades, and they're horrified. It's definitely not the place we long to go back to, it's the time, and the way we were.

Pat said...

Mary: at that time you more or less had to choose between Greece or Turkey so we never went to the Turkish part of Cyprus although we were very close to the border in one of the villas we rented.

Gadjo Dilo said...

Pat, ahh, I'm late on this, but that was a lovely review of an island that I've always wanted to visit! I've read Homer and I suspect that I might weep too. Thanks.

Pat said...

Gadjo:I do hope you make it one day and that you aren't disappointed.