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.